Inspired by…Thoughts on Turning 30 & Paris Celebrations

It’s been exactly 13 days since I turned 30. As they say, I feel like things keep getting better and better with age, just like a fine wine (I love this reference!). Throughout my 20s, I learned and accomplished many things in various realms – education, travel, life lessons, goals, etc. Now that I’m 30, I can look back and really say that I have done a lot. Of course, it has never been always easy and constant smooth sailing, but I have soaked in and savored the complete roller coaster ride of emotion, direction,  and adventure during this past decade of immense discovery of life and self.

Heavenly morning sunrise view from my apartment…bringing new hope to a new day

During the course of my 20s (because, you know, if you think about it, that’s 10 years!), I grew to appreciate my likes/dislikes, my personality, my strengths/flaws, and what I actually want in life. It really is crazy how fast time goes by, each year passing faster than the last. My not-so-baby brother turned 21, my sister’s daughter, my niece, celebrated her first birthday, and I am embarking on the second half of my second full year since establishing myself in France. Goals have been and still are being set, reached and accomplished in due time, and my everlasting patience is proving to be a powerful tool in different aspects.

Street Art by Tristan Eaton in Little Italy, NYC. Love the inspiring Audrey Hepburn!

This year alone, I brought in the New Year in New York City, traveled to Paris on multiple occasions, visited my family in England, stepped foot in Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Venice for the first time, and discovered France’s Basque country this summer located in the southwest, getting to explore the small towns of Espelette (famous for its pepper) and San Sebastian, Spain, which lies just across the French border. Most recently, I visited the beautiful city of Dijon, famous not only for mustard but also for its beautiful architecture and, my personal favorite, wine.

Delicious banana pudding, cupcakes and coffee from Magnolia Bakery, NYC

Because I would be starting a new decade of life, I wanted to celebrate accordingly, so I planned it all out and spent the past month enjoying my last days being 29 and the beginning days of the new 30.

At the end of October, my boyfriend and I started the month-long shabang in Paris during a long weekend, broken up into three different parts. First, we went out and about with my boyfriend’s brother, who lives in the city of romance, walking around the swanky non-touristy shopping district, ending up going to a celeb-exclusive art exposition (I made eye contact with award-winning French actor, Omar Sy!), and then having dinner and drinks at a little bistro turned lounge bar to finish off the night. Let me not forget to mention that just as we were finishing up our drinks and about to turn in for the evening, my boyfriend made a sudden hand gesture while talking, which, in turn knocked his glass of beer over and onto my lap. This was the one time I had only brought one pair of jeans and needless to say, an emergency shopping session was in order the following day. Things happen – what can I say?

Sunshine galore in Paris!

Table right in front of the main window for a perfect view

The following day we had a rendez-vous for lunch on a Bateau Mouche, a popular river cruise for tourists and curious Frenchies alike, along the Seine river in the center of Paris. Our package included lunch but you can book just take for the tour itself. The day was full of sun with warm, above-normal temperatures, excellent views all around us, from Notre Dame to the diverse bridges and ending with the grand Eiffel Tower – even getting to see Paris’ very own Statue of Liberty grace herself on the riverfront with the Tower becoming the backdrop as the boat past by. (I had no idea a duplicate existed! Did you?)  Simply manifique! But! Before any of this magical boat ride happened, we were literally running (I, in high-heel wedges) to make the boat on time. Let me just recommend to always bring an extra pair of flats with you just in case of a rushing like mad moment like I experienced – your feet will thank you later, especially if you have to stand for three hours at a concert that very same evening.

Lady Liberty herself in the heart of Paris

Two iconic monuments in the same place…Paris!

Which brings me to the grande finale of my pre-birthday weekend in Paris: Red Hot Chili Peppers concert! It was probably one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. We had floor tickets which was the perfect place to watch the group’s amazingly innovative light show to go along with each of their songs. There were hundreds of cylinder-shaped lights attached to a thin metal cord hooked to the ceiling that could change color, beat, and movement, all customized to have a different effect with every song – along with a colorful backdrop of flowing images on the visual screens. I was impressed, indeed. My only critiques don’t go to the show itself, but to my poor feet that were hurting after standing for over 3 hours (plus from the pounding torture of running in wedges on cobblestone streets just a few hours prior) and that I was jumped on by a younger guy who tried starting a mash pit with his buddies during one song – super inappropriate! But it was stopped very quickly by my boyfriend and another guy that was standing next to me.

Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, Bercy Arena, Paris

Close-up of the light and visual effects…loved the ambiance they brought

I never expect any gifts for my birthday, but this year I was pleasantly surprised by what my friends got me: cards and pictures of my niece from my family, a gift card to my favorite home accessory store, a French copy of Eat, Pray, Love from one of my students, and a bottle of red wine from the winery Chateau Simone, located in the Provence region of France. I am truly thankful and blessed for all of these kind thoughts and gestures, and ready to conquer this fresh, new decade of life!

Eat Pray Love…Mange Prie Aime…amazing book and a must read

I’d love to hear from you! What was your best birthday celebration ever or a favorite birthday moment? Have you brought in a new decade in a fun and/or unique way?

***Stay tuned for my next post and how I spent my Thanksgiving with friends across the pond…a la française!

Go.Get.Inspired!

Go Get Inspired by…Quote: “I know, I know for sure…that life if beautiful around the world…I know, I know it’s you…you say hello and then I say I do.” ~All Around the World by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Disclaimer: ALL pictures are taken by myself and are not to be reproduced without my knowledge and permission.

Inspired by…Venturing to New Lands

Have you ever noticed and wondered why the people you know who travel always come back from recent adventures with a different sort of air around them? As if they’ve brought a piece of something back with them, something new, no matter where they’ve gone – near or far? This is exactly what traveling does to you. Not sure what I’m talking about? Well, to make it easy, I’ve created a list a reasons why you should travel and how to bring something extraordinary back with you that no one can ever take away. This post is geared to students who are debating whether or not they should study abroad, for those who have never traveled abroad, those who are thinking of new horizons to visit, and those who are seasoned travelers and can relate their own stories to this post.

I urge you to travel.  Imagine going somewhere foreign, unknown, that you’re curious about and want to experience. We all have somewhere in mind. Maybe it’s just a neighboring country, the opposite side of the country you live in, or clear across to the other side of the world. It doesn’t matter where you go, but go. And when you come back, I am positive you will be able to share stories in all realms of the list you’re about to read. There’s no time like the present to start something new!

1.) Having the Opportunity to Live & Study in a Foreign Country: No matter where or how far you go, whichever country you choose is always an enriching and unforgettable experience you will have with you for the rest of your life. Deep thought, right? Well, it’s the truth. I chose to study in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a couple of reasons: I wanted to go somewhere in South America to study Spanish, and I had the reassurance from my favorite and inspiring Spanish professor to go to Buenos Aires. I went in July and returned in November, and since Argentina is located south of the equator, the seasons are opposite to what I’m usually used to. July is the middle of winter in South America and it took a little bit of getting used to seeing that I had left behind 90 degree temps at home. I celebrated my birthday for the first time with hot weather in November, the beginning of summer for the country. I wouldn’t have any regrets with my choice of country, except wishing that the time didn’t pass by so fast and that I stayed longer than I did. 

El Floralis Generica  (The Generic Flower), Plaza Naciones Unidas, Recoleta, Argentina

If learning another language isn’t your thing, no worries! You can still study abroad in one of a number of English-speaking countries, from the UK (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) to Australia and New Zealand, or the United States northern neighbor, Canada. There are also other countries in Europe and Africa that speak English as well. So, no excuses if you don’t want to learn another language. You will still encounter cultural differences in language, vocabulary, dialect, and mannerisms.

Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Garden of Westminster Abbey, Westminster station, London Eye London, England

2.) Food! Food! Food! A major way to understand and learn about another culture is through its food. Every city has its own specialty worth trying. From my own travels, I’ve concluded where I enjoy each meal: I prefer having breakfast in France, brunch in the United States, lunch in France, tea time in England, appetizers in Spain, and dinner in Italy.

Why these choices? And why France twice? Well, breakfast in France because they have the best pastries, like pain au chocolat and croissants, or simply getting a fresh out of the oven and still warm baguette, eaten with either tea or coffee and sometimes a piece of fruit. But an important thing about meals in France is that you take your time. Sure, the morning rush does happen, but there is still a moment after first waking up, where having a nice hot bowl (yes bowl) of tea or hot chocolate really helps you embrace and get prepared to conquer a new day. I know you can find a similar morning routine in other countries, but for some reason, I really appreciate the way the French do it.

 

Perfect combo to begin or end a busy day!

In my eyes, no country does brunch better than the United States. The mix of sweet and savory between 11am-2pm is just magical, my mouth is watering just writing about it. The last time I visited my family in the US was last Christmas. We went out to brunch at a new restaurant that served a warm and gooey brie cheese with a buttery mixture of apples, raisins, pecans, cinnamon, brown sugar on the side, served with toasted slices of baguette bread – it was a party in my mouth and I was in heaven!

 

Going back to France for lunch, we are given between 1-2 hours for the midday break to eat, do sports, sit and meditate on the beach (my case on sunny days) – basically we’re given the time to step away from our busy workday to enjoy a moment to have a good meal, talk to friends and colleagues and to unwind and de-stress a little before finishing the second half of our day. 

Of course, the British are the champions of all that is tea time. Whether it’s having a “cuppa” during an afternoon break at work or going all out at a cafe or fancy hotel complete with a tiered tray of crustless sandwiches and delectable desserts like scones and fruit tarts, topped off with a nice glass of champagne, with a couple of raspberries floating in the bubbles if your lucky.

Homemade English tea treats for Christmas – Essex, England

 

Moving on to Happy Hour menus, the best appetizers my taste buds have ever tried were tapas in Spain. This past summer, a group of us took a day trip to the coastal northwest of Spain in San Sebastian, the mission being to eat tapas. It is such an interesting concept to eat at the bar standing up, ordering each morsel you want at a time, selecting from an array of ingredients – fresh seafood to veggies and cheese to the famous Spanish omelette. Wash it all down with a classic Spanish white wine, throw your napkins and toothpicks on the floor for good measure and following tradition, all for an excellent price. Can’t get any better than that!

Tapas galore in San Sebastien, Spain

Can you tell I love food? Finally, I’ve chosen having dinner in Italy for its family-style servings. You order everything you want off the menu and the waiters bring each dish strategically one after the next, or at the same time, to enjoy together with the rest of your party. I love trying new foods, so this is the perfect combination for me, having time to share and discover new ingredients with your table that you maybe don’t usually order or would eat.

Whether the food was to your liking or not, you will always have those memories and photos with you to reminisce on and maybe even plan another trip back.

3.) Get Inspired Outside of your Comfort Zone: Why? Because it is a necessary and important experience everyone needs to have at least once in their lifetime. Being in a new place equals going out to explore and discover new things – things that you might not have ever imagined, perhaps they make you feel a tad uncomfortable, but that’s okay! Don’t be scared, I’m referring to non-life threatening situations. The feeling of being uncomfortable means to see something or try something for the first time.

For example, in my previous post Inspired by…Bikes and Wines I had ridden a bike before and had previously gone wine-tasting, but I had never done both at the same time until visiting Mendoza, Argentina. I had no idea what to expect and had a million of questions running through my mind, like “Where there be a marked path?” “How long will it take to get from one winery to another?””Will the tours be in English or Spanish?”, and the list goes on. It was all unknown to me, but I accepted it  and reminded myself that it was all part of the new adventure.

When planning a trip to Venice this past February, I read a lot of travel reviews and blogs encouraging new travelers to the city to get lost within the city walls. This was the first time I heard of this sort of advice – go get lost – but it speaks a lot of truth. By turning left instead of right, going over the small bridge instead of the large, no one around, leaving you just with the sound of the blue lagoon’s water rippling up against the old Venetian buildings, flowing under the anchored resting boats. 

Hidden boat entrance along the canals, Venice, Italy

With no specific planned already made, going out for a walk around your new surroundings is an excellent idea. Go find that local cafe you saw on the way to your hotel. Go walk in that park or forest you saw nearby. Go talk to a local and ask for suggestions  on places to eat, visit, explore, not to miss. If you’re staying with a host family, ask questions away! They will be happy to help. In Buenos Aires, I lived with a family and if I ever had a question about where a certain place was, they would either show me on a map (or literally draw me one!), or walk with me to where I needed to go. I can remember asking to find the three different university buildings  my classes were located, a bookstore and photocopy shop, the bank and laundromat.

If I can leave you with one piece of advice when traveling it would be to always remember to go off the beaten path. Get out there an explore!

4.) Learn a lot About Yourself & Being Independent: You definitely learn a lot about yourself during your travels, even if you consider yourself a seasoned traveler. My trip to Buenos Aires was my first solo trip and it was the first time I had to really do things by myself without any help from my family. Sure, I kept in touch with them, but if I had a problem all the way down in Argentina, a 14+ plane ride away, my family couldn’t really do much. They were able to send me money once because I had a problem with the monthly stipend I was supposed to get each month from my study abroad program, so that really helped.

This was also the first time going grocery shopping on my own and buying things I wasn’t sure about and what they tasted like, plus having to calculate everything in Argentine pesos ($1USD = 15.20 pesos currently) and budgeting my monthly expenses (subway tickets, laundry, food, etc.). As I said previously, I encountered a money problem in the middle of my trip. I was accidentally given 800 pesos for the first month when I was actually only supposed to receive 400, so you can imagine to my surprise that I was paid too much and ended up having to budget very well, especially this little piece of news was given to me shortly after booking a weekend away to Iguazu Falls with a friend.

On a lighter note, you can also find new hobbies and interests in your new surroundings that you never were interested in or thought about doing before. When I traveled to Cuzco, Peru for five weeks I loved walking around the town, sometimes to the same places that I loved going to, sometimes to new. I remember always setting some time aside to people watch, something I began doing in Argentina and I wanted to continue this newfound pastime in my future travels. It’s so intriguing to people watch, their mannerisms and daily activities becoming your main focus in a single point in time. It is also in these moments where you realize over and over again just how small the world actually is and how surprisingly similar people in another country are to yourself.

So, as you can see, during my first trip I had learned my first true life lessons, and even with all the ups and downs, I got my first glimpse and taste of the wonderful globetrotting serum called wanderlust.

USAL Universidad del Salvador – the university I attended in Buenos Aires

5.) Experience Culture Shock: I believe that everyone should experience culture shock at least once. It’s a feeling you will never forget and once you return back home you will be appreciative for having this new  discovery awareness.

Upon arrival in the new country you have chosen to explore, you get this realization of not really knowing what to expect, taking in all the differences you see around you and trying to work with the new language, adjusting to any jet lag and your new surroundings. I can remember this day very clearly.

Once landed, picking up my suitcase from the baggage claim and finding my way to to arrivals area, I ran into a couple of girls who looked like they were looking for the same person I was (yes, strange, but that’s how it happened), and they also appeared to be a little on edge like I was, as well. I asked them if they were studying abroad and waiting for someone name Fernando. They were waiting for the same person I was, so I decided to join them in the waiting game and we made small talk. After a little bit, another three students arrived at our group, having just landed themselves, and Fernando finally arrived.

We followed him to a large van, helped us with our bags, and we were on our way to the big city! He dropped each of us off to our respectful housing, some at a residencia, or dorm, others at separate host families. I was the third to be dropped off, calle Laredo was the street of my new home, where my host mom was already waiting outside for me. Once gathering all my things from the van, she gave me a big hug and a besito, or a little kiss on the right cheek (an Argentine norm) and took me inside to my new home for the next few months.

I can remember my first culture shock experience like it happened yesterday. It was about one month after arriving at my host family’s home and I was having a conversation with my host mom about starting my classes at the university. Then at one moment, I began to cry for some unknown reason. My host mom asked me what was wrong and I couldn’t explain it to her. It was a feeling of mixed emotions: finally getting to realize my dream of being abroad on my own, finally having my own freedom, yet missing some creature comforts of home. The instant passed by and I felt better after shedding a few tears. I never cried again until the day I had to return home.

And there you have it! 5 inspirational reasons to study abroad or just travel in general. I’d love to hear from you. What were your best moments during your very first trip to a different country? Any funny or memorable culture shock stories to share?

Go.Get.Inspired!!!

Go Get Inspired by…Quotes: “Au-delà des orages, je part en voyage, mon âme au vent, le coeur éléphant…je suis parti d’ici pour recontrer la vie, être vivante.” ~Song “Le coeur elephant” by French duo Fréro Delavega*

*Rough translation: “Beyond the storms, I’m leaving on a trip, my soul in the wind, with the heart of an elephant…I’m leaving here to meet life, to be alive.”

Disclaimer: ALL pictures are taken by myself and are not to be reproduced without my knowledge and permission.

Inspired by…Wine & Bikes…a different kind of tour in Mendoza, Argentina

I love wine! It’s that simple. Reds in the Fall and Winter, white wines and Rosé in the Spring and Summer, Sangria for a Summer twist and Vin Chaud (hot, spiced wine, popular in France – think mulled wine) during the cold, Winter months to warm you up.

I didn’t always love wine like I do today, it was a step by step process I learned from a friend before my trip to Buenos Aires. Thank goodness I had a little “training” before taking a step into Argentina’s wine country, otherwise I might not have appreciated my wine tour and tastings as much as I did. During my “training” period of a few months, I started with sweet, sparkling dessert wines, then made my way on to sweet white wines, transitioning to dry whites and then ultimately to sweet reds and, my personal favorites, dry reds.

Mendoza can be considered the Napa Valley of Argentina, with its renowned wineries and vineyards scattered throughout the region, creating a selection of various vino, their most famous red being Malbec. Every time I see Malbec on the wine list at a restaurant I immediately ask for a glass – it’s irresistible! There’s no other wine like it. It has a very distinctive flavor that always brings me back to the very first time my taste buds had a sensory overload of joyfulness trying this wine! It is a deep red, full-bodied red wine perfect to pair with none other than a steak coming from the Argentine Pampas region. It is the perfect combination needed and much appreciated after a long afternoon of horseback riding – more on that in a bit.

SaveWine ClubsInspired by...My fav red: Malbec from Argentina! Absolutely Love!2K+1Simone LefflerFood Food Food!

My favorite part about drinking a glass a Malbec is the way it finishes at the end of a sip: you can taste a hint of smoky wood flavor, as if it was just poured out of a hundred year old barrel found in a cold, dimly lit wine cellar of a bodega, or winery in Spanish. Okay, so I think I’ve set the tone pretty well about my love affair with Malbec! Let’s move on to the actual trip to Mendoza!

Blake was studying at the same university as I was in Buenos Aires, and we instantly became friends while sharing two classes together. She was my first friend from the East Coast and it was fun to learn about the opposite side of the U.S. I don’t know very much. She also lived with a host family not too far from my host family’s apartment, so we had lots of opportunities to hang out between studying Spanish and explored around together. Before the end of our semester abroad, we decided to take a trip together and that Mendoza was the perfect city to visit, especially for the wine tasting we could take part in.

 

We booked the getaway for the last feriado, or bank holiday weekend, during our last few weeks in Argentina, booked our bus, similar to the one I took up to Iguazú Falls, and reserved a private double room with a shared bathroom (just with one other room) at a pretty nice hostel. We left from the big Retiro bus station in the evening with our hand luggage and a takeaway bag of empanadas, savory minced meat stuffed pastries, for dinner. Thankfully, we did buy empanadasbecause the “meal” served on this night bus consisted only of crackers and alfajores (a dulce de leche caramel stuffed cookie sandwich covered in chocolate) to hold us over during the 15 hour bus ride. I’m very happy we thought ahead otherwise we would have been two even hungrier girls upon arrival! Thanking my lucky stars as well,  there weren’t any TV’s on the bus we took, so no chance of yet another psychopathic horror film playing while being driven in the middle of nowhere overnight.

We got to Mendoza safe and sound in the morning and made our way to the hostel, Hostel Lao, without problem, checked in, and after taking a look at the activities and excursions offered, we booked a “Bikes & Wines” tour for the following day. The bonus about our private room was that it was separate from the main building and we took a quick walk through the cute hippy-chic backyard, complete with swimming pool, hammocks, and Foosball table, to arrive. We arranged our things in the room, freshened up, and were ready to explore the city.

 

First things first, we had to find something to eat. We walked to the city center and found a table after along a row of café style restaurants with outdoor seating. We ordered delicious sandwiches with side salads, taking in our new surroundings and appreciating the first few differences Mendoza has to Buenos Aires. A couple of those differences include: a calmer vibe – you can take a stroll around without feeling like you should be in a rush, and also not feeling enclosed by skyscrapers like in big cities (aka big city problems). Another big difference is having a view of the beautiful and majestic snow-capped Andes mountains in the distance.

 

After lunch we moseyed our way to Parque San Martin, a big park with a grand entrance, complete with a lake, walking paths, and lots of green areas.The day was beautiful, full of blue skies, perfect temperatures, and just an overall good vibe. After our walk, we went back to the hostel to relax in the hammocks and plan the rest of our stay. With the “Bikes and Wines” tour booked for the following day, we chose to go horseback riding with gauchos near the Andes . Best decision ever! And I didn’t know at the time, but a glass of Malbec would be waiting for me, too.

“Bikes and Wines” tour bike parking station

The next day we had our wine tastings tour. We were given our bikes for the day and a map to help us find the three wineries we would be visiting. The first winery, Altas Cumbres, was pretty easy to navigate to and find. We had a good tour of the winery, grounds and vineyard with a group of other wine tasters. At this bodega, they use aluminum tanks to ferment their wine – I make this point because each winery we visited had their own little secret twist as to how they produce their vino. For the tasting we tried two or three different wines, two white and one red. My favorite was the red, of course.

Altas Cumbres vineyards

The second winery was a little further away from the first, but what was strange is that I think we arrived late so we weren’t given an actual tour, just the wine to taste with a brief explanation of each in Spanish (this was a perk, the other two tours were given in English). I had the feeling we were being pushed to down each tasting glass and get a move on, not before getting a picture with the producer first, however! It was a little weird to say the least. I didn’t even get the name of the bodega.

The best was saved for last: Lagarde winery. I don’t know if it was the wine from the previous tastings kicking in, the temperature rising outside, or a combo, but we had just a little bit more trouble finding the last bodega. It was the farthest of the three, and the route to get there was half on bike trails, half on busy main roads where I was literally inches away from getting hit by a bus – no joke! We had stopped and asked a couple for directions, given the Ojo!signal (when you put your finger below an eye and pull down to show more eye to mean “Be careful”) from the man, then no sooner we got on our way, we were stopped by a car asking for directions. We clearly couldn’t help them but in the end Blake and I found this whole situation pretty funny.

Proof! Being asked for directions after we just had asked for directions ourselves from a nice couple.

So, we finally found the bodega were in for a well-deserved treat. Our tour guide was awesome, super knowledgeable and you could tell he was passionate about wine and showing us a good time. The tour itself was pretty in-depth: we were shown all around the grounds, production area to see the concrete tanks they used for the fermentation process, and ending the with going down into the cellar to have a look at the rows of barrels, some a century old, and having our tasting down there. We tried about six or seven different wines, and surprisingly enough my favorite was a dry white wine, not red!

Lagarde winery grounds

After our tour and tasting we went and had a look around the bodega’s shop and at all the different wines available for purchase. Then the tour group we were part of were led to another entrance of the building and into a big dining area for lunch. The menu was brick oven baked pizza. Amazing food and wine!

 

With every weekend getaway or side trip I’ve done, there are always certain parts you can never forget. For me it was the “Ojo!” warning, everything about the Lagarde bodega, and having to wait what seemed forever in a day for the bus to get back to the hostel after we dropped off our bikes. We were hot, tired, probably a little dehydrated and just wanted to relax after the over-stimulation from being lost on the bikes and multiple wine tours and tastings.

Tired written all over…

The bus eventually arrived and when we got back to the hostel, we bought a much needed refreshing drink and an alfajor, sat on the lounge chairs outside by the [empty] pool, and reflect on the day. Now, Blake and I can say that we’ve experienced a bike and wine tour is really like. Would we do it again? Why not? Just as long as we have a map and the routes are are located in bike zones  – not busy main roads full of traffic.

We had an early night in preparation for our horse riding adventure the following day. A van picked us up in the morning, along a few others from the hostel, and we were soon on our way to the land of horses, mountains, andgauchos (aka Argentine cowboys). The duration of the drive was about an hour or an hour and a half in the van. We did stop once to get out and have a look at the amazing view we had before our eyes, even getting a glimpse of a group of condors flying high overhead not far from where we were standing, the tips of their wings looking very much like fingers spread out to help them fly. I’m sure at that very moment the entire group was thinking along the same lines as I was to have the feeling of being “away from it all”.

Gaucho mode

Just before stopping, the van had begun climbing elevation, making sometimes sharp turns and swerved around the curves on the road. When we got out to snap pictures I had just realized that we were driving along steep cliffs with no barriers. I wasn’t scared or nervous about that, but was praying the driver was experienced enough and had already previously taken this road a gazillion times before.

Back on the inclining, veering road, we arrived after another 30 minutes or so. I got the feeling of excitement with a hint of nervousness when I first got a look at our destination. It was a horse ranch ran by gauchos with an outdoor pen for the horses we would be riding. Of course, Blake and I took these first moments as an opportunity to take a few photos of the horses with the gorgeous view of the Andes in the distance, its rocky peaks covered in a layer of snow.

It was much cooler at the ranch’s location than in Mendoza and we were happy to have brought layers; Blake a fleece sweater and for me a light jacket and scarf. Despite the cooler temps, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was strong. Our handsome gaucho guide for the day, Alejandro (cue Lady Gaga!), made it quite clear at the beginning to put sunscreen on our faces, especially on our nose and cheeks, otherwise the sun will really burn those areas. For some reason I remember this memory quite well, maybe because Alejandro wouldn’t let anyone get on their horse before doing so. Sir, Yes Sir!

When everyone was geared up with sunscreen and a horse, we had our initial horse training lesson before we ventured out away from the ranch and into the countryside. I forgot my horse’s name but Blake’s horse, Remi, was a little uncooperative from the moment she got on, so she had to change horses before we moved on.

Single file, here we go!

The first basics we learned were to start and stop our horses, meaning to kick the horse in the sides with your heels to start, then pulling on the reins and say “¡Para!” or Stop! We walked single file, one after the other, to make our way down the trail, with Alejandro staying attentive to the group, making sure everyone was okay and maneuvering well with their horse. At one point we arrived at a ditch, and were taught how to go down and up the steep hill. I was happily surprised that I learned quickly  and did well with my new trick. To go down you have to lean forward close to your horse, and then lean back to go up.

Look at that view!

The wild horses we rounded up.

After conquering the ditch, we were taught how to trot and then turn it into a gallop. It was so much fun! With these last skills learned, our goal was to help Alejandro rein in several wild horses that were grazing around. We had to practice trotting, turning, and galloping with our horses to have a successful roundup – and we did it! After rounding up the horses, we made our way back to the ranch for a well-deserved lunch of steak and wine. It was the best day for me during the entire trip, even though overall the trip was a great treat!

Steak and wine! I forgot to snap a pic before digging in!

To conclude, I really enjoy my trip to Mendoza with my friend Blake. We left Buenos Aires on the micro with an open mind, making plans as our weekend went on, and had a lot of fun times. In the end, it all turned out better than planned or expected, and I’d love to do it all over again!

Thanks for reading and getting inspired! Please leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you! Stay tuned for a new blog soon, and until then:

Go.Get.Inspired!!!

Go Get Inspired by…Quotes:”Look up to the sky…You’ll never see rainbows if you’re looking down” ~Charlie Chaplin

Disclaimer: ALL pictures are taken by myself and are not to be reproduced without my knowledge and permission.

Inspired by…Iguazu Falls, Argentina!

The first time actually being “in awe” of something was when I ventured all the way up from Buenos Aires to Iguazú Falls – a must for anyone! I went with a new friend from the school we were both enrolled in during our study away program. Since it was my first trip outside of Buenos Aires, I preferred to use the buddy system, even more when your buddy has traveled more than you!

We decided to go by night bus, coche cama in Spanish, a common and more economical way Argentines like to travel around the country and just across the country’s borders. The buses themselves look like double deckers (think London-style buses) and have one or two attendants working on each bus, plus the driver. We left from the big bus station in Retiro, a barrio, or neighborhood, near the city border of Buenos Aires. The trip up took about 14 hours to arrive in total, leaving at 7pm and arrived around 9am the next day in the city of Posadas, where our hostel was located.

From what I remember, we were served an evening snack and breakfast on the coche cama, the snack being empanadas, savory meat stuffed pastries – the best thing I had ever eaten at the time – and facturas, mini pastries like croissants with juice and coffee for breakfast. I took my travel pillow and it worked on the bus to sleep with the chair reclined. There are different levels of comfort on the buses in South America and you can definitely tell the difference when you look at the prices. I cannot remember which option we chose, but I know it was neither the most expensive, nor the cheapest.

After the evening snack was served, they played a movie; but whoever chose to show the movie on our bus had to have had a twisted mind. Imagine watching “Funny Games” – a pychopathic horror film starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth – while it being pitch black outside and you’re in the middle of nowhere Argentina, stuck on a bus with a bunch of people you don’t know! I have no idea how I managed to sleep after watching that, but it happened, thankfully.

Staying at hostels in South America is a nice, cheaper option than a hotel. We had chosen a mixed shared room with other people since it was just for two nights and only a place to sleep and eat breakfast. Of course, you could have hung around in the yard or by the bar to meet other travelers, but on this trip our sole goal was to visit the waterfalls.

So now to the best part of the trip! We arrived at the Parque Nacional de Iguazú, paid our entrance fee and ventured into the forest. We walked for about 2o minutes, passing by species of plants and animals I had never seen before, including butterflies that landed right onto your hand, lizards and giant ants running up and down trees, and a giant rodent called Coatis scurrying around in large groups – super impressive to see – and that’s just the beginning!

After a point we came up to a clearing in the trees and heard the sound of falling water. We were there! We were gazing with our very own eyes at a view worthy of a postcard! A huge row of waterfalls with hundreds of gallons of water pounding into the Iguazú river with rainbows forming in the mist, all under a clear blue sky and warm sun. It was perfection in my eyes and I had literally stopped in my tracks and stared at this magnificent view for a good 10 minutes before I said a word or started snapping away with my camera. It was breathtaking and I’m pretty sure I had a tear, or two, in my eyes.

 

After seeing the entire view of all the waterfalls, you then continued on to see each individually, some where you can get up close to and feel the cold water from the mist splash on your face. You also have an option of going on a rafting boat actually go under the falls, which my friend decided to do. I, on the other hand, was okay being on dry land and seeing the falls from a safer point of view. When my friend returned from his mini boating adventure, we saw about 4-5 of the waterfalls up close, following the paths and signs that led to some, crossing bridges big and small that went directly above and to the sides of others…still having feelings of it all being surreal then and even now so know that I was actually there and seeing all this beauty in nature.

 

The last part of the tour was to see La Garganta del Diablo, The Devil’s Throat! To get there we had to walk a lot. Before arriving to the beast, we had to walk along a very long bridge built just above the river’s water. After walking for at least 3o minutes under the hot sun and with no shade, we got there, and it was definitely worth all that walking! A gigantic circle appears out of nowhere and you can see water just continuously caving into the “throat”. The sound of the water was nothing like I’ve ever heard before! Such power splashing down into the unknown depths of the giant hole! It was all such an unforgettable experience!

 

I would love to return back and do this trip all over again one day. It was amazing and will forever have a special place in my wanderlust heart. It was an incredible day and I still have vivid memories playing and replaying around in my mind of this magical place.

Thanks for reading and getting inspired! Please leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you! Stay tuned for a new blog next Thursday, and until then:

Go.Get.Inspired!!!

Go Get Inspired by…Quote: “I am not just an optimist. I am an opti-mystic who sees the world through the eyes of possibility” ~Edie Weinstein

Disclaimer: ALL pictures are taken by myself and are not to be reproduced without my knowledge and permission.

Inspired by…Globetrotting!

About Page (extra if necessary.jpeg

Remember many moons ago when Facebook “Notes” was a really popular online tool for journal writing/diary entrances, or using it for a fill-in quiz, or explain why you like a certain quote or line from a movie? Am I too old and the only one who remembers this???

Well, I started using “Notes” when I took the plunge in 2009 and embarked on my first solo international trip abroad all the way to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I learned so much about myself during those six months in one of the most amazing places I had ever been to, and putting it all down on “digital” paper made me realize even more what a great and once in a lifetime experience I was living – although a little embarrassing when I re-read certain posts, but don’t we all have those moments!

Writing this blog is an introduction and the start to something that I think is going to be great to all who read it. Now that I’ve been living in France for over 3 years, I know I need to continue sharing my experiences just like I did when I was in Argentina, only this time I want to be there to help people with travel advice, starting a travel blog, creating content in your niche, etc. But! There are no limits and many more options to choose from (i.e. expat life, culture, food, lifestyle).

In addition to travel advice, I want to inspire people, as the name of my blog suggests, and I will dedicate each blog to something that I am inspired by at the moment. I would love to hear from my readers as well, so please leave me comments and questions at the bottom of each new post I publish.

Stay tuned for future content about my past trips in South America and my most recent trips around Europe and the rest of the world!

Go.Get.Inspired!

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                                           Saint Nazaire, France - the place I've been calling home for over 3 years...

Go Get Inspired By…Quote: “What’s interesting is watching a person break through the limited perceptions of themselves…”   ~RuPaul Charles~