|Llama selfie at Machu Picchu|
|Lions Head hike in Cape Town|
Month 1: Cape Town, South Africa
the city in 3 words: heavy, natural masterpiece, opportunity
Favorite meal: Truth Cafe, brunch. I discover what a flat white is. Cauliflower salad at Jason’s.
Favorite natural place: Hiking table mountain. There is actually a pool of water, like a small sea midway up. You go through all sorts of natural beauties along the hike, like through forest, than the sea and sand, then up barren rocks, breathe in the clouds and mist, and finish on top of a flat mountain with a few pools of water. The sights off of the cliffs before you board the cable cars are just incredible. You hear all sorts of languages and see adults and kids of all ages passing you along the way. It was most heart-warming to see families ask for a picture at the very top of Table mountain, with kids with no more than 10 years old. Hiking in Cape Town was a level 8 or 9 out of 10 at times with your legs turning to jello halfway up the climb. The climb would last 3-4 hours but sometimes be continuous hours of ascending. It’s a spectacular place.
Reality check: There was a severe drought going on in Cape Town while we were there. Showers were limited to 90 seconds, and we had to save the water to be used for the toilet. When I heard more about this from the locals, I heard it was not so much a scarcity of water in the city, but was a political ploy, to hold water from the city, in order to gain more support for the opposing political party.
Favorite memory: hearing from the white warden who took care of Nelson Mandela on Robbin Island and risked losing his job to let Nelson Mandela hold his grandchild. They remained friends and worked alongside politically, Mandela appointing this warden on his counsel when he became president, until the day Mandela died.
Month 2: Marrakech, Morocco
The city in 3 words: rugged, misunderstood, mysterious
Overall sentiment of city: Morocco is a beautiful city that is full of noise, color, and cats. Moroccans will tell you that they don’t identify with Europeans or Arabs, and so they are proud to call themselves “Moroccan”. They are a mix of both Europeans and Arabs, speaking French, and Arabic and being more liberal than Middle Eastern Arabs in their dress and customs, but much more conservatives than Europeans.
Favorite natural place: riding donkeys in the mountains and seeing the rugs being made and the abundance of orange juice everywhere and the natural refrigeration.
And the SAHARA! A sea of sand that is mesmerizing. The dryness and sand that goes in your nose, ears, and mouth, makes you feel disoriented and like a creature of the desert. It sucks some energy too, probably from dehydration. The essence of time is lost in a dessert. All you have is the sun to look at, but an hour walking in the desert on a camel makes you feel lost at sea. You are taken back in time, and taken completely in the moment.
Favorite memory: Cooking class, learning all the spices for the Tajine and working together as a group. Also, leading the Top chef competition. And tasting the food people made. Brittany’s pineapple upside down cake.
|Playing piano in Valencia, Spain|
Month 3: Valencia, Spain
Overall sentiment of city: This place feels like a new home. Coming from Morocco and CapeTown, it felt so easy and nice. Water was drinkable, walking wouldn’t get you killed (traffic laws), and food was incredible.
The city in 3 words: clean, easy, perfect
Favorite natural place: the mountains, hiking, and the beach. It reminds me a lot of Santa Monica. Its clean and people are active playing beach volleyball. Also, the park where I can sit and write. Even a puppy came up to my lap while I was beginning to cry about the confusion that was my life. I remembered that I have to keep moving forward and trust the process. It was a relief to be able to walk alone coming from Cape Town and Morocco where I would usually go with people places for safety reasons.
Favorite memory: Renting a bike and biking around the city, and going to the various cafes to try pan con tomate and croissants. They were the best! The Spanish eat 5-7 times per day and sometimes I did too. The food was delicious and the produce was so cheap and good. They take a lot of pride in their food and it shows in all the little restaurants on every street. It is a bit like Paris that way, having so many good restaurants and bistros everywhere.
Month 4: Belgrade, Serbia
Overall sentiment of city: This is a real city. There are little to no tourists here, and I love it. It still continues to be my favorite city we visited. It is not geared towards tourists. We stayed right in the middle of the city where people are always at the cafes either drinking cafe or beer. Food is usually not served at those cafes. It is not a wine place. It was frustrating to want to get a coffee and croissant somewhere but most places sold them separately, it was either a cafe place, or a bakery. People could sit hours over a coffee, beer, or lemonade. Also, most people walked with their boureg or pizza to eat it (sadly with ketchup). It was an active city, the men were so tall, and the girls had great figures. How, with all the butter and bread? It was such a real city and although people seem mean and cold at first, I think it is just because they are uncomfortable speaking english. There were some of the most hospitable people and so proud to show you Serbia and give you Raikia.
The city in 3 words: grungy, cold, real
Favorite meal: The raspberries everywhere!!! Smokvica brunch with hummus and amazing bread everywhere. Their produce was incredible and open everyday. The farmers barely spoke English but came in around 5am to sell their produce. It was maybe the best time to be there in the summer! Also, I loved the cooking class with Jelena, learning how to make stuffed sorrel leaves with meat, shopska salad, and a weird no-bake biscuit cake for my birthday.
Reality check: post Yugoslavia. There is not that much opportunity and they are still not part of the European Union. Buildings are not that pretty and prime real estate on the river and fertile land for growing crops are being bought up by Saudi Arabians for new developments. I learned that Serbia has enough fertile land to feed all of Europe but they still suffer great economic distress. It was one of the cheapest places we went, with a fine-dining sit down dinner for two being less than $30. Small meals like pizza would be a dollar or two.
Favorite natural place: the surrounding grounds to the castle. Huge fortress constructed in 1300s or before. Having the Raikia tasting there and eating jelly and cheese filled pastries with lights on the castle.
Favorite memory: Walking in the farmer’s market and when the baker recognized Mario and before you know it, we’re in the back of the bakery taking shots of Raiki and talking about Mexico, toleration across people and getting my hair touched, and then getting a loaf of bread to take home at 12 noon after having brunch with Daryl.
But, also the Serbian mariachi band that Mario got for me on my Birthday and the day before partying on the party boat until the sun came up listening to all kinds of music being with some awesome people. That was just one of my favorite nights and getting the surprise cinnamon rolls beforehand.
Month 5: Split, Croatia
Overall sentiment of city: This is a beautiful place, but i think people know it too. How did I not know about this place before? It is like the coast of Italy or something. The water is crystal clear with fish in it. It is a weird city. Half of the food is like Serbian food with spinach pie and kebab, and half of it is Italian. But they don’t eat too much seafood here and its not that good. That’s odd.
The city in 3 words: peaceful, picturesque, snobby
Favorite memory: Rafting in the river!! Being able to drink the water. Swimming in the Adriatic Sea almost every day. Swimming in the sea after the farewell party without bathing suits (with underwear!). Just taking off our clothes and swimming with Dance, Theresa, Bryan, Chris and Mario under the moonlight. That was magical. Cooking for the group for free and people just enjoying it.
|Street art in Lisbon|
Month 6: Lisbon, Portugal
Overall sentiment of city: Wow!!! How did I not know about this place before. It is even better than Spain. The people are warm, the food is great, and the mix of Arabic influence makes it such a unique place. The tiles are just fantastic and beautiful. I could walk these hilly streets and just take in the sites more and more. The pastries are great, though the croissants are too big and bready! They love to put this crema in everything. They are very friendly and so excited to share their city.
The city in 3 words: eclectic, adventurous, understated
Favorite meal: Rissoto with clams that I made with Theresa at the Timeout place.
Favorite natural place: Surfing in Cintra. I don’t think there was a better place to learn, and a better food to eat that second time we surfed on a Sunday. Nuno showed us all the picturesque places like he was a local who grew up in Malibu.
Favorite memory: surfing, or biking in the little fishing village and eating the most amazing award winning soup made with Skate. Or the dinner at Goncalos and the ambiance and his girlfriend and him serving us
Month 7: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Overall sentiment of city: Too much like New York. It’s busy, dirty with smog and very unnerving for me. People are super nice and friendly though!
The city in 3 words: overwhelming, busy, Euro-Latino
Favorite meal: Bio restaurant- Indian rice with salad with mustard i think. Colors were amazing and it was a welcome change from a meat-heavy month
Reality check: They drink mate all day and drink beer when they get together instead of going out to eat. There are lines at the ATM to get money out when they get paid, or when the peso drops.
Favorite natural place: POLO day!!! Wow! I won MVP for the day and did amazing. I LOVE horses and the space out there.
Favorite memory: Polo day.
|Cooking in Cordoba|
Month 8: Cordoba, Argentina
The city in 3 words: pleasant, vibrant, warm people
Favorite natural place: The sierras San Clemente area where I rode horses for 2 hours, ate grilled meat and just took in a lot of sun. Riding a horse is just wonderful. They were real gauchos too!
Favorite memory: Cooking at Chilli’s restaurant for a my first ever pop-up dinner
|Hiking in Cusco|
Month 9: Lima, Peru and Cusco, Peru
Overall sentiment of city: developed and more Americanized
The city in 3 words: big, clean, unfriendly
Favorite meal: ALL! The yucca fries and all the sauces were great. As well as the coca/mint candies that saved me in Machu Picchu. Also, the soups. Humble soups with quinoa and vegetables were so good and exactly what you need after a long hike. Lomo saltado, quinoa rice, and fried empanadas and roasted chicken with the best french fries. TONS of crazy potatoes!
Reality check: The water supposedly had lead in it. We had to brush our teeth with bottled water, given to us in our apartment. It was a beautiful apartment but sat 7 stories up from a noisy highway. No double-paned windows either.
Favorite natural place: Machu Picchu and Rainbow mountain. The way the Inca’s carved into the mountains was just breathtaking, and literally. It was dangerous in many spots and rainy. People have died hiking before, maybe got altitude sickness and just not feeling great. It was a place for the gods.
Favorite memory: Baking a cake for Kayla’s belated birthday and cooking her birthday meal of cauliflower puree, steak, and parmesan crusted broccoli
Month 10: Medellin, Columbia
Overall sentiment of city: safe and lots and lots of ex-pats and digital nomads.
The city in 3 words: energizing, green, vibrant
Favorite meal: all the fruits! So exotic. Especially granadillo, or the yellow passionfruit that is sweet on its own. But also prickly pear with salt, and papaya with lime (to remove smell), and unripe mango with lime. All of it is wonderful . Also, amazing coffee! HUGE avocados that don’t have much flavor but are very buttery. Bunelos are like donut holes here.
Favorite natural place: Chorro la campana envigado, waterfall repelling.. Nature completely in it.
Favorite memory: Building Gingerbread houses in an all girls orphanage home. They sang to us and gave us blessings that made everyone cry.
Month 11: Bogota, Columbia (Opt-out)
Month 12: Mexico City, Mexico
The city in 3 words: homey, vibrant, nostalgic
Favorite natural place: Forest around the castle
Favorite memory: Spending time with my cousin at a brunch spot near Frida’s house. And Bonfire at Las Estancas, giving thanks and enjoying the last week together in appreciation, revel, and supportive community.