2016 Year-In-Review

2016 Year-In-Review

One of my all-time favorite trips in May 2016: staying at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como, Italy. Totally obnoxious champagne on boat shot. But what a day! 

One of my all-time favorite trips in May 2016: staying at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como, Italy. Totally obnoxious champagne on boat shot. But what a day! 

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I've done a wrap-up on this blog for the past five years. When I look back at these ridiculous, challenging, beautiful adventures - traveling all over the world, a marriage, a divorce, a new love, a new job - I feel endlessly grateful and honestly, tired. Travel is my passion, my life, my work, my beloved job and industry but I really want to slow down a bit. 

I want to sit and read the New York Times every Sunday. I want to meet friends for dinner in Manhattan and return gratefully to Brooklyn. I want to walk in Central Park and Prospect Park on beautiful days. I want to feel grateful for every minute I am on the Brooklyn Promenade because I can't believe I live so close - this is my dream neighborhood in NYC. I want to explore New York like I used to when I first moved here - with that giddy sense of new-ness - through Chinatown, Little Italy, the Upper West Side, all over Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. I want to make plans for the future - I've been such a stunned deer-in-the-headlights the past couple of years - either moving at warp speed to avoid feeling hurt, or waiting for someone else to make decisions. The future I had planned for since I was 20 disappeared when Andy and I split up and I'm still finding my way out. 

I know I will still travel. I would be lost without it. I will still travel more than most people I know. But I want a little more serenity, a little less airport madness, and more time to figure out what I want as I get older. I'll turn 35 this year and while sometimes it feels like I've been flitting around the world carelessly while all my friends have been having babies and saving for retirement - I am so grateful for this life (except for the Twilight Zone presidential election, which continues to be worse than we all thought). Can I do all of this and maintain minimum status on an airline? That is the goal. 

By the way - if you know anyone cool in Brooklyn, let me know. It's one of my resolutions this year to meet more interesting, creative, funny, kind people that live in Brooklyn and to build my community here more. If you say it loud, it is more likely to happen. So there you go! 

Wishing you a beautiful 2017. 

And in (mostly) chronological order - 2016 at a glance. 

New Year's 2016 in Myanmar - The Strand Cruise

New Year's 2016 in Myanmar - The Strand Cruise

The highlight of Chiang Mai for me - Royal Park Rajapruek

The highlight of Chiang Mai for me - Royal Park Rajapruek

Rice planting at Dhara Devi in Chiang Mai 

Rice planting at Dhara Devi in Chiang Mai 

Unforgettable - a day at Elephant Nature Park outside Chiang Mai

Unforgettable - a day at Elephant Nature Park outside Chiang Mai

A great place to stay in Bangkok - the Grand Hyatt Erawan

A great place to stay in Bangkok - the Grand Hyatt Erawan

January snowstorm!

January snowstorm!

Connecticut wedding with some of my amazing extended family

Connecticut wedding with some of my amazing extended family

Work trip to Terranea Resort outside of L.A.

Work trip to Terranea Resort outside of L.A.

Dreamy trip to St. Barth's

Dreamy trip to St. Barth's

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Visiting my hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona during orange blossom season!

Visiting my hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona during orange blossom season!

Easter Dim Sum with (some of) my siblings + Hayley!

Easter Dim Sum with (some of) my siblings + Hayley!

Work trip to Seattle

Work trip to Seattle

The absolutely stunning Park Hotel Vitznau outside of Lucerne, Switzerland

The absolutely stunning Park Hotel Vitznau outside of Lucerne, Switzerland

Lugano, Switzerland

Lugano, Switzerland

Grand Hotel Tremezzo - Lake Como, Italy

Grand Hotel Tremezzo - Lake Como, Italy

Fell in love with Fire Island - my first time there.

Fell in love with Fire Island - my first time there.

No place makes me feel like this place does - East Hampton, NY 

No place makes me feel like this place does - East Hampton, NY 

Hello New Home - Brooklyn Heights

Hello New Home - Brooklyn Heights

Weekend at my aunt & uncle's lakehouse

Weekend at my aunt & uncle's lakehouse

Recovering in Aspen post-Virtuoso Week 

Recovering in Aspen post-Virtuoso Week 

Aspen

Aspen

My favorite cake in the world - Original Sacher-Torte in Vienna!

My favorite cake in the world - Original Sacher-Torte in Vienna!

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna

The beautiful Schloss Fuschl hotel outside of Salzburg, Austria

The beautiful Schloss Fuschl hotel outside of Salzburg, Austria

Will never forget this sunset swim in the lake! 

Will never forget this sunset swim in the lake! 

Sunset in Salzburg

Sunset in Salzburg

Favorite cocktail - Mr. Pink's at the Baccarat Hotel 

Favorite cocktail - Mr. Pink's at the Baccarat Hotel 

Ballet at Lincoln Center 

Ballet at Lincoln Center 

Upper West Side drinks - love our friend's rooftop!! 

Upper West Side drinks - love our friend's rooftop!! 

WOW view from the Rothorn in Switzerland 

WOW view from the Rothorn in Switzerland 

Rainy day view from the amazing Beau-Rivage hotel in Geneva

Rainy day view from the amazing Beau-Rivage hotel in Geneva

Back in Lucerne

Back in Lucerne

Annual fall-in-Connecticut trip with my aunt

Annual fall-in-Connecticut trip with my aunt

Metropolitan Opera

Metropolitan Opera

Fall in NYC

Fall in NYC

The River Cafe - eternally wonderful

The River Cafe - eternally wonderful

Thanksgiving with my family in L.A. - Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica

Thanksgiving with my family in L.A. - Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica

View from the Carlton in Cannes - ILTM! 

View from the Carlton in Cannes - ILTM! 

Beautiful Munich

Beautiful Munich

Family party in Franklin Lakes

Family party in Franklin Lakes

First copies of the new NatGeo book with my foreword

First copies of the new NatGeo book with my foreword

Christmas Day - Art Deco Hotel Montana, Lucerne

Christmas Day - Art Deco Hotel Montana, Lucerne

New favorite place - Lenzerheide, Switzerland

New favorite place - Lenzerheide, Switzerland

Felucca ride, Cairo! 

Felucca ride, Cairo! 

The Egyptian Museum made my heart beat faster.

The Egyptian Museum made my heart beat faster.

Cairo 

Cairo 

New Year's Day 2017 

New Year's Day 2017 

The Crumbling, Brilliant City of Yangon

My trip to Asia over New Year's was centered around sailing on the new Strand Cruise on the Irrawaddy River. But first, we spent two nights in Yangon (Rangoon). Myanmar (Burma) has been on my radar since it opened to the world in 2011 after decades of isolation under oppressive military rule. Visitors started pouring in to see stunning temples and unspoiled landscapes. But the tourism infrastructure has had trouble keeping up with the demand.

Our time in Yangon was utterly magical, because it was so unlike anywhere else I'd ever been. The Strand Cruise is the sister experience to the iconic Strand Hotel (built in 1901), where we stayed. It is one of those totally evocative hotels where the wood creaks a little bit when you walk and you're transported back to the height of what I picture as total British colonial glamour.

I was completely obsessed with the sign at the bar: "Please be informed that smoking is allowed in The STRAND bar for traditional reasons. Thank you for your kind understanding."

The sign in The Strand Lobby Bar

The sign in The Strand Lobby Bar

The Strand Lobby

The Strand Lobby

Lovely, comfortable suite at The Strand Hotel

Lovely, comfortable suite at The Strand Hotel

Some more highlights of our time in Yangon:

  • Booking an in-room massage at The Strand Hotel
  • Venturing out to the dark city of Yangon, with crumbling but beautiful buildings and people sitting on tiny tables on sidewalks eating street food
  • Visiting the Pomelo store, a bright and cheerful shop filled with cool products like jewelry, frames, bags, and blankets. But best of all, the proceeds directly benefit the local artisans that made the products, many of whom are struggling with poverty and illness. It's open late and makes a great stop before dinner at Monsoon next door.
  • Dinner at Monsoon, a charming restaurant with a huge menu - whether you feel like Western food or tasting Thai, Laotian, or Burmese cuisine, this menu has it.
  • The leisurely, delicious breakfast at The Strand Hotel
  • The kind concierge at The Strand who helped plan and map out our entire day and even booked Alex a haircut at La Source spa. I got a 30-minute shoulder massage here, which was incredible.
The best haircut of his life!

The best haircut of his life!

  • The shops at The Strand - you'll want to try on rings and buy artwork in the hotel's shops, one of the best shopping sources in the city.
Cool Buddhas in The Strand Hotel's River Gallery of art

Cool Buddhas in The Strand Hotel's River Gallery of art

  • Finding our amazing driver, Mr. T, outside The Strand. We hired him on a whim. I needed to see a lot in one day and for 8 hours, he drove around hitting everything on my list. Very reasonable and he speaks great English. (see my Myanmar guide for contact info)
  • Buying a birthstone ring at Emerald Gems (the main gem market was closed when we were there). Myanmar is known for peridots, and I wear my gold-and-green "August" ring every day. You'll get a 15% discount if you bring cash.
Emerald Gems

Emerald Gems

  • Stopping for a cold drink at Acacia Tea Salon - Yangon's British history means that afternoon tea is still popular. I loved this patisserie, which also serves lunch. The second floor has a small balcony with one table and if it's not too hot, this is the place to be.
Second floor balcony at Acacia Tea Salon

Second floor balcony at Acacia Tea Salon

  • Admiring the architecture - Much of the architecture in central Yangon dates from the period of British rule which lasted from 1824 to the creation of Burma in 1948. There is a struggle to save these historic buildings, and if preservation efforts succeed, it will only make the city more appealing. Without these buildings, the city would not be as fascinating.
  • Meeting a fortune teller who changed my life. Before I left for Myanmar, my friend, National Geographic photographer Catherine Karnow, sent me the business card of a fortune teller in Yangon (written entirely in Burmese). A comedy of errors ensued, after calling the number on the card and finding out she had changed addresses. Depending on who we talked to, the new one either didn't exist or was "impossible" to find in a "maze" of streets. But with the help of the Strand Hotel staff, one amazing driver, and some locals on the street, we were able to find her, on a quiet residential street (most of Yangon's fortune tellers are clustered around the Shwedagon Pagoda). She spoke no English so our intrepid driver Mr. T also served as translator the best he could. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt, I cried because she just KNEW so many things. She is a true fortune teller in the most magical sense. But....she will only be at this address for another "year or so" so if I return, it will be another adventure to find her.
  • Rangoon Tea House - the hippest place in town for a drink and live music.
  • Reclining Buddha (Chauk Htat Gyi)
Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha

  • Sule Pagoda - You won't miss this beautiful temple if you're in downtown Yangon - it's in the center of everything.
  • The mind-bogglingly beautiful Shwedagon Pagoda. I could have stayed for several hours here. Come in the late afternoon and stay for sunset to watch the light change on the brilliant gold of the temples.
Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

The adventure continued at the Yangon airport, where we boarded a 6am flight to Bagan's Nyaung U Airport to board our ship.

Everything about the airport reminded me I was thousands of miles from home, and so far from everything that I knew to be normal. I LOVED it for those reasons. The building seemed stuck-in-time, with huge old-school scales where you could weigh your luggage (or yourself), one Western-style restaurant, and one local restaurant where people slurped down noodles. "Tickets" were different colored stickers that we stuck on our clothes. Then we nervously searched for fellow passengers wearing our color to group up with them so we wouldn't miss our flight. It was definitely organized chaos.

My favorite airplane slogan ever is Yangon Airways' "You're safe with us." This mantra was plastered on the seat cushions, the snack boxes, and on the planes themselves. It was an easy and safe (of course!) journey to Bagan.

You're Safe With Us

You're Safe With Us