Monday, September 28, 2009

O Canada

{Vancouver in High Definition - From Kalamakia's Flickr photostream}

{Robson Street - From Wizard_of_Wonders' Flickr photostream}

I'm here in Vancouver, and this city is blowing my mind. I was surprised to find this is by far the most international city I have encountered. We're staying in the heart of downtown, so that may account for some of the multinational spirit, but everything is multiple languages and each person looks completely individual (race, manner of dress, personal expression via tattoos, piercings, dyed hair). I bought some Ritz cheese crackers at the nearest drug store, London Drug, and the flavor was "Vrai Cheddar" (French for "Real Cheddar"). Most of the store's snack food packaging was in French.

Vancouver embodies everything I love about the Northwest, with its subversive energy, art, music, color, gorgeous topography married with a real urban feeling... the list goes on. I'm in love.

I landed at 1 p.m. local time yesterday and wandered downtown amid the iconoclasts, bohemians and businesspeople. I ran across an Indian culture festival and a war protest. The Olympics will be here in February, and those five rings already adorn buildings and signs. On Robson Street, I ate a late lunch of sushi, then enjoyed a Boba tea with pearls while poking around in boutiques ranging from the quirky to the ultra-chic.

We drove from the airport through an island neighborhood called Granville Island. I hear that's a fun, funky place, but I doubt we'll have a chance to visit. I want to come back with Brad to explore for a week!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hotel Lust

The days whiz by as I prepare for my whirlwind jaunt across seven countries and four continents. Honestly, I've been focused on a thousand other things, so I have not yet had time to really get excited about the travel ahead of me.

My dear, sweet husband has done much of the legwork: buying adapters and voltage converters, calling our bank and credit card to alert them we'll be abroad, arranging for a house-sitter, and reserving hotels.

When he told me yesterday he had booked our last hotel, I felt a twinge of anticipation. The places we are staying are incredible, and he managed to get very good deals. (His company is paying for the bulk of the trip, as Brad will be working, but we're extending our stay a few days to explore.) He timed his school schedule with our travel well; he's taking "Master Negotiation," so I know I can count on him to haggle for us, whether it comes to hotels or Moroccan rugs.

In Barcelona, we'll be at the Costanza, a 4-star hotel with a sleek, minimalist aesthetic. From the Web site:
A recently built hotel, designed by the world-renown architects Rafael Moneo, Manuel de Solà-Morales y Lucho Marcial. Located at the Avenida Diagonal/Numancia axies, Barcelona's commercial and financial centre. Bright and spacious rooms; avant-garde interiors and contemporary art. All that backed up by NH's flawless styles for your visit to this capital city.


{breakfast area}

{rooftop pool and deck}

{Spanish sushi?}

{hotel restaurant}



{I don't know what this is, but doesn't it look refreshing?!}

We are staying in two different riads (hotels) in Marrakech, as October is one of the city's busier months and many locations were booked for all or part of our stay. Both have been highly recommended by previous guests, and the location couldn't be better. I'm amazed we were able to find vacancies at two such jewels within the Medina... These places are truly incredible. Not to mention that the innkeepers have been emailing with us at midnight, their time, with suggestions of places to visit and eat. They have already been so personal, accommodating, and hands-on, and we won't even arrive for another two weeks!

First, we'll stay at Riad El Mansour. I'm feeling giddy just typing this out. The food there is supposed to be amazing, and the decor is just what I would imagine for Morocco. Below are pictures of the hotel and our actual room. From the Web site:

Riad El Mansour is a six bedroomed boutique hotel, situated a short stroll from the vibrant and pulsating Place Jemaa el-Fna. This world heritage site is at the heart of the legendary 'Rose city' of Marrakech; one of Morocco’s most popular vacation destinations.

Designed for those seeking a more intimate and personalised luxury hotel break, Riad El Mansour offers authenticity and originality. The hotel has been recently refurbished, using a palate of traditional Moroccan colours, and an original mix of Moroccan and European art and furniture. We take pride on our high level of service and hospitality.

Located in the ancient Medina, setting us apart from other holiday villas in Morocco, Riad El Mansour provides a truly magical setting from which to explore the rich tapestry of the contrasting character of the Moroccan landscape - a landscape interwoven with the heady mixture of Arab, African and European cultures.

Ideal for a luxury weekend break, or longer stay, the Riad offers a Spa, Hamman, Gym and Jaccuzzi making a perfect choice for your Morocco holiday.

{bed in our suite}

{bathroom in our suite}

{our fireplace, ahhhh!}

{seating, art, etc.}

{shared spaces}

{more shared spaces, art, etc.}

Next, we'll go to Riad Dar Charkia. From their Web site:

Finished to the highest specifications of comfort and style reflecting the coming together of Africa and Asia, Dar Charkia is in an oasis of calm amidst the vibrant cacophony of the Marrakech medina.

After a 20 year love affair with Marrakech, Lisa and Michael, the Anglo-German owners have taken up residence in this magical city that assaults the senses. They are happy to share their tips and insider knowledge; helping to make your stay comfortable, memorable and inspiring.
Again, pictures of the hotel and our actual room:

{our room}

{wider view of our room}

{supposedly this is in our room, but it looks like
it might be by the pool, which is just outside our room}

{pool and other pretties}

{shared spaces}

The trips feel more real now that all of our arrangements are made! I'll try to blog along the way, but I can't make any guarantees of Internet access. Perhaps I'll do a travel guide upon my return.

Off to Vancouver day after tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

World Traveling

{cup of apple tea on my desk}

One of the hidden benefits of Brad's and my jobs is that we have the opportunity to scratch our itch for wanderlust by traversing the globe. We'll log plenty of miles over the next 30 days in particular... I'm leaving Sunday for a four-day trip to Vancouver for a meeting. The next day I head to Europe and Africa for two weeks with Brad for his job. A couple of days after I return from that trip, it's off to Chicago and then New York City, then I have my fingers crossed that I'll be able to go to Japan for a product launch.

While visions of four continents in 30 days dance in my head, I know I'll look forward to some quiet time in November. That time of year makes me crave pumpkin spice lattes, cable-knit blankets, hats... Trite, perhaps, but oh so satisfying during cozy autumn weather. Brad and I also celebrate our anniversary and his birthday during the fall, and we typically go to his parents' house in San Miguel de Allende for Thanksgiving.

What are your favorite fall traditions?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Beach Weekend

How did you celebrate the three-day weekend? Brad and I decided to sneak away to the beach house his aunt and uncle share with his grandparents. We have both been traveling quite a bit (separately) and needed some time to unwind and sit shoulder-to-shoulder. I brought a stack of books to read on the beach, but of course I ended up just enjoying the sun and waves instead.

My new camera made the trip with us as well. I'm attending a digital photography seminar on Saturday, since I want to get really special pictures on our upcoming trip to the Mediterranean. And yes, we decided on Morocco instead of Paris. "I'll always have Paris..." :)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Growing the Movement

Image found here.

Just a quick blog from me today... Slow Food USA is doing a unique membership drive during the month of September (just another reason to be glad it's September!), wherein you may pay any cost you'd like to join. Memberships are usually $60, but in order to "grow the movement," they're offering a temporary promotion. Development director Kate Krauss provides a good explanation of their motives here (the link in her blog is broken though, so click here to join).

About Slow Food USA:

The word good can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For Slow Food, the idea of good means enjoying delicious food created with care from healthy plants and animals. The pleasures of good food can also help to build community and celebrate culture and regional diversity.

When we talk about clean food, we are talking about nutritious food that is as good for the planet as it is for our bodies. It is grown and harvested with methods that
have a positive impact on our local ecosystems and promotes biodiversity.

We believe that food is a universal right. Food that is fair should be accessible to all, regardless of income, and produced by people who are treated with dignity and justly compensated for their labor.

I just joined Slow Food Dallas. A big fan of Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and other slow food superstars, I'm looking forward to seeing how I can get involved and make a difference on a local level. (Barbara Kingsolver is a biggie in the slow food world, but she sort of rubs me the wrong way, actually. Probably because she never responded to the letter I wrote her after reading The Poisonwood Bible, or my request to interview her for a school project... but I digress.)

By the way, I received the most beautiful, hardback, cloth-covered copy of this book for my birthday in July, and I'm eager to read it over the long weekend. Maybe while sitting on a beach? We'll see.