April 17, 2014

A Look at La Sape

I love this Guinness commercial featuring the Sapeurs from earlier this year. As the commercial reveals, the Sape (The Society for the Advancement of Elegant People) are a part of Brazzaville's cultural heritage. They're known for their fancy dress and encourage feeling good about how you look. While the connection to Guinness feels contrived, the five minute documentary that followed is an interesting look into La Sape culture. I would love to see Scott Schuman photograph these guys.

April 9, 2014

Finding Happiness

On my walk home from work today, a plump man wearing a leather jacket and sunglasses roared past me on his Harley. He was blasting Pharrell's Happy as he rode, and I couldn't help but smile as he passed. From film festival judges to Facebook friends, the short documentary Slomo has garnered a lot of attention lately. It's the story of a doctor turned rollerblader who spends day in and day out gliding along the San Diego boardwalk. Here's the preview:
Unfortunately, living a happy life is often not as simple as dropping everything and doing what we want. It's clear Slomo worked hard for many years in order to be able to afford the quirky lifestyle he lives now. I do agree that achieving happiness is as simple as making the right choices towards building a life you love to live. For more interesting thoughts on finding happiness, check out this article: 9 Common Pursuits that Rob Us of Happiness. What's one thing that made you happy today?

March 27, 2014

Tourism and Wildlife

If you had told me seven years ago I'd be working with an African non-profit organization primarily focused on large-scale landscape conservation, I would have laughed and shook my head in disagreement. Yes, I really enjoyed my sub-Saharan Africa course in college, and sure, I loved working in the travel industry and later, living in Africa, but what does any of that have to do with wildlife and conservation? To learn more, check out my latest blog post for the African Wildlife Foundation.
tourists cruise along the Chobe River
P.S. Curious about the photo above? That's a group of tourists enjoying a sunset cruise on the Chobe River in northern Botswana. The little white bird near the buffalo is a cattle egret, and helpfully removes ticks and other annoying biting insects from the buffalo's skin. It's a win/win situation for both animals.

March 21, 2014

Healthy Travel Tips

Food is one of the best ways to connect with the local culture while traveling, and I’m certainly not one to hold back when it comes to trying new dishes. But, how much is too much? Whether you’re a road warrior always on the go, or simply looking forward to weekends at the beach this summer, Amy Rizzotto of MOARfit sat down with me to share some tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle while traveling.
MOAR-fit founder Amy Rizzotto
So Amy, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m a wanderlust food and fitness loving blogger, yoga teacher and nutrition coach currently based in Washington, D.C. Over the past five years, I’ve had the great fortune of living on three different continents—North America, Africa and Europe—and experiencing a small slice of all that this great world has to offer. As meandering as my path has been, it has landed me in this amazing city and given me the confidence to pursue my passions—like opening a yoga studio!
Amy Rizzotto teaches yoga in Washington, DC
And, how often do you travel?
I travel as much as I can, though recently, it’s been mostly U.S.-bound. Over the last seven years, I’ve traveled to 18 different countries and lived overseas three separate times. It’s my dream to eventually blend my love for travel with my dedication to yoga by leading yoga retreats for Yoga Heights in Africa and southeast Asia—I can already picture a group of yogis doing sun salutations with Mount Kilimanjaro as our strong, still backdrop. In the meanwhile, I’m embracing shorter getaways to underrated local destinations like Charlottesville, VA and Ashville, NC.
Yoga mat on balcony in Kenya lodge
Well, it sounds like you're working on some very exciting things! Part of what drew me to your blog are the simple, clean eating recipes you share with your readers. Do you have any go-to snacks you recommend packing for the plane, train, or car?
I’m so happy to hear you enjoy MOARfit, Marie! It’s my goal to make healthy eating easy, fun and yummy. My go-to snacks to take on the go whether it’s for travel or just for a busy lifestyle are pre-portioned nuts (1/4 cup or enough to cover your palm), hard fruits that won’t get banged up in your bag (like green apples and Asian pears), and homemade energy bites. I also like to pack gluten-free instant oatmeal and ziplock baggies with proportioned cinnamon, chia seeds, slivered almonds, dried tart cherries and a touch of coconut palm sugar for a healthy breakfast on the road—just add hot water! These things take a little more planning, but they make all the difference.
Sounds great. What's the best way to adapt to different time zones and prevent jet lag?
I’m super light sensitive so I tend to adjust pretty quickly—when the sun’s up, I’m up. That said, the older I get, the tougher it is. My trick is to take melatonin an hour before I want to go to sleep for the first two nights. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is part of our body’s sleep-wake cycle. When melatonin levels drop when you don’t want them to, it leads to insomnia or jet lag. I like Trader Joe’s peppermint chewables, which come in a 500 mcg dose.
Does our amount of physical activity each day affect the way we sleep?
Yes, absolutely. Think of a two year old who’s bouncing off the walls at 7pm when his parents just want them to go to sleep so they can watch a movie and kick back. What’s the solution? Get them to run wild around the house, play for 20 minutes in the backyard (supervised of course) or dance to silly songs and they’ll crash shortly after—and sleep, literally, like a baby. We’re all two year olds at heart and a good dose of physical activity is keep to wearing out our energy stores.

Everyone is different, however, so pay attention to when you exercise. For some, working out late at night can amp you up rather than mellow you out, so experiment to find a time that works well for you. I like to do an energizing yoga practice with lots of inversions in the morning to wake myself up when I’m feeling groggy, and a more restorative practice with seated forward folds and longer holds to wind down before hitting the sheets. Yoga helps clear my mind, which is often the biggest hurdle to sound slumber.
Co-founders of Yoga Heights, DC
How do you ensure you fit in exercise when you travel? 
Fitness and a healthy life style are all about consistency. Being consistent takes dedication and is made much easier by finding activities that are fun and engaging. For me, I always bring my travel yoga mat (I’m a Jade snob if you’re looking for a recommendation) and a pair of running shoes. What I love about yoga and running is that you can do them anywhere. Granted I’m a yoga teacher, but there are great resources for free and low-cost yoga online. If you’re a yogi road warrior I’d definitely recommend giving YogaGlo a try.
Jade Yoga mats
Can you tell me about the coolest or most unique place you've practiced yoga?
Hmm—I’d have to say it was probably the roof of my Senegalese homestay family’s house in Dakar. When I was studying abroad my junior year at GWU I would go up there a few nights a week after school and free flow for 45 minutes to an hour. The end of my practice usually coincided with some of the most epic sunsets I have ever seen. The hot pink and orange sky, warm African air and coastal breeze made for the absolute best savasanas. I feel a little piece of bliss just harkening back to that memory.
sunrise over the Zambezi River, Zambia
Thanks so much for your time, Amy! For more information on healthy living, be sure to check out Amy's blog MOARfit, connect with her on Twitter, and follow the development of her new studio in D.C., Yoga Heights, on Facebook.

Photo Credits: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9

March 17, 2014

Scenes from the Weekend: Floyd Bennett Field

Inside a dilapidated airport hanger and behind an unmarked door, I recently discovered one of them most unique museums in New York City. Floyd Bennett Field, set within the Jamaica Bay unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, was New York City's first municipal airport in 1931. The open runways and grassy fields are a dramatic change from the congested streets of Brooklyn, yet are located a mere half-hour from the northern reaches of the borough.
Amelia Earhart with airplaneWith the exception of one (an athletic facility), most of the original airport hangars are abandoned and sectioned off. The departures building has been restored to its original aesthetic and turned into a visitor center. After taking a walk through the center's small museum room, I grabbed a map and set out to explore the rest of the park.
Roscoe Turner and Gilmore. (80-12371, National Air and Space Museum Archives)
Famous aviators such as Howard Hughes, Amelia Earhart, and Jacqueline Cochran all passed through these halls. I was particularly surprised to learn about record-breaking aviator Roscoe Turner and his strange choice of co-pilot: a pet lion named Gilmore (after one of his sponsors, of course). The lion had his own custom parachute and flew with Turner until he was too big to fit in the cabin.
HARP volunteer at Floyd Bennett Field
My next stop was Hangar B, home to the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP). Run entirely by volunteers, the group's mission is to research and restore old aircrafts as accurately as possible. After nearly giving up before trying an unmarked side door, I was happily greeted by one of the HARP volunteers and shown around the facility.
Hangar B Floyd Bennett Field
Through a small passageway is the true highlight of the facility - the hanger. It was cold and the roof was dripping. Small puddles formed and lit up in the sunlight. The familiar melody of Glenn Miller's Moonlight Serenade reverberated through the facility made me feel like I'd stepped into the past. I wandered around, admiring the details of a variety of airplanes. I could tell HARP's work is a true labor of love.
New York skyline from Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The easiest way to reach Gateway National Recreation Area is by car (Belt Pky. or Flatbush Ave. south to the entrance) especially if you're going to explore the park. The flat, paved runways make for excellent bike riding or rollerblading. Hangar B is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

March 3, 2014

Louis Vuitton in South Africa

Louis Vuitton's Spring 2014 campaign, The Spirit of Travel, is the latest example of a luxury designer photo shoot featuring an African landscape.
Edie Campbell for Louis Vuitton
Karen Elson and giraffe for Louis Vuitton
Edie Campbell with cheetah for Louis Vuitton
On set, Karen Elson arches gracefully extending a branch to a giraffe while Edie Campbell sways to and fro while perched on the back of a zebra. I'm a bit disappointed it turned into a video about a luggage fashion shoot rather than a more artistic presentation of the brand. At least the still images captured for the campaign are beautiful. The campaign was styled by Carine Roitfeld and photographed by Peter Lindbergh. Photo credit: WWD.

February 25, 2014

Hiking in Cape Town

hiking in Cape Town by Marie Frei
If you're an avid hiker, or simply just itching to spend time outdoors in Cape Town, I always recommend hiking up Table Mountain. One popular route for tourists and locals alike is Platteklip Gorge. This steep staircase goes up the frontside of the mountain and takes about 2 to 2.5 hours to complete, depending on your fitness level. At the top, an additional 3km walk west will take you to the upper cable car station. Time it so that you can be up there for for sunset, and take the cable car down at dusk. Just remember, your car will still be 4km walk down Tafelberg Road when you descend.
Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
The next best hike in the city bowl is Lion's Head at sunrise (the peak on the left in the photo below). The views of the Atlantic Ocean are fantastic, and best of all, you'll have Table Mountain as a backdrop in your photographs.  
Lion's Head and Signal Hill, Cape Town, South Africa
The Cape Peninsula is more than just a pretty place to take photos of mountains and seascapes. It's the best destination to explore the Cape Floral Region (a World Heritage Site) on foot and up-close. With a car, you can easily escape the hustle and bustle of the city and reach hiking trail entrances within a short drive. If you're willing to walk just a bit further from a MetroRail stop, most of these hikes are doable using public transit. Here are a few lesser-traveled hikes in the Cape Peninsula:
Southern Suburbs, Cape Town, South Africa

Muizenberg

You can reach the top of Muizenberg Peak by starting at the Pioneer Valley entrance on Boyes Drive. Large rocks positioned through the natural curvature of the runoff area for this peak makes for a tiring ascent, but once you reach Silvermine Valley, it's not much further to the peak. From here, you have a cool total view of the Atlantic, the Southern Suburbs and False Bay.
Spes Bona Forest, Lichen Moss, Cape Town, South Africa

Kalk Bay

Spes Bona is a forest tucked in the side of raised wooden boardwalks protect Yellowwood and Milkwood trees from harm along this uphill route.  The old, gnarly trees and fuzzy, lichen covered rocks transport you to a place that looks surreal and otherworldly, making this a truly memorable walk.
On all hikes, remember to dress in layers because the weather can change quickly.  Bring plenty of water, as well as a few snacks when heading out for more than an hour. Cellphone service is generally good on the Cape, but when hiking alone, be sure to share your plans with someone before leaving. Safety is generally not a concern, but try to hike with only the essentials and leave the valuables at home (and definitely not in the car).

February 21, 2014

Scenes from Last Weekend

I know, I'm falling behind on posts (I haven't even gone through photos from Germany, South Africa, and Namibia yet!) but the good news is, I'm busy working on some cool side projects I hope to share with you soon. Last weekend, I tried the coffee Budin, a new coffee shop in Greenpoint. People are freaking out because they have a $7 large latte, one of the most expensive in the city, but my large cup of filter was only $2.50, so I wasn't complaining. My only hesitation was when we asked if they roasted the beans locally, and they said, "No, in Scandinavia." To source beans from Africa, roast in Norway or Sweden, and then ship to NYC seems like an awfully big carbon footprint for a small cup o' joe. Nevertheless, it's a beautiful cafe and worth a visit if you're in the area.
Prospect Park Sledding and Budin
Later, we wandered around the Prospect Park and stumbled across the best sledding hill in the borough. When our fingers and toes grew numb, we decided to tuck into the nearby Brooklyn Museum. I didn't know what to expect, and was impressed by their collection of African art, primarily from West and Central Africa. I stood mesmerized by something called the Elephant Mask as looped video of traditional dance ceremonies played nearby.
Brooklyn Museum
We also wandered around the Queens Museum. It was a short walk from the 7 train and you definitely won't miss noticing the giant metal globe out front. This area was the site of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fair, and the main attraction which makes this museum worth visiting is the scale replica of New York City. With one inch equaling one-hundred feet, you can imagine the painstaking process it was to create, and now maintain, this masterpiece.
Queens Museum and Snowman
This weekend, I've got my fingers-crossed for spring-like temperatures in the District. Is anyone else headed to the D.C. Travel and Adventure Show? I look forward to posting more updates soon!

February 6, 2014

Causes to Care About: Malaria

Over the last few years, I’ve traveled through several malarial regions in East and Southern Africa. Speaking as someone who always seems to be the one the mozzie in the room prefers to feast on, I recommend studying up on this life-threatening, infectious disease before departing on any trip to a malarial region. Malaria is caused by a parasite, transmitted by the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. The most severe form, cerebral malaria, can be fatal if not recognized within 24 hours.

Travel Advice*

  • High risk areas include locations like swamps and riverbanks. You'll want to be extra careful when traveling during hot summer months.
  • Malaria carrying mozzies bite at night, so cover up your arms and legs as much as possible with light colored clothes.  If possible, remain indoors between dusk and dawn. Use bug repellant on exposed areas like ankles and wrists. I'm normally an advocate for natural and non-toxic products, but in this case, I loosen my standards and buy what I know will work to prevent them from biting.
  • In rooms, overhead fans and air conditioners help move the air, while mosquito nets prevent them from making contact with your skin. When camping, always keep your tent zipped shut to prevent any bugs from entering.
  • See your doctor or travel clinic for options on malarial prophylactics. There are several options, and they range significantly in price. I’ve taken doxycycline twice without any major issues, but it caused my skin to be more sensitive to the sun than usual. It also led to some very vivid/bizarre dreams at night, which is more amusing than harmful. Doxy is usually the cheapest option, but probably requires taking pills the longest duration.
  • If you choose to take an anti-malarial, follow the full treatment. When you arrive back home and think you don't need to take the pills anymore, don't quit. Symptoms can develop 10-14 days after a bite but can take longer to develop if anti-malarials were used.
*Disclaimer: I'm not a physician, so my advice is not a replacement for checking with your doctor or a travel clinic before you travel.

Malaria Symptoms

How do you know you’ve got malaria? Well, you feel like you’re getting the flu – moments of chills and fever, high fever, pain and aches in joins, headache, and delirium. If you’ve been within a malarial region within the last 6 months and feel these symptoms, it’s a good idea to go to your doctor and get a blood test.  This is the only way to determine if you have malaria.

Ending the Epidemic

There are many organizations, including United Against Malaria, Roll Back Malaria, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, working tirelessly on research and providing aid to regions with residents regularly exposed to malaria. Along with working on a possible early warning system, some of these groups provide the prevention tools people need (such as mosquito repellant bed nets). Researchers are also working to find possible cures. 

Despite the estimated 207 million cases of malaria in 2012, there is some positive news to report. The World Health Organization's (WHO) 2013 World Malaria Report states, "Global efforts to control and eliminate malaria have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives since 2000, reducing malaria mortality rates by 45% globally and by 49% in Africa." Hopefully we can meet the WHO goal of halting deaths due to malaria by 2015.

Photo credits: Gates Foundation, World Bank Photo Collection.

January 17, 2014

6 Reasons You'll Never Want to Leave Cape Town

As many of you already know, I'm a big fan of AFAR's website and magazine. Their online community has a knack for sharing some of the best travel advice around, making it easy for you to cover both the traditional tourist highlights and some non-traditional local gems, when venturing to an unfamiliar place. So, when they approached me about writing a guide to Cape Town, I knew it was the perfect platform to share everything I've discovered and love about the Mother City. Without further ado - the AFAR Guide to Cape Town!
In celebration of its launch, here are my top 6 reasons you'll never want to leave Cape Town (but as anyone who has been there already knows, narrowing it down to just 6 is not easy!)
1. That scenic drive
2. That impressive tree (possibly the tallest Aleppo Pine tree in the world)
3. That historic harbor
4. That fresh food (South African avocado grower Westfalia ships over 13 million cartons worldwide each year!)
5. That delicious wine
6. That local beach

P.S. Did you also see, Cape Town was named #1 on New York Times' 52 Places to Go in 2014? I love how some of the images include subtle movement. Here's how they selected the locations.
 
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