After a couple days in Thies, Natalie and I left for a 2-day trip to Koalack to visit her host family in the village of Latmingue. After a long drive, we were greeted with warm hospitality, attaya [the most amazing mint tea], and a cieb dinner. I’m pretty sure I’ve never eaten as much and as often as we did in Latmingue, but it’s difficult to refuse all of the delicious tea, yogurt drinks, fresh melon, and homemade sauces! Between meals, Natalie and I explored the villages in the area, the local mosque, and walked to the river. Sharing their home, food, and customs, in just two short days Natalie’s family showed me the beauty of their simple yet rich life in Latmingue, which will forever stay with me.
I’m finally getting back to some blogging after a long break! After a busy fall and holiday season, I’m now editing and sharing photos from the trip I took to Senegal at the end of December. My sister Natalie has been a Peace Corps volunteer for the past two and a half years, so we decided to spend Christmas together in Senegal. She was with a host family in Latmingue for two years, but is now living in the city of Thies. We spent the first couple of days of my trip exploring her neighborhood and nearby city, walking through the markets to buy fabric for dresses, eating local beignets, and taking in the culture. The colors and patterns in the city are incredible, from fresh fruit, to spices, to long swaths of fabric hanging in shops and women dressed in vibrant gowns and headdresses.
Natalie and I are also in the process of launching a new business – Fulla&Fayda – so we took the opportunity of being together to do some planning and to visit the artisanal village where our handbags are made. It was so exciting to finally meet Tapha and his brothers, who are incredibly talented. Their shop is one of many in the village, among woodworking studios, jewelry shops, and textile galleries. After touring the village, Tapha invited us to have lunch in the workshop – my first (of many!) ceebu jen meal. Ceebu jen is a traditional Senegalese dish of rice, (usually) fish, and vegetables. The proteins and vegetables vary, but the dish is always flavorful and spicy! It is usually presented in a large bowl that everyone eats from communally, and with incredible thoughtfulness. The Senegalese are known for their hospitality and I have never felt so welcomed and included than when eating from a bowl of ceeb.
To round out our business ventures with some pleasure, Natalie and I took one afternoon to explore the mangroves of Saly. We found a car pool to take us most of the way to the beach, but ended up getting out to walk the rest of the way. It was a gorgeous 80 degrees and a great way to explore the area, which was more tropical than Thies with its palm trees and bright flowers. Once at the beach, Natalie found a guide who would take us on an hour-long boat tour. The water was quiet and still, letting us drag our feet as we weaved along the edge of the mangroves. We stopped on a small beach with a baobab tree decorated with shells and were told to choose a shell and make a wish as we added our own to the branches of the tree. Toward the end of our tour, we came upon a happy island with a string of restaurants and bars, so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in the sun with fresh seafood and ice cold beer. It was a relaxing day, and a great way to end our time in Thies before heading to Kaolack!
After the wedding in San Jose, we had a couple of days to explore the surrounding landscape. If you ever find yourself in San Jose, there are some great tours to take advantage of. We decided to make the most of our free day and opted for the “combination tour,” consisting of Doka Estate coffee, Poas Volcano, and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. It was a full day of sight-seeing and walking, but it was totally worth it.
We started the tour at Doka, where we had a traditional Costa Rican breakfast (and coffee, of course) and walked through the roasting process. Almost a century old, this estate still produces some of the best coffee in Costa Rica. After the tour, we made a couple stops along the way to Poas, one being a rest stop selling fresh cheese and coffee and where we met the sweetest mountain dog.
It was an incredibly misty morning, so we only got a few glimpses of the volcano as the wind blew the clouded cover. The national park was gorgeous, though, and we took an hour-long walk through the forest and saw some amazing plants and flowers. The beautiful scenery continued on our drive to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, where we encountered orchids, butterflies, tropical birds, wild cats, and a series of majestic waterfalls – the perfect end to our day.
Photos also taken by Bryan Wallace
At the end of March, B and I and a couple friends embarked on an amazing trip to Costa Rica. Our reason for the trip was our friends’ wedding in San Jose, but we decided to make a little vacation out of it. We stayed at the Coutyard Mariott San Jose Escazu, walked to Bulali for breakfast, explored downtown San Jose, and drank a lot of coffee.
Photos also taken by Bryan Wallace
A couple weekends ago I took a slightly spontaneous trip to visit my best friend, Brittany, in Chicago. I had been trying to make this trip happen for about a year, when I realized that I had to get there before winter rolled into the windy city.
We landed on a perfectly brisk and sunny weekend, the best kind for exploring. One of my highlights was walking around Brittany’s adorable neighborhood of Andersonville, drinking coffee, and getting brunch at a local spot – Big Jones – where we had the tastiest shrimp and grits, griddle cakes, popovers, salt & pepper biscuits, and complimentary beignets. It was carb overload and I was in heaven.
We also did a little sight-seeing and visited the “big hits” like The Bean and Dylan’s Candy Bar, and caught an amazing view of the city from the Willis Tower, cocktail in hand.
The last leg of our Morocco trip was a quick stop in Paris. My mom and grandparents who have friends in Montmartre, so we were able to visit them before heading back to the U.S. The gloomy weather in Paris was a drastic change from the warm and sunny days we saw in Morocco, but the grey skies created a kind of calm peacefulness. 24 hours in Paris was not enough, so I will be plotting my return in the near future…
A few months ago, my best group of friends and I headed out west to California for a wedding. Along the way we explored the boardwalks of Santa Cruz and the giant trees of the Redwood forest, experienced the most breathtaking views in Yosemite, and ate the freshest squid in San Francisco. Ever since, we have been trying to figure out when and how we can go back.
Our last stop in Fes was to a ceramic and tile manufacturer. There were so many beautiful colors and ceramic styles… I wanted to be able to take it all home with me, but I settled on two cobalt blue cups (that look purple before heating up in the kiln!) to use for coffee and tea. In Fes they don’t use oil or gas, but crushed olive pits as fuel for fire in the kilns.
After our last stop we all hopped in the car for a long ride through the middle atlas mountains. There were beautiful views of rolling hills and valleys and snow-capped mountains. We stopped in Ifrane – known for its European-style chalets – for coffee (My sister, Natalie, and I ordered our favorite “noos noos” espresso with milk) and later stopped in one of many Amazigh cities we drove through for barbeque. Our final destination before reaching Merzouga was Fossils Erfoud, a factory that excavates fossils and incorporates them into tables and home decor.
The medina in Fes was a bustling place. Between the carts, mules, and rushing people, it was a wonder we didn’t get run over! We took sanctuary along the corridors of the medina in mosques, workshops, and souks, and the tannery – shoes, jackets, and purses galore! There was a scenic view on the top floor of the tannery, but we needed a sprig of mint to mask the smell of a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt which is used to break down the tough leather. The medina is rich with so much history and beautiful craftsmanship – it was hard to pack it all into one day!