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!

The Good Guys: Part 2

Traveling is awesome. Can you imagine trying to fulfill your wonderlusting desires in 1915? In just 100 years we have technological advances that allow me to book a flight to London while in Munich boarding a flight to Paris. From the internet to credit cards to flat bed seats, things are really looking up for us.

And that brings me to the latest edition of the Good Guys. Man, I have really, really been blessed to have such wonderful people walking across my path! These GGs that I’m recognizing today have been integral parts of my travel success and enjoyment.

Let’s start with my last night in Brazil. I needed to go to a Brazilian Steak House becuase who goes to Brazil and doesn’t go to a Brazilian Steak House (side note: The one I went to was JUST LIKE Fogo de Chao). I was seated next to this table of four and heard American accents…well, Texas accents to be specific. I remarked to them that I was nice to hear familiar sounds, to which the deepest Texas accent said, “Well just com’on over sugar. You can hear even more if you’d like.” And this was the first step into one of the best nights I had in Sao Paulo. The group turned out to be my flight crew for my flight home. After dinner, we went to listen to some live music and the pilot took care of me and the girls all night! On a night that I thought I would be getting to bed early and just having a tame ending to my first Cescapades stop, I ended up hanging out until 2 am having the time of my life! Thank you American Airline good guys for inviting me over to sit. Not only did you majorly boost my opinion of your airline, you also pulled this girl out of her shell on a night that I really needed it! You are officially on the list of Good Guys!

Moving over a few continents, we come to Brenda in Dubai. Man, I adore this girl! We met thanks to the Etihad Airlines glitch flight (Chicago to Abu Dhabi round trip, $200). My mom and aunt were with me (the original GGs) and we have some plans to hang out with members of the Nomadness Travel Tribe, of which Brenda and I are both members. Well, long story short, Brenda became fast friends with my family and within one day, I knew that if Brenda was there, the girls were ok. She honestly took better care of them than I did and it was awesome to see the ladies get to interact with my friends. When I told Brenda about my travel plans, she went out of her way to send a list of Paris hotspots and even paid for me to take a guided tour with a company she loves. Brenda, you’re a GG, and I cant wait to fall in love with your favorite city!

But being a GG doesn’t take much. Like Christine, the woman across the aisle from my on my Frankfurt to Berlin flight. So many delays caused everyone to be testy, but when we got off the flight we shared a laugh about the nature of German businessmen and she made sure to take me in her cab to get me to my location safely. Or there were Elodie, Diego and company in Munich who invited me to tag along with their oktoberfest festivities. Or the WONDERFUL airbnb hosts I’ve had in Berlin and Amsterdam who every so graciously made sure my stay was awesome!

Being a GG isn’t hard. We can all do it. So next time I’m home, I’m going to escort some lost tourists to Times Square. On second thought, I’ll just help them buy a CTA card.

Beautiful day trip to Brussles

The Europe leg is definitely the most rushed part of my Cescapade and that was completely due to my “planning.” At the time of booking, it was planned to be the only trip, other than GlitchGate, and then I was going to go back to New York and get a job. Because a month of traveling is enough for anyone-especially an unemployed anyone, right? 

  

#awesomehuman and his Mom

  
After spending New Years with one of my favorite humans and his Mama, Finn and Hezza, I got inspired to work towards my 40 x 40-a familiar phrase among the wonderlusting  folk that refers to hitting 40 countries by the time you hit 14,610 days…accounting for leap years, of course. I had only done 9 (10 if you count Northern Ireland as it’s own country) so I had a long way to go. I was almost 32 and accounting for potential years I would be pregnant or with small child and out of commission-again with the planning-I figured I probably need to hit about 8 countries a year on my good years and 2 on the off ones to make my goal. 4 good years, 4 off years and 2 baby years put me in good shape so I needed to hit 6 in this one trip.  Abu Dhabi was booked and there was talk of Iceland, and so a trip to Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Czech Republic (France is a repeat so it doesn’t count) began to take shape.

Operation Eurotrip was alive with a mission to basically get into as many countries as possible. The flights into Oslo were extremely reasonable (thank you Norwegian Airlines) so it was the clear starting and stopping point. Then came the fun part. In addition to the places that made the final cut, Sweeden, Greece and Poland were up for review, but something had to give. Brussels even almost got the axe but got saved by an amazing hotel at a great price! I narrowed it down to 10 cities. Let that sink in. 10 cities, one city twice, in 19 days. Whew..I can do this! 

  

Turns out, this is hard! It’s now Sunday and in the last week I’ve been in 5 countries. I’ve been on 3 airport shuttles, 2 planes, 1 train, a handful of roller coasters, a boat and tomorrow I leave on a bus! And I’m loving it, I truly am, but even the good Lord needed a day of rest! 
   

While it may look creepy, this man is actually running the ride!

  

Demnark! On a boat!

 
 So here I am in Brussels. And on my way here I pulled out my map of all the pre-starred, check-listed, fully planned things I needed to do during my 17 hours here. I reviewed my must sees and my should dos and by the time I got to my hotel I had a plan. 
But then I saw that a former-Belgian friend on FB mentioned a few areas not in my list. And the lovely clerk who checked me in mentioned the sauna and hot tub are open til 11. And then I got out and realized that it’s Sunday and many of the things in my plan just aren’t open today. 

So I stopped at the first restaurant I saw and filled my belly with some delicious Ethiopian food…probably the best Brussles has to offer. And I’m gonna snake my way to the monuments and see what I can see, and hopefully a few pieces of chocolate or a waffle makes it way to my mouth before that hot tub starts calling my name. And then I’ll probably be in bed by the time the is day football games air here. 

 

Almost in bed before football

  
And that’s ok. Sometimes plans don’t work out. And sometimes the best things in life happen by mistake. So here’s to taking a vacation from my vacation.
#journeyon

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!

Joyful Julie!

I pride myself on usually being a pretty positive person. It just makes things easier (side note-I’m also ridiculously sensitive at times so dejected broodiness doesn’t count). But one day in Rio was testing my powers of patience.

Before arriving, when I told anyone my plans to be in Rio staying on Copacabana Beach alone, I got nothing but “that look.” You know the one that says, “poor American girl, didn’t do her research. She’s going to bet mugged.” Even my own mother said, “we’ll just pray that you’ll be ok.” Geez mom, thanks for the comforting words!

After almost getting got by the taxi folks in the airport, I was whisked into the city by a cab driver who apparently thought I was casting for Fast and Furious part 17. Considering my driving habits are most akin to a 45 year old soccer mom with 3 kids in the back, I was terrified.

But thankfully (and as they always do) my travel group came through. There was someone else visiting from California staying literally one block from me and she was hanging out with a “local.” I put that in quotes because this woman is the definition of worldly. Calling her local seems to minimize her story! Born in France, raised in Martinique, grew up in Canada, moved to Brazil to translate and is just a hostess with the mostess! Anyway, I digress-she took us to Lapa and I was able to settle my nerves with conversation, pepperoni pizza and a giant beer.


The next morning, I was feeling a bit braver with Rio.  I had a tour planned to see Christ the Redeemer and St. Teresa and all the touristy stuff and it was going to be a great day! #liverejoicing and all that….well it was a bit tougher than I thought it would be.

9am is the meet up time and I’m pumped! I get there at 8:55-just in case. But after about 10 minutes of waiting, nothing. Thinking I may have missed it, I called the company…9:30 they said. Ok. No problem, time to get breakfast! REJOICE! So I get back at 9:25 expecting to see a group of some sort. No such luck, but I’m not too worried.  Ten…fifteen minutes later I call again. Oh, we’re just running late. We’ll be there. Well, at least I’m not late! Rejoice!

Two. Hours. Later. The guide finally shows up with a flurry of profanity and life stories about his 2nd divorce and how his 10 year old has tits; it was enough to make anyone a bit uncomfortable. Add in him telling a story peppered with the N word left me not too thrilled with this particular tour. Not to mention, it was so cloudy, there was no way we were going to see much of the monuments and city anyway.

But thank goodness for Joyful Julie.

Julie was from Belfast. What a relief to hear such a familiar accent! It made me think of my family in Derry, Ireland and gave me such a sense of peace! As we approached the day, she laughed off the (really bad) jokes and comments of the guide and came up with a positive response all day! Her phone was stolen on her first day in Rio but now she has more time to experience things instead of keeping her nose in a phone. As we drove up and the concern was that we wouldn’t be able to see Christ the Redeemer, she said, “it’s probably better this way, since no one really knows what he looks like anyway!”

And when we got there, as predicted, Jesus was covered in clouds. You could sort to make out his form but that was about it. Julie quipped, “everyone comes on a clear day! We’re the lucky ones who get to experience something different.” God, I needed that girl.


I took a breath, thanked the universe for my presence and my day. Looked up at this amazing wonder of the world and started my descent when people started shouting. And as all horror movies teach you, I, the one Black girl, headed straight towards it!

Thank goodness I did! Literally, the clouds parted for exactly 15 seconds. I got my picture with Jesus! By the time I looked at it, realized I looked hideous and tried to redo, the moment was gone. He was back in the clouds.


REJOICE!!

We left and went to see a few other places in Rio. What an interesting city. The rich are really rich and the poor are really poor. It seems to me, from the outside, that it’s really hard to move up in class-if you’re born in the favelas, you’ll stay in the favelas. It’s equally beautiful and heartbreaking.

I got back to my hotel and tried to wrap my head around all that the day was. And smiled. Thank you Joyful Julie (and Fun Fran). You got me through that day!

#journeyon

Today’s lessons :)

(Note: I thought this posted on Sunday, so it’s a bit out of order!) 

I woke up this morning so excited for the adventure, I posted a “thank you and I’m out” message to my amazing travel group and was greeted with over 100 likes and comment and well wishes! 

I checked and double checked everything. Registered with the Embassy, made sure I had copies of my passport and everything I needed, checked in for my flight for tomorrow and then went to check in today!

Only then did I see that dreaded message, FLIGHT DELAYED! At 10am, my 6pm was already delayed by 10 minutes. This can’t be good…but I had too much to do! I had to send the final copy to my awesome 5 Minute Call intern, Alex. I had to re pack (for the 37th time) and I had to check Facebook for like three hours…no time for stress! 

And of course, as I was headed to the airport, mom praying and repeating her favorite saying, “Be careful for nothing” I get a phone call from American. “Ms. Stovall, we regret to inform you that your flight has been delayed by 45 minutes (I only had 50 for the connection) but don’t worry, we’ll keep an eye on your connecting flights and let you know if there are any issues.”

NO MA’AM! 

I jumped on my trusty phone and went to Google Flights to find a solution! Luckily I was headed to the airport two hours before flight time-I had previously never been a big advocate of that much time, but I’m thankful today! At exactly 4pm I walked my little self right over to the desk and told the gate agent my issue. She started to suggest getting in the next day, but that wasn’t an option so I asked for the 4:45 Delta to Atlanta and then to SP  and without a bit of hassle she said “Sure! Now run over toDelta and get yourself checked in!” 
I may have lost my exit row seat….grrrrr….but at least i didn’t lose a day of Brazil!!

I’m out!! 
#journeyon