Travel Photo of the Month: March 2015

Image

One of my favorite photographs is from a rainy Sunday afternoon visit to Paris’ Musée d’Orsay. My now-fiance’ Jacob and I were there early in our relationship, and while I’d been to Paris multiple times, I’d never explored this spot. The building that houses famous artwork is a work of art itself, as it was converted from a train station. I was fascinated by the clock faces on the top floor…the view from which one could catch a glimpse of the city beyond.

At one point during our tour, we found ourselves alone in a large, but unoccupied gallery. It had hardwood floors and high ceilings, and Jacob extended his arm and asked me to dance. We only did a very brief spin, but it was a very special moment–dancing alone in Paris. Seeing this picture reminds me of that drizzly but romantic day at the Orsay and brings a smile to my face.

Musée d'Orsay

Musée d’Orsay

Advertisements

Christmas Market in Sweden

Two years ago in November, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Scandinavia, one of my favorite parts of the world. While there, I realized that I might be able to visit a Swedish Christmas market in Malmö. Luckily enough, I walked down a lovely pedestrian thoroughfare from my hotel to hit the market and browse through some of my favorite Swedish stores like Indiska. The holiday scents from delicious food and drink offerings like glögg (mulled wine) were intoxicating! My must-have purchase? A tomte gnome, which is a traditional Swedish version of Santa. With this brisk evening jaunt in 37◦F weather, I had a fantastic glimpse into Christmas customs from a country that I adore. An early “God Jul” to you!

Travel Photo of the Month: September 2014

Image

In 2010, I purchased an around the world itinerary for a month-long long business trip that took me to the Middle East. I was thrilled to visit both Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates–especially Dubai. The trip was so incredible that it deserves its own entry, but for now, I’d like to share a highlight: an evening excursion that included exploring nearby sand dunes and a camel ride. Yes, it was touristy, but yes, it was a great memory. Meet my camel friend in the Travel POTM™ below. Happy September!

Camel Near Dubai

Camel Near Dubai

Business Trip to Bangalore

Although I’ve had the pleasure of journeying to India before (you can read about my trip to Delhi here), I was thrilled to go on a business trip to Bangalore last month. Part of my excitement was visiting the tech hub of India, and after my previous visit to “Incredible India!”, I wanted to experience more. The similarities: the hustle and bustle of daily life, the kindness of the people I encountered, and the incredibly delish cuisine. Speaking of cuisine, I enjoyed some of my favorites–masala, paneer, dosas!–multiple times throughout the visit. I also learned to love Indian tea.

With a packed agenda of meetings and not much time to see the city after it took nearly two days for me to arrive, I hired a driver to take me into the city center on a Sunday afternoon. I visited the quaint Bangalore Palace, which had guided tours and quite a bit of history to learn about the families that lived there in the past. (Note: if you are vehemently against the shooting and displaying of wild game, I’d skip it.) My driver also took me to Shiva Temple, and he was kind enough to tour it with me to explain some of the Hindu traditions. It was there that I took the majority of my photos in Bengaluru, and it–along with some religious history from a kind colleague–I got the best picture of local worship.

The majority of the week was spent in cars going to and fro my hotel–the swanky Zuri Whitefield–and the many meetings I had. The negative side of the Zuri: I did take the opportunity to go to the hotel’s spa (where the masseuse asked me if I ever exercised…I cringed); and the positive:the kind waiters tried to show me which foods were spicy. The one late afternoon I had off, I got to explore a local mall and try on some fabulous clothes at Biba, where I bought a really pretty shirt.

The main difference between this trip and my 2011 trip to India was sadly time: I did not have near enough of it to explore as I would have hoped.

 

Des Moines: French for The Moines

For our second annual Mom/Daughter Eating/Drinking/Touring Extravaganza, my mother and I visited Iowa and Nebraska this weekend. Friends and acquaintances asked why we’d make a specific trip to visit what is known as the “flyover states,” yet I am glad we did–Des Moines is quite a cosmopolitan treasure to explore! We arrived on a Friday morning, and after some navigation of the downtown area’s easily explorable streets, we hit the gorgeous state capitol building.

Iowa was my 36th state capitol to visit, and it was well-worth the trip: a beautiful 23 karat gold dome, a collection of miniature inaugural gowns of Iowa’s first ladies, and an incredibly gorgeous law library. If I lived in Des Moines, I’d try to figure out a way to have my wedding in the library–from stunning spiral staircases to rows and rows of books, it’s no wonder that international dignitaries and politicos regularly visit.

We enjoyed bloody mary drinks and lunch at a local spot before heading back out for a visit to the Center Street Pedestrian Bridge and the Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens. Free to the public, this was a nice way to burn off lunch…another of which being some light shopping on Locust Street. My favorite store was RAYGUN, which sold wonderful Midwestern-themed graphic products, including wares with this week’s blog headline “Des Moines: French for The Moines” emblazoned across them.

We drove by the well-known Salisbury House and walked through the Pappajohn Sculpture Park–worth a stop. Our evening was spent relaxing at our hotel’s evening reception (a perk to staying at the Embassy Suites) before heading to a delish prix-fixe meal at Lucca, both ideally located on Locust Street, with a beautiful night view of the capitol. We were in town during Iowa’s Capitol City Pride Fest 2014, as well as during an evening concert on the river, so our night ended with a glorious fireworks display. With or without the pyrotechnics, we found Des Moines to be charming!

 

Czastles, Czulture, and Czhurches in Czech Republic

I’ve long heard of Prague as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, and a week long trip to the Czech Republic in 2004 certainly proved that theory true. During this trip, the Hilton Prague Old Town was my home away from home, and it was the perfect spot to walk to many of the city’s beautiful sites: Karlov Most (the Charles Bridge), Old Town Square and its famous astronomical clock, and Hradčany, which is the castle district. Highlights of my time in Prague were dinner at an underground cellar restaurant (which we were told popped up during World War II) and seeing the public art via the Cow Parade.

My trip to the Czech Republic was primarily for a good friend’s wedding, and it took place in the quaint Southern Bohemian town of Třeboň. Picture a quaint city square with cafes, beautiful churches, and a trip to the Bohemia Regent brewery, and you have this darling little historical town. Experiencing a wedding–and the local customs that surrounded it, like a full-fledged parade through town of the wedding party–was quite unique. Prague is a beautiful European city and holds up against the oft-compared Budapest; I also really enjoyed visiting a town outside of the city to experience more of the local culture and history.

The Rooftops of Prague

Istanbul, Not Constantinople

During lunch today with a childhood friend who shares my passion for travel, the topic of vacationing in Turkey came up. While I hadn’t been to much of the country that counts itself as both European and Asian, I did experience a wonderful springtime weekend in Istanbul. From the famed sights to the gorgeous tulips, spending a weekend there was a wonderful introduction to the history, architecture, and culture of a riveting city.

I started with a visit to Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar. My favorite of these was certainly Aya Sofia—when I walked in under the gorgeous dome of this former Christian church and Muslim mosque (now a museum)—I was blissfully overwhelmed. Later that evening, I treated myself to a traditional Turkish bath…let’s just say that I was scrubbed within an inch of my life! As a modest American, this experience was not for me.

The next day, I walked around the bustling Taksim Square before joining Eser, my incredible local guide, to visit Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern, and the Spice Market. The food on my trip was lovely–think Mediterranean and delish. Even while traveling alone in this city that spans two continents, I felt mostly safe in my surroundings and one of the stamps in my passport that I was most thrilled to get…definitely crossed visiting Istanbul off of my bucket list!