• Shrine of the Times!

    Tokyo, Japan…Today Japan awed and inspired me at the Meiji Shrine (明治神宮 Meiji Jingū), located in Shibuya. This is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.

    A peaceful oasis in the heart of modern Tokyo, Meiji Shrine is sheltered by a 700,000 square-meter forest of 120,000 evergreen trees, donated from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established.

    The shrine grounds are entered through two of Japan’s largest torii (shrine gates), made of beautiful cypress wood more than 1,700 years old.

    The shrine was rebuilt in the 1950’s after being destroyed in World War II…this is the most visited shrine in Tokyo.

    In part of the compound, you can write a wish and place at the altar and shake a cylinder of thin sticks till one pops out revealing a wisdom or poem relating to your life! Mine was great!

    This was an amazing yet solemn place that just evokes a true sense of Japan’s long history and proud people! The design is a hallmark of Japanese beauty!









  • A Grand Hotel!

    Singapore…One of the most famous hotels in history is located right here in Singapore: The Raffles Hotel!

    This colonial gem opened in the late 1800’s and was the first modern building with electricity in Singapore at the time. Originally only 10 rooms, the hotel was named after Singapore’s founder Sir Stamford Raffles and has expanded throughout the years, surviving several wars and even The Great Depression!

    The hotel is located at the corner of Beach Road and Bras Basah Road and has hosted celebrities and dignitaries for over a century. The famous Long Bar is the home of the “Singapore Sling” cocktail and is more than just a British Colonial bar, it’s truly an institution! The decor of dark wood and palm frond fans have set the scene for literary legends Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad as they indulged in the famous “long” drinks and shelled peanuts back in the day!

    I attempted to enter the lobby but the doormen are known for their strict policy of restricting entrance to only residents and I was swiftly turned away in my shorts and flip flops!

    This is a real slice of history and one of the best displays of iconic British Colonial style with its grand porches, sprawling arcade, and incredible fanlike palm trees. This hotel really is a cool piece of history and the definition of Singapore!






  • Singapore Fling!

    Singapore…Usually the skyscrapers and mega malls define this modern yet tiny Asian country. But as a melting pot of numerous Asian ethnicities; Singapore marries Indian, Malay, and Chinese cultures that have had an extreme impact on this city’s food, architecture, and vibe!

    The modern airport of Chiangi is the welcoming point for most Singapore visitors and its status as the world’s best gives visitors the first glimpse at how Singapore works…well organized and very user friendly!

    The shopping and high rise mania doesn’t excite me, so I wanted to experience the more ethnic and historical heart of Singapore! A walk to the Kamplung Glam introduced me to Arab Street and area surrounding the Sultan Mosque. This Malay area dates back to the turn of the century and is beautifully lined with multi color historical buildings!

    I loved the color combos of the buildings and especially how each shuttered facade is painted in a different unique color combo!

    My first sampling of Singapore revealed a different side of this city and the cultural diversity that this city holds!





  • Paying Homage to the Queen!

    Los Angeles, California…I drove out to Long Beach today to embark my ship for my 21 day trans-pacific cruise to Australia!

    Permanently docked next to my ship is the grand Queen Mary! This historic seafaring vessel has become a hotel, museum, and tourist attraction. It truly is a beautiful ship that reminds me of the Titantic! Long and stately with its red funnels, this ship makes me nostalgic for the old days of cruising.

    There is a Princess Diana exhibit as well as an evening tour of ghost hunting aboard. I guess there were many deaths aboard during its years of service and those souls still haunt this grande dame!

    I imagine steamer trunks, immaculately dressed guests, and orchestras playing all night in its heyday! What a cool piece of travel history!





  • A Dutch Treat!

    Cape Town, South Africa…today was my last full day in this place that I have been totally taken by. I travelled a short distance out of Cape Town to the historical settlement of Stellenbosch. Set in the famous South African wine region by the same name, this valley is revered for its wine making and the beauty of this small Dutch town that dates back centuries.

    The second oldest European settlement in the province after Cape Town. Stellenbosch was founded in 1679 during the period of control by the Dutch East India Company. Hence the Dutch architecture that makes up the beauty of the town which is full of homes and cottages that are all finished with a striking white-lime wash with black hatch roofing. The area is set in the Jonkershoek Valley and is full of rolling vineyards and the town itself became known as the City of Oaks, due to the large number of grand Oak Trees that line the streets. These oaks were originally planted to provide the wood for the wine barrels so they would not need to be imported…but these Oaks grew too porous to be used and now are beloved and protected parts of Stellenbosch!

    Dorp Street is lined with beautiful cottages and a myriad of little shops and cafes. You can definitely spend an afternoon here strolling the shops and galleries and some of the regions most acclaimed restaurants are situated on vineyards in the nearby valley!

    It is a testament to the entire area of the Western Cape that so much beauty is housed in a relatively close distance…a week here and I have discovered gem after gem. Each day I am in awe of another site that captivates the senses! Stellenbosch was just icing on the delicious cake of my time here! I understand why this region is a favorite of locals for weddings…I can totally picture nuptials in one of the many grand vineyards that line the road to Stellenbosch!

    Cape Town may be a long way away from home, but definitely a place everyone should put on their list!

  • Dark Moments in History!

    Cape Town, South Africa…I have been enthralled by the natural beauty around this city, but no one can visit South Africa without paying respect to it’s tumultuous history.

    Remnants of Apartheid and the country’s history with racism are all around. It is not something Capetonians want to forget, there are museums, monuments, and memorials to this part of their history throughout the city. I was chilled by some of these sights, especially knowing some of these racist policies were going on in my lifetime!

    District Six, the neighborhood forcibly depopulated by the Apartheid government has remained a barren grass filled memorial. The Iziko Slave Lodge Museum is the oldest surviving slave building that was originally built by the Dutch East India Company in 1679. And the building that once housed the Race Classification Board and it’s poignant race designated benches are still part of downtown Cape Town.

    Growing up in the United States, we are guilty of being very insulated to some important events in world history. We all know who Nelson Mandela is, but many of us fail to understand what he went through and what went on here during Apartheid! Visiting his prison cell on Robben Island is sobering. I am deeply moved by the struggles of South Africa and I am proud my travels have opened my eyes to pay witness to this history!





  • A Bubble Bath!

    Istanbul, Turkey…2 days in this amazing city to enjoy its exotic yet cosmopolitan vibe. Besides visiting all the mosques and bazaars, I wanted to experience a traditional Turkish Hamman… Cagaloglu Hamami, named in the best selling book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”…this 300 year old bath has hosted sultans and kings and retains many of its original details.

    I am stripped down to a tiny scarf sized wrap and wooden clogs, the service starts out with a relaxing 10 minutes in the marble encased steam room. Afterwards, the man performing the service shows up also in a towel…I guess we are going to become very well acquainted!

    A rough massage smack in the middle of the Hamman on the marble has me squealing. We then proceed to the bathing ritual of skin loofah, foam bath, and a series of cold & warm rinses! By the time it’s done, I am exhausted but my skin is glowing!

    It’s a little weird to get fully scrubbed in front of a Hamman of strangers but a cool experience, nevertheless. The interior itself is beautiful and this hour just spent here just adds to the mystique and allure of Istanbul.





  • Totally in Ruins!

    Kusadasi, Turkey…this port city was our pathway to the ancient ruins of Ephesus as well as the much debated final home of the Virgin Mary. The well preserved ruins of Ephesus rival Pompeii in their size and grandeur and are a must see!

    I have been here before on a previous cruise, but these sights are definitely something you can repeatedly experience…my travel companion has never been here and I wanted him to experience it as well. I am “allergic” to big tour groups, so instead of an organized outing with a large group following a guide, I decided we shall go it independently. I like being able to customize my experience instead of following some pre set program….A few taxi drivers and a lot of haggling later, we were on our way through the beautiful Turkish hillsides towards the House of the Virgin Mary.

    The sights were bustling with an overflow of tourists on buses from allover the globe!

    At the house of the Virgin Mary, this holy shrine is a pilgrimage spot for many Christians and hence women visit with scarves on their heads to show respect and collect water from the natural Spring below. There is a wishing wall where you can write your wish or prayer on paper or fabric and attach it to a wall already full of other’s hopes and dreams. I affix my wish to the wall and I hope time will tell!

    Afterwards, a hike through the marble laden ruins of Ephesus really provides a sense of antiquity and manmade ingenuity…it’s a sprawling feast for the eyes everywhere you look! Instilling complete awe, you are able to see up close how these buildings and artifacts have survived so well for centuries!

    History is so powerful. Exploring ancient marvels such as these makes you realize the enduring power of mankind! Learning about it in a book cannot compare to traveling to feast your eyes on the marvel of it yourself.20120829-020930.jpg20120829-021055.jpg20120829-021137.jpg20120829-023327.jpg20120829-023622.jpg20120829-023954.jpg


  • Stolat! Cheers to Poland!

    Warsaw, Poland…today is my last day in my ancestral homeland of Poland. It’s been an amazing 12 days that totally flew by. If I eat one more pierogi or splurge on another carb, I may explode!

    This country provided everything I hoped it would…it put into focus so much for me! My sister and myself were able to bond over our shared nostalgic memories of my late grandmother, we had several “A-HA” moments about my father, and we finally were able to put a visual to the many stories heard over and over again!

    Warsaw is a city of resilience…a city whose beauty was totally destroyed yet rebuilt, a city haunted by a completely leveled ghetto that it continues to honor, and a city that freed itself from the tyrannic grip of Communism and is rising to new heights! It is inspiring to see all the monuments erected throughout Warsaw that celebrate and memorialize all the struggles this city has undertaken.

    I think this has become a re-occurring message that my visit to Poland is screaming out at me! I leave here feeling energized with an “you can -overcome anything” attitude and a new sense of pride in my own heritage…

    This visit to Poland will hold a special place in my heart! Wandering the Globe has opened my eyes to so much, but this may be the widest my eyes have been opened by a trip. Now I need to process these learnings in order to achieve more greatness in my life and be that much better of a person!





  • Family Riches!

    Tomaszow Lubelski, Poland…a day of visiting distant relatives throughout this picturesque farming area of Poland broadened my eyes to what a large presence my family has in this region. Everyone was excited to meet my sister and I and each home greeted us with a spread of delicious yet rich Polish cooking! Of course, we had to be polite and eat each yummy meal, yet the result of eating so many extravagant meals in one day left us feeling beyond stuffed!

    It’s a world of difference between where I grew up in Chicago and this simple farmland, yet I can see common family traits, mannerisms, and features that connect us. There is a love of art and of craft that I share with several cousins. One cousin in particular hand crafts beautiful embroideries that she so proudly displayed to us!
    Her intricate designs result in lace like fabric that is stunning, yet a bit old fashioned…I mention how I could modernize it by framing it in a slick contemporary way. She was thrilled and gave me one of her pieces with the promise that I would send her a photo of what I create from it.

    Now as I reflect, I am overwhelmed by 3 whirlwind days of meeting so many people, being bombarded with a lot of complicated family ties, and trying to absorb who is who and from where. My sister and I are confusing one another as we try to compile it all into something we can remember. Scribbling charts and connecting names so we can make sense of our visit here!

    Our history is important and connecting to it has been truly special for me. I am so thankful that I finally made this trip; after years of exploring the world’s riches, I am I finally connected with my own! I will leave here feeling just a bit more complete.