pretty cities & then some.
Like any great superhero episode continues, "when we last saw our heroine, she was very busy." I may be benevolent but my life and times are anything but fictional. The last month has flown by (sans cape, might I add) and it got me thinking about a) where the time has gone and b) when my next adventure is. It's certainly been a while since I last got out of my home state but with one travel plan on the horizon, potentially three, I got to thinking about some international travel stories from days gone by that would be fun to re-cap.
It's been a while since I've seen a few of these but pieces of these trips are still fresh in my memory. Perhaps there will be time another day for me to regale you with the details of each of these trips specifically but for now, here are my favorite places to eat and see since I started traveling abroad in 2007:
LONDON (last visited: 2007)
Sight: I was last in Londontown en route to Tanzania and jet-lagged like I never have been before. The tube ride from Heathrow to the city proper is a largely unconscious blur but I trust everyone when they say that it's less confusing than the MBTA. While I may not remember much from my journey or the early part of my visit, the hours I spent wandering from The National Gallery through St. James Park over Westminster Bridge were some of the best. And while I was so tired I can't even tell you where I had my first official "fish and chips", I can say with utmost certainty that sadly they were crinkle cut "chips" and I was not impressed in the least.
GUATEMALA (last visited: 2009)
Restaurant: Monoloco - Forgive me for finding this extremely American bar amidst authentic Guatemalan fare but once I stumbled in there was no turning back. To be honest, this was the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon Happy Hour between language lessons and dinner. On the weekends, this spot becomes much more lively and is a great hangout for ex-pats if you're looking for some. The owner is a Red Sox fan (last time I checked) so expect to see games on the television to keep you occupied in case the huge portion of nachos just isn't doing it.
Sight: Lake Atitlán - Anyone who has been to Guatemala knows that there is nothing quite like spending time and staring across the massive volcanic crater at the steep hills and villages that dot the horizon. If you're making a trip of this stop, I recommend staying at least day or two on either side of the lake, in Panajachel and Santiago (perspective pictured above), where you'll get two very different experiences, one bustling and for the souvenir-dependent, the other relaxing and for anyone prepared to get lost in the landscape.
JAMAICA (last visited: 2012)
Restaurant: Boston Beach Jerk Center (Port Antonio, Portland) - What they lack in name, they make up for in flavor. The (hands down) best jerk chicken I have ever had can be found here, very much off the beaten path most tourists will be taking. It required a scooter rental to get here but if you can swing it, I highly recommend going rogue and getting here any way you can. However, an order of jerk chicken is not the only thing you'll find here. Fresh juices, bread twists and jewelry make this spot a "must visit" before you enjoy your lunch along one of the intimate beaches as the small waves roll into the cove.
Sight: Frenchman's Cove - Port Antonio was a favorite spot, not only because it was pretty but because it seemed so untouched by the flood of tourists in Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios. The history of the area is deep with pirate lore, visits by royalty, old movie stars and silver screen appearances. You can scoot along the coastline or take a bamboo raft around the cove for a relaxing tour of the shoreline. (Any place Beyoncé has been spotted rafting is good enough for me!)
ARUBA (last visited: 2012)
Restaurant: Passions on the Beach (Eagle Beach, Oranjestad) - If your bucket list includes candlelit dinner on the beach, Passions is your place. It has earned 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor and I'd say that other than the price, this is place earns it's spot on your Aruban itinerary. I can say that the dinner I had here (which was more under the stars than sunset) was one of the most magical dining experiences I've ever had. Go for the watermelon salad, I remember it vividly, even now. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is worth every penny.
Sight: Bucuti & Tara - My last Aruba experience involved seeing as much as could be seen and so beach-hopping every day was a necessity. I'm pretty thankful that an afternoon was made of this stop because their beach bar was something else. I discovered my favorite frozen drink here, The Slippery Monkey, and once you do you might never be the same. Bucuti & Tara is the luxurious beach experience you are looking for where you can relax and also feel catered to. (Disclaimer: At the time of our visit, The Sandbar at Bucuti & Tara was less strict and is now not open to the public. You will need to make a reservation here to enjoy an authentic Slippery Monkey.)
ISRAEL (last visited 2016)
Restaurant: The Bun (Tel Aviv-Yafo) - I feel like I have a knack for finding the ex-pat hangouts wherever I go and The Bun is such a place. At this point on my trip, I was a tad falafel-ed out (:gasp: I know!) and finding an Asian street food spot conveniently located near Shuk Ha Caramel was a welcome respite. While I had a hankering for ramen, a few of my friends needed a sushi fix and from what I understand, The Bun satisfied both cravings perfectly.
Sight: Safed/ Tzfat - One of the most beautiful parts of my Birthright trip was our day trip to Tzfat. Birthplace of Jewish mysticism, I was taken by the palpable history and spirit of everything from the stone paths to the ornate synagogues. Even my lunch, a crepe-like wrap from a Yemeni food counter was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Being from Boston, I'm used to communities being rich with culture but Tzfat was unlike any place I had ever been and the locals are more than happy to share their piece of it with anyone who wants to learn.