My family has a lot of history embedded in Philly. My sister lived there after school as she transitioned from college grad to adult, working for the clothing company URBN (Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, etc.). Philadelphia is also the land where my father came of age. For ten years he walked the streets as he flew for the Air Force and went to med school.
Not only is it a home, of sorts, to my family, but also our country. It is where our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It houses the Liberty Bell, Carpenters' Hall, National Constitution Center and more.
The city has grown up around the history, around the deep-water port that enabled Philly to be a central hub to begin with. Now that URBN has taken over the Naval Yards and a hip ice skating rink lines the Delaware River, the city is different than when my father lived here. Philly is now vibrant, full of to-the-minute trends, full of hour-long brunch lines, and with a full skyline and nightlife.
Philly, you're pretty great.
A search for authentic food across Little Rock.
A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla typically filled with a blend of cheese and seasoned pork. I once dated a native Salvadorian and had heard of the dish plenty of times, but never had the opportunity to try it until recently. About 15,000 Salvadorians live in Central Arkansas, so these authentic dishes aren't impossible to find, but in a sea of Tex-Mex, they are easily overlooked. These perfect pupusas are from Rosalinda Restaurante in North Little Rock. Traditionally served with beans and rice, I opted for rice and an avocado instead.
2. FRIED CHICKEN & WAFFLES
While fried chicken has a less-than-clear history, it was popularized in the 1940s by Harlan Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders. The native Arkansan developed his signature fried chicken recipe and made it a popular item through his famed company Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Now, I'd be willing to drive a lot farther than North Little Rock to get a fork into these waffles. It would be easy to miss this little chicken and waffles shack -- the whole building clearly had been in distress before being renovated into the restaurant. There are protective bars on the windows. The door is scarcely marked. Yet, as soon as one crosses the threshold into the establishment, the aroma of sweet waffle mix, powdered sugar, and syrup is overwhelming. This fried chicken recipe, passed down for generations, is a perfect pair with this sweet waffle. The brunch- , lunch-, whenever-time favorite is hard to beat.
3. VIETNAMESE GOODNESS
Hidden in the middle of the city, at the intersection of two big roads, Mike's Cafe could be missed. But once someone has pointed it out, you'll never pass on these noodle bowls and pho again.
The pho is the real deal: served with a side of jalapeños, limes and even lemon grass -- the true mark of authenticity. The Bahn Mi, the French-Vietnamese sandwich, is excellent and easily the best I have tasted. The chefs spent months perfecting the recipe before finally putting it on the menu, and it shows.
Now, I've been looking for a good authentic Mexican taco in the city for a while. And while there is plenty of good competition around the city, these from Eliella Ristorante are head and shoulders above the rest. Severing up decadent cabeza, lengua, and chorizo tacos, I could eat these all day. But there is so much more! The grilled cactus appetizers are not to be passed over. Nor is the homemade baked flan. Nor the guacamole. I could go on.
I was able to go behind the curtain for this year's production of The Nutcracker by Ballet Arkansas. Attending numerous practices, dress fittings, and meetings with directors and dancers alike, I have a newfound appreciation for the months of work that goes into the weekend of shows.
As the quintessential Christmas ballet dating back to Russia in the 1890s, perfection is key. In the video, you can hear the Head Mistress calling positions, mimicking the music, and correcting choreography during the first day of learning Marzipan.
In the fall, an afternoon sail is a special treat. The weather is cool but not uncomfortable. The lake is empty but not lonesome. And as the winds gently push against the sails it seems that everything you want on a Saturday in September is at your fingertips: fellowship, nature, and fun.
Where to begin with the Big Easy? With the wonderfully endless jazz and zydeco music, iconic cocktails, and Spanish architecture, New Orleans is oft a sight for sore eyes.
Whether you are looking for historic spots like Hotel Monteleone's Carousel Bar (think Hemingway and Capote) or modern markets like St. Roch, there is something for every twenty- and thirty- something year-old here.
My third time to the city, I've begun to really delve in and pick some favorites in town:
Cane & Table
St. Louis Cathedral
Jazz on Frenchman Street
and always: Cafe Du Monde
The Delta: rich food, even richer culture. The Mississippi River feeds and nourishes the soil of the Delta. Producing rice, corn, soybeans, peaches, pecans, and even more goodness. Home to James Beard Award-Winning barbecue and Johnny Cash's actual boyhood home. It has been the subject of many a book -- from John Grisham's A Painted House to Julia Reed's Queen of the Turtle Derby -- as well as artwork. This is the region that brought you the King Biscuit Blues Festival and juke joints. A place where time seems to have stopped, but the fields go on forever.
There is something remarkably welcoming about the Danes. My second time visiting the nation's second largest city, and I still believe these are some of the friendliest bunch I have been around. The pace of life is different in Denmark: The backyard vineyards just outside of the city limits. The lack of processed foods or commercial goods. The babies take naps outside, for goodness sake! The bottom line is that the Danes seem to have a deeper connection to the land around them. Everything has a purpose.
A perfect mix of modern sustainable practices and old traditions keep the fabric of the city vibrant. There is a clear tie to the history of the country, yet Denmark has come to the forefront for innovative architecture, design as well as wind energy.
I traveled from Denver, to Central City, Nederland, Estes Park, to Fort Collins, then back down to Boulder, and on to Denver using the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. The backroads cut through mountains, weave through small western towns, and overall provide a simply breathtaking and beautiful drive.
"Nature" is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
I am constantly drawn to and interested in learning more about the art of film. I decided it would be fun to try my hand at putting together a montage to document my long weekend traversing across central Colorado using videos taken from my iPhone. The music in this is an original song written and performed by two of the friends I stayed with. We sat out on the back porch over a fire pit, listening to song after song late into the night. Brandon and Adam are planning to release an EP later this year and have been booking venues to play in Denver.
The disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest is obvious in Nepal. In the southern jungle areas, in the northern Mustang region, for the Sherpas, and in the cities especially. The caste system is very much in tact. Interestingly, religious practices meld together seamlessly.
Yet, most see Nepal as a destination. Its lush southern jungles. The birthplace of Buddha. The incredible ancient temples. And of course, the Himalayan Mountains.
But the truth is that most people in Nepal struggle. For water and food. For clothes and shelter. Some of the hardest hit are Nepal's women, who are not only stuck in their caste position, but are marginalized within that.
My month was spent in teaching facilities and factories with women. Women who, mostly, had broken the mold and learned a handicraft skill. These women began to have their own income, giving them agency and freedom.
While most of my time and effort was put into these women, I too succumbed to the tourist adventures in Nepal. And, despite wanting this to not be true, accepted that tourism is the tiny nation's primary source of income. And realized that the country as a whole depends on granola tourists filling up their towns and adding to their economy.