Napa: You Can Travel “Just Because”

Napa, travel, photographySadly, I rarely take a vacation with my “IRL” (that’s “in real life” for you non-social media junkies) friends, aside from a steady stream of weddings. Thankfully, I have an enormous web of online travel pals to hit the road with “just because.” In the case of a recent girls weekend in Napa, I had met both girls off-line first before re-connecting with them on the web. Kristin (LEFT) and I worked together more than five years ago but barely knew each other. Then she found me on Twitter, and we met briefly during my first trip to Napa last year. Diana (MIDDLE) and I knew each other the first time I lived in Vegas, when I was a magazine editor and she a publicist. I was living as an expat in Costa Rica when I got a surprise email from her asking advice about taking time off to travel. Neither of us ever thought we’d move back to Vegas (what a transition!) — but here both of us are! Don’t let the champagne fool you — this was one of the most budget-friendly trips I’ve ever taken. Head to Virgin America for cheap flights, and all tastings are easy on the wallet. Girls trips for everyone!

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My Biggest Fear: Bested, but not Conquered

travel, Las VegasZip-lining and sky-diving? Check. A strange addiction to catapulting to more than 1,000 feet on the Stratosphere’s Big Shot here in Las Vegas? Love it. Landing alone in China, Turkey, Malaysia and who knows where else, moving to a barrio in Costa Rica, solo cross-country road trips: Fun hobbies all of them, ways to unwind!

Even though my extreme dislike of horror films makes me think of myself as a scaredy cat, I get called a thrill-seeker all the time.

But I have one serious, debilitating fear. And I’m about two hours away from addressing it in the above photo, where I’m enjoying the calm before the storm with an old friend from NYC.

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Grand Canyon Ranch

Las Vegas, travel, Grand CanyonMy friends and I always say that the trick to living in Las Vegas (or New York City or Los Angeles…) is getting out of town for weekend getaways like Ojai, South Beach or Napa. But one of my most memorable getaways in the past few months was an even quicker trip, to Grand Canyon Ranch — we left at 4 pm and arrived home early enough the next morning to make it to work almost on time. But it felt like we’d gone to the other side of the world and back. That’s one of the most magical parts about living in Las Vegas — as you fly away the scenery goes from razzle dazzle to miles of nothingness is a blink of an eye. The part of this trip I was most excited about — my very first helicopter ride! My friend and coworker Tiffany had invited me on the overnight to get to see the ranch, as our company has some exciting things planned with them. I couldn’t wait! We both went straight from the office, in high heels and dresses. Our fellow passengers, all in appropriate tourist wear, looked at us like we were nuts. We’ll know for next time!

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Peace in Colonia

Uruguay, travel, South AmericaThis is my friend Kirsten. Doesn’t she look happy? Relaxed even… This is news because a few days prior, in Buenos Aires, she was stressed out to say the least, after a street thief grabbed her precious iPhone right out of her hands while we were in a cab. A day trip to Colonia, Uruguay turned out to be just what we needed. The peaceful old town area of this quaint port town featured adorable shops, safe streets and outdoor cafes — a perfect little break to big city life in Argentina!

 

 

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The Political Side of Things in Buenos Aires

Argentina, Buenos Aires, travel, photographyMaybe it was because I’m a Pisces, or perhaps that I lived in Florida in 10 years, or just that I love the beach, but when our all-knowing travel guide asked us to guess what this shape represented, I guessed, “a fish?” Luckily, my fearless travel buddy, Kirsten, was a bit more on the money: “a lady’s head?” Sure enough, this was one of the famous head scarves, the symbol of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. The brave women started silently marching near the presidential palace, Casa Rosada, every Thursday during the Dirty War of the 1970s and 80s, a war which scared even the bravest men into silence. With the names of their missing children embroidered on their scarves, they demonstrated for justice, despite so many people “disappearing” for doing much less. Most recently, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have worked with a government team to use DNA testing to return many of the kidnapped/re-assigned children from the war to their biological families. It’s a fascinating story from a horrific time. So far, less than 50 of these (now grown) children of war have been re-introduced to their families, but hundreds have been identified. As far as I know, none of these children have given an interview about whether or not they left the parents who raised them despite now knowing that those parents knew they’d been ripped from their biological moms and dads, how that felt. I’m on the lookout but have been unable to find anything on-line. Please send me a link if anyone knows anything! Here are a few more photos of the capitol.

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Tango’s Carlos Gardel in Buenos Aires

Argentinians love them some Carlos Gardel — so much so that a neighborhood-sized shrine exists just for him! Possibly the most famous person in tango history, Gardel died way before his time in a horrible Buddy Holly-esque plane crash. His house has been restored and opened as a museum, in the Abasto district of Buenos Aires. For me, walking through the surrounding streets and finding all of the portraits of him painted on windows, walls and elsewhere became like a puzzle, and his flowery lyrics fun to try to translate with my intermediate Spanish. It might be tourist-y to some, but I loved the history lesson — and also the colorful filete style of painting that adorns the area. Trust me, you’ll know it when you see it…

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