Category Archives: Well Traveled

Moshi, Zanzibar, & the Serengeti: we went to Africa.

With suitcases packed we began a trip of a lifetime. A flight from Seattle where we fly over the Rocky Mountains, the mid-west, all the way to the East coast and then catch another flight to take us across the Atlantic. We sail above the beautiful Sahara desert before landing in a beautiful and lush green country, Ethiopia. A quick stay we continue our journey south and look down onto Nairobi on our way. Before I can catch myself, tears well in my eyes just before we land in Moshi, Tanzania.

A trip that was fulfilling a lifelong dream, I finally step foot onto the continent of Africa. As we make our way off the tarmac I look at the sky and gasp, the clouds contain traces of the red soil and somehow cover the earth with a beautiful pink haze. The lush forest we had seen in Ethiopia has changed into the rocky desert I had expected to see and the air was thick and humid; it also tasted a bit of the African sand. I didn’t mind though, I wanted it to coat my face and body, I wanted it to seep into every pour it could find.

We spend a few hours acquainting ourselves with our lodging by going to meetings and enjoying some local beer before he fulfills a dream of his and I continued one of mine. For eight days we were separated while he hikes Mount Kilimanjaro with his dad and fellow friends, and I spent time enjoying the culture of Zanzibar.

For eight days he labours and put one foot in front of the other every single day. With the lack of oxygen he expected to struggle but the festivities at night’s end had him rested and ready to fulfill his desire to conquer the mountain to see the sun rise over the African plains.

While he hiked the mountain I wandered around Zanzibar with his mom. When we first entered the city I was hit with the thickest air I have ever experienced, but the smell of rich bold spices and home-cooked dishes enticed me to explore the city and all it had to offer. I desired to experience everything: the dark burka clothing along with the contrasting colourful garments wrapped around each woman, how small girls carry buckets on their heads and then the next girl would swiftly walk down the narrow streets with beautiful silk scarfs trailing behind her. While I soaked in all of these moments, my heart pulled towards the sounds of children. Their laughter, their small voices in conversation and singing, and their mismatched clothing covered in dust and spices. While we were on a roof terrace over looking the city I was told there was an orphanage near by. It took everything I had not drop everything I was doing and run towards it. I knew I needed to prepare myself for what could possibly be there. In the end, there was no need, it was abandoned and it broke me anyway.

We spent three days exploring the city on the island before a driver took us a few minutes up the road where I relaxed into a time of pampering, reading and reflection. The seaside resort swirled with humid thick air combined with the saltiness of the ocean that wafted up to the pyramid-thatched roof of the tree fort where I lazily spent my days. I sip on fresh mango juice and indulge on local Zanzibar pizza and rice mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cumin while watching the ocean sweep against the beach below me. I feel like I can never get enough of the flavours of the country and the beauty of the African sunset. Even though I pass the time peacefully my heart becomes restless being away from him. As I take one long walk along the sandy beach and watch the clouds from the tropical rains roll away, I look forward to my flight back to be reunited with him.

Together, and with his parents, we climb into a dark green jeep and bump along old gravel roads as we head into the desert; into the wild. We encounter a beautiful barren landscape where it feels like sometimes we have been sent to the moon instead of continuing our journey on Earth, but then we come upon paradise. The oasis is full of gorgeous lush greenery, aqua blue lakes, and exotic wild animals finding refuge. We travel for five days through Lake Manyara, the Serengeti, Ngorongoro crater and national park, and then Tarangire. We encounter so many animals that at first we’re gasping and stopping at anything that moves. And then eventually we stop and enjoy, linger as long as we want, over the animals that we truly want to see. So many elephants and lions that we keep our eyes peeled for leopards, rhinos, and buffalo so we can see the big five and happily smile each time we see one. We watch predators stalk their prey, mothers tend to their babes, and adult males fight just for the sake of fighting. We meet traditional Maasai tribes and find them loving, unbelievably friendly, and full of laughter – something that we didn’t consider being apart of a nomad lifestyle.

Each night as the sun goes down we head to our lodging and excitably discuss our favourite moments of the day. “When we could almost touch the elephant if we wanted to” or “when the leopard was directly beside us and we were the only ones there” or “how about when the lioness chased the herd of zebras and wildebeest!”

As our time in Africa came to a close I started to package up everything I possibly could into my memory. When we stepped onto the plane to make our 40 hour journey home I felt that the red soil had gone further than my pours and had mixed with blood. And when I reflected on that precious moment when we came across an orphanage to donate school supplies to, on the last evening on our safari, my heart expanded and collapsed both at the same time. A little boy with big dark brown eyes full of curiosity slipped his soft delicate hand into mine, and as he lead me around showing off his home he held his other hand in Adam’s. I realized that I had been born for that exact moment. Out of everything that I have ever done and experienced in my life, having his hand in mine was the most life changing experience.

It truly was, a trip of a lifetime.

Venice, Milan, Lucerne, Geneva, Chamonix, Lyon, Marseille, Cannes, Monaco, Cinque Terre, Piza, Florence, Bolonga, Milan, Warsaw, and Krakow.

Plane tickets registered in our names and a few suitcases filled with our personal belongings, we left our dutch apartment feeling like living in Europe never happened. With our luggage safely stored in the plane below us we flew over the Alps and began another adventure, one we had dreamed about but didn’t know would happen all at once.

We landed in Venice, a place so similar to the land we just came from filled with old buildings and endless canals, we started our month long tour. We walked hand in hand skirting around other tourists trying to find shelter from them and the hot sun. We ducked into tiny streets just big enough for one person to go down at a time and found refuge in shade and small cafes where the cooks only knew Italian. We spent 24 beautiful hours touring and walking around Venice before we stepped onto a speeding train to take us to Milan.

We walked around Milan soaking up the architecture where we looked sky high to view all the tiny details of the Duomo and Galleria, enjoyed walking into haute couture fashion houses, and sipping on overly priced lattes to quench our thirst.  In between the tailor made suits and designer fashion I kept on willing myself to remember these moments. How when he intertwines his fingers in mine it makes my heart race, that with just a look he knows how much I want him, or how the light makes his eyes a shade of green that reminds me of a lake at springtime. After walking through the city streets we returned to our boutique hotel filled with white italian linen. We settled in by unpacking and slipping into the modern shower together to wash away the sweat of traveling. Skin against skin we held on to each other as the hot water washed over us, a welcome relief to both of us that there were no pressing issues to attend to but to just enjoy each other.

After spending a couple days wining and dining and enjoying all that Milan had to offer we journeyed to Lucerne in a plush white Italian sports car that whizzed us through the Alps. As we stood by the lake looking towards the mountains he pointed out places he remembered visiting before and told me stories of his first tour through Europe. With hungry stomachs, we hiked the side of a mountain and enjoyed an apéritif on a roof top terrace overlooking the city before we continued our journey west. As night started to fall we pulled up to an old flat where I was introduced to a French man who shared many stories of a time when he and Adam lived in Japan together. Geneva, surrounded by water tall mountains and fantastic food reminded me of Vancouver. We toured the city with the local and felt right at home in the lazy summer city.

Soon we said good-bye and see you soon before heading towards the French boarder. Before we crossed we spent the afternoon in cable cars mounting the most famous peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc. As the cold slowly left our body we found ourselves back in France where we were introduced to an amazing community of people who had gathered to celebrate a wedding. We prepared our gear and then for a day were swept up in the love and promise that vows are made under. Too soon we gathered our suitcases again and piled them into our car as we headed south to greet the Mediterranean ocean.

Desiring rest and time away from the sun, we spent moments curled under our blanket and then letting cool water stream over our bodies. We wandered around Marseille in the late evening and shared bottles of fine French wine and pasta filled with fresh seafood. We stood high above the shore and overlooked another city with red clay roofs and watched the azure ocean sweep it self against the boats below.

We then drove the coastal road towards Cannes where we spent three blissful days relaxing in the morning light on white sand beaches, sipping chilled rosé on our flat’s terrace, and falling asleep early to wake early to repeat it all again. Tourists and people with more money they know what to do with line the star studded streets and we feel completely at ease walking into the same stores and tanning on the same beaches. We people watch with lattes in our hands and see luxury vehicles pace the strip time and time again. We stop into real estate houses to look into luxury flats to rent in the future. We talk of returning and working remotely so we can spend days overlooking the beach and entertaining ourselves on oysters in the evening. Along the strip we point out designer and luxury items, and then, when the timing feels just right I walk away with a beautiful elegant, timeless and chic black leather hand bag I had been coveting for years. We purchase raspberry and crème brûlée macarons on our walk home to toast with.

We head back towards Italy where we spend his birthday walking along the coast line amongst cities built upon hills along the shore. When the sun becomes too much we dip into the Mediterranean where I sing him happy birthday between swells. We feast that evening on pasta dripping in tomato sauce and fresh mussels. We spend a day in Piza where we quickly take the obligatory photo and continue on our way to Florence where we instantly fall in love with the buildings.

We spend time admiring David and da Vinci, eating gelato out of cardboard bowls, and wander the city until we find the best latte in town. One evening we make our way through the darkened streets to a modern restaurant filled mood lighting and a white and grey interoir. He tells me he saw the interior and knew I would love in instantly, and I did. We are taken care of by the chef who takes takes great pride in his work and explain each dish on the menu and helps us pick which dish would be best for our pallet. We settle on a few items from the menu and also a few dishes that he requests to create just for us. We indulge, gasping with every bite over the flavours and his mastery at combining the perfect spices. Beef Tartar wrapped in a rice flour, white truffle oil dashed over linguine and seared mushrooms, a medium rare steak between fresh from the market portobello mushrooms, and a lamb over curried rice. We toast to another beautiful evening with dishes we would remember forever with Vin Santo then slip back into our hotel room where we quickly fall asleep with bellies full.

We drive to Bologna where we again take time to rest and slowly walk through the city. Even though the city is filled with people wanting to experience all it has to offer the locals have left to enjoy a holiday of their own. After dropping off our sporty car we catch another fast train back to Milan where we visit now familiar streets and cafes. When the night descends upon us we reorganize our luggage for our next part of our journey.

An early morning wake up call we take a plane from western europe to eastern europe where we are greeted with hugs and four kisses on the cheek. After over a year since we had seen his family last we spend time with his family in Warsaw before taking a train south to Krakow. With his mom as company we walk the old city square, visit an old salt mine with the largest underground cathedral, and then spend time in silence as we tried to understand what truly happened at Auschwitz.

When our last remaining moments with his family slowly come to a close we walk along the river bed preparing ourselves for the journey ahead where a season of living abroad ends and we return to a familiar life filled with dinners with family around and friends just down the street to call on. As we board the plane with memories of our month long tour and living in Europe trailing behind us, he slips his hand into mine and whispers “We did it, and it was amazing!”.

Berlin in the fall.

Our streamlined modern hotel room just outside of the main city greets us with hues of green and white. Fresh, welcoming, new. After settling in we pull fresh towels from the shelf and step into a warm shower together to wash away the day’s travel. We spend a few moments enjoying the water fall over our bodies and release the kinks from sitting in a train for 5 hours. With the white plush towel wrapped around me I pull out my research for the best places to eat, see, and play with excitement. This was a city that had been on my wish list for some time and I was fully prepared to enjoy every moment.

Berlin, in the fall, welcomes us with a laid back and peaceful hello despite its dark past. As we walked the streets, I anticipate to see a difference between East and West but find a unity instead. We walk hand in hand to the main square to find people bending their bodies in breakdance moves to a deep base. Young and old, some high, some just enjoying the music to display their love of freedom of outdoor dance parties in the middle of the city. This is also what I anticipated Berlin to be like. As we continue walking the rundown streets, navigating our way to a street lined with restaurants, we fall into the easy pace that Berlin sets. We nestle into a restaurant with red and white checkered cotton table cloths and order 2 beers, a strong stout for him and a sweet one for me. Not normally a beer drinker, I celebrate another German holiday with my love.

The morning kisses us hello with light streaming into the room beckoning us to come and enjoy the weather. After months of grey cloud and threats of rain in Holland, we happily oblige. Excited to explore in daylight we hop onto a tram and head towards a café that boasts the best latte in the city. Before we have a chance to reach our destination we end up face to face with an object that divided a city, a nation, an entire continent. The Wall is moving and powerful. We spend time in contemplation and walk around the graffiti, memorials, and history. After some time exploring, we finally find ourselves sipping on perfectly foamed lattes, enjoying the sun on our backs, while sitting on a sidewalk outside the trendy café, one that we return to our entire visit. While enjoying fluffy golden quiches filled with roasted red peppers and caramelized onion we discuss the atmosphere of the city and how different it feels here compared to what I experienced in Prague and Warsaw.

We spend four days making our way through crowds of locals pushing their babes and hustling on their way to work. We avoid the crowded tourist areas as much as possible to enjoy the quite streets filled with private gardens mixed in between neoclassical architecture from days of old to modern buildings as a reminder that the city has spent decades rebuilding itself. In the middle of all of it there are post bills and graffiti from people expressing themselves and even more memorials to cause you to stop and reflect on their dark past. But even with all the monuments and plaques scattered throughout, there is a lightheartedness and a sense of freedom.

a scottish surprise.

We planned for months. We made secret phone calls across the Atlantic ocean before purchasing tickets and a hotel room at the Ritz to make sure everything was perfect. And then we had to pretend it wasn’t happening so we didn’t ruin the surprise. Finally in August my mum arrived, her first European adventure, and we toured her around our small city and showing her the beauty of our new life. She was captivated and I was happy.

One morning I woke up early, too excited to sleep one more minute. I ran up the stairs to where my mum was still enjoying her beauty sleep and asked her to come out with me, I was taking her out for breakfast! After showering and removing the sleep from our eyes we slowly walked from one store to another before reaching our destination. On a wooden bench while the hot summer sun came through the windows I told her that today she was finally getting her birthday surprise, we were going on a trip! She thought she was going to Germany, I said we were.

We packed our bags and jumped on a train that whisked us away to Germany. But once we got there, I told her we weren’t going to Germany but a destination that she’s always wanted to go. Scotland!

We gave my mum the window seat so she could watch the Scottish landscape come into view while we landed, and when our feet touched the pavement, my mum’s eyes wheled over in tears. There she was, in a country she never thought she’d ever see.

We walked the streets, through narrow passageways, explored castles and ancient history. Everywhere we went my mum would ran her hands over it, allowing the place to soak into her skin. He and I would wait on street corners while she diligently looked for her family tartan or when she would stare at headstones with her clan name.

We climbed to the highest peak in Edinburgh and over looked the city below while my mum held thistles and flowers in her hands with a tartan wrapped around her body to keep her warm. She stared at the city and tears again fell down her cheeks. Over and over she kept saying “Thank You” but I knew she was really saying “I’m finally home!”.

christmas in salzburg.

3 glorious days away in the alpine air swept around us and brought us closer together. The Alp mountains, almost close enough to touch, we savoured the moment of being so close to nature and a place that felt so similar to our family home. The crisp air, soft and fragrant of pine and the almost snow. We loved this time together.

We pulled on our lycra under garments before slipping into wool and cashmere coats to keep us warm from the wind. I wrapped black pashmina around my neck, leather gloves on my hands, and black boots up to my knees to feel completely covered. Ready to walk the small streets of Salzburg with him.

We danced between crowds of tourists, reaching out to one another along the way. I felt him hold tightly onto my hand, as if afraid to let me go, and my heart swelled with love. We snapped photos of the Salzburg Dom, built before 774 in the baroque style with it’s gold gilded edges and religious paintings. We climbed into a tram where it took us to the top of a fortress so we could over look the city below. We stood there watching women donning their new fur coats, men wearing felt landhaus hats with plums, and children pulling at their parents to view the bonbons and candy coated sweets.

On Christmas, we celebrated the birth of Christ back in the Dom where we stood in line with locals eager to get a front row seat. In a dark wooden pew, one soprano singer filled the cathedral with her voice and tears grew around my eyes as I listened to the carols from the days of old, in a language I didn’t know, worshiping our Lord. Strings, horns, wind, and pipes came together to create a beautiful sound. Music for him. Sounds of worship. After the gospel was declared from the pulpit he joined the church Communion as I bowed my head in prayer. Before we left to go back to our hotel room two candles were lit in place of the overhead lights and a guitar with Spanish flare played while four beautiful voices sang O Holy Night. No longer able to contain my emotions I let the tears flow, the hair on my arms raised and I felt love enter the cathedral and embrace us all.

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