Traveling is.

a state of mind.

It’s eating a home made version of our New Orleans favorite meals on Fat Tuesday, with traditional cocktails AND dessert. (homemade by M)

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It’s reading a British novel during my lunch break. Imagining myself riding the train with the character, the way I did on my college graduation trip to the UK.

 

It’s going to a  Museum for an exhibit from Germany, that has been all around the world, then eating a feast at a local restaurant.

 

Traveling is everything.

Christmas.

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My favorite memories from Christmas as a child are:

  • Always being given the turkey leg because I was the youngest.
  • Putting the baby Jesus in the nativity scene at midnight.
  • The grandma and grandpa barbies my grandparents got me. The giant box had a grandma Barbie, a grandpa Ken, a girl and a boy, I think the girl would be “Kelly.” Back then at least, “Skipper” was a teenage barbie, but “Kelly” was the younger one. It also came with McDonald’s mini happy meals and birthday hats. I loved McDonald’s back then as well, so this was the most epic Christmas gift I could receive.
  • Random people at Christmas. I didn’t realize this until I got older, but I remember people’s friends (of my Mom’s, or my Aunt’s  ETC.) coming to Christmas dinner last minute. My Grandma or my Mom looking through their gifts before everyone arrived to see what they could re-gift to this last minute guest. Now that I’m older I realize whatever the reason this last minute guest was with us probably meant a sad or unpleasant family situation. My family never wanted anyone to go without at least having a gift to open. The effort I saw as a child to put something together for others means everything to me now.
  • My grandmother’s decorations. Besides speaking several languages, having birthed 7 children, being a great cook, a world traveler and being and staying truly in love with my grandfather since they were teenagers, my grandmother was an incredible artist. She could paint, draw, sew, knit, you name it. She made things for us until the moment she died, beautiful dolls, quilts, clothing – but my favorite were her decorations. Not store bought, hand made with such intricate details. My absolute favorite was a toilet seat cover with Santa on the top, and when you open the lid to use the toilet, Santa is on the inside part but with his hands over his eyes.
  • My grandpa’s mini foods. I still love anything mini, I remember one Christmas specifically my grandpa making mini sopes, one of my favorite food’s in miniature. They were so cute, and so delicious.
  • Making the holiday menu. I didn’t help much with cooking as a child, but I was always on menu duties. My grandpa or my mom would write out what the holiday menu was going to be on a note pad and I would create  one for each person, on nice paper, with fancy colorful pens. They were then carefully placed on each person’s table setting.
  • Three Kings Day! I’ve never been into Santa, but the much less talked about or celebrated 3 Kings have always been my thing. I loved keeping our Christmas tree up until after January 6th, cleaning my shoes and waking up to one last gift for the holidays. Then the best part, eating the “Rosca de Reyes” and waiting to see who got a plastic baby in their slice. In 2012 my grandmother saved me a piece of “Rosca” in her freezer so I could eat it the next time I visited. I got to eat it when I visited for the 80th birthday that same year.

M & I have a tradition of doing non tangible gifts for Christmas, experiences or events. This year we gave each other a trip to New York City. We’ve both been there, but never during Christmas time when the whole city is decked out in Christmas lights!

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One of my favorite nights we walked through Bryant Park to people watch. The Song ‘Christmas’ (Baby Please Come Home) was playing loudly, there was a giant tree, lights and people everywhere. We watched the ice skaters and spotted several little children learning to ice skate by holding and pushing to giant penguins for support. It was such a cute, simple, Christmas time moment.

 

At 230 Fifth – a rooftop bar with front row view of the Empire State Building, we tried to stay warm with their hot spiked drinks. One which inspired our much better version of their  Vodka Peppermint Hot Chocolate, with M’s homemade honey, vanilla & cinnamon whipped cream – which was a huge hit with my family on Christmas eve.

The end.

New Orleans – The Big Easy

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A little bit of France, a little bit of the South, a little bit Vegas all mixed together makes the magical city that is New Orleans.

M & I visited during Thanksgiving, and it was EVERYTHING. Absolutely one of our favorite trips.

There is nothing I can write to do this place justice, but I’ll try.

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The food. It was even better than we imagined. We arrived on Thanksgiving day. All restaurants are open with special Thanksgiving menus, there is a big parade, and there are people walking around the French Quarter. We ate at Ralph Brennan’s Red Fish Grill. A Southern  Thanksgiving buffet feast including Turducken gumbo, cajun turkey, shrimp and grits, freshly chucked oysters. A guy in a turkey suit ran around making sure everyone was taken care of. I won’t describe every meal, but this was the perfect “alternative” Thanksgiving meal we could have had eating at a restaurant. So fun, so us.

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Continuing with food – oysters. Every menu listed a variety of oysters. I thought a raw oyster is already perfect as is, so why ruin it by grilling it,  or frying it. I was so gladly wrong. Very wrong. Charbroiled oysters with garlic and herbs served with french bread, fried oysters with buffalo sauce and blue cheese on top, oysters cooked in a mushroom sauce, fried oysters in a po’ boy, oysters Rockefeller. All amazing. We still got several dozens of raw oysters throughout the entire trip, but we tried every variation of the cooked ones as well, and oh my goodness they were all heaven.

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Beignets, yes we had them every day. At Cafe Du Monde with a cafe au lait. An order to go on our way to sight see. Some from their competition to see if they measure up, on and on. So amazing!

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(Where had red beans and rice been my whole life? Incredible.)

Having such great food in California, I feared things like beignets would taste the same as the one’s I’ve had. The climate difference and the fact that they are below sea level actually has a big part in the ‘only in New Orleans unique taste’ when it comes to anything with bread. These beignets were one of a kind delicious!

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We tried Muffuletas from central grocery, an Italian deli, and walked across the train tracks to sit on a bench overlooking the Mississippi River while we ate them. Everything was such an experience, these giant sandwiches were so good!

This was such a great weekend to visit because the weather was still very warm, but the Christmas decorations and lights were up. The city is so beautiful already, but adorned with lights – was so cool.

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We went to so many interesting bars. The cocktail is said to have been originated here. We had great drinks, at a carousel rotating bar in our historic hotel, a French 75 where it was invented ETC. Every place and drink had a story!

The places. The people.

We did a walking ghost and vampire tour while drinking a local beer. Drinking is not only allowed on the streets, it’s actually highly encouraged. To the point that if you don’t finish a drink at a restaurant, they will give it to you in a to go cup. So fun.

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(Here I am standing in front of Delphine LaLaurie’s home)

We visited a Katrina museum which was extremely moving, sad and informative, it made us love the city even more. We both got out of a cab once and immediately said the same thing. After hearing our drivers story, of how him and his family got out of the city during the hurricane we were almost in tears. He also told us about his grand-kids and the time he drove Dwyane Wade around & he happily spoke to his granddaughter on the phone.

We visited two beautiful plantations, with so much history, and so many beautiful trees (my favorite part).

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We walked around their “Central Park” – New Orleans City Park, which is twice the size of Central Park, it has botanical gardens, sculpture gardens, fields, an amusement park, a carousel, a lake, too much to do in one day, even a cafe that sells – beignets!

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We went on a Cemetery tour in the oldest Cemetery in the city, in a horse drawn carriage. We toured the French Quarter on the way, and being on the carriage made you feel like you were back in time. I loved all the colors, and imagining what it looked like without cars. The Cemetery was beautiful, we saw Marie Laveau’s grave (Voodoo Queen) and learned all kinds of facts about what it took to be buried there. If you research this Cemetery it says to be the most haunted in the world, I didn’t feel scared, I loved walking around and looking at all the graves.

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In fact, I didn’t feel scared anywhere in New Orleans, all of it was so fun – except for one time in the middle of the night in our hotel – which is also known to be haunted, as one of the oldest Hotels in the French Quarter – the Monteleone, I woke up in the middle of the night hearing weird noises. Then I fell back asleep.

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We visited the oldest Catholic Church in the United States, as you exit there are people dancing, playing music or asking to read your palm at Jackson Square. So many different colorful stories anywhere you turned.

Loved every minute of this trip.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

All Roads Lead to Rome

Once upon a time I was sent to Rome, Italy to film a Rosetta Stone commercial.

The week I was there is probably one of the best weeks. We had a driver, a 5 star hotel ( it had the name Palace in it), make up girl, sound guy, a director, 2 Italian producers, and a camera guy. Every morning I would wake up, get my hair and make up done, eat delicious Italian pastries and drink Italian coffee.

Then we would get picked up by our driver and drive to site seeing area’s (hello!!! my favorite) and film… We would take lunch breaks to have hand made pasta in tiny restaurants, where no English was spoken… drink home made wine, and salads. Then film again.

Then eat some more deliciously hand made pasta, proscuttio and melon, and authentic tiramisu! (difficult, I know).The main part of this trip was seeing these amazing sites, because we got better footage.

The Colosseum.

Filming at a park.

More filming.

Gelato.

Arrivederchi!

Oh Deer!

There is nothing cooler than being in a Buddhist Temple in Japan, except being at a Buddhist Temple in Japan where deer roam freely!

In the Shinto religion (ethnic religion of people from Japan) deer are regarded as messengers of the Gods. How cool/cute!

Todai-ji Temple also houses the largest bronze statue of Buddha in the world and is one of the Seven Great Temples, but back to the deer!

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Warning.

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This person behind us has food.

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Hello little one.

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Models.

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Close up with this beauty.

Everything Now and Soon – a Facebook Note

Remember Facebook Notes? I was uploading pictures from past trips today and found this note from July 2009. I love it! I completely forgot this existed, and reading it made me as excited as I seem to have been when I wrote it 6 years ago while I was traveling:

“By next week I will officially have been traveling for 6 months. Half of a year is much longer than I think I realize, it probably won’t hit me until I go back to California this month and see what everyone else has done.

6 months, 3 continents, 3 new scars, 13 countries, 3 journals, 12 books, at least 2,000 pictures, BUNCH of new friends, countless near death experiences, 2 maxed out credit cards, strange food, new tattoo, lots and lots and lots of laughs.

So I went to Thailand and it was everything I hoped it would be and MORE. LOVE the food, absolutely. BUT I can honestly now, still say the best pad thai I have ever and probably will ever have comes from Osha in SF (geary and leavenworth) and only the veggie and tofu one with egg, the chicken or sea food one suck.

In my life I have: skydived out of a plane 1,300 feet up in the air, belayed someone top roping a climb in Yosemite middle of nowhere, zip-lined across the highest zip line in all of Central America and white water rafted level 5 rapids(and fell out twice). BY FAR going through water caves in Guatemala – having to swim, hike and climb in the dark with a candle being the only light was the scariest hour of my adventurous life.

Although I thought french food, as most European food would be boring, I was pleasantly surprised and quickly addicted to the following South of France specialties: Ratatouille – probably the best vegetable dish I have EVER had. Salmon Quiche – I am indifferent about quiche and if I never had it again, I wouldn’t even notice, but my moms husband made this quiche that was too good to even try to describe. And last but definitely not least… Mussels and French fries (in curry sauce or white sauce) and a beer. I want this meal once a week for the rest of my life!!! REALLY!!!

I didn’t plan this but it was cool that it happened: I was in Mexico City AND Paris when Obama was. I arrived to El Salvador the night of the election. Hell yeah to FMLN! 🙂 I was in Bangkok when Kill Bill Actor died there (sidenote: not cool, but weird). I was also in Paris the weekend of the French open Finals and in South of France when the tour de France started.

Timing working out so perfectly that I still managed to go to Bay to Breakers in between Mexico and Asia, for a circus, drunken mayhem weekend to remember for ever.

I crave Mexican food (especially tortas) as well as spicy curry from Thailand every single day.

Per usual, being gone this long has reminded me why my closest friends are my closest friends, and why everyone else sucks. ha ha ha. Reading e-mails or FB messages that make me laugh, are filled with current back home gossip or play by plays of nights out have made the bad/lonely or hard parts of this trip so much better 🙂

I have absolutely no idea where to start when someone asks me my favorite place or thing I did… but some that come to mind right now are:

-watching the sunset in Portland drinking with my college roommate
-sharing a cab with a stranger on the dock of Honduras, then spending a full week at the beach with them laughing like we were lifelong friends
-getting to stay with Amanda in her peace corps site in Guatemala and seeing all the work first hand
-the cave exploring that scared me half to death in Semuc Champey
-the buses, vans, chicken buses, charter buses, taxis, motorcycles, scooters, tuk tuks I took from place to place, in between country borders, laughing by myself.
-seeing the war museum in El Salvador. If you ever go, bring tissues, it will change your life
-spending a week in Big Corn Island Nicaragua with this girl from Sweden, a kid from Australia, and a couple from England in a hut on the beach….on an island with NO CARS snorkeling, swimming, eating (or trying to) and laughing always laughing.
-making up songs about stuff too inappropriate to write about here with 2 guys from San Diego I met in Isla de omettepe Nicaragua, rescuing one after he got drugged at a bar, and getting served questionable hamburgers by a transvesdite. (Did I mention the place we stayed at had dirt floor?)
-meeting a friend of a friend (Chad) at the Costar Rica airport to drive with him like 6 hrs (sidenote: this wasn’t probably actually a favorite moment, just really funny) we get in the car and have no idea where to go, not even where the freeway was, and at reaching our destination he got a flat tire from driving into a hole.
-being at the Hong Kong airport thinking Mya ditched me (also not a favorite moment just funny) then finally seeing her come out only to tell me she was detained for swine flu (seeing her come out WAS a favorite moment)
-getting kissed on the cheek by an elephant in Phuket, as well as riding an elephant around the jungle
-getting my first tattoo in Thailand with 3 amazing friends
-Mya and I skinny dipping in our infinity pool with ocean view suite in Phuket, Thailand
-spending a week with my mom in Paris France, seeing the Eiffel tower for the first time and dancing on the streets with a band.
-reading water for Elephants on top the eiffel tower – it intensified the already amazing feeling that book gave me.
-thinking my mom and I have been on the wrong train every time going around the south of France, then laughing about it

Off to Spain now!”

San Diego Vacation!

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Seafood Lunch at Seaport Village and walking. Lots of weddings and quinciañeras this day.

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Finding (after getting lost) the Unconditional Surrender Statue. This statue was created in spirit of the famous picture of the couple kissing in Times Square after World War II ended.

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Sun setting while we played Phase 10 (a card game) in our beautiful La Jolla Hotel. Later we went downtown to the Gaslamp District for dinner and drinks. Ended the night in a rooftop bar/club where we almost left the minute we walked in. Luckily a chain reaction of events led us to not only stay, but stay until the lights came on, dancing, laughing and the best and most hilarious people watching.

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La Jolla Seals sun bathing and stuff. Also had fun and giant brunch this day.

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Saw the Pandas and others at the San Diego Zoo.

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Always serious.

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Last but not least, soft serve and giraffes!