South Africa is a place that I have always been enticed by. My fathers business is based in South Africa and since I was young he traveled back and forth, sharing his experiences of Safari and the gorgeous landscape of “the cradle of human kind”. He would bring home gifts and crazy ideas but the best thing he brought back to the U.S. was the Peppadew® pepper which was discovered and still grown in the lush region of Tzaneen, Limpopo South Africa . Two years ago I was lucky enough to visit Tzaneen and Johannesburg South Africa to learn about my fathers business, but while there, I was able to indulge in the beauty of the region and also learn about the culture and social issues in the region.
We drove up to the region from Tambo Airport in Johannesburg (about 5 hours). This area is also close to Kruger National Park. As we got closer to Tzaneen and our B&B I rolled down my window; the greenery, flowers and nearby streams added to the freshest natural fragrance I have ever smelled. Along the drive we witnessed monkeys and baboons and other amazing wildlife and agriculture. If anyone loves avocados, this is the place to be! AVO TREES EVERYWHERE!
Something quite contrary to the beautiful scenery and greenery, there was something extremely upsetting I saw during our drive up, and discussed with the locals throughout my trip. We passed Witkruismonument in Ysterberg just outside Polokwane. Here, there are thousands of crosses to honor the lives of those farmers who were murdered during acts of robbery and torture. This has been an issue brought to the U.S. attention as of this year but this issue has been going on for over a decade. If you want to learn more about this issue I have attached a few articles, one dating back to 2012. No matter your take on the situation, it is sad that innocent people are being murdered and that the country had such a brutal history of racism. In speaking to local farmers, they are terrified for their lives and livelihood. Along with murder, people are also destroying their crop and robbing their farming tools. There is so much work we must do globally in order to encourage unite and eliminate all forms of hate.
Going to college in Philadelphia, I have done my fare share of exploring in the city. From roaming awesome street festivals to breaking into buildings, trying to get the best vantage points in the city- I have only scraped the surface of what Philly has to offer. Since summer is approaching, I am going to share with you the warm weather activities and places that I love the most.
Events and Places to Check Off:
Chinese Lantern Festival: This is one of my all time favorite happenings in Philadelphia. This city is so appreciative of every culture, especially that of Asian descent. The China Town in Philly is always celebrating cultural events and the Lantern Festival is such a tribute to the artistic welcoming of spring. Check out performances and special presentation hours on their website. Chinese Lantern Festival
Penn’s Landing/ Spruce Street Harbor Park: Penn’s Landing is a Summer Oasis and a Winter Wonderland. Chill on the water nets and hammocks or enjoy a cocktail on the “boardwalk”. Stroll and play around! Check out the concert lineup at Festival Pier for the summer (I will attach link when announced.)
Shofuso Japanese House and Garden: One of my favorite places to relax. The Japanese garden takes you out of Philly and across the globe. Get a tour or just mosey around and read about the Japanese traditions and how the construction of the house and gardens were inspired. They also have traditional tea ceremonies, I have yet to book a session but it is something I’ve been wanting to do, supposedly its amazing. Heres the link for that Ceremonies and Events at Shofuso. (Can you guess? I’m itching to go to Asia).
Boat House Row: This has always been one of my escape locations. I would go to boathouse row mid day to clear my mind and go for a nice walk down the Schyulkill River. If you choose not to walk, you can rent a bike. From here, you can also walk up to the art museum and observe the city, sitting on the “Rocky steps”. Quick parking tip: If you’re staying in the center city area and don’t want to hassle with finding street or garage parking, park in the boathouse area or lot but check for two hour parking signs.
Magic Gardens: What a beauty, created by Isaiah Zagar in 1991, the Magic Gardens is a must see “South Street Renaissance” piece. Spend an hour or so here just finding the little intricacies in the mosaic walls and observing other local art.
Street Festivals & Events: I always look forward to spring time because it means outdoor festivals and events! Some of my favorite is the South Street Spring Fest & Maifest, Chinatown Food Truck Festival (which I’m not sure they do anymore) and of course Made in America. There are also some great art and food festivals in Manayunk that are spectacular as well! Here are the links to the events and dates: Manayunk Street Festivals & Events and Philadelphia Street Festivals & Events.
Sips & Parks on Tap: Whats better than having a drink in your hand, surrounded by friends with a beautiful view. Sips and Parks on Tap are two different organizations that make this a weekly or daily occurrence in Philly. Parks on Tap is a traveling biergarten that makes stops at Philly’s gorgeous parks so you can chill in the park with your favorite friends beers. Sips is every Wednesday, different restaurants and bars pitch in and have special events. Check out their schedule and the restaurants Sips partners with!
All of this activity might make you a little hungry or thirsty, so here are a few of my favorite restaurants, especially in the spring & summer.
Parc: A Rittenhouse favorite. French cuisine, killer brunch and outdoor seating.
City Tap House: I’ve only been to the Logan Square location, but I would expect greatness at the University City one as well. Some outdoor seating, amazing brussel sprouts and veggie burger. YUM!
Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti:Great Italian food in Old City killer eggplant they also have bottomless mimosa brunch 🙂 They have live music on certain nights so sit on their outdoor deck and take it all in!
SAMPAN orDouble Knot: Modern Asian food, unique dishes with so much flavor the restaurants share a kitchen. Double Knot has great happy hour pricing but less seating, they both have great atmosphere so check them both out! They’re both right next to Graffiti Bar stop over for an outdoor drink in a hidden alleyway next-door!
Talulas Garden: Great atmosphere with outdoor patio, fresh and flavorful food, photo worthy!
Assembly Rooftop: Amazing views of the Logan Square Area, great signature drinks including Frosé.
Find Great hotel deals on Travelzoo! Here are some of my favorites.
A cozy winter getaway is just a few hours away in Mont Tremblant Canada. Talk about winter wonderland, this small-town in Canada makes it feel like Christmas all the time. So, it was fitting to plan the trip around the holidays. This destination is one you can adapt to your likings, you can be adventurous, relax and enjoy great food.
We decided to stay at an apartment/hotel called Cap Tremblant. If you book a room with a view of the mountain its absolutely magnificent. We really enjoyed being in this area because there was a shuttle to the mountain outside our door and it was close to a quaint town that had such cute restaurants and friendly local people to interact with.
So let me begin with skiing/snowboarding. Be sure to book your lift tickets ahead of time, if you book them before the end of December you get a major discount. We were concerned because on the website it says you can book a certain amount of days but we didn’t know if those days had to be consecutive. Turns out you can use your tickets for 10 days within the start date of your choosing. For example we booked 3 days and were able to use them any 3 days we chose throughout our 10 day trip. Obviously the later in the season the better the conditions and more powder but Canada in December is definitely better than the mountains at home! For 3 days skiing was about $245 USD per person. We loved the location because the pedestrian village is at the bottom of the mountain so you can spend the whole day there skiing, eating, shopping and so much more! Everyone in the village is on and off the mountain, so really anywhere you go is super casual, you can stay in your ski clothes and go right to dinner from the mountain, its cool! Since we had a whole kitchen set up in our apartment we opted to just have soup some nights and chill by our fireplace and maybe even swim in our outdoor (heated) pool/hot tub.
If you go to Tremblant you have to dogsled! Visit http://www.expeditionwolf.com/?lang=en to book your excursion. You must first request your dates and they will get back to you to confirm in 24 hours. There are 3 types of excursions, diable, forest and mountain adventure. If you choose to drive the sled, I would suggest doing the easier course, the forest adventure. The guide will pick you up in the village and drive you to their site where they will instruct you in their lodge. Here, juice, coffee, and some snacks are available. Make sure you dress warm and wear your helmet if you have one, otherwise they will provide one. You will then be able to meet the dogs and set them up on the sled. I loved seeing how wound up the dogs get when they know they’re about to run, they are such amazing animals with adorable personalities! Driving the sled alone is definitely challenging. If you want to drive be aware that these doggies are STRONG so proceed with caution and ask for help if you need it. The guides are spectacular, so friendly and willing to help. You will stop once to break and enjoy cookies and hot cocoa, be sure to use the restroom before going on the sled because during the break there’s only an outhouse available. At the end of the ride you will bring the dogs back to their dog houses and then receive a tour. You’ll learn more about what they do to help rescue and maintain a healthy lifestyle for all the dogs they take in. After, they take you back to the lodge where you can enjoy soup and refreshments (if you ride in the early afternoon). There is an option to buy the photos they take of you as well (first and second photo). Your guide will then drive you back to the village where you can enjoy the rest of your day! Be sure to bundle up on this adventure witness my puffiness in the photos.
After skiing and sledding you might want to decompress and have someone work out all of the knots you have from riding. Spa Scandinave is right down the street and has treatments at super reasonable prices you can even get discounts online at Costco or from other Tremblant activities. If you would prefer not to get a treatment, you can still gain access to the Nordic baths, the saunas, relaxation rooms and heated lounges. Spend a day completely relaxing and unwinding, enjoy lunch, the beautiful grounds and just chill. Being in a steaming hot pool or under a warm blanket and a heat lamp while snow is flurrying around definitely makes you feel yummy!
We spent New Years Eve here and they have a huge celebration in the center of the village. They have a DJ and fireworks at midnight at the bottom of the mountain. It was snowing on New Years and it made the night feel extra magical. You should also know it basically flurries all day everyday in Tremblant, I love it!
6 nights in Mont Tremblant
Day 1: Drive to Tremblant get settled, grab dinner
Day 2: Go skiing and roam around the village at night
Day 3: Go dogsledding eat dinner in the town by Cap Tremblant and visit ice rink in town (location)
Day 4: Go skiing go and hang out in pedestrian village
Day 5: Go skiing later go to downtown Tremblant
Day 6: Spa Scandinave, relax!
Day 7: Head home grab some Tim Hortons or Canadian McDonalds on the way back 🙂
If you’re around for New Years don’t miss the celebration in the Pedestrian Village!
Over the summer of 2018 I took an amazing trip to Spain. We chose to visit Barcelona, Ronda, Granada and Seville.
We fell in love with each destination and Barcelona definitely felt like a second home. If you’re looking for a clean city to visit in Europe I would say Barcelona is just that. The streets are pristine, and the people that live in the city take pride in their area. Each region we visited had its own culture and beauty. Barcelona, being diverse and filled with art from Gaudi to Picasso, including beautiful history, gorgeous alleyways, cute parks and not to mention a fabulous beach area! Of course we visited La Sagrada Familia which is a MUST, I don’t want to post too many photos because it is something you have to see with your own eyes. The detail and the feelings that erupt while you’re in that place are unreal. We also opted to do the night tour of Casa Mila/ La Pedrera on our last night of the trip. It was an amazing, romantic and a super intimate experience. This tour included a brief history and details of the building with a special light projection show on the roof (with stunning views of the city) and champagne to cap the night off. We didn’t go inside Parc Güell or Casa Batlló or Barcelona Cathedral but they are definitely someplace you’ll want to visit even to just walk the premises and observe from the outside. We obviously ate some delicious food, I will list our favorite spots in the outline but I would definitely check out Mercado de La Boqueria, be a tourist and taste the fresh food and witness culture within each stand. In this area especially walking down las rambles and in front of the Barcelona Cathedral, keep your belongings secure, this is where pick-pocketers lurk. Enjoy a hike to montserrat, walk around the gothic quarter and stop into shops in la Gracia. Try to speak as much Spanish as you can everywhere you go, the locals really appreciate it. Most people do speak English though, especially in Barcelona, but if you find yourself having difficulty use google translate or gestures to help. I found myself in a conversation discussing food with a man strictly using animal sounds to determine the type of meat I was ordering. Anything goes! Here we spent 3 nights before setting off to the southern region; we eventually circled back for two nights before our flight home. Spending a total of 5 nights and 4 days in Barcelona.
The first stop we made in the south was Ronda in the Andalucia region. A quaint yet breathtaking city. We happened to hit it right, and were there for the Ronda Romantica (May Day) Parade and celebrations. During this time, thousands of people from neighboring towns parade down the streets of Ronda in traditional “romantic” clothing and represent their town with song, dance and surprisingly enough, liquor. It is really something to see the outfits and horses clad in tassels. Not to mention the delicious traditional food that is served in the street. The whole experience is to die for and if you plan to visit in the summer I would definitely look up when this celebration takes place- dates may vary year to year. Other than the parade, there was so much to take in; breathtaking views, beautiful wineries, the bull ring and of course the famous Puente Nuevo bridge. If you take nothing else from this article, please hear me on this tip; stay at the Molino Del Arco Hotel one of the most beautiful unique places I’ve stayed at. And visit the Joaquin Fernandez Bodega Winery, the husband and wife that own the winery were the most lovely people. With your tour they served a delicious lunch with all local, made from scratch, food. I will leave this Ronda segment with that, just go, thank me later. I would spend 2 nights in Ronda.
The next stop was Granada, the drive from Ronda was gorgeous with miles and miles of olive trees and just amazing mountains and waterfalls (if you can spot them). Also if you are worried about driving in Europe, in Spain they drive on the same side of the street as we do in the U.S. And in my opinion, the Spanish are more courteous drivers than we are. We only spent one night in Granada and had only planned to go to the Alhambra. I definitely would’ve booked more time there (maybe 2 nights) in retrospect. The city has a certain charm about it that made it unique. I think it was a combination of the Middle Eastern culture and the genuine friendliness of the people working and living in the city. If you are budgeting travelers this is the place for you. With every drink you order at a restaurant, they give you a free plate of food and in most places its a very generous portion. No matter where you go you MUST try the oxtail stew (I will attach our fave place), I know it sounds gross but its the regions specialty and I think its absolutely delicious! Now back to the Alhambra, this was my favorite historic site after those in Barcelona. You will learn more about American history and Spanish history than you ever could in any class. The mystery and detail in protecting the fortress is so intriguing. I can’t forget to mention how cute the resident cats (that now “rule the castle”) are. Definitely take your time moseying around the streets, walk into lantern shops and tea rooms and get lost in the culture, diversity and hipster vibes. I would spend 2 nights in Granada.
Our last stop before heading back to Barcelona and then back home was Seville. This city has so much to offer, you could spend days wandering and finding something new. Some people say it is their favorite place of all in Spain. In my opinion it was more crowded and dirtier than anywhere else we visited. But nonetheless, it was still a great destination with many aspects we enjoyed. Here we visited the Alcazar, if you are a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll love this place and even if not, it is quite amazing and has such rich history. The gardens and the America checkpoint room were my absolute favorite. In the church across the street you can visit where Christopher Columbus is buried. The church itself has such history and is beautiful as well. The Plaza de España should also be at the top of your list. You could spend the whole day just wandering around the park and the building watching street flamenco shows. Speaking of flamenco, in Seville you have to see a real show we went to the Flamenco Museum to see a show at night where the venue is intimate and the performance is spectacular. I believe this is also a nice place to pay a quick visit to during the day. In another realm, if you want to see a real live bullfight or just visit the bullring, Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla is your place. Check in advance to schedule bullfight tickets. To get a more modern take of the town visit the Metropol Parasol. This park/attraction welcomes all types, skaters, parents, business people and tourists. This unique structure was erected from a historic site and is now a place where locals and tourists can enjoy magnificent vantage points with great views of the city. Seville is a popular place for street art and performers, while this can be entertaining please be weary of your surroundings and keep your belongings safe. I would spend 2 nights in Seville.
Barcelona 3 nights
Day 1: Take a Bus Tour (There are two big companies either are good) Be sure to utilize the coupons that come along with your bus tour booklet Visit Park Güell with bus transportation or stroll near the Arc de Triomf and Parc de Ciutadella
Day 2: Brunch at La Boqueria Visit La Sagrada Familia I highly suggest getting fast track tickets beforehand on http://www.getyourguide.com and explore around the Barcelona Cathedral Maybe explore the clubbing scene at night if you’re into it
Day 3: Hike to Montserrat and later stay local to hotel for dinner and drinks or visit Casa Mila or Casa Batlló
Flight to Malaga -Pick Up Rental Car – Drive to Ronda
Ronda 2 nights
Day 4: Settle at the hotel, go into the city, tour the bull ring and walk around the town
Day 5: Winery tour, go to as many wineries as your heart desires Talk to the hotel about horseback riding tours
Granada 2 nights
Day 6: Drive to Granada Walk around Albayzin Grab dinner or drinks that come with free food! Try Oxtail