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Wadi Rum: Feeling Small & Free

Wadi Rum: Feeling Small & Free

Posted by on Nov 26, 2015 in Travel | 0 comments

“Traveling makes one modest — you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” –Gustave Flaubert / Flaubert in Egypt (1849) If you’ve ever experienced deafening silence while surrounded by nature, you’ll agree with the above quotation. For the first time in many years, I was forced to disconnect from technology while in Jordan. Although I was only “off the grid” for a short 24-hour period, I suddenly felt rejuvenated and at peace with myself.    Alone with my thoughts in the vast Wadi Rum desert, I listened to the occasional sounds of a Bedouin singing to his camel and the wind rustling the bright orange sand. Life really is beautiful, and riding in the desert on a camel makes you appreciate the simplistic way of living. Connections to people, nature and animals are so important for our well-being, and often technology causes us to become secluded. The majority of us should make it a priority to get off social media, our computers, or whatever it is that consumes your time, and truly start living.  The mountains of Wadi Rum also allowed me to realize that you can truly do anything you want, fear is the source that holds you back. During the first day in Wadi Rum I felt free. I tackled my fear of climbing a steep mountain to stand in the center of a narrow natural bridge. Holding the hand of my Bedouin guide, we reached the center of the bridge. My palms were sweaty and I was sure that I would topple over. He squeezed my wrist, looked into my eyes and exclaimed, “You did it!” There’s nothing more exhilarating than standing on a mountain top and conquering your fears. I also realized in Wadi Rum just how important it is to relax and take in your natural surroundings. The vast desert and huge mountains have a way of whispering to you, “Slow down. You’re small. Don’t let this big world swallow you up.” After hiking through mountains and sand dunes, I spent the evening in Wadi Rum laying on a blanket next to my Bedouin guide and best friend Courtney. Khaled pointed to...

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Carakale: Jordan’s First Microbrewery

Carakale: Jordan’s First Microbrewery

Posted by on Nov 19, 2015 in Drink, Travel | 0 comments

After traveling for about two months, I’ve realized just how spoiled I am in New York City. The craft beer scene is incredible in the Big Apple and I can go out every night to drink something new. I spent the majority of my trip in the Middle East, where I discovered that bars are sometimes hard to find and so is quality alcohol. Sipping tea with mint and smoking waterpipe at a cafe is common. However, while traveling in Amman, Jordan, I went to a local bar popular amongst expats and locals who partake in alcohol. Here, I tasted Carakale, a delicious craft beer from Jordan’s first microbrewery. Carakale is “bringing the tradition of beer back to its roots in Mesopotamia where beer was discovered over 7 centuries ago.” This new microbrewery is certainly putting Jordan on the map because the “Man Behind the Beer,” Yazan Kardsheh, sources top quality raw ingredients. Karadsheh returned home to Jordan after spending years working in the beer scene in Colorado and enrolling in the Master of Brewing program at the University of California, Davis. The name Carakale is a tribute to the rare species of cat, Caracal, which can be found from Jordan down through the Rift Valley into Africa. Karadsheh has come long way since his first job cleaning kegs and returned to Jordan in 2009 to build Carakale from the ground up. The microbrewery is located in the hills of Jordan’s Fuhais Canyon, and distributes to numerous bars throughout the country. The majority of the bars I went to in Jordan always carried Carakale’s flagship beer, the Blonde Ale. This straw-gold Blonde Ale is a perfect introduction into the world of ale, and starts off with a hint of toasted malt character followed by a hint of bitterness and a clean finish. The Blond Ale is especially delicious paired with peanuts, which are always served at bars in Jordan. Other craft beers in the Carakale repertoire include the Winter Ale, Whiskey Ale, Pale Ale and Mocha Stout. If you find yourself traveling in Jordan, sipping on a Carakale Blonde Ale will not disappoint. I’m looking forward to seeing how this brewery will impact the craft beer scene in the Middle East and beyond. Cheers to Yazan Kardsheh for turning his passion for craft beer into...

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Cycling Tour of Cape Greco in Cyprus

Cycling Tour of Cape Greco in Cyprus

Posted by on Oct 24, 2015 in Travel | 1 comment

If you’re into cycling, one of my favorite tours was through the Cape Greco National Forest Park. This park was founded in 1993, and is nestled midway between the busy resorts of Ayia Napa and Protaras. Cycling is definitely an affordable and fun way to explore a new area. For only 5 euros, I rented a bicycle for 24 hours from a local shop in Ayia Napa. The bicycle was complete with a basket and lock. What a deal! Courtney and I set out for our adventure with our first stop being the Sea Caves. This was by far the highlight of our tour. After cycling up a few steep hills and on dirt roads, we reached the Sea Caves drenched in sweat. If I could do it all over again, I would pack more water, beers and a proper picnic lunch. If you’re interested in visiting the Sea Caves, make sure you have sturdy water shoes. You’ll be scaling walls and climbing down rocks to get to the sea – but I can assure you, the risk is totally worth it! The water is so blue and clear that you can see all the way to the bottom. As you’re swimming, you’ll be surrounded by natural caves that have been carved out by the sea. The coolest place I’ve ever been swimming is definitely the Ayia Napa Sea Caves. The second stop on our cycling tour was the famous Cape Greco, a natural bridge that sits over the Mediterrannean Sea. Apparently you aren’t allowed to climb on the bridge, but I was feeling a little rebellious. It’s so interesting to see this natural structure and to stand on top of it is just something else! Just down the hill from Cape Greco is a quaint Grecian style church that’s definitely worth seeing. It overlooks the sea, and you’ll most likely make friends with one of the many cats lounging on the cool stone floor. After cycling for many hours in the afternoon’s hot sun, we went to Protaras Beach to relax. It’s the perfect way to end a cycling tour of the beautiful Cape Greco Park. I highly suggest...

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Top Five Favorite Georgian Foods

Top Five Favorite Georgian Foods

Posted by on Oct 19, 2015 in Eat, Travel | 0 comments

When traveling in Georgia, you must try traditional Georgian food. Here are my top five favorites after exploring the country for two weeks.  1. Khinkali  Because khinkali.  I dedicated a whole blog post to this delicious Georgian dumpling. It’s fun to eat and tastes delicious. Bite a small hole into the dumpling’s thick skin, slurp out the soup, enjoy the minced meat filling and repeat. How many do you think you can eat? 2. Adjaruli Khachapuri  I’m on a boat – a cheesy, gooey bread boat!  Khachapuri is a traditional Georgian dish of bread and cheese. The bread is leavened and allowed to rise, then shaped in various ways. Adjaruli khachapuri is from the Ajara region of Georgia. It is shaped like a boat and the inside is filled with cheese. The best part? It’s topped with a raw egg and loads of butter before serving. Adjaruli khachapuri might just be better than pizza! (I can’t believe I just said that.) 3. Churchkhela   When you’re starving and need a quick snack, churchkhela always saves the day. This “Georgian Snickers” is a traditional candy originating from the Caucasus region. It is a very popular food, combining two of Georgia’s favorites – grapes and nuts.  4. Badrijani Nigvzit I totally fell in love with this dish while traveling in Georgia. Badrijani nigvzit is a perfect appetizer, which consists of eggplants stuffed with a garlic-walnut filling. The eggplants are first browned in an oiled skillet and then set aside to cool. A delicious filling of crushed walnuts, garlic, vinegar, cilantro and other herbs is spread on one side of the eggplants, and then rolled up to enclose the filling inside. This dish is served chilled and is the perfect start to a traditional Georgian meal. 5. Veal Ribs with Spicy Tomato Sauce  Georgian food consists of many delicious barbecued meats. My favorite meat dish was at a restaurant in Kutaisi. The dish included veal ribs that were smothered in a spicy tomato sauce. This sauce is commonly found throughout Georgia and served with barbecued...

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Khinkali: Georgian Dumplings

Khinkali: Georgian Dumplings

Posted by on Oct 18, 2015 in Eat, Travel | 0 comments

In Georgia, khinkali is a staple menu item and available at most Georgian restaurants. These “Georgian dumplings” are usually filled with minced meat or cheese, but some newer restaurants offer other types of khinkali filled with mixed vegetables, mushrooms and more.   Khinkali reminds me of the typical Shanghai soup dumplings I’ve eaten quite often in New York City’s Chinatown, however, the dumpling skin of khinkali is much thicker and it’s eaten differently. During my stay in Georgia, I learned from my friend Sopho that legend has it among the younger generation, “Eating kinkali is how you make out with someone.” Now, every time I eat khinkali I just laugh and that’s all I think about!  Most restaurants have a minimum number of khinkali you can order, which I found is often five. The locals joke around about how many they can eat at one sitting. Our friend George says 20 khinkali is about his max! For me, it was about six. Just never try to order two khinkali at a restaurant or the waiter might laugh at you (learned that the hard way). So, how do you eat khinkali? You hold the top part of the khinkali with your right hand, and lift the bottom part with your left hand. Slowly and carefully, bite a small hole in the khinkali and began sucking out the soup. Gradually work your way around the khinkali, repeating the process. I also learned that you should not eat the top part of khinkali (the part you hold). The dough is very thick and locals say the “peasants” of Georgia only eat this part. Personally, my favorite khinkali is the one filled with meat (lamb or beef), cilantro, onions, parsley and dill. Of course, you have to sprinkle a hefty amount of black pepper on top like the locals do when eating khinkali.  I highly recommend trying khinkali if you can find it in your city, or just book a plane ticket to...

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Travel Lessons and the Nicosia Nightmare

Travel Lessons and the Nicosia Nightmare

Posted by on Oct 17, 2015 in Travel | 0 comments

After traveling for over 9 hours from Georgia, Courtney and I finally arrived to Cyprus’ Ercan airport. First travel mistake: even if you think everything will be okay, don’t land in a foreign country at 1am. Yikes.  We waited in line at customs and were successfully admitted into the country around 1:30am. Our Airbnb hosts were so gracious and decided to stay up late to greet us, they just wanted us to call them as soon as we landed. So, I went to a counter to purchase a SIM card. The man at the counter was nice enough to also hail us a taxi and convinced them to take us to our host’s house so late. He haggled with the cabbie and finally settled on 200 Turkish lira if we wanted to ride with two other people going in the same direction. The price was steep but we knew this was our only option so late at night. Besides, it was also the last taxi available. We dropped off the two other passengers and it’s just Courtney and me left in the car. The taxi driver asks me to move up next to him so I can give him directions. I hesitantly moved to the front seat and opened Google Maps to my host’s home. Second travel mistake: always make sure you have a full phone battery upon landing in a foreign country. Of course, my phone dies as we are beginning to approach the host’s home. Thank goodness the cabbie had a USB plug so I was able to turn on my phone. The funny part about Cyprus (really just horrible) is that it’s split between a Turkish side and Greek side. We crossed over the border with the cabbie and then my worst nightmare happens, my phone has no service. Those assholes! They never told me the SIM card wouldn’t work on the Greek side. Third travel mistake: always do research about which SIM card company is best and how far service extends in the country. I had a bad feeling as we approached what we thought was our host’s home. The taxi driver dropped us off,...

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