Turks and Caicos Bound

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I could start by telling you how Turks and Caicos is actually conformed by 40 islands and keys, located close to Cuba and Bahamas and just an hour and a half flight from Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

I could also tell you that the official language is english – they form part of the United Kingdom, so a picture of the Queen of England is the first thing you see when you step off the plane –.  They also drive on the left side of the road and many of their vehicles have the stirring wheel in the wrong side – only God knows why the English insist on doing that–.  At the same time their currency is the US dollar, and most of their tourism comes from Canada.  But if you check Wikipedia, probably find out all of this and many more interesting facts. So I rather give you the feeling I got from visiting this white sand paradise last week, and how beyond their natural beauty their biggest treasure is their people.

I have been dreaming about Aman Hotels for a while know, even though that is not my usual motivation for traveling this hotels spoke to me. They seemed like an experience. So zen, quiet, health oriented, located usually in remote places and surrounded by nature. The perfect place to enjoy a real vacation with my husband –something that we rarely do on our trips. So I must confess what first got me looking in to Turks was the Amanyara hotel. But I was in for a double surprise: the resort was even better than I expected and the island vibes were wonderful.

Who should go?

 Nature lovers, yoga lovers, spa lovers, divers, beach lovers, tennis lovers, sea lovers, golf lovers, boat lovers, lovers in general.

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Where should you go?

Providenciales and Big Turks. The airport is at Providenciales and if you wish to go island hopping there is a wide offer of ferry boats and private tours. Chartering a boat for the day is the ideal way to island hop, arrange a secluded beach picnic or practice scuba, snorkeling or fishing.

Contact any of these operators and they will be happy to arrange everything for you:

After 5 Concierge (649-946-4585)

Atabeyra Sailing Charters (649-231-0624)

Big Blue Unlimited (649-946-5034)

Caicos Dream Tours (649-243-3460)

Caicu Naniki Sports Adventures (649-432-5000)

Caribbean Cruisin 649-946-5406 or Cell: 649-231-4191)

Catch The Wave (649-941-3047)

Kenard Cruises (649-242-3866)

Ocean Vibes (649-231-6636)

Reef Peepers (649-941-8605)

Sail Provo (649-946-4783)

Silver Deep (649-946-5612)

 

Where should you stay?

 I am bias with Amanyara.  The people that work there are beyond amazing, they go out of their way to please you. The food is delicious. The location and the architecture of the place is priviledge, but has been built with such respect for the enviroment that surrounds it, that you feel really immerse in nature, with the obvious benefits of civilization –like wi-fi all over the place–. But I reckon is not budget friendly.

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There are other beautiful hotels closer to the downtown for every budget, and also great offers for families traveling with children like the famous Beaches Resort.

My 3 personal favorites things to do:

 Try Nathan’s Cheesecakes @nathanscheesecakes :

Their cheesecakes are so delicious, people come from other islands just to try them. The story behind this bakery is a beautiful example of a dreamer pursuing his dreams – I will post the interview I did to him ASAP.

Eat and Dance barefoot at the Conch Shack:

I swear I felt inside a Sponge Bob cartoon here, the place is magical you will feel here all the island’s good vibes.

Conch is the national food, you will see it everywhere and other than eating I brought home a couple as a souvenir –it’s legal to do so. I suggest going there on a wednesdays or during weekends because there is a local band playing, the urge to dance is impossible to resist.

At sunset try a boat ride:

 It’s very a special experience and all the boat companies listed offer this service.

About their people:

Other than feeling their cheerful spirits and super warm welcoming, the thing that struck me the most was their pride to be part of the island progress.

Going back to the airport the driver said to me: “You must come back, I promess this is only getting better and better” I guess that was the heart felt statement that resumed the strength of their souls.

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Wabi – Sabi: Japanese for Unconventional Beauty

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Probably in your language there are a few words untranslatable to other languages, I know we have them in spanish, and in english the word “wanderlust” is one of them.

I don’t know exactly how or when I came across with this concept but became really curious about it’s meaning and started researching. It wasn’t that easy to my surprise, to find books or any written information about it. Eventually I understood the reason why…

If you ask a Japanese to translate or explain Wabi – Sabi, they will probably hesitate and give you an apology for not been able to do so. But they all recognize the feeling of it for sure, because it’s a core concept in Japanese culture.

The best definition I found, was this that follows:

“ Wabi-Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional. “ ( “Wabi-Sabi” by Leonard Koren)

As you can infer this concept can be applied for visual arts, architecture, poetry, literature, philosophy and spiritual life.

The lack of written information contributes to the vagueness of the definition, but why does so much mysterie surrounds it? The origins of the word are related to the ceremony of tea, which was mostly performed by zen monks and zen tea masters. In their tradition, essential knowledge can only be transmitted from mind to mind and not through the written word.

My interest in this aesthetically and philosophical concept has me involved on a very particular mission:  to spread the word about it and  stop it from disappearing.

Since the mid 20th century the predominant aesthetic has been modernism – I am a big fan – but it has been so popular and preeminent that even in Japan now days Wabi-Sabi is fading away. In my opinion that would be a big loss for all of us. With that in mind I wanted to list here the differences between both, so that we can open our minds to perceive this other version of beauty that surrounds us. A beauty that is vulnerable, irregular, imperfect, intimate, unpretentious, simple and earthy. A bit like most of us uh?

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Modernism                                                                   Wabi-Sabi

 

Logical, rational.                                                           Intuitive.

 

Absolute.                                                                         Relative

 

Universal Solutions                                           Personal Solutions

 

Mass Produced                                                   One-of-a-kind.

 

Future Oriented                                                 Present Oriented

 

Pro Technology                                                   Pro Nature

 

Geometric forms                                                 Organic Forms

 

The Box as the metaphor                                The Bowl as the metaphor

 

Needs to be well mantained                         Accommodates to degradation

 

Intolerant of ambiguity.                                  Comfortable with ambiguity.

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As Hume suggested:   “Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.”   Let’s make some room and accept as part of our lifes the imperfect, faded, broken and ambiguous beauty that exists everywhere and in everyone, even in ourselves.

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The Invisible People

 

 

We’ve all seen them… sometimes.

I’ve named them “The Invisible People”, they really aren’t, but even though they occupy a space, and their shape, weight and form is perceptible by our senses…we don’t always see them.  Human nature and it’s mysteries.

 

Parenthesis.

Once while watching a very predictable movie – no offense to Jennifer Lopez, but less than perfect performance, she is a goddess on the stage, but not quite there yet as an actress – I realized the existence and the concept of the “Invisible People”. J.LO was a cleaning lady at a Manhattan hotel and her boss warned her to do her job while being invisible to the guests. Because the movie was nothing but a soap opera for the big screen, what happened next was exactly the opposite, and the leading actor falls totally in love with her. Message of the Movie: Don’t ask Jennifer Lopez to go unnoticed.

Parenthesis Closed.

The invisible are not exclusive to hotels, they are everywhere: around a cities’s streets, parks, restaurants, coffee shops, airports, train stations, subways, even our homes. Now that I am aware of their existence I see them often.

They usually work hard and perform with extreme humility jobs that no one else wants: clean public toilets, swipe floors, recycle, wash dishes, clean houses, build bridges or expressways, pick up the garbage… I would say in general their job is to make our lives easier, nicer, cleaner. But we hardly notice.

Second parenthesis…..

This post’s purpose is not to make anybody feel guilty – for me guilt isn’t a valuable feeling, the real reason behind change should always be love – as a matter of fact, I don’t think the reason for not noticing them is a lack of moral values, I don’t think is because we are evil, we are just distracted with our own selves.

Second parenthesis is closed.

A while ago talking to a dear friend, who’s dedicated his life to serving others, he told me how difficult it was for people who have this kind of jobs to have a good self-esteem. Because their jobs aren’t valued by society their self worth fades, even their dignity as human beings is affected. That is definitely a very important reason to notice and greet them. This same friend, told me: “you can’t always solve all their problems, but you can always make them feel human and worthy”

If when we attend a concert we applaud the musicians, and at the theater we give a standing ovation to the performers. I love to think that one day there will be an ovation at an airport’s toilet. A public round of applause on the middle of the street at the plumber who cleans the sewers, a “ high five” to the park gardeners… would be such an extravagance it will appear in the newspapers.

Summing it all up –thank you for reading all my rambling– next time we are wandering around a city, lets notice them. Lets look them in their eyes and thank them. Lets greet and say goodbye. Sounds useless, but trust me it is not. In my experience every “ Hello” has been received as an applause, and every “Thank You” like a kind an unexpected gift.

That, in my opinion is the best attitude a traveler and a citizen of the world can have.

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Austin for Foodies by @andreanuu

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Austin has become a foodie town, with lots of new places opening every month and great food you can only compare with bigger cities like New York City or LA.

Peter Jon Lindberg, on an article for Travel and Leisure, described Austin as the nation’s second-fastest-growing city with 164 people moving to Austin every day. I was one of them!

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Last year I had the pleasure to live in Austin for seven months. My husband got a super job there so we had to take that opportunity. I’ve always been a fan of food (specially tacos!), so it was like a dream come true to get to live in a city where you can have tacos for breakfast.

I currently don’t live in Austin anymore (Hello,Chicago), so this post is to showcase some of my favorite restaurants I visited in Bat City (surprise, surprise: no bbq places in this post!)

UCHI – Japanese food

The best Japanese food I’ve tried in the U.S.

I visited this place one week before I moved to Chicago and from the beginning it became a favorite. I ordered the uchiviche (salmon-striped bass-tomato-bell pepper), the machi cure (smoked yellowtail-yucca crips-marcona almond and Asian pear), among other cool and hot tastings. Great and fresh taste, with beautiful presentations in each plate.

No wonder Uchi took the no. 4 spot in the USA in a roundup of the best fine dining restaurants for TripAdvisor’s annual Traveler’s Choice Awards.

Don’t forget to make a reservation in advance, this place is always packed!

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VOX TABLE – American Style food

 It’s become a brunch favorite for the weekends.

They opened last year so they’re still kind of new in the Austin restaurant scene.

What I love of Vox Table is the creative way of mixing flavors and the very cool vibe of their staff as well. The potato churros and olive oil pancakes are a must-try.

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VERACRUZ ALL NATURAL

 And now, my favorite part of this post: TACOS!

This food truck/taco trailer is a traditional spot in Austin. While other trailers don’t have seats or space to eat, At Veracruz, you can enjoy your taco, seating with umbrellas and have a good time. They make their own tortillas and salsas, so you can experience a fresh, tasty and delicious taco.

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EL ALMA

Brunch and tacos? El Alma, of course.

This Mexican spot owned by Chef Alma Alcocer is one of Austin’s top restaurants.

El Alma is a place where you will want to order everything and repeat it every day.

The restaurant was built into a cliff so be sure to choose a rooftop seating to enjoy your meal with the amazing view of the Austin city skyline.

Also, take a risk and order the Tamaringindo (Gin-mezcal-agua de tamarindo). Salud!

QUI – Fusion

 If you are a Top Chef fan, you know Paul Qui.

This awarded chef, opened his first-solo restaurant in 2013, with three concepts in one place: a seven-course set menu (it’s pricey but worth the experience), a patio bar and a private 20 course tasting room.

Each course is an unique experience with the help of their staff and the passion they put into every detail to create a beautiful atmosphere. They change the menu so often, but If you are lucky and have the fried chicken, you will feel in heaven.

PERLA’S

Seafood lovers, this is your place.

It’s a lovely place to enjoy good food in the summer (their patio is fabulous) or inside in an intimate atmosphere.

Their menu has a great selection of fresh oysters but in my opinion the grilled octopus is a scene stealer. if you are here for brunch, don’t hesitate and order for the crab Florentine (English Muffin, Poached Eggs, Lump Crab, Griddled Tomato, Lemon Spinach, Hollandais).

GEMELLI’S

It is a perfect spot for a sunny afternoon on the east side of town (and date night!). I was treated with amazing flavors like the Vietnamese coffee gelato. It was a superb experience. You can also order alcohol drinks to mix it with the gelato (the negronis are from another world, exquisite craft cocktails)

 

There are more places I visited in Austin (that I loved and repeated every week) worth checking out. You can follow me on instagram @andreanuu for more Austin food experiences!

My Madrid, for you…

To be honest, Madrid isn’t a city that mesmerized me at first, wasn’t love at first sight, but it’s appeal has grown a lot since then.  All my trips were nice, of course, but I didn’t find it charming as others. Nonetheless, in my last couple of visits  I found the vibrant and energetic city that people are so fond of. I discovered the kindness of spaniards, the food, and of course the night life.

With all that said, I want to leave in writing -sort of my official apologies – a few suggestions of places to visit, hoping you might find them interesting and enjoyable as I did.

 

  1. Matadero Madrid: In Aranzuela,  what used to be a slaughter house is now a center for contemporary art, with theaters, cinemas, coffee shops and farm-to-table restaurants.
  2. Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales:  Cloistered nuns still live and walk around barefoot here. Other than being a oasis of peace in the middle of Madrid, it’s a place to see beautiful art by Titian, Hans de Beken and others.
  3. Argensola Street: Located in the Salamanca Neighbourhood, it’s the place to go shopping for local products and independent designer stores.
  4. El Ganso: Also at the Salamanca Neighborhood ( Serrano 47) it’s my favorite store in that area particularly to shop for clothes and shoes.
  5. Federica and Co: It’s a tiny open mall hidden at Hermosilla 26. There you will find a great selection of antique china, furniture and delicate knits.
  6. Barrio de las Letras: The neighborhood where Cervantes and Lope de Vega lived, in it’s narrow streets you will find today art galleries and vintage shops.
  7. El Corte Ingles: The most famous department store in Spain and probably a mandatory stop for everyone. My recommendation is to go to the one located in Plaza del Callao, the fourth floor is a foodies heaven, besides the perfect place to buy edible presents and souveniers.
  8. La Portegna: For travelers and wanderlusts like me, this is a beautiful store that specializes in luggage and briefcases all handmade in Andalucia.

 

Food and drinks are highly appreciated in Madrid’s culture.  It’s been hard to make a list of the good restaurants because all of them are excelent. So instead here is a list of the more memorable ones for me:

 

  1. Ten con Ten: My favorite in Madrid and perhaps in the world. Everything on the menu is extraordinary.  My recommendations are the Broiled Octopus (Pulpo Pedreiro), the Potatoes with shrimps and the Risotto with Truffles. The ambiance reflects the essence of Madrid’s nightlife, the bar, the drinks and the DJ are the perfect combination for a great night out. restaurantetenconten.com

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  1. Paraguas: The perfect place to enjoy a long meal, with great wine. The specialty is seafood but there are delicious dishes for meat lovers too, like the burger with foie. My choice is the Black Cod with Broiled Apple’s Sauce. elparaguas.com

 

  1. Arzabal: Is the place where chefs eat when they want authentic spanish food perfectly prepared. Best bets are the Ham Croquettes and the Truffled Eggs.  arzabal.com

 

 

  1. Arriba:  Chef Ramon Freixa’s new restaurant. It occupies and old  cinema that has been redecorated in a clubby style. Very popular with the younger crowd.  restaurantearriba.com

 

 

  1. Bosco de Lobos: Located in Barrio La Chueca, by chefs Tomas Tarruella and Perico Cortés, the restaurant is beautifully decorated with floor to ceeling windows and light wood tables. The menú offers a wide selection of dishes. ecompaniadelobos.com

 

 

  1. Taberna La Carmencita: The original ceramic tiles are still part of the deccor – it was a tabern during the 19th century.  By the acclaimed chef Carlos Zamora who is famous for restaurants like Deluz and El Machi, serves traditional dishes with a twist and prepared with organic ingredients. tabernalacarmencita.es

As it happens with the beloved, Madrid was mine, is mine…I am taking it with me, and also giving it to you…

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