Amsterdam: City of Houseboats and Bicycles

I got to take a spur-of-the-moment trip to Amsterdam, city of houseboats, bicycles, legalized marijuana use, and, oh yeah, prostitution! I was in the city less than 5 minutes before I caught the first pungent whiffs of weed, passed a pot shop, and wandered by a brothel which a business man was just leaving. Nothing like a little lunch break pick-me-up, amiright?

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My Plunge Into Diving

As I had a length of time yet until heading to China, I decided to revisit Thailand – but this time in the South. I headed to Koh Tao, 1. Because it is an island, and I’d yet to see any Thai islands, and 2. Primarily to learn how to dive!

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Oamaru, Mouraki, and Dunedin

Oamaru was a gem of a find – a historic gold-mining and quarrying town renowned for its well-preserved heritage buildings. The Victorian precinct is particularly note-worthy for its Victorian and Industrial Steam themed buildings. In other words, kids, this is a Steampunk town! IMG_0711

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Positivity: A Year In Review

It’s curious how Time seems to pass faster the older I get. I wonder why that is. Could it be because as an adult I don’t live In The Moment like when I was a child – when activities and days seemed to stretch on forever?

I find it interesting my Word for the Year was Positivity, when this year has been one of the most wildly tumultuous years I’ve experienced yet. 27 was definitely NOT the picture perfect, rose coloured life my 11 year old self imagined. But maybe one can gain a better understanding of Positivity when your life is in upheaval; when things don’t go “right” or smoothly or even well at all! Because then what is your basis for Positivity – if everything is always only ever peachy-keen?

The year started in Ireland – sick from the Chinese air and a long haul flight, a veritable battle w/ border control, plunged into an insidiously damp Irish January and circumstances I did not expect. My three month plan working at a seal sanctuary took many turns for the worse (another story for another time) and I immediately found myself questioning what Positivity meant. Was it just putting a happy face on a shitty situation? Was it pushing myself beyond my boundaries in an effort to appease others? Why couldn’t I just DECIDE to be Positive in the face of adverse conditions and circumstances? And it was here that I realized something that would continue with me through the course of Positivity 2018:

Positivity is a Silver Lining.

Honestly, over the many ups and downs this year threw my way, it always kept reinforcing this concept, much to my chagrin. I kept getting (perhaps irrationally so) upset that I was finding myself always looking “on the bright side of life“, or if not exactly the bright side of life in that moment, I would cling to the hope of a brighter future.

I’ve always enjoyed connecting the Dots of Life – seeing how I ended up where I am by looking at what brought me here. The first month in Ireland was an insane time – I was constantly battling myself and my unpleasant situation, and making certain choices were some of the hardest things I have EVER done. BUT – if I hadn’t made those choices, I would never have met some of the most lovely and wonderful people, gained a deeper understanding about self care, come across books I could share with family and friends, created some truly SPECTACULAR memories (coughcoughLATINNIGHTcough), learned about snails, seen wild horses, become closer to some truly special people in my life, or even taken my first wine course (yeah, I know – in Ireland of all places!). Not to mention, the impact I had on the lives of those I encountered, however brief or lasting.

A lot of soul searching has happened this year, from all around Europe and back to the States, and it hasn’t always been pretty. My depression and anxiety sprang to life with a fierce vengeance which, among all the other joys they bring, brought a huge sense of defeat. I’d been doing so well. But this time, something was slightly, but monumentally, different. This time, even in the midst of un-nameable despair, a voice in my heart reminded me that I have had incredible experiences. And that those days WILL come again. And that, my friends, is Positivity.


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Wine Talk: 2014 Barolo Producer Tasting (La Morra, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy)

My tasting at Burzi afforded me not only a chance to try my first proper Barolos outside of a classroom setting, but also yielded precious information about a Barolo producer tasting over the weekend as they rolled out their 2014 vintage.

Taking place at Cantina Comunale di la Morra, 9 producers would be in attendance showcasing 25 wines. Cost: €15. After not being able to make the large tasting back in Amsterdam, I rearranged my schedule to attend this one. If ever I was to get a crash course in tasting Barolo (of which I’d had a grand total of 3: 1 in class and 2 at Burzi [although I did try another Nebbiolo wine there]), this was it.  Continue reading

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Wine Talk: Burzi (La Morra, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy)

The reason I went to Piedmont, Italy in the first place was to see the region famous for  Barolo (along with Barbaresco, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Roero – but all are made from the native Nebbiolo grape) and do as much wine tasting as possible. Barbera, another Italian varietal, is also grown in Piedmont, and there is actually over 15 times more Barbera grown in Piedmont than Nebbiolo! #funfacts A friend of mine set up a tasting for me at a winery owned by a former colleague of hers. But before I get to the winery and the tasting, here’s a bit of background on the grape and the region.

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Wine Talk: Château Meursault (Côte de Beaune, Bourgogne, France)

Finding myself in one of the most prestigious wine regions of the world (renowned for producing the world’s most expensive dry white wines), I had to figure out how to do some tasting! Thankfully, I met some friends who had a car, so we were off to Château Meursault in the famous Côte de Beaune, which is the southern portion of Côte d’Or.

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Wine Talk: Champagne Faucheron Gavroy (Champagne, France)

Getting to visit a Grand Cru classé Champagne House was definitely the highlight of my brief stop in Champagne, France. Of the 100+ villages in Champagne, only 17 are considered Grand Cru territory, and each year the individual Houses need to prove their Grand Cru worth. I visited Champagne Faucheron Gavroy in Tours-sur-Marne (outside the Champagne centre of Epernay) and was given a tour of the cellars by owner Cathy Faucheron.

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Edoras and the Pelennor Fields

Ok, this is going to be a full on geeky fangirl post. I’ve already shared quite a bit about visiting Lord of the Rings film sites, and there was NO WAY I was going to miss two of the biggest, most iconic sites of them all! Namely, Edoras, home of the Horse Lords of Rohan, and the Pelennor Fields, renowned for some epic battle sequences.


Edoras and the Golden Hall


Rohirrim about to enter the fray at the Pelennor Fields

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Queenstown Letdown and Discovering Mount Cook

From Wanaka, I made my way down to Queenstown, Tourist Central and Home of Adventure Sports such as skiing, boating, sky-diving, and a really big swing. Before I got there, I took a brief detour to Arrowtown, a small village outside of Queenstown, where a few LotR scenes were filmed (Arwen and the Ringwraiths confrontation at the river, and in the extended edition of Fellowship, the surprise attack on Isildur). Like in Wanaka, Autumn colours were rampant and absolutely stunning. I had lunch and a delightful walk-around the town and along the river.IMG_0149 Continue reading

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