a year's worth of wanderlust II

This time of year always makes me reflect and one of the things that I'm most grateful for are the opportunities we've had to travel. We set out to live internationally for many reasons but traveling was/is priority numero uno. Looking back, I think we did a good job a sticking to our plan even though some days it feels easier to just veg out at home! Here are my fave moments, sights, and thoughts from our 2012 travel adventures....

Breaking away from Europe and landing in Marrakech. High hopes and expectations were met with a chaotic Medina with a character all its own.IMG_9915

Passed Berber Villages in the Atlas Mountains and seeing nothing but beautiful vistas. And snow. Who would have thought Africa had snow?!IMG_0120

Sipping on fresh mint tea while picking out our new/old Berber rug...the perfect souvenir!rug shopping

Our first LA visit together and indulging in three things: In N Out burgers, Mexican tacos, and fresh American donuts. This photo was from our morning binge session while doing loads of laundry next door.LA day _ weekend_3

Re-discovering the cool designs and colors found in LAgarage design, manhattan beach los angeles

Taking a quick break from LA to Anchorage, Alaska for a visit with Joe's parents. It was so awesome to be in the house he grew up in and see his childhood town.walking on a frozen pond

a day-trip to Oxford - LOVED it there. For you Hogwarts fanatics - their cafeteria is just off to the left.weekend_oxford_4

Stopping in Florence en route to Chianti. It's so true that the entire city is a museum.

enjoying an impromptu lunch overlooking vineyards near Greve Chianti. Hands down my fave meal of the trip...for sentimental reasons, mainly, because the other meals were aawweesooomme.italy_2

a "booze and chocolate tour" of Brussels with some sight-seeing on the side. A flea market was also involved - this one was one of the most legit I've been to.

brussels brussels

Leaving our love-lock in Paris as we wrapped up our time in London.paris

Our first trip after moving to KL: Penang. So colorful and vibrant.penang by Ana Maria Munoz

and with charming old character everywhere you look.penang by Ana Maria Munoz

Piggy-backing on one of Joe's business trips to Bangkok and exploring by boat.bangkok long boat

Visiting Singapore for the first time and wishing we had moved there instead since it was so clean, organized, and seemingly perfect. It was during a rough point in my new-home adjustment but now love and appreciate the imperfect and real character of KL.

singapore singapore 7

The beach holiday that ruined it for any other ones in the future. Con Dao, Vietnam was utter perfection. Honeymoon is done and done. Untitled

Going back to LA to give these little ones hugs and kisses and begin research on my new venture. Untitled

Making a long-weekend out of Joe's business trip to London. We'll take any amount of time there, no matter how long the flight. Plus, Joe needed to stock up on his favorite Whisky and you can pack more with two people + checked bags than you can with one ;) Image 1 Image 3

The unexpected layover in Abu Dhabi from London. I did my best to make the most of my 48 hours there despite major jet-lag (I was only one week back from LA!)Abu Dhabi

Getting to know and love the bits of Melbourne that give it it's reputation as a hub for good coffee shops and interesting street art.

grace cafe in fitzroy melbourne street art

Hanging out in Bondi Beach where I used to splash around as a toddler. Can't believe that we used to live just down the road. Part of me wonders what it would have been like to grow up there and be a little beach bunny...

bondi beach

... or just dance around The Opera House all the time...sydney opera house at night

...and with Australia, that brings us to a wrap!

But we won't be idle for too long. With the US, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa covered in one year (that is cray cray!) it's only fitting that we kick off 2013 with South America in February. Yep, I cannot wait to visit my parents in Colombia and say our "I Do's" with family, friends, and buñuelos!

I'm so thankful for this beautiful year....and to you guys for sharing it with me. I'll stop before I get all sappy but know that interacting with you via this blog, twitter, instagram, email is such a joy. And if you just joined me this year, you can catch up on where we went in 2011 by clicking here. Oh, the places we will go......

a year's worth of wanderlust

It's almost Easter and that means one thing: four day weekend! We're taking advantage of the time and jaunting off to Florence and Chianti to get to know my little obsession, Italia, a little better. I've been studying Italian using Rosetta Stone but since I've been a bit inconsistent with it, I'm just barely at the point where I can ask "where's the bathroom?", "how much?" and all of those other simple phrases that will hopefully be enough to get us by! During the past year's travels we've gotten by with our english, broken french, and my fluent Spanish. Joe speaks a little bit of Spanish but he learned it with the Castellano accent that turns every "s" into a "th" sound...it drove me crazy for a while but I've warmed up to it. I had to.

We've definitely accomplished what we moved here to do: travel. There are still so many places on our list but I'm beyond thankful to have been able to check off the ones below and leave with beautiful memories.

Here are some of my favorite moments, places, and thoughts from our European adventures...

shopping at my first European flea market (in Paris) and seeing a different type of vintage and market sceneparis flea

stumbling across the Louvre at night and having the square all to ourselveslouvre at night

walking along Pont Des Arts in Paris with my mom, oohing and awing at the romantic gestures and inscriptions of the love locks. we even witnessed a couple throwing their key into Le Siene followed with a passionate embrace and kiss. must go back there with Joe!pont des arts

cheering on team Atletico with Joe's college buddies in Madrid. we sat in a section called "Vomitorio"..."vomit" is spelled "vomito" in Spanish so it felt a little icky at first. the funny thing was that not even the locals could explain the name.club atletico futbol

finally understanding Joe's love for simple Spanish meals. I could eat like this every day now.spanish snacks

searching for the vista point for the Toledo bridge but instead happening upon our own little corner. we somehow managed to avoid the crowds and feel as if the entire town was ours that day.the famous toledo bridge

walking up to the awesomeness of the ancient aqueduct in Segovia (no mortar!) and then geeking out over the decorative walls and doors all over the place segovia aquaductsegovia patterns

witnessing a modern marvel being built, aka La Sagrada Familia, in Barcelonasagrada familia

and being even more impressed/amazed by what's insidesagrada familia

watching my mom enjoy "the best paella of my life!" while I cooled down with a chilled beercerveca y paella

watching the sunrise and looking for seashells on the beach with my mom in Barcelonabarcelona beach

our first week-long European holiday in Sicily. we stayed in the countryside, Ragusa...it was heaven as you can telllounging poolside at relais parco cavalonga in ragusa, sicily

but we did take a dip in the Mediterranean! this was a total locals' spot that we came across while looking for a place to eat lunch in Syracuse. i'll never forget the views from the water looking back at the city.swimming dock, syracuse

having coffee in front of Check Point Charlie in Berlin and learning about Joe's uncle who was stationed there during the Cold War. finding the perfect German pub/restaurant, Sophien 11, with my friend Caitlin. the bar tender fell in love with her and gave her free beer mugs as souvenirs.

checkpoint charlie sophien 11

seeing Christmas come to life in Brugge, Belgium. i felt like i was in the original Disneyland the entire time. what a beautifully preserved medieval place.so festive at night

giving into a guided canal tour in Brugge and going under stone bridges from the 14th century. i mean seriously? taking it all in (love the step peaks of the buildings to my right)

finding moments to look around and capture the details in Marrakech amidst the craziness of the Medinamarrakech

visiting a Berber market in the Atlas Mountains. this was the parking lot...it was pretty muddy but i loved it. atlas mountains

sipping on sweet mint tea and drooling over too many rugs in Marrakech. i wanted so badly to go through the piles myself and pick which ones I wanted to see. unfortunately that's not how it works. it's a full on presentation and very ceremonial but i was happy to oblige. we left very happy with our new magic carpet in tow. rug shopping

We've left every place very happy, it's hard not to. I can't wait to see what we come across in Italia this weekend and where our magic carpet takes us next!

{show & tell} souvenirs from marrakech + giveaway!

marrakech souvenirs marrakech souvenirs marrakech souvenirs marrakech souvenirs marrakech souvenirs marrakech souvenirs marrakech souvenirs marrakech souvenirs marrakech souvenirs marrakech souvenirs

I've been thinking of what to pack for our visit to LA and I'm pretty sure I've forgotten how to dress for 60/70 degree weather - it's going to feel like summertime to me but just how much??? I do know, however, that I'll be taking a few souvenirs from Morocco for family and friends. Weeks after our trip to Marrakech, I still find myself totally inspired by the city's colors, patterns, and textures. Thankfully we brought back a few things to keep the design love going and boy am I enjoying them.

It's hard to pick a favorite but if I base it on what I use the most, the leather slippers are it.  After seeing tons of traditional pointy-toe or heel-less styles, these caught my attention with their modern silhouette and ultra bright colors. On closer inspection, you can see the handmade details in the contrast stitching and pen outlines on the sole. It's details like these that reeeaaaaally make my heart sing.

We did find a rug after all and I cannot wait to get it cleaned, roll it out, and enjoy it - such a tease having it just sit there. It's a vintage Berber rug and we spent a good amount of time choosing it while sitting amongst hundreds of colorful woven beauties and drinking sweet mint tea. I totally envision styling it something like this in our future house...it's a lifetime souvenir for sure.

Two other exciting finds were a solid brass antique camel with the coolest designs ever and a hand-carved aluminum mirror that now helps keep the feng shui flowing in my office/guest room/closet. Apparently your back should never face the door but you can correct it with a mirror. I think it's a nice complement to the diy wall display, too.

And those rad leather tassels? Those were a gift from the rug merchant and now I will give one of them to you! Put it on your purse, car rearview mirror, door handle, use as a (very large) key chain, or even jazz up a curtain tie with it - there are so many ways you can have fun with it.

If you'd like a shot at winning the tassel simply comment below with your favorite souvenir of all time; truck stop convenience store finds totally count too. I'll pick a winner at random next Thursday and ship it to you asap!

Yay free stuff!



it snows in morocco

first view point - we eventually made it to those snowy mountains!view from a berber home berber family home tea break with a berber family host berber village near the atlas mountains village atlas mountains berber market parking lot berber market in asni spices at a berber market taking in a great view of the snow covered atlas mountains berber village in the atlas mountains berber village in the atlas mountains berber village in the atlas mountains berber village in the atlas mountains coca cola and mint tea yes, it's a moroccan restaurant roadside lunch - the best! learning about the argan oil process argan nuts breaking down the argan nuts to make oil

Maybe I'm bad at geography but before taking a day trip to the Atlas Mountains I never would have guessed that Morocco, or anywhere in Africa for that matter, received snow. The entire day was a big pleasant surprise, really.

Our awesome guide, Noureddine, picked us up from our riad and off we went leaving the crazy streets of the Medina behind us. An hour or so later we entered the first valley and got our first glimpse into the varying color and texture of the mountains - they literally change every 100 yards. Because of this, each Berber village has its own distinct look since they use whatever soil and materials are on their mountain side to build their homes. Isn't it amazing how entire villages blend into the natural curves of the land?

Mid-route were offered sweet mint tea and light snacks at a Berber home that had one of the most serene views I have ever seen. We then dropped our host off at a market in another village and (thankfully) our guides decided that it would be a good idea to join him. I was thrilled! Never mind that the markets are only male (the men do the shopping in these towns) or that it was a total mud fest due to recent rains - this was the REAL deal. I'm talking makeshift tents, tables, and weighing scales that looked as ancient as the culture. It was awesome.

After the market we drove higher up into the mountains, saw our first winter snow (woo!), and  then stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe. The other car we were with went on to a restaurant in a more commercial area but this was definitely more our style. Of course it helped to have Noureddine with us to ensure that the food was properly cooked and such. We then headed back to Marrakech but not before stopping at an argan oil cosmetics cooperative store. We bought a few things and even learned a bit about how the oil is extracted from the argan nut. Let me tell ya, it is hard work!

I left the cooperative feeling super satisfied and inspired as it was the perfect end to a very real day. I learned that it's one thing look at Berber rugs in the souks of the Medina and it's another to get out of town and see where and how Berbers live. I'm so thankful to our airport driver, Hakim, for suggesting we do it and to our guide/driver Nourredine whose expert knowledge and love of the area made the day such a special experience.

color, patterns, and textures - oh my!

marrakech marrakechmarrakech marrakech marrakech marrakech marrakech marrakech marrakech marrakech marrakech marrakech marrakech marrakech marrakechmarrakech marrakechmarrakech

When you're not busy dodging motorcycles and donkeys there are plenty of design details to catch your attention in Marrakech's Medina. I was fascinated by the intricate carvings on both wood and stone, the pretty pastels of the buildings, the bright bold colors in the souks, and the rough and smooth texture pairings on the walls. I peeked into a few craftsman workshops near our riad to see how they use stencils to carve the repeating designs - what a work of art!

Any design details or colors catch your eye?

marrakech roundup!


"A mix of tradition and modern life" was how our Atlas Mountains guide, Noureddine described Marrakech. We were instantly welcome by the more modern side at the airport with some of the most beautiful geometric beams and windows I have ever seen. We met our driver, Hakim, and made the twenty minute drive into the Old City, or the Medina, where our riad was located. Before entering the Medina's thick and soothing pastel pink wall, Hakim pointed out the "New City" next door where we could find modern restaurants and high end stores like Gucci. We playfully informed him that we didn't come here to shop at Gucci and dine on fancy food. He nodded in approval and went on to tell us about day excursions out to the Atlas Mountains where the Berber villages are. Hakim is Berber so he was quick, yet still respectful, to say that the Medina is touristy and we would do well to get out of the city to see the real Morocco.

With that bit of information in our back pocket we entered the wall of the Medina and were greeted by the Koutoubia Mosque - Morocco's Eiffel Tower. It was stunning and the fact that it's seven centuries old makes it a world wonder. Moving past the mosque we were in local trade streets, no tourists in sight but lots of motorcyclists and donkeys carrying heavy loads behind them. My first reaction was "yes, i love this!" but then it quickly turned to a "wtf?" when we arrived at our final destination. Paved roads had ceased three turns prior, the corner was littered with trash (no dumpsters I guess?) and there was a dog laying in a pile of torn up styrofoam looking totally dead. A group of neighborhood boys were playing a game of football (soccer) next to it and didn't seem to think anything was wrong. Hakim didn't seemed phased either so we carried on and met our riad host, Sadiq. He was ALL smiles and the most welcoming. The exterior of the riad didn't look like much (it's next to a cement brick maker) but as soon as we walked inside it was like being in a completely different world. It was gorgeous and peaceful and had a great balance of traditional and modern style. I later learned that traditional riads (mansions with open central courtyards or gardens) were designed with very few exterior windows and embellishments to keep with the modesty and privacy of the Muslim culture. Our room was so simple and beautiful that I had completely forgotten about the dead dog by that point.

After settling in we decided to venture out and see if we could make our way to the main square, Jemma el Fnaa, with the directions Sadiq had given us. It was Friday so the streets and shops were very quiet and the grey skies above made everything feel a bit moody. We zigzagged through the landmarks that Sadiq said would indicate that we were on the right path and eventually found ourselves in the middle of the infamous souks. Before traveling I had read about their notorious aggressiveness and I was determined to not let them (the souks) get the best of me. I quickly realized that it was going to be a problem. I wanted to stop at every shop and browse through all of the colorful, brassy, leathery treasures and intricate textiles. I've never wanted to shop more than I did there but I simultaneously had never felt more uncomfortable doing so. The first time I looked at something and then decided to pass, the guy looked at me like I had killed his mother. The rest of the time when we chose to ignore the sales calls (literally coming from every single vendor at the same time "look at my shop!" "looking is free!") we'd get disgruntled comments as soon as they realized that we weren't stopping. Finally we decided to give a shop a chance because I wanted to try some leather slippers on. I learned a BIG lesson here, people - I tried them on and asked for my size BEFORE asking what the price was. Ultimately, the seller didn't want to bring the price down to what I was willing to pay (you're supposed to haggle, which I hate) so I said "okay, no thank you" Immediately after I gave my (polite) decline he shooed us away with his hands and yelled "get out of my shop! poor people, get out!" and then he began to spit at us! My heart was pounding and Joe and I looked at each other like, "seriously?!? are we getting spat at right now?!?"  Needless to say, all of those combined incidents left us feeling less than lovey towards "the way of the souks".

I was really bothered by the day's experience all night and realized that yes, that one guy was a total dick but also, I had approached the entire afternoon with a guard because of what I had read online. I was receiving the energy that I was giving off. So, for the rest of the trip I made the conscious decision to have a more positive (and open) attitude, to get comfortable saying "no thank you" with a smile, and to let whatever nasty things were said just roll off my back. I wasn't going to let them (or myself) ruin experiencing a city/country that I've always dreamt about.

The next day we took Hakim's advice and booked a day-trip to the Atlas Mountains through our riad. I'll share more about it later but it was exactly what we needed to cool down from the previous day. It was beeeuuutttiffffuulll. We saw parts of Morocco that we never would have imagined existed (Joe kept thinking we were in the Colorado Rockies) and spent hours learning about local cultures and landscapes from our awesome guide, Noureddine.

We returned to the riad that afternoon with a new found sense of appreciation and energy to take on the Medina once again. Night time in the square was a totally new experience - restaurants pop up out of nowhere and performers rally crowds that were nonexistent just a few hours before. Again, we felt the aggressiveness of the area as pitchmen approached us every several steps to convince us to dine with them. Other cultures and cities have this but it's at another level here - like, they will walk with you for two minutes saying anything they can to convince you. Joe got called "skinny" and I got "harry potter" haha. Eventually we let one guy convince us to sit down and we had a GREAT meal and thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance. It was a much better day/night than the first.

Sunday, our last day, was gorgeously sunny and with bright blue skies above, everything below it looked much more enchanting. I think the people who fall in love with Marrakech in an instant visit in the summer time - it truly does feel like a different place when it's not gloomy and cold. We only had a few hours before our flight so instead of trying to cram in a palace or museum visit we opted to give shopping another go. I'm glad we did because we experienced much more pleasant vendors who didn't curse us if we politely declined and by that time, we had mastered not getting run over by motorcycles and donkeys when walking in the narrow walkways, or what they call streets. I was fully enjoying myself and everything around me - I felt like me again, the me that likes that sort of crazy, foreign, adventure and says "I love this!" at the site of a donkey. Perhaps it was my conscious attitude shift or everyone really is more friendly on a warm and busy Sunday morning. Either way, I'm so happy that I finally came around to enjoying Marrakech. Despite it's faults it's a very interesting and inspiring place to visit. Oh, and that dog wasn't dead after all...that's just the way dogs do it in Marrakech. They must be conditioned to the laying dead-style (and hardly breathing?) due to the desert heat. Poor things.

And because I didn't write enough ;) ... here are a few tips for having a rosy experience while not forgetting to take off your rainbow colored glasses...

• expect to be asked for payment if you take a photo of a craftsman at work, folk costume personality, or performer without asking. even if you ask, they will ask for payment first.

• shop keepers in the souks will expect to be haggled with on the price so start by asking about a larger object to get an idea of their price range and then go for the smaller item you really want.

• do not accept any offers to help get you somewhere if you are lost. there are plenty of kids and young men who will casually offer to show you something like "leather market, only today" or help if you are lost. they WILL demand payment afterwards. we were approached a lot but we knew better having read horror stories. ff you need directions, go into a store where someone can't simply leave their post to "guide" you there.

• it seemed like locals do not like to have their photograph taken so be mindful of where/how you point you camera in the instance that they may be in your shot.

• forget about "standing and soaking it all in" while in the square - some performer or shop person will approach you before you get a moment to yourself. kudos if you manage it!

marrakech bound + {brilliant beats} tune yards

la alhambra[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHxx0J8lmJA?rel=0&w=480&h=25]

Tune Yards - Riot Riot

Joe took this photo during a past trip to La Alhambra in Spain but I'm hoping to see something like it this weekend when we visit Marrakech (!!!!!). I'm still pinching myself at the thought of it. Morocco has been a dream destination for as long as I can remember so when we booked the flights and riad I felt like doing this all over again. Can you believe that it's only 3.5 hours away on a direct flight from London? Absolutely insane.

Have any of you been to Marrakech or heard of any good tips for visiting, dining, and shopping? One thing I know for sure is that I'm going to be on the hunt for rugs like this or with patterns and textures like this. What would be on your shopping list? Lanterns, textiles, spices, maybe even a charmed snake?