This year I decided that I wanted to travel more domestically so I planned a west coast road trip starting in Las Vegas with my mom since she recently retired and had a lot of time on her hands. When I told my friend CY of my road trip plans she invited herself along and I obliged. In Las Vegas CY offered to hang out in the evenings after my mom went to bed but obviously she's never seen the maternal unit at a casino in front of a winning 5 cent slot machine because that woman can put us all to shame. I usually alternate between Blackjack and the 5 cent Sex and the City slot machine, just call me a high roller! I did luck out on our first evening there pocketing $500 in winnings off of the slots! After the shenanigans in Vegas we rented a Mustang convertible and hit the open road. First stop was for a photo op of the temporary art exhibit Seven Magic Mountains right outside of Las Vegas which will only be around for another five months or so. It's really just a bunch of colorful rocks stacked on top of each other but to see something so colorful against the desert backdrop is really something.
After the pitstop we made our way to the Grand Canyon and took a slight detour to drive the famous Route 66 from Kingsman, AZ to Seligman, AZ. Driving the open road taught me several important lessons 1) always have at least a half of tank of gas in the car because you don’t know when you’ll pass the next gas station 2) eat when you can because you don’t know when you’ll pass another place that you can grab a bite to eat 3) cellphone service is spotty at best and shouldn’t be depended on for navigation. Despite these lessons we made it to the Grand Canyon safely and soaked in some awe inspiring views. As the itinerary only allotted one day in the Grand Canyon (rookie mistake), we work up before dawn to catch the sunrise in the park #goals.
We left the Grand Canyon and then made our way to Page, AZ to visit Lower Antelope Canyon. Though we had to wait a bit outside in the heat before making our way to the canyon the wait was totally worth it. I hadn’t see such sandstone formations before in my life and the vibrant orange hues were otherworldly and all of the pictures you see on the internet don't do it justice. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to actually visit this year.
Instead of spending the evening in Page,AZ or flying straight back to New York we drove another 3 hours to Sedona, AZ to spend a couple of days there for some R&R. As we made our way towards Sedona there was a very interesting mountain road with switchbacks that looked like someone’s intestines when viewed on Google Maps. Had I known the road to Sedona would be so treacherous I may have reconsidered but I really wanted to stay at the Kimpton Amara Resort and Spa as I’m a huge fan of Kimpton properties and generally plan my domestic trips around where they have properties. Needless to say, I’m thrilled about their international expansion. Our stay there was fantastic and I would go back solely for their specialty margaritas.
Copenhagen totally exceeded all of my expectations and is one of a handful of cities that I would love to visit again sooner rather than later. For a more detailed account of my trip check out my blog post about my visit here and here. And since this is such a short post here are some more pics from that trip. If you want to see more of my photos be sure to follow me on Instagram.
Professional development is important, regardless of what industry one works in, which is why I attended the New York Times Travel Show here in New York City back in January. I learned so much during the one day industry conference that when I learned of the Travel Leaders Network International Conference in Orlando I immediately signed up.
While Orlando isn’t a place that was at the top of my list to return to, I went because I knew the learning and networking opportunities would be worth it. For three days, I attended various sessions on travel related topics from industry insiders and suppliers. One fun perk on this trip is that the conference attendees had free private access to Universal Studios one evening. We had the chance to go on all the rides without any lines and when we tired of that we could stop at one of the free food or drink stations.
Part two of my year in review series takes us to my unforgettable birthday trip to South Africa.
After my safari to Tanzania last year I was determined to go on another safari to celebrate my 40th birthday this year. In my mind it only made sense since I already had the clothing and equipment necessary for a safari. The first leg of our trip was in Johannesburg and we stayed at the lovely at the African Pride Melrose Arch hotel. The hotel did not disappoint and the location in the Melrose Arch district could not be beat as we were within walking distance to many shops and restaurants. In JoBerg we visited all of the highlights including emotional visits to Constitution Hill, the Apartheid Museum and Soweto. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to Robbin Island as the weather did not cooperate. After a couple of days in JoBerg we drove to Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge for a four day safari. Although I originally had my mind set on doing a safari in the greater Kruger area (Sabi Sands, Timbavati and Thornybush) I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay at the 5-star Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge which was top notch all the way including the accommodations, food, service and safari guides. They were even able to accommodate vegetarian options for each meal which I greatly appreciated.
One difference between this safari and my previous one is that we stayed at one lodge and we had two game drives a day instead of being out almost all day which made for a more relaxing pace . On top of that Madikwe Game Reserve is much smaller than Kruger and the Serengeti so we had great up close viewing of the animals. During our game drives we were lucky to have several sightings of rare African wild dogs. One of the sightings even included them taking down a bush buck and eating it for breakfast! Another highlight of the trip, albeit much less gruesome, was seeing a pride of female lions and their five cubs during an evening drive. Unfortunately, as things in the bush can be unpredictable, our jeep got stuck and we ended up a little too close to the pride for my comfort as night was falling. Because I had watched Mygrations on NatGeo I didn’t panic because according to that reality show all we had to do was light a fire to keep the predators at bay. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that and another jeep arrived to take us away from the danger zone. Saying I had several glasses of wine that evening is an understatement. Other adventures while on the safari include being warned of the presence of scorpions and actually seeing one while at dinner (it didn’t look anything like what I thought a scorpion would look like) and hearing about a black mamba sighting, the world’s deadliest snake, by a couple that was on safari with us.
After surviving four days in the bush we flew to Cape Town for a change of pace and no wildlife threats.In Cape Town we visited the colorful Bo-Kaap and the beautiful and thriving Victoria & Alfred. We also organized a private tour went to Seal Island to see a colony of seals and then made our way to Boulders Beach to see penguins and made a must visit stop to the very windy Cape of Good Hope. On our last full day in Cape Town we did a wine tour of the amazingly beautiful Stellenbosh and capped off the trip with a delicious lunch at the Delaire Graffee Estate.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba. My grandfather is Cuban and he always told us stories about Cuba when growing up. He also told us crazy stories about his time as a Merchant Marine but that’s a story for another blog post.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time visiting Cuba and it was an experience like no other. In many ways it was like stepping back in time to a bygone era. However, that’s not to say that the trip was without its challenges. For one, despite the many non-American tourists that have been visiting Cuba for years, the tourism infrastructure isn’t as built up as it is in other tourist destinations. So one has to rely on “collectivo” taxis to get from one place to another in Havana and they can be pricey and hard to come by. Additionally, traveling from a place where one has 24/7 access to the internet to a place with limited internet access also posed a lot of challenges. Unfortunately, I missed a few events that I planned to attend due to not planning thoroughly enough considering the lack of internet. Overall though the trip was very enriching and I was fortunate to meet some friendly locals whom I shared delicious meals and interesting conversations with.
Lastly, if I’m keeping it real here are a few other highlights/lowlights of my trip:
The country left such a great impression on me that I would love to go back. Unfortunately, given the recent policy changes I'm not sure if I will be able to make that a reality any time soon.