Laissez les bon temps roulez….Let the good times roll

There are moments in life when a person just needs to just let loose, be crazy and blow off steam; while enjoying life to its absolute fullest.  Nowhere on earth can this be accomplished any better than Mardi Gras in New Orleans.


New Orleans, the Big Easy, I have been in love with this city since the first time I smelled that aroma that can only be the smell of the French Quarter.  The distinct fragrance that combines fried food, alcohol, urine and the air rolling in from the Mississippi River (which these days may equate to petroleum fuems).   There is something about being in a place where you can be whomever you choose to be and no one even notices.  Well that the Bloody Marys and the most incredible insanely deliciousness that heaven ever put on a plate all which can be enjoyed with music forever present in the background.

The Bloody Marys are spicy enough without challenging the bar tender that what he makes may or may not be the best Bloody Mary in the city.  Take advice from the big mouth here just say OK, walk away and don’t even go there. Otherwise you maybe drinking the spiciest, largest, contains the most alcohol a drink could ever contain Bloody Mary in the history of Bloody Marys….Just saying that is all.

This marks the 5th time I have been in New Orleans for the week leading up to Fat Tuesday but the first time to enjoy it with the whole family, by this I mean kids, mom, best friends, 7 in total and that is a crowd when you put this many personalities together.  This year we added international delegation to the mix because Incredibly Tall Dutch Man joined us for the festivities.  You can just tell by seeing the photos how much fun we are having and how much you want to go next year.

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Granted most of the time spent together revolved around eating because food is an important part of family quality time at least for this group.  We shared a lot of laughs some really good laughs probably can be contributed at least in part to getting in the spirit of Mardi Gras with adult beverages (Bloody Mary Special anyone).  We even set aside time for a family craft project of bedazzling Chucks cause this family has got to prepare for the festivities properly.   But you know in each group there has to be that one person who climbs inside the cooler to retrieve those beverages you wish to have but they are all the way in the back of the cooler.  Dang foreigners can’t take you anywhere.

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Food, since we are already on that subject and it is a subject I love to talk about.  Don’t go to this city if you think for a minute you need to watch the calories or want to eat light you will have no fun and really then what is the point.  There is no secret that I am a creature of habit and New Orleans allows me feed my creature of habit very well as a matter of fact.  Some of my continual all time favorites: Breakfast:

  • Ruby Slipper.  I could have breakfast here every morning nothing on the menu I don’t love and wouldn’t order 12 times in a row.
  • Stanley:  Eggs Benedict Poor Boy and Breakfast Potatoes preceded by a Bloody Mary perfect way to begin the day in the French Quarter.  Thick creamy cold chocolate malts in the afternoon if you need a pick me up.
  • Oceana Grill.  French Toast with hashbrowns and crispy bacon paired with a Bacon Bloody Mary.  A girl could live on this type of cookin’.


  • Nola.  Shrimp and Grits to die for (literally if I had them right now I may die of pure joy) preceded by BBQ shrimp and followed by the Crème Brule trio.  Meals don’t get any better than this friends.
  • Mr. B’s Bistro.  The BBQ Shrimp can you say plate full of yummy goodness so great in fact you will need a bib seriously they bring you a bib.  Pair that with Garlic Truffle Fries or Duck Springrolls and Hot Buttered Pecan Pie.
  • Verti Marte.  Great place when the midnight munchies or 2am munchies hit on the way home from parades try their All That Jazz Sandwich.  It’s like a taste orchestra in your mouth.  Make sure to get a slice of birthday cake to go with the sandwich well cause that is what I do.
  • Palace Café.  Perfect in the late afternoon for a snack of Crab Meat Cheesecake and Peter Planter’s Punch; which packs a preverbal punch with only one glass.
  • August (John Besh).  Pork Belly anything paired with Goat Cheese and Peach Salad.  The menu changes frequently based on whatever is seasonally available and to be honest everything is beyond spectacular.  Additionally don’t we all just want to go to a John Besh restaurant to see him and those dreamy blue eyes and hear that charming southern accent as he is speaking?   Yes I think so.
  • Irenes.  I think the waiter explained it best when he referred to the lamb as food porn.  Totally agree.  There is a chance you will be dining with a famous director and well your dining partner from another country has to inform you of whom he is.
  • Jacques Imo’s Café.  Make sure to take a cab and your appetite, order anything on the menu and just know the cornbread is fabulous like cooked in an iron skillet with lard good (all you southerners know exactly what I am talking about).

I think the list could go on indefinitely for the number of restaurants far out numbers anyone’s stomach space and days worth of meals at any one visit in the city.  Even mine and you all know by now that I can pack away a lot of calories when I am just even mildly tempted.  Additionally, don’t miss Café Beignet or Café Du Monde for beignets both are good.  Southern Candymakers for melt in your mouth buttery decadent pralines, Cake Café for cake and cupcakes, Johnny’s PoBoys for po boys and red beans and rice, Port of Call for hurricanes and burgers.  Combining this list is really bordering on torture as I sit in my apartment in Buenos Aires, 5500 miles away, suffering through day 5 of a 5 day detox diet; made necessary by my extreme love of rich, buttery, fried southern food and continual search for pastry heaven.  Though to be honest pastry heaven in New Orleans takes a back seat to real honest to goodness food.  Now you know if I am skipping pastries the food must be super wonderful.  Its HEAVENLY.


See now you are too sharing in my New Orleans food torture……

One of the huge draws for Mardi Gras are the parades leading up to the huge Fat Tuesday Celebration. Krewes choose their themes and design floats, throws and costumes around the overall yearly theme ranging from political satire to mythical gods.

By the way at midnight that separates Fat Tuesday from Ash Wednesday the week long party is shut down and the streets cleared by firehose if necessary.  I think the cops are pretty much over all the visitors and partying by then.

This year Incredibly Tall Dutch Man and I had the opportunity to participate in the Saturday afternoon parade, Krewe of Tucks.  We were assigned to the float The Sporting Life and dressed in referee outfits; which is kinda ironic if you think of all the trouble I have caused umpires and referees during the course of my lifetime.   We spent three hours rolling through the streets of New Orleans throwing beads, toilet paper, toilet brushes, frisbees and light up trinkets into crowds of 10s of thousands of yelling screaming people; as well as handing out penalty flags for party and fashion fouls.  Flashing of boobs was plentiful as were jello shots, music and laughs (somethings you see are just funny).   It was more fun than I have had in one afternoon for as long as I can remember.  If you really want to enjoy Mardi Gras to its fullest try to join a Krewe and participate in a parade at least once.  There is no other experience like it!!!

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Fat Tuesday arrived along with the cold and rain so for the 2nd year in a row my super awesome costume had to remain in the closet. We did wander out amongst all the people for breakfast and the splendid show that is the costume parade.  I feel certain a lot of the spectacular costumes I am used to seeing because of the weather remained dry and warm inside…still as amusing as ever.

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I like Fat Tuesday early in the day for the costume parades and 2nd line jazz performances but by early evening crowds are getting a bit rowdier and I have usually had enough.  So, after a long day I opted for a quiet dinner, a hot bath to warm up and going to sleep early the past week had drained me.  And like that Mardi Gras 2014 ended and it started with such a bang.  Oh today how I miss New Orleans and the way the city makes you feel alive…..

Man, do you know what it means to miss New Orleans

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
And miss it each night and day
I know Im not wrong, this feeling’s gettin’ stronger
The longer, I stay away

Miss them moss covered vines, the tall sugar pines
Where mockin’ birds used to sing
And I’d like to see that lazy Mississippi
Hurryin’ into spring

Oh the moonlight on the bayou
A creole tune that fills the air
I dream about Magnolias in bloom
And I’m wishin’ I was there

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
Since that’s where you left your heart
And there’s something more, I miss the one I care for
More than I miss New Orlean
Louis Armstrong – Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans Lyrics | MetroLyrics


When Plans Change Take the Orient Express

Because When You Stop and Look Around This Life is Pretty Amazing!!!!

Since the hike did not happen, I decided to splurge and reward myself for handling the baggage situation with as much patience as I did (positive reinforcement works well for me) and book a round trip on the Orient Express’ Hiram Bingham Train from Cusco to Machu Picchu.  No Tengo Palabras (yes my Spanish speaking friends I know this is the wrong phrase but it is one I love and will continue to use; as you will continue to shake your head and laugh at me)…I have no words for how luxurious and opulent this trip was:  much different (opposite ends of the spectrum different) than the originally planned hike to Machu Picchu

I would recommend this journey to anyone wanting to splurge, as it is more than a bit pricey, the only thing I would do differently is to take the train to Machu Picchu one day, spend the night at the hotel inside Machu Picchu and return by train the day after or even two days later.  The complete trip all in one day was really much more tiring than one could imagine (that coming from me with my weeks of sugar/carb loading and endless amounts of excited energy).

We began the day with a folk dance performance performed by regional dancers while being served breakfast plates of assorted fruits and homemade breads accompanied by drinks of choice (juices, coffees, champagne) in the Orient Express Lounge.  Oh no this was not a passive watch the dancers type of show they actually expected you to participate and dance: this white girl has no rhythm but it was so much fun even at 7am.

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Next we boarded Mercedes Vans that would transport us through the first hour of the trip; as it was the rainy season mud-slides had closed part of the tracks.  We arrived somewhere in Peru (hey don’t judge the memory isn’t the finely tuned steel trap it used to be) to board the train while being serenaded.

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The train itself was regally beautiful: hard wood paneling, brass fixtures, and every 5 star amenity imaginable.  In the bar car, they were serving breads, sweet potato chips, tapas and cappuccino/espresso.  See that huge smile that is a direct effect of someone providing me endless supply of caffeine and carbs in the form of freshly baked breads until which time Brunch is served.  Even Tall Dutch Man is so happy he is actually smiling for photos.

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As you can see from the menu, Brunch was an impressive feast each course paired with complimentary wine offerings.  I am now in a food porn induced coma as we arrive to the train station in Aguas Calientes (Hot Waters) at the base of Machu Picchu.

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Machu Picchu was all that I had imagined it would have been: Magical, mystical and breath-taking beautiful.  You can look at all your friend’s photos, hear their stories, live their adventures, read about it on the internet, or watch travel specials about it but those things can not even begin to capture how spectacular this place truly is.  There is no preparation for how you will feel standing there taking it all in.  So, I won’t even try with words: just look for yourself, find sometime, and take the trip of a lifetime.

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At the end of the day our guide pointed those of us who wanted to climb the stairs in the direction of the Sun Gates, gave us directions on how to return to the lodge, and said she would meet us in two hours.  There were 6 of us who choose to climb to the top and do you think any of the six of us bothered to listen to the instructions on how to get back….NO!!!  I think we all assumed someone else was listening. as we were all too eager for our little adventure.  Off we went at first almost running up the steps with anticipation, well we all know that cannot last long (factoring in the number of steps and high altitude) unless you are in iron man shape.   Alas we all made it to the top TO THIS INCREDIBLE VIEW!!!

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The little detail of getting back a few wrong turns and we all arrived to the lodge in time for High Tea:  Just FYI mint tea from Peru is the best in the world.  I think Tall Dutch Man is sad for this adventure to be ending the second display of emotion in front of the camera in one day this place must be magical.

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After a return drive back to the train station at Aguas Calientes, we boarded the train heading back to Cusco.  Dinner was excellent followed by drinks, music and singing in the bar car.  Yes you are seeing correctly Tall Dutch Man is actually singing in public and he danced as well….I have no idea what had gotten into this crazy man either my personality is rubbing off on him or it is an effect of altitude sickness!!!

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I can honestly say the trip on the Hiram Bingham Orient Express was the most extravagant tour I have been on.  But one I would not hesitate to take again even when factoring in the cost.  The service and luxury from beginning to end is something akin to what most of us are used to just seeing in movies and wondering what that would be like.  The staff each person was warm, kind and accommodating nothing was too much and never were they anything but helpful and charming.

Like all good things our time Peru came to an end though not without learning new lessons:  yes I can make it for a week with only a few clothing items and no hair straightener, raw eggs in pisco sours are not appetizing to me; however pisco straight and pisco with passion fruit are completely acceptable, Peru has 3000 varieties of potatoes for me to try and believe me I tried to sample them all,  directions are merely suggestions, and most importantly plans can change and the outcome is even better than the original plan.

Somewhere To Go…..Nothing to Wear

With a title like that you know the story has to be good…

Holidays complete and family time enjoyed more than I have words to express.  Thank you all for incredible times and making this year’s festivities one of my most favorite memories.


Since before moving to South America, I have wanted to visit and experience they mysteries and mystic of Machu Picchu.  I have had several failed scheduling attempts due to one commitment or another.  This year I managed to actually set aside enough time before returning to work to make that trip a reality.  You haven’t even heard the best part yet…wait for it…I even had the fantastic idea that not only would I visit Machu Picchu I would actually take the 3 night 4 day hike through the Sacred Valley complete with sleeping in a tent on the ground.  I know this completely sounds so unlike anything I would usually do but hey it’s a New Year and time for new adventures even if that means sleeping on the ground with no real shower after climbing up trails and sweating due to actually doing something physical and in the same realm as exercise.  Well I know what you are thinking there is no way this could actually be happening.   Apparently, Mother nature and/or the goddess of nature agreed with those sentiments and decided my presence in actual nature would more likely than not interrupt the flow of tranquility and mystic calmness in the Zen like atmosphere that surrounds the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.


I arrived in Lima perfectly fine and on time but (you know there is always a but) my luggage did not it was in Houston.  A quick inventory of things in my immediate possession: I have the clothes I am wearing (dress and leggings), Ugg boots, an Eddie Bauer weekend jacket, toothbrush, face cleaner, the perfume and lip gloss I bought at Duty Free in Newark and a pair of flip flops.  You will notice at this point there is no mention of anything I can actually use for hiking all of that would be neatly packed in the hiking pack; which is checked luggage as it did not fit in the overhead compartment.

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Upon conversing with the United Baggage Claim agent (look at the nice words used here) her response was to hold up a spiral bound handbook with a telephone number on the blue front cover and order me to call this number as there is nothing she can do because our bags are in Houston.  An 85USD phone call later and we left with the assurance that our bags would be on the next flight to Lima (24 hours later for there is only 1 flight per day) then immediately forwarded to Cusco and should arrive at 9am Saturday morning.  Perfect right?  Oh in Utopia perhaps but in this “Sherry airplane world” NO.   What no one ever said or told us or even mentioned was there needed to be a release form signed for customs at the Lima airport before they would release the bags.  Apparently, not even United understands this little rule and you now realize the Baggage Claim agent is so incredibly helpful!!!

***Do not leave the Lima airport without your bags*** just a warning to anyone that might encounter this problem in the future.  Stay in Lima, collect your bags in person and then continue your trip.  Even if that means a bit of a reschedule it is in the best interest for you and your wallet.  This is advice you for sure want to file away. 

However, since we had been assured there was no problem we boarded our flight to Cusco:

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Upon arriving we checked into Casa Cartagena.  I have really been fortunate in being able to stay at some really special hotels over the past several years and this hotel may be at the top of the list for me now.  Casa Cartagena is one of those places that because everything is so incredibly perfect you wish you never had to leave.   The hotel staff went above and beyond doing whatever they could to make the stay pleasant.  They actually went to the markets and purchased toiletries, medicine, special food (I have a super love for water with lemon and cucumber) whatever we requested which they did not have someone would make sure it arrived in our room (an upgraded suite no less).

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The spa and salon were excellent (though a bit pricey but worth it).  Additionally, the restaurant and bar was excellent we never had a bad meal there (every morning breakfast was included and 3 nights dinner) and after long days of exploring the ruins around the city it was nice to not have to go far for dinner.

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On Saturday morning at 10am when our bags were SUPPOSE to arrive the front desk attendant at our hotel made some calls to find out that the bags were indeed in Lima but could not be released by customs (because the form was not signed) and customs would close at noon until 9am Monday morning.  Alright, we have no luggage, no clothes, no hiking gear and we are suppose to leave for the hike on Monday before customs even opens.  That is a bit of a problem.  United agreed to give us 1000USD to buy things we needed like toiletries, clothing, shoes, etc.  Off we go to find all things needed to survive for the next few days or at least so we don’t need to wear the same clothes for 5 straight days…have I mentioned lately that tall Dutch man is super tall like 6’9” ish.  For me it was not really so complicated to find a few shirts, some socks, a pair of pants and a new pair of hiking shoes (which I adore by the way) all at the small pretty crazy expensive North Face store surrounding the town square.  For tall Dutch man not so much luck: a shirt, the most expensive socks ever (that are super soft made from baby alpaca) and a sweatshirt that “almost” fit other than that poor guy completely out of luck.  There was no way the hike was going to happen.


At this point there are two choices one can make:  1) Sit around being angry and disappointed that your trip is really not going as planned and do nothing but complain and be miserable or 2) decide there is just not a whole lot you can do about, make a new plan and take your happy ass out and enjoy this place you have been trying to get to for 3 years.  Guess which one I picked!!!!  Look at how truly amazing it all turned out.  I saw some extraordinary places, met exceptional people and had experiences that one can only imagine in their dreams.  All of these things we would not have been able to do otherwise.

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Up next…… Machu Picchu and Orient Luxury.

Home for the Holidays 2013

“To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.” – Philip Andrew Adams

One of the real downfalls of living in another country is the time away from your family.  This year I was not going to go to the US for Thanksgiving but something unexpected came up and I needed to go back to the US and pick up some supplies which I needed for work and a very happy coincidence that it happened around Thanksgiving.

I was able to spend the 2nd Thanksgiving in Florida at my Dads house.  This time meeting new family and reconnecting with family members I had not seen in sometime.  The only downside was Nick and Britt weren’t there and I miss them so much.  The upside was I had just spent a week with them in Arkansas doing the things I love always with them.  But still the same I miss them no less.

Arrived in Miami super early Thanksgiving morning a relatively painless flight on American Airlines, immigrations could not have been more easy those self serve entry machines for US citizens I do not think I could feel anymore happiness in the airport…sorry tall Dutch man only available for US citizens.  Claimed our bags, breezed through customs and off to get our rental car with Sixt. The only thing I am not so fond of so far is the necessity to take the tram to the rental car center a bit random and more hassle than necessary.  We all know I have no patience to stand in line so the wise decision I made to prepay was a super fantastic idea which kept me calm early in the morning by avoiding the long line that was beginning to form.  I see now that Black Friday in Miami shopping is attractive to a lot of people outside the USA as if I needed another reason to avoid that insanity.

GPS route entered and away we go in less than a hour from exiting the plane.  The drive to Port Charlotte area is really interesting…because you get to go through part of the everglades and alligator alley.  Seriously, alligators everywhere large, small, sunbathing, sleeping…I am not sure why but these creatures intrigue me enough that I seriously contemplate stopping on the side of the road to have a closer look…yep that thought actually goes through my brain.  Good thing I was sidetracked by the Dunkin Donuts sign at which time my glucose deprived brain could only concentrate on how far is that exit.

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Arrived to my Dads, took a shower, changed into a summery sundress and sandals, now feeling like a new person and let Thanksgiving festivities begin.  Lunch was excellent for the first time in my life I was happy to be relegated to the “kids” table I think that means we all refuse to grow up.  Oh how I love traditional Thanksgiving food at the Never Land table.  One of my favorite things about family holidays is game night especially when real money is involved.


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Friday a day to hang out a bit on my aunt and uncles super sweet “boat” September Song for a little catching up and captain lessons.  Not that we actually moved the boat anywhere but I suppose someone well anyone else but me could have.  Sad to say good bye perhaps we should just say see you soon in the Keys…have I mentioned how tall the Dutchman is.

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Saturday off on a “three hour tour”  yes at times all I could think about was recreating Gilligan’s Island scenes and that song that theme song was permanently embedded in my brain.  Gilligan you know who you are!!!!  Apparently, I need to relate all my adventures with some movie/TV show…OK there could be worse ways to live out adventures.  But just check out the ominous sky how could you think of anything else.

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Dolphins even joined in with the fun.  Jill has an amazing video of them swimming beside the boat she thinks much quicker than I for I was lucky to even remember to take a photo.


Sunday we headed back to Miami a little early so we could eat at the Cheesecake Factory…yes I love it beyond all comprehendible imagination.  You know I cannot leave the states without doing a little bit of shopping but the crowds here were just too much for even me.  So with my to go bag of cheesecake sadly I boarded the plane back to Buenos Aires.

The few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are the best weeks of the year in my world.  Though I must admit when December is summer time in Buenos Aires and the temperatures combined with the humidity make the city seem as if you are dancing around the rim of hell it is quite difficult for me to get into the holiday spirit.

This year I had a new plan spending a few days in NYC at the Andaz 5th Avenue to get into the holiday spirit all those decorations, holiday markets, people shopping, holiday festivities complete with my own retail therapy and cooler weather just what I needed.  Well I got everything except the cold weather and snow.

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Cartier red snowflakes anyone well at least the store was close and open for visitors.  You see they knew I was visiting the city and wrapped the building as a present for me. Yes really they did!


Additionally, I managed to sneak a few meals in at some of my most favorite places:  Shake Shack, street cart for falafel and gyros, Trattoria Trecolori and my all time favorite Balthazar notice the smile on my face even early in the morning just waiting on the heavenly deliciousness to be delivered to the table.  Espresso and Pan de Chocolate oh I do think so perhaps an almond croissant as well or should I go with savory…..ahhh either way I cannot go wrong and I can always come back tomorrow which we did.


Designer handbag anyone???? How would you feel if you knew these handbags are created of CAKE….I felt a bit giddy and could feel a soon to be sugar rush induced by the actual purse not to be confused with sugar high induced by the hidden candy bar in my bag.


After the blocks and blocks of searching for the perfect gift for everyone and the most elegant Italian leather boots found at Barney’s.  It was really nice to have a foot bath complete with refreshing foot soak provided in room at our hotel.  A little extra was the fully stocked fridge and snack basket left in the room each day for our enjoyment.  The hotel had tons of little extras, the design was chic and modern and the staff was really top notch.  The location was unbeatable close to everything I wanted to do, see and visit; additionally, public transportation was within one block.  I would have no hesitations to stay here again and would totally recommend this hotel for anyone visiting NYC.


Christmas Eve early morning took a flight from NYC to Arkansas and my mom’s house where I must say I felt more than a little overjoyed to be.  She greeted me with a hug, a kiss, and sour cream cookies….my mom for sure knows how much I love those cookies as a super sized bonus there was also a chocolate cake with 2X the icing…a girl can be in pastry heaven in the house she grew up in.  There is something really comforting about lifelong familiarity that has been missing in my life this year especially when your world tends to be as crazy, unpredictable and nomadic as mine.  Christmas in Quitman (with a small detour down memory lane) along with Nick and Britt was just what I needed today.    Christmas day was a perfect holiday, early morning presents, mom cooking (I tried to help really…..I have new acquired cooking skills) and a delicious feast which could have probably fed three additional families.

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Love the photos don’t you?  Just check out how cool and funky they are with the added special effects.  My Christmas present was a Canon Powershot N forever known as happy snappy.  It is a small compact fun camera that takes one traditional wonderful picture and then adds 5 different effects for each one.  I love technology and how easily it makes me look creative.

Lumi had wonderful holidays under the tree at Cristina’s house in Buenos Aires I think he didn’t miss me at all.


We also were able to spend a few days in Northwest Arkansas just to be able to squeeze in more quality time with Nick and Britt.  I was able to show tall Dutch man around the region I worked and lived previous to my Argentine life.  Britt and I were able to have a spa day in Eureka Springs at New Moon Spa (a heavenly way to spend an afternoon) and then met Tall Dutch man for drinks in the bar at the Crescent Hotel and dinner at one of our all time favorites Rogues Manor.


Farewell brunch at Copelands and coffee at Starbucks before heading to the airport.  How these two make my life complete.


The last stop for us in the USA was at the Dads house in Florida.  Uneventful flight not even one good story landed in Fort Myers, Fl and off to the shuttle to take us to the rental car.  I had called earlier to confirm with Advantage Rental Car that we were going to be arriving on the late flight of the night everything was great and the shuttle would be waiting for us.  Waiting….Call….Waiting….Call you see the pattern here 45 minutes later the driver appears then tells us it is a 20 minute drive to the actual car which was filthy, had been smoked in and had scratches and dents all over the outside.  3 cars later they finally bring us an acceptable one.   Word to the wise just don’t do it there are other companies to rent from at that airport choose any of the others but Advantage.  You now have been sufficiently warned.

We spent a very quiet, leisurely few days with my dads.  The airboat ride at Nav A Gator was a first for me and I really enjoyed it. Lots of wildlife and birds around as we “cruise” through the canals. Alligator wrestling and buffalo hunting was just an added bonus to pass the time while waiting.  Tall Dutchman learning to play american outdoor games was a bit amusing the only thing missing is a beer in the other hand.  Yep using the new camera to create super fun photos… are starting to enjoy and love the idea of happy snappy!!!

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New Years Eve dinner out in Punta Gorda for a celebration of the previous year and a few cocktails in anticipation of the coming year.  New Years Day canal cruising in the boat culminating in a dinner of yummy goodness: prime rib, stuffed potatoes and asparagus followed by peanut butter chocolate cheesecake.  I am a busy girl on the go and calories are necessary all 8000 calories are a necessity. Well that was just today probably around 500,000 for the past 10 days.  I see nothing wrong with that.


For me, the holidays were really more special this year just to be able to come back to the USA and spend time with all the people whom I really care about and which are important in my life.  It means a lot to me the support I receive throughout the year from my family it helps during those moments in which my world becomes complicated, unfamiliar and I just want to hide out for a week in my blanket fort.

Side note:  Over the course of the holidays we had 14 flight segments (2 American Airlines, 8 United, 2 Aerolineas Argentinas, 2 TACA).  Aerolineas Argentinas the flights were surprisingly OK just a small issue of actually leaving on time which made me sweat if we would actually make the connecting flight between Lima and NYC.  The flights are reasonably priced (that is saying something here in Buenos Aires) and a bit basic but comfortable and the crew is really accommodating.   The only real downfall is if you have to be somewhere and it is necessary to stick to a schedule this is not the airline for you.  TACA was exceptional beyond all the good words I have for an airline.  United considering the amount of segments we had with them was really great every flight left on time, arrived on time….but (you know there is always a but) only one SMALL bag issue (more on that in the next post). Overall a much better expected airline experience than I could have predicted.  Look almost words of praise for the airline industry.

Part 2: Tourist in my own country

It’s a big world out there it would be a shame not to experience it…….

Day 5: Another uneventful plane ride with Sherry, which pretty much adds up to win-win for everyone involved.  Yes world I can have a trip involving airlines and no drama ensues.  Though that statement seems to be the exception and not the norm.

Back in Buenos Aires by mid-day and we are off to visit the Recoleta Cemetery and Cathedral, which is about 7 blocks from the front door of my apartment.


Of course one needs substance to survive an afternoon of sightseeing so a quick stop for empanadas, pizza and beer at one of my favorite local spots Romarios pizza.  The day is exceptionally beautiful so it is nice that this restaurant has outdoor seating. 


The cemetery itself is incredibly old and filled with the most amazing and beautiful mausoleums; which read almost like a history book of Argentina’s who’s who among the powerful, influential, rich and famous.  Bigger is better is the mantra of the day unless you are María Eva Duarte (aka Eva Peron).  You could literally spend hours here and at each turn be enchanted by something unexpected.

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On Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year there is a fair in the park and public spaces surrounding the cemetery and cathedral.  Feria plaza francia is one of my favorite ferias in the city of Buenos Aires it is filled with artisans selling their wares that span the range of junk to beautiful handcrafted works of art.

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Dinner was at a local closed-door restaurant near my house and one that I frequently take all my out of town guests to Casa Saltshaker.  The food is always good and very interesting but the highlight of the meal is sharing a communal table with different people who span the globe.  The experience of sitting down to a meal and not know who your dining partners are or where they are from makes the evening very fascinating.  This night our international table consisted of:  Uruguay, Canada, UK, Australia, USA and me USA/Argentina.


Closed door restaurants or “Puertas cerrados” are some of my favorite places to spend an evening out in Buenos Aires.  The concept of small intimate spaces in the privacy of the chef’s home surrounded by an eclectic mix of people from all over the globe at a large communal table is my idea of a perfect evening.  I really love the experience and for the most part the food is beyond excellent.  I have noticed that over the past few years the size of the closed door restaurant concept seems to be changing to larger spaces with more smaller tables (not all of them but some).  Hmmmm….then aren’t you just a restaurant at that point in time??!!  Again I understand we all have our preferences and the food at these establishments regardless of size or table setup is still beyond amazing.  Everyone just needs to figure out what they are comfortable with and what works best for them and go with it.

Day 6:  Crossing the Rio de la Plata to Colonia, Uruguay.

Look at this…adding another pin in the travel map even a new country.  Getting to Uruguay from Buenos Aires is really not that complicated (Unless you are Delta Airlines but that is another story for another day).  The easiest way is to take Buqebus across the Rio de la Plata and in less than 90 minutes you have been transported from Argentina to the colonial Uruguatian city of Colonia del Sacramento.   “Looks like I got this map stuff under control” hahahaha it is all an illusion.  WARNING (Cuidado) be careful following me we may end up in another country.

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The city itself sits on the river has a few sights, shops and restaurants and is a very calm way to spend an afternoon.  OK I just thought Buenos Aires was the most expensive city in the world.  Nope.  Colonia is charming and quaint and I am glad I went but it is seriously expensive.  $81USD for a lunch of 1 appetizer, 2 bowls of soup and 1 bowl of pasta with 3 drinks is a bit much even for me.  We aren’t talking about any Michelin 5 star restaurant just a normal one with good but not great food.  But in every new place the fun lies only in the fact that you went, you discovered and you learned something.  The fact that you had the desire and courage to explore the unfamiliar isn’t that what makes every journey worth it?

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Additionally, there really isn’t enough to do in the town to warrant more than an afternoon here so back across the river to Buenos Aires we go again on Buqebus.

Here is where the excitement of the day lies ….Duty Free and Reese’s peanut butter cups even the party size bag.  Right now I can hardly contain my excitement. Whoa wait a minute 19USD for that bag hmmmmm…..lets see the alternative oh wait there are none so I will for sure 19USD on the 5lb bag of Reese’s.  Somedays you just need to have USA junk food regardless of the cost.


Day 7:  Mataderos Fair

Took this afternoon to spend time a bit outside Buenos Aires in Mataderos at their weekly fair.  This fair is actually attended by many more locals than tourists and is much more an authentic experience:  street food, artisanal beer and local traditional folklore entertainment now that is a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

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 Day 8:  Tango Show

Unfortunately, this day I had to work.  My dads saw the city on their own and that evening we all went to a tango show with dinner.  The tango show, We are Tango, was a small more intimate authentic show.  I found this show on TripAdvisor.  I am not really sure what I would do without TripAdvisor when traveling it is like my bible.   In Buenos Aires you have two types of tango shows one like the one we attended and the other at larger venues more Broadway/Vegas like.  I don’t think with either one you can go wrong it again is a personal preference.  The dinner was good and the show was very nice.  I really prefer small more intimate spaces where you can interact directly with the performers and the people you are dining with so for me this was a great fit for my personality type.

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Day 9:  Today is the day that my Dads are returning back to the US and it is someone’s birthday.  Isn’t it fitting that I have new cooking skills and fantastic new cake pans thanks to my Dad’s bringing them to me from the USA.  Yep, you guessed it I am making a cake complete with from scratch chocolate buttercream for the birthday boy.  Look at how good that cake looks right now and it tasted just as good I only need a reason to bake a cake well on second thought I only need to think I have a reason to make a cake.  Pastry heaven exists today in my kitchen.


A late lunch at one of the small cafes near the apartment, Croque Madame, which has been a reoccurring place of many long breakfasts with friends and late vino dinners with friends, family and puppies, before heading to the airport.  No need to be sad Thanksgiving is only a short time away.

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Before I forget I should thank my dad for all the pictures of our time together because apparently I can’t be bothered to take them on stay cations.  I can say that spending time in Argentina just being a tourist was a great way to really appreciate the place I live for now.  I loved sharing it with my family and friends and am looking forward to the next chance I get…….?Bariloche Miriam I think so? 


Dads Introduction to Daughter’s Southern Life

Spring finally decided to arrive in Buenos Aires just about the time I had resigned myself that only cold dreary days of winter existed and was having an extended pity party for myself.  I still remember the spring day I arrived here two years ago with 5 of the biggest suitcases available to begin my new “life adventure” in Buenos Aires.  Primavera, the season to fall in love with a new country and begin a new chapter of life oh was I in for the reality check of a lifetime.  The newness of it all:  a new job in a new country where I knew no one and spoke not one word of Spanish (because the rest of the world must speak English right?  HA NO!).  I had no idea where the grocery store was and even if I did I had no idea what the words on the package meant…these Spanish words I learned quickly…a girl must eat.  I got very good at holding money (universal problem solver) and pointing I have no idea how many times I was taken advantage of..haha.  There were days I longed just to hear one word in English, wanted nothing more to explore my new city with someone familiar, and more often than not wished I did not feel so completely overwhelmed.  I was the incredibly naïve red headed North American girl who got on a plane alone to a new adventure totally unprepared with nothing other than courage, a huge sense of adventure and the all important soy innocente look!!!

Fast forward 2 years and look at me now:  I understand the language somewhat, enjoy the culture, actually navigate myself around this chaotic city in a car, have a place to live, made incredibly wonderful friends whom I can’t imagine my life without and know where to find just about anything available in this import restrictive county all while working an extra intense full time job.

When you live and work in a different country it sounds so amazing and romantic in your head but in reality you have just transplanted your ordinary life to some exotic local.  So, I was very excited for my Dads to visit me in my city and to use their visit as an excuse for 10 days to become a tourist in my own city.  Wow is all I can say about our whirlwind 10 day adventure.  I have to thank my dad for “allowing” me to highjack his photos.  He was much better at preserving our times together than I was.

Day 1:  Arrival day, pick them up at the airport and off we go back into the city:  traffic is on good behavior so much less adventure than expected…even when my driving is involved.  Drop their bags off and off to have a quick bite of lunch at Natural Deli.  Well sadly I must abandon them for the afternoon as work meetings beckon me away from my self -imposed stay cay.   Done with work duties and we are off to dinner at my “go to steakhouse”, Cabana Las Lilas in Puerto Madero.  Several hours later I am stuffed with Lomo (Tenderloin), bread and Malbec headed home for some zzzz’s.

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Day 2:  This day was supposed to be the inauguration of my company’s new production facility but due to a sudden illness of president of Argentina, Cristina, the opening had to be postponed.   New plan I will dazzle them with a tour of my playground aka “my lab”.  Yes I know such a science nerd but I love my job and feel so happy in my lab.  Science is super awesome and exciting.

20130307_115838 20131105_184328Followed by lunch with my partners at Café Vetanco look at how exciting their second day in Buenos Aires is!!!!! 


The afternoon was reserved for a bit of sight seeing.  The one thing that daily keeps me calm is living very close to several parks.  The parks are made much more necessary because on every street corner between my apartment and the parks is a bakery with window cases filled of sweet, decadent pastries, tortas and chocolates not to mention the smell of fresh baked breads fills every breeze.  How dangerous is that for my calorie count everyday…but how great it is for my tastebuds.  It’s like living in the middle of a minefield everywhere I turn there is some diet danger lurking.

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Great idea we should stop, get some pastries, and walk to the park while eating them.  New Rule:  if you walk and eat pastries they are calorie free…YEAH!!!!!  New way to combat diet danger.  Just a little issue of the rain….time out under a tree sheltered from the rain eating pastry.  Perfect way to wait out the storm.


Sunshine is out again moving on….up next translation of all park monuments in Buenos Aires or at least “Sherry Translation”  you know this will be good for several laughs.  Spanglish at its finest.

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Day 3:  This is known as the day the Dads and best friend boarded a plane with Sherry and hoped they wouldn’t be subjected to airport jail.  Good news is we all arrived at Iguazu Falls unscathed.  I was on super good airport behavior and I think as we exited the airport everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.  Our accommodations were at Iguazu Jungle Lodge a serious of cabins/suites situated seriously in the jungle.  Overall a great small hotel with helpful staff and golf cart rides to your suite.

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One small issue of only having one large one bedroom suite available instead of the two booked.  Time to get to know each other cause we will be sharing close cozy quarters for the next few days.  Selfies a great way to pass the time while the Dads figure out the technological devices…ie connect to WiFi.

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A small snack on our balcony overlooking the jungle before heading off to dinner.

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I can say the menu was entertaining it took all the language skills Miriam and I had to decode the interestingly translated English menu.

Watch out FiFi they are making stew with you here in Iguazu!!!

Perhaps the Spanish version of the menu will shed some light on what is really in the dishes.

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Life is not complete until you try Fernet and Coke!!!


Day 4:  Up early and off to see Iguazu Falls.  Admission for non-Mercosur foreign tourists is approximately 130 Argentine Pesos (22USD).  As you go past the store selling the rain ponchos take my advice and buy one you will need it.  There are so many words I could use to describe this wonder of the world but perhaps pictures are much more representative and enjoyable.

Also, at almost all the hotels in the city you can arrange for a tour guide for the day.  The cost is very minimal  for the service provided I was very happy with our guide’s services and all the information she provided which I did not know about the area and the falls.

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Making new friends…these friends are a bit on the wild side though.

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The exciting and very wet part of the day.  A boat ride directly into the falls.  Seriously into the falls!!!  See all the smiles before we are soaked and the smiles only grew every minute of the ride.

The boat ride can be purchased separately or as part of the Gran Adventure Package which provides fun filled adventures throughout the day.  

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To be continued……..back to Buenos Aires and the last half of my Dads visit and my stay cay.

Final Details and the Sadness of Missing Europe

This wrap up may make me feel sadder than actual end to Eurotrip 2013.  Writing the blog and reliving those moments allows me to truly appreciate everything that we were able to experience.  Sitting here in Buenos Aires right now makes me miss the endless variety of food items either in the grocery store or markets all readily available.  I think my head and my heart live in Europe and when I am not there I totally miss it.

All train trips were booked in advance though Czech Transport and the tickets were mailed to my travel partner in crime parents in the Netherlands.

Train Experience:  I love trains, love the experience it affords, love that it is a different more leisurely but efficient way of getting from one place to another while still seeing the ground covered.  Before taking the night train to Prague I was more excited then children on Christmas morning.  This trip had some not such steeped in fantasy train moments but others moments that could have been directly out of the train fantasy movies that play in my head.

The overnight train from Amsterdam to Prague (approx. €408 for 2 in a 2 person cabin) started just as idyllic as I could imagine.  Look at that happy smiling proud of myself face as we settle into the small sleeper cabin.


A picnic with fresh fruit, honey goat cheese, fig jam, hummus, freshly made baguettes and champagne….I know you are thinking heaven right.  It was just like I thought it should be.  Train Fantasy fulfilled.


Not so fast…bunk beds, shared toilet, and 5 hour late arrival into Prague is only busting my train bubble here.  Though I do not expect everything to go smooth a few little glitches no problem just need to pay better attention when booking overnight trains from now on.  And look at the view as the land rolls by.

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Train from Prague to Bratislava (approx. €92 for 2 person in a 1st class car with advance seat reservations) now known as “the ride around the rim of hell”.  You know I couldn’t totally wrap up vacation without one last story.  Picture this a small carriage 6 small seats for 4 people perfect right you have a bit of extra room.  So it is first class and bookable by reservation only (4 people/car) so far so good until you find out they over book the train.  First we were joined by a Chilean couple who were spending a year traveling Europe and they were very upset to know we would not take our bags down to accommodate the fact that they had 4 large bags.  Plenty of room for your one bag above and one bag wherever which is what we did one bag each above and our backpacks between our legs; now the fact that you have 2 large suitcases apiece as well as a backpack not so much my problem.  Also, my charming Chilean train riding companions dealing with rejection should not be so hard for you and you probably shouldn’t assume that the red headed North American girl sitting beside you cannot understand Spanish.  Though some of the things you said made me laugh out loud just because I was embarrassed for your ignorance.  Wouldn’t that be great if the story ended here?…no it wouldn’t cause that would not make for any amusement on the trip.  Next thing I know the conductor is entering saying the train is overbooked and they need us to share our reserved carriage with others: a family of Argentines to be exact two seats 6 people not sure how that is suppose to work out did I mention all their bags seriously bags.

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So 10 people in a small carriage next things next the air conditioning goes out and the window does not open can you say train carriage sauna.  Seriously I couldn’t make this up if I tried even with my imagination.  The only thing that would make this more funny or sad would have been two screaming babies in the seat next to me.  But I did get an equivalent experience at this time the Argentines and Chileans decided to discuss who had the most important job, the most money and who had had the most impressive travel experiences between them all; somewhat akin to my dad is better than yours in US preschools.  Awesome too bad the fun needed to end 2 hours too late.  I think as we bid them goodbye and nice travels in Spanish as we left the car the look on their faces made the excursion overall a bit more enjoyable.

Train from Bratislava to Budapest (approx. €80 for 2 person in a first class car with advanced seat reservations).  Modern, comfortable, not overbooked, uneventful and a bit of train fantasy is being restored.   Best of all air conditioning works perfectly.

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Adria Air:  Slovenian national airline for travel back to Amsterdam.  Flawless experience left on time, great flight crew and the most fantastic airport lounge I have encountered…in a tiny very tiny airport.  Living in Slovenia could actually become a reality my one fear was getting in and out of the country to an international terminal to be able to travel as needed for work.  That appears to not be a problem as a matter of fact this is a huge positive.

Eurotrip 2013 was 21 days of fabulous travel from Amsterdam to Prague to Bratislava to Budapest and finishing with every square inch/centimeter of Slovenia (additionally a short detour into Italy and Croatia) was beyond my expectations amazing.  I saw beautiful historic sites, marveled at nature and wandered aimlessly/got lost throughout 7 countries.  I met such warm, welcoming and wonderful people whom I am happy to now call friends.  I consumed more calories than can be possible without weighing 2 tons and over indulged in a plethora of adult happy spirits and the only regrets I have is that I don’t have any leftovers.  In my world you can never go wrong with slow cooked meat covered in a rich sauce of any type, potatoes in any variety or cooking style and bread several varieties per meal preferred.  I found pastry heaven exists in every country, which only makes me more excited to visit new countries in search of local yummy goodness heaven on a plate.  I have been repeatedly told by a special someone, that a meal isn’t a meal without dessert I think perhaps I am buying into that philosophy now or maybe just openingly and freely admitting it.


Next stop 10 days in Argentina with the dads…..Tourist in my own country

Dear Beer Drinker Welcome to Wine Country

The Region of White Wines:  AKA the refined and calm portion of Eurotrip 2013

Living in Buenos Aires, Argentina I have 24/7 readily available access to some of the best red wines in the world, which is some days necessary for survival here.  I know there are connoisseurs of fine wines out there that will argue with me but in reality the only requirement here is for me to like and enjoy the wines I am drinking.  However, while known for great wine the same is not true of beer in Argentina and to say I am a little too fond of great beers is a very true statement.  So, whenever I am out of Argentina I find myself indulging (perhaps over indulging) in great brews. This trip to Europe was no exception I gladly traded wine at any meal for a great beer. I feel certain though through the previous posts you have already surmised that.   Today is the exception to that statement:

Let me point out first here that you will notice since arriving in Slovenia there has been no we took a wrong turn and sort of got lost stories.  No this is not due to some miracle acquisition of “sense of direction” it is 100% due to the fact that we specifically booked tours and left the directions in the hands of the experts (Roundabout Travel).  This has its advantages (less discussions about how to actually get somewhere) and its disadvantages (I find being lost leads always to some discovery and a great story).  So needless to say this part of Eurotrip 2013 was the calmest and it makes me a bit sad not to have some great “hey I got lost and look what I found stories”.

The Wine Region of Slovenia we visited is located in the Drava Valley in the town of Jeruzalem and is known for producing fabulous white wine.

On the way we stopped in Maribor, toured the town, paid homage to the oldest grapevine, and enjoyed coffee with a friend of our tour guide whom he just ran into in the city center (the country is so small it is like living in a small town).

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I must admit this stop was a bit too long for me…”hey come on there is all this wine just waiting for me to try”.  Perhaps two years is still not long enough living in a Latin American country to fully let go of the inherently impatient part of my personality.  Vamos!!!

The drive up to the vineyards was beautiful and the view from the top was spectacular.  This day was a bit dreary and gloomy and even dare I say “cold” I can only imagine how fantastic it would look on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

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Lunch was at another Gostilna or Tavern look at the view from the balcony and how cute the inside is.  Each dish was a regional specialty and was made with locally grown fresh ingredients and paired with a complimentary wine produced in the valley.  I tried buckwheat here and you know what it wasn’t too bad as in I would eat it again.  Amazing how when you are actually open to trying new things you are pleasantly surprised.

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Journey Home…..saving the best for last.  We stopped at Trojane for Krofi. What is this you may ask sounds strange……..Huge jelly filled donuts covered in powdered sugar….are you kidding me.  I love donuts, like cannot survive without them, I dream of them and now at the end of the day I am experiencing nirvana.  I will take 4 to go in addition to the one I am devouring on the way back to the car.   Can you imagine how great they will be for a late night snack enjoyed with a pot of hot tea?

Oh wait I just have to ask room service to bring me some hot water, tea and organic sugar…come on hotel just put the necessary tea making facilities in room and I will not need to delay my gratification.

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I will admit by this part of the vacation I am feeling extremely worn out and more tired than you should on any vacation it has been 20 days of how much can I squeeze into one day.  So we opted to take the day to just stay in Ljubijana and enjoy the capital city.  This day I really was experiencing small town living…having flashbacks to the place I grew up in…in the middle of this crazy ordinary restful day without any advance planning who did we see no other than Jan and Zuzi from Taste of Prague.  That was such a pleasant surprise and the fact that they even remembered us (they are super wonderful…take the tour):  though to be quite honest while I would like to think it is my bubbly personality and charming wit that makes us quite memorable I fully understand that perhaps it may actually be incredibly tall Dutch pirate who is the most unforgettable of the two of us…cause hey how many times do you actually meet someone that tall in your lifetime.

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Sadly, vacation is coming to an end….it is the last day before I return to Buenos Aires and Tall Dutch Pirate returns to life on the boat (don’t feel sorry for him if you only knew where the ship was traveling to:  Alaska, Seattle, Hawaii, Fiji, French Polynesia, and Australia….such a hard life on Holland America Cruise Line).

Last tour of the trip was to Plitvice Lakes, Croatia I was probably most excited for this day and had been looking forward to it for months.  Lets just say as for all things you anticipate too much the day didn’t go as planned and the reality of the excursion didn’t quite match the expectations.

First things first:  speed traps exist in all countries be careful.  Good news is wasn’t me who got the driving award here aka driver appreciation certificates.  I may have a small to medium sized collection of them from other countries but Croatia isn’t included in that collection.

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Our tour guide seemed much more interested in just getting to the destination, complaining and literally running through the park.  I wouldn’t advise going here with a tour but on your own so you can take your time and explore the park at your own pace without the impatient tour guide telling you it isn’t necessary to see everything.  We went on an incredibly busy day (actually the busiest of the year to be accurate) the park was incredibly crowded just me and 25000 of my closest friends and while it was extremely hard to move along the small wooden paths the park itself was magnificent someplace everyone who has an opportunity should see and enjoy.   For my next visit,  I will return with my own transportation so that I am able to truly appreciate its splendor and take the time I wish to spend there.

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The world never ceases to take my breath away with its incredible divine beauty.

Beaches, Beer and Broken Language Skills

A Small Detour on the Way to the Beach

On the way to the Mediterranean Coast (a funny thing happened) we stopped by a horse farm, not just any horse farm but Lipica.  This is the stud farm established in 1580 which breeds and raises the famous Lipizzaner dancing horses of the Spanish riding school which we visited last year on our adventure in Vienna, Austria.

DSC_0322 DSC_0324 DSC_0428 DSC_0559 DSC_0520 DSC_0436Importantly, the colts are born dark colored but due to a genetic condition lose pigmentation over the first few years of life resulting in the beautiful white stallions we are accustomed to seeing.  There is something serenely comforting for me standing there “luving” on this sweet baby.

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I suppose it has much to do with my not so secret lifelong passion for these magnificent creatures and my frequent need for “horse therapy”.  The good news is they have a horse sale hmmm….I wonder just how difficult it is to import him into Argentina I can just see it now “I was on vacation in Europe and fell in LOVE with a horse so I am going to be needing an import permit for him“.   Perhaps the better solution is I can just purchase a place in Fairytale land to keep my new LUV it would probably be a lot less hassle and much, much cheaper.  This plan (fairytale dream) is getting better all the time:  sweet chalet in the Alps Mountains overlooking a crystal clear turquoise lake, complete with my own White Horse….I like where this is going.

Mediterranean Coast

Beauty Beyond Words Fantastic.  Blue water, warm golden rays of sunshine shining down on me.  My first trip to the Adriatic could not have been on a more perfect flawless day.  Oh how I love the water……

The first town on the Mediterranean Coast visited was Koper, Slovenia.  We were suppose to visit Piran; however, there was a small slight change of plans due to the 30km traffic jam caused by the rest of Europe needing to get to the coast as well.  Look Europeans you are interrupting my fairy dream with reality in the form of a traffic jam that is pretty unacceptable.  Koper is located in southwestern Slovenia on the country’s 47km coastline about 1.5hours from Ljubljana (without white horse fantasy farm detour).

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So, it is a beautiful sunny warm flawless day what is one to do when at the beach without a swimsuit?  (Well as I quickly learned a swimsuit is minimal amounts of material for the young and old alike).  Yes the most perfect plan ever:  sit at a terrace café in the sun overlooking the water, enjoying the show around us, all while enjoying yes you know it beer and cake (tiramisu) no need for actual food.  What a lovely way to pass an afternoon at the beach.

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Next stop on the coastal tour is actually in Italy near Trieste.  Miramare Castle built in the 19th century for Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria on the Gulf of Trieste.  An especially cozy smaller castle, Slovenia land of my grown up fairytale has approximately 500 castles some of which can even today be purchased by individuals.  OK wait I can actually buy a castle in Fairytale land…Really?  Took the tour of the castle and the lady looked a bit surprised when after about 35 minutes we returned the headphones for the guided tour:  I tried to listen to it all really I did but all those history facts, dates and architectural details were testing my attention span.  Realistically my brain thinks only in numbers and equations so for my career it is perfect but for enjoying tours and museums not so much.

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The castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens, which can be enjoyed while having coffee at small cafe tables near the sea.  This is much more my thing taking it all in through observation.

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There is also beautiful views of the sea from the castle itself and even more enjoyable from the castle’s private marina.  Sit near the sea in the sun while waiting for Prince Charming to arrive on his big white boat….waiting…waiting…….waiting…..

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Thats enough of that moving on now.

Trieste, Italy

My first adventure into Italy and this by itself was exciting enough for me.  I completely get this isn’t the Italy I dreamt of visiting for my whole life…hint hint for my travel partner in crime…but for now it will do.  Exploring the city, taking in the sites, a bit of shoe shopping there is always room for new shoes in the not quite full travel bag.

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Hey you know this is the perfect chance for me to practice my Italian, which I have been perfecting for the past 8 months now.

“Yes there is a story here:  Last New Years Day (2013) while on the cruise to the end of the world (Buenos Aires-Antarctica-Patagonia-Chilean Fjords-Santiago) I was standing on the deck of the ship as it snowed watching penguins and whales play in the water when an older gentleman asked “me where the whales and penguins were” so he could show his wife. 
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I was a bit confused because it sounded to me like he was mixing Spanish and Portuguese so I just did the natural thing and answered him in Spanish cause hey it was easier for me.  So, I next asked him if he was from Argentina or Brazil because he was for sure mixing the languages and he laughed and replied no he was Italian….Nice…..great…love it when things like that happen.  So I just smile, shrug my shoulders and give him that “Soy inocente” look and realize the best outcome ever I got this Italian language as well….My language skills are getting really great improving dramatically as long as I know which one someone else is speaking.” 

Additionally, I can have a traditional northern Italian lunch of grilled fresh fish served with pasta in olive oil pesto sauce and the best part of all gelato for dessert.  Really who knew asking for a sundae was going to be so difficult.  It is those words you don’t have when you need them as you stand there with this crazy blank look on your face trying to find it in your memory.  Hey incredibly tall Dutch man you lived in Italy for like 3 years and actually know Italian HELP ME OUT HERE…all while he stands there grinning like the Cheshire Cat letting me just sweat it out. Yes he is enjoying this way too much and I am not sure if that is “evil” grin or this is “super amusing” grin.

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Good news is got the sundae bad news or perhaps just extra better news it was about 3 times the actual size I wanted.   The key to languages is just to own them be confident in what your saying even when the person you are talking to looks at you like you have two heads.  Believe me there will be substantial lost in translation moments but at least you will have something to laugh about long after the adventure is over and really isn’t it just about the memories you take away.

Slovenia Land of Caves, Castles and Treacherous Servents

Can it get any better than Fairytale Land?!

To be honest after visiting the Alpine Region of Slovenia I was so enchanted I did not think anything could come close to the feeling I had in that area.  While I cannot say I found anything any better I did find the new regions intriguing and spectacular.  The really great thing about Slovenia is there are several types of geographical areas contained within its boarders and each one is unique, distinct and full of its own charm complete with its own divergent culture.

Castles and Caves in the Karst Region:

In southwestern Slovenia and northeastern Italy, there is a network of underground caves and caverns created by Karst Phenomena known as the Karst Plateau.  We spent parts of two days exploring this region again with Roundabout Travel.  This company is really a fantastic company to work with each tour guide extremely knowledge and so excited to show you “their” country.  They make the tours fun, relaxing and really an adventure and go above and beyond to make sure your experience is memorable.

Skocjan Cave:

This was the first cave system we visited the walk down through the natural surroundings to the cave entrance was only a preface as to the incredible underground beauty waiting ahead.

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At the entrance to the caves they divided you into three groups:  Slovenian speaking, Italian/Spanish speaking and English speaking.  The English speaking was by far the largest group and to be honest the worst behaved group as well.

This cave system was a bit smaller, much less commercialized and really exquisite.  I wish I had photos to post in the caves; however since no photos are allowed in the cave I only have photos of the entrance and the exit.  Inside the cave was simply amazing, marvelous nature in an indescribable way.  This is the kind of attraction I much prefer: less commercialized more close to nature.

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Unfortunately, now due to my new 8 different language skills my English is quit terrible (all those languages get confused and jumbled in my brain).  I thought what they said was “do not take photos and do not touch the formations” when apparently what they said was it was OK to do both of the above.  Rules people……come on it isn’t so difficult to just follow them.  I am seriously shocked by how badly some tourists behave!

Second point when they mention before starting the tour: climbing stairs, slippery walks, steep climbs, lowered passageways, narrow paths, and suspended bridges.   This is not just to try to discourage you from taking the tour it is reality…you are in a “real” cave not Hollywood created scenery complete with escalators and moving sidewalks to transport you magically through the cave. So again you can imagine my reaction when people started complaining about climbing steep paths and stairs and that the path was too slippery to walk on in a “living” cave.

You noticed in the first sentence I said “walk down to the cave”…guess what that means….YES you guessed it….at the end of the tour you need to somehow get back to the top where you started.  The hike what I saw of it was really beautiful and at a slower pace would have been perfect.

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At this point you will need to remember my travel partner is incredibly tall like I need to take 5 steps to his 1.  Lets just say this was not my favorite part of the day hiking (OK sprinting) up the mountain (approx. 4km) to keep up with him nor was I in the best humor when I reached the top (sweating, lungs on fire and legs shaking) only to see the tram.  Oops I suppose we missed that sign.  Hmmm…..I believe Vulcan Death Stare was the look of choice at that moment.  So so not talking to him haha.

DSC_1450 DSC_1455Postojna Cave:

The second of the cave networks we visited.  These caves are better known, more commercialized and much busier than the Skocjan Cave.  The crowds here were much larger, the cave more accessible and less physically demanding meaning there was a double tracked train that brought you down into the cave and back out again and inside the walkway was less strenuous.  The cave system itself was expansive and quite impressive a definite must see just be prepared for the crowds.

Here, again, no photography was allowed inside the caves only during the train ride.   Apparently, only a very few managed to follow the rules.  OK not getting on the soapbox again…see above for my rant.

DSC_1702 DSC_1696Predjama Castle:

This castle is supercool built into the side of a mountain amongst connecting caves and tunnels.

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The landscape views from the castle spectacular and necessary when one needs to protect themselves from approaching enemies: see story below.

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Inside the castle and cave system that made up the tunnels leading to the other side of the mountain necessarily important for survival when you are surrounded by opposition:  again see story below.

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DSC_1711DSC_1717 DSC_1722 1005496_647343565283622_743604725_nRemember how much I appreciate a great back story.

The castle became known as the seat of Knight Erazem Lueger (or Luegger), owner of the castle in the 15th century and a renowned robber baron.  A headstrong and rebellious knight, Erazem rebelled against the Austrian emperor Fredrick III and eventually killed his kinsman. Thus enraged, the Austrian leader commissioned the governor of Trieste, Andrej Ravbar, to capture and kill Erazem. This is where the impregnability of Predjama Castle was truly put to the test.

For a year and a day, Erazem was besieged in his fortress. But, much to the dismay of his adversaries, he continued to survive and taunt the attacking soldiers by pelting them with cherries. They couldn’t figure out how he was getting his supplies. As far as they knew, there was only one way in and out of the valley, and the castle. But the cunning knight knew better. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, Erazem knew of a secret tunnel leading from the castle, which allowed him to travel to the nearby village of Vipava and collect supplies, including hoards of fresh cherries when the season was ripe.

But it seemed that the soldiers were to have the last laugh. With the strategic placement of a small signal flag, a servant of Erazem was bribed to reveal when his master was in attendance at that place where the elusive knight and even the noblest of men needed to go after consuming lots of cherries and wine: the outhouse. Unfortunately for Erazem, the toilet, situated on the top floor and at the very edge of the castle, was the one place that wasn’t so impregnable. When the moment came, the flag was placed there by the treacherous servant. A single cannon ball was launched, and the errant knight was literally caught with his pants down

Poor Erazem he just didn’t have a good plan perhaps he should have fed the opposing forces “special” food which could have kept them occupied for a while.  Yes I know that is only my devious mind at work….and you think my career choice was random:)