Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pura Vida!

Please note these pictures were all taken from friends, as my camera was stolen while in Costa Rica.
Emily gets speeding ticket in Costa Rica


Market in Quepos


Bride and Groom!



Walking through the National park, we found this thirsty guy

At the reception 

Black Volcanic Sand, Player Hermosa

Our house for the week!

These little guys woke us up each morning.


Storm rolling in, driving to Jaco









I’ve been to Costa Rica twice, I’ll throw in some highlights from the first time with my friend Michael, but focus on this last go at it. As most of you know, I spent Thanksgiving week of 08’ in Costa Rica for a friend's wedding (Brie and Rob).  We had a great time while there but the trip home is definitely worth mentioning. With one missed flight we ended up visiting 3 countries, 4 airports and drove through 7 states in 48 hours - all on about 8-10 hours of sleep.

Part of the reason there were so many countries, states and hours involved was due to a much failed attempt to save $450.00. It was $450.00 cheaper to fly out of DC than RDU with a route of USA, El Salvador, Costa Rica vs. USA to Costa Rica. The DC folks convince us this is the way to go. We should have known we were in for a full week of adventure when an hour before we leave (very early in the am) Kristin realizes her wallet is gone. It must be at the bar we were at the night before. But that does us no good at 5 am heading to the airport (you’ll be happy to know they had her wallet and she got it upon returning to the country).

We had an amazing week. The girls rented a newly built teak house that slept 13 or so of us. http://www.mimoshotel.com/ owned and operated the house. About 10 minutes down the road was the Jungle Villa, http://www.junglevilla.com/ aka the boy’s house, with the bride and groom to be and their families about in the middle between the two.

Our days were filled with excursions, laying on black volcanic beach sand, wandering through the jungle/ rain forest, exploring, watching local soccer games, shopping the open markets, people watching and being amazed about the simple way of life.

Highlights:

1.      Set on the edge of Manuel Antonio's hillside with a great view of the ocean and surrounding forests, this restaurant is actually housed under some permanent tents and the starboard wing of a retired army transport plane, hence the name El AviĆ³n, which means "The Plane." This specific plane was actually shot down by the Sandinista army, leading to a scandal that uncovered illegal CIA supply missions to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. http://www.costaverde.com/avion01.htm
5.      Horse Tours: http://www.horseridecostarica.com/
6.      Palm Tree Forest


We decided to go out with a bang - dancing to a live band in Manuel Antonio, http://www.manuelantoniocostarica.com/cr/default.asp where were staying... ending up staying out a big too late. We had to go to bamboo jams, I mean the live music is only on Tues/ Friday and we missed the Tuesday band.

The next day, Amanda, Kristin and I set out for San Jose in the rental car.  Our morning alarm was set on my phone. Set for 7:30. I hear the alarm at 7:30 am, and make an executive decision to reset to 8:30. I get up, get showered only to find my alarm on the phone is set to eastern time, not central... so it was actually only 7:30 (no wonder I was so tired when the first alarm went off, it was only 6:30... and we went to bed at 2:ooish). Since we had all this extra time, we decided to stop in Hermosa, http://www.govisitcostarica.com/region/city.asp?cID=17 which is a big surfing community/ beach outside Jaco. This beach is a black sandy beach due to the volcanoes. We collectively decided we should stop and eat some eggs, hope to see some of the huge surfing competition that was going on (we did not however) and get one last look at the beauty of it all.

Next since Amanda and Kristin had never been to Jaco, I drive them thru the town... rather cute town I must say. I then tell them we MUST stop and see the crocodile bridge in Tarcoles, right outside Jaco. So we did. There were about 20 HUGE crocs lounging in the sun. Since we had been sipping on fresh fruity drinks all week, we decided we needed one last pineapple/ mango and rum frozen drink. And guess what? Right after crossing the croc bridge, we saw a bar. We stopped. This is when the "departure saga" began....

As we danced and sang and took photos all of a sudden, Costa Rican police step out into the road and we were pulled over. They got my NC license and passport and informed us we were going 103 km. Having never seen a speed limit sign while we were there, we didn't know what the hell this meant.  What it meant was we got a ticket. This also meant 20-25 min banter with 4 cops who could not speak our language or us theirs. We did get that we were speeding, 103 in a 60-80K (who knows how fast that is anyway?), we were probably getting a ticket, that were supposed to pay at a bank, but it was Saturday so banks were closed, which meant paying at the car rental place with a 30% mark up.  The cops chat us up asking where we ate, how we liked Costa Rica
and if it had been our first visit despite us telling them we were running late for our flight. One cop even had the audacity to answer a telephone call mid convo with me. He walked away from the car for about 2 min and didn’t come back. I got out of the car and had to lay the law down "I realize we were speeding, but that is a done deal. We need to go to the next step. I am sorry for doing it, but had no idea how fast I was going, since this country is in Kilomoters... and there are NO speed limit signs, or none that I can read, again, sorry... but what are we going to do about this? If you need to write me a ticket, fine write it, but we GOTZ to go, we got a flight to catch!" FINALLY, they wrote the ticket ($102 that we had to split 3 ways, awesome) and we were on our way. Please note nothing was said about the fruity drinks we each had in our hand...  Once arriving at the airport we find some of our crew and tell them about the ticket. They laugh as they told us they had been pulled over as well, but 5 min and $40.00 later, they were on their way. Geezus.

The flight to El Salvador was uneventful but we failed to take note of what accurate time our flight from there to DC was.   We stayed with the bride and groom the night before leaving for CR so Amanda’s car and all of our stuff was in DC at their house. This would be no big deal, were we all on the same flight back, like we were going down, but we are not. Kristin, Amanda and I are now 3 peas in a pod. Well, 16:15 = 4:15 and we failed to see the 1 in front of the 6...
 
Thinking we had a 3 hour layover, we went to the end of the airport to a restaurant that was playing the Devil Wears Prada. We asked that they turn the volume up so we can have a snack and watch the movie. In hindsight, this is likely why we didn't hear the airline paging us over the intercom just before our flight left us. However those nice people did take our luggage off the plane. We mozy on back only to find we had been left.  Let’s keep in mind we are not in a very large airport. 10 gates, at most.

Customer service spoke very little English and it took an hour or two to figure out our options:
 1) Stay in El Salvador until 4:45 the next day and fly to DC then, this also meant venturing out from the 15 gate airport, since they did not stay open all night. The next sign of civilization was 28k away, the nice people suggested we not do Option 1, as three American girls with their luggage should not go into town alone at dark, with no idea where they would stay (hey, at least they are honest)
2) Get on standby for a flight to DC later that evening, which was overbooked and had only 1 seat left and well, that is not an option really. Did they really think we were going to split up?
3) Fly to NYC and figure out our way back to DC from there. 

Since we decided 3 girls spending the night in El Salvador alone seemed daunting and unsafe we chose option 3 because we were sticking together.  We figure that we could stay with one of the guys, Jeff, who was at the wedding because he lives in NYC and his flight was coming in just after ours. Or, we know tons of people who live up there who would likely put us up. We got bumped to first class and were excited to be able to go out in NYC later that night. “What an added bonus, we’ll get to go out a night in NYC” Ha, yeah right… that proves the state of delirium. A) We’ve been in Costa Rica during their summer, its November in NYC so we likely do not have the appropriate clothes! B) We’ve been awake for what seems like days now on close to zero sleep C) We’ve still got to figure out how to get from NYC to DC  and its probably best we do that with as clear of minds as possible.

Well, we got to JFK and didn't see Jeff's flight on the screens. Insert slight anxiety (we’ve called all our friends and all are out of town or unreachable). Apparently the airline goes by two different names, shew. We were told that the only flight coming in from San Jose that night had been delayed 3 hours, arriving at 4:30 AM. We then called everyone we knew in NYC - no luck. So, we sat.  Just FYI, if you are ever in JFK at 4 am, you can get some lovely chicken noodle soup from Terminal C. Knowing sweet Jeff is our only escape from JFK, we refused to get a hotel room for a mere 5-6 hours of sleep that we would be using this room for, we called and called him. Before departing San Salvador we were told by Dave, cheek's phone was almost dead... this put us in a tid bit of a panic. But we called and called anyway. Not surprisingly, his voicemail box was full and could not accept voicemail at the time. Then we moved to the good ol' text messages  2:19am text---"Hey we missed our flight to dc. We had to fly to NYC. We want to stay the night at your house, but just saw ur flight is delayed til 4 30! Its only 2 30 now. We’re trying to figure out how to get home from NYC. Help us. We are at terminal 4 behind a large partition when you walk out of customs, come find us! Oh by the way, this is Emily, Amanda and Kristin"...please note: 2 of the 3 girls had just met Mr. cheek for the first time in Costa Rica. However, we were all new bff's. haha. 3:37am text--- "so flights are expensive. So we plan to nap at your house, for a few hours then rent a car and drive to dc, and yes, we are still at JFK waiting for you". 4:44 am: Em's phone rings. We all scream (who cares about the 5 people sleeping around us). This must be Cheek we say! IT IS. I answer the phone "HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII Jeff, please tell me u are at JFK!" all I hear is laughter bursting thru the phone. Jeff as much in a state of delirium as we, all he can do it laugh. "Yes, I’m here. Stay put, I will be there in a min" Em: "can we" Jeff: "yes Em, yall can stay at my house, don't move". We gather our belongings. Run up and hug and kiss Jeff, it was something like you would hope to see in a romantic comedy! We def got some stares.

At 4:37 am, Jeff's plane arrived. We went to his house (getting a tour of Brooklyn along the way, lady liberty is rather beautiful amidst the almost sunrise) and crashed, sleeping from around 6 am to 11 am.  We decided to rent a car; it was cheaper than all other options and wouldn't take that long (or so we thought).  After waking up in Brooklyn we took our time, went and got brunch then got on our way around 2 pm. When we hit the NJ Turnpike we realized that it was THE WEEKEND AFTER THANKSGIVING, the most traveled day of the year. Awesome.  We pick up our car at Budget about 5 blocks over from Times Square, so hey, at least we saw Brooklyn, down town and mid town and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge before what would become known as a BIG MISTAKE, the drive. The 3.5 hour trip to DC took 7.5 hours. For about 4-5 hours, there was maybe 1 exit every 15 miles and every exit had a gas station with 5 or so restaurants.  Each of these exits had at least 300 cars so there was no stopping for a looooonnnnng time.  

Upon arriving to DC we discover that the key to get into Brie and Robs to get the car keys was not where we left it. Long story short, it had been taken inside because we were supposed to have a key with us. So, no matter when we got to DC, we would have had to wait for the newlywed's to arrive at midnight on Sunday to get in.  We returned the rental car Regan, the 4th airport of the day(s) and were picked up by Rob and Brie. We pack the car and set to leave and, you guessed it, the battery was dead. Got a jump and got on I-95. About 5 minutes into this portion of the trip we realized that the Honda radios require a code to reboot after the battery dies. Amanda did not have this code. So, our trip was finished up with the 3 of us cruising down I-95 listening to our Ipods...Got home right around 4:30 am. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nashville, Tennesseeee

As soon as it was announced that the UNC Tarheels would be playing the UT Vols for the bowl game on January 30th, we (Brooke, Teague, Maggie, Jeff, Holly and I) decided we would pile in a car and drive to Nashville for New Year’s.   When it comes to these two teams, I am Switzerland.  I went to Peace College, an all girls’ school here in Raleigh.  Since Maggie was the only Orange fan in the bunch going, I figured I’d support the Vols along with Maggs. On the 29th, we packed our Orange and Blue and hit the road.  It's a rather lengthy drive and we didn’t HAVE to be in Nashville for the game until the 30th, so we stopped in Knoxville and crashed at Brooke’s sister's apartment.  We woke up well slept and ready to go.

the big game


Orange in a sea of Blue
 Here is how the weekend went down: We navigated downtown Nashville and found our Hotel…. The hotel lobby was swarming with fans from both teams, but mostly orange was present.   After getting settled and refreshed, we head to a house party then hit Broadway to check out pre-game festivities. Right before game time, we start our hike across the bridge.  Even if you are not a huge sports fan it was a rather beautiful sight with the sun setting behind LP Stadium and reflecting off the Cumberland River with thousands of people flocking to watch “their” team go head to head with another.  Maggie and I (head to toe in Orange) are sitting right in the thick of the UNC section because her friend from UNC got us tickets.  My friend’s dad who works at UT got Brooke, Teague and Holly seats, so of course they are in the UT section, with their UNC blue.  Jeff is in some proper Club Level seat not to be seen again until after the game at the bar.  The game was, well… pretty awesome. Check it out for yourself. http://scores.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=303642633
walking over the river from downtown Nashville to the Stadium

Maggie, not pleased with the outcome of the game, races out of the stadium to go be with her other furious UT friends.  The rest of us go with the UNC peeps back to the bars where we find Jeff and many other friends from home.  At some point I get a phone call from my friend MK.  She tells me she is in town and gives me the address of where she is staying and tells me to bring it.  Me being me walk out and call Rayid- telling friends after I leave to diffuse any talk of trying to get me to stay. Rayid is our cabby for the weekend.  He’s great.   I give Rayid the address and we are off.  And off.  And off.  Many minutes later we arrive at this massive compound.  Then I see it, the sign: WELCOME TO OPRYLAND.  WTF, how did I get to Opryland and why is MK here?  I call her and she gives me the room #.   Still confused, I thank Rayid and tell him to have a swell night.  I walk into the Opryland.  It’s totally overwhelming.  I’d never seen anything like it.   I am all alone, not a person in sight, rather intoxicated and yes, still confused.   I make my way to the counter and ask the man to please tell me how to get to the room #.   He begins giving directions (yes pure directions to get to a hotel room—that’s how big this place is).  About 10 seconds in, I explain I’ve never been to this place and it would be most helpful if he could please just walk me to the room.  He laughs and agrees.  We leave the “foyer” and proceed. The foyer leads into an area that made me feel like I was in Alice’s Wonderland.  The ceilings are at least 50ft.  There are hundreds of white strands of Christmas lights hanging from said ceilings, a lazy river, gondolas, tiki huts, a bar, lavish garden and trees, an arched (several) bridge, and what seems to be a new version of “elevator music” playing.  We walk through this area and Mr. Front Desk gives me a little history on the compound.  There are 2,881 rooms, 200 suites, and 750 garden rooms- and they are all booked. The complex is 600,000 (more when you add in the outdoor activities) sq ft with four restaurants, 5 lounges, golf course, pool, Hertz rental car, several large lobbies, garden conservatory and several performing theaters.  Oh yes.  Finally, about 7 min later I make it to MK’s room.  They are in the same alcohol induced delirium as I. Come to find out MK is here b/c the UT Football team is staying her and her dad who works for UT Athletics got her the room.  It’s the wee hours by now, but since I have never been to Opryland, we make a drink and take a walk (and get lost).  2 hours later we come back and sleep.  I wake up ready to get out of here. MK asks me to go down and get her car from Valet and she’ll meet me down there.  Recall those 2,881 rooms, 200 suites and 750 garden rooms that were all booked?  All those nice people are now trying to check out of the hotel as I am desperately wishing I was the Double Tree downtown. People are talking (which makes for a loud lobby), luggage is everywhere, kids are screaming and running around with hardly any supervision, and there are just lines of cars outside.  If I had to guess who was less pleased with what was going on around us than me, I'd have to say the workerbee's of Opryland! I ask someone how long the wait is for the valet line.  My mouth drops open as I am told 2.5 hours (and they will not give you the keys for you to walk and get the car b/c it’s “against policy”).  This must be a joke, I think to myself.   I call MK and tell her to not even worry about coming down that I will need to figure something else out, b/c there was simply no way that I would be there for another 3 hours.   Just not possible.  Then I recall my new BFF, Rayid. I dial his # and to my surprise he answers “AMILY!”  That sweet man comes to get me.  He’s there in 20 min.  He laughs, shakes his head and says, “Miss Amily, didn’t you have that on the last time I saw you!?!”  I reply honestly. “Yes Rayid, I did and next time I give you an address and it’s Opryland, please advise me not to go!!”.

Emily's post-Opryland cold compress
 I finally make it back to my inner circle and try to explain what had occurred the past 7 hours of my life. They were having trouble getting a visual so as I lay with my cold compress, I ask that they please just look it up on the world wide web.  Hysteria bellows through the room, take one look and you will understand… I was not exaggerating.  http://www.gaylordhotels.com/gaylord-opryland/ 
Side note: Teague thought it was just hilarious when weeks later she gets a family coupon via Groupon for Opryland and thinks we should use it. Since I know the grounds so well now. We don’t.
Broadway on New Year's Eve
Whew…it’s just now the 31st, New Years Eve.  How will we do it again?!  Food and water help insure we will make it.  We walk around, grab a bite on Broadway, take another rest and start the process.   After washing away the night before, we head to Roberts all dolled up and listen to Maggie’s Honky Tonk Crush.  We have a party to attend, but not for several hours.  It is here where we meet our new Harley Biker friends.  It’s very close quarters in there. It's NYE and one of Nashville’s most famed Honky Tonks, so Robert's is packed.  At first our group is a little unsure of theirs and it's pretty safe to say the same about them.  But just two short drinks later, we are all singing Happy Birthday and having a photo shoot.  Around 9:30 pm we say our buh-bye’s and head to our ticketed party, a 90’s cover band to ring in the New Year.  After the party, everyone but Mister Cheek (Jeff) and I go home.  He finds out a friend from NYC is in town and staying with another friend literally 1 block from our hotel.  We figure it was worth the walk, and oh it was.  Best late night party of the year.  Top shelf liquor, amazing apartment, great people, and unreal dance party.  Jeff and I decide at an undisclosed hour that it is time to head back to the hotel.  We walk in “quietly” and wake everyone up.  Then we all close our eyes until a more appropriate hour.  Welcome to 2011, we rise up and have an amazing breakfast at http://www.puckettsgrocery.com/

Enjoying the great music at Robert's


our new friend Karen from the "Fast Company"
After lunch, we hit the road, it was going to be a long drive.  We decided we’d stop “along the way” at our friend Evan’s mountain house.  We were told it was “right outside of Asheville,” only to find out 5 hours into the trip that we are headed to Grandfather Mountain, which is a solid 8.5 hour drive from Nashville.  Just to be clear, Raleigh/Chapel Hill to Nashville is an 8 hour drive that we broke up into 4 hour increments by stopping in Knoxville (which is ACTUALLY on the way).  So, we have driven 8.5 hours to Grandfather Mountain while feeling less than chipper after our big two nights in Nashville.  We arrive at Evan’s house at 10pm.  10 PM, folks.  Spending the first day of January in Emily’s Yukon was not exactly what we had in mind…  Needless to say, we hung out for a bit before calling it a night and hit the road as soon as we were up in the morning.  Another 4 hours later, we were home in the Triangle.  Aren’t spontaneous road trips fun, ya’ll? 


some of our crew on Broadway before the game!



If you’re planning a weekend in Nashville, be sure to check out all parts not just downtown! This city has a lot of awesome things to do, don't be afraid to leave the touristy downtown and get out and really explore Nashville. East Nashville & 12 South are places not to miss, however we do not recommend taking 30 min cab rides to Opryland in the middle of the night!

MUSIC/ DRINK










EAT














SEE



































rawlee














We might as well tell you some cool stuff about where we live (well, I live here, and its basically Brooke's second home).

Little background of Raleigh, NC:
1771- Wake Co was created
1788- Raleigh was named the State Capital .... previously it was New Bern, NC (my home town). The Capitol was moved to Raleigh to centralize it.
1792- Raleigh was officially "established"

The City's location ( g'ment stuff) was chosen because of a local tavern called Issac Hunters. Members of the commission were fond of a little pub called Isaac Hunter’s Tavern (located in the vicinity of where Old Wake Forest Road is today), and tasked with resolving this controversial issue, the commissioners gathered at Isaac Hunter's in March of 1792 to work. Ten days later after enjoying the hospitality of the tavern and the nearby home of State Senator Joel Lane, they reported back to the legislature their decision that the new capital should definitely be within ten miles of Isaac Hunter's Tavern. Based on this information, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a resolution that an "unalterable seat of government" should be established within ten miles of Isaac Hunter's tavern! Conveniently, Joel Lane had some land that fit the bill and was just four miles from the tavern! The state purchased 1,000 acres of Lane's plantation for £1,378 to serve as the site for the new capital, and the city of Raleigh was laid out in 1792 here on Joel Lane's former farm well within ten miles of Isaac Hunter's Tavern.

Isaac Hunter's Tavern was apparently extremely popular with the legislators of the time. No city or town existed on or near the site before it was chosen to house the capital. Raleigh is one of the few cities in the U.S. planned and built specifically to serve as a state capital.

( Thanks Flicker)

There is now a bar called Issac Hunters, Oak City Tavern on Fayetteville Street.

Raleigh is the second largest city in NC. We have a little of 400,000 people choosing to live here. Its the 43rd largest city in the US of A. Due to all the Oak trees, we are dubbed the "City of Oaks".



Now on to the fun stuff.... Some of my favs.



Things to check out:
North Carolina Museum of Art (proud member!)-http://www.ncartmuseum.org/
CAM (new Modern Art museum)-http://camraleigh.org/
Raleigh Greenway-
Lake Johnson-
NSCU Football / Basketball:http://www.gopack.com/
RBC Center Events and Sports:http://www.rbccenter.com/

YUM YUM: In no particular order!
Best Bagel in town:
18 Seaboard- (ask about cooking with the chef)http://www.18seaboard.com/jason.html
Sitti- Must drink this: Ksara ‘Reserve Du Couvent’ Cabernet, Syrah & Carignan blend 2006  http://www.sitti-raleigh.com/
Sushi Blues-
Pooles- Best mac n' cheese around! http://www.poolesdowntowndiner.com/
Porch Rockin'- My friend Liza Zaytoun is awesome and she makes awesome sammys. If you are ever here on a Saturday, you should probably have her make you one. http://www.facebook.com/pages/PorchRockin/109622112445703 or http://www.porchrockin.com/

Shop:
Raleigh Wine Shop-http://www.theraleighwineshop.com/ One of the owners and friend of a friend just wrote this awesome book: http://www.vinoburger.com/

Spirits:
The Raleigh Times-see above

So there ya have it, my favs of Raleighwood


-Emily Ballard

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Croatia: Modern Paradise with Ancient Charm

Map of Croatia courtesy of worldtravels.com
I have to be honest, I hadn't thought much about visiting Croatia before I had the luxury of traveling there in 2006 with a group of girlfriends.  When I knew I would be sailing up the coast of Croatia, I began doing a little research, and found that tourism in Croatia was booming.  After years of conflict ended in the mid nineties, Croatia had slowly regained its footing as one of the hot spots for European travelers. 

Despite majoring in European History in college, I remembered only a little about this mysterious country. I knew that in 1991, a war broke out between the Serbs and the Croats when Croatia declared its independence from socialist Yugoslavia.  The Serbs wanted to keep the nation one unified state, and for several years, the Serbs and Croats fought over Croatia's independence.  After the conflict died down around 1995, it took the next decade for Croatia to regain its reputation as a beautiful (and safe) place for tourists.  Besides my shallow knowledge of the conflict in the nineties, I knew very little about Croatia's robust and complex history.  To read more about its history, check out this entry on Croatia from Wikipedia. 

Brief history lesson aside, the Dalmatian Coast is one of the most spectacular places I've ever visited.  We started our voyage in the southern most point of Croatia, Dubrovnik.  This breathtaking port city is called the "pearl of the Adriatic," and for good reason.  Boasting countless pristine beaches, more than 20 amazing museums, a gaggle of breathtaking churches, and art, music, and culture galore; it really is a mecca of sorts for the avid explorer.

Dubrovnik: The "Pearl of the Adriatic" (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
We spent two nights and three days exploring Dubrovnik, and it was hardly enough time to see all of the beauty that this city has to offer.  You could spend hours at a time exploring the Old City, and another several days sampling all of the delicious seafood, checking out the amazing art, and learning about this city's tumultuous history.  Next on our journey was the island of Korcula.  I like to think of it as a miniature version of Dubrovnik.  This glittering island is only a few hours by boat from Dubrovnik (you can easily get there via several ferry options found here

Korcula courtesy of Wikipedia

Originally founded by Trojan  hero Antenor in the 12th century BC, there are still remants of Roman and Greek influence that are woven into the culture and architechture in Korcula.  Around 1000 BC, Illyrians invaded Korcula, and Illyrian caves, fortresses, and stone masonry, are still intact on the island today.

Next on our journey was Hvar.  This is the Croatian hotspot that attracts the world's flashiest super yachts, bringing travelers to sample the nightlife in Hvar.  This little gem was one of our favorite stops in Croatia. Our favorite spot was Carpe Diem (visit here) which is located right on the waterfront and was constantly buzzing with some of the world's most beautiful people. We spent two nights bar hopping in Hvar--ran into several friends and acquaintances from the US--and I would definitely put Hvar on a must do list if I were planning another trip to Croatia. 

After Hvar came Brac and Split.  Split was another favorite spot, and we spent several days engrossed in this gorgeous city.  Split is the second largest city on the Damaltian coast, and much like Dubrovnik, has countless museums, churches, galleries, and several large sporting arenas.  We were in Split while Croatia was playing in the World Cup (in Frankfurt, that year) and we watched several World Cup games with locals at gorgeous outdoor cafes in picturesque courtyards. 
We spent time watching the world cup in outdoor cafes in Split
Little historical tidbit: Diocletian's palace is located in Split--built in the 4th century BC, and Split was settled by Greeks, then Romans, then after the fall of the Roman Empire in 426 AD, was later settled by the Slavs. There were some absolutely amazing Greek and Roman ruins in and around Split.  A short 30 minute drive from Split is Trogir, the best-preserved Roman-Gothic complex not only in the Adriatic, but in all of Central Europe.  Trogir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the most amazing untouched ancient cities in the world.

The walled in city of Trogir

The Coliseum
Aerial view of Trogir (courtesy of omisonline.com)
Split and Trogir concluded our 10 day sail, which means I have another Croatian adventure or two in my future...

-Brooke Gleason

NOLA










To follow up with Brooke's latest blog on Jazz Fest, I felt necessary to share my favs of the beloved city. My friend Riley and her husband have lived there for about 3 years now, so I am able to share some of the "local" jewels this city has to offer along with other sights, bars, activities that make New Orleans thrive.

The first time I took it upon myself to visit Riley and Jonathan, they lived about 15 min outside the City, so we got a hotel room near the French Quater. This being my first trip down since college, they decided to show me the Bourbon Street side of New Orleans, which I welcomed. We hit all the main bars on Bourbon and surrounding Streets.... Bourbon Street Blues, Yo' Momma'shttp://www.yomamasbarandgrill.com/ ( if you love burgers and gumbo this is your spot), Lafittes' Blacksmith Bar (the entire bar is lit by candle light only. Oh, there is also a male with long dark curls banging on the piano which is why some call it a piano bar) https://www.lafittesblacksmithshop.com/Homepage.html

With each place I travel, I like to try and fit in at least one educational activity. This trip, we opted for the Audubon Zoo http://www.auduboninstitute.org/visit/zoo and an alligator tour. The Zoo was awesome, however it would have been a lot more tolerable for us and the animals had it not been about 100 degrees outside. Though we saw many photographs and pictures of the animals, they were not coming out to say hello and waller in the heat, not even to appease us and the other hundreds that were walking around hoping to get a peak at something. We did see: Mr. Gorilla, some Pink Flamingos, monkeys, Sea Lions, Black Bears, Camels or Lamas can't recall either way, they were enjoying bath time. Next time I hope to see the Jaguars, White Tigers, White Alligators, Zebras and Lions. The name of the Alligator tour escapes me but after a little research here is one that will due...http://www.cajunprideswamptours.com/

With my latest visit, Jonathan and Riley knew the ropes a little better and lived right in the thick of town! Of course if you have not been to New Orleans you must check out the infamous French Quarter/ Bourbon Street- its just what you do. However, if you have been that route, and want something a little different, here are a couple other areas that I loved.

Frenchman Street: Jonathan told me it was the "Bourbon Street for locales". The street is lined with live music blasting out of nearly every single one. DBA and Snug Harbor ( known for Jazz) are great ones. http://frenchmenst.com/


Dive Bars: Jake's. You must have an experienced driver to get you here. It took us several drives around the block in a neighborhood before we finally saw the Christmas Tree lights and knew we had arrived. http://www.yelp.com/biz/snake-and-jakes-christmas-club-lounge-new-orleans

Throwing in my education bit for the weekend, we spent 2 hours (not nearly long enough, but I had a flight to catch) wandering around, reading, taking pictures, having moments of slience and walking around in ahhhh around the http://www.nationalww2museum.org/

We still had a meal at Yo Momma's b/c its just delicious. We also had several other amazing meals.
1. K. Pauls: Its ok to go a little touristy! We did and loved it. Try the shrimp po-boy! http://www.kpauls.com/kpaul .
2. Dante's Kitchen: Don't let the wait scare you! Have a drink, walk around the neighborhood, whatever you do, WAIT!. By far, best brunch of my life ( ok that is a little extreme, but def top 5). Its off the beaten path, so unless you know its there ( you can thank travel. explore.share later) you would miss this best kept secret of NOLA. http://danteskitchen.com/
3. Bayona: This is where you can go to splurge one night. The entrance is tucked aways down a side walk/ alley and hard to find, unless you know where you are going. The cocktails are delightful and the menu so well written you literally want to order one of everything. http://www.bayona.com/

-Emily Ballard