Category Archives: Travel

Leaving Home, Finding Another

When I first sat down to write this post, it was still the middle of summer. From my dining room table, I could see a fuzzy-tailed squirrel, nature’s acrobat, scamper across the top of the wooden fence around our backyard. The sun was just peaking over the third story of our building to kiss the petals of the tallest sunflowers across the alley. I could hear the steady chirp of crickets. I’m listening to them now; they seem to never stop.

As I sit down to finish this post, it is officially autumn. The days are becoming gradually shorter, with cool mornings and breezy nights. Trees are going from green to orange yellow red. Most of the sunflowers have wilted. Each time a squirrel jumps from one branch to another, a few leaves come wind-sailing down to Earth. The sweet shift of the seasons, something hard to find in Southern Arizona, is poignant here in the Midwest.

fullsizeoutput_381

Late afternoon in our backyard

Things are not so bad in Missouri. I’d go so far as to say they are quite nice, actually. During our first weeks here, most of my questions—posed out loud to no one in particular, as usual—were of the “what type of plant is that?” nature. I’ve learned and forgotten the names of so many plants: coleus, hosta, cone flower… Things just grow here! Things I’ve never seen before. And there are trees, so many, many trees. The streets are lined with sidewalks, which makes getting around on foot much more enjoyable. It seems that you need only drive another mile to reach the next park, which is just as green and inviting as the last. Good food is ubiquitous and inevitable. People smile. Children play. The sun rises each morning. So why am I so often overcome with sorrow? I am surrounded by all of these good, pleasant things, and yet all I can long for is home.

This will be the second time in my life that I’ve pined for Arizona. The first time, when I was living in France, I was surprised to learn that a critical aspect of who I am is inextricably linked to the place—the actual geography—that I call home. I feel deeply tied to Arizona, its skies, its mountains, its forests, and its deserts. It is part of who I am. So when I feel homesick, I am not just thinking of all the people I love back home; I am longing for Arizona. The place. Having experienced that homesickness once before, I was more prepared for it this time around in St. Louis. But that hasn’t made it any less difficult. All I want, in this very moment, is to stand atop a mountain and be able to see for miles in all directions, to be able to see the sun kiss the horizon, to be able to take a deep breath of crisp Arizona air.

But there aren’t any mountains here. Not a single one.

I cannot control what St. Louis lacks. As I did in Paris, I have had to be very intentional about choosing to look for and appreciate what St. Louis offers. And believe me, it offers plenty! There is always something going on, and most events are free. Two weeks ago was the Great Hot Air Balloon Race, and this weekend we went to the first of several Oktoberfest celebrations. Even if there is nothing going on, I can always take a bike ride through beautiful Forest Park or visit any of the numerous free museums. When I start to write all of these things down, it reminds me that St. Louis is truly a wonderful place to live. This city gives me a lot to be grateful for. Even so, it doesn’t feel like home. Not yet.

fullsizeoutput_37e

Fun at Oktoberfest St. Louis; photo courtesy of Nick Youmans

Places are, for me, like people. It takes time to get to know them, to figure them out, and to make space in my heart. For me to feel at home in a place, I have to build a relationship with it. And like any relationship, that takes time. In fact, both of my moves outside of Arizona have felt a little bit like online dating, except once you go out on the first date, you’re stuck in that relationship for the foreseeable future. I did some research on St. Louis, checked it out, asked around. The background check was good enough to convince me to give the place a shot, and St. Louis made a good first impression. But like any new relationship, it has a honeymoon phase and a shit-just-got-real phase. That’s the phase I’m in now, and there’s no going back. But I have high hopes for the Lou. And assuming this desert critter survives the winter, things just might get more serious.

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Prose, Travel

My Guide to Tucson

As fate would have it, the year that I moved away from Tucson also happens to be the year that my little sister is moving to Tucson. She’ll be a freshman at the University of Arizona, just like I was 8 years ago. My first impression of Tucson, created from the small frame of my dorm room window, was not as positive as the impression it left on my heart 8 years later. When I first moved there, Tucson seemed like a desolate dust bowl. What I knew of the city was limited by the fact that I had only a beach cruiser to get me from A to B. My world was mostly the UA campus, University Blvd., 4th Avenue, and the Safeway on Broadway and Campbell. Luckily, a few months in to my time there, I met some people who had lived there a little longer—some a couple of years, others their whole lives—and they helped me to broaden my perspective. Soon, Tucson became a vibrant and fascinating place with far more to do, see, eat, and explore than I ever imagined.

I don’t remember when it was that Tucson became home. I have no memory of the moment when the desert shifted from a foreign, martian landscape to the place where I belong. Finding a community of inspiring people probably had something to do with it. I do know, however, what places and activities helped win me over. In this blog post, I’ve featured several of the things that are dear to my heart. I created a much larger Beginner’s Guide to Tucson to help my little sister find her way in the Old Pueblo. It is by no means an exhaustive list of all that is wonderful in Tucson, and I know I forgot a lot of things. It is merely a snapshot of a multifaceted and complex place. For anyone visiting or moving to Tucson, I hope that you get out of your dorm, apartment, AirBnB, yurt, or hotel and see all that Tucson has to offer. Go East, North, West, and definitely—despite all the myths and fear mongering—definitely go South. Talk to people. Listen to their stories. Eat their food.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite Tucson things in no particular order. I should disclose that I worked at Time Market for 3 years, and I was a yoga teacher at all three of the organizations in the yoga section. So it’s not like I’m biased or anything.

Eats

  • The Little One: go for the food, stay for the hugs
  • The Taco Shop: best burritos
  • Tucson Tamale Company
  • Kingfisher: tasty desserts
  • Time Market: everything here is delicious
  • Falora: best caprese salad
  • Sher-E-Punjab
  • Yamato: best sushi
  • Raging Sage: best scones for both breakfast and lunch

Time Market Patio

Time Market’s patio in bloom

Drinks

  • Side Car
  • La Cocina
  • Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails
  • Crooked Tooth Brewing Co.
  • Tucson Hop Shop

An afternoon at Crooked Tooth 

Sweets

  • The Screamery: get a flight!
  • Monsoon Chocolate

Yoga

  • YogaOasis
  • Grounded Wellness
  • All Bodies Rise Yoga: various locations, check out the website for the schedule

yoga oasis 3

Outside YogaOasis Central

Things to Do

  • Go to the Zoo
  • Visit Mount Lemmon
  • Wander around Barrio Viejo
  • Watch (or participate!) in the All Souls Procession
  • Take a day trip to Madera Canyon
  • Support local vendors at the Heirloom Farmers’ Market in Rillito Park
  • Visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

madera canyon

Hiking in Madera Canyon

This is just a taste of Tucson! For more, download my Tucson guide here.

Enjoy!

2 Comments

Filed under Prose, Travel, Tucson

Around the South in 14 Days: Summer Road Trip 2015 in Photos

This post is long over due. But better late than never.

On the morning of July 3, my boyfriend and I departed for a journey of epic proportions through the South Eastern United States. We endured humidity, heat, and endless hours in the car, but what we gained made every drop of sweat, every backache, and every sunburn worth it. Five thousand three hundred and seventy-three miles later, I have a new appreciation for the stunning beauty, diversity, and complexity of my country, and more importantly, I have a deeper love for and trust in the man with whom I share my life.

Here are some photos from our trip, along with a map of our route. I hope they inspire you to take an adventure, whether it’s to the other side of town, or to the other side of your own country.

Day 1: From Tucson to Houston (A 16 hour trip, all in one day. Texas is HUGE!)

Entering NM in Tree Pose

Day 2: Houston (No photos of Houston, sorry.)

Day 3: Houston to Memphis

Arkansas/Mermaid 1

Our breathtaking AirBnB in the heart of Memphis:

Memphis AirBnB

Day 4: Memphis (spent mostly at the Memphis Zoo, which is fantastic!)

At the Zoo

Meerkats!

MeerkatP1070120

Our Memphis Favorites:

Otherlands Coffee Bar (try the toasted muffins!), The Memphis Zoo (make sure to catch the bear feeding), the march of the Peabody Ducks (get there early!), and Memphis Pizza Café

Day 5: Memphis to Asheville

Crow Pose

Day 6: Asheville

P1070141 P1070154P1070165

Our Asheville Favorites:

Mount Pisgah Campground (make sure to go on a hike!), and the Folk Art Center 

Day 7: Asheville to Savannah

Savannah in Savannah

Our Savannah Favorites:

Foxy Loxy Café (go for the Horchatta Latté), Fire Street Food (try the Savannah Roll), and Forsyth Park (bring bug spray)

Day 8: Savannah to Sarasota

Day 9: Holmes Beach (the location of my family reunion. That stunning woman at my side is my momma.)

Mom and MeGulfSunset

Day 10: Sarasota to Baton Rouge

P1070243

Day 11: New Orleans

P1070250 P1070251

Our New Orleans Favorites:

Café du Monde (bring cash!), the Audbon Aquarium of the Americas, and Mr. B’s Bistro (save room for dessert— the bread pudding is divine!)

Day 12: Baton Rouge to Houston

P1070263

Day 13: Houston (Again, no photos. But certainly some precious memories.)

Day 14: Houston to Tucson

P1070273

We arrived home exhausted with sore butts and sleepy eyes. We were happy to have left home, and even happier to return. As I’ve learned time and time again, it is often in my journeys far from home that I come to appreciate all that I have right here in my own community. This trip, like all adventures, reinforced my gratitude for where I’m at, who I’m with, and who I am, right here, right now.

Next stop, Portland, Oregon! We just made plans to visit PDX in October. I’ve always wanted to see this city, and luckily, I’ll have an excellent tour guide. Stay tuned!

1 Comment

Filed under Photos, Travel

To Rome and Back Again

There are few sights as picturesque as Rome in the sunlight, standing against a summer-blue sky. And for weary travelers, there are few sights as welcoming. Luckily for my family and me, this was the Rome that greeted us when we arrived two weeks ago in the Italian capital.

Trevi 2Rome 2

The first time I went to Italy, I was with a large group of students and our experience was rushed, exhausting and hectic. This time, I got to truly enjoy Italy and its many pleasures. Food, history, architecture, Italians! All was mine to take in and share with my family.

We spent the majority of your time in the country in Rome, where we spent our days seeing monuments, wandering the streets and filling our bellies. Pasta, pizza, pasta.

After a couple months of toiling away here in Paris, I was able to truly relax and appreciate the differences between Italy and France, between North and South. I have to say, I think I’m a Southern girl.

SculptedColosseum  Rome

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Rome, relative to Paris, is the color. The buildings in Rome are built in the typical Mediterranean style, with tiled roofs and brightly painted facades. Every building is a different color, be it dusty orange, corn-field yellow or hazel green, and wooden shutters adorn every window.  As you look out over the city, you can see the big umbrella pines standing like leafy canopies, or Dr. Seuss’s  truffula trees, over the ruins. Paris is a beautiful city, but its palette lacks the diversity and liveliness you find in Rome.

Me at the Trevi

From Italy we headed back to France, first to see family friends in Provence, and then to return me to Paris. And what did we find when we stepped onto the platform at Gare de Lyon? Winter! Then, a few days later, snow! Needless to say, our Italian getaway was well appreciated, especially when we found ourselves trudging around in slush and ice beneath the snow-besieged Tour Eiffel.

Mais c’est la vie, n’est-ce pas?

Ciao mes belles,

Savannah

2 Comments

Filed under Travel

I AMsterdam(ed)

If Amsterdam isn’t already on your “places to see in Europe” list, it needs to be. Amsterdam is one of the friendliest cities I’ve visited on this continent, and in more way than one. The people there are happy and helpful. The buildings are whimsical and colorful. The streets are bustling and musical. And at night, the lights shimmer, reflecting in the canals like candles in darkened windows.

canal at night at night

I visited Amsterdam with my best friend for two days after Christmas. It made a perfect escape from Paris. The minute I stepped out of the car, I could tell that the air was cleaner and the sun was a little brighter. As we started to explore the city, I noticed that the streets moved a little slower and the people I shared them with were a little less agressive. I felt welcome from the beginning.

central station

While in Amsterdam, we stayed at Amsterdam Hostel Leidseplein, which I can’t recommend highly enough. Not only is this hostel comfortable, accommodating and well-equipped, but it happens to be in a great location: Leidseplein.

This bustling square has everything you need, from cozy bistros to local coffee shops. Amsterdam is small enough that you’ll have no problem walking from Leidseplein to attractions like the Red Light district, the I Amsterdam sign and museums.

We were able to use Leidseplein as a home-base while we explored the rest of Amsterdam. Here are some places we discovered, both near and far:

For dancing, music and a great show:

escape

Escape

Rembrandtplein 11

Tel: + 31 20 622 11 11

For an authentic, local coffee shop experience:

coffee shop

Get Down To It

Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 77-79

For a burger that will make you melt and a cozy-casual atmosphere (all for a great price!):

burgers

De Saloon 

Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 102

For art that makes your head spin: 

hanging house balloon close balloon

W139

Warmoesstraat 139

Open daily 12:00-18:00

I Am

Look! Savannah can make animated gifs! =D

Anyway… Amsterdam is a fun city and your time there will be well spent. One of my favorite parts of being there was simply strolling through the streets, looking at the architecture and meandering into every interesting place we found. I never knew what we would stumble upon next, whether it was the I Amsterdam sign or a giant swing. Amsterdam has won my heart, and I can’t wait to return.

 Are you planning a trip to Amsterdam? Here are a few sites we used to get ready for our adventure: 

Things to do

More things to do

Coffee Shop Info

General Information

If you know of other great sites, places to go, or things to do in Amsterdam, feel free to add them in the comments!

Happy Amsterdam-ing,

Savannah

Bloglovin’//Twitter//Facebook

1 Comment

Filed under Travel