MALTA TRIP~ May 2016!

MALTA TRIP~ May 2016!

Last week we went on a trip to Malta. If you ever want to feel fat and hideous, I highly recommend a vacation to Malta—everyone you walk by looks perfect and thin—and often with a pair of stilettos. People dress like they just stepped off the runway in Milan—no pressure at all. You will find that your envy quickly melts and then you are left with a general feeling of awe. People take their aesthetics quite seriously in Europe. This is the place of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, after all. 

 Our trips are always so busy and packed. With a baby added to the mix things felt a bit chaotic—with diaper changing and breast feeding in random places and lots of crying, holding and consoling, but we managed to make it work. Everyday we were off doing something—like visiting ancient Temples, going into medieval cathedrals or seeing artwork by Caravaggio.

The food was good! I highly recommend McDonald’s breakfast (as 22 Euro per person at the Hilton is MUCH too expensive, and frankly, fiscally stupid). Our hotel was situated along the crystal blue sea. The Mediterranean Sea, itself, is a sight to behold; it transitions from aquamarine to cobalt blue the further out you look.  Our hotel was unduly luxurious. The bed in our room made me feel like I was sinking into a heavenly cloud.

 

The highlights of our trip were scuba diving in the Mediterranean (our first time!), visiting Gozo Island and seeing an ancient temple–Ggantija (3,600 BC—the oldest above ground religious structure on Earth) and also the Azure Window (used as a scene in Game of Thrones). We also went to a really cool Aquarium on the main island of Malta. Our baby just loved the Aquarium.

We enjoyed plenty of strolls along a promenade that flanked the Mediterranean Sea. We spent a half a day in Valletta, the capital city of Malta. Valletta took us for surprise. You walk through the entrance of this walled city and are immediately stunned by the baroque motifs on every building. This city is, quite possibly, the most beautiful, baroque city in the world. It is my favorite city in Europe (so far). It is a very compact city with lots of tight streets, ornate architecture, boutique fashion shops and a garden that overlooks the sea as well as three other picturesque cities

 

Malta is my favorite country that I have been to in Europe. It has an almost 3rd world feel to it, but, for the population density, it is kept clean and they recycle there.

My husband and I can’t stop raving about our scuba diving experience into the Mediterranean Sea. At first it was daunting–I felt like I was suffocating under water until I began reminding myself to just breathe. Eventually I was able to calm myself down and we were able to spend a good 30 minutes under water. Breathing air from an oxygen tank deep in the ocean isn’t as satisfying as ambient air. This said, scuba diving was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. We were so thrilled that my husband will be getting his certification in Scuba Diving over the summer and we plan to go on more scuba diving adventures in the near future.

My list of favorite European cities at this point: 1. Valletta, Malta 2. Taormina, Sicily 3. Krakow, Poland 4. Rome, Italy, 5. Prague, Czech Republic, 6. Salzburg, Austria 7. Bergen, Norway. (In case you were curious). Of course, I just LOVE Paris and Amsterdam too!

 

 

 

Bend Oregon Trip April 2016! WHITEST PLACE EVER!

Bend Oregon Trip April 2016!  WHITEST PLACE EVER!

Pictures are of Smith Rock

You may have heard of White Flight. White flight is the phenomenon when White people in a neighborhood tend to move out of a neighborhood as more ethnic minorities move in. This is a well established phenomenon. There tend to be VERY few neighborhoods in the US where there are equivalent proportions of Whites and Ethnic minorities within their boundaries. Instead, neighborhoods in America tend to be predominantly one race or another—either White, or a mixture of ethnic minorities.

Bend Oregon has experienced the opposite of White Flight. Bend has what I like to call “Caucasian Invasion”. In my many travels, Bend has got to be one of the whiter places in the World, and I’m not referring to the Cascade Mountains or the ample snowfall there in the winter.

In April 2016 our family was able to fly back to the United States. We had the opportunity—thanks to a professional connection—to spend some time in Bend, Oregon. While there I was able to validate the sheer whiteness of the place. We also spent some time in New York City, which isn’t quite so white. After living in Europe for a year, it was a nice break to vacation in America. I deeply missed America, especially the delicious food.

I had faded memories of a trip to Bend with my church youth group in the mid-1990’s. I remember going into the caves in that region and also hiking to the top of Smith Rock. This time, we had another agenda—a professional one for my husband and a personal one for me— we  got to see my parents.

Central Oregon appears to be a dusty dessert with sagebrush and evergreen trees. I could have sworn I saw mirages with cowboy riding in the distance. The days unfold, initially very cold; and then, when the sun comes up, the entire place bursts into golden warmth and glory. The sun beams feel especially piercing here, like daggers to the flesh. There are so many outdoors activities in Bend: fishing, hiking, skiing. The crime rate is fairly low in Bend and the public schools are decent. Diversity is almost non-existent.

Bend has a tightly knit downtown that cozies up to the Deschutes River. If you enjoy microwbrews, Bend is the place to go. It boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the world. Bend is also the dog city. Dogs are everywhere imaginable…everyone has a couple dogs or three or four. We made sure to hit the famous Deschutes Brewery.I had a Black Butte Porter—the burgers there are also divine!

We learned a lot about the Real Estate Market in Bend. It is a boom and bust cycle. The house prices in Bend are some of the highest in the nation due to wealthy Californians moving in and “getting more for their money than they would in California”. Thus, with an increased demand for homes in this beautiful region, home prices are pushed to heightened levels. This creates the housing bubble there. I assume a consequence of the high prices for real estate in Bend pushes out the riff-raff–so it is a very safe place to live (according to all the locals we spoke to).

After visiting Bend, I can see why people there just LOVE it.

USED PERSIAN RUGS I bought in Germany~!

USED PERSIAN RUGS I bought in Germany~!

We are off to New York City and also Bend, Oregon for a couple of weeks (it has been almost a year since I’ve been back in the United-States!) but I will leave you with a quick post and show off some of my new finds.

Getting ready for NEW YORK CITY!

As you know, my baby and I have been going on shopping sprees to our hearts delight.  We recently found several incredible flea market/thrift stores which are full of exotic, interesting and vintage treasures.  I bought two area rugs. These are Persian rugs–I was told that one of them is hand-made.  One of them cost 150 euro and the other one was only 40 euro! Unbelievable! After living in Africa, I’m fairly adept at haggling for a good price.

Check these lovelies out! The red rug looked AWFUL at the thrift store. It was embedded with crud and slime. I had it professionally cleaned and now it looks presentable–a little worn, but still quite striking for the right space. I’m quite proud of my finds.

 

Also, I found an old in-table at the same store (very cheap) and I spray painted it blue–just for fun. (Yes, my husband and I have awesome taste when it comes to non-fiction books).

 

Home Decor: Create a space for Your plants!!!

Home Decor: Create a space for Your plants!!!

The other day I realized that our staircase/entry area was quite boring. I decided to make a plant cove in this ever well-lit area. We recently purchased a lovely white buffet table–I thought this would be a nice space for it. I also found some other odds and ends around the house and bought a few plants to weave into the mix. Voila–here are the before and afters for this space.

Before…

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After…

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This is ONLY the beginning as far as the plants go. I hope this area eventually looks like an indoor African jungle. I plan to propagate a bunch more African Violets from this one’s leaves.

Treasures I found at a German Thrift Store

Treasures I found at a German Thrift Store

I’m just now starting to explore our surroundings in Germany. Last year felt like a year from the underworld–constant nausea, ZERO motivation, idea and creativity deprivation, depression and unending fatigue. I never wanted to go out.  This year I’m making a habit of getting out. Kaiserslautern, along with several other nearby cities and villages will be the areas that I try to explore in greater depth. I will be presenting my discoveries on this blog.

German thrift store hunting has become my latest thing. I went to a couple and I definitely recommend Fairkauf at Beethovenstrasse 56 in K-Town. Here are a few of the treasures I found. In fact, I left with a cart full of interesting things–many from Germany, Spain and France for under 20 euros! Some of these items have an almost antique-quality to them. The big brown pottery vase has W. Germany inscribed on the bottom.

 

 

 

….And here they are, at our house. I’m still playing around with displaying them…

 

I LOVE THIS CUTE BOWL I got for 1 Euro!

 

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IN SICILY! (February 2016)

IN SICILY! (February 2016)

My husband and I are still on route to see the world. Now that our baby is 3 ½  months old, we feel more comfortable going on lengthy travels again and boarding trains, airplanes and buses. We spent last week in Sicily, sinking our teeth into olives, looking out into the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean and even going into a lava cave. It was too cloudy to see Mt. Etna, but we did go on a bus excursion up the mountain and had some espresso in a lodge. During our stay, we enjoyed bright sunshine and comfortable temperatures too.

Having just visited Rome in April 2015, I can say with certainty that Sicily has a very different flavor of social sauce than mainland Italy. Sicilians are so warm and friendly!They have a very family and “child friendly” culture.  Almost everyone came up to our little 3 month old, showering her with attention, sweetness and gentle touches. Even 8 year old boys were aware of her little existence and would greet her with kindness and touch her cheeks.

 

Also, there wasn’t as many heaping piles of tourists compared to Rome. I think we heard one American accent during our entire stay. Not to be dismayed for lack of tourists, we did meet a wonderful Greek couple and an affectionate French lady who offered to kidnap our baby.

 

We stayed at a beautiful hotel, perched on a rocky cliff that over-looked the Mediterranean sea. For 70 euros a night and a free breakfast to boot, we had a lovely, yet thrifty vacation—thanks to my husband’s travel planning skills.

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On one of the days we went to Taormina in north eastern Sicily. Can I just say, outstanding…jaw droppingly beautiful? This village is perhaps one of the most picturesque spots in all of Europe. It’s seated high on top of the rocky cliffs of the Sicilian coastline. You can see islands off the coast and gradual changes in the azure hues of the Mediterranean. We were lucky to have a sunny day so the vista was heavenly.

My husband made certain that we visit the Greek ruins in Taormina and we briefly explored the Amphitheater there. I just loved the adorable village of Taormina–one of the best spots in Europe, hands down!

We traveled along the Sicilian countryside to the cities of Syracuse and Noto. We passed many groves of orange and lemon trees and the terrain felt as though I was back in West Africa. Syracuse is the home of the famous Archimedes. We visited another Greek historic site with incredible ancient Greek ruins and an amazing Amphitheater!

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We wandered around the heart of the city and then found a place for some wine right along the sea.

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For all its beauty, there were many places in Catania Sicily that were quite dilapidated and unkempt. For instance, many apartment buildings needed a new paint job and there was lots of litter along the roads. That said, the vegetable markets and other shops in the central square of Catania were kept quite clean.

 

It is quite difficult going on vacation with a 3 month old. If we can make it, so can you!

What I bought in Sicily? Cool Pottery, of course!

Stay tuned for more travel and baby blog posts as we visit Bend Oregon, New Orleans Louisiana, New York City, Malta, Japan, Barcelona Spain, Southern France and Mauritius this next year!