Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Introducing SoloGirlTravel.com!

6 Jan

travel_logo_color_small

I’m thrilled to ann0unce the launch of my new travel website, sologirltravel.com! It’s been a labor of love, and after months of preparation, writing, researching, and obsessing, I’m so excited to put it out there and watch my new baby grow.  I encourage any and all comments, feedback, advice, etc.  And while the site is dedicated to women traveling alone, I hope that all types of travelers can get some inspiration from it.  Enjoy…and happy travels!

About Solo Girl Travel:

Solo Girl Travel is a source of information and inspiration for wanderlustful women. We believe that globetrotting gals with a thirst for the best of world travel need not be hindered by the lack of a travel companion. Whether you are single and fabulous, have a significant other who can’t join you, or simply prefer to be alone at times, you want to see the world in style, and we want to help you. We realize what’s most important when traveling alone as a female: safety, security, and comfort in and with your surroundings. At SGT, we don’t let anything get in the way of the perfect trip, and we aim to ensure that you won’t either. Our articles, tips, tricks, and helpful hints will bring you everything you need to know to plan your solo sojourn. Remember, traveling alone doesn’t have to be lonely—in fact, it can be that much better!

Gifts for the Globetrotter

17 Dec

Add these fab finds to your wish-list, or give them to your favorite traveler (and perhaps she’ll take you along on her next journey!).

Natural Fiber Huts Ornaments

Crate & Barrel teamed up with women in Kenyan villages to create these handmade replicas of traditional African huts.  Not only do they make the Xmas tree gorgeously global, but the partnership helps empower the women and earns them economic independence.

$29.95/set of 3, www.crateandbarrel.com

 Crate & Barrel Natural Fiber Huts

Mini Scratch Map

I’m in love with this clever, vintagey world map from Restoration Hardware.  When you scratch off the golden finish, it reveals colors underneath, allowing you to show where you’ve been, where you’re going, or where you’re dreaming of—which is pretty much everywhere!

$24.00, www.restorationhardware.com

Restoration Hardware Mini Scratch Map

Royce Leather Ladies Cosmetic Travel Case

Keeping your toiletries and makeup organized and all in one place can be a challenge when traveling.  Keeping it sophisticated can be even harder.  This genuine leather, waterproof-lined bag has loads of space, multiple compartments, zippered pockets, and style galore.

Around $68.00, www.amazon.com/Royce-Leather-Ladies-Cosmetic-Travel/dp/B0037DD4Q4

Royce Leather Cosmetic Case 

Emergency Travel Kit

This is just about the handiest, cleverest thing I’ve found—in fact, I wish I had thought of it.  This Minimergency® Kit has 16 necessary girly goodies: hairspray, clear nail polish, nail polish remover, emery board, lip balm, earring backs, clear elastics, sewing kit, double-sided tape, stain remover, deodorant towelette, pain reliever, tampon, breath freshener, dental floss, and adhesive bandages.

$13.00, www.everythingbutwater.com/accessories/browse/products/ms–mrs/travel-kits/48585+mini-for-her+2001.html

 Minimergency Kit for Her

Mini World Time Alarm Clock

Are you city-hopping for the holidays? Traveling so much you forget where you are, what time it is, and whether your friends back home are asleep or awake? Fear not, this sleek clock, as compact as a kitchen timer, changes time automatically with the twist of your wrist.  It provides time for 24 international cities, and takes some of the worry out of worldwide wandering.

$55.00, www.restorationhardware.com

Restoration Hardware World Time Clock

Anne Taintor Luggage Tags

What’s not to love about Anne Taintor and her snarky Taintorettes?  Carry her modern-vintage witticisms with you wherever you go by attaching these great tags to all of your travel bags.  These make a great stocking stuffer or secret Santa gift…or the perfect present for yourself.

$8.99, http://annetaintor.com/products/Travel/Luggage+Tags

Anne Taintor Luggage Tag 

An Elephant Never Forgets…or Gives Up

8 Oct

Whenever and wherever I travel, I am always affected by the people I meet along the way.  Most recently, I was moved to tears, and inspired, by an elephant.

I’ve come to realize now, having recently visited two more areas of Southern Africa (Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Mozambique), that I am in love with both the people of this continent, and the animals.  From a very photogenic lion and a playful hyena cub, to the spectacular people of a tiny village in coastal Mozambique (who will be the subject of another post), I was enamored at every turn.  My trip last year to Zimbabwe led me to quite a bit of introspection, thanks to some of the sweetest and most grateful children I’ve ever encountered (see previous post: https://wanderwrite.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/multiple-lessons-learned-in-zimbabwe/).  And this time, inspiration and humility came in the form of a three and a half year old elephant named Paseka.

I’ll try to make a long story short.  The game rangers at Abu Camp (www.abucamp.com), a luxury safari lodge where guests interact with the elephants they’ve rescued and/or raised, were out on a morning game drive, when they witnessed (and caught on tape) an orphaned baby elephant being attacked by hyenas.  Covered in injuries, the baby ran alongside their vehicle, hoping to find protection.  As both lovers of elephants and advocates of letting nature do what it must, they were torn.  They wanted to help but were hesitant to intervene, and eventually made the difficult decision to leave the scene, and hope that the young elephant would survive.  The elephant disagreed with their decision.

The next morning, Easter Sunday, they went to their generator room, only to find her, scared and shaken but alive, hiding and waiting to be found.  Apparently she had followed the truck back to camp and sought shelter inside the small room, fighting her fate and seemingly aware that Abu Camp offered a safe haven for elephants just like her.  They named her Paseka, meaning Easter, and the elephant herders, and the elephants themselves, adopted her.  There were some struggles along the way, but today she is happy, healthy, and quite loving–if a bit precocious.

I learned A LOT about elephants during my five days at Abu Camp.  I learned about everything from their gestation period (22 months, in case you were curious) to their extraordinary memories, to the fact that female elephants who have never had babies can nurse other mothers’ babies when they are born into the herd (amazing, right?). I also learned a lot from elephants, particularly Paseka.  Her will to survive, her unrelenting courage, her strength, when all alone in the world and literally being hunted by enemies who outnumbered her.  I mean, if that isn’t an inspiring–and universal–story, what is?

*There is an award-winning, and tear jerking, documentary on Paseka.  You can view the trailer here: http://www.nhuafrica.com/license-acquisition/one-off-specials/paseka/

Pamela admires Paseka

Top 10 Reasons Why Fire Island is Heaven on Earth

18 Jul

I’ve been away from my writing for a while now, and I feel a bit guilty about it.  I guess I’ve been having too much fun.  I’ve been on vacation for about a month and a half–okay, not every single day of those 45-ish days–but almost every weekend.  I’ve been in my happy place.  One of the few places where, for me, a passport isn’t the key to a total escape.  Fire Island is this happy place (and not just mine), and it’s a small (31 miles long, to be precise) piece of paradise just off of Long Island, NY, with approximately 292 year-round residents and 25-30 towns/villages/communities with names like Kismet, Loneleyville, Fair Harbor, and Cherry Grove.  The town in which my friends and I find perpetual pleasure and beachside bliss is Ocean Beach, home to bayside bars and restaurants, a small village oozing with charm, and our hard-to-find, harder-to-leave share house, with a wraparound deck that is a seashell’s throw away from the ocean.

The view from my deck

These are some of the many reasons I love it:

10. Deer as friendly as puppies.  Okay, so you can’t pet them like puppies (ticks and all), but you’ll never get as close to deer anywhere as you will here, and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch sightings of the babies, in all their spotted, furry adorable-ness.

9. The ferry.  You can only reach most of Fire Island by ferry, and a 30 minute ride takes you to Ocean Beach, where you really will feel a million miles away.

8. Wagons.  We don’t get from place to place via car in Fire Island (but I’ll get to that), so everyone transports everything via wagon.  Those adorable, classic Radio Flyers you remember from childhood, although many are not red, but painted the color of the houses they transport goods to and from.

7.  Happy Hour.  You’ll often hear Ocean Beach regulars saying “See you at Mermaids happy hour?”, and they’re referring to a restaurant/bar directly on the bay where you can sip frozen daiquiris and chocolate martinis while sitting directly on the bar and watching the sunset.  It’s perfection.

6.  The sunset.  It’s glorious.  No one knows the exact derivation of the name “Fire Island”, as it officially dates back to 1789.  I believe the name comes from the island’s spectacular sunsets, which rival any in the world, and make the sky look like it’s truly on fire.

5.  No shoes, no problem.  I never wear shoes in Fire Island.  Okay, I wear them at night to the bars, but I usually take them off.  And I’d never dream of wearing heels.  I have a very vivid memory of visiting the island when I was seven years old and seeing a woman in a business suit walk off the ferry, put down her briefcase, and immediately take her shoes off for her walk to her house.

4. Rocket fuels.  Invented at CJ’s in Ocean Beach, now served almost everywhere (on Fire Island), these are pina colada’s made with Bacardi 151 and topped with amaretto.  Delicious, deadly, and a nightly necessity.

3. The nightlife.  There are about 8 bars in Ocean Beach, and not one of them is chic.  There’s beer all over the floors, decks overflow with people and music, and you see the same people at the same bars all the time.  Which is a good thing.

2. NO CARS.  That’s right, none.  During the summer months, the only mode of transportation is a bicycle or your feet.  No traffic, no designated driving, no taxis, no worries.

1.  No chain stores of any kind.  You will never see a Starbucks, a Gap, a Subway, or a Jamba Juice.  If you want pizza (and damn good pizza), you go to Town Pizza.  If you want a sandwich, you go to Whitney’s Market.  And if you want a Grande Mocha Latte, you go somewhere else.

In my happy place

In a Charleston State of Mind

27 Apr

Charleston, South Carolina: home of historic plantations, antebellum architecture, blooming, fragrant gardens, Rhett Butler….and some of the nation’s best culinary experiences.  One of the most delicious meals I’ve had in a long time was recently served to me by Charleston’s most celebrated chef–Michelle Weaver, of the famed Charleston Grill.  The food: Nothing short of exquisite.  The location: West 52nd St., in Manhattan.

Before I go on, I will address the fact that at times I can sound like a broken record.  I obsessively gush over Orient-Express, their hotels, and their service.  No–I don’t work for them, nor do they pay me to blather on about my love for them–they’re just really, really (really!) good.  And the 21 Club, Orient-Express’s only restaurant, and NY’s truly authentic speakeasy/fine-dining establishment, is a perfect example of this.  It’s as NY as they come; in fact, if the Statue of Liberty suddenly came to life and asked for a good restaurant recommendation, I’d send her there.

21 Club

While I’ve tried and loved many of their classic menu items, I’ve also enjoyed a handful of excellent meals prepared by visiting chefs at 21 Club.  Not only have I traveled back in time with each visit to the restaurant, but I’ve traveled to Spain, South America, Italy, and now, Charleston.

Chef Weaver, a charming, lovely woman with a passion for good, pure, soul-satisfying cooking, served us a feast that was, what I imagine to be, the epitome of  Charleston, her restaurant, and the Orient-Express.  It was visually beautiful, flawlessly prepared, decadent yet not over-the-top, exemplary of its region, and avoided cliches and trends, focusing on ingredients and flavors.  These, I believe, are the qualities of a special hotel or restaurant.

She started with a platter for the table of the season’s freshest vegetables: radishes, cucumbers, and tomatoes, lightly dressed, to enhance rather than mask their loveliness.  She then served a deviled egg–the best I’d ever had–followed by white bean soup with country ham and mustard greens.  It was satisfying in every way, and I decided I could eat this every day of my life.  She then served her famous (for good reason!) Charleston Grill crab cake, topped with creek shrimp and a light lime tomato dill vinaigrette.  Loaded with crab, surprisingly light, and simply perfect, this, too, was the best I’d ever had.  Sides of phenomenal beer braised collard greens and sinfully good baked pimento cheese grits were shared by the table, and the dishes were practically licked clean.  Finally, we devoured strawberry shortcake with chantilly cream, orange ginger syrup, and fresh mint.  Chef Weaver brought the strawberries, lovingly cradled in her arms on the plane ride, from Charleston to NY, and they were topped with a biscuit that I could write a love letter to.   Obviously, I went a little crazy over this meal.

If you’re about to run to 21 Club to experience this meal, unfortunately, Chef Weaver has returned to Charleston–her loyal following of southern foodies couldn’t let her leave them for too long.  However, if knowing that Charleston is acknowledged by travelers as one of the world’s best cities isn’t enough reason to get down there–Michelle Weaver, the Charleston Grill, and its home, Charleston Place, are.

Charleston Place, an Orient-Express hotel, oozes Southern charm and hospitality, coupled with modern luxury and award-winning service.  Here you’ll find an Italian marble lobby with a grand Georgian staircase leading to lush rooms and suites.  You can swim in their horizon-edge pool, indulge in their spa, or maybe just sip a mint julep and feel like a southern belle (or beau).  Explore historic Charleston which is steps away from Charleston Place’s front door, and then dine at Charleston Grill, where you can not only enjoy the meal that I was luckily enough to experience, but Chef Weaver’s other dishes, which range from traditional southern through contemporary, internationally-inspired, and modern.  If you see Oprah, Richard Gere, Jerry Seinfeld, Natalie Portman, or Prince Charles there, don’t be surprised–they, too, have fallen for Charleston Place’s charms.

For more information on Charleston Place, visit www.charlestonplace.com

Charleston Place Entrance, photo by Joe Vaughn

Charleston Place Lobby, photo by Joe Vaughn

Charleston Grill, photo by Joe Vaughn

Dear Santa

22 Dec

 

I truly feel that the trips I have taken in the past few years were some of the best gifts I could have ever received.  I mean, champagne on top of the Eiffel Tower, an elephant-back safari in Zimbabwe, a lunch cruise on Europe’s most pristine lake, cappuccino with a Sicilian prince (at his palazzo), swimming with sharks and stingrays in Bora Bora….there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can be bought at a store that I would choose over these travel experiences.

So, in the spirit of holiday giving and receiving, if I could have one thing for Christmas (well, Hanukkah, but for the sake of this post, we’ll go with Christmas), it would be what this guy got…..

 

(And if you’d like to make a donation this holiday season, consider the amazing children of Rose of Charity orphanage in Zimbabwe, roseofcharityorg@gmail.com)

 

Madrid for a Day

3 Nov

Following my recent food frenzy in Sicily, and the longing I began to feel for another brush with deliciousness, particularly a foreign one, I got to thinking–one of the things I love best about traveling is eating. When I’m home, my meals are often simply sustenance; I eat a very boring salad at my desk for lunch, an incredibly dull frozen meal for dinner, and once or twice a week order in from one of several equally unexciting takeout places, when I just can’t stand the thought of another Lean Cuisine.

When traveling, tasting the food is like tasting the heart and soul of the destination. A crepe in Paris is not just a crepe; a waffle in Brussels is no ordinary waffle. The foods of a city are as much a part of that city as are its museums, its churches, its people.

That being said, last week, I was able to take a direct flight to Madrid, by way of West 52nd St. I went for lunch at the ’21’ Club, one of my favorite NY restaurants and one I love to go to to escape from it all, and was treated to an absolutely magnificent culinary experience. Instead of dining on ’21’s’ usual menu, I enjoyed three courses, with wine pairings, of inventive, contemporary Spanish cuisine prepared by the renowned chef Jorge González of the extraordinary Hotel Ritz in Madrid (another Orient-Express property. Yes, I’m a bit obsessed with them). Everything, from the red shrimp carpaccio with roe oil, to the sensational hake loin in a bread crust with green pepper nectar and Iberian ham vinaigrette, to the saffron scented chocolate duet, was simply outstanding, but even more enjoyable, for me, was how much of a taste of Madrid it gave me. I felt I was there, dining at the iconic, historic, remarkable Hotel Ritz, and it’s no wonder–they brought their kitchen staff over to prepare food for diners at ’21’ for almost a week. It wasn’t quite as good as being there at the hotel (I MUST get there), but it was darn close. They even sent me home with a homemade Spanish tortilla, helping to extend my culinary journey into dinnertime.

It was so much fun to pretend, for one afternoon, that I had left NYC and gone straight to Madrid’s best hotel, to experience the food that helps makes this property as special as it is. After all, Madrid is truly one of my favorite food cities, and Hotel Ritz Madrid is one of the reasons for that (the hotel actually transformed the city upon its opening in 1910, and has welcomed every type of celebrity, aristocrat, dignitary, and type of royalty since then). But since I couldn’t find time to go to Madrid last Tuesday, Madrid came to me, and for a moment I was right back there in that beautiful, colorful, absolutely delicious city.

Now if only the Ritz Madrid could bring the rest of their hotel right here to me.

A NY road trip…via the subway

29 Sep

In between trips, the wanderlustful side of me often gets a bit antsy, in need of a “fix”, if you will. After all, I’ve said it, I’m an addict. Sometimes, I get the I’m-stuck-at-home blues. Even living in NYC, that’s bound to happen to any globetrotter from time to time.

So I like to pretend I’m on vacation, right here at home. Granted, nobody cleans my apartment twice a day and turns down my sheets at night, my little studio is smaller than almost every hotel room I stay at, and I have to go to the office instead of to museums and monuments…but still, it’s a fun exercise.

And I was reminded of that today. At 6:50 this morning I hopped on the subway and headed down to the lower east side, to a small restaurant on 2nd St and Ave B. The streets were quiet–every once in a while an early commuter would pass by, but not much else was going on–and I arrived at my destination, a hole in the wall restaurant that I’d never been to. I was there to meet and interview Guy Fieri, of Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives (among other shows), who was there to film the show’s first ever Manhattan location.

The interview went great–he was warm, friendly, funny, personable, and totally cool–and I had an awesome time. What struck me, and prompted this posting, was the way he was talking about NY, especially Manhattan, as a destination unlike any other. He called it (I paraphrase) “an island in more ways than one.” He talked about the mix of cultures, cuisines, and people, and the way New Yorkers appreciate and demand good food. He mentioned how very unique Manhattan is, in the context of his show and in general, and I agreed.

New York receives roughly 49 million visitors each year. About ten million of those visitors are from outside the U.S. As of April 2010, there were 23,499 active restaurants in New York City. And then there are the museums, theaters, galleries, parks, and countless cultural events that New Yorkers like me often take for granted.

With this in mind, I have made an official decision: to approach my days and nights in NY as I would when I’m traveling. Whenever I go away, there is a phrase I say over and over: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Why not do that here? When I travel, I go out alone, meet new people, and inevitably come upon some strange, funny, crazy, and memorable moments. I’d love for my life in NY to be like that.

Yes, I still do have to get up and go to work and run errands and do laundry and pay bills and buy dish detergent and toilet paper, and all those other things that I can forget about while away. But shouldn’t I try to sprinkle in a little “sightseeing” and aimless wandering as well? I’m really going to try. And if there are about 24,000 restaurants in this city, that’s at least 23,000 I haven’t yet tried.

Why “wanderlustful”?

26 Sep

Lust, one of the seven deadly sins (and many people’s favorite one), is defined as: a) An overwhelming desire or craving;
b) Intense eagerness or enthusiasm. This, along with words like passion, excitement, and even addiction, describes my feeling about travel. In fact, I love the word “wanderlust.” It’s one of my favorites. Of course, the other deadly sins are relevant as well: I travel with intense GLUTTONY (five course meals, chocolate overdoses, wine-filled extravaganzas): I am GREEDY for more trips; I am ENVIOUS of people who have been to places I haven’t yet visited; and the list goes on…
In short, I am a PROUD travel addict whose intense desire to wander knows no bounds.

My most recent trip, one that I return to in my mind over and over again, was nothing short of a travel dream come true. I spent one week visiting four countries in Southern Africa. Highlights included Table Mountain in Cape Town, a leopard cub sighting in MalaMala game reserve, an elephant back safari in Zimbabwe, petting an orphaned Cheetah in Zimbabwe, hugging angelic orphans in Victoria Falls, counting multiple rainbows at aforementioned falls, and watching the sun gloriously set over the Chobe River in Botswana.

Here’s a excerpt from the article I’m writing, which will be out mid-October:

“Driving away from the lions in the pitch black, we stopped to watch a leopard casually sauntering down the dirt road. His eyes shone in the light of the flashlight and he was filled with an air of mystery, power, and allure. He was the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen. He walked right next to our vehicle—within arm’s reach—and then disappeared into the night.
My first game drive was over, and I had already seen the Big 5.”

My first leopard sighting in South Africa

My first ever blog

22 Sep

Making a new friend, far from home

So this is a blog, huh? Well, it only took a few years, a few nudges, and the recent fulfillment of a lifelong travel dream (more to come on that), but I’ve finally decided to keep online records of my travels – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the tasty, the scary, the alcohol-induced, and the utterly ridiculous. I’ve been to 14 countries in the past 2 years, written at least one article on each one, and now it’s time to let the blogging begin…