Cinque Terre, A Little Slice Of Heaven

Travel days can really be the worst. They are invariably long and tiring. Though I’m usually thrilled to have arrived at my next destination, I really wish someone would jump on this whole teleportation thing. We were up so crazy early to leave Morocco and to make matters worse, I was feeling under the weather.  From about the time we arrived at the airport, I spent the majority of the day wishing I could curl up and die.  My stomach was a mess, twisting and gurgling . But of course, David with the stomach of a goat, was perfectly fine.

But really when you think about it, a travel day is probably one of the better times to fall ill.  Sure, turbulence and food poisoning don’t really mix, but at least I didn’t have to stay in bed all day or power through an excursion. And fortunately enough, by the time we arrived to Cinque Terre, everything was better.  David and I were sipping red wine and looking out at the sunset over the Italian riviera.

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Riomaggiore Sunset Witnessed Moments After Arriving


Having experienced it, I completely understand why millions of tourists flock to these five fishing villages each year. It’s Italy at it’s best, with the crystal clear aqua water, the brightly colored buildings nestled into the sides of lush terraced hills, gorgeous hiking trails and of course the deliciously fresh food. Cinque Terrre is a dream. A place where babies are conceived because of the wine and gorgeous views.

As I peered out of our window on our first morning in Riomaggiore (the furthest south of the five villages), all I saw in the marina were day hikers outfitted with all of their hiking gear.  Hiking is definitely a must while here. It’s a great way to visit all five of the villages, get some incredible photos and to counteract all of the food you will be consuming. Lorraine, the apartment manager at Allo Scalo dei Mille, had suggested we take the ferry from our village to the farthest north village of Monterosso and hike the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza. So, we set off for the ferry. By sea, you truly get to a unique view of all five towns.

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A Sea View of Riomaggiore

The beautiful views from the trails were endless on the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza, but it was hard work. We climbed steep step after steep step, looking back to catch a glimpse of the town that we were leaving or getting peeks at the village we were approaching. It was all so magical really. Water shouldn’t be that blue and the sun shouldn’t make it sparkle so much. And as expected, when Vernazza, the darling of Cinque Terre, came well into view, I couldn’t help but fall in love with it.

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Looking Back At Monterosso

Most of these towns have the spot that everyone has a picture from. The one from Vernazza was just off the trail and everyone wanted that famous photo. But then there was Heather from Canada, a woman, who had plopped her butt right in the prime position with a bottle of champagne and had no intentions of moving.  All I could do was shake my head.

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There’s Heather From Canada

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An Alternate View of Vernazza

Although Vernazza is the darling, and really all of the towns are adorable, my favorite of the five was Manarola. I loved how the candy colored towns were positioned  in the hill and the way the marina hugs it. It just photographed so well. We hiked down from the neighboring town of Volustra (not a part of the five villages) on our second day to Manarola and spent time exploring.  We had lunch perched up at Nessun Dorma, a restaurant that serves yummy bruschetta and has the best views.

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Just Imagine My Perfect B&B Somewhere In View

And what’s a trip to Cinque Terre without heading to the beach? Monterosso is by far the biggest and has the most resort town feel. Besides the shopping and oodles of restaurants, it’s blessed to have a pebble beach that we laid out on like lizards under an orange and green stripped umbrella.

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The Beach of Monterosso

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A View From My Beach Chair

If it wasn’t for all of the annoying tourists, like myself, eagerly hiking the trails, snapping pictures, eating all of the gelato (the best place by far is Alberto’s Gelateria in Corniglia) and stealing all of the dinner reservations, I would sell all of my possessions, learn Italian and open a B&B in Manorola.  Cinque Terre is a slice of heaven that everyone should have a taste of. It’s odd. Normally when it’s time for me to say goodbye to a place, there’s this sadness that comes over me that makes tearing myself away that much harder.  But this experience was different, there was no sadness, no concerns of never witnessing again. I just have this feeling that I’ll be back sometime soon.



5 Ways To Relax In Marrakesh

When you’re planning a trip to Marrakesh, everyone has a tip or gentle warning that they’ve gained either from personal experience or a friend of a friend. They are all well intended. Beware of the vendors in the souks. Don’t walk around by yourself.  More than likely you’ll get lost. Always negotiate!

All of these tidbits are so very true. The souks can be absolutely maddening. I’ve been called Rhianna, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Chocolate, Sister Obama and my personal favorite, Africa, all in the name of trying to sell me a $2 scarf.

Wait. Aren’t we all African here?!

And if you aren’t careful enough, you can wind up in the direct path of a speeding moped making its way down the narrow alleyway.

Yes, you will most definitely will get lost wandering the medina, but that’s a part of the fun.

Negotiating is the way of life.  Always start with a third of the asking price, especially with the taxis!

I’m so thankful we walked into this experience with this information; it’s definitely given us a leg up. But what I wish someone would have shared with me was how to minimize our exposure to the craziness and actually have a relaxing day in this bustling city.  Because at some point, I can guarantee, some man will call you Chocolate and you’ll want to lose it right there in the middle of the street.  Rather than making a fool of yourself, it’s best to find a way to block it all out. And I’ve got just what you need to do that.

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1. Relax Inside your Riad. These dwellings were designed to provide privacy and keep the noise out.  Where we stayed, at Riad Soundouss, was the perfect place to lay back and enjoy the tranquility.  Pascale and her team went out of their way to ensure that our experience was restful. We probably could have stayed within those four walls for a while, but travelers guilt weighed heavy on me, so we moved on to other peaceful activities.


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2. Visit Les Jardins Majorelle. Depending on where you’re staying you’ll have to venture into a wee bit of craziness, but once there, it’s an ideal escape just outside of the medina.  It’s one of the most popular attractions in Marrakech, but doesn’t feel too crowded while there. You can stroll the manicured lanes of the gardens, enjoy the collection of cacti and plants, breathe in the fresh air and delight in the shade from the tall trees.



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3. Explore a Palace. While you  can’t step foot near the Royal Palace of the King of Morocco, you may explore the palaces of the past.  These beautiful displays of grandeur are really and truly a step back into time. You can wander the grounds imagining how the rulers may have lived.


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4. Take Refuge. Tucked away in a deserted alley is a gem of a place called Dar Cherifa.  You must ring the door in order to enter into the 16th century year old house.  Within the courtyard, you can lounge on sofas and eat a delicious meal, cozy up to a good book from their literary corner or appreciate the art of the featured exhibit.  You could literally hold up here for hours.


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5. Schedule a Hammam. A hammam is a wonderful treat that I think everyone should experience if traveling to Morocco. It involves an intensive scrubbing of the body. But trust me, it’s an incredible experience. You first start with a complete cleansing, followed by a head to to exfoliation.  After, you’ll rest in the lounging area to enjoy mint tea and sweets You will be amazed by how soft your skin feels.  I swear, you’ll never feel cleaner.


Top on my list of things to do in Morocco was a day-trip to Essaouira, a coastal town about two hours away from Marrakesh.  From my research it was a must-see and I figured a quick visit to the sea would be a great change of scenery.

We rose early to make our Supratour Bus just as the clouds were gathering over Marrakesh, turning darker by the minute.  They were intense and clearly weren’t there for show.  Oh, no.  The bottom was about to fall out and we couldn’t be more relieved to be driving away in the opposite direction from where they were coming.

Our ride to Essauoira on the Supratour bus was quite comfortable, despite the assigned seat debacle that had both locals and tourists confused. Nonetheless, the gray clouds were thinning as we distanced ourselves from our home base and the scenery was beautiful while we were awake.  It was one of those bus rides where our tiredness would overcome our every intention to keep our eyes open and observe the surroundings or catch up on some reading.  Every once in a while we would catch a glimpse of the desert, what appeared to be whole towns under construction or a pair of trees where goats stood on high limbs, like oranges waiting to be picked, as a small gatherings of tourists waited their turn for photos.

As we approached Essaouira, the Atlantic Ocean grew larger and larger until we could see the sprawling sandy beach and the waves breaking on the shore.  Essaouira is a beautiful coastal town, with white-washed buildings and blue painted doors and shudders. The city was strikingly different to Marrakesh. I would call it the cool, laid-back younger sibling. Just chill.  As I guess you would expect any coastal city to be.


We took to their medina first, noticing the breathing room to explore without the near death experiences from passing mopeds and the constant vying for our attention from vendors. For once, we were able to browse the goods without having to put up with the hustle.  After we made our way over to the marina, where the aroma of fish took over our senses.


We found the true chaos, but it wasn’t directed towards us.  They couldn’t even be bothered with David and me. The fishermen fresh off their morning trip to sea were busy trying to sell their catch to the locals for their dinners.


It was exciting to watch the craziness ensue, but we grew hungry. Fast.  But before seeking out lunch, we took a slight detour to the Portuguese Ramparts to get those coveted coastal views of the city.


For lunch, we followed the guides and headed straight for the seafood stalls, where you pick out your fish that was just caught and they grill it up for you on the spot. Man did we eat well! We had a lobster, sea bass and shrimp. I grabbed a fresh pressed orange-grapefruit juice and life was good.  In those moments between the delicious bites and the beautiful ocean view, we had just about everything we needed.

Coming To Africa

I have finally returned to the motherland!

Okay, Morocco is not the motherland that my ancestors hail from, according to the DNA test results, but I’m most definitely on African soil, so that has to count for something, right? We touched down in Marrakesh and I was completely blown away by both it’s beauty and chaos. From all of my reading up on the country, I believed I had a good idea of what to expect, but it’s greater than anything I imagined. There’s a constant give and take of that which is alluring and that which is complete confusion.  Take for example the road leading us away from the airport, it was packed with cars and mopeds taking matters into their own hands, but if you looked a bit harder you would see that very same road was lined with rose bushes that had the biggest and prettiest blooms that I’ve ever seen.  And that is Marrakesh at it’s core, a gorgeous display of disorder.

As we wove our way through the city and slipped into the medina, I was absolutely captivated.  I watched intently as the cars, mopeds and pedestrians moved around each other, each focused on there own direction, forgetting about the rules in place to protect them. Cars would rear up on school-aged children as scooters would dart out in front of cars without so much as a look.  And poor little me, I couldn’t help but hold my breath and prepare for the impending collision. What we would deem a certified cluster, magically works here. There were no collisions. No sweet old ladies being taken out by two wheels or four for that matter. Here, everyone makes it out alive.

Inside the medina, we are met by the riad manager, Paschale. She’s a wonderful French woman who I can tell is a person who lives to see the world. I absolutely adore her spirit. She leads us down the alley, pointing out the street art that will serve as our reminder that we are at our temporary home. Et voila, Riad Soundouss! She opened the door to our private sanctuary. Shut out from the outside, the riad was a peaceful escape. Inside, the air was perfumed with roses, you could hear birds chirping and the soft sound of a bubbling fountain. The hustle from the medina was no longer there, just two tall orange trees, cedar carved wood, intricate tile work and hand painted ceilings. It was my taste of heaven on earth. And in those first few moments, as David and I sipped mint tea on the terrace, I had a feeling that Marrakesh would be one of those cities that I fall deeply in love with.

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It’s weird to even say it aloud that I’m 29. I know, big eye roll. We all get old. So I’ll move on.

Thanks to the help of an awesome guide created by X days in Y and a little bit of research of my own, the 29th anniversary of me was perfection.  We spent it exploring Montmartre, an adorable part of Paris with stunning views, secret alley ways that lead to more stunning views and a little gem of a restaurant that the locals would love to keep to themselves.

My birthday started out simple enough with my favorite meal of the day, breakfast!  I was truly craving bacon and eggs with a side of French toast, so I found Breakfast In America. It’s a sweet yet inaccurate play on a New York diner. Both the pancakes and French toast were boss and I can definitively conclude that the café au lait was absolutely dreamy. And to add to my pleasure, they played my favorites- Ella, Frank and Tony.

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We made a brief pit stop at Place Vosages since it was so close.

After, it was time for our romantic tour around Montmartre. Like champs, we navigated the metro and in no time we were climbing the stairs up from the Abbesses station to begin at Le Mur de Je T’aime.

From there we wandered through the cozy streets as the guide suggested, stopping here and there to capture the beauty and appreciate the scenery.  We passed the Moulin Rouge and the café from Amélie Poulain.

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We caught views of the Eiffel Tower and the beautiful Parisian rooftops.

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Until we finally made it to the main event, the Sacré Coeur.  It was breathtaking, both figuratively and literally. We climbed all the way to the top of the dome and enjoyed the full panoramic view of the city.

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By the end of it, our booties were on fire from the steps and our fingers were frozen from the 40 degree weather, but it was well worth it. And we rewarded ourselves with one of the most delicious lunches from a restaurant called Soul Kitchen. We had a gourd soup, a salad and a rhubarb, apple crisp with hot tea to warm up. It was heaven. We made conversation with the locals who were playing the restaurants daily challenge. That day’s was to name 10 countries with the letter “z” in them. In English, the challenge is very easy but in French it’s a different story.   This place is definitely secret for the locals; they even asked us how we found it.

As we made our way to the metro to our last destination, it had turned cold and windy and began to hail. At our next stop, it was if it the cold never existed and we were greeted by the sun. It couldn’t have been better timed because we were able to have a beautiful, practically uninterrupted view of the Sacré Coeur.

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By the end of our day, everything was hurting. Those shoes that started off as insanely cushy and comfortable were now being cursed. Calves, booties, shoulders, fingers and toes, were all either sore or frozen. The sun was overpowered by the changing weather and disappeared behind thick gray clouds. And by the time we reached our hotel for a little wine before dinner, there were snow flurries. It was some of the strangest weather I’ve ever experienced in one day. But it really didn’t bother me.  I had a whole day doing exactly what I love to do, eating well and exploring a new place. What more could I have asked for. The day ended with dinner and small adventure, but more on that later…

If you ever want to take the self-guided tour of Montmartre go here.  *Note that Le Mur des Je T’aime and the secret view of the Sacre Coeur are not a part of it.

The Bourgie Traveler Is Back

Passport Photo BT Is Back

I’m about to leave the country for thirty days and life couldn’t be more normal.  In a matter of hours my grandmother will be cruising her way through Atlanta to pick up David and me to go to the airport and I’m in my PJ’s casually making breakfast. What the hell is wrong with me? Preparedness. That’s David’s explanation. To his point, our trip has been seven months in the making, but that doesn’t reasonably describe why were so relaxed and reserved this morning.

A smile crossed my face when I woke and realized that today was the day, but where’s the unabashed enthusiasm? Thirty days. 3-0 days of vacation. On the inside I feel like a kid cracked out on a giant pixie stick, the blue one of course, but on the outside I’m the exact opposite. Why aren’t I dancing in my underwear to Donna Summer?? Could it be that I’m…tired? NO!

Clearly I need to pull myself together here.  In less than 24 hours, I’ll be stepping foot on European soil and you know what that means. Beautifully manicured parks, buttery pastries stuffed with chocolate for the hell of it and glass after glass of wine just because I can. There will be no real sense of time unless I’m chasing the sun for its grand morning appearance or it’s lazy descent into the horizon. It’s only a matter of time until I’ll be staring up into a vast starry sky from the comforts of my desert tent, post camel ride. And I can’t forget about all of the gelato I intend consuming. My guesstimate is about twenty cones, a little conservative, but we’ll see.

I’m psyched about the countless experiences that are before me, I just need to have someone pinch me to remind that this is real. It’s real and it’s happening right now. Maybe when I’m being felt up by TSA, a fun beat will pop into my head.  And when I order a milkshake in the terminal as a toast to America, my shoulders will begin to shimmy in time to my hips. And finally, when my butt hits my seat on the plane, I’ll have an uncomfortably awkward smile plastered across my face as other passengers pass me by, because this trip is going to be AMAZING (my preferred vacation descriptor of all time, at least so says my dear friend David Munz)!

So the long of the short of it is that the Bourgie Traveler is back! And it’s high time that we all get excited for what’s to come.

Urban Hikers

I’ve been completely out of my normal exercise schedule recently.  This cool weather has left me hiding under my covers and snuggling up with my husband on the couch.  I’ve lost sight of the gym and forgot the joy I once received from my morning sweat session.  It’s getting a lot out of control.  So when my friend, Robin, asked if I wanted to go hiking on our day off, I jumped on it.

We started our morning with coffee from the Dancing Goats coffee bar.  I have been eyeing this place for a while and am so glad it made our agenda.  I’ve been searching for quality coffee and think I’ve found just the spot.  It was a little expensive, but the wonderful tastes more than made up for it.  My absolute favorite part was the outdoor seating area, more specifically, the swinging sofas.  I must get one.  I can picture myself  indulging in a trashy book and a glass of wine, lazily swaying on my sofa swing.  Christmas is around the corner.

Typically, if I go hiking, I’ll need to drive at least 45 minutes outside of the city.  Which is one of the few downsides of living ITP (inside of the perimeter). With the guidance of Atlanta Magazine, we set out to do a little urban hiking and test out the trails that are close by. Giving into a guilty pleasure, the two of us car-danced to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off as we made our way to Constitutional Lakes Park.

Fall was all around us; purple leaves covered the sidewalk path which eventually opened up into a wetland.  Who would have thought that there was a marshy piece of land inside of the city?  Atlanta never fails to surprise me.

After a respectable number of photos were taken, we continued on in search of the Doll’s Head trail.  Just a few hundred feet away and we found the sign directing us to the trail’s beginning.   That alone should have been a warning that this was going to be more than just a hike.  I faintly remember Robin mentioning that this was an artsy hike but dismissed the comment out of pure incomprehension.

The sign guiding us to the beginning of Doll's Head Trail...

The sign guiding us to the beginning of Doll’s Head Trail…

Quirky pieces of what I guess we could call art were scattered alongside the trail.   It appears that trash that once disgraced the property had been transformed into something one could potentially appreciate.  As we continued on, signs of encouragement appeared, urging hikers to re-purpose any new trash into their own pieces of art.

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I was really starting to enjoy the vibe until Robin scared me.  I learned the hard way why they called it Dolls’ Head trail.

Doll's Head Trail

The vision of this creepy looking doll’s head poking out of the stump of a tree made me scream as if an ax murderer was about to end my life.  I was ready to end Robin’s in that moment.  As we moved forward even stranger doll’s heads appeared but I’m not going to lie, I was really into it.

Doll’s Head Trail at Constitutional Lakes Park was like crossing the misfit toys of Toy Story with the inspirational quotes of Oprah and hiding them in a 200 acre wetland within the city of Atlanta.  Almost hard to believe unless you witness it for yourself.  But it was real and we have the proof.  At the end of the trail, each hiker has the opportunity to leave their own personal mark.  Maybe one day, if you’re lucky, you’ll find ours.

Bye Felicia!

Cheers to You, Croatia!

I’m ending this month long adventure the way I started it, with a Donna Summer dance party. She has definitely perked up the mood from a little mellow to downright upbeat.  I’m dancing around and finishing packing up my things.  It’s a little weird seeing my life shoved into four suitcases.

I took care of the essentials today; worked out, sipped some coffee while doing a little people watching and I got a manicure.  Mirna killed it this afternoon with my nails; I’m absolutely in love with them.  With my new paint job and Donna singing Bad Girls, I’m feeling a little sassy.

I’ve realized that I’ve done everything that I wanted this month and very little I planned.  Pre-Croatia Nikki probably would have freaked out over this; but it actually feels good.   I’ve had the trip of a lifetime and experienced more than I ever imagined I could in a month.  For whatever reason, I thought I would come out of this experience feeling more settled down but if anything I’m left with an even greater appetite to explore and discover.  Thankfully, David and I are on the same page.  We’ve got dinner tonight to toast to this opportunity and to our future.  I’m happy, we’re happy, life is good.

So, what’s next? That’s what I’ve been asking myself. Quite honestly, I’m not sure yet.  I know in the immediate future I have a flight out to Frankfurt that is obscenely early and this weekend is homecoming, so there will be football, family and friends.  This should definitely lighten the harsh blow of reality.  As far as my next international adventure, I’m sure I’ll stumble into something, but that doesn’t mean everything will go dark.  Now that I’ve discovered the pleasures of blogging, I don’t plan on stopping. I’ve got a lot to say.  There are untold Croatia stories that I need to share and I know I’ll have plenty of tales to tell from the trouble I get into back home.

Like I told my friends here, I’m not saying any goodbyes.  So, I’ll see you soon.

Croatian Football Feast

I woke up this morning stuffed from last night’s feast.  I was a little dehydrated but no headache; I would call that a victory.  Yesterday evening, we drove over to the neighboring town of Novi Marof to visit friends.  You may recall my last visit to Novi Marof was for the Croatian Barbeque.  This evening had a similar spirit but with a slight twist. Instead of going to the family compound, we headed to the hills to their cabin where we had gemišt, delicious food and we watched a little football Americano.

We made our way up the winding hillside and found ourselves surrounded by darkness.  Željko flagged us down and then guided us inside to the chilly one room cabin.  In it, there was a small bed, a table with a few chairs, a sink and a wood burning  oven.  Nikola was bringing in firewood to get the fire going and Željko pulled out small bottles of homemade liquors and glasses to help warm us up a little more quickly.  It was lovely.

Nikola tending the wood burning oven

Nikola tending the wood burning oven

Nikola and Željko started preparing the food, you got to love men that can cook.  To get us started, Nikola served up sausages (dried and cured by the Croatian wind), smoked bacon, onions picked from their fields, which he sprinkled with salt and bread.

Sausage, bacon and onions

Sausage, bacon and onions

As we were noshing, Željko began to heat a pot full of food over the oven and started peeling a bowl of potatoes.  We were in for a traditional peasant meal.

 Željko man handling those spuds.

Željko man handling those spuds.

Once thoroughly heated, Nikola sat the pot before us and revealed what was inside…stuffed cabbage.  I’m not really a cabbage kind of girl but it smelled so tasty.  It was generously stuffed with pork, rice and spices and then delicately rolled and cooked in some sort of broth.  I’m guessing there was probably some  wine in it.  Last night was the night that I became a cabbage loving kind of girl. This dish was so good!

We watched the Denver vs. San Diego game from the night before while we drank gemišt and Željko finished up with the potatoes and started to prepared the mulled wine.  The potatoes were laid out on the baking sheet and he was adding in the “love”,  meaning,  a pad of butter on each potato topped off with a slice of bacon.  Paula Dean would be proud.

Potatoes with "love"

Potatoes with “love”

Denver continued to lead over San Diego and we all sat around enjoying the mulled wine  and gemišt.  Nikola tended the oven, making sure the fire was fed, while Željko prepared the special sauce for the potatoes as the baked.  Once ready, the crispy potatoes were set before us with the sauce by its side.  We learned that the sauce would make Paula Dean even more proud,  it was browned onions in butter!  And of course, they were amazing.

Until the early morning, we enjoyed the warmth of the cabin and the taste of wine.  We built toilets, witnessed the durability of a Nokia phone and got a little weird with the camera. I learned that just like a true southern kitchen, pork and butter are the Croatian ingredients used to add little “love” to a dish.

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Thank you again to the friendliest family around, it was another night well spent.

Here we are feasting

Here we are feasting

My Flight of Freedom

I started my first day of freedom with mimosas and a Donna Summer dance party.  It was amazing.  As much as I love a champagne breakfast, the best part of my day so far is not having to put on work appropriate clothes and then fasten a name badge to my belt loop.  I’ve been walking around in my underwear for the greater part of the morning and it’s been fabulous.  I’ve managed to finally finish cleaning my house and from my bible to my jump rope, I am packed and ready to go.

Grandma, aka GBetty, is scheduled to arrive in an hour and I’ll be on my way to Hartsfield-Jackson airport.  For now, I’ve got time to relax and rest before the long journey.  Lena Horne is singing her heart out in the background and I’m finishing those last drops of champagne.  What will next Wednesday be like?  Will I be drinking a cappuccino at a café as I people watch? Or perhaps I’ll be running my new favorite route around Varazdin?

Reality still hasn’t hit me yet; maybe I’ll have a moment tomorrow when I realize that this is happening to me.  I think my mind is still going through my mental checklist of things that need to be taken care of or maybe I’m just sleepy.  Fortunately, my reservations about this trip are few.  My biggest concerns right now are:

  1. Living in a small studio apartment with my husband for a month
  2. If I brought enough shoes
  3. How much weight I’ll gain from stuffing my face with all of the yummy goodness
  4. Making sure my plane outfit will keep me both warm and cool

Honestly, I’m in such a good mood right now, nothing can bring me down.  Not even Lufthansa, who has for the third time today changed my departure time.  My mind is firmly set on seeing my babe and persuading him to take me to Sofra for ćevapi.  Oh the ćevapi from Sofra, it’s like heaven in your mouth.  But there’s no need to get myself worked up, I have nearly 15 hours to dream about it.  So for right now, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy Lena.