August 29, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Travels in Africa

Kitties rule in Marrakech. They bumble around in alleyways, wait patiently under butcher counters, and cat nap soundly on doorsteps, always indifferent to the chaos around them.

Such was the case with these little guys, who became part of our daily routine during our recent trip to Morocco.

Indeed, every morning, we’d walk down the alley of our riad (the hotel-like house where we stayed), coming across certain inevitable sights before ever reaching the main chicken-selling, vegetable-hawking, meat-cutting thoroughfare. There was the same snoozing lady, nestled beneath an awning and buried under swathes of colorful fabric; a glue-sniffing fella (yes, you read that right), who’d consistently sway his way between walls, eventually ducking out of sight into a awkwardly short door (no joke, this happened everyday); and then these kitties, reliably cuddling on a cement perch behind the safety of iron beams. I’m not a cat person, but seriously? Stupidly cute, right?

You would think that Marrakech must be litter-box deep in a cat population out of control, when, in fact, the excessive kitties actually keep a potential rodent population under control (or so told us someone from the riad staff). So, what might initially seem like a nuisance – a country in desperate need of a Bob Barker-style fix-your-kitty campaign – is actually killing two birds…err mice?….with one, um, stone. Make that feline. No wait, make that lots of felines. Anyway, I don’t know about you guys, but I’ll take loads of cats over rats any day.

Stray animals aside, I’m fresh off my trip to Morocco, which was fresh off my trip to the US, which means that now I’m countless iced cafés away from fully catching up. I hope to bring you all a more thorough update on my travels next week. Until then, I don’t know, be sure to “have your pets spayed or neutered.” Or not.

August 15, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Trips to the US

I almost fell off the face of the planet this last month. Or perhaps more precisely: I got sucked into a family-and-friends vortex somewhere between San Francisco and LA.

It was a good vortex, though. I raced around San Francisco, spending time with my city and friends. I went to a four-day-long conference that filled my brain and warmed my heart. And I did the flowers for (and was in) Heather’s wedding in LA. The trip was madness – it always is – but sweet madness.

So, now that I’ve returned to Madrid, I’m resurfacing to share a handful of photos I took with my iPhone while flitting around all over the California countryside.

My peeps (i.e. tortugas) on the Embarcadero

Market Street and the Ferry Building

Seagulls and the Bay Bridge

Half Moon Bay

Brunch at Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Building (Bay Bridge in the distance)

Koy street art in front of Blue Bottle Coffee in Hayes Valley

The bouquet I made for Heather on her wedding day

Alamo Square

The Golden Gate

And now I’m back, vortex-free and missing every unrestful minute of it. The sensation shouldn’t last for long, though – I head to Morocco soon and back to the States again in a month, with stops in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. I hope you’ll come along for the virtual (and much less tiring) ride!

*If you aren’t following me on Instagram, you can find me at tortugaviajera.

August 1, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Travel, Travels in Europe

When your family insists that you hop on a two-hour flight to meet them in Florence, Italy, you say “yes.”

Oops, at first I said “no,” but I quickly came to my senses. After all, the two-day trip to Tuscany would be filled with a bike ride through wine country, and enough good food to cancel out every last calorie burnt on said excursion. So – clearly – off I went to my favorite Italian city to meet up with my aunt, uncle and two cousins. Would you like to come along for the (virtual) ride?

Like any good trip to Italy, my latest began with pizza. That is, soft pillowy dough covered in melty disks of mozzarella, a smattering of pesto and slathered in chuggable tomato sauce. Served with a side of wine, my trip could have ended right there with that meal and have been well worth the journey.

Fortunately, though, that was just my first taste. After devouring every last bite, we digested our carb-tastic meal by taking a short trek down the street, where the sun had just dropped below the horizon, casting an ethereal glow on the Ponte Vecchio (photo above). Gelato may have also been involved in this picture of Florentine perfection, but the truth is that I scarfed it down so fast that there just wasn’t time for photos.

The next morning, we set off for Tuscany, piling into vans for a 45-minute drive into the countryside. But not before kick-starting our systems Italian-style with my beloved caffe shakerato — espresso, ice and sugar, all martini-shaken and served in a fancy glass. Honestly, any day that starts with this, is sure to be a good one, don’t you think?

A twisty and turny drive later and we were almost ready to go – almost. But first, we toured a 12th century castle, followed by a sip-and-nosh fest on wine and olive-oil-topped bread. OK, now we were ready to go.

So over the vineyard- and orchard-covered hills we went, zipping through the thick and sticky near 100-degree air. Single file, we shifted gears, grinding up inclines and coasting down into valleys, savoring the momentary and much-needed breeze. Tuscany was as picture-perfect as ever, but perhaps not at its finest for hitting the asphalt by bike.

And then we were done, returning to Florence to finish our weekend of biking, wine, caffe shakeratos and pasta just as perfectly as it had begun. From atop the Piazzale Michelangelo, we took in a panoramic view of the Arno River, twinkling with reflections as it crept under the Ponte Vecchio and across town, with the Duomo lit up in the background like a giant centuries-old Fabergé egg. Not too shabby for an impromptu weekend away with the family.