Wanderlust Posts

Wanderlust: Phoenix, AZ

By: Danielle Clockel

Although my heart lies in the icy north, I do have a strange love for the desert. I love the plants, hearty and fierce looking. I love the landscape, with its sudden rocky peaks jutting into the sky. And while I despise the hotter end of the spectrum, I deeply relate to the extreme range of temperatures from day to night.

As you can imagine, this sparse landscape was strikingly different from the “city in a forest” I call home. But my heart swelled with excitement upon seeing short, shrubby vegetation and jagged mountains.

The first expedition was to the Desert Botanical Garden, and it was basically a wonderland. Paved and unpaved pathways wound through giant cacti, breezy grasslands, and crawling succulent sanctuaries.

I’m not exaggerating about the giant cacti. They’re as tall as trees!

I wish I could tell you I trekked all the way to the top of Camelback Mountain later in the week, but I absolutely did not bring the right shoes for that hike, so I stopped about halfway up and took in some seriously beautiful views.

To be honest, I was much more enthralled wandering around in the valley, gazing up at the incredible rock formations jutting out from the otherwise flat desert.

There was plenty to explore in the actual city as well. Delicious vegetarian/vegan eateries, vintage record stores, an arthouse/indie movie theater, and this incredible David Bowie mural that spanned almost a full block near the historic bungalow that I stayed at for the week.

It was an incredible visit, but I left just in time — the forecast called for a high of 90 degrees the day I flew back to Atlanta, and this cold weather loving gal had had enough of that nonsense during the summer already. That said, would I go back? I’ll answer that with a photo:

Wanderlust: Turkey

By Melody Richardson

As a Turkish-American child, I remember splashing in crystal clear waters, enjoying spectacular food, and absorbing the fast paced culture of Turkey every other summer throughout my childhood. The country has always held a special place in my heart. My mother is from Izmir, a small town on the southwestern coast, but spent her teenage years in Istanbul, making both cities a home away from home for me. After the passing of my mother, my younger brother and I decided to make an annual visit. Despite having spent so much time there growing up, viewing Turkey through unaccompanied adult eyes gave me a completely different experience. This time I went off the beaten path, exploring islands, and smaller historical neighborhoods, while still finding time for our favorite places. 

When in Istanbul, we stayed with our Aunt in Kadıköy, a local neighborhood. Each day we gazed out from her balcony, across the water, to the Princes Islands. This time we were fortunate enough to visit those islands. We knew after a one to two hour hike to the top we would be greeted by a 200 year old church and beautiful views. We did not, however, expect to be met by wild horses! As we took in the beauty, we fed the horses figs and olives from the surrounding trees. The Princes Islands are often visited by locals for a day trip, and I have every intention of going back each and every time. 

After a few days in Istanbul, we travelled to nearby Izmir to visit my grandmother. Izmir has been dubbed Ataturk’s City and has a giant stone monument in his honor. Another thing it’s is famous for is the Karşıyaka Bostanlı Bazaar which is only a 5 minute walk from my Grandmother’s house- we never miss it! It is definitely not the ideal environment for the claustrophobic, but very rewarding if you dont mind a little hustle and bustle. The bazaar is always busy with vendors and customers bargaining for goods. From fresh fish and vegetables to handmade jewelry and traditional Turkish towels, you can find just about anything. I always end up bringing an extra luggage to fill up with treasures to bring back home. After a long day of bartering, a nice ride around the bay on the Bostanlı Ferry at sunset is a relaxing way to take in a once in a lifetime view. 

The final leg of the trip we ventured back to Istanbul to visit with our uncle and explore the more touristy areas of Taksim and Karaköy. I always like to visit these neighborhoods because of the incredible combination of new and old, foreign and local. There are modern, trendy shops and buildings alongside centuries old palaces, mosques, and architecture– including the second oldest underground transit system, inaugurated in 1875. You can see Turkish people and foreigners alike bustling through the areas visiting the shops and cafes. 

Being in that environment is an experience impossible to find in the United States, that I highly recommend to all that are able. Coming home to Turkey makes me feel closer to my mother, closer to my family, and closer to the culture that I so deeply adore.

Turkey is a magical place with incredible people, sights, and history. It truly is my happy place. If you get the opportunity to go, please don’t hesitate to contact me for information and tips. I’d love to share, give recommendation and wish you: İyi yolculuklar! (Have a wonderful trip!)

Top 5 Quintessential Courtyards.

By: The Balance Design Team

As the weather gets warmer, people tend to talk about “porch season” or “deck weather” in terms of spending more time in their outdoor spaces. But let’s not forget courtyards! From grand, lush British gardens to architecturally focused Turkish temples, the style range is immense. Take a walk with us through some of the courtyards of our dreams…

Having a courtyard sounds like such a lavish luxury only attainable if you have a huge expanse of space in your home or yard. Not true! This Paris hotel does what Parisians do best: fit impeccable style into a small space.

But speaking of lavish luxury, the courtyard of the Riad Johara in Marrakech is doing it so right. This is everything we love about Moroccan style: cobalt blues, beautifully patterned tiles, and architectural shapes that are unmistakable (and astounding).

On the flip side of that coin, a simplified approach can be just as beautiful. This minimalist courtyard evokes a calm, quiet feeling and puts the focus on the experience of being outside. We can almost hear the quiet birds chirping and the soft breeze blowing.

We love a good fire pit, especially in such a lovely little courtyard. Balancing out the gravel ground with lush blooming hydrangeas and climbing vines creates a welcoming and intimate atmosphere.

We weren’t going to let this post go by without featuring a courtyard with a pool! Plus, look at those carved wooden doors, tropical palms, and crisp white facade. This is paradise.

In the most basic definition of the word, a courtyard is simply an unroofed area completely or mostly enclosed by the walls of a building. But to us, it’s so much more! A blurring of the line between indoor and outdoor space, a meditative sanctuary to commune with nature, or a gathering place for friends and family.

Wanderlust: Nepal

By: Stephanie Andrews

A few weeks ago I revisited one of my favorite places on Earth: Nepal (home of Mt. Everest, Hindu temples, Buddhist stupas, and quite frankly the most beautiful people I’ve ever met). My brother-in-law, Bhupesh, is a Nepal native and owns Nepal Travels there, so my family got the inside scoop of a lifetime when we went!

Photo courtesy of Edward Andrews.

After a grand total of 30 hours on two different planes, we arrived at Bhupesh’s family home in Kathmandu. From there we trekked The Golden Triangle to Pokhara and then to Chitwan National Park. I say “trekked” because although we had an expert driver, the roads were long, bumpy, full of potholes, and often closed altogether. But the journey is part of the experience, and we were able to enjoy the true flavor of local villages along the way! We also went white water rafting with a local guide, his wife, and his kids. Summertime in Nepal is hot, and we were all looking forward to taking a dip, especially with possibly the most beautiful view ever.

Photo courtesy of Edward Andrews.

Quite an adventure awaited us in Pokhara, which is a charming little lake town with lots of shops and beautiful inns like the one we stayed in. We experienced paragliding like never before! A quick drive brought us to the top of a giant hill (here in Georgia we would definitely call this a mountain), got a running start, and leapt off the edge for a 20 minute ride of a lifetime to the lake below. I once again had to place ultimate trust in a complete stranger. Incredible experience!

Photo courtesy of Travel Tipsor.

Then there came Chitwan National Park, where we rode elephants and bathed them in the river. These incredible creatures got us up close and personal with deer, rhinos, and crocodiles. But it was bathing in the river and massaging them with smooth rocks that really fostered my love for these gentle giants.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Andrews.

After this journey we returned to Kathmandu to visit a dear family friend Bina Basnet. She is the founder of Orchid Garden, a school/daycare for kids who have little besides their big hearts, joyful laughter, and ability to welcome us as their new best friends. They were so loving and welcoming that my daughter Allie asked to spend the rest of her summer break there volunteering. Of course I said yes! Just look at these amazing children.

Photo courtesy of Edward Andrews.

Photo courtesy of Edward Andrews.

In conclusion, Nepal is one of my favorite places on Earth. If you get the opportunity to go, please don’t hesitate to contact me for information and tips. I would love to share what I know and relive the adventure!

Wanderlust: San Diego

By: Shelby Adamson Pawlak

My husband and I recently had the chance to jaunt to the west coast, where I was a bridesmaid in a good friend’s wedding in San Diego.

Photo courtesy of San Diego Eater.

Photo courtesy of NBC.

Upon arrival we made our first stop at Liberty Public Market. Old navy barricades were transformed into eateries, bars, and craft vendors. What I loved about the space, besides the food and unique artful gifts, were the farmers market booths on the lawn and the vegetable garden growing out front. Spanish style architecture and bright paint helped us to appreciate not only the food but the detail in the structure as well. We loved it so much we went our first and last day in California.

Photo courtesy of California Beaches.

Photo courtesy of Traveldigg.com.

The next place on our list was Balboa Park. Rich in history, the park is home to multiple museums, performing arts venues, beautifully lush gardens, greenhouses, trails, and of course the San Diego Zoo. San Diego has the perfect climate for vegetation and it’s easy to lose yourself in the vast rose and cactus gardens. Our personal favorite was the greenhouse, which had an abundance of every plant you can think of. We even saw a staghorn fern that was close to 6 feet tall! Spectacular!

Photo courtesy of La Jolla Mom.

Photo courtesy of Hipmunk.

Our last leg of the trip was the wedding in La Jolla. The drive up was incredibly stunning with bright yellow and orange wild flowers climbing their way up the cliffs along the highway. We were lucky to have the venue directly on the beach, and allowed ourselves to get lost staring into the vast turquoise of the ocean and the beautiful topography of southern California. We treated ourselves to a night at La Valencia hotel, a Spanish style establishment built in 1926 that boasts original hand painted murals from the 1940s and is set right on the ocean. We did not want to leave!

We loved our visit to southern California and the only regret we had was not staying longer!