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Woman’s Day Annual Red Dress Awards

Woman’s Day Annual Red Dress Awards

This year, I was privileged to attend the Woman’s Day 2014 Red Dress Awards for the second year in a row. The Red Dress Awards honors and recognizes those who do extraordinary work to raise awareness of heart disease in women.

I made my way to NYC, where I stayed at the London hotel and this was my view:


I go to New York probably about a half a dozen times a year at least, but there is still always something about the city that gives me a thrill. I don’t think I’d want to live in NYC, but I appreciate it for what it is.

I ate at The Modern dining room at MOMA:


Bread with cow’s milk and goat’s milk butter; amuse bouche; Jerusalem Artichoke soup with sweetbreads and an egg with black truffle coulis; Oven Roasted Trumpet Mushrooms, mussels, Harissa vinaigrette, jamon iberico; Quail in its jus, winter vegetables, foie croquettes and fried quail legs; concord grape ice cream, vanilla meringue, pistachio ice cream.

I highly recommend the Modern, I will definitely be going back because all of the food was just wonderful and there was so much more on the menu that I wanted to try.

I got back to the hotel, dressed up in my new red dress and headed to the awards at the Jazz at Lincoln Center.


It’s always a beautiful sight to see so many women and men dressed in red, having fun but dedicated to a wonderful cause.


Plus, the view from my seat once we got into the auditorium wasn’t bad. 😉

Then, low and behold, a few rows in front of me is TOM HANKS!


Yeah, it’s blurry, but it’s him! I was about to claw my way over the seats just to say hi, but I restrained myself. It was difficult because Tom Hanks is one of my favorite actors, someone I’ve always wanted to meet, and let’s face it: I have grown up watching this man’s movies. I feel like I know him!

Tom was there supporting his wife, Rita who was the host of the evening. She sang a couple of songs (who knew she sang?) and he adorably bopped his head along to her songs and looked with a loving gaze at her the whole time. He’s just as romantic in real life as he is in the movies, guys.

But then, the evening got even more exciting when former President Bill Clinton took to the stage!



It was wonderful to hear him speak, as I had the opportunity to hear former Vice President Al Gore speak last year. Check this administration off for me! President Clinton spoke about childhood obesity and measures his foundation is taking to raise awareness to families and to give them the tools to prevent it. After his speech, he didn’t stick around, but it was still quite thrilling to see him.

Sara Barielles took the stage and sang four songs. I know a couple of her popular songs, of course, but I’m not very familiar with her. After seeing her live though, I can tell you that she has an adorable personality and is very talented.


After her first song, she stopped and said to the audience, “I’m really nervous. It might be because Tom Hanks is sitting right in front of me.” And then Tom Hanks threw his head back in laughter.

Overall, it was a great, fun night dedicated to the fight against Heart Disease but the excitement of the celebrity attendees was a wonderful addition and surprise.

I also got to walk the red carpet, which was fun!


Of course, I had the opportunity to do this through Campbell, so I was working during the event, live tweeting as the awards occurred. Campbell provided some delicious and heart-healthy appetizers that were really fun! Our culinary team does a great job and I love seeing what they can do with our products.

See my write-up of the event on Campbell’s corporate newsroom here.  (and, shameless plug: feel free to leave a comment there too!)

New Year, New Adventures

New Year, New Adventures

Yesterday, this happened:

We booked a trip to Turkey for April 6-19 of this year.

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Hot Springs “Cotton Castle” in Pammukale

Hot Air Balloon Rides in Cappadocia

I was the one who pushed for this trip, researched it and booked it, and it’s the first time that I’ve truly taken “ownership” of one of our travels. Mike usually does the bulk of the research and planning, so I’m proud that I’ve stepped up and taken this on.

I chose Turkey for a few reasons:

  1. Look at it. Holy shit it’s beautiful. Turkey has a vastly different landscape to anything else that we’ve seen before. The amount of geological, architectural and geographical eye candy is almost too vast to wrap my head around.
  2. I have never experienced an Islamic culture before and would love to learn more about it and seek to understand it. I will have to cover my head at times, but I have no issue with it in order to just experience something so different than what I’ve lived and seen. I wish to wipe all preconceived notions of the Islamic culture from my mind with this trip and truly make my own observations and conclusions based on experience.
  3. Turkey is a blend of cultures that manifests in absolutely beautiful and exotic ways that spills into art, architecture, textiles and food. I want to bustle through the markets and experience the bartering, the spices, the atmosphere.
  4. Food. Come on, you guys know me by now!! Turkish Cuisine is something I don’t have a lot of experience with and I want to learn more through authentic experiences (um…by eating it).
  5. Anyone who has been to Turkey has said that it changed their life, was one of the best trips they had taken, etc etc etc. We’d like to see for ourselves.
  6. I wanted a challenge. I wanted something exotic. I wanted a place that would be awe-inspiring and also a place that could cause me to reflect and think on the world in a broader sense.

This is the path we will be taking:

We’ll start in Istanbul and go counter-clockwise through Western Turkey and end back in Istanbul.

Now, here’s for the part where I feel a little…unsure. We’re taking a tour of the country with a group, On The Go Tours. I’ve never been on a tour with others and I feel a number of contradictions inside of me based on this tour:

  1. I feel like less of a traveler since I’m not DIYing this trip
  2. I’m nervous to be around other people all of the time since Mike and I have our own pace, rhythm and style of travel. I like not having to answer to a group for anything & doing what makes us happy.
  3. But…I’m already going to be slightly out of my comfort zone with this trip, maybe I shouldn’t push it and just experience these things instead of stressing about the details.
  4. This country is huge, there is a lot to see and doing it ourselves could be stressful as it’s unlike anywhere we’ve ever traveled before.
  5. Renting a car & purchasing gas would be very expensive and if we get lost or have car trouble, it could be a much bigger issue in rural Turkey.
  6. But…isn’t that a part of traveling and shouldn’t we just do it anyway?

So we chose a tour because we wanted to see as much as possible without needing to stress about details, car rentals, multiple bus rides, etc. And if we don’t like this experience for Turkey, we’ll know better next time to DIY, but we’ll still get to see most of the sites that we want to see on this trip.

Our tour group will be relatively small ( I think up to 22 people) and it will hopefully attract other travelers like ourselves that we can get to know. Since one of my favorite parts of our South African safari was getting to know the other travelers, I am excited to get to know others like us to swap stories with.

I’m very excited!! Turkey will definitely be a very different country than any I’ve experienced before and I’m looking forward to expanding my horizons once again.

We have some other things brewing in 2013 in terms of travel too, so I’m hoping that this will be the first trip of a few this year!

Mantra #1: Go, Do

Mantra #1: Go, Do

Mike and I have two mantras that we say to each other on a near-daily basis. I was never much of a mantra kind of person, but what started out as little jokes or reminders have somewhere along the way turned into very deeply-held beliefs that we possess today.

Mantra #1: Go, Do.

Go, Do started out just as the lyrics from one of my favorite songs from Icelandic singer, Jonsí. It’s a very catchy and uplifting song that inspires us whenever we hear it. It also spurred us on to start making plans for a trip to Iceland (more on that later!), but that’s beside the point.

The jist of the song is that we can go anywhere, do anything and that we should live life to it’s fullest. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff for a song, but inspiring, nonetheless. And the song found its way into my iTunes downloads just in time for our wild journey in Spain to begin.

“I’m not sure if I like anchovies or octopus. Should I try this?”
“Go, Do.”

Now anytime we’re stuck wondering if we should make the effort to go out or do something even if we’re tired, hungry, grumpy or anything inbetween, we tell each other “go, do.” It is a very effective way of saying that we will never regret the risks and efforts needed to experience something new and different.

And it is always, ALWAYS true. There has never been an instance where we didn’t learn something or experience something amazing by making the decision to step out the door rather than stay in. I don’t remember all of the nights that we may have had a pizza and played cards (though those days are a necessary part of life too), but I do remember when we wondered if we should really go out to that one tapas bar even though we weren’t too hungry but then had an incredibly interesting conversation with a Belgian doctor who spoke four languages. Or that time that we decided to check out some bonfires on the beach for a Spanish holiday and it turned out looking like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.

The San Xoan Bonfires in La Coruña

Go, Do is a way of telling each other that our experiences are what makes life memorable and exciting. Go, Do is a way of not letting ourselves be homebodies and couch potatoes because there is just too much to see.

Should we go to that crowded bar during the playoffs where the atmosphere will be electric even though I hate crowds? Go, Do. Should we go see that museum exhibit even though it’s crappy weather and parking will be a bitch? Go, Do. Should we go to New York to see a show even though we need to find a walker for the dogs? Go, Do.

We hope to live our lives by the Go, Do mantra as there is rarely an experience that we regret just by getting out of the house and experiencing something new, fun and different. Go, Do doesn’t make excuses. Go, Do makes memories.

Are you a Go, Do kind of person? Do you want to be?

Cape Town, South Africa Video

Cape Town, South Africa Video

If you need a refresher of our 4-day Cape Town extravaganza, here is the first recap and here is the second recap.

We had a wonderful time overall in Cape Town and would go back in an instant. Here is the video of our trip!

Cape Town, South Africa from Mandy Weger on Vimeo.

Today, we’re leaving for Ireland and it couldn’t come at a better time. We’ve had a ton of issues with our house here in Spain, the main one being that we have been without hot water for over a week. Our landlady won’t respond to any calls or emails, the repair people won’t fix it because she owes them too much money, and the list goes on and on.

So this trip is very welcome, as I am dying to take a hot shower once again and just get away from this house that seems to be falling apart around us.

If going back to New Jersey wasn’t so appealing a few weeks ago, now it is looking MUCH more like home. I suppose it’s a good thing to look forward to going back home, though these less than ideal circumstances is not the best way to leave Spain behind.

We are very much looking forward to Ireland though, and I’m going to soak up that sweater weather as long as possible before I return back home to the sweltering heat! How are you guys surviving over there in those temps??

I’ll try to check in here and there, but I make no guarantees! You know how our traveling works!

Living it up

Living it up

With the final time that we have here, I’ve been so busy living it up that my poor blog has been suffering!!

Here’s an update of all that happened:

  1. My cousin Rachel came to visit us for three weeks. Here in Galicia, we went to Coruña, Lugo, Santiago and Pontedeume. We stopped in Porto, Portugal as well so Rachel could taste some Port wines. We also went to Girona and Barcelona for a week. We got Rachel to try an incredible amount of new foods including oysters, shrimp heads, gooseneck barnacles, mussels, and oh, about a million other things. In Barcelona, I met one of my chef idols, Albert Adria.
  2. We had an outrageously fun barbeque with some friends where we proceeded to drink a few too many wines, beers and shots (!!) during the afternoon into the late evening.
  3. We went to a local (insane) holiday here called La Noche de San Xoan (the night of St. John) where the locals all bring wood, cardboard, doors, window frames, and anything else that will burn to the beach and set it on fire. It looked like the world was ending and it was the most insane and incredible sight we have seen since seeing lions kill that buffalo.
  4. Mike and I just got back from a long weekend in San Sebastian where we ate at the 3rd, 8th, and 31st best restaurants in the world, as well as stuffed our faces with some incredible tapas. There is SO much to say about these restaurants.
  5. We have been packing up our things this week as the movers come on Friday to take our stuff.
  6. I’ve been working my ass off to get my resumes and online portfolio together so I can find a job when I get home.
  7. On Tuesday, we are leaving for a last-minute trip to IRELAND and NORTH IRELAND
  8. When we get back, we have two days before we leave for Madrid with our puppy dogs to stay for the weekend before…
  9. On the 31st, we hand our puppies off to their airport transfer and we get on a plane and go back home where we will eat an insane amount of pizza, sushi, Indian food and Mexican food.
  10. In September, we head to Las Vegas to spend time with my family for 5 days and then we head to Denver for 3 days on our way back home.


AND I still have a few things from May and June to recap for you guys! There just aren’t enough hours in the day to live and then write about it.

So I hope you guys are still with me because I have a LOT to say, but I’m just not sure how frequently I’ll be able to post in the next few weeks as we have our trip to IRELAND and then we have Madrid and then we’re home.

I’ve made a few videos recently that I’ll post up here in the next few days to catch you up with some of the above happenings.

Just to leave you with a teaser of what’s to come, here was the beach in Coruña on la noche de San Xoan when some of the fires (not even all of them) had already been lit!

You can see the fires all along the coastline, and in the background, fireworks are going off while thousands and thousands of kids drink and take hallucinogens way too close to these homemade fire teepees. Spain amazes me.


Mom & Dad’s Visit to Spain

Mom & Dad’s Visit to Spain

Apologies for my absence last week, but I had a good reason! My parents came to town!!

We were so busy bouncing around and showing them everything we could that I just didn’t have a lot of time to sit down and write.

I have my latest video here to recap Mom & Dad’s visit!

Today, my younger cousin is coming to town and she’ll be with us for a longer stay–nearly 2 weeks with us here at our house, and then I will travel with her to Barcelona for nearly a week before she heads back home. I am nervous because I have never traveled without Mike, but I’m also excited because it gives me the opportunity to prove to myself that I am capable of navigating an unfamiliar city just as well.

I know that I’ll be taking Rachel on quite a few adventures in the coming weeks, but hopefully I’ll have some time to sit and write more since we don’t have to be nearly as fast-paced with all the time we have.

How was your week? Have you ever traveled internationally with your parents? How did it go?

The Real Safari Experience: The Hardest Thing to Watch

The Real Safari Experience: The Hardest Thing to Watch

Warning: The following video and photos contain extremely graphic content. This is nature at its most violent and cruel.

I went in to our South African safari with the hope that I would see some truly fantastic animals at close range to observe them in their natural state. We had a wish-list of things to see, and over the course of 7 days on safari, we checked off nearly everything.

Most memorable, most haunting, most life-changing was when we checked off seeing a kill from start to finish.

(Change your settings in the video to HD for the best viewing experience)

On the morning of May 16, 2012, Mike and I went with our guide Grant on a short bush walk around the property of Motswari Safari Lodge in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve in South Africa. During this walk, Grant pointed out the different types of plants and showed us how he tracked animals. While on this walk, we saw extremely fresh footprints of more than one lion. Grant told us that he’d try to track them down for us later while we were on our night drive.

That evening, when we set off on our night drive, the lions were not far from where we had just walked a few hours earlier.

It was still hot and the lions were inactive, though showing signs of restlessness. It didn’t look like they’d be up any time soon though, so we moved on to other animals (including walking on foot to get closer to some rhino!).

A few hours later, on our way back to the lodge, we checked in on the lions and saw they were awake and alert. Though they had looked thin while we saw them in the afternoon, we could plainly see their ribs through their skin as they stood, sniffing the air.

Having these massive animals sniff the air, looking hungry and ready to hunt while only feet from our vehicle was thrilling, though I of course felt safe the whole time.

We went back to the lodge for dinner and a good night’s rest, and the next morning headed out for what would be our final drive of our trip before we boarded a plane back to Spain.

It was a good morning, to say the least. We got close to two curious young hyena males and then found ourselves amidst a herd of over 100 elephants. We could have called it a day and a trip right then and it would have been amazing.

But Grant, getting a call on his radio about something bigger, took us racing to another scene: the three lions were at a close-by camp and had greatly injured a male buffalo.

There were a few circumstances that made this particular area exceptional for us as viewers, as well as for the lions as predators. For us as viewers, the camp that the kill took place on was a private camp, which meant that only certain vehicles were allowed access to it. Motswari vehicles were allowed. Also, for us as viewers, since the lions had cornered this buffalo on this camp, the grass was not very thick or tall, allowing us full visability.

For the lions, this was incredibly convenient because it was in the open, where they could easily keep an eye on and defend their kill, they had trees nearby for shade, and there was a watering hole about 50 yards from them so they could easily drink and groom themselves over the next few days as they fed.

So there we were, in nearly perfect circumstances to witness what we had wanted to see since the beginning of our safari: a kill. But the buffalo was laying down and Grant informed us that the lions would wait until it stood up and started moving before they would take it down. We didn’t know when or if that would happen during the time we had left on our morning drive.

But lo and behold, the buffalo got up, got moving, and the six of us in that vehicle were able to witness the kill in full. Well, I suppose you could say five since one woman hid her face and was not able to watch.

Nothing prepared me for this. Nothing. No movie, no nature show, no experience from my past prepared me to witness the absolute and total agony of the buffalo. In my mind, there has always been “alive” and “dead.” Movies and nature specials show the hunt of an animal, the attack of the animal, and select shots of the feeding of the animal once its dead.

I had never in my life witnessed the process of “dying” until this moment, and I can say that it really has changed me in some subtle but profound way.

The blood and guts I could deal with. The cries of the buffalo were much harder as he looked at all of us, head lifted off of the ground, tongue out, panic in his eyes, screaming. It was chilling, but I couldn’t look away. I knew I was witnessing something important in my life, and I’m glad that I saw everything in its full, raw detail. It took forty minutes from the beginning of the attack for the buffalo to die.

The smell was also something that I was not prepared for. The smell of death was always the smell of formaldehyde to me, but now
now I associate a completely different smell with death, and it’s one I can’t describe.

I could smell the blood once the buffalo was on the ground, but once the stomach was open and once the innards were dislodged, the smell of this buffalo dying permeated the air. Even for days after, I felt like the smell was on me, following me. On the airplane going home, I could still smell it. When I got home and looked through the photos, I could smell it. Especially when I watched the video footage over and over again as I edited it, could I smell it.

I never thought of my sense of smell as being my strongest sensory memory, but the smell of this buffalo has truly haunted me.

We couldn’t help but be amazed at him though as he clung to life even while so much of him had been ravaged. His cries turned to soft mews, and I willed him to go toward the light, even though I don’t believe in such things. It was heartbreaking to see.

Right before his eyes started to roll, his eyes darted back and forth listlessly. And then his eyes rolled back in his head, he fell silent, his jaw fell slack. Grant said “he’s gone” and the rest of the world went silent, as the sun popped out from behind the clouds, shining ironically over such a gruesome scene.

And even now, I am still amazed at the magnificence of the lions. I recognize that nature doesn’t have to be fair and it doesn’t have to be nice and neat, so I also feel very much for the lions. These three lions, who had been orphaned young and as Grant told us, had to hunt for scraps of food as cubs, were survivors.

While I was sad for the buffalo’s agonizing and painful death, I could accept it more easily because of its necessity.  Even with blood covering their faces and manes, I was struck by how beautiful of creatures the lions are. Even after watching this video over and over through the process of editing, I still feel happy that these three lions had done everything they could to survive.

I know that the footage is gruesome. I know the cries are hard to hear. I know the photos aren’t easy to see. But this experience has truly given me a greater appreciation of the world we live in. It’s something I will not forget, and I’m grateful I was able to witness something so few have.

Thank you a million times over to Motswari Private Game Reserve and our guide, Grant Murphy for giving us the opportunity to witness this truly incredible event. If you’d like to see Grant’s photos and his write-up of this experience, visit his post here on Motswari’s blog.

If you’d like to see more posts and videos of our safari experience, stay tuned!

Cape Town, Day Two: Ken Forrester, 96 Winery Road, Rust en Vrede Wine Tasting, Mama Africa

Cape Town, Day Two: Ken Forrester, 96 Winery Road, Rust en Vrede Wine Tasting, Mama Africa

Day two, we had some wine tastings scheduled. We started the day at Ken Forrester’s winery, which as I mentioned we had tried his wines in Philadelphia at Tria a few years ago.

It was quite a way to start the day at 11 o’clock! We saw Ken, but as he seemed to be tied up in a meeting of some sort, we didn’t want to disturb him so we just enjoyed the wine and the weather. Since fall is my favorite season, I was absolutely in love with the weather we experienced in South Africa!!

Right down the road from his winery is his restaurant, 96 Winery Road. It was fantastic. We each got a different wine flight to go with our meals which included four very generously poured glasses. I started out with a salmon appetizer that was divine, and Mike had a sweet potato soup. For my main, I had a duck pot pie with cherry sauce and Mike had a filet with hollandaise sauce. Dessert was a tasting of lemon treats, which was nice and refreshing.

From there, we went to Rust en Vrede and had a private tasting set up with their marketing manager, Warren. Warren was fantastic, he showed us around and kept the wine and conversation flowing for nearly three hours. From speaking with him, we got a much better idea about life in South Africa, and he seemed interested in American politics, so we had a lot to talk about! We truly enjoyed our time with him and we enjoyed the wine equally as much.

As we were leaving, the light was so beautiful that we just had to grab ahold of the moment.

We stopped back at Wedgeview briefly for some tea and about a 30 minute rest before we were out the door again to Cape Town to eat at Mama Africa, another recommendation of Terri’s at Try Anything Once.

Mama Africa had live music going and had a very touristy atmosphere that we probably wouldn’t have stopped into unless it had been recommended. But since it had such a wild and exotic menu, we found it to be a fun stop to have gone to. Since I wasn’t terribly hungry, we ordered an alligator kebab appetizer to share, and I got a traditional South African lentil and vegetable soup for dinner. The alligator was a bit like a fatty, chewy piece of chicken. I wasn’t a huge fan, but it was still fun. My lentil soup was nice though, and I was very happy I didn’t go for any other food as it was thick and filling. Mike ordered warthog, and we found it to be very tender and not quite as gamey as we had expected it to be. The band was fun and definitely made the evening’s atmosphere since they were so talented.

Would you ever try alligator or warthog? What’s the strangest game meat that you’ve ever tried?

The highlights of the day were definitely our lunch at 96 Winery and our time spent with Warren at Rust en Vrede. It was a more relaxed day than day one, but we were exhausted by the time we got back to our room.

I will have to go a bit out of order moving forward with the recaps, as the morning of day three needs a video accompaniment that I haven’t completed yet!

Cape Town, Day One: Table Mountain, Boulders, Delaire Graff Estates, Wedgeview, Five Flies

Cape Town, Day One: Table Mountain, Boulders, Delaire Graff Estates, Wedgeview, Five Flies

On my 101 in 1001 list, visiting Africa was listed as one of my travel goals, as the continent has been one of those places I’ve thought of as wild, beautiful, and incredibly interesting. Mike had been before on a safari with his family to Kenya and Tanzania, but this was my first trip.

South Africa doesn’t require any shots, so we chose it for both convenience and the fact that it seemed to have so much to do. It is recommended to take malaria pills, so we have been taking one pill a week to prevent it.

Getting to Cape Town was as quick and painless as possible considering the number of flights required
we flew from Coruña to Madrid, Madrid to London and London to Cape Town. Our day started at 10 in the morning for our first flight, and ended at about 10 am the next day as we arrived in Cape Town. There was no time shift though, so we got a relatively fresh start as we headed straight from the airport to Table Mountain.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain is a National Park in South Africa, so I was excited to cross off yet another requirement off of my 101 list, to visit another National Park.

We had purchased our tickets online, skipped the queues, and went straight up to the top via a cable car with a rotating floor that ensures everyone in the car gets a 360˙ view.

It was absolutely gorgeous at the top.

We stopped in the little cafe/snack bar at the top as well and were very pleased to see that they offered delicious, healthy, and some organic options for snacking!! If only American parks were as classy.

We spent about an hour walking around the top of the mountain, taking in the views and taking plenty of photos.

Boulders Penguin Colony

45 minutes away from Table Mountain was Boulders, where we saw the Penguin Colony!

It was a fairly small little attraction, and since we hadn’t expected it to take so long to get there, we were in a bit of a rush. We spent about ten minutes with the penguins before we had to scurry off for our lunch reservations, which we were very late for.

Indochine/Delaire Graff Estates

Our lunch reservation was at Indochine Restaurant at Delaire Graff Estates, and even though we arrived late, they were gracious and allowed us the last lunch seating. As the first Asian restaurant we’d had in a very long time, we were very excited to get two different curries listed on their menu, as well as some noodles, spring rolls, and rice. We drank the estate wine, and enjoyed the beautiful view from our table.

After lunch, we walked around the estate and found it to be absolutely breathtaking. After looking up how expensive their lowest-priced room is, it wasn’t hard to figure out why this looked like a palace–for $700 a night, you should be treated like royalty!

Wedgeview Country House & Spa

We then headed to our bed and breakfast (yet another requirement crossed off the 101 list!), Wedgeview Country House & Spa. It was very exclusive, extremely personal, and meticulously maintained. We have nothing but praise for this wonderful B&B, they made our stay very comfortable and were comparable in price to most hotels we stay in when we travel.

Five Flies

A short while after checking in, we were off again to dinner at Five Flies in the city of Cape Town, as recommended to us by Terri at Try Anything Once.

It was funny because we had originally set our reservation at 8 o’clock, but when we saw we’d be too rushed for time to get there, we requested for them to push it back an hour to 9 o’clock. They were happy to oblige but told us we’d be the last seating, which is incredibly different from Spain!! Most restaurants near us don’t even open their doors until nine!

We arrived at the restaurant and had a nice meal. Mike got a kudu steak, which is a type of antelope in South Africa, and I got the Kingclip, which is a popular fish in the region. Where Five Flies truly shined though was with their service. Since we arrived so late, the evening was winding down and our waiter had some extra time to spend with us, so we got to pick his brain about South African wines while he poured us a few tastings. Particularly memorable was the South African grappa–perhaps not my cup of wine, but I could definitely appreciate it for what it was.

And so that concluded our first day in South Africa, which was jam-packed!! We felt a little rushed and harried, but each part of the day was so memorable, AND I got to cross three of my 101 off in one day! Not too shabby, right?

What Vacation Means to Me

What Vacation Means to Me

While Mike and I are on our trip to South Africa, I’ve asked a bunch of my blogging buddies to fill in for me here. Since vacation and travel has figured prominently into this blog since I moved to Spain, I figured it would be appropriate to ask others what “vacation” means to them–I know that everyone has a different philosophy when it comes to vacation, traveling and relaxing, so I hope you enjoy getting other takes on this prompt!

I thought I’d kick it off today though and share what vacation means to me.

Growing up, my parents took me and my sister to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina almost every year. We went to Disney twice, and a couple of other domestic trips, but for the most part, my parents wanted beach time and a lot of putt-putt time. As a kid, I loved it and had fun every year. I thought it was the best thing in the world.

When my childhood best friend began going places like London and Paris though (where she met a swoon-worthy French pen pal, omg!) I was overcome with jealousy. I can’t say that a passion for world-traveling was born then and there, though. It wasn’t until college when I left the country for the first time on a cruise with a friend.

Holy crap, I’m 18 and allowed to order alcohol outside of the US! BEST. THING. EVARR.

And at 18, I thought cruises were the best thing in the world.

Then I met Mike, and went with him and his parents to St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean.

As far as islands go, it wasn’t spectacular, but conversations with Mike about all of the places he had been in the world, about all of the things he had seen…I thought that seeing the world…would be the best thing in the world.

Meeting Mike definitely shaped my view on what a vacation “should” be for us. I doubt I would have ever had the same uncontrollable urge to see the world as I do now. But his enthusiasm is addictive, and traveling can be addictive.

And so I’ve been working on seeing the world. Vacations, for me, are not so much about relaxing, sitting at a pool, or souvenir shopping. To me, vacations are an opportunity to learn, see, do, explore. I don’t necessarily care if it is abroad or in the US (one of my favorite vacations was at the Finger Lakes in NY), I just want to see everything.

Vacations are an opportunity to take myself out of the comfort of my daily bubble and try to experience something outside of my personal norm. Vacations are an opportunity to learn something about the world I live in before it’s too late and I’m too old and feeble to see it. I don’t want to miss one chance to see something extraordinary, something different, something beautiful.

Vacations are an opportunity to be awed by nature and cultures and people. Vacations are an opportunity to challenge ourselves and to push ourselves to try new things, to expand our small, narrow points of view into something slightly wider upon each new experience.

And when we have children, vacations will be an opportunity to teach them about this fascinating world. It will be a way to kindle the fire of curiosity and wonder in them. It will be a way of showing them just how precious this world is, and how fun it can be to explore it. That is our sincere hope, at least. We hope to do everything we can to give our children the opportunity to learn, see, do, and explore.

But, I also understand that I’m living in a sort of fantasy-land right now, which is not sustainable for the long run. We will not always be able to travel everywhere. We won’t always be able to afford luxury vacations and meals. And I will have to go back and get a job when we move back home and traveling the world is much more difficult with limited vacation days.

To me, one of my greatest fears upon reentering the work force upon my return to New Jersey will be that I won’t get the opportunity to go, see, do like I’ve been doing for the past year. Instead, I’ll have to earn 10 days a year where I’ll scramble to see family as well as see the world. It horrifies me that a desk under some fluorescent lights could keep me from exploring. I understand that it is the reality of the world we live in, and it makes me sad. I hope that I’ll be able to find the best of both worlds one day: a fulfilling career and the ability to keep my desire to see everything & go everywhere.

It is my sincere hope that this passion and desire stays with me throughout my life and that we will be physically and financially fortunate enough to never stop exploring. To me, vacation means so much more than a break. It means the world.

What does vacation mean to you?

Torre de Hercules Picnic

Torre de Hercules Picnic

In Coruña, about a half an hour away from our house, is the Torre de Hercules, or Tower of Hercules. You might remember my post about it back in November.

It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason: it’s gorgeous. Well, that and it’s home to a lighthouse that was built in the 2nd century, which is pretty impressive. So back in March (ha! It was nicer weather in March than it is now. Go figure) we went for a picnic. We brought two bottles of wine, got a little tipsy and took a nap right by the ocean. A pretty perfect day.

I made this video to test out Final Cut HD when I first bought it, and made it mostly just for the two of us. But today I figured I’d share since it’s Friday and it’s kind of fun.

Music: Feel the Love/Cut Copy
Shot with my Flip Cam

Watching it makes me so glad that we upgraded our camera! The Panasonic HDC TM-900’s quality is incredibly superior.

I’ll be introducing a whole bunch of guest bloggers on Monday to keep you company while we’re in South Africa! Have a good two weeks!