What’s Your Favorite Place in the Whole World?

I am asked this question a LOT, as I’m sure you are. And while you’d think I’d have an answer to this by now since I write about and dissect all my travel experiences, turns out I still hesitate whenever I’m asked. So I bring to you a top five list, based on some non linear and completely arbitrary criteria. Enjoy!

1. Morocco

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This is usually my immediate answer to the favorite place question. This was one of the best trips I’ve taken and Morocco is one of the most interesting, compelling, mysterious and beautiful places I’ve been. What makes it number one? The way I felt after the trip. It’s the country that inspired me to start this little blog. I wanted so badly to immortalize the experiences I had there, to encourage others to go. The people I met there were incredible and if I could go back this instant I would. I would eat at Earth Cafe, go back to Ben’s farm, visit the Jardin Majorelle and go talk to some of the most amazing women I’ve ever met.

2. Negev Desert, Israel

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I am a city girl. Sure I grew up in the suburbs and we had trees and grass there and I even saw some mountains growing up when visiting my grandparents in upstate New York and taking annual ski trips. But when our bus crossed into the vast desert in Israel and we were surrounded by wide, flat, sandy desert on all sides, my face was pressed up against that window so hard and I was trying desperately not to blink for fear of missing this glorious landscape. I took a million photos when we went outside to explore Ben Gurion’s grave, and when we came across a waterfall in the middle of a hike I thought I was experiencing a mirage. This one again makes the list because I will never forget the awe I felt when first hit with the shocking beauty of this incredible place.

3. Mont St. Michel, France

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Speaking of being shocked with awe inspiring beauty while young and on a tour bus, the image of the beautiful island of Mont St. Michel in the distance will forever be etched in my memory. It was more than a decade ago, on my first trip outside the US (after begging my parents and working weekends at a bagel store to pay for it) and my best friend Allie nudged me awake so I could look out the window. Seeing it from the distance was amazing but once inside this former secluded monastery, it was completely unlike anything I had ever seen. Not that I had seen much at the time because as I said this was my first trip outside the country and actually the first time I had ever been on a plane, but still, we’re going with the wonderfully arbitrary rule of listing my top places based on how I felt when I first saw them, so this one most certainly makes the list.

4. Lagos, Portugal

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Our trip to Lagos was so hilariously clumsy, but after all the little mistakes we made in trying to reach the Point de Piedade, I will never forget Randi looking up at me as I crouched, clinging to the narrow stone staircase I was attempting to walk down, saying “Amy, you’re REALLY going to like this.” This was one of the most beautiful spots in the world, and after making so many errors in judgement that trip, it was a much needed travel victory.

5. O’Fournier Winery, Uco Valley, Argentina

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I never wanted to leave here. As soon as we arrived at this massive Argentinian winery and sat down to our meal and wine tasting, we looked out at the lake, which reflected the vineyards that had turned a gorgeous vibrant red in the fall as well as the monumental Andes mountains just beyond the vineyards. We sat at the winery’s restaurant eating the delicious olive oil bread I had become obsessed with when we ate at the winery owner’s wife’s restaurant the night before (got all that?) which was dubbed the best restaurant in Argentina (post about this coming soon.) The fact that I got to eat this olive oil bread twice was such a delightful treat, and then I was served the best steak of my life. On our last day in Argentina, to be sitting in this experience, eating delicious food and drinking amazing wine, staring out at this surreal scenery (oh did I mention the clouds were irradescent?) was an experience I hope to one day re-live.

Have you been to any of my top 5 places? Do you agree with this list? What are your favorite places in the world?

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Dancing for Peace

Sometimes I love my job. Today is one of those days. I recently had the opportunity to take on a pro-bono client, a New York based organization called Dancing Classrooms, which teaches middle school aged children how to ballroom dance. (Was also the inspiration for the movie “Take the Lead” with Antonio Banderas)

It wasn’t until our third or fourth call that I learned about this amazing project that Dancing Classrooms founder and renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine had created. Dulaine was born in Jaffa, Israel, to an Irish father and Palestinian mother. He took his Dancing Classrooms program over to his birthplace in the middle east, fulfilling his lifelong dream of teaching dance to Palestinian-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli children – together. His program forces the young people to meet each other face to face and work together to coordinate the steps involved in partner dancing. Dulaine had a documentary crew follow four children as they embarked on this program in Israel – you’ll be able to see it soon…but I can’t give away too many details yet.

These children, despite their cultural, religious and political differences, are now being introduced to each other in a way that enables them to work together at a young age. They actually make friends with one another through dance, movement, and cooperation.

Think dancing can save the world?

Me too.

Thursday Sunsets: Israel

I’m not the most religious person in the world, but I am pretty proud of my heritage. When my sister convinced me to go with her to Israel back in 2008, I was skeptical, but it ended up being a pretty life changing trip. It was quite a wake up call to be immersed in a culture where the people didn’t worry as much as we do about wealth or material possessions because they live with the constant threat of going to war or being attacked by one of their surrounding nations. Their patriotism, their respect for each other, their kindness to us, their dedication to their country and incredible pride in being Israeli was completely inspiring. This is a sunset from one of our first nights there. With the Jewish New Year happening right now, I felt this was an appropriate one to post. L’Shana Tova everyone.