Recent Travel Highlights

Ziggy Cafe

Ürgüp
Eat
Ziggy Cafe, Ürgüp, Turkey
Ziggy Cafe: Outdoor Dining with a View in Cappadocia
Ziggy Cafe, a restaurant and store located a restored stone house, came highly recommended by my sister, other bloggers and travel guides. I like the relaxed vibe, stylish decor and terrace view of the rocky Cappadocia landscape, so I've returned for my second dinner since arriving in Urgup.
Ziggy Cafe: Outdoor Dining with a View in Cappadocia

Urgup City Hamam

Ürgüp
Do
Urgup City Hamam, Ürgüp, Turkey
Scubbed Up in Urgup
Inside the Urgup City Hamam I'm instructed to undress (I've brought my swimsuit) in one of the changing rooms. My clothes are locked in a locker. Wrapped in a towel, I'm escorted to the bath area, a large common space surrounded by smaller shower rooms. An octagonal slab bathed in light from a glass dome overhead dominates the area. I lie here roasting slowly. My tellak (masseur) is a young, attractive Turkish man. He leads me into a private room where he lathers, loofahs and rinses me, then applies a pressure point massage that's therapeutic almost -- but not quite -- to the verge of being painful. I feel great leaving the hamam, my skin is soft and my muscles weak.
Scubbed Up in Urgup

Mt Bierstadt

Idaho Springs
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Mt Bierstadt, Idaho Springs, Colorado
Snowy Hikes
This is supposedly one of the closest and easiest 14ers to Denver. I had been wanting to hike a 14er the whole summer, and the first calendar day of fall, my friend and I hiked to the top of Mt. Bierstadt. After all the rain that drowned Colorado, the river that flowed through the base of the mountain was damn near overflowing. Up to the summit, my foot sunk in the mud and I worried I'd lose my shoe. We started our hike at 7am to make sure we wouldn't get caught in an afternoon storm. We returned to our car five hours later wet regardless. While my friend struggled up the mountain, I found it relatively easy. But hiking to the top and being able to say I hiked a 14er, then taking a picture with the altitude on a piece of cardboard when we hit the top, still made me feel a little bit of pride. I could understand how longer and tougher hikes not only physically exhaust someone, but mentally as well. When we finally reached the top, I realized a storm was rolling in, snow started to fall, and the parking lot looked extremely small. Always make sure to bring a sense of humor with you.
Snowy Hikes

Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge

Kruger Park
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Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, Kruger Park, South Africa
The Big Five at Sabi Sabi
A typical day on safari consists of two game drives: One in the morning before breakfast and the other in the late afternoon before dinner. The evening outings typically leave around 4:30PM and go until sunset, or “sundowner” time. That’s when you stop and to stretch your legs and have a cocktail. It might just be the best happy hour on the planet. It’s usually in an amazing location overlooking a brilliant sunset, with hors d'oeuvres that include impala cubes and dried mango. Then you drive using a high-powered spotlight to illuminate a whole new set of nocturnal creatures, including owls, chameleons, and even crocodiles. Sabi Sabi does a terrific job catering to kids. An activity kit featuring “The Big 5” (lions, rhino, leopard, cape buffalo and elephant) they’d likely see while on safari was included in each room. They also had two swimming pools, which gave them a chance to cool down and burn off all their excess energy during the downtime in between outings. And finally there were the rangers and trackers, who without them, the whole thing would be a bust. I’ve been advised that a safari is only as good as the guides you have with you. In our experience, the Sabi crew were top notch, tracking down everything from wild dog to dung beetles and engaging the kids every step of the way. They even managed to stump our kids with a riddle that’s quite appropriate for where we were: Which side of a zebra has more strips? . . . The outside!
The Big Five at Sabi Sabi

Coconut Bay Resort & Spa All Inclusive Vieux Fort

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Coconut Bay Resort & Spa All Inclusive Vieux Fort, Saint Lucia
Kitesurfing in St. Lucia
The beauty of the kites waving against the vibrant blue of the Caribbean Sea really captured me. I figured that I could quickly learn to kitesurf but it turns out that it's a focused, three-day affair. St. Lucia attracts some of the strongest winds in the Caribbean so I met kite surfers hailing from everywhere, from Portugal to Japan,who were chasing the winds. Coconut Bay surf shack on the southern tip of the island, offers lessons for all skill levels and I fell near the bottom of that scale. Learning to steer your kite against the wind requires lots of balance and concentration.Gently gripping the bar, I guided the kite toward the wind but it was a task keeping it in the air. I decided to just sit on the beach and watch the experienced kite surfers fly over the water but I vowed to myself that I'll take all the lessons and learn kite surfing the next time I'm in St. Lucia
Kitesurfing in St. Lucia

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen
StayDo
Playa del Carmen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
I was always scared to travel to Mexico! All the news coming out of the country was so negative and I had this preconceived notion that it was too dangerous to travel there. When a friend invited me on a trip to Playa Del Carmen on the Riviera Maya, I decided to go despite being worried about the violence that was occurring in the country and I ended up not regretting that decision. I arrived in Cancun and made the hour-long drive to my hotel in Play Del Carmen and immediately liked the place. The atmosphere was lively, the street was vibrant and the hotel I was staying in was cozy. A long, sandy beach was located only a two-minute walk from my hotel. I spent my mornings walking around the little town, mingling with the friendly locals, eating in the restaurants, sipping coffee on a stoop overlooking the street and browsing the little shops. Afternoons were spent on the beach sunbathing and swimming in the clear, warm waters of the lagoon. Evenings were spent sitting at the beach and watching the sun set with the sound of Spanish music and the smell of Mexican food permeating the air. The town had a relaxed feel to it like any other Caribbean destination. The other thing I really liked about Playa Del Carmen was the ease of getting around to nearby attractions. I found a bus station that offered rides to some Mayan ruins at a very cheap price and I did not, at any time, feel any danger during my time in the area. In fact, I have recommended it to many people since!
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Lee's Unleaded Blues

Chicago
DoDrink
Lee's Unleaded Blues, Chicago, Illinois
Old School Chicago Blues
Calling itself "Chicago's favorite juke joint," this south side lounge hearkens back to the days when blues clubs lined both sides of the street and patrons squeezed in wherever they could fit. The shadowy room boasts a rectangular bar and crimson carpeting. The regulars are mostly neighborhood locals and University of Chicago students who come to hear straight ahead live blues,with a kick. The vibe is laid back and welcoming; expect to be called "baby" by a waitress or bartender at least once.
Old School Chicago Blues

Hix Island House

Vieques
Stay
Hix Island House, Vieques, Puerto Rico
Hix Island House: Zen-like Peace on Vieques
Let me start with a confession: Hix Island House is one of my favorite spots on the planet. Three out of the past four winters my husband and I have taken a puddle jumper from San Juan over to the nearby Vieques to enjoy the Zen-like peace of one of Hix’s 19 “eco-lofts.” What’s that, you might ask? Solar panels give a boost to electricity and hot water; the open-air lofts are cooled by the trade winds; and recycled “gray water” is delivered to fields of guavas, papayas, and lemons. As for the lofts themselves, they’re both elegant and rustic at the same time, most with outdoor showers and all with terraces or patios. Each unit has a full kitchen (with all the necessary provisions for a hearty DIY breakfast), not to mention Frette linens and robes -- and are but steps away from the chlorine-free pool – where I’ve spent many an hour reading, writing, and of course, swimming. After I take my morning class on the open-deck yoga studio, that is. But as much as we love it, Hix is not for everyone. First off, all guests must be at least 16. There are no TVs or phones in the lofts. Oh, and there’s no restaurant on the property (although there are several excellent choices within a few minutes’ drive and in Esperanza). If you consider any of those aspects as a problem, Hix is not for you. As for us, we can't wait to return to the 13-acre hilltop refuge with expansive views of the Caribbean below.
Hix Island House: Zen-like Peace on Vieques

Gallery Guichard

Chicago
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Gallery Guichard, Chicago, Illinois
Bronzeville Beauty
The historic Bronzeville neighborhood brims with architectural treasures but Gallery Guichard displays the beauty inside of a three -story brownstone. Specializing in art from the African diaspora, the gallery showcases local artists as well as those hailing from Zimbabwe, Senegal, Mali, Haiti and Cuba. Canvases line the walls of all three levels and sculpture fill the floors. Exhibit openings are always festive, with performance art and live jazz.
Bronzeville Beauty

North Beach

Hollywood
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North Beach, Hollywood, Florida
North Beach Hollywood
Quiet and calm, with sweet little lifeguard stands, this beach was super soothing on a weekday afternoon. There are parks nearby with parking lots, as well as street parking/access to this particular walkway, though I could only find paid parking spots.
North Beach Hollywood

The Shrine

Chicago
DrinkDo
The Shrine, Chicago, Illinois
Sounds of Live Reggae,R&B and Hip Hop
Fans of reggae and classic hip hop head to this south side spot. Named for afrobeat icon Fela's legendary Lagos nightclub, The Shrine pulses with energy and excitement. Clean lined decor and a reliable offering of popular reggae,r&b and hip hop acts keep the club regularly packed. Lines tend to move slowly and shows rarely start on time but this is the place to be if you crave live beats and riddims.
Sounds of Live Reggae,R&B and Hip Hop

Familienkelterei Possmann

Frankfurt
EatDoShop
Familienkelterei Possmann, Frankfurt, Germany
A lesson in apples
The friendly folks at family-owned Possmann Kelterei in Rodisheim are happy to show visitors around the world of apple wine. I took the tour, sampled the wine, and enjoyed a meal in the on-site restaurant, housed in a former stable. If you're new to apple wine, this is a good place to learn about Frankfurt's traditional drink and its go-withs. The family-owned winery has been going since 1881, and is one of the largest and most established in the region. The variety of juices and wines it produces are all blends. A cuvée process ensures predictable flavor and clarity, from classically sour (Kellermeister) to unfiltered (Frau Rauscher) to clear and slightly sweet (classic). Apple wine is generally ordered for a group in a 1.3-liter ceramic pitcher called a Bembel, and consumed in a specially ribbed glass. Ask for ''gespritzed' (with carbonated mineral water) or 'suss' (with lemonade), to suit personal tastes. Consumed more like a beer or cider than wine, apple wine is a popular local accompaniment to pork dishes. Perhaps the lower calorie count can help offset that Schnitzel or Rippchen?
A lesson in apples

Ja' Grill Restaurant & Lounge

Chicago
EatDrink
Ja' Grill Restaurant & Lounge, Chicago, IL
Jamaican Delights
Serving up authentic Jamaican dishes like ackee and saltfish, curried chicken and brown stewed red snapper, Ja'Grill manages to recreate the relaxing, sunny vibe of the Land of Wood and Water in the heart of Chicago. The owner's a Montego Bay native who delivers all the expected accompaniments including plantains, rice n peas and constant streams of reggae. The lounge downstairs often hosts live DJs and after parties for local reggae concerts.
Jamaican Delights

Blues Heaven Foundation

Chicago
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Blues Heaven Foundation, Chicago, Illinois
Chicago Recording History
The site of the Chess Records building, where blues and rock greats like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry,Etta James and the Rolling Stones recorded, has been declared a Chicago landmark and transformed into the Blues Heaven Foundation, The foundation helps musicians with royalty recovery, which Willie Dixon famously wrestled from Led Zeppelin's unauthorized use of his music. You can tour the historic studio, watch a brief film on Chess musicians and in the summer, catch live blues concerts in the courtyard.
Chicago Recording History

Buddy Guy's Legends

Chicago
DoEatDrink
Buddy Guy's Legends, Chicago, Illinois
Iconic Blues Club
Blues fans from all over the world flock to this club, owned by the legendary blues man who taught Jimi Hendrix some of his licks. Filled with evidence of Buddy Guy's illustrious career, from a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame statue to Grammys and signed guitars, the space serves as a casual museum as well as the best place to hear live blues downtown. It's always crowded so come at least two hours before the main show and enjoy samples from a full menu of Cajun cuisine, representing Buddy's native Louisiana.
Iconic Blues Club

Ruby's Restaurant

Chicago
Eat
Ruby's Restaurant, Chicago, Illinois
Historic Chicago Soul Food
A legendary destination for authentic soul food dishes like fried pork chops, salmon croquettes, collard greens and fried okra, Ruby's Restaurant was where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hung out when he visited Chicago in 1966 for the open housing campaign. Originally called Edna's, this classic diner has been serving up homemade goodness in the Garfield Park community for over 50 years.
Historic Chicago Soul Food

Gjirokaster Castle

Gjirokaster
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Gjirokaster Castle, Gjirokaster, Albania
Gjirokastra Castle: The Plane Truth
If the walls of Gjirokastra's brooding castle could talk, they'd tell tales of Ali Pasha's 19th century reign, when the tyrant used his hilltop fortifications as a communist prison. What remains of their secrets is now revealed in gun-filled corridors, overgrown gardens and dark punishment cells. Closed as a prison in 1971, the space is now the National Museum of Armaments. To reach this UNESCO World Heritage site, our band of cyclists ditched the bikes and began at the top of the cobbled street punctuated by artisan shops. The steep trek to the castle disclosed the truth behind Gjirokastra's nickname: City of 1,000 Steps. In its dank interior, more secrets of a prison built in 1929 emerged: the vaults were once holding cells for King Zog's enemies, then used by the Nazis during their occupation of Gjirokastra. What made the trek to the top truly worthwhile was the jaw-dropping vista of Gjirokastra spread before us. With its slate rooftops and 19th century buildings glinting in the sun, I understood why the Albanian government declared it a Museum City in 1961: to preserve its architectural heritage and authentic Albanian spirit. Finally, we came to the coup de grace: remains of a two-seater jet. The truth behind it depends on what story you believe. The Communist's: it was an American spy plane forced down in 1957. The pilot's: he sought permission to land at Rinas Airport when his plane developed problems. At which point, Albanian authorities confiscated it.
Gjirokastra Castle: The Plane Truth

The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel

Taipa
StayDo
The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel, Taipa, Macau
Truly Opulent ... But Quite Unnecessary
Back in 2011, I got a room here at a discounted MOP1,300+ per night without breakfast and gave it a go! The room is definitely very beautifully crafted, and details were attended to from the bed lighting, to the mini-living room, to the exceptionally big bathroom. Nonetheless, the features of this opulent hotel/resort were not isolated to the room, as the best part is actually in 'witnessing' a piece of faux-Venice, in Asia! One can easily enjoy The Venetian without having to book a room, which is what I would recommend to others looking forward to visiting this place. By the way shuttle rides from Cotai (where The Venetian is) to Macau downtown are free, just by crossing the street to The City of Dreams, where shuttle buses bring you to Hotel Sintra, which is just a few blocks away from Senado Square. Also, the gondola is now mechanized, while the gondolier is not Italian (but they have outstanding singing voices!) ... adult tickets are at MOP118, while children are at MOP88 ... and if you cannot fill the gondola, you have to share with another group.
Truly Opulent ... But Quite Unnecessary

Via Santa Margherita

Milan
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Via Santa Margherita, Milan, Italy
Milan by Night
Milan is a different city at night, when the inky blue skies and warm orange street lights reflect on the grey facades of the city's buildings. The architecture- bombastic, monumental and sometimes even modern- is like a page out of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. Photo by Erica Firpo.
Milan by Night

Lake Lugano

Lugano
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Lake Lugano, Lugano, Switzerland
Closer to Milan than Zurich
Whereas beaches show sandy expanses, harbors busy crossings, and rivers, comparisons between split communities, lakes … provide calmness. There is something innately indescribable with how beautifully constructed Lugano is, from its hilly pedestrian roads, its hole-in-the-wall souvenir stalls, its busy promenade, its relaxing park, to its modernly-designed squares. It takes around 1.5 hours by train from Milano Central to Lugano, so make sure to stop by.
Closer to Milan than Zurich

Grattacielo Pirelli

Milan
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Grattacielo Pirelli, Milan, Italy
Pirelli Tower
The Pirelli Tower is considered one of the most elegant "tall buildings" in the world, and at one point, it was one of the tallest. (And it was the tallest in Italy until 2010). The tapered, 32-storey, 417 ft tower was developed in the 1950s by Gio Ponti with the assistance of Pierluigi Nervi, two of Italy's best modern architects. The tower was also inspiration in the design of New York's MetLife (formerly Pan Am) Building. Photo by Leandro Ciuffo.
Pirelli Tower

Piola

Istanbul
EatDrinkDo
Piola, Istanbul, Turkey
Mouth Watering Pizza
Piola originally from Treviso, has been in Istanbul for past three years stating as the best pizza in town; their original recipe and fresh ingredients used give me always to enjoy a slice of pizza as I'm at home in Italy. Ciao
Mouth Watering Pizza

Via Giuseppe Meda, 4

Milan
EatDrink
Via Giuseppe Meda, 4, Milan, Italy
Carlo e Camilla in Segheria
The newly opened Carlo e Camilla in Segheria is Michelin star chef Carlo Cracco adventure in family style chic cuisine. Everyone eats together on a long table in a former woodworking factory illuminated by Venetian chandeliers. The is a delicious interpretation of contemporary Italian cuisine including dishes such as spaghetti alici, cipollotto, lime e caffè (spaghetti with anchovies, green onions, lime and coffee). Photo by Carlo e Camilla in Segheria
Carlo e Camilla in Segheria

Paro

Paro
EatShopStay
Paro, Paro, Bhutan
Beautiful Paro River flowing along the velley
Bhutan has got plenty of Rivers flowing through steep slopes to foothills of India. One of them is Paro river, that passes through Paro town later merging with Thimphu river. Quite a peaceful holiday is waiting for you in Bhutan. Book your holiday with Chimorya Bhutan Travels and explore the himalayan kingdom.. Email us at info@cbhutantravels.com or visit us at www.cbhutantravels.com
Beautiful Paro River flowing along the velley

Quentin at Oakhurst

Cape Town
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Quentin at Oakhurst, Cape Town, South Africa
Fine Food In A Forest
Talented Cape Town chef Quentin Spickernell, has opened his own restaurant is a charmingly restored former barn between Constantia and Hout Bay, an atmospheric venue amidst trees and mountains yet in the city. Incorporating indoor and outdoor dining for all seasons, an attractive bar also a private dining area, delicious cuisine complemented by good wines and good service, make this tranquil romantic hideaway one to seek out for relaxed dining or any celebration.
Fine Food In A Forest

Binh Tay Market

6
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Binh Tay Market, 6, Vietnam
Lunar New Year in HCMC
During Lunar New Year, the local Chinese community celebrates with daredevil dragon dances.
Lunar New Year in HCMC

Grey Wolf Cellars

Paso Robles
Drink
Grey Wolf Cellars, Paso Robles, California
Grey Wolf Cellars, Vino and a Rest Stop
Grey Wolf Cellars is located near Paso Robles, right off the 101 highway on the California coast. It’s in a great location to take a rest stop if you are driving up and down the coast or on your way to Hearst Castle. The view from the tasting room is gorgeous and there is a lovely patio to sit at while you enjoy your wine, snacks and the friendly Barton pets. Joe and Shirley Barton established Grey Wolf Cellars in 1994, a boutique craft winery focusing on small batch, high quality local grapes. The winery is family run to this day and the Barton’s son Joseph, a graduate from Cal Poly S.L.O., is the current head wine maker. In 2011 the winery released the BARTON label, a line of white wine and reserve reds, and the OCCASIONAL WINES label, a collection of wines created using new techniques. The wine tasting was very enjoyable. We bought a bottle of the 2011 Zinful Cab, a 60% zinfandel, 40% cabernet sauvignon blend. It’s a delicious dinner and restaurant wine that you might be able to find at a local eatery. We also enjoyed the 2011 Chardonnay, this wine is unique in that it doesn’t have the buttery or oak taste like other chardonnay’s; during the fermentation process this wine is only in oak barrels for about a week.
Grey Wolf Cellars, Vino and a Rest Stop
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