Monthly Archives: July 2011

Tastes of the Trip

I’ll admit it… I’m a foodie. While I have some specific dislikes (ALL condiments and formerly olives), a great meal with friends is just one of my favorite things. And while traveling, it one the best ways to experience culture. So, on that note, the meals of the adventure through South Africa – Mauritius – Dubai.

Traditional South African Meal

On the day we toured Soweto our driver, Howard, took us for a delicious + traditional South African meal at Sakhumzi Soweto down the street from Mandela’s house. The meal included sweetcorn stuffed squash, boerewors (lamp + beef sausage), lamb tripe (stomach lining), and a variety of beans and greens. In this case, I can’t pick one favorite, but I can pick two… the stuffed squash + boerwors had great flavoring that left me wanting seconds.

Oysters + Carpaccio

We stayed in Sandton during our time in Jo’burg. Sandton is a commercial center in the city with quite the variety of food options. We had oysters, carpaccio, sushi, steak, + pap. Pap? Pap is similar to grits, but blander and requires different sauces. My favorite sauce was the tomato based one. 

Thai Chicken Curry

As good as those other meals were, there was really no contest for our favorite meal in Sandton. Colin + I ordered the same thing and both LOVED it. At Cafe Maude we devoured the Thai Chicken Curry… everything from the seasoning to the portion size to the presentation gets an A+.

Beach BBQ

 
Our glorious day on Ilot Gabriel included a beach BBQ. Mauritius is heavily influenced by Indian + French cultures. This resulted in an interesting combination of spices in the BBQ sauce… really the perfect amount of hot + sweet.
 

Goat Cheese + Honey

 It is no secret that goat cheese is my absolute weakness. If an item on the menu incorporates goat cheese, there is a 99% chance I WILL order it. This was true during our last meal in Mauritius. Hans + Gaelle took us to a charming pizza place called Casa Pizza. (Another travel tip, have a local pick your restaurants. It will never disappoint.) The pizza I ordered had goat cheese, but the addition of honey added another layer of flavor. I will be repeating this taste combo at home.

A Middle Eastern Feast

Growing up one my friend Latifah’s dad always fixed Middle Eastern food for us. This made Colin + my meal at Al Makan in Jumeirah feel like home. Instead of getting entrees we ordered a series of appetizers and had a feast for two. This may have been my favorite meal of the trip with Batata Al Makan being the best dish.

This food post is making me hungry and anxious for my trip this next weekend to Charleston… a Mekka for southern gourmet cuisine!

 

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The Ugly Truth of Travel

This trip to South Africa – Mauritius – Dubai was one for the record books. It was as an incredible travel experience that I would do all over again the exact same way. However, no trip ever goes exactly as planned. So in an effort of full disclosure, I present the not so glamorous tales from this tour on the other side of the globe. These are ranked in no particular order, some are clearly less ugly… and the most upsetting one is obvious.

Could have used a brush here...

Hair Brush – I forgot to drop mine in my bag as I walked out of the house. No matter where we went on the trip I could not find a store that sold hair brushes. The result… I didn’t brush my hair until the last 5 hours of the trip when Marc lent me one. Colin said he couldn’t tell the difference. I tried to remind Colin he had never actually seen me with brushed hair.

Beautiful resort, but off the grid...

Internet – I definitely took for granted how readily available and close-to-free all internet access seems to be in the States, Hong Kong, + Europe. This is not the case in Africa, especially in Mauritius. There was no type of internet access available in hotel rooms at our resort. So Colin + I sat in the hotel lobby until 2am one night and 4am the next in order to complete the presentation.

In-Flight Movies – One of the only silver linings of long flights are the endless movie options. By the end of all of these flights, I had seen pretty much all of them. Including Justin Bieber: Never Say Never… and the worst part is, I liked it and even got a bit teary eyed.

Our very own Captain Ron

Captain Ron – While on Ilot Gabriel, life in that moment was close to perfect (just needed Dan + the fur kids). The weather was far from that for the last 30 – 40 minutes of the catamaran ride back to the main island. The skies opened up and it stormed for the remainder of the excursion as we all huddled together to stay warm.

Winner of best flight attendant costumes... Emirates Air

Luggage – Flying Emirates Air was dreamy. I swear their coach service is better than any I have received in Delta First Class. I would fly them again in a second. However, they have a pretty strict one carry-on rule in coach. From Houston to Dubai this was a non-issue. From Dubai to Johannesburg, they had to check my bag once I was already on board. I get to the hotel in Jo’burg only to find that some of my jewelry was stolen. Some cheap gold hoop earrings + gold tree necklace that I liked, but are replaceable. My new gold “Dan bracelets” that I got in Palm Beach which mean something to me, but again… replaceable. A gold necklace that I wear often and was my grandmother’s… not replaceable, and in my mind priceless.

In spite of all the misadventures, I would be back on a plane tomorrow morning if the opportunity presented itself. I’m already itching to explore somewhere new.

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You Think You’re Hot

Even though I was on the other side of the globe, news trickled in about the crazy heat wave going on in the states. The good news for me was that the last stop in our journey was to Dubai making the return to America feel like a cool front. I grew up in Houston (the capital of hot + humid), but even I wasn’t ready for insanely wet heat of “Doo-bai”. The average temperature hovered around 108. And sadly, that was not even the ‘feels like’ temp.

Exploring Jumeirah

Not only is it the hottest place, well… ever, but as a gal visiting the region… I have to be covered. Curse. Once I got past the heat + wastefulness, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Dubai. The first day we explored a development called Jumeirah… it is a mixed-use development that also has a luxury hotel. (Luxury, yes please!) The quality of the design and the craftsmanship were A+.

The Gold Souk

After our presentations, the next day we went old school + headed to the traditional Souk (market) of Dubai. We started at the Gold Souk where there is literally shop after shop and street after street of all out bling. Much to Dan’s relief, we made no stops in this souk.

Riding the Water Taxi

From there we hopped on the water taxi (literally 30 cents per person) and rode across Dubai Creek to the Old Souk. Let me tell you, my love for the Old Souk knows no bounds. I could have stayed there for hours and purchased almost everything in sight… I settled for purchasing half of everything in sight.
 

Shoes, Shoes, + Shoes

 
Colin got to witness my supreme negotiating skills in the souk. All I can say is that my mom would have been so proud… well, Mom and the Heard ladies. I will be sporting two new pashminas, shirts, and shoes courtesy of this excursion. 
 

Rob, Colin, + I

The culmination of the night ended up being the perfect end to our two-week journey. One of our global practice leaders, Rob, lives in Dubai. He + Marc took Colin + I out for a celebration dinner… and shisha… and cocktails. Nothing compares to experiencing a city with those who live there.  Rob + Marc = Best Hospitality… the night left me looking forward to my next trip to Dubai.

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Someone Please Pinch Me

There came a point in time during this trip when I paused and thought… is this really my life? Someone. Please. Pinch. Me. It happened on our second day in Mauritius. (For those whose geography brain is failing them, Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of Madagascar.) That day our hosts at Alive 2 Green arranged for us to take a catamaran to Îlot Gabriel, an island nature reserve.

Îlot Gabriel

Some of my love for Îlot Gabriel + Mauritius, I have concluded, is because they are both places I never imagined I would actually be able to experience. The other two stops on this world tour were far away, but not implausible… Mauritius truly fell under the category of dream destination.

How Îlot Gabriel makes me feel... Free!

At one point in the day I was relaxing on an isolated part of the beach, reading Prince of Tides, when I came across a quote about the all-encompassing nature of travel… (one of my new favorites)

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey. ” – Patrick Conroy
 

A dip in the Indian Ocean

 To sum up the day, it was pretty much… perfect. Before we left, we hiked up one of the trails to this absolutely incredible view.

Colin framed by THE view

From there, we got back on the catamaran and headed back to the only slightly less ideal main island of Mauritius.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Hans Brassse for planning this unexpectedly amazing adventure for us.

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A Friend for Sonny + Stella

Sonny + Stella, look what Mummy found for you in South Africa! On our way to Cradle of Humankind we made a quick stop to play with baby lions. Disclaimer: This post will be low on text, but high on adorable.

De-li-cious

I mean their little faces… they were so playful and cuddly.

Lion Love

That being said, the size of their paws and power of their jaws reminds you that they will grow into these absolutely magnificent trained killers.  I, personally, don’t see how living with a trained killer could be any more annoying than Stella peeing in her bed and then sleeping in it. (Stella, please stop doing this by the time I return home.)

Colin with the baby

In spite of my utter obsession with these little guys, I decided to let Colin have a turn petting them.

(No, this was not part of a safari. We tried to swing this with our presentation schedule, but it didn’t pan out. Plus, I really need to wait and go on safari when the Danimal can go with me.)

Up next, a little slice of heaven… aka MAURITIUS!!!!

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This IS A Work Trip

I know… I know… we have been seeing + doing a lot of sweet stuff over here in the Southern hemisphere. Behind the scenes we have also been working VERY hard. By the time the trip is over we will have spoken five different times using four different presentations, and slept… well we haven’t done much of that. There is little time for it between preparing, practicing, and oh yeah… seeing all these places. 

Presentation #1 with Robin Ridley

The Intimate Crowd: Our first presentation was at a hipster restaurant located in the City Center of Johanessburg. Alive 2 Green arranged for us to speak with the folks at GIFA about FIT + Net Zero Building. For my non-HOK, non-architecture readers that essentially refers to the building blocks of sustainable cities + zero emissions buildings.

Making Final Tweaks to Presentation #1

The crowd was warm + welcoming and the intimate setting made it easy to get know them and chat over dinner as well.

The KAUST Presentation

The Big Show: The Greenbuilding Conference took place at the Sandton Convention Center (fancy and awesome) and was by far our largest crowd, over 650 people. Colin + I shared our KAUST project. And again for my non-HOK, non-architecture pals… KAUST is a mega-project in Saudi Arabia that had a fast tracked design + construction schedule. It is currently the world’s largest LEED Platinum project and first LEED project In-Kingdom. Translation: It is a ginormous sustainable project in an impossible climate. We got great feedback from the crowd, insightful questions, and made great contacts. SUCCESS!

Domaine Les Pailles

The Marathon: Our presentation in Mauritius yesterday was an extended version of Presentation #1 and an interactive work session for SIX HOURS. That is a long time people. Needless to say we were exhausted afterwards. It was an intimate setting, again, and one of the coolest venues I’ve ever been to. It really represented the traditional colonial architecture of Mauritius.

The Repeat: Tomorrow we do one presentation, but twice in Dubai. And believe it or not, after that, I finally come home!

I promise the baby lions are on their way…

 

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“Is it Raining, Is It Snowing…”

Those who know me well know of my obsession with candy, making my love for the ORIGINAL Willy Wonka + the Chocolate Factory no surprise. However, I will admit that as a child the boat ride scene creeped me out a bit. Two days ago during our last day in Johannesburg, Colin + I had our very own version of that ride.

Boat Ride at Cradle of Humankind

We went to an amazing world heritage site, Cradle of Humankind. The start of the tour is where we encountered the boat ride as it goes through water, earth, wind, + fire. It was rather hilarious and bizarre.

Colin going 'Round the World + Home Again'

Once you exit Gene Wilder’s world you enter an excellent education + exhibition space in their museum. (Very interactive and well thought out.)

Exhibition Space

Perhaps the ‘coolest’ object in the museum, in my opinion, is the fossil of a nest of dinosaur eggs. Each egg was at a different stage in the hatching process when a sand storm came along and the lil’ baby dinos ultimately met their demise. Take that Jurassic Park.

Dinosaur Egg Hatching Fossil

On top of the exhibition space, the site itself of the museum is rather incredible with amazing view of rural Africa.

Views of Africa

Stay tuned for the cutest post ever… we also managed to play with baby lion cubs on our last day.

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