I wanted to be in the desert for my birthday. The profound silence, the shimmering sand dunes, the mid-night sky, the colors that change throughout the day. It intrigued me!! Even though going to the Sahara is completely impractical, I was willing to bear the 10 hour drive (each way) across Morocco to get there. The Agafay desert (rocks not sand) lies a mere hour outside of Marrakech, but I envisioned riding camels high along the tangerine dunes while watching the sun slowly set. Unfortunately, my desert dream — was more like a desert disaster — so here are things I wished I’d known before I booked this extravagant excursion.
I’ve always been interested in Moroccan decor! The bold use of color, exotic tiles, and bohemian textiles. On a recent trip, I saw all of this inspiration in person. I studied how they used color and natural materials to make a space feel cozy and inviting. Every courtyard and Riad had it’s own unique style, and I was excited to SEE it ALL!!!
Morocco looks magical in photos, the African light, intricate tile work, desert colors and exotic architecture. Travel articles (here) praise the food and popular bloggers (here) post enviable pictures. Personal friends have raved about it and I even had a friend who lived there after college. So why was I disappointed?? Were my expectations too high or has it changed over the years? I’ve never felt like “prey” like I did in the Medina of Marrakech. So I wanted to pass along a few tips.
I recently walked 200 miles of El Camino de Santiago in Luxury. Many pilgrims lug (I mean carry) their belongings and sleep in albergues (hostels). Instead, I used RAW travel to transfer my luggage and pre-book the nicest hotels for me. Hard core pilgrims may feel this way is “cheating”, but the Camino is about spiritual contemplation, and I do that better when I’m well rested and wearing clean clothes.
If Disney created a “Mexican city”, it would be San Miguel de Allende! The colorful colonial buildings, blooming Jacaranda trees, immaculate churches, narrow cobblestone streets, and spotless parks — it’s so pristine that it almost feels fake!!! The weather was perfect in early April when we arrived. We couldn’t help but slow down from our normal pace. We poked around, lingered in cafes, sat on park benches, napped in the afternoons, sipped cocktails at beautiful rooftop bars, and listened to mariachis swoon beneath the moonlit sky. Aside from taking in the city itself, San Miguel is known for it’s talented artists and musicians. This means you can find vibrant cultural performances, live music and inspiring art. It’s no wonder San Miguel de Allende attracts so many expats!
Costa Careyes captivated my interest years ago when browsing through drool worthy photos of a book called The Castles of Careyes. Impressive villas perched on cliffs above of the Pacific Ocean designed to blur the lines between land and sea. These beauties whose rounded walls mimic Caracol shells are surrounded by 180⁰ infinity pools so they appear to be floating on water. I was struck by the sheer splendor of these architectural masterpieces.
So, when our friends suggested a trip there, I instantly agreed!
When my husband suggested we go to Venice, I hesitated. Venice is one of the most unique and beautiful cities in the world but during the last 15 year, it’s become a circus of tourists (an estimated 30 million a year to be exact). For this reason, I’ve avoided it. But, on route to the Dolomites in July, I snuck into Venice and managed to avoid the crush of visitors. I meandered through it’s narrow streets, walked along it’s romantic canals, crossed over it’s petite bridges, chatted with locals, and avoided the massive crowds. So, how did I enjoy Venice during the busiest month of the year??????
It’s difficult to say what captures your heart when you visit a place, but you might just fall in love with Cortona. Cortona is an artsy hill town on the Tuscan/Umbrian border. Many hill towns have been overrun by tourism, but Cortona’s year round residents maintain it’s authenticity. Francis Mayes put Cortona on the map with her book, Under the Tuscan Sun. The story of a recently divorced woman whose spontaneous purchase of a crumbling villa in Italy, restores and revives her own broken heart. Cortona is also a favorite destination of Jordan Schlansky, Conan O’Brian’s quirky producer and Italianfile. I spent 4 days in Cortona and it left a strong, loving impression.
The Dolomites, situated in Northwest corner of Italy on the Austrian border, are considered one of the most a beautiful mountain landscapes in the world. Once known as the “Pale Mountains”, this natural paradise was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2009. In early July, my husband and I treated ourselves to a week hiking the Dolomites with REI (outdoor adventure company) and are still giddy from the experience. Sipping cocktails poolside sounds relaxing but active trips can be life-changing. When my heart was racing after 2 hours of vertical climbing, I felt completely present and at peace. The alpenglow colors illuminating the rocks at sunset, the emerald pastures, greenish-blue lakes, flowering meadows, vertical walls, and cragged peaks make this one of the most remarkable mountain ranges to explore. If you aren’t convinced yet, keep scrolling…..
Traveling as a Vegan Has Gotten Easier
I used to worry a lot about how to travel as a vegan. And, at times, those worries were justified. But, mostly traveling as a vegan ends up being fun and easy. In fact, some of my FAVORITE vegan meals have come unexpectedly from restaurants around the world. Not only are more countries adopting vegan friendly attitudes but environmental sustainability is moving plant based eating into politics all over. In fact, Portugal recently passed a law requiring all civic restaurants to offer a vegan option. This law is intended to promote healthier eating, decrease harm to animals, and reduce long term environmental impact (source). Personally, it’s been my dream here in the U.S., but I’m thrilled it’s starting somewhere. This EXCITING news is music to my ears and makes me more eager than ever to plan a trip to Portugal next year.