Balkans Road Trip Part IV: Mostar, Herzegovina

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Just a few hours south of Sarajevo, Mostar feels like a different world.  It is closest destination in Bosnia to Dubrovnik, Croatia and as we entered this mixed Croat/Bosniak city in Herzegovina, we fell back in love with the Adriatic landscape that enticed us to return to the Balkans to begin with – particularly the drama of the mountains plunging into bright blue-green waters.
Mostar is one of the Balkan’s most well-known gems and it is a-bustle with tourists who stop by for an hour or two during the day; it’s even the cover of the current Lonely Planet Southeastern Europe guide book.  There isn’t much to do in the town itself aside from take pictures on and of the eponymous bridge and, for the those who dare, jump off the bridge.   That said, it’s well-worth the stop, especially as a point to relax and break up the drive to Montenegro or Croatia, and a great base from which to go out on day trips and excursion in and around the area.

The famous Mostar Bridge



Where to Eat, Drink, & Stay
Admittedly somewhat touristy, we enjoyed great food at Sadravan and Konoba Taurus, and drinks at the fun Black Dog Pub overlooking the water, included the locally brewed OldBridz brown ale.  We stayed right in town at Villa Fortuna, which has the most charming inn keeper, if not the most reliable internet.

 

from the drive down to Mostar from Sarajevo

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Balkans Road Trip Part III: Sarajevo, City of Heartbreak

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A Tale of Two Cities

Sarajevo is a tale of two cities: the city before 1992 and the city after.

Before 1992

Pre-1992 Sarajevo is that which is first apparent to visitors. It is the literal embodiment of east-meets-west. Everything east of the town center is a mini Istanbul, reflecting its establishment and first 400 years as an Ottoman Turkish city.  Everything to west of the center is a mini-Vienna, reflecting its 40 (highly productive) years of Austro-Hungarian rule, which brought Europe’s first electric-tram system.  It is the city where Gavrilo Princip, trained by the Black Hand in Serbia, assassinated the Franz Ferdinand, future Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the excuse for the start of World War I.  A city formerly known as “little Jerusalem,” where you were never more than a few hundred feet of an Eastern Orthodox church, a Catholic Church, a mosque, and a synagogue.  It was the gem of the former united Yugoslavia, when it hosted the 1984 XIV Winter Olympic Games.

1992-1995: War

From 1992-1995, Sarajevo was under siege, surrounded by the Serb army. The scars of war are visible everywhere. They are the damaged facades of nearly every building. The ubiquitous Sarajevo Roses around town (red resin filled into mortar scars indicating where people were killed). In the tour guides, who are no older than I am, recounting about growing up in a city under siege. They are the abandoned Olympic venues, former symbols of unity and glory, now surrounded by land mines as a haunting reminder of just how transient the coming together of nations can be.

The Present Day City

Current Bosnia & Herzegovina is complicated beyond my understanding.  It is mandated as two territories post-war – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the Republika Srpska (RS).  It has three postal systems, two tax systems, and three governments with three different presidents (one Bosniak, one Serb, one Croat). The official unemployment rate at the time of writing this was 45%.

The New York Times summarized: Sarajevo has a charisma that “is intoxicating, but the hustle and bustle belies a tragic past.”

It is hard not to fall in love with Sarajevo, but it is a city that will break your heart.

The eastern side of Sarajevo is a mini Istanbul
The western side of the city is a mini Vienna
mini Vienna

What to do

  • MUST DO: Free walking tour of the city, with Neno, a Sarajevo-born guide, who presents his personal history alongside that of the city
  • Don’t skip the underground Sarajevo War tunnels (near the airport) from the siege time. 25 meters of the tunnel remain open and there is an informative 12 minute documentary.
  • Go see the abandoned Olympic venues, especially the bobsled track. You cannot get there by public transportation, but it is well-worth renting a car, taxi, or going with a tour (most of the hostels and a few of the tour companies will run them). Do not stray off the roads or walk around: landmines surround the area.
  • Do not miss the extremely moving photography exhibit Gallerija 11-7-95, which I also wrote about here.
  • Eat! The food!! Recommendations below.
The siege tunnels from 1992-1995
The Latin Bridge where Archbishop Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, aka the beginning of WWI
The red resin “Sarajevo rose” over the mortar shell scar
The abandoned bobsled track from the 1984 Olympic Winter Games
The abandoned bobsled track from the 1984 Olympic Winter Games

Where to eat

  • Bakeries selling Bureks, the phyllo pastries filled with cheese, spinach, potato, or meat, are on every corner. We highly recommend Buregdzinica Bosna, in the old town. It came touted as the best in the city (we won’t argue with that!).
  • Bosnian coffee at Divan – also in the city, and a great place for people-watching
  • Cevapici, the mini-sausage version of Turkish Kebabs, served with pita and onions.  The city is divided on its favorite Cevapdzinica according to sports team allegiance; Zeljo and Ferhatovic vie for the #1 spot. Both were delicious.

Where to stay

  •  Once again, we opted for AirBNB.  We loved the price at $35/night apartment (6 minutes from old-town ). The only thing we loved more is the adorable host parents who adopted us during our time there. (The Airbnb apartment is next door to the main house; their daughter owns and rents it out.)

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Balkans Road Trip Part II: Driving from Serbia to Bosnia & Herzegovina. Srebrenica.

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Part A: The Road Trip

After a few great days in Belgrade, Serbia, it was time to get on the road and begin the actual road trip.  When I started planning this long-awaited Balkans trip, I looked into several modes of transportation.  Trains = out of the question: many of the train lines were never restored after the war; the few that had been restored are outdated and take twice as long as any other mode of transit.  Our remaining options: bus or driving. We opted for the latter for flexibility in travel itinerary and timing. Despite what transpired, it was one of the best travel adventures I’ve ever had.

We knew of several potential road-trip obstacles from blogs we read before the trip, namely:

  • only manual-transmission car
  • the lack of highways
  • reckless drivers
  • one-lane roads that cling to the sides of the mountainous topography
  • land mines that remain on the side of the roads once you enter into Bosnia (wartime remnants from the Serb army)

And still, there were some obstacles that came as a total surprise:

  • total lack of roads for some entire stretches
  • roads in total disrepair that were barely drivable (7 mph, max)
  • our cell phones not working at all in the Balkans (thank you, Verizon)
  • flooding caused by the torrential rains during parts of our drive

With the detour to stop in Srebrenica, our road trip journey took 8+ hours from Belgrade to Sarajevo, which is only 120 miles as the crow flies.  Stocked with a great Spotify music playlist, a bagful of pastries from Belgrade, and the best co-pilot/company a girl could ask for, we had an incredible adventure – one I won’t forget anytime soon.

Sometimes there were roads…
Sometimes there were not…
Beautiful Bosnian countryside, though we dared not step off the road to take pictures, for fear of land mines.

Part B: Stopping in Srebrenica on Yom Hashoah

I was 11 years old when the genocide in Srebrenica took place in July 1995.  I had just finished 5th grade.  And I remember hearing the news coverage. Hearing of the systematic massacre of 8,300 Bosniak (ethnically Muslim) boys and men age 12-77 by the Serb army. Hearing of the Dutch UN peacekeepers who stood by and watched.  Here’s a link for a brief recap of the history.

It’s hard to explain why I needed to stop in Srebrenica  It’s not “my” history. Perhaps as a Jew, I felt compelled to bear witness to the other 20th century European Genocide.  What I hadn’t realized was that the day of our trip was Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I fear that any commentary I might write bears the risk of trivializing the experience, making it seem trite. I will just share that the memorial prayer at the cemetery, with its echoes of the Holocaust’s “never again” haunted me.

 “…May mothers’ tears become prayers that Srebrenica Never happens again to no one and nowhere,”  

Because it did happen, again. And in our lifetime. As the world watched, again.

In Sarajevo, Gallerija 11/7/05 is a exceptional two-room gallery with a photo exhibit and a 27 minute documentary that is not to be missed.  It includes the Serbian broadcasts at the time and is a must when visiting the region.

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Balkans Road Trip Part 1: Belgrade, Serbia

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Why Belgrade?

It’s not a city known for it’s beauty.  In fact, it is often referred to as one of “Europe’s ugliest capitals.”  But what Belgrade, Serbia lacks in aesthetic, it makes up for in personality.  A city whose most recent history includes its dark role as the capital of former Yugoslavia, Belgrade is one of Europe’s oldest, and most conquered, cities. (Having been settled by Celts and conquered 38 times – by the Romans, Slavs, Byzantines, Frankish Empire, Bulgarian Empire, Ottomans for 500 years, and Hapsburgs.) It was the perfect start to our Balkans Road Trip.

With a handful of delightful pedestrian boulevards (Knez Mihajlova  and the Bohemian Skadarlija in particular) scattered amongst the city’s crumbling Soviet-era cement blocks, Belgrade’s true charm lies in its under-developed tourism (and prices!) and perfectly developed, thriving nightlife.

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With Ari’s Serbian friend Tamara in front of St. Sava church, which has been under construction for 80 years
Remnants from the 1999 NATO Bombing
The iconic Hotel Moskva
The main pedestrian area Knelz Mihailova
Sunset from the public park at the Fortress looking over the Sava and Danube rivers
The famous Victor monument
Knelz Milhailova at night
me & the bro walking around the bohemian Skadarlija street

We arrived for both the largest football match in the city (with riot police lining every street) and the Belgrade marathon (which was drastically different from my favorite day in New York).

What to do in Belgrade:

  • “Walking tour”  There are free walking tours that run daily, or you can do what we did and create your own (click for our map), check out the itinerary below – you can see almost everything in <2 hours.  Best of all, nearly all of Belgrade’s attractions are free (and are local, not tourist, spots)
  • Belgrade Underground – our one paid tourist activity, and glad we did it.  A great (and passive) way to discover the hidden underground places from Belgrade’s 38 times being conquered, including Yugoslavian bunkers, ancient Roman ruins, and Ottoman buried wells. 12 Euro.
  • Serbian Nightlife!  See below – don’t miss it!
Walking through the underground bunkers
Entrance to the Yugoslavian secret bunkers
Looking out from the fortress onto the Danube
Ari in front of the ancient Roman ruins…in what once operated as a club
Military remnants & the military museum
Gov’t buildings at night

Eating, Drinking, and Nightlife in Belgrade:

  • A mix of Eastern European with some Turkish influence, Serbian food is not particularly inspiring.  The highlight was the cheese-filled phyllo dough burek pastries, which we lived on the entire weekend.  Note: Almost all bakeries (pekaras) are closed on Sunday, which we learned the hard way.
  • Nightlife starts late in Belgrade.  Begin with dinner/snacks at 10pm at a kafana traditional tavern.  The best kafanas have live bohemians bands playing Serbian traditional music; increasingly-rowdy tables of guests “order” their favorite sing-alongs.  Make sure to order some rakija, the traditional Serbian brandy shots made from various fruit.  We had apple, pear, plum, and peach, each less palatable than the one before, but all part of the experience.  Reservations for kafanas are required, even if they look empty.
  • Conclude the night with one (or many) of Belgrade’s clubs.  We went to Plastic, which is the most well known in Serbian nightlife.  People don’t start arriving until about midnight; the official party closes at 4 and moves next door to Mint, the after-party club with the same owners.  As the weather warms, people walk from one to the next of the floating clubs along the river, which boast international DJs and impressive parties.  There are no cover fees to enter the clubs, but reservations are required.  Drinks are extremely inexpensive – with Rakija/whiskey costing $2-$4 per drink.  No wonder the nightlife is so impressive!
  • Lastly, I have to mention the homemade wine.  It’s terribly sour…but apparently it’s Serbian custom to mix it with Coca Cola, which forms a saccharine drink they call “bamboo.”  Don’t ask.
The band serenading patrons in the smoke filled kafana
#untzuntz at Plastic
#letustakeaselfie at the club
Sour homemade wine + Coca Cola = bamboo?

Where to stay

  • Luxe: Located in the heart of the old town, Belgrade’s beautifully designed Square Nine Hotel is an award-winning boutique hotel. Price tag ~ $230/night.
  • Budget: At $54/night, our AirBNB rental a few minutes walk from the city center cannot be beat for budget travelers.

Our (approximate) walking tour


1. Tasmajdan park and Church St Marko
2. National Parlament 
3. Terazije Street (with the iconic Hotel Moskva)
4. Trg Republike
5. Skadarlija  – great Kafanas!
7. Studenski Trg 
8. Knez Mihajlova – the main pedestrian thoroughfare 
9. KALEMEGDAN FORTESS – go for sunset, you’ll be glad you did! 
10. Belgrade Port 

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Balkans Road Trip

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In 2011, my brother and I spent a magical week exploring souther Croatia: both Dubrovnik and Sipan Island off of the Adriatic Coast. The beauty of the coastline mesmerized us and we ate one delicious meal after another. However, we were less enchanted by how over-touristed Dubrovnik is. We promised ourselves we’d come back and explore the lesser-known parts of the Balkans. And the idea of the Balkans Road Trip was born.

We began in Belgrade, Serbia and ended in Podgorica, Montenegro, the following week. The itinerary combined equal parts history, culture, and off-the-beaten path adventure. Throw in some excellent food and happening nightlife. The ultimate Balkans Road Trip.

I wrote posts on each of the destinations, which you can link to below. With the exception of the treacherous drive from Belgrade to Sarajevo, a road trip was an excellent way to get around the Balkans and experience the region.

Days 1 & 2: Belgrade, Serbia
Day 3: Full Day road trip to Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina with a stop in Srebrenica
Days 4 & 5: Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Day 6: Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Days 7 & 8: Kotor, Montenegro Kotor/Budva/Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
Day 9: Depart from Podgorica, Montenegro

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30×30: One new thing every day until I turn 30

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When I started college, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish by age 30 – things like take an around-the-world trip, run a marathon, travel cross-country, learn a new language, go on a big trip all by myself, and get a graduate degree (amongst other things).

Bucket list items: visiting the Taj Mahal [2007], running my 1st NYC Marathon [2009], climbing Machu Picchu [2011], getting my MBA from Columbia Business School [2013]

In 30 days, I turn 30.  What now?  The Mundane list!  In the 30 days leading up to my 30th birthday, I’m attempting to do one new thing each day.  I’m not  talking about big, bucket-list items, rather (mainly) small life-hacks:  things like finally enrolling in Global entry, figuring out a good personal contact management system, and seeing the snow leopards in the Central Park Zoo.  30 items, some mundane & others more exciting; when I turn 30 next month, I’ll start the decade knowing that my personal finances/communications/apartment/health/life are organized & ready to rock.

One new  thing per day , for the next 30 days until I turn 30.  30 by 30.

  1. 30×30 DAY 1Enroll in the Global Entry travel program (wish I had done this before traveling to 50+ countries).  TSA pre-check, here I come!
  2. 30×30 DAY 2: Get my digital life organized with a personal assistant app (EasilyDo)!  Between email programs and apple contacts and calendar invites & maps, it’s tough to keep everything straight, so I installed EasilyDo, a personal assistant app.  For example: it automatically posts birthday messages to friends’ facebook walls (I  select who), merges duplicate contacts,  keeps track of my boarding passes and flight information (ready to go day-of – no more searching through emails!), and many, many more tasks.  Check the website, but I’m totally obsessed.  It has saved me 59 minutes and 30 seconds since installation (it keeps track)!  That’s nearly 2 full Kardashian episodes!
  3. 30×30 DAY 3: ‘Un-baby’ my Facebook feed.  If yours is anything like mine,  your Facebook feed been hijacked by overzealous new parents who treat you to the details of every diaper change.  No more! Rather is a plug-in that will replace babies (or anything else you want -I  didn’t actually choose all babies, but rather  “sponsored posts” “movember,” some baby-related things, and “politics”) and will replace it with kittens (ok, I chose kittens, you can choose anything i.e. “bacon” or “beaches”).  Check out the first successful replacement [Goodbye, Progressive Insurance ad!  Hello, Kittens!
  4. 30×30 Day 4: The lazy person’s guide to cleaning out their closet.  Every so often, I go through my closet and get rid of an item or two here or there; I drop off too-tight work pants at Salvation Army or put a pair of old boots on Ebay  but there are always that require more thought or work  than the average sweater & so it just sits in my closet for years. Here are some solutions I love: For the truly lazy amongst us who want our stuff sold for us  Thread Flip has an amazing White Glove Service that will  send you a UPS label & then take care of all the rest (photographing, researching, listing)!  It’s free to do and you receive 60% of the sales price.  Have an ugly bridesmaid dress taking up real estate in your closet?  NewlyMaid will send you a prepaid mailer & will donate (to Clothes4Souls), recycle, or upcycle dresses – ecofriendly & easy!  And lastly, for some reason, I always hold on to bigger ticket items such as coats, but the last few frozen days in NYC reminded me how little good those coats are doing sitting in my closet.  For those of you in NYC, New York Cares has an incredible Coat Drive every year, with locations on nearly every block.  Sure, it’s not a prepaid label, but going the one block  in winter weather to donate my old coat reminded me why it was worth the walk to do so.
  5. 30×30 Day 5: Get drinks with The Cutest Boy from high school.  You all know who I’m talking about.  Everyone had one.  Most likely, he was the cute upperclassman when you were a freshman,  the captain of a varsity sport, and your 14-year old self ‘like, totally’ swooned over this ultimate teenage crush.  I like to think of catching up with this friend as a present to my formerly smitten 14-year old self.  And no, dear readers, there’s no app for that.  
  6. 30×30 Day 6: Digitally backup & securely store the contents of my wallet. I’m in a constant battle to not leave my credit card at the bar, my wallet in the cab, etc.  Until now, luck has been on my side, but I’ve been wanting  to backup the contents of my wallet: everything from my credit cards to driver’s license & health insurance card – just in case.  I bought oneSafe, the rave-reviewed password manager, which not only saves passwords (how many times have I had to reset a forgotten Twitter account or search for my airline miles login??), autofills, and syncs across devices, but also will scan credit, ID, and other cards…I downloaded it this morning & within 5 minutes I had a digitally backed-up life.  Oh, and security?  It’s not only double (or triple) passworded-, but it’s literally unhackable.  
  7. 30×30 Day 7: NYC Photo Booth Bar Crawl for the birthday of a friend who loves cocktails & paparazzi , we’ll be starting at the Ace Hotel and working our way through some of NYC’s best speakeasies, dive bars, and lounges that have photo booths…stopping in for some photographic evidence at each. [Full credit to RW for the idea & the itinerary!] .  We made it to 6 of the stops: The Ace Hotel (Flatiron), The Tippler (Chelsea Market), The Standard (Meatpacking), Crocodile Lounge (East 14th Street), Otto’s Shrunken Head (East 14th St) – photo booth was out of order, PDT (ok, ok, there was no photo booth there, but it was a great place to end the night)
  8. 30×30 Day 8: Visit the 9/11 Memorial For a variety of reasons, I just haven’t gone .  So it’s my plan to  finally  visit this evening. However, they make it very easy to visit.  Visitor passes are available online for $2 a person for a specified entry time – no worrying about waiting, timing, or cost. And this week (through December 31st), the memorial is open late for extended holiday hours.  
  9. 30×30 Day 9: Send out holiday cards  I’ve never been ‘grown-up’ enough to get my act together for holiday/new year’s cards.  And let’s face it, it would probably just be pictures  of me & my cat anyway.  Thanks to Paperless Post, it’s not too late for me (sitting here on Xmas Eve) to send out beautiful New Year’s cards online.  I love how easy it was to import my contacts from gmail as well as the beautiful designs (many are free!).  And no, the cards are not  of me & my cat.  
  10. 30×30 Day 10: Unplug on the first day of vacation.  One full day: internet free.  No email, no googling information, no online weather, no spotify, no apps, and certainly no instagram or facebook.  I’ve been unplugged before, mainly on vacations in countries that have limited/no internet (ahem Burma! Cuba!), but rarely by choice, and never with the intention of making a vacation truly a vacation from the start.  Great reminder to be a little less connected for the remainder of vacation.  Except, of course, to post this.
  11. 30×30 Day 11: Learn to play tennis!  That’s it, first tennis lesson in the books!  Absolutely loved it & can’t wait to take another!
  12. 30×30 Day 12: Compile my travel Wish List 
    Having recently realized that I have enough miles to book a true “bucket list” trip in the next year-ish, I’ve started thinking seriously about where the next adventure should be.  While I haven’t booked anything yet,  here’s the  list (and I can think of dozens more!) in no particular order:
    • South Africa
    • Tanzania (Mt. Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, & Zanzibar)
    • Balkans: Bosnia & Herzegovina/Montenegro
    • New Zealand
    • Costa Rica
    • Central Asia: Russia & Uzbekistan
    • Laos
    • South of France
    • Egypt
    • Rwanda
  13. 30×30 Day 13: Go to a pro football game  Dolphins vs. Jets!
  14. 30×30 Day 14: Back up all my photos (past & future!). After losing all my photos from my around-the-world-trip (aside from the ones on this blog!) by getting hit with a double-whammy failed-external hard-drive + laptop crash, I vowed never to let my photos go un-backed-up again.  Fast forward, and here we go.  I wanted to ensure that I not only backed up my photos from the past 2.5 years, but that going forward, any photos I add will automatically be backed up.  Combining two apps that I already frequently use [Dropbox + iPhoto], here is the genius blog post showing step-by-step instructions so that I will never lose my photos again.
  15. 30×30 Day 15: NYE in Miami!
  16. 30×30 Day 16: Use the 1 Second Everyday app to capture…wait for it, 1 second every day.  My friend posted a video of his last 130 days of business school, with 1 second every day stitched together with this app.  And it was awesome.  So, cheers to capturing 2014.
  17. 30×30 Day 17: Financial Check up Part 1:  Organize my finances.  New year, new goals and one of mine is to get my finances in order before turning 30.  From the basics of creating a good monthly budget based on my income, fixed costs such as rent and discretionary spending (restaurants, travel, & shoes!)  to figuring out the best way to pay down my business school loans & maximizing debt payoff in relation to retirement savings, I started using Learnvest.  Learnvest has an amazing dashboard.  Today, I started with the basics of importing my financial information (credit & bank accounts, student loan accounts, etc.), which automatically files each transaction into appropriate folders (so I can easily click and see what i spent at, say, Cafe Grumpy, last month).  I also began to input some big picture monthly budget items as well as some of my big picture goals for the next few years (payoff graduate school loans, appropriately save for retirement and life).  Tomorrow I have my free call with one of their financial planners which will be a great complement to my amazing financial planning team @ Gassman Financial Group.  Once I have some plans in place, the dashboard will help me see in once quick glance, where I am, what I need to be doing, and how to stay on track.
  18. 30×30 Day 18: Finances Part 2: Start making plans for  retirement, savings, mba student debt.  Now that my financial dashboard is set up (and I have a great snapshot of all my accounts as well as awesome auto-budget based on filed purchase), I began a few of the LearnVest free bootcamp programs including the 10 day “retirement in style” plan and the 3 day debt bootcamp.  Each day I get an email with a few steps that take about 15-20 minutes.  Will keep everyone posted on how it goes!
  19. 30×30 Day 19: Track my activity & sleep  Using the Jawbone UP (thank you Kate H for letting me borrow yours for the day!), I’m tracking my levels of activity as well as my sleep patterns (particularly given that I get an average of 4-5 hours per night)…stay tuned for the report!
  20. 30×30 Day 20: Ask a career ‘crush’ to coffee.  There is one person I’ve always aspired to meet &  today I shamelessly tweeted at him to try and get 20 minutes on his schedule…(@yaelsnyc)
  21. 30×30 Day 21: Learn to filet a fish.  
  22. 30×30 Day 22: Learn to code. Since I began tinkering with my company’s website a few months ago (easier to make changes myself than continuously go to the web developer!) I’ve wanted to begin to learn to code.  Using Code Academy, in 30 minutes, I learned the basics of HTML & CSS & made my own website.  (Ok, so it’s not so pretty, but you get the idea).  Really easy, really fun.
  23. 30×30 Day 23: Sit in an audience for a live TV show!  Today we’re going to one of my favorite cooking shows, ABC’s The Chew with Mario Batali & Carla Hall (and others!).
  24. 30×30 Day 24: Sound like a grown up. Stop using verbal fillers. When it comes to these verbal viruses (e.g. like, um, uh, right, you know), I’m especially  guilty of using “like” to indicate what someone has said, to modify adjectives, and to make approximations.  These speech disfluencies not only break the flow of speech, but they undermine the speaker’s credibility and authority, weaken messages, and distract listeners.  I’m only halfway through the day, but I have committed myself to being more conscientious than ever of my speech – this article is helpful in identifying alternative phrases to use & tips to stop using verbal fillers.
  25. 30×30 Day 25: Tackle a new recipe: make my Mom’s Challah.  Growing up, I came home to a house filled with the smells of baking challah every Friday afternoon.  Between the baking, the braiding, the everything…I’ve never attempted to make it.  Until now.  And now my kitchen smells delicious.  My Mom’s recipe, braiding instructions, and bracha here: challah copy
  26. 30×30 Day 26: Actually learn how to use Evernote. I’ve been using Evernote for a few weeks as a notetaker.  I love being able to search through notes and the auto-syncinc between  the version on my computer and iphone, but I still didn’t quite get the “Evernote-is-the-best-thing-ever” obsession that many people have.  What I realized is that I hadn’t even scratched the surface of what the productivity app has to offer.  Here are the two best articles, one with some tips and tricks from Business Insider and the other is how “stop using Evernote wrong” and make it “stick.”
  27. 30×30 Day 27: Get my fortune told.  Neon signs for palm reading, tarot cards, and astrology readings are as ubiquitous in Manhattan as the Duane Reades and Starbucks cafes that adorn every corner.  And I have been curious.  I figured there were two ways to go about this: one was to treat “discovering what my future has to offer” as a serious matter, making the proper investment of research and money as I would a big electronics purchase.  Instead, I decided to go the “under $20” route of the place I pass every day on my way to get coffee.  Oh, and it was awesome.  Is it bad luck to share your fortune like it is to share birthday candle wishes?
  28. 30×30 Day 28: Try a new cuisine: Laotian! Thank you to everyone who gave me restaurant suggestions on Facebook.  We went to Khe Yo in Tribeca which had fabulous food, drinks, and ambiance.  And now I have many other places to try in the coming weeks (including Malaysian, Uzbek, Serbian, Singaporean, Filipino, and a few others!).
  29. 30×30 Day 29: Switch to online banking!  If nothing else, my Learnvest bootcamps on savings and retirement (see Days 17 and 18) have taught me that I’m missing opportunities by leaving my money in a Citibank account.  After checking bankrate.com for the different rates and fees, I decided to open an online savings account with Barclays, which has one of the highest APYs in the country (11x the average savings account), and will be opening several other sub-accounts to separate out different savings goals.  And now, I feel like I’m almost a grownup!
  30. 30×30 Day 30:  Say “yes” all day on my 30th birthday!  What an amazing day with people I love.  And aside from a last-minute invitation to Sundance, which I just couldn’t make happen (although I tried!), I said “yes” to everything else, all day.

And thus concludes the 30×30 project as well as my almost-year of living publicly (since enlisting the help of my online community and social media  to overturn the insurance ruling about my cancelled spinal fusion in June).

Stay tuned for more adventures…

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We’re featured by New Limits Health!

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We’re being featured on the New Limits Health Website which is coaching & training business with programs that focus on personal fitness, nutrition, motivation, work-life balance, stress management, and marathon & triathlon training.

In February 2012, I travelled to Nicaragua with Johno, the founder & a friend from business school, in what is now the New Limits Health Healthy Living retreat!   I posted pictures & thoughts about our relaxing, wonderful time practicing yoga, learning to surf, and eating incredible (& healthy!) food in Maderas Beach here on the A Broad Abroad blog which was also featured in the CBS Bottom Line.

Be sure to check out the events page at New Limits Health for information about upcoming retreats.

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My 5 Favorite (Unnecessary but Totally Wonderful) Travel Gifts for the Jetsetter

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With Hanukkah just 2 weeks away (eek!) & Christmas not far after , it’s time to start thinking about adding gifts to the online shopping cart.  I wrote the below in February & not only is it just as relevant, but Tory Burch just renewed the amazing passport holder!  Perfect!

2 years ago, on my Around the World trip, I wrote this list detailing my favorite travel things.  And anyone who has ever traveled with me will tell you, I don’t board a plane without those items.  Ear plugs, tiger balm, sleep sack, Kindle…each of the items on that list is a travel must* for me.

So if those are the items I needhere is a list of the items I simply love.  For form, function, beauty and whimsy, here are the Top 5 items I love right now  – which make the perfect holiday gift for your jetsetter.

  • ONE – pink and white striped laundry bag from Etsy; perfect size to fold up into your carry on and fill along the way  {$22.50}
  • TWO – Cheeky travel pouch from Flight 001; I use for all of my plugs, adapters & cords – perfect for cosmetics, toiletries, jewelry, and of course – medication! {$16}
  • THREE  – Passport holder + wallet from Tory Burch.  Perfect size to hold my credit cards, cash, itinerary + passport all in one place; the color pops making it easy to find in my purse!  This is my new favorite travel accessory.  {$135}
  • FOUR – iPhone backup battery from J. Crew.  Just what you need to give your iPhone a few more hours of life. I received one this year as a holiday gift from 2 of A’s nieces and it has been a lifesaver for traveling! {$39.50 SALE! $21.50}
  • FIVE – tiny speaker with big sound available from Amazon; perfectly portable with great sound for listening to music with friends on trips – and a great value at {$16}

*aside from the Lush Shampoo which is reserved for backpacking trips)

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The Fall 15: A Broad @ Home, 15 Things to do in NYC this Autumn

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Following a fun & successful Summer bucket list, I’ve created a List of 15 Fall Fun activities to try to get to before the weather becomes too cold & the holidays descend upon us…

Do

Storm King – this Hudson Valley sculpture landscape, an hour north of the city has been on my radar for years; when better to go & explore than on a crisp Fall day? 

Then She Fell – on the heels of summer’s Sleep No More, this is another immersive, though more curated, theater experience with Lewis Carrol & Alice in Wonderland as the backdrop, limited to 15 people per show 

David Sedaris at Carnegie Hall – my favorite humorist at a space I’ve always wanted to go to sounds like a winning combination to me

Nitehawk Cinema – first run + repetoire movies, a menu designed by Saul Bolton (owner of Saul in Boerum Hill, BK) that you can eat during the movie & cocktails pre & post?  Looks like I need to take that L train to Williamsburg this fall.

Amateur Night at the Apollo – How it is that I didn’t get here in my 10 years living uptown astounds me. 

Macy’s Parade Balloon Inflation – Pending Thanksgiving plans, I’m hoping to catch this holiday ritual, held the night before Thanksgiving near the Museum of Natural History

SLT– now that I can finally exercise again, I want to check out Strengthen Lengthen Tone, which has been described as “if cardio, strength training, and pilates had a baby.”  Can’t wait to try it with my favorite yoga instructor, the incredible Goldie Oren http://goldieyoga.org/classes.html

Eat

Annisa – Anita Lo’s classical French restaurant with a slight Asian influence has been on my list of places to try since it re-opened following a kitchen fire in 2009

NoMad – in the theme of checking out what’s in my new neighborhood, I can’t wait to check out Daniel Humm’s restaurant in the lobby of the NoMad Hotel

L’Artusi – this Italian-inspired West Village restaurant is one of two holdovers from the summer list

ABC Cocina – Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s newest, Spanish-inspired, restaurant at the Flatiron interior decor shop.

Taco + Table tennis Mondays at Salvation Taco – Despite its Murray Hill location, I’ve been keen on checking out the April Bloomfield taqueria.  When I found out that every Monday night there is a doubles ping-pong tournament, I was completely sold.  N.B. I just learned out to play ping pong in the past week or so, but that won’t stop me any more than Murray Hill will.

Drink

Dead Rabbit – The other summer holdover…which I will get to eventually.   With 72 cocktails and a list of superlatives and accolades as long as this list, not to mention a dear friend who works there, how can I not?  (Framed alternately, how have I not yet?)

Pearl & Ash – This should probably go in the dinner list, as the food looks as incredible as the wine & cocktail list, but this newly opened restaurant in the bowery is heralded by the New York Times as “the city’s most exciting place to drink wine,” so we’ll keep it on the drink’s list for now.

Hill & Dale – LES cocktails made with care set in old-world décor celebrating analog entertainment

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The End-of-Summer Recap & 15,000 Views!

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For me, the advent of autumn ushers in nostalgia alongside sweater season; perhaps it is a combination of back-to-school (another year older!) + the Jewish holidays (another year over!).  This fall is no different, and with a big birthday looming on the horizon, I could wax poetic for a while.

But I won’t.  Instead, I’ll acknowledge that A Broad Abroad hit 15K viewers last week (!?) and publish the results of my Top 20 NYC Summer Bucket List:

GO & DO

 Sleep No More:  The immersive, highly-interactive theater experience loosely based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth set in several stories of an old warehouse in West Chelsea theatrically redone as an abandoned hotel, the McKittrick.  Our group of 12, separated from the start, all had intensely different experiences following different actors throughout the evening, which we then recounted over incredible live-music and cocktails at the bar after.  Highly recommended.  Wear sneakers.

Imran Qureshi installation on Met Roofdeck – this large-scale installation consisted, essentially, of red acrylic splattered on the Met Roofdeck to represent recent bombings in Lahore, Pakistan.  Needless to say, I didn’t quite “get” the art part of it.  However the Pakistani cocktails (oxymoron?) were delicious and the views of Central Park and the city skylines as awe-inspiring as ever. Below, Liz with what essentially was a vodka sno-cone.  Yum.

Met Roofdeck

Liz & a vodka sno-cone

Moma – Rain Room – “A field of falling water that pauses wherever a human body is detected, Rain Room offers visitors the experience of controlling the rain.” (MoMA website).  And yes, we waited for hours for this.  Totally awesome, totally worth it.

MoMA Rain Room

Punk Costume Exhibit @ The Met – An interesting look at the history of “Punk” through fashion, both high and low-brow. 20 minutes start to finish, making it my kind of museum exhibit

EAT

DiFaras – On an unsuspecting corner in the ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Midwood, Brooklyn, is what The New York Times, Anthony Bourdain, Zagat, and Frommers call “the best pizza” in NYC.  Each pie is handmade by the 78 year old owner, Domenico DeMarco.  It can be a 1-2 hour wait from the time you put in your order with his daughter (more if he takes a nap!), which makes for great people-watching as your explore the neighborhood.  The entire place smells of fresh basil and the pizza is worth.the.wait.  Tip: Go early, not hungry.

DiFara’s pizza

Hester Nights @ the Eventi Hotel – this weekly summer gathering of artisinal food vendors in the  former food wasteland surrounding Penn Station is a welcome change of pace.  Live music, streaming movies, and several great options including Portuguese pao de queijo, asian dumplings, inventive tacos, and Filipino desserts.  Every Thursdays, Summertime only.

Hester Nights at the Eventi Hotel

Cronuts @ Dominique Ansel Bakery – Is any explanation needed for this one?  Worth.the.wait. YUM.   Tip:  Also get the incredible DKA pastry and enjoy breakfast in the garden in the back of the bakery.

“coconut cream filling with a little lime, cinnamon sugar, and coconut frosting with toasted coconut.”

ABC Kitchen – your standard farm-to-table concept executed perfectly.  Nothing not to love.

Smorgasburg – More options to choose from than room in my stomach, which only means that I’ll need to go back.  The DUMBO market had the added benefit of sitting outside by the carousel and enjoying the view of the water and the bridge.



DRINK

Select summer fridays @ Le Bain – a great way to kick off the weekend on a roof bar (on top of the Standard hotel) that looks out onto the Hudon & lower Manhattan.  Kick back on a lawn chair in astroturf and enjoy the DJ and the people watching.  One caveat: drinks were slowwww to arrive.   

La Birreria roof deck @ Eataly – cold beer, hot day – need I say more?  This roof deck on top of Flatiron’s Eataly would’ve been better had it not been the middle of the July heatwave (no fault of it’s own), but the house beers were excellent and the staff jovial (or was it heat-stroked delirium?).  Tip:  Come early to beat the throngs of after-work drinkers.

Gallow Green roof bar @ the Mckittrick hotel – far and away one of the most enchanting places in NYC, this rooftop bar (with live gypsy-jazz-esque music on the weekends) serves up incredible cocktails in a transportive atmosphere with a speakeasy feel.  So wonderful, I went back again and again and again all summer.  Perfect for a date.  Tip:  make a reservation online ahead of time.

TOTAL:  12 of the 20 places on the wish list (see the entire list here)

Now…to write a Fall To-Do List?  What should be on it?  

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