CROC

I’ve been feeling a little guilty. I don’t think I posted ONCE during the European Adventure. So instead of a life lesson, I’m going to give you:

THE COMPLETE REVIEW OF CITIES! (Abridged) PART 1

100 words or so about each place and maybe a picture or 5!

SAO PAULO and RIO, BRAZIL: Not as scary as I convinced myself it would be. Everyone had me terrified that I was going to be mugged and robbed and beaten and tricked all at the same time, especially in Rio. I’m not saying don’t be vigilant and aware, but I wish I had started out with more fun than fear. The exchange rate makes things SO very affordable so I did quite a bit of shopping! You’ll be able to get by with only English, but be prepared to be patient and make sure you have google translate downloaded! Sao Paulo has a palpable energy, kind of like NYC. I loved it. And make sure to visit the Presley Pub in Villa Magdalena and tell them Cessalee sent you. Please take some time to run, sit and/or people watch in Ibirapuera Park. It’s a magical place. And take it easy on the caipirinhas. Trust me. Rio was great for the sights and although I had the guidance of locals, you can definitely wander about and find some great spots for nightlife! Get out of Rio and Ipanema. But please, go to Zaza Bistro. Please. For me. Be open, talk to people but not the crazy ones, and be ready to walk into a samba party at any moment.

COST OF VISITING:  $

FOOD: 4.5/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 4/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 3/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/5

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Escadaria Selaron aka Where the Snoop Dogg video was filmed

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Amazing piece at the Afro-Brazilian Museum in Iberapuera Park

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The museum had a replica of a slave ship-a must see!

DUBAI and ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Decadent. Luxurious, Imported. That’s how I can best describe Dubai in particular. It was cool, so other worldly. The architecture is stunning, the extravagance afforded to even the common tourist makes you feel like royalty. Thankfully we visited the souks in Deira and took a trip to the Dubai museum. Otherwise, I’m not sure we would have really done or seen anything authentically Emirati. The cab drivers, the restaurant and bar employees, the tour guides, the yacht crew..no one was a native. It was sort of like they have imported in people to run their city so they don’t have to get their hands dirty. Truthfully the only place I got to see “natives” was in the malls. Abu Dhabi felt like the business version of Dubai. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center is a MUST SEE. Probably one of the most stunning things I’ve seen on this trip. And what trip would be complete without at least ONE all you can eat Friday brunch? We chose Saffron at Atlantis and while I can’t say the food was particularly good, the drinks were a-flowing! Even Mom got in on the action, and we definitely had a good time. If I were to go back, I would love to see the cultural center and Louvre Dubai and Guggenheim Dubai when they open on Saadiyat Island!

COST OF VISITING:  $$$$

FOOD: 3/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 3/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 3.5/5

Sheik Zayed Mosque in Adu Dhabi

Sheik Zayed Mosque in Adu Dhabi

From the outside of the Mosque

From the outside of the Mosque

Brunch at Saffron in the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai

Brunch at Saffron in the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai

Here's to the ladies who Brunch :)

Here’s to the ladies who Brunch 🙂

Desert Safari with SAADI Tours! We had a blast!

Desert Safari with SAADI Tours! We had a blast!

OSLO, NORWAY: I didn’t get to spend as much time here as I would have liked, but it was great for the two hours I was there! I loved the Nobel Peace Center Museum. The exhibit of Malala and Kailash. So inspiring. The uniform Malala was wearing when she was shot is on display. It’s just so small, she was just so young. And she impacted the world. The Targets exhibit is pretty moving as well. It argues that if we have enemies, we are also enemies. And depicts the realities of war training throughout the world. Pretty moving stuff. The other thing I love about Oslo is how easy it is to get from the airport to city. You can take the FlytoGet which is super convenient and about $30 bucks..or you can take a train that takes 3 more minutes for $14! Baggage station to Central Station in under 30 minutes! Just ask the people to help you. They don’t offer up that info, but are happy to give it if you ask! It is a pretty pricy city. Cabs were definitely a lot more than you’d expect elsewhere to be prepared for that!

COST OF VISITING:  $$$

FOOD: N/A (I only ate at Joe and the Juice, a tasty chain with locations throughout Europe)

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 4/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/5

A lovely day in Norway!

A lovely day in Norway!

The Nobel Peace Museum is a MUST!

The Nobel Peace Museum is a MUST!

Gnomes and Trolls!

Gnomes and Trolls!

It truly is beautiful here

It truly is beautiful here

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK: OOOHWEEE! This place was awesome! Definitely needed one more day there! Tivoli Gardens was pretty cool to visit. I got some roller coaster time in and got to see a rather strange show in the park! The Little Mermaid was ever so slightly underwhelming but I’m glad I got to see it. The grounds of The Kastellet were pretty cool and I highly recommend popping into as many churches as you can. I did head through Christiana to get to the opera house and it’s so crazy to think that a city sans law exists as well as it does. Truthfully I didn’t get to close, but it was really something to see. And don’t think you’ll get away with pictures. They will literally smash your camera on the ground. I went out to the Carlsberg Brewery and it as one of the better tours I’ve seen of a beer brewery. This self guided tour is a great way to learn about the Jacobsen family who founded two Carlsberg breweries and eventually brought them together. I would highly recommend the Copenhagen Card, I didn’t get it but almost everywhere I wanted to go took it. I think I would have saved a good deal of money. Speaking of money, it didn’t strike me as a super expensive place, it’s definitely on my list of returns!

COST OF VISITING:  $$

FOOD: 4/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 5/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4.75/5

Copenhagen from the water

Copenhagen from the water

A view from the RoundTower

A view from the RoundTower

Take a visit to Tivoli Gardens

Take a visit to Tivoli Gardens

The roller coasters are still run manually

The roller coasters are still operated manually

BEER!

BEER!

Denmark!

Denmark!

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS: This is another place I need to revisit. Luckily I have a one day layover coming up so I’m definitely going to take full advantage. I took a canal tour and even if there was no guide, it would have been magical. It feels like you’re lost in a maze that you don’t actually want to escape from. I think Amsterdam gets a bad name for being a hotbed of Red Light Vixens and Pot Smoking Hippies, but there is just so much more. Farmer’s markets are everywhere, great food, good beer, lovely canals to explore via boat or to admire via coffee shop..it’s just really awesome. Add in some great music and friendly locals and I’m sold! (Not to mention, the men here are pretty hot. Just saying)

COST OF VISITING:  $$

FOOD: 4/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 4/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4.5/5

Amsterdam is so lovely!

Amsterdam is so lovely!

The best airbnb of my entire European adventure!

The best airbnb of my entire European adventure!

The best

The best “coffee shop” in all of Amsterdam

Even the Red Light Ladies need a little Jesus now and then

Even the Red Light Ladies need a little Jesus now and then

The sun shines on A'dam

The sun shines on A’dam

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: I liked Brussels. As a food lover, I had my work cut out for me as I apptempted to do all of the important things in Brussels in under 24 hours. At one point I had a Belgian Waffle, topped with Belgian chocolate in one hand, some frites with two sauces in the other, while looking at Manneken Pis and drinking a Chimay. Thank goodness I’m not gluten free! In a strange turn of events, I also ended up at a lovely Ethiopian restaurant, Toukoul,  near St. Katherine’s and they took such great care of me, it was a most wonderful way to be introduced to Brussels! I really wasn’t there long enough to give you a full review, but my highlights definitely included the food, the skate park des Ursulines, the look of disappointment when people finally made it to Manneken Pis, the food, the square, the no-car Sunday, the abundance of delicious beer, and most definitely the food! I will be back, Brussels!

COST OF VISITING:  $$$

FOOD: 5/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 3.5/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/5

There is an abundance of beauty in Brussels!

There is an abundance of beauty in Brussels!

Delicious Ethiopian food from Toukoul

Delicious Ethiopian food from Toukoul

There he is, in all is Pis-ing glory!

There he is, in all is Pis-ing glory!

BELGIAN FRITES!! Nom nom nom!

BELGIAN FRITES!! Nom nom nom!

Mmmm...chocolat!

Mmmm…chocolat!

FRANKFURT, GERMANY: Frankfurt is busy! Upon arrival you get almost an American-sort of vibe from the locals. People move fast and they definitely have somewhere to go. Sort of like New York but smaller, and lots more smoke. There are a lot of really cool things to see in Frankfurt and I had an excellent tour guide so I think I got the best of the best..but it still just wasn’t my thing. The food was good, the beers were big, but there was just something unwelcoming about the city to me. Of course that was juxtaposed with the most welcoming and lovely people I met through Alex, his mom and grandmother. We went to a small Apfelwein (Apple wine) tavern near his house and it was like we had entered another dimension. The owners, a pair of Middle Eastern brothers who specialized in pork products, knew and loved Alex’s family and as much as they welcomed them, they welcomed me! We had a few hours to kill before my flight and had an absolute ball! So maybe next time I’ll go for the Apfelwein festival in August and stick to the taverns and stay out of downtown!

COST OF VISITING:  $$

FOOD: 3.5/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 2.5/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 3.5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 3.5/5

An ode to the walk-man!

An ode to the walk-man!

Architectural perfection in the train station

Architectural perfection in the train station

Even the malls are meticulously designed! This one has the longest escalator in Europe

Even the malls are meticulously designed! This one has the longest escalator in Europe

Alex's mom-such an awesome lady!

Alex’s mom-such an awesome lady!

This little lady is quite the firecracker!

This little lady is quite the firecracker!

BAD DURKHEIM, GERMANY: I loved this little town and wish I had more time there to explore! Bad Durkheim is the home of the largest wine festival in the world, Wurstmarkt. And while it literally translates to Sausage Market, it’s much more than than! It was a perfect preview to Oktoberfest. I was expecting the typical American wine festival with some wine tents and people offering tastings and pairings in small glasses and pinky-up sipping. Nope. Not in Germany you don’t. I got my first glass of wine in a pint glass. Let that sink in for a second. A pint of wine. You can see where this night is going. In addition to the wine, there were tents full of folks having a grand old time. Very rarely did I see someone “wasted.” I saw people having a great time, dancing, meeting their neighbors, sharing the good times together. And it was awesome. We rode the bumper cars where they do not take it easy on you, and a few of the rides before heading to our hotel that was on the grounds of the festival. In the morning we did a little shopping and while there were few people that spoke English, everyone was more than willing to participate in my game of charades until we could figure each other out! Definitely worth a stop on your next Oktoberfest trip!

COST OF VISITING:  $$$

FOOD: 3/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 5/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 3/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/5

Celebrating our Nomadness Travel Tribe!

Celebrating our Nomadness Travel Tribe!

A perfect way to end a great night!

A perfect way to end a great night!

I can't believe he made me do this!

I can’t believe he made me do this!

Ok, I”m going to stop here for now, because I’m here:

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Zanzibar, Tanzania

But I’ll be back to update more soon! In the mean time, I’ll get back to blogging! I promise, I’ll get back to my once a week schedule…but there’s just so much to do!! See you soon!

Journey ON!

Midriffs and the Middle East

Last week my #cescapades took me to Dubai and Abu Dhabi with my Mom and Aunt. When we arrived, I realized that “none at all” was a nice way of putting our pre-planning. None of us had any clue what we wanted to do. With only a few “must see” spots and group activities planned, we pretty much landed without a clue about the first move. It seemed the only thing all three of us had actually looked into was how to dress.

And when it comes to fashion my mom just wants to be cool. Literally. She’s not really a big fan of heat. Once we pass about 70 degrees, she’s ready to go inside. But she loves a sensible sun dress with a shrug! My aunt is a fashionista – looking good is ALWAYS important and in a place with such a rich culture and fine silks, she wanted to make sure to be in the running for Emirati’s top model…or at least look like it. I’m sort of ambivalent about fashion, but I like to be respectful. So all three of us landed in the middle of the desert with our cardigans and sweaters and long pants and maxi dresses and 2 hours in, we were soaked, I’m talking drenched, in sweat. And to make matters worse, we looked around and saw all the no-no’s our individual research had warned us against: exposed shoulders, short skirts, Bebe-I mean, WTF right? Here we are basically wearing our ski jackets and petticoats and these folks are just frolicking in their summer best! What gives?

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The Emirati culture is an absolutely beautiful one. The pride that the people had and have in their land and their work is clear to see today. The big Dubai boom came after the discovery of oil in 1966, but the foresight of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum is, in my opinion, what turned the United Arab Emirates into not just an oil producing region, but a major travel and business destination for the rest of the world for centuries to come. Throw in the exports to Iraq and you’ve stumbled upon a gold mine. And it’s understandable why people who are native to this land want to celebrate that rich culture. (all puns intended)

So thanks to booty shorts and American Apparel, it became pretty easy to pick out the foreigners.

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Truthfully, there was a delicate balance between under dressing and over heating, but we gave it our best effort! We went to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (one of the three things we had actually planned) and we were ready! We went through the website several times to make sure we were in compliance: Nothing tight, nothing short, long sleeves, head covering, nothing transparent.

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Mosque Manners for the Sheikh Zayed Grande Mosque

Of course upon arrival, all three of us were told we were in non-compliance and were swiftly sent into the basement to pick up our abayas. Sure, we were a bit frustrated at the lack of recognition of our efforts (ok..it was just me), but we went and made the most of it. And to my surprise, they were pretty cool. Our guide, Laila, also made a point to talk about the traditional dress of both men and women in the UAE. She said that she enjoyed wearing her abaya because it ensured that people were listening to her and not passing judgement based on her dress or her curves. Coming from a country where we regularly judge based on all sorts of things long before we even meet people (I’m looking at you, Tinder), it was a very interesting way to think about appearance.

Auntie, Mom and Me at the Mosque

Auntie, Mom and Me at the Mosque

So by the end of the trip, we relaxed our dress a bit. We weren’t so terrified to wear a v neck t-shirt or throw on a knee-length skirt. But the traditions and the culture definitely rubbed off on us. I may or may not have bought a few traditional dresses of my own. I have no idea where I’ll wear them, but I’m excited!

And more than anything, I left with a great deal of respect for the women in the UAE, or anywhere, who choose to wear their abaya, burqa, hajib, chador, or niqab or any other garments that allow them to feel comfortable. In the States, I’ve seen my fair share of side eyes at women fully or partially covered, but I get it now…at least better than I did before. And I have to say ladies, though it may not be MY look, I think YOU are beautiful!

Here’s to beautiful people, inside and out!

Ode to the Good Guys Part 1

Before I begin, I want to talk a little about this series. I recently met some of the most wonderful humans ever. I was in Sao Paulo having my last meal in Brazil when the folks at the table next to me saw me eating alone and invited me over. Turns out they were my flight attendants on my flight home the next day. I can not tell you how wonderful that night was, and how equally amazing my flight was, all thank to THEIR random act of kindness. So that meeting inspired me to just want to say think you to all the people who are wonderful or do wonderful things, just because. They are the Good Guys…and they deserve a little love so here’s my shout out/recognition/thank you to some of the Good Guys out there! And the first edition is my Mom and Aunt!

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Hello there from Dubai!

This week I’m traveling to the Middle East and I have my mom and aunt, Valerie and Cessalyn, along for the ride. Every few years we hit an international destination for their birthdays (Sept. 1 and 3) and it’s usually a pretty good time although we all have completely different travel styles. Mom wants to sit somewhere, preferably in air conditioning or at least with a major breeze, and read her book. Auntie wants to see and be seen, but with major breaks for resting and napping in the middle and I would be happy if I never sat down until it was back in the airplane seat to come home. Needless to say, we drive each other nuts. I’m always barking about tomorrow’s agenda, mom is looking for a place to sit down and auntie is ready to go back to the hotel.

But I wouldn’t trade these vacations for anything.

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Do you have any idea how cool it is to be able to travel the world with your family?

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To be able to see and do things that I’ve never done and will hopefully never be coerced into doing again (I’m looking at you desert dune ride) with the people you love. I have to say, it’s pretty awesome. Now I’ve been married a time or two so I’ve definitely done trips with a signifiant other, and that’s great too-don’t get me wrong. But mom/aunt/daughter time is great because it after 15 years of not living in the same city, it gives me a chance to just hang out with my girls. There is no worry about the Christmas dinner menu or the birthday party for uncle so and so or whether or not we’ve got tickets to see my show and what she’s going to do while I”m at work, it’s just us. In a neutral place where I don’t know anyone or anything and you don’t either and to make it out with some fun stories, we’re all in this together. Sometimes I get short with them because we’re not on the schedule or they don’t have a seven item want-to-do list prepared upon arrival in Abu Dhabi. But the truth is, I love these ladies. I love these trips and the fact that I can still be 100% myself around my other friends here and my mom just smiles and laughs (and sometimes video tapes) is awesome. And after the after party turns to the after after party, I still want to go home with my family instead of hitting turn up Part 3. Just so we can get up early and do it all again tomorrow.

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Atlantis Dubai

Ladies, you’re great.

But I hope you set your alarms. We have a lot to accomplish tomorrow!