More than Haggis

Fluffy eggs whipped and frothed to perfection, a Lazy Susan covered in local preserves, and tray after tray of the smokiest, umami-est, salmon I’ve ever devoured: this was my breakfast for three straight mornings in Scotland and only a nibble of things to come.

Among the foodtopias of the world, Scotland remains forgotten. Its beauty is conjured through images of towering peaks, trains turning bends worthy of the Hogwarts Express, cold rain spitting down, and miles and miles of land to get lost in. I had forgotten the raw beauty of a fresh oyster, of local ingredients deemed low in a world of haute cuisine. After all, when was the last time you heard someone wax rhapsodic about haggis and neeps?

Arriving at Torridon Estate, a centuries-old home and grounds in the Wester Ross village of Torridon, my high school friends and I drove down a gravel path, rhododendron blooming violet on each side. Torridon sits between the River Abhainn Coire Mhicnobaill and Loch Torridon, an inlet from the Atlantic Ocean, and about an hour’s drive west from Inverness. Nearby, Beinn Alligin juts out of the earth to a dizzying 3,235 feet, containing two Munros, or Scottish mountains over 3000 feet high. As I looked out Torridon’s window to Beinn Alligin, its peaks seemed to glint invitingly; I couldn’t wait to climb them.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20190520150052200_COVER

Mountain, Sea, Sky

The next morning, I woke early, prowling the house as if I were both a Lady of Torridon and a servant downstairs. When breakfast began, I entered the dining room, complete with wide windows, and high, crown molded ceilings. But all of that escaped my notice at first glance. The smell of warm eggs, sausage hot off the griddle, and other things I couldn’t place beckoned. Walking over to the buffet, my eyes bulged, and I hoped my stomach was up to the challenge. I gathered cereal and fruit for my first breakfast. Breakfast two included typical Scottish breakfast sausage, eggs, creamy-soft cheese, and that salmon, quite truthfully, perfection in food form. Breakfast three included more salmon, obviously, and some toast with jam. As I sat nibbling my toast, the lady of the house, Sarah, entered, Scottish fiddle in hand. Her bow flew across the strings as she kept beat with her well-worn boot, and we clapped along in time. The smell of freshly caught Atlantic smoked salmon reached my nostrils and I realized I might know what Heaven is like.

That afternoon, we crossed over a footbridge to walk along Loch Torridon towards the Atlantic. We passed the estate’s old church, now a glass fronted modern cottage. Farther along we saw sheep, and a couple walking their cat, Putin. The ocean glimmered beyond, but we had to turn around when we saw a camper van with a family inside; it felt rude to pass a stirring family.

After our day tramping about, we spoke to Sarah, who owns the estate with her husband Felix. She asked us how long we were staying and when we told her we’d be there three nights, she replied, “That’s good. Most people stay one night and then fuck off.” We had chosen the exact perfect place to hole up in the Highlands.

Our first formal foray into Scottish cuisine began at 1887, the Torridon Hotel’s fine dining restaurant. My friends and I arrived and were guided to a parlor resplendent with 20s glamour. We took their “which whisky are you?” quiz and looked at a map of Scotland marked with whisky distilleries and their styles. More unsure of our choice, we each ordered a whisky. I ordered the Balvenie 12 Year, a distillery owned by William Grant & Sons, who also own neighboring Glenfiddich. I brought the Balvenie to my nose and was instantly transported to the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, which I associate with sugary, rich honey. I tipped the glass to my mouth and the sweet, languorous taste of honey flowed down my throat. Later, when my Dad asked if I brought home any whisky, I promised him only the best: Balvenie 12 year.

One bottle of wine, two whiskies, and seven courses later, we arrived back at Torridon Estate. Sarah’s husband, Felix was telling his visiting friends goodnight and asked if we wanted some wine. Never to turn away a free drink, we slumped down on the vermilion couch by the fire to tipple some more.

“That’s Donald Trump’s couch, you know.” My friends and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised in confusion. Quite apart from being taken dramatically out of our holiday mindset, we weren’t sure we’d heard correctly. Felix went on to explain that Trump, having got rid of a hotel in Scotland, needed to sell its furniture, and quickly. Felix proceeded to buy several chairs and couches, and 100 pendant lights for about 10% of their retail price. Pouring us each another glass of red, Felix gallantly responded to our questions about Brexit and Scottish independence; he avoided these topics by deftly switching to praise of Angela Merkel, Germany’s progressive chancellor. Some say politics and wine don’t mix, but with the right host, and the right couch, they just might.

IMG_20190526_150152

Highland Games, Scotland

The next day promised a hike as the weather looked comfortable (meaning gray and 60s). Our directions from Sarah went along the lines of “stay on this side of the river and follow the path as far as it goes.” Her instructions were easy to follow; I proved less successful in convincing my friends to turn left for a climb up the mountain. Instead, we followed the straight and narrow through a valley, two imposing Munros on either side. About an hour and a half into the hike, we met two women in their 60s walking with their dogs, two charmingly bread loaf sized terriers that I’m sure would have outstripped us all. We stopped shortly for lunch, my best friend soaking her butt in a small puddle on the rock where she had chosen to roost. Although we had shed layer after layer on our slow, steady climb, the wind proved too strong for us once seated. So back we went, butt-wet and tummy-full.

As I looked at the mountains surrounding us, I had to remember to watch my step so I wouldn’t break an ankle. Moss covered every rock, slick from recent rain or the passing river. The sky changed from a faint white to raincloud gray, to palest blue, and when we could see it, the loch shimmered as the sun sparkled above. The mountains rose straight up from the sea on either side of us, looking like sleeping trolls cursed to stone forevermore.

After a few hours of “hiking”, my friends and I needed more nourishment. We drove ten minutes down the coastal road to Sheldaig Bar & Coastal Kitchen, another recommendation from Sarah. Upon entering, we noticed a Viszla dozing on the floor while a terrier sat on its owner’s lap, waiting for a stray crumb. The dogs and owners alike seemed content, talking with the bartender, and eating fries and fresh seafood. After a quick pet, we sat and perused the menu. I asked for oysters, fresh beer, and a dish of grilled goat cheese with pine nuts. Looking out at the loch beyond, feeling the cold hard pattern of the oyster shell, smelling the salt as I brought it to my nose, it was pure joy to sip it down. What more could a girl want? Another pint, of course.

IMG_20190519_140842

Bliss (in the form of fresh Atlantic oysters)

Our last evening at Torridon, we relaxed and dreamed about our next stop on this Gaelic culinary tour. Sitting opposite the hearth on that Trump-red couch, we talked about a doctoral dissertation, court trials, and baroque gowns, things worth working towards, in other words. Sarah, Torridon’s owner extraordinaire and femme insouciante, told of the many types of people that were coming to the area: moneyed drivers of Maseratis, a Big Pharma executive and his wife who turned the estate’s kirk into a floor-to-ceiling glass-walled marvel. It left me wondering where I fit in, with dreams of an itinerant life waylaid by the realities of bills and debt, at least temporarily. Sarah’s brash words and joyful music gave an aura of hope; if she could cast aside other demands for a life full of travellers, music, and sweet smoked salmon, why not me?

After the unexpected musings and epicurean wonders of Torridon, we headed east to Speyside- whisky country, for the uninitiated. Rather than sleeping inside old Auchinroath House, we tested the elements as we glamped. True to the name, the tents included heaters and full-size beds. Drifting off to the changing rhythm of dripping rain, comforter pulled tight around my chin, I slept for hours. I woke around four am to dawn’s dim light and a melody of birds, so I decided to explore. Walking uphill behind our tents, I came to the top of a small knoll which looked out at the rolling land all around. I could see sheep and cattle grazing for miles up and down the countless hills. Back down and around the polytunnel greenhouse, I passed four or five calves in spotted fawn to reddish-brown. They stopped and we stared at each other for a time, until I walked away announcing to their mothers, “Just taking a walk! Enjoy the grass.”

For dinner that night, we went to The Highlander Inn, a hotel, pub and restaurant local to Craigellachie- pronounced Craig-AL-icky in the local brogue. They had whisky flights, which I naively assumed would be small pours. I’m partial to whisky that tastes like it swam in a peat bog, but I wanted a whisky tasting with a bit more diversity. So, I chose the Alternative Highland Flight, and substituted one of the Scotch whiskies for a Japanese whisky. The bottle was pretty and that’s the best I can say. Six whiskies and a dinner later, we found ourselves tipsy, warm, and ready for bed. We wound our way back to our glamping tents, sure to sleep soundly under the cloud-covered stars.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20190522143728848_COVER

99 barrels of Scotch on the wall….

The next day, after lunch at Glenfiddich, we drove to Johnston’s of Elgin, a two-hundred-year-old wool mill with a warrant as manufacturers of estate tweed from Prince Charles. I had left the US dreaming of a soft wool blanket, a green and blue tartan to match my family’s heritage. At Johnston’s, my friend found a deeply discounted wool blanket that raised my hopes immoderately. As I sifted through utility wool blankets that scratched a bit too much, and softest cashmere that cost hundreds, I felt my hopes sink. In the next room, I passed my hand over blanket after blanket, quickly turning over price tags to find my diamond in the rough Scottish wool. I finally felt something soft but not so delicate that a spill wouldn’t ruin. I looked at the price tag and exhaled a sigh of relief. The wool was a seafoam chevron, with two patches of color-blocked light blue and creamy moss- colors of the Scottish beach.

Not long after our purchases were wrapped up with a bow, we drove to the village of Cullen. The town is famous in Scotland and beyond for its Cullen Skink, a dish made not from the slippery salamander-like reptile, but cold-smoked haddock in a rich potato-filled chowder. It was a typical Scottish day, cesious sky with rain always imminent. The drizzle came down softly, but the cold stayed in my bones as the wind from the ocean blew through me. Cullen sits on a cliff above Cullen Bay, white waves crashing into rocks that have endured its onslaught for centuries. It made for a romantic picture, but not one we wanted to experience outdoors. We headed for the nearest pub, finding one that looked like my grandmother’s living room in the 90s, framed applique included. When I went to use the bathroom, I noticed a picture of Tony the Tiger on the wood-panelled wall. I smiled at the thought of someone’s grandma sewing him onto a throw pillow.

After a pint, we had worked up an appetite, so we decided to stay in Cullen for dinner. At the Royal Oak Hotel, we ordered Cullen Skink. It came, hot in its cream ceramic bowl, ready to be indulged. Putting spoon to mouth, I sipped, then bit into some haddock and potato. The chowder tasted of ocean and bacon, the rich broth mixing it all together magically; Cullen Skink did not disappoint.

We rounded out our tour of the Highlands with a visit to the city- Glasgow, where students and hipsters mingle with dog lovers and joggers. I had read somewhere that the best haggis in Scotland could be found at The Ubiquitous Chip (so named for Scotland’s supposed chip on its shoulder). Walking from our hideaway in West Glasgow, we trotted down leafy paths with urban gardens. As we turned into the alleyway to our destination, a mingling of whitewashed buildings awaited. The restaurant itself is part greenhouse, part 1920s Paris salon, with huge skylights bathing all its plants in sun and warmth. As advised, we ordered the haggis, a Scottish dish usually made from a sheep’s internal organs, mixed with oats, seasoning, and traditionally cooked in the animal’s stomach (if that doesn’t make your mouth water, then you are completely normal). On a platter with traditional neeps and tatties (mashed turnips and potatoes), the spiced venison haggis tasted slightly of anise and rich game. We returned the plate, sparkling white, in a matter of minutes.

IMG_20190526_173138

Pigeon, far right

We noticed another, weirder item alongside the haggis starter: pigeon salad. Never one to refuse an unorthodox meal, I asked the waitress about it. “It’s my favorite thing on the menu. I’d order it every time if I could.” I wished my stomach were emptier, so I had room for pigeon. Unable to resist, we returned the next day for late lunch and a pigeon. Dark like duck, fatty like goose, the small strips of pigeon nestled among the greens, melted on the tongue. Pigeon, rat of the air, is indeed fine dining.

Rarely do trips turn out as I expect. From fine pigeon to missed hikes, the unexpected frames how I live while away. But I also travel to escape my expectations, or at least let them drift behind while I soak in the present. An easy romp and rainy sky are perfect reasons to cozy up next to a fire, whisky in hand and slàinte mhath on my lips.

Returning home, I sat at my desk and tapped out responses in Outlook, dreaming of Scottish peaks and wild salmon. On a whim, I checked prices to Inverness for a long weekend and saw a sale on tickets from the West Coast. I set a tracker for September, hoping against hope, that sale would get me back to Torridon, where Beinn Alligin’s two Munros waited and watched, ready for me to test my luck.

Advertisements

beauty is dirt caked fingernails

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

“Beauty is fleeting.”

Red lips pouting at me from the mirror, highlighter catching the fluorescent light and making my cheekbones shimmer subtly, a highly arched eyebrow raised in scrutiny, I gave myself the once-over, attempting to leave no detail unnoticed.

Growing up in a world where beauty is often touted as the ultimate achievement, especially for women, I find it difficult not to care about what I look like, at least to a certain point.

Fortunately, there’s a different narrative.

IMG_20160718_132528704.jpg

Red-ripe Tomatoes…Guess who’s makin’ pizza Friday?!

Continue reading

How to Order the Perfect Cone

IMG_20160415_211048.jpg

Me eating ice cream at Devon House, Jamaica

I walk into an ice cream shop with two thoughts: 1) What scoop pairs well with chocolate? 2) Do they have waffle cones? At some point in my 27 years, I’ve become a fastidious ice cream eater. I can’t pinpoint when this happened, but I can rationalize it. Better yet, by the time I’m finished, you may never order ice cream the same way again. Here, then, are the Cash Rules for Ordering and Eating Ice Cream (yes, they’re more like guidelines).

  1. I always order two flavors, and one of them is almost always chocolate. If you don’t like chocolate, skip to step two- this step is not for you.

    Chocolate goes well with almost all other ice cream flavors. Vanilla? Duh. Blood orange? A combination I salivate over like a Pavlovian dog when memories of cobblestone and cranberry colored citrus creep into my cranium. Cinnamon? Never question the power that cinnamon and chocolate combined wield.

    The fact remains, ice cream flavors are a reflection of what we eat for desserts, so you won’t find kale and quinoa ice cream stocked at your local creamery. Furthermore, chocolate is one of the most common dessert ingredients, and clearly the best. What else can take a frozen banana from “why?” to “why do I not eat this every night?” What other food comes from a magical plant that offers antioxidants, instant pleasure, and the release of dopamine into the bloodsteam, scientifically proving its toe-curling, eye-closing, beyond-articulated-speech powers?

  2. So I’ve ordered my scoop of chocolate. You may think two flavors is overkill, but if you’re already getting chocolate (and if you’re not, go back and reread step one), you need to get an exploratory flavor. Maybe you’re in Bali, and they have dragon fruit ice cream, and you don’t think you could get that elsewhere. Maybe you’re really in the mood for citrus. Maybe you have no idea of what you want. Since we already know it will taste good with chocolate, think about what flavors you’re in the mood for, what’s common and/or tasty locally, and what the shop specializes in. Triangulate your flavor mood with local offerings and store specialties, and you’ve found your second flavor!
  3. Order waffle cone, if available. It’s less shitty-sugar tasting and has a snappier bite-crunch than sugar cones. Who cares if it costs more? You’re already spending more than one would want on flavored frozen cow’s breast milk.

    Also, if you’re thinking of ordering a bowl, just don’t. Ice cream is a dessert for the mature, for the young, and all ages in between. You don’t need to use a spoon just to showcase your refined motor skills. Real ice cream eaters order a cone. Forget the bowl, embrace the cone! (If traveling in a vehicle, this becomes more acceptable, as ice cream in your lap is worse than ice cream in a bowl.)

  4. LICK, don’t bite! I’ll never understand why some people bite their ice cream instead of licking it. When I lick it, each flavor spreads across my tongue, sweeping from the sweet buds to the tangy; I slowly embrace the creamy, cold concoction cooling my tongue. If you bite, you get ice cream all over your face, feel stabbing waves of icy pain in your teeth, and most sadly, the ice cream is gone more quickly. So lick!
  5. Enjoy! You’ve come a long way, so savor the most flavor diverse dessert in the world!

As a treat, I leave you with the most unforgettable cones I’ve licked and lapped to completion. Sweet dreams truly are made of these:

  • Blood orange and dark chocolate gelato, Chiaso, Italy
  • Cinnamon OR dragon fruit, Ubud, Bali (but NOT together; order with chocolate! My mouth was a little too fiery after eating a cinnamon/dragon fruit combo…)
  • Any creamy goodness, with chocolate, from Annapolis Ice Cream Company, Annapolis, Maryland. I’ve had the opportunity to try their cones many a time so maybe it’s local pride, but honestly, this shit is goooood.
  • Rum raisin or Devon Stout, Devon House, Kingston, Jamaica. Jamaican alcohol + Ice cream = DUH. Order it.
  • Absolutely any flavors you come across in Sicily. I am not exaggerating when I say most days I spent there involved two trips to a gelato shop, sometimes three. There’s a reason for it. Go, eat, and conquer!

What does the Food Say?

IMG_20160326_090009

Here’s to you, birdie

Midnight blue curtains tickle my arm as the early morning breeze blows in. The curtain’s silver sequined flowers sparkle iridescently as they catch the predawn glow, coaxing my eyes to break their fast.

I walk into the living room, where I hear the sizzling, spitting, sputter of the fry pan announcing breakfast. Minutes later, I smell fried dumplings, a softly sweet aroma that puts to mind N’awlins, beignets, and powdered sugar down my front.

My host mom sets my plate before me. I savor the stir-fry of pepper, onions, and seasoning, then cut into the smooth plantains. The banana-like fruit tastes like it’s been dipped in maple syrup, then fried in Heaven. I close my eyes and enjoy that honeyed bite, my rapture catalyzed knowing the sweetness is innate.

As I walk to training, I begin to sweat. I feel as if I’m in a sauna, but wearing too many clothes for the health benefits to kick in. Once I climb the stairs to our veranda training grounds, the sea breeze whips and stirs my hair into Medusa-like frenzy.

IMG_20160326_092834

SPLASH

When I get home, I feel like someone tried to cram the contents of Moby Dick and War and Peace into my bleary eyed brain. Then, I smell pumpkin cooking in the kitchen. Something else mixes with the summer squash- I later learn it’s pimento.

At the table, my host mom, joined by her mother and daughter, talks of cinnamon chocolate tea, ginger, sorrel root (it makes good beer), ackee, naseberries, June plums, at least four kinds of mangoes, star apple, and an aptly named fruit called stinky toe cheese. Her arms waving, and brow sweating as my host mom tells me of another foreign fruit, I imagine trying all these foods and drinks, stinky toe cheese included.

Watching three generations of women talk over each other in a rush to discuss the past and present of Jamaica’s fruits and food exotica, I realize all my conversations include food. I remember learning to love wine in France, always asking my host mom and dad for “un petit peu” more, making cheese over cow paddy fueled fires in Mongolia, and sharing baked macaroni and cheese with my ostrich farm family in Bulgaria. Now I sit at a table talking about a future filled with stinky toe cheese and ginger.

Coming together over food is not an esoteric cultural rite. Something about seeing people close their eyes and “mmmmm” while chewing food I have prepared sends warm flutters through my body. Sipping my host mom’s Jamaican Saturday soup, I feel grateful that someone includes me in their culture, and wants me to understand it. Since before Proust bit into his madeleine, humanity has embraced the nostalgic, intimate, historical stories food tells, for through them, we begin to understand the people behind the food.

IMG_20160326_093934

I’m glad my camera made this mistake, but I wish I knew how to recreate it!

How to Eat Chicken Foot

  1. Fly (or boat, or swim) to Jamaica

    Flying to Jamaica Photo Credit Stephen

    Flying to Jamaica
    Photo Credit Stephen

  2. Find a family to take you in until at least Saturday.
  3. Wait until Saturday Soup Day.
  4. On Saturday, your host family will make you soup, because Saturday is Soup Day, a day on which Jamaicans let a pot of soup simmer for hours. Make sure you ask for chicken foot in the soup.
  5. Don’t stare at the ominously puckered chicken foot as your soup is set before you. Picturing Chicken-You-One-Chased won’t help either.
  6. Eat the chicken neck if it’s there. You’ll know it’s a neck because it looks like a neck. It’s meaty goodness!

    Pumpkin Soup with Chicken Neck & Foot

    Pumpkin Soup with Chicken Neck & Foot

  7. Do glance at your host family as they eat the chicken foot. They will most likely spoon the foot up to mouth level, from where they will take their fingers, pinch the foot at its widest part, and bite off all three toes in one chomp.
  8. Do what they just did. Bite off the three toes.
  9. Repeat with the part of the chicken foot you pinched. Don’t eat the bone, but the cartilage is edible.
  10. Enjoy eating food some would not deem worthy of the word.
  11. Thank your host family!
  12. Help with the dishes, remembering to ask how to correctly wash dishes in Jamaica so you have content for your next blog post 😉

LIEBSTER AWARD!

A HUGE THANKS to Not Lost Wanderer and Hobo In High Heels for nominating me for the Liebster Award: a chance for bloggers to support and congratulate other writers and photographers! It took me a bit to write this post, so I got nominated twice, which is why there are two sets of answers. Have fun learning about little ole me 😛

It works like this (thanks again to Not Lost Wanderer for spelling out the rules so succinctly! I copied yours below):

  1. Link back to the person that nominated you
  2. Answer the questions given by the nominator (find mine below my responses)
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers
  4. Create 11 questions for the nominees
  5. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs

My Responses Part One

1. Who is your one inspiration in life and why?
My Mom. I really don’t know how she works so hard, supports my whole family, and still manages to be the most empathetic person I’ve ever met. And all with a smile that rarely leaves her face!

2. If you could be any animal what would it be?
A dragon. I realize that’s a mythical animal, but dragons are pretty much kick-butt dinosaurs that fly and shoot fire FROM THEIR MOUTHS, so why not? Plus, I was born in the year of the dragon.

3. What one character would you want to be from any film and why?
Rose from Titanic. Because I would save space on that door for Jack.

4. What is the one destination you’ve always wanted to visit?
Mongolia. Because of Marco Polo, Genghis and Kublai Khan, all the Queens of Mongolia, the Eternal Blue Sky, fermented mare’s milk, and above all, the disruption and honesty of living a nomadic life.

5. What’s your favourite quote?
“It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” ~J.K. Rowling (via Dumbledore)

6.  Cats or Dogs?
Both? OK, dogs. They win because you don’t have to earn their love.

7. What is your dream job?
Travel show hostess. I would either be super weird or super fun to watch, but either way, would have a blast.

8. Why Blogging?
Because I love to write, and this is a more democratic platform from which to share my writing. Also, I love traveling and this is the easiest way to let people know what I’m up to.

9. Winter or Summer?
Winter because of the ending to The Dead:

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

IMG_20150214_233322

Winter in Boston, 2015

 

10. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Wars, but only because I haven’t really seen Star Trek. Sorry, Dad, it’s on my list.

11. What song best represents you and why?
“Go the Distance” from my favorite animated Disney movie Hercules. The song talks about traveling to find who you are: “I would go most anywhere to feel like I belong”. I should note that I am a confident young woman, and feel that I belong in many places. Perhaps I’m just searching for lots of places to belong ❤

10295711_349020328638038_1060304614630749410_n

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” ~Thoreau

 

Part Two, Or Sarah Should Post her Posts Sooner

1. What does a normal day in your life look like?
Right NOW, a normal day includes working part-time at two jobs in different cities, commuting, reading on said commute, and blogging when I can. I also eat, sleep, and hang out with my friends. And I talk to my mom most days. LOVE YOU MOM!

IMG_20150417_185101

A Room with a View of Boston (my life right now)

 

2. What is your coolest travel story?
There was a day in Épernay, France earlier this year in which I drank several champagne flights. I met all the local old men, made friends with Brazilians, walked a poodle with my scarf, and even made it back on the train. It ended up being the wrong train, but that didn’t really matter. Delicious memories!

IMG_20150104_135155382_HDR

“I could not live without Champagne – in victory I deserve it, in defeat I need it” ~Napoleon, supposedly

 

3. What are three things on your bucket list?
~Horseback riding in Mongolia
~Trans-Siberian (technically I’m going on the Trans-Mongolian in a couple months…I’m counting it)
~ALL THE FOOD in SE Asia, but specifically Thailand and Vietnam

4. What is your least favorite travel destination?
This isn’t a destination, but I hate ferries. Truly, completely, and with vitriol usually reserved for Ryanair. It all began with a ferry from Athens to Santorini on which I insisted that tuna in a can is raw. I blame that ferry ride for my lapse in judgment, since all ferries lead to the River Styx.

5.What place have you always dreamed of visiting?
Mongolia. Because of everything said above!

6.What is your ultimate guilty pleasure?
The problem with the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’ is that you’re supposed to feel shame in your adoration of said pleasure. I have no shame in my love for Britney, fart jokes, and hooooooorrible puns.

7. What is one of your most embarrassing moments?
I once complained for about ten minutes about having to play in a wedding. The bride’s mother was in the room…OOPS!

8. What is your favorite thing about traveling?
I learn so much about others- and myself- while traveling. I usually forget most of the history tidbits I glean from city tours, but I always remember the people I meet, and the stories surrounding their culture. This coupled with gained self-knowledge is my favorite part of traveling.

9. What is the best thing anyone has said about your blog?

Someone said it made them want to travel. Job. Done.

10. Tell me about one of the best meals you’ve ever had!
Walking down a street in Brussels, myself and a fellow traveler noticed a life-size taxidermied cow staring down a short line of hungry, hungry humans. They were waiting to enter Amadeus, which has the best ribs I’ve ever had by far. My face was covered in sauce by the end of the meal.

11. What makes you happy?
The sky. My friends. Dropping my earbud in a glass of milk and realizing how ridiculous that sounds. All the little things, and some of the big ones too 🙂 (Also traveling 😉 )

IMG_20141229_172902203

Opera Garnier, Paris makes me happy

 

My Questions

  1. If you could be one food or beverage, what would it be and why?
  2. What is the funniest thing that’s happened on your travels?
  3. What is your ultimate guilty pleasure?
  4. What is your favorite travel book and/or film?
  5. What is the worst food/drink you’ve ever tried?
  6. What  character would you be from any film and why?
  7. What place have you always dreamed of visiting?
  8. What was your last post about?
  9. What is the dirtiest place you’ve ever been? (Choose to answer how you will)
  10. What inspires you to travel?
  11. What makes you happy?

The Nominees 

Julia from Small World This Is
Elin from Wanderlusting
Flat Tires and Slow Boats
From PC to PC
Janna from Janna Jetsets
Claire from Accidentalism
Circle to Circle
Dixie from Life’s Loose Threads
Jane & Steve from Travel Vicariously with Jane & Steve
Rekha from Oh! Fernweh
Danielle from Travels of a Broke Girl

Obviously, I’m in love!

This is the first time I’m doing this (and it may well be the last), but here it goes. I am going to post something I wrote in my travel journal verbatim, because, well, it’s just kind of more awesome that way. You’ll see…

wine_Granada

At Casa de Vinos La Brujidera, Granada. If you go, try the Calvente, a local white wine!

In La Brujidera Casa de Vinos, sipping Calvente, which apparently is the “local pride” of Granada. It’s nice! Doesn’t have a strong smell, but when you sip it, it’s full of citrus BANG- like a smack full of grapefruit & nice minerals. And they’re playing AMAZING jazz standards. Obviously, I’m’ in love!

OMG- I don’t usually like olives that much, but these are heaven. Salty, but not too much, with the olive taste you get from olive oil. In other words- the GOOD olive taste- they even taste a bit tangy-sweet- I WANT MORE! Spain is such a good idea! Maybe even a little pepper in these olives? Wow- it’s like I’m converting to a new religion. This bar has excellent proselytizers!

The wow-ness continues- that bread w/ the ham & melted cheese. I think I’m coming here again. Or maybe I’ll have another glass…or both. Both. (I’m really hoping they bring out another plate of tapas w/ the 2nd glass.

~

They did bring a second plate 🙂 First sip of the 2nd Calvente, just as snappy-fresh as the last glass! And the olives are still bomb-diggedy! Maybe I should move to Spain- THEY JUST started playing “C’est si bon”!!!! That’s it. I give up. This is one of those moments you look back on years in the future thinking “That’s the life”, but it is my life. And c’est si bon!! 🙂

As I read this post, sitting in a café overlooking the Atlantic in Donostia/San Sebatstián, I smile. There are things about me that will change, especially as I continue to travel, but one thing will never change. I will never abandon that joie de vivre that makes me, me!

Reflection on Sevilla

A puddle reflecting Sevilla