As our world grows increasingly smaller it’s easier than ever to seek refuge in the comfort of familiar places. Yet, we live in a time when thoughts and ideas manifest in flashes of delight, th blink of an eye and round-the-world travel is at the fingertips of risk takers and adventurers alike. I see Marco Polo and Gertrude Bell in the men and women I met abroad. Sharing the road, sharing tales of individual split-second experiences worth more than time itself.

I started blogging back in 2012, shortly after moving to Jordan — not only to share my story and to learn from others, but to inspire, to instill the momentum it takes to lace up ones boots and hit the road. It wasn’t until I found myself alone in a most foreign country that I felt the hot passion of life. Where my native tongue was about as useful as the moo! of a cow and most the time, I had no idea what the hell I was putting in my mouth… but it tasted good and I wanted more! And that is why you must hit the road.

Don’t be victimized by the culture of fear. Our planet is waiting to be explored, to reveal it’s secrets to you, to me, to any who dare ask, it will expose you to the raw truths of life. To the quarks of distant cultures and alien tongues. To disgusting foods and delicious cuisines, to dangerous and countless blessings.

Let’s take control of 2015. Don’t be afraid to leap without looking. I encourage you to take off the training wheels and take the road less traveled.

-Yallah!

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The Wandering Scholar is a free, non-profit resource for radical, educational, and hopefully, entertaining material. I hope eventually that means podcasting, vlogging, and much, much more but until then we're working tirelessly to bring you relevant and provocative material with stolen time between work and school. You contributions directly support this site! And we are deeply thankful.

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Whether you’ve come for The City of Fountains, Paris of the Plains or Cowtown, Kansas City is an innovative and inspired place, full of kinetic and potential splendor. People frequently ask us, What’s fun here? Where should we eat? drink? shop? We love talking about our city and thought it helpful to compile a list of our favorites. These are among the various places and reasons to make Kansas City your next Weekender

No longer the Midwest’s flyover town, KC is striding forward with newfound vigor and a burgeoning sense of self which has the world watching — as if to say, ooh, what’s all this? When juice bars replace steakhouses and the maker movement is now commonplace, you know something interesting is brewing. 

**disclaimer: this is a deep dive into locally owned and small businesses. Like us, these businesses are unique and non-mainstream. To us, that is what makes them the best places to patronize. 

Eat: It’s not all steak and potatoes

  • Port Fonda: Why we love it: Port Fonda is an absolute gem. Authentic, yet creative Mexican cuisine. Chicharrones and Salsa, Borrego, Jackfruit al Pastor. The brunch menu is one of the best in town. Their agave (tequila/mezcal) collection is monumental and arguably unmatched. {locale: Westport}
  • Rye: That rare quality of providing comfort food done right. A difficult task and executed masterfully. Upscale comfort food prepared beautifully. {locale: Plaza}
  • Extra-Virgin: Sure tapas are trendy, overblown, and often leave one feeling empty and cheated. Not the case at this lively eatery. A marriage of purposeful menu groups, meaningful bartending, and a rotation of fresh ingredients spearhead Chef Michael Smith’s bistro. He has a James Beard thingy so take note if your into that stuff. Regardless of accolades, Extra Virgin remains our favorite treat when the mood strikes — which is always. {locale: downtown/crossroads}
  • Room 39: Atmospheric ease. Room 39 is the kind of place you walk into and never leave. We love the small, intimate and all around low key vibe the space and staff provides. The farm to table menu never disappoints. {locale: midtown/39th St}                                                           

Worth noting: Novel, The Majestic.

Drink: (Bars & Cafes) Early Mornings and Night Caps, something good is brewing about. 

  • The Campground: Why we love it: They do it all. We couldn’t decide which category to put this in. The drinks and the food are tops. And both are prepared with flawless execution. The cocktails are timeless yet full of nuance. Inspired, yet not highfalutin – and still not your fathers drink. Additionally, they offer a collection of naturally fermented Pétillant Naturel wines — also known as”PétNat” — which have become our drink of choice! {locale: West Bottoms}
  • Green Lady Lounge: A hallmark of the freshest Jazz Kansas City has to offer. That late night feeling. {locale: downtown}
  • Our Daily Nada: Boozy Bookstore – Enough said. Add to that an impeccable wine list, craft toasts (hello smoked salmon) AND a thoughtful selection must-read books: from the Greats to the hidden treasures. Our Daily Nada emerges ahead of the crowd in a movement to marry both liquor and literature, literary fancy and libated fun. Pouring coffee from one of our favorite roasters, the baristas-cum-bartenders never miss a beat. Lounge: this is the sort of place you can hang around all day.. {locale: River Market}
  • Ça Va: “Champagne for the People.” Ca Va features a list of bubbly from across the world specializing in Grower Champagne (wine produced in small batches by artisanal vintners). Those who like to indulge will love their menu with everything from duck fat kettle corn to caviar. P.S they offer the best absinthe service in town which I’ve indulged many a night!  (locale: Westport}

Worth Noting: Mildred’s. Nomad’s 

Shops: Keeping it local 

  • River Market Antiques: Our go-to resource for past treasures and present whimsy. At 30,000 sq.ft. and boasting nearly 200 vendors, this remains one of the true resources for finding vintage gems. The Rivermarket stands its ground and we stand in solidarity. From vintage clothing to esoteric vinyl, Victorian ephemera, this is one of the funkiest, freshest collections of randomness through which to find some legitimately valuable and meaningful pieces. {locale: downtown/river market}
  • Foxtrot Supply Co: Owned & operated by two genuine and friendly guys, their leather goods are utilitarian and elevated (we happily represent their line here at Coveted Home). {locale: downtown/crossroads}
  • Shop Dear Society: Modern & Vintage. Thoughtfully curated pieces from centuries past and present. All things dear in fashion, accessories, and home. {locale: midtown/broadway}
  • Fine Folk: Shop high-end apparel and accessories as well as the beauty and wellness shop en shop, Within Apothecary {locale: downtown/crossroads}
  • George: A lifestyle shop after our hearts. George marries a beautifully curated arrangement of high-end accessories, apothecary, antiques and jewelry. {locale: south plaza/Crestwood shops}

Worth Noting: 45th & State Line Antique District houses many quirky and wonderful small shops filled with curiosities

Do: Do/do not miss.

  • Nelson Atkins: Why we love it: Museum with a world-renowned collection. Everything from Monet to Lautrec. Reconstructed Hindi temples to regional exhibitionists. A brilliant Egyptian/Near East collection. If you visit during lunch hours, the Rozelle Court Cafeteria, located inside the museum is both beautiful and delicious and worth a visit in its own right. {locale: east plaza}
  • Country Club Plaza (home of the Coveted Home!): Why we love it. Touted as America’s, maybe the worlds, first modern shopping mall. Established in 1922, the Plaza boasts beautiful architecture and fountains. Don’t miss the last few standing locally owned shops (besides us), The Better Cheddar (with one of the biggest cheese selections in the country) and Made In Kansas City Marketplace, where you can get beer on tap, t-shirts, coffee and more that are all..you guessed it, made in KC. And if you’re in town for an event, Parlor, next door to us, does amazing blowouts/up do’s/braids and makeup. 
  • River Market: Shops, cafes, restaurants, mostly locally run businesses with a genuine spirit. Worth an entire day: Brunch, lunch or dinner at The Farmhouse, pick me up at Quay Coffee, Al Habashi Restaurant and Spice Market, Japanese Imports, and much more. Come Spring, Summer, and Fall Farmer’s Markets fill the square with produce grown everywhere from Kansas City to parts unknown, offering cheeses, flowers, produce, honey, and an abundance of repurposed goods (weekends only). If you have the chance we encourage you to check it out. {locale: downtown}
  • Union Station: Not that long ago KC was the end of the line, everything West belonging to the various tribes and nature herself. Schlepping itinerants since 1914, Union Station remains a KC icon. catch a train home or dine in the luxurious Pierponts Restaurant — an exquisite 1920’s steakhouse feat. an extraordinary wine list, oysters, the most detailed service. A number of shops, from chocolatiers to KC memorabilia, Science City  Imax, all great places to entertain kids. {locale: downtown}
  • Loose Park/Rose Garden: To “escape the city,” head just south of the plaza to discover 75-acres of rolling hills, expansive fountains, and secret gardens. A popular destination for weddings and picnics alike, you can truly lose yourself in the rose bushes or spend the day meandering the fields. Also, a great place to take kids, with a large playground and water splash park in the summer. (locale: South Plaza)

Stay

  • The InterContinental: Legendary, swanky, conveniently South Plaza, the InterContinental plays host to celebrities and staycation-ers alike. Newly remodeled and we love the modern brasserie’s swanky new decor. (locale: Plaza)
  • The Crossroads Hotel: Downtown’s newest gathering place, for locals and out of towners alike, known equally for their hospitality, restaurant/bar, and accommodations. Enjoy a delicious upscale Italian meal at Lazia, located on premise. (locale: Crossroads)
  • The Bell Victorian: On a budget? Consider staying at our newly remodeled historic 100+ year old Victorian home, listed on Airbnb. We currently offer a guest room in a shared living space, suitable for 1-2 people. (locale: West 39th/Midtown)

Afterthoughts

  • Southwest Boulevard with its drag of authentic Mexican restaurants: menudo, lingua, and traditional dishes abound. A Kansas City past time and the best lineup in the Midwest. Try El Patron, La Bodega and Tropicana. 

                 The Majestic: Old World steakhouse meets 30’s Jazz club.  

A Note on BBQ: There is a dispute among local residents as to who remains the truest, most OG of all BBQ pits. These are among the most popular:

  1. Arthur Bryant’s: FRIED CHICKEN. Simply the best. 
  2. Q39 (a newcomer but immediate 1KO contender): Classic BBQ plates, from brisket to burnt ends.
  3. Gates. Known for their sauce and their friendly greeting. 
  4. Kansas City Joe’s (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s) Featured by every food critic on every food network covering KC BBQ. Charmingly located in a historic Shamrock Gas Station (still fueling the empty!) Try the Z-Man Sandwich or the pulled pork. Noteworthy vegetarianoption: Portabella Sandwich 

Cheers, and welcome to Kansas City! We look forward to meeting you and know you’ll enjoy the beautiful people and businesses that make this a great city. 

“With only enough time to unpack from our trip to Portland Jaclyn suggests we rent a jalopy and drive our tired souls to North Carolina for the High Point Furniture Market.”

The HP Furniture Market is a Mecca for designers and business owners to network, in-person with manufacturers and gets you in on the know-know. Jaclyn runs a furniture boutique here in Kansas City (the Coveted Home) and making it to events like this can be essential for success. It’s far more than furniture though. Hoards of vendors bring in antiquities and handcrafted goods from around the globe; Southeast Asian, African, you name it. All the while parties are raging. Good drinks and vibes to go around tenfold. Who could pass this up?

Her suggestion ignited an even greater plan; raid this designers “treasure trove” and hit the Smoky Mountains. Taking with us our camping gear, we would mosey along, sampling from local cuisine and the Appalachian Trail.

A week later we were renting that van and on the road with our dog and a cooler stocked with cheese…

Step 1- Kansas City, MO to Franklin, NC

(822 Miles/12 hours and 32 minutes)

Saint Louis, Missouri

Our first sight is the iconic Gateway Arch of St. Louis, MO.  This 630-ft arch is the tallest manmade monument in the states and I must admit, this photo, given the weather, does little justice for the true beauty of this beast.

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We reserve our energy by sleeping through the route between St. Louis and Franklin. Driving and snoozing, equal shifts between Jaclyn, myself, and Simone…

The following morning we’re witness to the beginnings of the Appalachians splendor as we enter North Carolina.

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Early morning sun, burning the Smoky Mountain haze.

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As the sun begins to peak, so does Simone, leaf peeping.

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Fall foliage begins to reveal its orchestrated plumes and hues of autumns tune.

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Taking in a dose of Americana; Avett Brothers blaring, banjo picking, snare drum kicking.

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Franklin, North Carolina

Arriving midday at our first destination we pop our tent and hit the trails

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For those points where it’s hard to distinguish between game trails and the actual hiking trail, cairns are strategically placed along to keep the pious hiker safely on the right route.

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About an hour in, we run into these two who have been out here for days, working their way around the lower AT. They apparently had a run in with a small black bear earlier in the day. Nothing these two champs can’t handle.

With the sun setting, temperature dropping, we spend a few hours fighting the elements to get a fire started, burning through 3/4 of the journal I brought to document this trip… And for a brief moment we actually had a fire raging, cooking our bundles of carrots, potatoes, onions, and turmeric wrapped in foil, roasting with a can of beans and cheese. Enough to heat our food before the moisture snuffed out our flame for good. Eating to the musical backdrop of Appalachia we welcomed the darkness in excitement for the days to come.

The Appalachian Road Trip will return in Franklin to High Point.

Yallah, Bye

from Quo Vadis Fan Profile: Nicholas

An absolute pleasure to be interviewed by none other than Quo Vadis. I’ve been using their notebooks/journals for years now –*particularly for my literary endeavors.

QV: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
NA: I’m a multi-genre novelist and explorer. A has-been archaeologist who exchanged trowel for pen. A Texas native, Kansas City transplant with a passion for the Middle East.

You can browse my body of work, read short stories and essays from the road, as well as stay up to date on future novels by subscribing to my website at nicholasandriani.com

You can also follow along on Instagram @nicholasandriani and Twitter @nickandriani

QV: How and when did you first discover Quo Vadis products?
NA: Back in 2012 I moved to the Middle East for work and as a parting gift from a buddy received a pocket Habana, this one became something of a trophy. Actually, this is the very pad that revealed my passion for writing (and painting). I’ve been been devoted to Quo Vadis ever since.

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*READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

I’m going to be extremely honest in this one…

It all began in the Spring of 2011 when the East caught fire and revolution spread across North Africa and the Middle East. Something in that moment struck a chord and I before I knew it, I was on a one-way flight to Morocco.

There I nurtured a desire to understand our world and a burning passion, not only to see and share in the rich complexities of life but to explore our past in hopes of answering such questions as, How did we get here? and, Where are we headed?

 

Since then I’ve traveled across the regions of Arabia, Europe, and the United States working as an archaeologist, journalist, ditch digger, butcher, cheesemonger, and a variety of odd jobs.

Now returned I’m seeking a formal education at the local community college in hopes of having a greater impact on our world.

I currently work 60+ hrs/wk and, after the subtraction of rent and investments in start-ups, I’m struggling to achieve the funds needed to return to school and complete my degree.

My wishes are simple: to complete my education so that I may pursue a career in Elementary Education and Comparative Literature

I feel nothing but excitement for the future of humanity, of this extraordinary planet, and it would be an immense honor to have your support along the way.

Thank you for your time and please feel free to reach out at any moment should you have any questions or like to discuss my intentions.

–Nicholas Andriani

Student Grant

$5.00

P.S. This in no way will prevent the progress of my novel work! Which is going along quite well and I thank you for the continued readership and support as I work towards publishing

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Rhythmic swells reverberate trough my lungs. The back streets of Valencia.

Back street Europe.

Romani enclaves and gypsy parts of town.

We’ll sit here in the Plaça de la Virgen with our stiff sangria, smartly bashful in red-faced delerium.

For it is Spring and the blossoms have begun to sing.

A nod to blanco nerium.

The Bosphorus splits Istanbul in two parts. A rift in the madness of Europe and Asia, drifting between bodies of fresh and salt water cooling the heated passion of a most ancient urban jungle.

The hot, hot, heat of human movement generates organized chaos as this great strait, this rift, cushions the blow, keeping this romantic city on its axis.

Gulls parade our smooth cruise to the Black Sea as Istanbul, in all its glory, surrounds us reaching out with minarets and the omnipresent aromas of a heavily spiced city.

It’s here, in the interstitial space between East and West, that time stands still…

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Will Write for Food. Or Coffee!

Being an artist, whether poet or ventriloquist, violinist or Beck, it's a taxing gig. Low pay, long hours. Sleepless nights,spotty work. If you find that my writing provides any pleasure, any sense of joy at all, I hope you will consider throwing me a bone, or an espresso.

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I’ve been smitten with @smdanler since, embarrassingly late in the game, encountered her interview on @litupshow. Just received my copy of #Sweetbitter -and just in time for the #readingwomenchallenge with @thereadingwomen.

Have you been called to any challenges this year? Resolutions? What are you working towards?

P.s. if you’re interested in the Reading Women Book Challenge, let’s start a book club. Maybe? Yes? No? 😉

“I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. Feel the sun beating over my brow, speckled and damp and her brow wet like honey. The blood rushing and wet like honey. The blood rushing. The beating heart in Kansas City. The honeyed skin, the beating hearts, the beating suns. Wet like honey. A triangle under a spotlight sun.”

A scene from an old rough draft for my current novel in progress. I still love these lines!

Uncovering the modern identity of an African Kingdom. A beautiful and rugged society, multicultural, secular in some ways, rigid in others.
I cannot stress enough the vast beauty and sacredness of Morocco. A great country to learn of Islam’s strides in science, medicine and even literature (Moroccan authors absolutely rock.) I feel that to understand the world at large this is a great place to start. But by starting you’ll only realize that you know nothing at all. And that we’re all as confused and bizarre as one another. But isn’t this the lesson anyway? In less words: #takemeback

Before the world can truly reveal itself you must take a period of meditation. A time of reflection. To pre-game, to set a cosmic course of action by stating your intentions and making them manifest. This is the driving force behind Sketching Sights. To become one with the elements of each and every environment that strikes me.

Dreaming of old Bagan I left brush and paint to guide themselves across the stars and secure my itinerary.

Burma on my mind

Scattered about the enchanting valley of Bagan are the remains of some 2,000 structures (monasteries, temples and pagodas). Historically this land housed over 4,000–each one thoughtfully placed and with purpose.

With this country of monks, gold clad domes and incantations opening its doors I see no other location more relevant to our cause at Yallah’Bye. That is, to document indigenous cultures at risk in this world of globalization.

Burma 2018?

Until next time

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Before the world can truly reveal itself you must take a period of meditation. A time of reflection. To pre-game, to set a cosmic course of action by stating your intentions and making them manifest. This is the driving force behind Sketching Sights. To become one with the elements of each and every environment that strikes me.

Dreaming of old Bagan I left brush and paint to guide themselves across the stars and secure my itinerary.

Burma on my mind

Scattered about the enchanting valley of Bagan are the remains of some 2,000 structures (monasteries, temples and pagodas). Historically this land housed over 4,000–each one thoughtfully placed and with purpose.

With this country of monks, gold clad domes and incantations opening its doors I see no other location more relevant to our cause at Yallah’Bye. That is, to document indigenous cultures at risk in this world of globalization.

Burma 2015?

Until next time–Yallah’Bye

We stumbled away from Another Kind of Sunrise high on good food and despite this the lure of chocolate never wore off. I felt like a child longing for a view into Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory. Knowing that what lies beyond contained the secret of cacao alchemica; that is, the transformation of cacao from plant to biodynamic and holy confections.

Rounding the alley we found ourselves in the presence of a true American pioneer- ZenBunni

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Overturned turtle shells emit a soft glow as they light a path through the rabbit hole.

Bohemian and whimsical in equal measure the storefront carries the timeless essence of passion and sustainability. After repurposing an old broom closet husband and wife -Zen and Bunni- created this space using clay and mud from their property outside Los Angeles. If that isn’t admirable enough, this was followed by a final dusting of cacao powder (the walls are chocolate!). Thus encouraging any and all to take a trip down the rabbit hole.

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Packets of hand selected chocolate mingle with pine cones and antlers on display for a quick fix.

Below the counter ten artfully prepared recipes await for you to explore the world of dopamine enhancers.

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This is the kind of chocolate in which it’s a shame to chew. That which you’re drawn to for the sensation of all those well balanced compounds like phenylethylamine and cannibinoids; a recipe for childlike giddiness.

We sample the “Lost Salt of Atlantis” following up with an order for the Rainbow Pack (which comes with 9 chocolates and a little crystal) and several bars (Maui Turmeric Ginger, Cali Almond and the Shiva Rose). It’s hard not to smile after breaking a bar in your mouth. Sit back and let the good times roll. But know your limit. Between Jaclyn and myself, we could have cleaned out this store in one sitting!

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With one final pass we bid farewell to Zen as our last day in Los Angeles comes to a close.

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In the alleyway between ZenBunni and Another Kind of Sunrise.


Our original plan had us on the road, leaving L.A. at 9am. It was just past noon as we left ZenBunni. And that is how to travel consciously.

Abandon your precepts and break the rules. Otherwise ZenBunni, Another Kind of Sunrise would have been nothing more than chalkboards I probably wouldn’t have seen and Abbot Kinney just another place-name on a map.

One last thing–ZenBunni is up for a Guinness World Record for smallest chocolate shop. How cool is that?!

until next time–yallah’bye

 *Photo credits to Jaclyn Joslin

Calling all philanthropists, all investors. This year brings my first opportunity to attend the travel writers conference, Tbex, in Cancun, Mexico and i’m looking for a little support in the financial arena. Now, I know that sounds like a load of drunken debauchery in the midst of Maya ruins but there is just so much more to it!

Between the 11th and 14th of September, Tbex will include one-on-one networking with experts in the travel industry. Writers, businesses, publishers and masters of this or that field. Three days of lectures, classes, and hands-on training. All of which could propel me from the seat of an amateur to a full-time professional travel writer.

Since 2012 i’ve been working on my memoir chronicling archaeological research and cultural exchanges across the Middle East. A time immediately after the great Arab Spring and before the hopes and dreams of the Syrian uprising became a brutal civil war. By attending this conference I will be able to pitch my manuscript to a wide audience of publishing houses while also making my name relevant.

Here are the links to my campaign and to the official Tbex site.

If nothing more please share this campaign with your community. Any support would be extremely appreciated. All sponsorship and contributions will be noted.


 

A special thank you to my first donor Kaori Nishimoto of Fragments of Travel. Kaori “Likes traveling, talking with locals, and finding “common” in different culture”. Her Instagram feed dazzles from Morocco in the west to Japan and China in the East. With an eye for detail she captures the soul of travel through the art of photography. Do be sure to pay a visit to her site.

33% funded thus far!

Thank you and Yallah’Bye

Galata Tower, Andriani Watercolor Like a great minaret, the Galata Tower represents so much more than meets the eye.

Built in 1348 as the re-imagining of an earlier structure the tower has gone from hosting inmates, as a prison, to holding great secrets as an observatory for the astrologer Takıyeddin Efendi. What’s more, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi the 17th century aviator… if you can call him that… achieved, through his scientific mastery, sustained flight that actually carried him from the Tower, over the Bosphorus, and landed him safely on the Asian side. 

Busking Euro-Gypsies surround the base of Galata as if worshiping an idol, strumming rhythms on deep acoustic guitars and homemade drums. Like a great heartbeat at the core of an old world metropolis.

From the balcony (at 51.65m) a rewarding panorama of Istanbul waits to expose all the secrets of modern life. A warmth emanates from the Ottoman palaces, the mosques, and grand Genoese structures all spilling their histories across the skyline. If that’s not cool enough to warrant a visit then maybe the swanky cafe on the top floor will get your attention…

This is the lure of the Orient. Of the East.

Ourika, Morocco

 

547357_3665455120320_1240248596_nThough only 6 hours (460 km) separate Marrakech from the oasis town of M’Hamid I could have dedicated six days between the two place names. The villages that scatter Ourika Valley hold their own against the more popular Imperial Cities (Marrakech, Fes, Meknes and Rabat) and it’s out here in the wilderness of the High Atlas Mountains that I come across the Cafe Tajine.

An hour outside Marrakech the Cafe Tajine emerges from an icy riverbed along the narrow road that parallels the River Ourika. Makeshift bridges of repurposed woods and carpets reach across the river at many points along the route, leading to mud-brick villages, markets, and, in this case, one of the finest dining experiences i’ve had to date. 

Here, for a few dollars (it’s truly a steal), you can feast like royalty. A spread of three tajines, salads, breads, mint tea, and a few beggars in between will cost you around the same price as the new Jay-Z album.

Tajines are made to order and, like most “Old World” recipes can take a good deal of time to cook. This is when the industrious locals strike. Peddling handmade goods, women and children make offers on African keepsakes and jewelry boxes, even crystals, as men serenade us, strumming the guitar-like Moroccan sintir and playing unusual flutes and drums.

Over the melodious North Africa beats we dine late into the night, taking our sweet time, dancing and haggling away.

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Yallah bye

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Mount Hood rising beyond Portland proper.

With Portland’s philosophical temperament, insane amount of breweries (something like 71) , and solid, mellow vibes it’s hard to break away from the inner city. Yet, when you manage to, the surrounding areas contain an abundance of natural beauty. Moving away from the bells and whistles of city life, the call of the wild echoes from the mountain tops into the heart of PDX, emerging from the cobblestone streets as a powerful guide, taking you off the pavement and into the wild itself.

In no particular order, I present to you the wild, the ever inspiring, somewhat touristic sights of PDX

The Japanese Gardens

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There’s an influential air of tranquility in the 5.5 acre park where stones mingle with plants and water to create a sense of harmony, balance between worlds. Said to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of the motherland, the park is separated into five equally important sections displaying traditional flora alongside indigenous plants for a solid assimilation of nature.

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Apparently, this Pagoda came as a gift from the Mayor of Sapporo (Portland’s sister city in Japan) in 1963. There are actually several relics on site. Treasures from Japan, only adding to the holistic beauty.

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“Shishi Odoshi”- Translating to “scare the deer”

I was under the impression that these “shishi odoshi” were used to keep track of time or perhaps for meditation… Nope! This bamboo fountain is truly used to keep birds and other animals away that may otherwise snack on the bounty of plants in the garden. However, like magic, it certainly moves ones bladder!

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Multnomah Falls

As the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon this site has become somewhat of a roadside spectacle. Easily accessible and equipped with it’s very own on-site lodge, Multnomah makes for a great pit stop after visiting the Wahkeena Falls. There’s even a great trail which loops up and around Wahkeena, then back down passing Multnomah.

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 The upper fall at 542 feet is not the source of the ray beam that white washed this photo to near dust…

Wahkeena Falls

While the lesser of our two falls, I find Wahkeena more striking. More gradual, the site less trafficked, and the immediate hiking trail, gorgeous.

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At this vantage point, by the water, it felt at least 10 degrees cooler in the already chill Oregonian fall.

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Peeking over the Columbia River

Forest Park

With something like 70 miles of hiking trails, Forest Park is obviously competing with the breweries in town in an all out mile vs. brewpub showdown. The trails in here contain a striking dose of deep backwoods remoteness. Enough to satiate most appetites. There’s even a movement in the works that will connect a portion of the park to the Pacific Crest Trail. So, Forest Park will technically be part of a 2,600 mile range of trails…

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An early 20th century rest stop along one of Forest Park’s endless trails.

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As you ascend higher, Forest Park begins to fan out. Tree growth becomes more sparse, while ferns dominate the grounds which are far less moist than in the deeper ravines.

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The further you hike, the less noise pollution, the less passerby’s. All that despite the fact that we’re maybe a mile from the city center, well, as the crow flies.

Sauvie Island

Nude beaches, vegetable gardens, and geese hunting. The common denominator? Sauvie Island.

Larger than Manhattan and certainly more sustainable, Sauvie is one of those great escapes that transport you to another time. Farmers markets, pumpkin patches in the fall, U-pick farms, quiet dirt roads, and all surrounded by the calming Columbia River just 10 miles west of PDX.

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At one point a massive freighter passed by sending swells up the beach.

 We found our way to the island for a picnic. Equipped with a bottle of Kansas City’s finest brew and a pack of nuts, we had an exceptional, minimalistic, beach experience.

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Arabic in the sand…

Always working, even on vacation. I had to throw down a little Arabic.

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Ok, i’m clearly a grease-pit who had too much to drink. Jaclyn, however, is charming as ever completing our yin-yang look

The List Goes On…

2013-10-05 13.27.35The suicidal Mt. St. Helens.

This is only a sample of the more accessible sights. The list really goes on and on… Mount Hood, the Pacific Coast, Willamette Valley (post coming on my vineyard experiences soon).

As with the eats of PDX, I’m already planning for the sights of my next trip.

So, what do you think? Did I miss anything truly special?

Yallah, bye!

I’ve met some great people through this blog, twitter and other social media outlets. One person in particular stands out as someone whom I feel especially lucky to have met, the talented creator behind For The Intolerants, JoAnna.

JoAnna and I have a lot of similar interests, as do many travel bloggers; exploring exotic lands, sampling global cuisine, merging into bizarro cultures, but ultimately we share a unique idiosyncrasy, a sort of fervor for the Middle East.

A keystone in my mission being to deflate nasty stereotypes revolving around the Arab world, I found it fitting when JoAnna approached me to write a guest post and mentioned the same enthusiasm to shed light on a more authentic and positive Middle East.

Since some of you may not have had the chance to read the post when it premiered on For The Intolerants I am reposting it here for your reading pleasure.

These are my reminiscings on Aqaba, the jewel of the Red Sea, neatly fitted between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel…

Uncovering the Shores of Aqaba

Working on an archaeological dig in Jordan, I found myself fleeing to Aqaba every weekend. Not only to dive into the cool waters of the Red Sea, but to merge into a city that borders modernity while retaining the flair of time-tested traditions. I would leave only to feel the call of al-Aqabah time and time again with the desire to explore more the following weekend. Exotic markets and exquisite cafes line the beach.

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Aqaba Proper. Vantage from one of the highest rooftops in town. View of Al-Hussein Bin Ali Mosque and Red Sea.

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At the bus stop. Just like every other bus stop.

Just off the local bus I would work my way to the beach, grabbing a coffee from one of the various food carts along the main strip. It’s easy to get caught up in the relaxed culture as the locals have perfected hospitality. After running into the same group of Jordanians it wasn’t long before I was welcome in their ritual, grilling kebabs, smoking hookah, and playing on the beach late into the night, often until sunrise! Luxury resorts with private beaches are stamped across the shoreline just south of the city. This is where I would head for scuba diving, the Aqaba Marine Center, and a little pampering. Yet, I had a preference for the city beach in Aqaba proper. Where glass-bottom boats, camels, and a plethora of vendors to vie for your attention.

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Traditional Bedouin lodging options. Goat hair tent.

Within the city limits are two shopping districts to get lost in for hours. A bazaar with merchants selling anything from Arabian antiques to vintage cameras. And the garment district, where you can be fitted for any number of Arabian garments. I took the opportunity to buy a “thobe” or ankle-length tunic. In fact, my last trip through the city I roamed the town wearing my thobe and headscarf without turning a head! With a light heart and a little humor I shopped through the stretches of textiles, toying with locally mined silver, and haggling my way through teapots and Middle Eastern goods.

 

For a few dinars you can trot along the beach. For even more you can catch a camel trek into the interior of Jordan
Bedouin with Camel. Offering rides/excursions into the Wadi Rum/Wadi Araba deserts.

Across the city taxis call out- “Where you go?”, “Ah, my friend! Good price for you!”, all of which seem in good spirit, yet I became intolerant of their game early on. Due to their exorbitant fares, unreliable meters, and shady antics I utilized the local bus. Though admittedly, they’re less than comfortable and on several occasions I found myself waiting on a ride that would two hours late. As relaxed as I felt roaming Aqaba, travel by taxi or bus can be stressful. Whatever the case, due to Jordan’s size, getting around the country is a breeze. Once you figure out what mode of transport you can tolerate, a few hours in any direction will lead you to some of the world’s greatest wonders.

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The crystalline Red Sea serves as a natural barrier between Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt. The Large ship in the distance represents the international border between Jordan and Israel.

In retrospect, I find Aqaba to be an integral destination for the true Arabian experience. It’s clear why most of the region flocks to the port city every weekend. Treasure hunting through the souks will entice some while the beach calls to others. Either adventure is worth experiencing in Aqaba, where hospitality is second nature to the local people steeped in Islamic faith. Where modern architecture is juxtaposed against ancient mud-brick dwellings, the 21st century is emerging and they welcome it with a grin.

Yallah, bye!