Israel- July 2019

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Every year I like to travel for my birthday. This year I choose to spend my birthday in Jerusalem.

I got a little too excited to find free tickets and accommodations, that I did not realize it would quite warm. No scratch that, HOT. I based myself in Tel Aviv and arranged to take day trips to some of the nearby sites.

First thoughts of Tel Aviv, was how it’s a beautiful city on the sea. Vibrant and full of energy.

My actual birthday I spent touring Jerusalem. Which happened to be on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of rest, which observed differently by different religions. In the Jewish faith, it’s Shabbat and it’s day of rest and spiritual enrichment. It was very interesting, to witness. The hotel I stayed out has restrictions in place for Shabbat. The had a special menu only, and special Shabbat elevator.

Jerusalem was not was I expected. It was full of touts, tourist and extremely ignornant people who refused to respect the laws of the local lands. When visiting religious sites, it’s not unusual to have to cover your shoulder, knees or even sometimes your head. I’ve had to be covered all over the world, so I was prepared for this in Israel. Also because it was the Sabbath there was signs that it was not ok to take photos of the Western Wall. I took one before I realized I was not supposed to. The whole experience left was not as spiritual as I expected.

Something that was fascinating to me, was I was raised Catholic. In fact my primary education as a Catholic school. I was never really taught much about other religions. It’s impossible to discuss Catholicism without mentioning Judaism. But it was just mentioned no history taught. Its was weird for me to learn at my age that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all were . born in the same area and all monotheism. Meaning they all believe in one God. I found visiting this area to be fascinating. But the ignorant tourists soured the experience.

Anyway after Jerusalem, we headed to Bethlehem. Bethlehem is located in the West Bank or Palestine. You can not just drive into Bethlehem, you have to work across and change vehicles. We headed the Church of the Nativity .

My visit was marred by terrible tourist who insisted on pushing so they could capture their selfie for Instagram. I almost wish cameras were banned so that maybe we could actually take in the space and be less worried about getting whacked in the head with a selfie stick.

The next day I headed to Masada and the Dead Sea. Masada was interesting to see, but having not done my research before I went, I did not really understand it’s history. It was hot and required a lot of walking on uneven surface. So I opted to sit in the shade and skip the sites. I know terrible, but sometimes, I make bad choices.

Next stop was the Dead Sea. The Lowest Place on Earth. It’s definitely and experience. You walk in and lean back your feet will sweep out from underneath you. You then cover yourself in mud, and rinse off. The mud leaves an oily film on your skin. And after the whole experience your skin feels great.

Back in Tel Aviv, I headed over to Jaffa, the port city.

Typical Flo fashion, I managed to get lost in the maze. I had booked a tour to Polish a Diamond, and well it did not work out. Mainly because the tour operator gave me the meeting point but failed to list the city. So when I gave the taxi the address, I was ended up in the wrong city.

I would definitely go back to visit again and explore more. Maybe not in the middle of the summer. It’s a beautiful area and I am glad I got a glimpse of it.

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Sydney, Australia-May 2019

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Surprise, I found myself back in Australia. What can I say, it’s my happy place! Plus it was an easy decision when I found out Jenny and John were also going to be in Sydney. After I booked, I mentioned it to Jane, their daughter, and she booked flights to come over as well.

Jane managed to surprise her parents which is always good fun! We booked for a lovely dinner at Hubert’s, with Katherine and Evander. I just realized I talk a lot about food. But only good food that is worth talking about. After dinner, we went and checked out Vivid Sydney. Since it was opening weekend, there were just too many people everywhere.

Something that really surprised me, was how dead Sydney was on a Saturday night. There was no place open to get a dessert. Even Brisbane has Jimmy’s on the Mall!

The next day, we all minus Jane, headed to lunch with our friend Ananda to a Nepalese cafe. I have not been to Nepal, so I was not sure what to expect. Turns out its like Indian food, but less spicy. I loved it! I guess I not surprised that most of travel pants involve elastic waists.

I know it’s a ridiculous long way to go to for good food. But when you add in great company, nothing can compare.

Back to Chicago I went for a one month break in travel. Somewhere along the way, I broke my toe. It healed improperly, so I required surgery to get it corrected. Which slowed my travels down a bit. But it worked out, friends came to me. Stay tuned!

New York,NY- May 2019

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New York is such a great city to play tourist. Even when you’ve see the ” major” sites, there are still a million different places to explore.

My friend, Phoebe, was over from Australia doing an internship for 4 months, so I popped over to say Hello. The theme of this visit to New York with Food, with a side of family and Hamilton. I would stop reading now, if you are hungry because this is a heavy food post.

Friday night, we started at Shake Shack, mainly because it was quite close to the theater. Then it was off to see Hamilton, again for me, first time for Phoebe. It was great, I was a bit worried after London.

The next day found me standing in a ridiculous line waiting for Cronuts. The reason for the line was it because the Cronut Anniversary and the creator Dominque Ansel was there himself.

We then crossed over the bridge to Brooklyn, popped around to visit my cousins. Because who doesn’t love when family shows up with cronuts and champagne on a Saturday morning. Looking back the champagne was not a good idea. We had booked lunch at Peter Luger’s. Honestly, we should have fasted.

It was worth every single bite, but man that burger tried to kill me. It might have been the raw onion, not sure. I would do it all over again, but maybe fast before hand. They only serve the burger at lunch so if you want to try it, make a reservation! We then stopped by to see my Aunt. Poor thing, was an unwilling participant in our weekend of food. We showed up with a strawberry cake, a bottle of champagne, a burger from Peter Luger’s and Dello Mano brownies. If someone showed up the door with this combo, I would smile take the loot and slam the door. There would be no sharing and I would spend the next few days in food coma. We took her for a nice walk in the Park before letting her food coma settle. Ok let’s be fair, it wasn’t just her food coma.

I had to call in full and begged to go back to my hotel to crash. It was only 5pm. Terrible given I was only in New York for a few nights. Because, Phoebe was not going to miss out on a trying yet another new place, we were back at it again in the morning.

It as a great weekend. A lot of food. But fun to check out new places. I am just glad I packed my fat pants.

Until next time… safe travels…

Osaka, Japan-April 2019

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After 6 weeks on the ground, I was super excited to get my jet fuel fix. Jenny and John were traveling around Asia and I mentioned that it was direct flight from Chicago to Japan. I should have clarified, it’s a direct flight to Tokyo, not Osaka. Oops. Oh well what’s a connection? What with low fares and free upgrades, why not!

My last trip to Japan was a disaster. Friends keep telling me they love it, but it just had not clicked with me yet. Kind of like Paris. I will say this Osaka is beautiful in the spring!

One of the benefits of being a modern city, it’s well planned out. Which makes being a tourist so easy. We just hung around and took in the sights.

I even convinced Jenny to go cloth shopping. Which any bigger then a US size 4 knows it’s normally a waste of time to shop in Asia. But one brand I really like is actually Japanese. So we hunted down a shop. In order to try on clothes they ask you to put on a face cover. WHY is this only in Japan??? This should be worldwide!

It always good fun to meet up with friends and explore different cities. I know my travels appear to be bit boring. In part because they are. I am less about exploring as much and more about absorbing the surroundings. Which means I may not see as much but I am enjoying it more.

Stay tuned……

Australia/Fiji/New Zealand-January 2019

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Having been born and raised in the Chicagoland area, you would think I would consider that home. Nope. Brisbane is where my heart is. And apparently for good reason! It’s funny how my “family” can still surprise me. Jenny and John, my Australia parents, surprised me at the airport. Any frequent traveler will tell you it’s always a lovely surprise when you get airport meet and greet. The surprises continued when I arrived at the Hilton. It does freak me out just a bit, seeing my photo on the big screen. Ben, of course nailed it by having my favorite mocha from Noosa Chocolate Factory. And then arriving in my room to find this smorgasbard. Really makes me wonder why I left!

My dear friend Beau was getting married in Auckland, so I took advantage of escaping the brutal Chicago winter and booked in so need time in Brisbane. Days always seem to go by way to fast while in Brisbane. So Jenny and I headed out to Byron Bay with Adam from Koala Transfers for the day, to enjoy the beautiful summer weather.

Katherine and Evander flew up from Sydney to hang out and get out cake and chicken fix! Trust me, it’s the best way to spend an afternoon!

After a great few days in Brisbane, I headed to Fiji for some relaxation. My flight was delayed, so I set up shop in the lounge and attempted to get some work done. Imagine my shock, when I look up and see my dear friend Anthony from Melbourne! Turns out we both heading to Fiji! Lucky for me, I was headed to Marriott Momi Bay! What an amazing place. I know I sound like a travel ad, but there was honestly something so relaxing about this resort. The lagoon was full of fish, you could walk in and they were at your feet. It was soo peaceful. I rarely saw anyone walking out near my bure. I’ll be heading back for sure!

Next stop was Auckland for Beau and Anton’s wedding. SO beautiful to witness them exchange their vows while embracing their heritage.

I unfortunately confirmed on this trip, that I allergic to something in the air in Auckland. It only took like 10 trips to realise this. It won’t stop me from continuing to visit, but at least next time I’ll maybe will be better prepared.

I headed back to Brisbane to enjoy the sunnies days before returning to the Polar Vortex that was Chicago. I was almost a little sad to head back to Chicago, but then I remembered I was heading back in 3 weeks, so stay tuned!

Travels- February 2019

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February found me back in Chicago for just 3 weeks. During this time I closed on the home that I had purchased back in July, 2017. As anyone who has every built a home from scratch will explain, new construction never goes as planned. 2 days after I was given the keys, I was back on a plane.

A party invite in Dallas led me to go back to Australia for a week. Have I mentioned how much I love flying Qantas?

While I was in the bathroom, the flight attendant did this to my seat.

Even though it was a quick trip, I decided to pop down to Melbourne and catch up with my Anthony and Jackson. And we caught up proper, by having some chicken! Gloves and all.

I spent 3 years in Australia, I thought I knew heat. Melbourne got me that weekend. It was HOT! 40c+ or 100F+ it was BRUTAL. Since it was so hot, I thought about going to a museum. But I could not be bothered to walk. Somehow while I was googling what to do, I found a website selling local Australian art, Bluethumb And this my friends, is how most of the walls in my house become adorned my art from Australian artists.

Here is a just a sample from a few, in order Miranda Lloyd, Belinda Nadwie, Tatiana Georgieva, Ashvin Harrison, Franko, Annette Spinks, Lisa Frances Judd and Naomi Crowther. Yes shipping from Australia requires some patience, but Australian dollar is currently low against the US dollar, so if you are looking to invest in some amazing art, don’t let the postage scare you.

Before heading home, I hit up my favorite shop in Sydney, Dux Collection. I picked up some lovely scents to fragrant my new home. If you happened to be in Sydney, you should pick some up as well. And make sure to say Hello to Arlene!

Until next time, safe travels!

London, England-December 2018

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Oliver and Rowan were heading to London to celebrate NYE. So I decided to crash, especially when I heard my fellow flower girl and the ring bearer were going to be there!

After 7 days of solitude I was excited to head to London to ring in the New Year with friends. And basically this sums up the trip. Laughs, food, drinks and more laughs.

When I was in Thailand, I blew up my Australian blow dryer. Which would had been ok, but it’s the one I use when I am traveling internationally. I actually panicked about what to do with my hair while in London. And then I discovered the most genius idea every! Mobile Hair Stylist! I mean I have a heard about “blow outs” but never did I know they would come to you! A quick google led me to Blow and I was in business. It was perfect, because I was able to wash my hair with my own products and then the stylist showed up and blew it dry. Totally recommend this service!

Traveling with foodies meant I just had to show up and be prepared to eat. They managed to book us tables at Marcus, and Celeste. I was too busy eating to photos for all the courses. But here is a bit of a preview.

New Year’s Eve found us ringing in style. With the fireworks, 1/2 the streets were closed, so it was a bit of adventure getting around town. But in the end, taking the Tube at 3am was just part of the adventure.

So lucky go have gotten to ring in the New Year with this crew. Looking forward to more adventures.

Stay tuned!