2016 – A Year in Review

To say 2016 was a strange year is understating it.  It started right off the bat with a scary family health issue (which, mercifully, is much much better by now) that took us all quite by surprise.  The year also had other small ‘hiccups,’ which is just life on any given year.  Nevertheless, and as is often the case, God certainly brings good out of the bad, and provides other great things to keep us balanced (or, sane!).

I want to share some of those great things, at least the ones that related to travel, exploring, hiking, relaxing, or enjoying food/wine to wrap up this year.  While I did not get to write as much this year as I normally do, I certainly never stopped dreaming of travel or of sharing the experiences.  Here is to a great 2017 for all!

Elton, Sir Elton

A work trip in early January resulted in getting invited to a private concert with Sir Elton John.  I got to stand close to the stage and enjoyed his music and showmanship (and the complimentary drinks with two great co-workers)!  While the year started with Elton John’s music, I can say that the song of the year (in my head, anyway) is “One Night in Bangkok,” if nothing else because I heard it too many times in anticipation of a trip that happened much later in the year.

Elton John, concert, CES, music, icon, travel, Las Vegas, photo, red piano

Brunswick in coastal Georgia

A brief work trip in February took me to coastal Georgia, to the sleepy-ish town of Brunswick.  I took some time to drive around the old part of town and caught a great sunset as I hunted for a place to sit down and eat.  Not bad!Brunswick, Georgia, sunset, sun, cloud, silhouette, golden, sky, photo

Oldest church in Atlanta

The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Atlanta is the oldest church in Atlanta.  I got to work at the homeless shelter in the basement overnight a night in winter.  I loved the reflection of the church on the modern building across from it…

Shrine, Immaculate Conception, downtown, Atlanta, reflection, glass, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – or its reflection

Hiking in north Georgia

Spring brought many opportunities to go hiking around and north of Atlanta.  Whether with my regular hiking buddy, Phil; or with my friend Troy and his two oldest children, Rehm and Caitlyn; or with a group from church that included my friends Chris and Wendy, springtime was full of hiking.  Here are photos from my hikes around Vickery Creek, up Pine Mountain, up to the top of Stone Mountain, or to and back from the awesome Hike Inn in north Georgia!

Vickery Creek, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Around the Vickery Creek trails

Vickery Creek, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Around the Vickery Creek trails – the dam

Pine Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Trails around Pine Mountain

Pine Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Trails around Pine Mountain

Hike Inn, sunrise, mountains, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

View of sunrise from the Hike Inn

Hike Inn, Georgia, mountains, hiking, trekking, Atlanta, photo

The group at the starting point to get to the Hike Inn

Stone Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

No kids were harmed in this photo on the rail line in Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Around Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Again, no kids were harmed… really…

Colorado spring!

In June, I got to visit my friends Annette, Kent and Austin to celebrate two great events in their lives.  It also gave me the opportunity to tour the Stanley Hotel which inspired Stephen King, and to finally hike around the table mountain right west of Arvada.  Oh, and I got to see a few other friends that I had not seen in a few years!

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, flower, Stephen King, Colorado, table mountain, explore, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The Stanley Hotel

hiking, Colorado, table mountain, outdoors, nature, photo, Samsung Galaxy hiking, Colorado, table mountain, outdoors, nature, photo, Samsung Galaxy, flower

Celebrating with my Mom and sister

In July, my Mom, sister and I made a long weekend getaway to the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota.  We got to relax, laugh, and -of course- eat a lot of delicious food!

family, Ritz, Sarasota

With my Mom and sister!

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Great colors as the sun sets west of Sarasota

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Creme brulee

Wine in California

I was fortunate to be able to go to California for work which allowed me to visit ex-Atlanta residents Jenny, Jason, Phoebe and Zoe.  While the kids were in school, my hostess and I escaped for a wine tasting at Testarossa – great locale and great wine!  Among the best things to do in Cali – wine tasting!

Testarossa, California, winery, wine tasting, fun

Entrance to the tasting room

Testarossa, California, winery, wine tasting, fun

Awesome setting for a winery!

Cheap fare to Stockholm

John, a college friend who knows how to find a good airfare, suggested a long weekend ‘jump’ to Stockholm.  A little bit mad, perhaps, but I could not say no to have another opportunity to explore this great city.  And then we drove away from the city to see what we’d run into.  Good stuff for another post!

Stamla Gan, Stockholm, Sweden, travel, explore, tourism, Samsung Galaxy

Great view of the heart of Stockholm

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Sweden’s countryside

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A great dinner on the first night in Stockholm

red ivy, Stockholm, Sweden, travel, explore, tourism, Samsung Galaxy

Beautiful Stockholm!

My travel capstone in 2016 – Asia

Great stuff up to this point but my trip to Southeast Asia certainly took the cake – not just for the long distance to get there (37 hours!).  I got to explore and sample Bali, Singapore, Bangkok and the countryside near it, and amazing Cambodia.  Wish I had had two more weeks to include Laos and Vietnam – and/or just for more time in these places.  Leaving something unseen for a future trip hopefully and grateful for the opportunity to see what I saw!

Bali, Indonesia, Asia, Seminyak, pool, W Resort, W hotel, awesome, Samsung Galaxy S7

The view from my room included a great view of the pool area

Our Lady Help, Mae Klong, church, Catholic ,Bangkok, Thailand

Cycling around the countryside outside of Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand, tuk tuk, ilivetotravel, travel, adventure, explore

Tuk tuk adventures…

Bangkok, Thailand, temple, reclining Buddha, ilivetotravel, travel, adventure, explore

Standing Buddha with the reclining Buddha

Cambodia, Cambodge, sunset, lake, travel, explore, adventure, Samsung Galaxy

Sunset in Cambodia

Angkor Wat, temple, ilivetotravel, sunrise, ruins, explore, travel, Asia, Cambodia, Cambodge

Looking haggard after an early early wake-up to see Angkor Wat at sunrise

Ta Phrom, Cambodia, Cambodge, Angkor Wat, temple, ruins, banyan tree, travel, explore, adventure

Ta Phrom and its banyan trees!

Singapore, ilivetotravel, Marina Bay Sands, infinity pool, up high, travel, explore

Atop the Marina Bay Sands! (Thanks Phil I. for the photo!)

 Have a happy and blessed 2017, everyone!!!

2015 – A Year in Review

2015 is almost over and it is time for the year in review which, I think, is an exercise not just in writing but in re-living the many blessings the year bestowed on me.  Here it goes and share with me some of the travels in your 2015!

In the city of brotherly love – Philadelphia, USA

My first trip of the year was to Philadelphia where family and friends live.  It is a place I love to visit though I do not get to do so often.  I welcome the opportunity whenever it comes though as I greatly enjoy spending time with my aunt and uncle who make me feel so at home whenever I go.  Though I got to see many, I did not get to see all my relatives nor all my friends which was a bummer – but good reason to go back!  As usual, my uncle likes to show me around places historical to both country and family.  I had not visited Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell since the early 90s and I enjoyed my visit there.  We also went to Valley Forge which had a special look since it was winter-time (and was also very cold!).

Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, freedom, history, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, sunset

Liberty Bell with Independence Hall behind it

Independence Hall, winter, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, freedom, history, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Independence Hall across the mall

Valley Forge, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, history, independence, battle, travel, Olympus, photo

Valley Forge in winter – reminder of the cost of our freedom

Now, those places are not where the family history comes from 🙂 instead this building served as their home right after they moved up there from Miami.

Philadelphia, Italian neighborhood, history, Pennsylvania, townhouse, rowhouse, architecture, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel

House where my parents and relatives lived

My first hike of the year – Blood Mountain, Georgia, USA

My first hike of the year was a training hike as I was going on a trek to Patagonia with Trekking for Kids.  My friend Phil who also enjoys hiking and I decided to do a hike near Blood Mountain that ended up -accidentally- in a climb of Blood Mountain.  While it was unplanned, it was a fortunate ‘accident’ as it all ended well and we enjoyed great vistas and trails.

Freeman Trail, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, photo, hiking, winter, outdoors

Entering Freeman Trail from the Appalachian Trail

Jarrard Gap, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, photo, hiking, winter, outdoors

Along Jarrard Gap, the start of our hike

An amazing metropolis – Buenos Aires, Argentina

The orphanage work related to my trek to Patagonia was going to take place on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina.  So I knew I was going to be spending time in this great city – and more importantly, eating the best beef in the world paired with great wine!  I enjoyed walking about town and having nice meals with my fellow trekkers (some which I knew already and some which I met there).

beef, food, foodie, foodporn, Buenos Aires, Argentina, delicious, photo, Olympus, parrillada

The parrillada at Campo Bravo

dessert, postre, Cabaña Las Lilas, chocolate, Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, Argentina, food, foodie, foodporn, Samsung Galaxy

Don’t forget dessert: this beauty courtesy of Cabaña Las Lilas

But the best part was meeting the children and staff of the two homes we worked with on our projects which included repairing a very leaky roof and damaged walls and furniture.  Much as I loved spending time in BB.AA., this work was the highlight of my time there!

Buenos Aires, Argentina, zoo, Trekking for Kids, service, painting, chairs,photo

Painting new furniture with the kids was an adventure onto itself!

Buenos Aires, Hogar La Teresa, Argentina, service, Trekking for Kids

These kids were hard workers and also great with the soccer ball!

Buenos Aires, Argentina, zoo, Trekking for Kids, service, photo

At Temaiken, Buenos Aires’ zoo

Back in time – Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

When planning my Buenos Aires travel, I decided to add an extra day to cross the river by ferry and spend half a day exploring a town that was a good throwback to the colonial period of the region:  Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.  I sold three other trekkers on doing this short trip with me and we had a great time walking the streets of this easy-going town.  I highly recommend making the crossing if you ever have time in Buenos Aires!

vintage car, vintage auto, Uruguay, Colonia, Sacramento, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, Austin, blue, living museum

One of the MANY vintage vehicles in town – an Austin

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, basilica, church

Basilica del Sagrado Sacramento

My favorite spot on Earth – Chile’s Patagonia

As I wrote earlier this year, I loved Patagonia when I first visited the Perito Moreno glacier and Chile‘s amazing Patagonia in 2010.  I’d always hoped I could return some day and that did happen… in 2015, much sooner than I’d ever thought possible.  I returned to hike around Fitz Roy in Argentina, re-visit the Perito Moreno glacier, and then trek through the Torres del Paine National Park – which I had not done in 2010.  And it was a rewarding effort for sure with great vistas and a glacier hike to boot.  Memorable is not a good enough word for the experience.  And, secretly, I hope I get to return a second time for my third visit!!  (click on the hyperlinks above to see more photos from each of the visits)

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Grey glacier, where we hiked

Fitz Roy, Argentina, Patagonia, hiking, trail, trekking, mountains, outdoors, Olympus

On the trail to Fitz Roy

Torres del Paine, Chile, Patagonia, mountains, peaks, massif, outdoors, trekking, hiking, adventure, Olympus, landscape

The Torres del Paine massif

The great northwest – Portland, Oregon

Thanks to work, I spent five days in Portland, Oregon.  I had never been to Oregon so it was cool that I got to go there.  I arrived at mid-day on a Sunday and decided to take a walking tour of Portland as it would be the most effective way to see the highlights of the town while enjoying the great weather.

Portland, Oregon, northwest, travel, city, tourism, Samsung Galaxy, photo, streetscape, green

Portland street

Mercifully, daylight went on late so I got to take advantage of it to take a drive along the Columbia River to see the waterfalls that dot the riverside.   I also got to enjoy dinners in establishments along either side of the river which was a phenomenal day to end the workday.

Family, friends and food fest (4 F’s) – Spain, olé!

Friends of mine were going to hike the Camino de Santiago, a hike I did in 2014.  I thought it would be cool to combine my wish to meet relatives I had not met who live in the outskirts of Santiago with my friends’ arrival in Santiago de Compostela.  My grandmother has two surviving cousins she never met in person who live in Bastavales.  I had met one of them last year when I finished the Camino walk but I had not met the other.  So I met María and her son, grandkids and great-grandkids for the first time and enjoyed their warmth and sharing special memories and photos of the family.  I also visited time with Flora, the cousin I had met last year.  It was really cool.

Bastavales, Spain, family, Vilas, genealogy, farm, travel, Galicia

With Maria, my grandmother’s cousin

I then welcomed my friends and their fellow trekkers as they arrived in Santiago at the end of their Camino.  It was wonderful seeing them glow in joy as they wrapped their long walk.  After they got their Compostela and going to Pilgrim’s Mass, it was time to celebrate with some cañas (beer) and tapas in one of the many beautiful old streets of this phenomenal city.  We also took a day trip to Finisterre on the Atlantic coast, a nice place.

beer, tapas, Santiago, Compostela, Galicia, Spain, España, tourism, travel, hiking, Samsung Galaxy

Beer and tapas in Santiago de Compostela

Santiago, Compostela, Galicia, Spain, España, tourism, travel, hiking, Samsung Galaxy

The left side of the Cathedral

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, Atlantic Ocean, travel, hiking, trek, Camino, Santiago

With friends Phil and Tommy at Finisterre

The visit with my friends continued in Madrid and, after they left, I got to spend time with madrileños friend of mine, enjoying good drinks, food, and atmosphere around town.  It was fun spending more time in Madrid (check out “6 Cool Things to Do in Madrid“!).  I love Spain but I loved more the opportunity to be there with friends!

Reuniting with dear friends – California

In late May, dear friends left Atlanta to head to California due to a job opportunity.  It was hard to see them go as I spent many a Friday night over ten years hanging out with them pre-kids and after-kids.  So, it was great when work offered me the opportunity to go to San Francisco so I could spend the weekend after the conference with them in their home outside of San Jose.  They took me to two great Mexican restaurants, one of them right by where they live.  I enjoyed a drive down Pebble Beach on the famous 17-mile drive (which I still have to write about!).  And we visited the charming coastal town of Carmel – and its impressive mission.

Junipero Serra, Carmel Mission, California, tomb, saint, history, faith, church, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, blue, sky, clouds

Glorious skies at the Carmel Mission

California, Pacific Ocean, 17 mile, drive, Pebble Beach, travel, photo, tourism

Waters along the 17-Mile drive

Up-north (WAY up north) – Duluth, Minnesota

Work took me for a brief business trip up north, to a small town 45 mins north of Duluth, Minnesota.  Driving along the coast of Lake Superior was very nice and peaceful.  We only had one night in Duluth but enjoyed a nice breakfast at a mom-and-pop type of place and dinner at a pub.  Of course, being the traveler that I am, never having gone to Wisconsin, and realizing I was just a bridge-crossing, I just had to do it… We had mostly an open morning so, along with a colleague, I drove across the water to a coffee shop I found online in the town of Superior, Wisconsin!  A coffee later, we crossed the bridge again and back in Minnesota!

Wisconsin, interstate, I-535, highway, travel

Wisconsin, here we come!

Returning to one my favorites – Chicago, Illinois

I first went to Chicago in a bitterly cold January in 1991 with company for training.  And I kept returning over the years mainly in winter.  This year I got to go in August for pleasure, after spending a few days in Minnesota for work.  I got to enjoy walking everywhere, getting to the lake, which I had never done.  I also explored new parts of town thanks to friends (including little gems in terms of eateries).   Overall, what I enjoyed most about this trip was a first for me in Chicago:  going to a museum!  The Art Institute of Chicago was right up my alley as very much an amateur in terms of art.  It made it all approachable and enjoyable without overwhelming.  I highly recommend it.  I look forward to returning to Chicago and having more time to see all the friends who live there (this was practically a day-and-a-half visit) – and explore a new museum or two!Chicago, Illinois, skyscraper, cityscape, photo, glass. buildings, architecture

An epic trek to close the year – on the route to Everest Base Camp, Nepal

I was not planning any other hike on 2015 after having done Patagonia earlier in the year.  However, I found out that several folks I knew from prior treks were going to do the trek to Everest Base Camp and I started wondering if I could go…  I was generally fit even if not well-trained, it was a generally good time to go from a work standpoint, and though I did not have vacation time to be able to go to base camp, the trek offered a shorter itinerary.  So, I went for it.  I had a great time and was thrilled to having seen the Himalayas, Mt. Everest, and the hamlets and people of the highlands of Nepal.  I am still writing about the trek so I will just point you to a couple of the writings:  flying into scary Lukla airport to begin the hike, day one of the hike (you can keep going from there to later days), and one of the neat sites I saw in Kathmandu.  The best part of the trek was the work done before the trek in the village of Kumari.  Check out the work we did with Trekking for Kids here.

Great Boudha Stupa, stupa, prayer wheel, Buddhist, Buddhism, Kathmandu, Nepal, Samsung Galaxy, travel, tourism

The prayer wheels

Kumari, Nuwakot, Nepal, kid, child, school, service, volunteer, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel

Kids from Kumari

Epilogue to a year that ends…

2015 was an epic year.  From great hiking experiences, time with family and friends, new destinations, and good food and drinks, it had it all.  I got to step in South America, North America, Asia, and Europe all in one year!  However, as the year came to a close, we lost my stepdad, Rubén.  It was a bittersweet time as he had been suffering from Alzheimer‘s and his last week was one full of suffering.  So his passing offered him rest that we were thankful for, sad as it was to not have him around us any more.  Rubén, as my Mom, loved to travel.  They traveled across Europe and other places many times.  I got to travel with them and my sister and her family in several cruises to the Caribbean, Alaska, and the Baltic Sea, as well as explore places like Copenhagen, Panama, and Paris (where they visited me in 1999 when I was living there).  Though we will sorely miss him in this final journey he has undertaken, I know I will see again at the final destination.  Until then, I will continuing journeying here.  Rest in peace, Rubén!

ilivetotravel, family

In Panama in 2009

2014: A Year of Travel and Food in Review

Well, 2014 is now for the history books.  Lots happened in this crazy world of ours and, likely, lots in each of our worlds.  My year started planning my big trips for the year:  Iceland and doing the Camino de Santiago in Spain (the latter with Trekking for Kids, a charity I am involved with and with whom I do a yearly trek somewhere around the world to improve the lives of orphaned children).  But the year brought me a few unexpected destinations and a return to some favorites.

Lake Placid – winter wonderland

But my first trip of the year was to wonderful Lake Placid, New York best known for hosting the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.

Lake Placid, Olympic museum, New York, Olympus

Welcome to the museum!

There, I explored local food and beverages at great places like the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, the bar at the Whiteface Lodge, and at Lisa G’s (with its delicious chicken wings!).  I also got to skate on the Miracle on Ice skating Herb Brooks arena (after over a decade of not ice skating!), and got to do a luge run in the indoor training facility for the U.S. Olympic team!

 New York City

Business took me to NYC but only for an overnight visit.  I managed to squeeze in seeing my cousins A and Z and enjoyed a great meal with them.  One great outcome of this trip was this neat photo from my business partners’ office.

Empire State Building, New York City, NYC, Manhattan, blue sky, clouds, architecture

Picture perfect day!

I might add that the photos/videos from my airplane window seat upon takeoff from La Guardia were pretty neat thanks to the blanket of snow on the ground.  I shared some of them here but here is one example of the great opportunity I had on this flight.

winter, snow, New York City, Manhattan, Hudson River, view from plane, New Jersey, photos, window seat

Right after take-off

Washington, D.C.

I worked in DC for two years right in the heart of the city.  I so enjoyed being in the center of power, arguably, of the world watching people, exploring the various museums and monuments (surprise find:  the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery right by the White House, which I got to visit!), enjoying great cocktails (especially at Le Bar in the Sofitel) and savoring all the great food around town (like at Granville Moore’s or Café Mozart).

German food, Washington, DC; Cafe Mozart, delicious, food, foodie, foodporn, travel, Smsung Galaxy

Delicious German fare at Café Mozart!

I got to return on a winter weekend in 2014 as I just love the town and I got to attend the travel show held yearly in town.  I got to visit my former workplace and say hi to my former colleagues as well which was a nice touch.  I finally got to do a slow “walkaround” of Lafayette Square, a place I often went to to eat my lunch during workdays but that I never paid close attention to.   And then I got to hang out with a couple of friends and fellow trekkers from Trekking for Kids – icing on the proverbial cake!

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A pile of snow in front of the White House

Finally, I love when taking off from Reagan National airport affords me a neat view!

Pentagon, Washington, DC, takeoff, Reagan National, airport, view, airplane seat, photo, Samsung Galaxy, travel

A “close” look at the Pentagon

Traverse City

I had not heard about Traverse City ever until a couple of months before I went.  How could it be that this world traveler who had also seen a good bit of the States had never heard of this place??  I was pleasantly surprised at all there was to see and do around Traverse City.  From good food, great local beer, plenty of nature and outdoors, and excellent drives.  On top of it all, I actually ran into Cuban pork (one of my favorite dishes) at a local winery in the Leelanau Peninsula while exploring the area’s wine with the Sip & Savor festival – an event I greatly enjoyed.  Traverse City, Michigan, wine, food, festival, Sip and Savor, Leelanau Peninsula

But my favorite part of the whole trip was driving around the peninsulas, taking in the vistas and checking out the architecture of the area.  I did not get to see the dunes that are not far from Traverse City but that, my friends, will be for a future visit.


My trip to Iceland was special.  It is a place I have always wanted to explore but I got to do it with dear friends and their two kids.  In addition, one of them had second (or was it third??) cousins there and she connected with them.  They hosted us for a great evening of food and wine and, more importantly, warmth and great company!

Iceland, dinner table, photo, Olympus

Sadly, I didn’t take pix of the great spread but here is the table we ate at!

I enjoyed seeing the diverse landscapes of the island.  There are not enough posts I could write about it to convey how majestic it is and I am not yet done writing about it (I did write about the South Shore, Reykjavik and its main church, the site of its first parliament, and the Blue Lagoon).  But here are a couple of the sights I enjoyed.  In the meantime, stay tuned for more posts about Iceland!

Akureyri, Iceland, view, mountains, water, travel, photo, view, vista, Canon EOS Rebel

The view from our house in the northern town of Akureyri

Puerto Rico

As some of you may know from prior posts, I moved to Puerto Rico when I was 2 years old until I finished high school when I came back to the mainland U.S.  This year I went back to P.R. for a high school reunion.  Given many commitments, I had to keep it to a 2.5-day weekend visit centered on the reunion activities and my classmates.  Of course, and it goes without saying (or typing), that EVERYONE looks the same.  (You never know who is reading these things… best to be careful and say that.  LOL).

Sagrado Corazon, Santurce, Puerto Rico, reunion

OK, not a typical travel pic but I wanted to honor my classmates. Me? The one front & center!

We stayed at a resort in Rio Grande which was OK but did not compare to other resorts in terms of service, cleanliness, or quality of food and beaches.  But, what made the weekend perfect was sharing with so many wonderful people – I truly was happy to see them and try to catch up.

I did enjoy two things about this trip besides the reunion:  sunset at the resort and the landing in San Juan which was like a trip down memory lane seeing all the places I knew (on my side of the plane), so  much so on the latter that I dedicated a post to share the views from the landing!  Check it out here.

Puerto Rico, sunset, palm tree, ocean, silver, grey, photo, travel, Samsung Galaxy, silhouette

The start of sunset. Picture perfect.

Santa Barbara, California

There are so many places you hear about constantly and sometimes you just never think anything of them.  Santa Barbara is a name I have heard so much yet never made it a point of going there.  That is, until  my friends Chris and Wendy invited me to join them on a trip to Cali.  I only could take a long weekend not the whole week of their trip but I decided to go with them and explore Santa Barbara with them.  I am so glad I did, even if the trip was so short. The trip started with lunch at The Hat in Simi Valley where I enjoyed a delicious hot pastrami sandwich and an obscenely (and deliciously) large bag of onion rings!

pastrami, The Hat, Simi Valley, onion rings, California, food, foodporn, foodie

Look at THAT!

The food, the wine and the company were excellent.  But the sights of Santa Barbara were indeed worth the effort:  the Presidio, the Old Mission, and -of course- the beach!  This is a place I would love to get back to just to relax!

sunset, Santa Barbara, pier, California, photo, travel, Olympus

At the pier, ready to watch the sun set

Spain:  Madrid, León, Santiago and the Camino

Oh, Spain!  Where to begin.  León, where the trip began?  Any of the number of towns along the Camino de Santiago, where we walked and experienced a millennial pilgrimage?  Santiago de Compostela, where the pilgrimage ends and near where my great-grandfather was born?  Or, Madrid, the grand dame of Spain?

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León captivated me

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Detail of the massive Plaza Mayor in the heart of Madrid

beef, steak, sea salt, Madrid, cafe, Spain, food, foodie, foodporn, Samsung Galaxy, travel, photo

Well, I can’t talk about Spain without talking food!


Unfortunately, my visit to Morocco was short as I was headed to Spain to do the Camino de Santiago.  I got to experience a little bit of Marrakesh but the bulk of the visit was spent in Essaouira, a town on the Atlantic coast of Morocco – quite an unexpected vibe to a Moroccan city for me (I knew little about Morocco before this visit!).  It is a little weird that I am writing about Morocco in the year in review before I have even finished writing about my visit there last summer!

As is usually my reaction to Arab countries, I loved the architecture.  The red of Marrakesh was a stark contrast to the white and some blue of Essaouira.  And just the same, Marrakesh was intense whereas Essaouira was relaxed – another sharp contrast.  I felt like I could live in Essaouira quite easily though Marrakesh would require a significant adjustment.  What a neat experience to see these big differences within Morocco!

Marrakesh, Morocco, red, Olympus, travel, photo, architecture, bicycles

The red of Marrakesh in the city’s walls

Essaouira, Morocco, blue, fort, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Essaouira and its blue

The Florida Gulf Coast near Tampa

I visit Tampa where I have a good bit of family a few times a year.  Usually, this means hanging out together or doing things nearby.  But I rarely go beyond the area of Tampa where they all live.  Christmas 2014 was the time, given the length of my visit, to go beyond.  We did a couple of day trips to “sample” places like Naples (about 2.5 hrs away from north Tampa), Lido Key, Longboat Key, and Anna Maria Island.  The latter seemed like a great community to live in but otherwise, not that charming.  St. Armand at Lido Key did strike me as a neat place to go and walk around and sit back and relax.  We checked out the park at the southern tip of the key and walk to the beach.  Later we drove the length of Longboat Key (pretty long indeed!) but we “broke it up” by stopping at The Lazy Lobster for an outdoor lunch centered on, guess what, lobster!

lobster, Longboat Key, seafood, foodie, delicious, travel, food, Samsung Galaxy

This delicious dish is called the lazy man’s lobster – served all cracked up!

But 2014 was also a year of exploring not only far off places but also places near my own hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.

2013: A Year in Food and Beverages

I traveled a good bit this year for both business and pleasure.  As with most travel, eating out plays and essential part of the experience, as do the places at which I stay.  This year offered me some memorable experiences in both areas.  Here I take a quick look back at the food and beverages of 2013!

January blues:  go away, I say

The year opened up with a traditional get together among a group of friends to celebrate the new year and good friendships.  It is our way of extending the holidays into drab January with the cold weather and nothing exciting immediately in the horizon (like, say, spring).  The highlight of the evening is an exchange of gifts but the food and wine usually shows our good taste in the finer things – at least for this little party.  My favorite items are usually the sweets/desserts, as you can tell…

sweets, dessert, chocolate, food, party, photo, Olympussweets, desserts, chocolate, macaroon, macaron, food, foodie, photo, Olympus

Mt. Kilimanjaro

However, I mis-type a little as I did have something exciting coming up early in the year:  my climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro in February.  Yes, the mountain is not going to be the paragon of fine dining and beverages.  On the latter, our beverages on the mountain consisted mainly of water, hot chocolate, and the morning cup of coffee.  Now AFTER coming down the mountain, that is a VERY different picture!  That first cold beer as we exited Kilimanjaro and that first glass of cold South African wine that evening were glorious!  But while we were not enjoying gourmet dishes up on the mountain, we ate well.  The food may have been basic outside of the context of the hike but, during the hike, these lunches and dinners were royals-worthy.  My favorite had to be when we were surprised with grilled cheese sandwiches!  Comfort food indeed!

grilled cheese, Kilimanjaro, food, climbing, hiking, Olympus

Washington, D.C.

After two years of working with a client in Washington, D.C., it was time to end my frequent travels to the U.S. capital (which I knew was going to be hard for me).  I would have to say goodbye to my favorite bar:  Le Bar at the Sofitel Hotel (near the White House), where I discovered the enjoyment of specialty cocktails.  I know the reason God doesn’t make me President of the U.S.A.:  I would be going to Le Bar for some evening relaxation a little too often!

cocktails, drinks, Sofitel, DC, beverage, travel, barcocktails, drinks, Sofitel, DC, beverage, travel, bar


Leaving D.C. was hard to do but helping with that was my trip to colorful Jordan in April where the delicious food seemed ENDLESS!  Whether in Amman, Mardaba, the Dead Sea, or the Wadi Rum, I do not know how I didn’t gain any weight in that trip.  Or did I…

food, Jordan, Middle East, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel food, Jordan, Middle East, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel food, Jordan, Middle East, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

And in terms of beverage, though I had been to the Middle East before, I gained a new appreciation for drinking tea (hot tea).  It may seem that what helps in warm weather is iced tea but, actually, a hot beverage is better for you – and I got to understand why!  So good.

tea, Jordan, Middle East, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo


Going to Tampa or Miami is always something I look forward to because I know I will eat some the most delicious food around:  Cuban food.  I may be biased (OK, I AM biased) but it is just such an enjoyable feast for the palate to eat any of the number of traditional Cuban dishes.  And many places around places to do so.  Versailles and La Carreta are good traditional places (I enjoy the latter more) but I “discovered” El Palacio de los Jugos which is more of a take-out place than sit-down place (though there are some tables to go sit after you get your food).

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My flash trip to Asia took me to Manila where I enjoyed great hospitality, exploring its history and good food.  I really enjoyed M Café in Makati, where traditional food was served with some really neat twists.  Thanks to my local friends for picking this place – loved it.

Manila, Makati, food, tropical cuisine, photo, travel, Olympus, Philippines Manila, Makati, food, tropical cuisine, photo, travel, Olympus, Philippines Manila, Makati, food, tropical cuisine, photo, travel, Olympus, Philippines


While this is a travel blog, others travel to my hometown so I think it is fair to talk about food in Atlanta.  We ARE an eating out city and there are plenty of options from ethnic to mainstream to “nouveau” (whatever the proper term is for places like Local Three, 1 Kept, etc.).  Lots of incredible new ideas in these nouveau-type restaurants.

Local Three, fruit tart, dessert, Atlanta, chocolate mousee, Local Three, Atlamta, food, caramel,foodporn, travel chicken, waffle, Local Three, food, Atlanta, foodporn

Oh, and I also enjoyed a great chocolate tasting from Chocolate South at Perrine’s Wine Shop.  They were innovative and tasty little creations!

chocolate, bombom, foodie, food, Atlanta, gourmet,Samsung


Before the year ended, I squeezed in a long weekend trip to Minneapolis, a city I had never visited before.  I enjoyed exploring culture in this great city – and some great meals!  One was at Wilde Roast Café, on the east shore of the Mississippi River – the crabcake was THE best crabcake I have ever had by a bit.  The turkey meatloaf was really good and certainly made me feel much less guilty about ordering it and what was to come after the entrée:  the flourless chocolate cake.  It TRULY changed my mind about flourless cakes which never really knock it out of the park for me.  That one sure did!

crabcake, Minneapolis, Wilde Roast Cafe, food, foodporn, photo, Canon EOS Rebelturkey meatloaf, Minneapolis, Wilde Roast Cafe, food, foodporn, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

I also enjoyed brunch at Café Maude where the only bad thing was that my stomach could only handle one of their dishes!  I had the hardest time deciding on ONE plate – I chose the country hash which had chicken confit, red peppers, onion, potatoes and a tomato marmalade.  I did not go wrong (but the Eggs Benedict were very tempting too).

Cafe Maude, Loring Park, Minneapolis, food, foodie, travel, Olympus

So, that wraps up my year in food though I will be having some great food still in the days left in 2013!   Happy food and new year to all!

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