August 2017 Travel Photo of the Month

As someone with a background in green buildings and sustainability, I love seeing new life breathed into old buildings. In San Antonio’s Pearl neighborhood, a fabulous shopping and dining district has risen from the ashes of the former Pearl Brewery. Imagine a place where kids play in a water feature while parents sit nearby and sip coffee. Shoppers peruse 13 unique stores, and guests marvel at the brewery-turned-luxe Hotel Emma. The Former Pearl BreweryOn a recent summertime visit, my best friend Holly and I had a double date with our mothers. We enjoyed mimosas at the lobby bar at Hotel Emma before cobb salads for four at Southerleigh. The moms–kindred spirits who were cheerfully in awe of the transformation of old to new–and daughters alike were inspired by the story behind the restaurant Cured (story here). An leisurely afternoon at the Pearl should be on the list of any visitor to the Texas Hill Country!

My Travel Bucket List

I’m a list maker–whether it be a shopping list, an ever-evolving to-do list, or my places to visit bucket list. As a travel blogger, this last list is one that I am constantly scheming places to add and later cross off. As I draft this, I’m currently at 39 countries visited, and soon, I hope to have seen more.

So, without further adieu or waxing eloquently (un-eloquently?), here is the shortlist of where I’d like to visit sooner than later:

  • All 50 U.S. state capitols: I currently have 9 left to hit.
  • Cuba: I am hoping to see Havana before it catches up to modern city.
  • Galapagos Islands: Turtles!
  • Peru:  Bring on Machu Picchu.
  • Brazil: After the Olympics this summer, I’m looking forward to Rio even more.
  • Antarctica: It’s the ultimate…and I do have a goal to hit all 7 continents.
  • Iceland: Air Iceland’s stopover package in Reykjavik sounds amazing.
  • Jordan: The historic architectural site of Petra seems unreal.
  • Egypt: I really want to see the pyramids…should have gone several years back when I had the opportunity!
  • South Africa: Friends went on an incredible safari…yes, please.
  • Cambodia: Angkor Wat is absolutely at the top of my list.
  • Vietnam: I’m curious to see the difference between Northern and Southern Vietnam.

With ever-growing inspiration and places I’d like to go, it’s almost impossible to want to revisit destinations I love. Yet there are places I want to be again. Places like Bora Bora, where we honeymooned, or Greece or Italy, which I’ve traveled to a couple of times but want to experience more.

As I pen this, I think of the Things To Do While Alive advertising campaign that struck me almost a decade ago when I lived in Sweden. Some items are checked off, and some of the items are still on my bucket list. I am thankful for these experiences, for the technology to capture memories (from my trusty Canon EOS! to Hipstamatic! and now my Sony and Instagram app), and for 5 senses to take in the world. Cheers to those places and people that have made impressions on me, and here’s to all of the adventures in store!

 

Seven Magic Mountains

I have been waxing poetically about things to see and do in Las Vegas for over four years now, yet there is never a lack of adventures and sites in my city! My latest must-see is a large-scale public art exhibition called Seven Magic Mountains that debuted this summer about 10 minutes south of the Strip. Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s massive, brightly painted boulders are free to visit and will be displayed for two years.

We visited on a Saturday morning in July. A rather warm day, I’d recommend a trip in the fall when the desert temperatures are cooler. I was lucky enough to hit the seven towers at the perfect moment to capture an image sans humans, and a patient photographer can most likely get the same shot. For more details about this vibrant art installation and driving directions, click here.

Nature Near Nevada

A dear friend who has visited me in Vegas multiple times is visiting this week, and I attempted the impossible: show her part of my beloved city that she has not yet experienced. She has already done many of my Las Vegas like a Local recommendations, including the Mob Museum, laughing our way through A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder at the Smith Center, and multiple activities on the Strip. We did take in Rock of Ages this weekend—which has recently moved to the Rio—and we nostalgically belted out ‘80s anthems at the top of our lungs…another must-see if you’re so inclined.

Alas, there is not much else that my friend Brandi hasn’t experienced in Las Vegas, even though I am constantly proclaiming each visit her “best trip ever.” With that in mind, I decided that it was time for a road trip: on to explore nature-y sites in neighboring Utah and Arizona. If you’re looking for a fast-paced (read: crazy) excursion to accompany any time in Vegas, then this is your itinerary.

Day One: Zion National Park and Horseshoe Bend

We started out around 9am from Vegas and drove approximately 2.5 hours on I15 to Zion National Park—and what an interesting drive it was! The road instantly started to climb when we crossed first into Arizona; then later in Utah, the topography became even more stunning. When we arrived in Springdale, Utah, we cruised through the quaint town, ignoring the many shuttle stops. After paying to enter the park and driving around mistakenly trying to find a spot, we turned around and parked in town and hopped a shuttle. The two shuttle lines were a very convenient to get around the park; we chose stop 5 to hit the Emerald Pools trail, and the online trail descriptions were most helpful in determining the right trail for two inexperienced hikers. We spent about 2 hours total in the park from start to finish, and while it is possible to spend—and enjoy!—so much more time in stunning Zion, we had to hit a very curvy mountain road to head to our next stop.

And that mountain road required some very active driving through canyons and a dark tunnel; approximately another 2.5 hours, and we made it into Page, Arizona, where we booked into the Best Western Plus. It was clean and adequate, plus had a nice hot breakfast. (Note: try to stay on top floor to avoid thunderous upstairs neighbors.) Not two girls to rest, we headed immediately to our next adventure: hiking about 20 minutes to see Horseshoe Bend. This is a magical place where the Colorado River has carved its way around a canyon—a spectacular view! Brandi and I caught the splendor and took photos before making the trek back to our car—mainly because we were worried that idiot tourists who were too close to the ledge would fall to an untimely death. Plus we were starved for dinner. Not much to feast on in Page though—the “Texas” BBQ place is most likely your best bet.

Day Two: Antelope Canyon and Valley of Fire

Our second day started off bright and early with the aforementioned hotel breakfast before checking out and making the 10 minute drive to the Lower Antelope Canyon. Our tour was operated by Dixie Ellis, and I highly recommend the photo tour. Picture this (pun intended): a quick walk in a small group, private canyon views, plenty of time to set up tripod and DSLR camera, and two hours of exquisite shooting in a place sacred to the Navajo. Pictures from another friend’s tour were the literal inspiration of this trip, and Antelope Canyon did not disappoint. Book the photo tour, bring your tripod, and plan to hit the canyons first thing in the morning. The Upper Canyon is famous for light beams, but we were more than happy with the imagery we collected. (One can tell the difference between the below tripod photos on the tour versus the others taken via iPhone.)

Page is a small community, but it was big enough to have a Sonic, which we hit before driving on the Glen Canyon Dam across Lake Powell (stunning and Hoover Dam-like!). Then, we hightailed it back to Nevada, crisscrossing across Arizona and Utah stateliness several times. It took us roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to Hurricane, Utah for a quick break, then another similar time period before we pulled into the Battleborn State’s first state park: the Valley of Fire. One can understand why several movies (Star Trek, Total Recall) filmed their alien scenes here against the stunning red rock scenery. Nevada residents save $2 on entry at the information center, and a 6 mile one-way drive takes one through quite a bit of the park’s landmarks. It was too hot to hike at 113° F, yet it was a lovely drive and well-worth some incredible photos.

Another 45 minutes’ drive, and we were back to the City of Sin! Keep in mind that cell phone reception is often spotty at best in this part of the country. For this trip, I recommend exactly two tanks of gas, plenty of water and sunscreen, very comfortable clothes (and close-toed shoes…can’t convince myself to buy hiking shoes), a great camera with tripod, an excellent playlist, and an incredible friend with whom to enjoy the journey!

 

Travel Photo of the Month: May 2016

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A year ago, in an remote and exotic location, my new husband Jacob and I were on our honeymoon. After weighing the Maldives and French Polynesia, we settled on the latter because of less travel time. While it seems like a world away, the flight to Papeete was only 8 hours from LAX, and we arrived early in the morning ready to get on island time at the Le Meridien. Our first stop: Tahiti–the island that houses a capital city best-known for its les roulottes (French for caravans); I call them food trucks.

I’d recommend travelers to skip Tahiti and head straight to the lush landscapes in Moorea or the stunning waters of Bora Bora…yet that is for a future blog post. The best part of our first day in paradise–snorkeling with my hot husband, who is the guest photographer of this month’s POTM™. Enjoy!

Shallow Waters in Tahiti

Shallow Waters in Tahiti

Travel Photo of the Month: November 2015

Although I’ve been to Mexico several times, I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to visit Chichén Itzá. Named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, this sacred site has long been on my places to visit. On a recent trip to the Riviera Maya, I joined a tour group and journeyed to the Mayan ruins. As I did when I visited Tikal, I was amazed by the geometry and planning of the ancient people; what a civilization the worshipers of the sun god must have been! This photo was taken from the south side of the main building, Kukulkan, El Castillo.

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Travel Photo of the Month: March 2015

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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