Seychelles-February 2020

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I once read an article about giant tortoises. They only exists in 2 archipelagos, the Galapagos and Seychelles. Neither location are easy to get to. When I was researching beach locations from South Africa, I found a direct flight from Johannesburg to Mahe. Finally, I get to see the tortoises.

I am not sure what my problem was but as soon as I arrived, I was ready to leave. Immigration was a bit interesting. I know I should not complain as visitors to US have to deal with worse. With the time change and the long flight, was night by the time I arrived at the hotel. It was nice but I was just not feeling it.

I did get out and toured the island. It’s quite mountainous. And they ran out of land on the main island of Mahe, so they created land to expand.

It was beautiful and I am sure there were much more to see and do then limited things that I saw. I just was not feeling it. And that’s ok, I had to go to learn that it was not for me. It will alway hold a special place for me, as it was officially the 60th country I visisted.

Until next time…..

Cape Town, South Africa February 2020

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After an unexpected train delay, I finally arrived in Cape Town a day late. Since this was not my first time visiting, I was not worried as I done all the major tourist sites before. I was not expecting it to have changed so much. I am bit sad, as I was not feeling so great so I ended wasting some of my short time just sitting in my hotel room.

Funny how the first time I visited Cape Town, I was afraid to walk around, so different this time. My hotel was in Bo-Kaap area, known for it’s colorful homes. In 1834 when slavery was abolished, the freed slaves were able to purchase these homes and painted their homes in colorful palettes to represent the their freedom.

I had signed up for a food tour with Cape Town Culinary Tours. They were kind enough to let me know join the next day. It was really nice tour and the guide was quite engaging. I was able to sample food I would not have been game enough to try on my own.

I stayed at the Hilton Cape Town, that had clearly been renovated since my previous visit. There was a now an Art South Africa gallery in the lobby. What is with me shopping in hotel lobbies? Anyway, I kept getting drawn in by all the beautiful art. I could not resist and ended up purchasing the bronze piece, without thinking about my luggage situation. I am glad I did not resist, I met the lovely Barbara and her partner Florian. Her love of art and for the artists she works with was a gift in today’s world. I just wish I had more walls!

I really enjoyed my time in Cape Town, so much, that I wished I had stayed longer. I hope to return one day soon. There was so much more to discover.

Given the flight from Australia is easier then from Chicago, I hope one day is sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned, next stop my 60th country!

Rovos Rail, South Africa, February 2020

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Sometimes when I “pretending” to work, I am really looking at travel blogs and dreaming about trips I want to take. One day I booked flights to South Africa, without plans as to what I was going to do while I was there. As much as I love safari, I was not about to do one alone again. Somehow I came across the Rovos Rail and well….

I booked 3 day trip from Pretoria down to Cape Town on the Rovos Rail. It worked out as this was the first train that worked with my flights.

I spent one night in Johannesburg before heading to train depot in Pretoria. I actually took the Guatrain. It was fairly simple and I would recommend it, if it’s option. It helped I was traveling with hand luggage only.

I had received a message a few days before departure that due to track issues, we were requested to show up early for the train. We were welcomed into a lounge area. There was a train museum that provide some insight into the history of the train and a random alpaca.

We then boarded and it was soon time to leave.

The train encourages socialization so they ask that we not use electronics in the public space. So originally I respected and did not bring my phone and take photos of the meals. I ate my first lunch alone. I appeared to be the only solo travelers, but the crew was amazing, so I did not feel alone. Luckily at dinner, 2 lovely ladies from Sweden, invited me to join them.

The food… where to begin. Wow. I never had a bad bite and they were very accommodating to food allergies. The wine and liquor pairs were amazing. Honestly I had no complaints.

On the 2nd night, it was fancy dress

The train did not run as planned, there were signal issues, flooded tracks, no power, dead locomotive, etc. But in the end I still really enjoyed it. Yes I was bit disappointed to miss Kimberly, but now I have another reason to go back and do it again! We ended up spending an additional night on the train. Which was no hardship, with the food and liquor following. I would 100% recommend the train. It was great to unplug and relax, and literally just watch the world go by.

Stay tuned next stop Cape Town!

Australia Day, Sydney January 2020

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The American’s celebrate July 4th as our national holiday, Australian’s celebrate January 26th as their national holiday. The date is in commemoration of the arrival of the British and eleven boats of convicts. I am not going to get into the politics but if you want to read more about the history Australia Day check out this website.

With it being a long weekend, I popped down to Sydney to hangout with Katherine and Evander. I used points for us to stay the amazing Park Hyatt. It was the perfect location for the Australia Day weekend.

There was a whole lot going on.. here are some videos.

Tug boat ballet, they kiss!

But by far, the best part of the whole weekend, was seeing the Opera House lite up.

Sometimes is the simple unplanned weekends that urn out to be best. I am so thankful I took advantage of the opportunity to spend time with friends. Who knew just 2 months later we would not be allowed. Hopeful one day soon this shall pass. Until next time, stay safe

Fiji- December 2019

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Back in January, I went to Fiji for a few days as I had a hole in my travels and it seemed like a good idea. Turned out it was the best idea ever, as Chicago was getting hit was a blizzard and I was enjoying blue skies!

I returned to the same place I stayed in January, Marriott Momi Bay, mainly because it there was just something so relaxing about it. Whoever designed this resort, really did a good job. With it being New Year’s the hotel was quite full. I still managed to avoid people! I arrived 2 days after a cyclone had passed thru, aside from a little wind, you would have never known. I still managed to have a perfectly lazy relaxing time.

The hotel put on a super show for New Year’s Eve. I was super lazy so I watched them from my room. Best place in my opinion

I should probably stop saying how wondering this place is, as soon it will be “discovered” and overrun with tourists. But I am not worried, the resort if really designed well and for those looking to escape crowds, it works, for those looking for a little social, it’s available. It’s really something for everyone. Plus Fiji Airways, just got an amazing new A350 that is worth checking out!

I’ve already booked my next trip! Can’t wait til return. Until next time time, Sota Tale!

London, December 2019

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After a quick trip to Australia and New Zealand, next stop London. Only Flo would head home from New Zealand, via London. It was an opportunity to catch up with a few friends, so it was easy enough decision.

There were a lot of laughs, good food and liquor..what more could I ask for?

Katy flew down from Edinburgh. It’s been a while since we had an Adventure of Katy and Flo story. We met a lovely American couple, Jennifer and Terry, in the lounge, who loved hearing about our antics! I forgot how nice it is to meet new people!

We caught up with Madison and her family for lunch! Hopefully Christmas Tea can be an annual thing. (hint hint Madison).

Kate and Francesca took the train down from Manchester. We had a gorgeous lunch at Hide

And then we headed off to only what could be described as my hell…. Winter Wonderland. Francesca loved it, but man…..the things we do for love.

It was one of those weekends, you just need every now and then to maintain your sanity and remember how to laugh.

Heading home was a bit of a shit show, I left my jacket at the hotel. I went the wrong terminal at Heathrow and then to add to it, I got the dreaded SSSS on my ticket. I got home safely, just cold and annoyed.

So stay tuned ………..

Christchurch, New Zealand November 2019

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The most I ever knew of Christchurch was that it had serious of events that made me spectual to visit. Funny comment, considering I go to London all the time……

Interesting fact, Christchurch has thousands of earthquakes on a yearly basis. But only a few hundred are actually felt and normally do not cause much damage. Back in 2010 and 2011, they has a series of earthquakes that leveled several areas. I had clearly not done my research before traveling over.

If you have been to Canterbury in the UK, you may think you are there when you arrive in Christchurch. It’s quite the qaint town, more like a village feel. Even with the new building being constructed it still has that small town vibe.

My lovely friend, Jane, played tour guide around Christchurch and local area. It was great to see the town with a local, you get a much better feeling of the area. We went to the beach but the winds were so crazy, we did not even get out of the car. We checked out Sumner and Lyttelton, places I probably never would have found on my own. Fun fact, New Zealand has more sheep then people. I maybe need to spend some more time there.

The next day I joined I headed down to the coastal town of Akaroa. It’s has a French /British history, that almost makes you wonder just in the world were you are. Luckily I was in town, when there was NO cruise ship, so it was not too crowded. If you are planning on visiting, not via cruise, I would suggest checking the cruise ship schedule.

The absolute highlight of the area was the The Giant House and Garden. The mosaic garden was just breathtaking. So much so I had to facetime everyone and anyone that would answer so I could share experience with them. Pictures just do not do it justice.

I underestimated how much time I would need to spend in the area. SO I guess I’ll just need to plan another trip. Who’s coming with me?

Until next time stay tuned……..

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.

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…