Rift Valley Sunrise

I am not a morning person. Not at all.

But at Samich Resort in Nyaru, a place I insist on going every time we’re in Kenya, I always wake up to watch the sunrise.

Mornings in Nyaru are beautiful. There’s something magical about 8,000 feet altitude. The air is clear and calm. The views are spectacular. You feel like you’re on top of the world. Literally and figuratively.

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A Winter Weekend in Savannah

Savannah, Georgia might seem like a random destination for a New Englander, but after a recent girls’ trip there, I am definitely a fan of this quiet, charming Southern city for a winter weekend getaway. Our original motivations for picking Savannah were that it was a good twenty to thirty degrees warmer than Boston and it was relatively inexpensive to get there. We stayed in the historic district, which was a lovely area, and found that there were plenty of things to do within walking distance of our hotel. Savannah reminded me a lot of Charleston, with its historic buildings and Spanish moss, but a smaller, calmer version of Charleston. Pictures and recommendations below!

Left: Forsyth Park and its famous fountain. We also enjoyed the Saturday morning farmers’ market there! Right: “City Market,” several blocks lined with shops and restaurants.

Rooftop river views at Top Deck

Southbound Brewing Company

Flounder and fried chicken (in seriously large portions) at the Olde Pink House Restaurant. The food was amazing and the historic mansion ambiance was pretty fantastic too.

All in all, not a bad destination for a girls’ weekend away!

[Away from] Home for the Holidays: Reflections on Christmases Spent Across Oceans

Some memories, in pictures and words, from Christmases spent in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France; Fez, Morocco; and Kisumu, Kenya. One month past Christmas isn’t too late for a Christmas post, is it? 🙂

As countless Christmas songs and Hallmark movies remind us, home is the place to be for the holidays. “For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home.” And yeah, you kind of can’t. Without baking Christmas cookies with my grandmother at her house, without hanging stockings over my parents’ fireplace, and without my mother’s Christmas Eve beef wellington feast or our annual Christmas morning family brunch after transforming the living room into a sea of wrapping paper, Christmas just doesn’t feel quite like Christmas. But we all grow up, and maybe we live overseas for a time, or we get married and have a whole new second family to split holiday time with. I’ve spent three out of the past nine Christmases far, far away from my home town. Something felt a little off about those three Christmases… and yet, not in a bad way, for they have remained my most memorable Christmases. There’s no place like home for the holidays, and there’s also no place like not home for the holidays.

Christmas 2009 in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France

There was a frosty train ride north from Paris. There was a buche de Noel cake, log shaped and hiding tiny treasures, and festive table settings made by my host family’s kids. Their grandmother cooked all day and we ate like kings, and the kids put their shoes out at night to be filled with candy and gifts by morning. We made a snowman and came inside and the grandmother made us the most amazing hot chocolate I have ever had. It tasted like a scrumptious Swiss chocolate bar melted straight into a cup of hot cream, and maybe that’s what it was. There was a walk through a grove of snow-decked pine trees to midnight mass at a tiny old stone church. And there were World War I monuments rising out of fields still pockmarked with the craters of century-old shells.

Christmas 2014 in Fez, Morocco

There were twinkling strings of lights on orange trees across the border in Ceuta, Spain. There was a university strike in Tetouan, doors barricaded and guarded by students, classes cancelled, and a sudden day off on December 25th. There was a bus ride through rolling mountains, through blue Chefchaouen, to Fez, where the air was icy cold but indoors it was toasty warm and we cooked pasta and exchanged gifts while Handel’s Messiah played in the background. There’s no Christmas in Morocco, but there was for the six or seven of us in that dar in the Fez Medina. There were roof terrace views, mountains in the distance, walks through winding medina paths dodging donkey carts and tea kettles and leather goods, and a cozy fire in the Ruined Garden Cafe.

Christmas 2017 in Kisumu, Kenya

There was a road trip from Eldoret to Kericho to Kisumu, big family piled into two cars, stopping for tea and mandazi and scenic overlooks along the way. Family outings are a common way of celebrating Christmas in Kenya. “Like the first Christmas,” my grandfather, a pastor, said. “Think about it. Everyone was on the road.” The national park was full to capacity, with lines stretching far out the gate, so we skipped it. We took a boat ride on Lake Victoria and ate whole grilled tilapia with ugali and sukumawiki on a hilltop overlooking the lake. It was eighty plus degrees and felt like July. On the drive home, everyone was out, happy people walking along the side of the road, kids in fancy new Christmas outfits, young men who’d done a little too much partying, and families like ours heading home. Everyone outside on the road under the moon on that warm, warm Christmas night.

Zurich, for a moment

A few photos taken during a quick visit to one of my favorite cities. Zurich, Switzerland: Always lovely, even on a drizzly, cold, wintry-mixing December day.

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The skies may be gray, but Zurich is somehow always postcard-perfect.
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I love wandering the narrow streets lined with shops and cafes. Zurich is the perfect walking city.
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This hotel with creative holiday decorations caught my eye…
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… as did this advertisement for the “McRaclette Bacon,” Micky D’s with some Swiss flare.

Till next time, Zurich!

(More Zurich photos and travel stories here.)

 

Getting to Know Nairobi, Little by Little

Nairobi.

Huge, sprawling, urban, fascinating, enticing, intimidating.

I’m at least 85% sure I’ll end up living here someday.

I don’t know much about Nairobi yet. But we’re getting acquainted, Nairobi and I, cautiously, little by little.

And I think I like it here.

A few things I’ve figured out so far:

  • There is a gigantic national park full of animals within the city. How cool is that?!
  • Malls are a popular hangout spot, whether for shopping or a movie or meeting up at a nice cafe for tea, dinner, or drinks. The suburban 90s kid in me is very much okay with this.
  • Traffic ranges from easy-peasy-breezy to mindblowingly horrific.

Here are a few snapshots from around Nairobi:

 

Nyayo Park, and a monument in the park

 

A display of gourds just inside the Nairobi National Museum. I definitely recommend this museum for a crash course on Kenyan history, from distant past through colonial era and independence to the present! There are botanical gardens and a snake park adjacent to the museum, and while I’m no fan of snakes, I did enjoy watching giant turtles stroll along.

 

We did some Christmas shopping and enjoyed black forest cake and dawa (hot water with lemon, ginger, and honey- AMAZING when you’re feeling under the weather after a long flight) at Java House in one mall, uber’d over to another mall to watch The Last Jedi, then met some friends for dinner at yet another mall before heading home after midnight.

Zebra Crossing

I know, I know, I JUST wrote about American stereotypes about Kenya and yes, I still want to post pictures of sights and scenes in Kenya that go beyond the safari brochure snapshots people automatically think of.

But here are two zebras along the side of a highway, near Nakuru. I just couldn’t resist. Because zebras are awesome and who doesn’t want to see more pictures of zebras? (Picture a bit blurry because I snapped it from a bus window.)

I once saw two tourists in Harvard Yard taking picture after picture of some squirrels and looking so excited and captivated by the little animals. I wondered what in the world was so interesting about a squirrel, a common ordinary squirrel that I see thirty of in a day. This is probably how the other passengers on the bus felt when they saw me taking pictures of those zebras.

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18 travel hacks to ensure you get off your next long-haul flight relaxed, refreshed, and looking like a babe!

Ok, I lied. Lies, lies, all of the lies.

I’ve seen so many articles with titles like this one, and I’ve tried most of their recommendations, and I’m here to break some news to you: They’re all bonkers. They’re full of it.

I’ve learned the trick of wearing leggings and a loose, comfy knit dress that looks cute and feels like pajamas, with comfy shoes that easily slip on and off.

I’ve learned to drink water like there’s no tomorrow and apply moisturizer and lip balm regularly. Sometimes I’ve even done those awesome hydrating sheet face masks on planes.

I’ve learned to get an aisle seat so I can stretch out my legs, and I’ve learned to walk up and down the aisles at least once every hour or two.

I’ve learned to pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, mascara and a small bottle of face wash in my carry-on to freshen up right after landing at my layover airport. I’ve learned to make layovers something fun and exciting to look forward to, whether that’s going into the city for some quick tourism, or getting a manicure at the airport spa and finding the best airport coffee shop.

And here’s the thing: These tips can help make the first part of my flight- from the states to Europe or the Middle East- really quite bearable. I always get excited boarding that first flight, like a little kid, checking out the movie and TV shows offered on my awesome little plane TV (woohoo!) and watching the plane inch along the route on that flight map and looking out the windows at the clouds that look like fields of puffy snow. I get off the plane in Zurich or Istanbul or Dubai or wherever, sleep-deprived but feeling hydrated and not too uncomfortable and looking relatively cute in that well-planned outfit. I freshen up in the airport bathroom and make the most of my layover.

And then.

And then.

I board my next flight, the 8 to 10 hour second leg of my trip, and I’ll tell you I have never EVER managed to emerge from that second flight feeling at all more alive than a zombie. Wait, no, zombies chase people and eat their brains. That requires energy. I don’t have that kind of energy after a long haul flight. I stumble out the plane door and down the stairs and into the bus and into the terminal and into the visa line, a shadow of my twenty-hours-earlier self. I do not feel comfortable, no matter what they promised me those leggings and those walks up and down the plane aisle and all that water and that face mask would do for me. I do not look cute. I look like death.

Those upbeat listicles promising to make economy feel like first class, promising to make stepping off a twenty-hour flight feel like like stepping off a two-hour flight, look, they have some helpful hints that are worth trying out, and they may be able to make your flight to Europe pleasant and comfortable. But if you’re flying to Asia or Africa? Just face it, you will get off that last flight uncomfortable and zombie-faced, there is no way around it, it’s just a thing you have to deal with and there’s no listicle on earth that can save you. Unless maybe you fly first class which let’s be real is not usually a feasible reality for us ninety-nine percent.

Here’s the plain, honest, no-BS truth:

Traveling the world is fun. But long-haul flights are terrible.