Our Trip of a Lifetime | Tanzania – Serengeti

Over the last few months, we have been packing in travel and particularly dream trips that we have been looking forward to for some time. In May, we were in France and in June we headed out to Tanzania for “our trip of a lifetime.” When crafting our bucket lists years ago, a rough version any way, doing a safari was an item on both our lists. We continued to add more items as we learned more and delved deeper into what each continent and country has to offer. Knowing we were headed to Africa, we focused these lists even more and relished all the opportunities on the continent we were to call home for a bit. This gave rise to our additions of going to Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. We particularly pinned for the opportunity to witness the great migration (my husband distinctly remembers watching shows/videos about this as a child)…even possible to do by air in a hot air balloon! We’ve gone back and forth about this trip over the last year and a half and finally decided a couple months ago that it wasn’t worth putting off another year since we are so close now to Tanzania.

Although, we still hope to venture back in the future to witness the migration itself – we didn’t have enough time in the Serengeti to get up North – it was without question the once in a lifetime trip we had been hoping for. We’ve now been on several safaris…we just can’t get enough! But this trip brought us up close with more animals and landscapes than we could have ever imagined. It is hard to put into words the feelings that come over you as you look out the pop-up jeep, wind in your hair at the vastness of the Serengeti with the sun and clouds playing with the landscape.

We set out hoping to spot a lion and fingers crossed for seeing the big five. We were successful in both efforts even with only a day and a half of game drives. In fact, we saw our first lion shortly into our drive in the Serengeti. Having already checked that box, we didn’t expect to see as many more as we did and in different contexts… sleeping, looking for the rest of the pride, on the prowl, and feasting along with a handful of cubs. We sat in our jeep less than 10 feet away from a lioness.

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Later, we came upon a leopard down for the count up in a tree. Having always loved leopards when I was young, even doing an animal project on it, this was a dream come true….even if I could only see his rear with his back legs and tail hanging down from the branch.

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Early in the morning, we came across a cheetah… no two, three, actually four cheetah who were almost putting on a pageant for the jeeps huddled around them. Walking up and down for all to see and take in their long legs and beautiful spotted coats.  We saw them from a distance starting to break a stride after a late morning snack, but they changed their mind and paraded around some more instead. This was an animal we joked off-hand about hoping to see.

As we drove through the park, we came up on huge herds of elephants peppering the landscape. Having thought we had gotten close to elephants at Akagera National Park in Rwanda…we didn’t think we’d get any closer…until the Serengeti. Just outside our jeep, stood elephants of all ages and sizes, with more and more coming to join them. We watched babies following along close behind and stopped to witness one taking down a tree for lunch, close enough to see his trunk grab branches and put it into his mouth.

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We stood looking down  onto a pool filled with hippos almost looking as if they formed one mass. We heard them grunting at one another, watched them scoot up on top of one another, and splash water to keep their skin cool. I always felt lucky before having seen them from afar with just their eyes above the water peering at me and their ears listening for movement…always seeming to be shy. But this pool was different, they were content where they were and with us looking upon them.

And, of course, my husband’s East African Birds book we bought a few months ago came in quite handy as we all thumbed through the book to try to identify the variety of birds we came across throughout the Serengeti. Some circled overhead looking for their next meal, others dipped their toes in water, looked down on us from above, and others stalked us as we ate our lunch waiting to be fed or to snatch our crumbs off the table.

Our night spent inside the park was unlike anything…in a tent surrounded in darkness with animals lurking around. We started our night off sitting by the fire looking out at the sunset on the Serengeti recounting all we had seen in our first day and our hopes for the next. After our incredible dinner in the dining tent, we were escorted back to our tent with just a flashlight to illuminate our path. We enjoyed looking up at the stars in the sky untouched and listening for the various sounds of animals located somewhere outside our tents. It was a scary and extraordinary experience all at the same time!

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We loved having the experience of Mushi, our driver and tour guide, to help us have the most incredible and personalized experience…even better than we could have ever imagined! Check-out Sunny Adventures for their package options. 


Tips for Effortless Entertaining

I may not be the best person to be writing a post about effortless entertaining…my husband would call me an obsessive, over entertainer…but I feel I have gotten much better with the exception of our New Year’s Eve party a couple months ago. {A shout-out to my husband, without him helping to chop and mix ingredients when I over planned dishes for the event, I wouldn’t have had much food to offer our guests} As you can tell, we love to host gatherings. I love to prepare the menu, cook, decorate, and obsess over every aspect. Then, sit back, enjoy the company of others, and share the treats I have prepared. While my husband loves to do the grilling and socialize from the get-go. I’d say we compliment each other pretty well and his casual, laid back attitude has been rubbing off on me a little bit these days.


When we lived in the U.S., if we were planning something for a Saturday night, I would spend Friday night doing the grocery shopping, prepping whatever I could, cleaning, decorating, and getting a head start on my to do list. Then, I’d be up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to clean the entire house and then get a move on prepping everything, so I would still have time to shower and get made up before people arrived. Having a couple of friends over to grill burgers or steaks would always be a whole weekend affair. Looking back it’s a little ridiculous but I always loved it. Call me crazy!

Luckily, I have the luxury here to have someone to help with the cleaning on a daily basis so that I can dedicate all my time to getting the ingredients and making the food and have more free time for myself. The first couple of events we had, I filled the extra time from not cleaning with doing more with the food and decorating. And I realized quickly this was completely crazy!

Veggie Platter

We have since hosted several last minute or very low key events where I have worked on adopting a more effortless approach and using mostly what is already on hand. This has allowed me, with reduced stress, to put together a menu of munchies for a last minute Tuesday night get together, a 15 person game night, or an impromptu farewell party.

My recipe for effortless entertaining:

  • Simple is best. You don’t need a million options or to use the most complicated recipes. Don’t be afraid to scrap a thing or two if you are running low on time. It will save you stress and no one will know you didn’t make that extra dish!
  • Grab items that are easy to unwrap and put out.
    • Grab some salami, prosciutto, pancetta, and ham. Either transfer directly or plate it up creatively.
    • Grab one or two types of cheese and cut into cubes/slices and position near the meat.
    • Put out a few crackers and/or apple slices to go with the meat and cheese.
  • Fresh veggies and dip. My go-to has always been Ranch but I have started developing spread recipes as well to offer another option for our guests. Pre-made hummus is another great go-to option. Check out the Blue Cheese and Pecan Spread. It is always a hit. The spread works well with the veggies or along with some fresh French bread. And is worth a few extra minutes of prep time.
  • Throw a few pickles or olives out for a salty taste. Nuts are another great option.
  • Then, add something for the late night sweet tooth. My favorite thing has been to try out different popcorn recipes. Everyone loves popcorn and who couldn’t resist it late at night! Check out Crack Popcorn & Peanut Crunch for one of my favorites.
  • Chips and dip. Store bought or homemade pico de gallo is highly recommended or even make your own guacamole.

Meat and Cheese Platter

All combined together, are the makings of a great mix of sweet, salty, savory, and will be great food in your stomachs as you drink the night away. This assortment is perfect for game nights or casual get-togethers sitting around a patio. They are all great grab-n-go options and can be kept at an arms distance to be enjoyed throughout the night.

To keep things simple, I keep several options of napkins and plasticware in plastic storage containers so that I have them on hand already. {Particularly helpful for last minute affairs since it takes 2 weeks to get mail to us in Rwanda.} I throw them in a woven utensil serving basket and I’m done. I’ve got a great variety of serving platters and bowls to display our food spread on our dining room table or our patio table.

Meat Platter

You can accomplish all of this in a matter of two hours if you already have everything on hand. Now that is manageable!

For the times when you have more time or want a more substantive meal of your get-together…..

I recommend sticking with the main entree (remember to consider any vegetarians that might be joining), a salad or other veggie option, and a heartier side. Adding one appetizer, especially chips or veggies and dip or even a nice spread and apples with French bread, is easy and will hold your guests over until you are done grilling or getting the main entree ready to eat. Kids and adults alike love to nibble so remember that!

  • Our go-to is a beef tenderloin with chimichurri sauce, caprese salad, and basil pearled couscous. It’s delicious and a hit everytime – we never have any leftovers, plus we have the timing down now. Work to find your own signature dish as your favorite go-to as well.

With all of this, do you really need dessert? I would have always said yes but everyone will likely already be stuffed and will not have any room left. I’m also notorious for forgetting to put the dessert out any way. If you must do something for dessert, I recommend lightly grilling fresh pineapple slices while the grill is still hot. It is a simple and fresh dessert option that everyone will love and can easily be paired with store bought vanilla ice cream.

Happy Entertaining!!


Our Mother’s Day BBQ | Inspiration for Your Next BBQ

During are recent whirlwind trip to the US fitting in visits with my family, my husband’s, celebrating our friends tying the knot, and visiting a few friends, we planned in dinners at our favorite places and even a well-timed mother’s day BBQ. Excited for summer ingredients in the US and the opportunity to prepare meals with them, I set out to devise a menu with my sister that would showcase fresh ingredients we love and some of our mom’s favorites.Lemon and Bay Leaf Shrimp Skewers on the grill

Need inspiration for your next summer BBQ? Here’s what we planned (and the links to the recipes we used, too!)…

  • Corn, tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad
  • Grilled beef in a red wine marinade
  • Lemon and Bay Leaf Shrimp Skewers
  • Grilled veggies (squash, onions, peppers, and potatoes)
  • Lemon Meringue Pie – *our mom’s favorite…store-bought because we were short on prep time

Corn, Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil Salad

Knowing how we love to go overboard on menu options and that we are always overly excited to try new recipes, we restrained ourselves well this time! We still had left overs, but one of the best parts of a get together is having the leftovers for the next day when you are craving another helping and tired from all the work and clean-up from the day before.

Grilled Veggies

Be on the lookout for more great BBQ recipes to come. You know we love grilling and entertaining!



Quick South African Getaway

Last week/weekend, we took a quick trip down to Pretoria for our second trimester ultrasound and took advantage of the opportunity to spend a few days catching up with an old friend. Those few days there were exciting (finding out the sex of our little tater on the way), refreshing, and delicious. We had a great time getting out and seeing Pretoria and Johannesburg, compared to our previous trips down for medical appointments and surgeries that preoccupied our time and confined us to the hotel or hospital.

First off, in case you are curious…we are excited to announce we are having a boy!It's a boy!.jpg

Now onto a recap of our quick trip to South Africa…I can’t help but start it off talking about FOOD!

Boerewors Tacos

Our friend treated us to some boerewors (sausage made with ground beef and pork mixed with herbs and spices) grilled on his built-in braai. Paired with homemade salsa and guacamole and grilled veggies, these boerewors tacos were addictive! We all kept going back for more.

Rietvlei Nature Reserve


Just outside the city, Rietvlei Nature Reserve was a great last minute afternoon game drive. The powerlines running through the park was an odd juxtaposition from the oasis of the park. Inside, we saw wildebeests, zebras, hartebeests, ostriches, waterbuck, impalas, and a number of birds.

We even had a photoshoot with a zebra, who let us get up close and personal for quite a while…not even bothered by our presence. Our fingers are crossed for more experiences like this as we head to Tanzania this week to witness the Great Migration.

Hazelwood Market

A recommendation to hit up the Hazelwood Market on Saturday, left us happy and our mouths watering at the endless options of grilled meat, varied cuisines, biltong, filled cupcakes and muffins, and fresh juices. Truly a food lovers dream! If we lived in Pretoria, I think this would be our regular weekend spot.

We wandered around the food tents taking in the possibilities to enjoy for our lunch. We enjoyed the most amazing pork buns with Sriracha sauce as an appetizer and saved red velvet muffins with cream cheese filling for a dessert later in the evening. We ended up settling on a chicken, rocket, tomato, and cheese flatbread with balsamic drizzle for me and a sausage, fried egg, and sundried tomato pesto for the boys.



Springboks Rugby Match

We capped off our trip to South Africa with an impromptu Springboks rugby game. The energy was infectious as the Springboks turned the game around in the last quarter to beat the Irish national team. Not knowing much at all about rugby, we were anxious to learn and be a part of this past-time.


Our night was even better when I realized that we were watching my cousin play in-person for the Irish national team. I couldn’t get over the fact that almost a decade after meeting him, we finally saw him playing on a trip to South Africa.

What a great trip away…looking forward to the next one already on the books for later this week and for the chance to make another trip down to South Africa one day soon.

Chamonix Macarons

French Eats

Having always enjoyed French cuisine I’d found in the US, including our regular special occasion spot La Bergerie in Old Town Alexandria, my mouth watered waiting for the chance for my tastebuds to experience the ingredients and pairings within France itself.

One stop on our trip was selected solely for the chance to try authentic bouillabaisse. Of course there was much more to see in Marseille and we did just that, however, it’s importance on our list was purely food-driven.

Marseille Bouillabaisse Ingredients 1

Driving through so much of the country and across various regions afforded us the opportunity to taste a cross-sampling of French cuisine. Our first meal, a simple lunch by any other description was elevated in the French way quenching our desires to enjoy every single bite along our journey. Our meal of a chicken and avocado bagel sandwich for my husband and ham, cheese, and basil pesto flatbread with lightly dressed greens for me not only filled our tired-of-airplane-food-stomachs but left us wanting more. Our chance encounter with this bistro only happened because it was situated around the corner from our hotel and because we needed to buy time until our room was ready.

Later that day we donned our rain gear and magically avoided any lines to go up in the Eiffel Tour and set our eyes on the vastness that is the city of Paris. Afterward, on our walk to the Champs Elysees, we took a break not only to rest our muscles still jet-lagged and which we were determined to stretch out, we enjoyed a sweet and a savory crepe. My first ever…the Nutella crepe was a sweet and warm delight (only wishing I had added strawberries). For my husband, the ham and cheese crepe tasted just right.

First Crepe 1First Crepe…photobombed!

As we continued on our journey, equipped with our list of food we already knew we wanted to try in general, we spent time every couple of nights to research the iconic dishes of the city or region we were about to visit or the ingredients that were not to be missed. Others we came across by happenstance. For example, in Mont Saint Michel, we chose to eat at our hotel before starting our trip onto the island. Since the restaurant was soon expecting a large tour group, they asked us to pick from a limited menu to ease the demands on their kitchen. Not entirely excited at first with the options compared to the rest of the menu, I grudgingly picked the Galette Normande (Normandy pancake) with ham and cheese without the raw egg and a butter and sugar crepe. It ended up being an incredible foodie experience reinforcing the adage of trying new things. Not only were our taste buds and stomachs happy but so were we, left craving for more.

Galette Normande 1

Mont Saint Michel has a long tradition of omelettes…a little something I read ahead our trip. Knowing my husband’s affinity for omelettes, I knew it was a must on our foodie list. What came out of the kitchen and put in front of him was a pillow of egg! There’s no better way to describe it. Each bite was airy and fluffy and although it was an interesting choice for dinner fare, he couldn’t be happier with his dinner.

Mont Saint Michel Omelette

Arriving in Bordeaux after our 5.5 hour drive from Mont Saint Michel, we got settled into our hotel and quickly headed out with our map and list of top places we wanted to see. We figured we could find lunch somewhere along the way. On our way to the Bordeaux Cathedral, my eyes widened as I saw a fruit and veggie stand stacked with beautiful and abundant produce. Artichokes bigger than I’d ever seen. My only wish was that I had a kitchen to cook in right then and there. {This sentiment didn’t stop throughout the whole trip…any market or produce stand I passed, I had to resist the urge to buy everything in sight.} We instead selected to buy a basket of strawberries to eat as we walked and to enjoy for breakfast the next day. As we turned to walk away from the produce, we found a cute little bistro. Like had been becoming our routine, we arrived after their normal lunch time. The server and chef conferred and offered us one of two salads. Naturally, we ordered one of each and a glass of wine to share. We again encountered limited options but the fortuitous chance to try something a little different. And again, were were completely satisfied with our choices. My salad…tomato, mozzarella, zucchini slivers, fennel drizzled with a light sesame dressing. Chris’ salad…a caesar salad with sundried tomatoes and breaded chicken. Our lunch was made even better by listening to the banter of another patron with our server, poking fun at his accent when speaking English. We joined in and shared pleasant conversations with them making us feel quickly at home in Bordeaux!

Many might scoff at our decision to have a burger not only in France but in Bordeaux. But we didn’t care, we were days away from returning to Rwanda where the burgers are good but nothing compared to those we’ve found in the US. Our decision was made easier after feasting our eyes on a menu of gourmet burgers with toppings and combinations we had never considered putting together. And no one can say that a glass of red wine doesn’t go with a burger! Our favorite glass in fact was tasted right there along with our juice burgers. {We later realized that the red recommended to us was the same we enjoyed – and loved – with our salad lunches earlier in the day.} Curious about those topping combinations?…mine had cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed onions, pickles, avocado, and finished with an onion and ginger chutney. We may just have to borrow these ideas as inspiration for our next BBQ.

Bordeaux Burger

The next day, we set off for Carcassonne our palates satisfied but watering for the next item on our list…Cassoulet. We had already selected our restaurant to try…we just had to get there, see the sights of the citadel, and make our dinner reservations. As our GPS struggled to route us to our hotel, we quickly realized it was because our hotel was located inside the castle walls. The cold, dreary weather and our walk inside the walls to our hotel left us looking for something to fill our stomachs and warm us up. In our fine tradition, we again got there after most places had finished their lunch service, but we lucked out that just at the entrance to our hotel nestled a little restaurant with a decadent beef stew.

Carcassonne Beef Stew

Afterward, we were full, warm, and happy! Our lunch break and subsequent short siesta bought us time enough for the clouds to break and the sun to come out. We wandered through the streets, stopping for ice cream (now heated up by the sun and stew), tastings of chocolate, and whiffs of fragrant soaps. As the night came, so did the chill in the air but well-timed for our hearty and warming Cassoulet dinner. Eager to try it and duck confit for the first time, we were in awe of the simplicity and complexity of the dish all at the same time. The time taken to make this dish was evident in the layered flavors and the sheer tenderness of the meat. It’s a dish crafted slowly over several hours from the duck confit requiring almost 2 days to prepare and the hours of low heat required to soften the beans and melt the meat fat to infuse the flavors into the beans.

Carcassonne Cassoulet

Our timing for Avignon was not perfect for being able to see the lavender fields in bloom but we set out to drive through the fields and imagine what it would look like with row after row of purple. This also lead us to stop at a road-side produce stand. Always a favorite of mine during the summer in the US, I was excited to stop at another one on our journey. We couldn’t leave without cherries – can’t even remember the last time I enjoyed fresh cherries – lavender, herbes de provence, and cured meats to take back with us.

We continued our day in Avignon, we toured the Papal Palace and the remnants of the Avignon bridge (Pont Saint Benezet). We completed our day with dinner outside in the Place de l’Horloge. Determined to try an Avignon speciality, we ordered escargot in puff pastry as an appetizer and lamb for the main dish. Both left our tastebuds savoring the flavors and seasonings.

Before our trip began, we had a couple restaurant possibilities based on online reviews for where to eat bouillabaisse in Marseille. While in Bordeaux, we finalized our research and called ahead to reserve a spot. Make sure you do the same to ensure a table is available for lunch or dinner and that the bouillabaisse will be ready and waiting for you.

Just like with the Cassoulet in Carcassonne, the amount of time and attention that went into the bouillabaisse became more and more evident with each bite. And it was also quite the operation. Starting with steaming hot broth which you dip toasted baguette slices/croutons covered in a spicy aioli into to soak up the broth. Then as the broth cools, you are shown the selections of fish and seafood for your dish. After each item is filleted and deboned at your table, it is presented to you with additional steaming broth and potatoes to combine together in your main bowl and enjoy. The presentation was just as luscious as the depth of flavor from each and every bite. Each item was removed from its shell but left intact to display flawlessly at the table.

Marseille Bouillabaisse in Broth

Being pregnant and hesitant about what exactly might be served in the bouillabaisse and whether the fish would be on the list of those with low levels of mercury, I decided to go with the chef’s recommendation of the day, a rockfish provencal. Doing so assuaged my concerns and allowed us to try the long-awaited bouillabaisse as well as another dish featuring regional seasonings.

Marseille Poisson Provencal

We finished our day walking around the Old Port and sitting of the ferris wheel looking out over the port and city surrounding it. Walking around, the sun beating down on us, we passed restaurant after restaurant with endless options of what we could pick for dinner. What a dream! What immediately caught our eyes was the menu listing head-on shrimp with risotto and vegetables. Both of us looked at each other knowing we had found our place. Finishing our day of fresh coastal cuisine with this dish was a delight! Even nicer was the warm sun still out well into the night.

Marseille Head-on Shrimp with Risotto

We spent our second day in Nice being lazy, sleeping in – for the first time on our trip – and away from the museums and stores to soak up the beach and putting our feet in the water. With many beach restaurant options, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind us and sit looking out to the water listening to the tranquil sounds of the waves lapping before us.

Our risotto from the night before left me wanting more, so I couldn’t pass up the option to again try a seafood dish with risotto and asparagus (a favorite of mine not available in Rwanda). This dish plated with extra flare from the crispy cheese chips and the slivers of parmesan cheese was even better than our dish the night before.

Nice Shrimp Risotto

After our panini lunches from a road-side rest stop on our long voyage from Nice to Chamonix through Italy, we needed to eat but eating early made us hungry for dinner early as well. As we walked around downtown, glancing up to the snow-capped mountains we had just visited, we stopped by cured meat stores and perused the array of options. Wanting macarons but not getting any yet by day 10, we stopped into a shop to get a gift box with room enough to almost sample all of the options. The two that didn’t fit, were our featured afternoon snack. The light, delicate, tender fluffiness of each bite was like pillows of flavored air in our mouths. Just what we needed!Chamonix Macarons

Later, finally getting to dinner time…we sat down with a platter of charcuterie and potatoes to dip into and coat with a pot of the richest fondue I’ve tasted! The platter for two proved to be more than we could fit in our stomachs. It would have been enough for 3 or 4 people to share. But having a fondue pot at home go unused for quite some time due to a lack of cheese options in Rwanda, we happily filled ourselves up with the delicious warm cheese…enough to hold us over for quite some time. 

Dream Honeymoon | France

A trip more than five years in the making, our two week adventure through France on our dream honeymoon was more than we could have ever imagined. Over the years, every time we sat down to plan out the trip, budget, learned someplace new from a friend or French teacher, our list of places grew and grew. Our planning led to an extensive, some may say aggressive, itinerary taking us through multiple climates, regions, and checking bucket list items off left and right.

Here’s a snapshot of our itinerary over 12 days…in case you are eager to replicate it yourselves.

Day 1: Paris

Day 2: Giverny, Normandy, Bayeux

Day 3: Bayeaux, Mont Saint Michel

Day 4: Bordeaux

  • Bordeaux Cathedral, Grand Theatre, Place de la Bourse, Miroir d’Eau (Water Mirror), Esplanade des Quinconces, Pont de Pierre, Rue Sainte-Catherine
  • Hotel: Hotel le Continental

Day 5: Carcassonne

  • Cite de Carcassonne (Citadel), Chateau Comtal (Castle and Ramparts), Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus
  • Hotel: Best Western Hotel le Donjon

Day 6: Avignon

  • Lavender Fields (not yet in bloom), Palais des Papes, Pont d’Avignon, Place de l’Horloge, Opera d’Avignon
  • Hotel: Hotel de l’Horloge

Day 7: Arles, Marseille

Day 8: Calanques de Cassis, Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo

Day 9: Nice

Day 10: Chamonix

Day 11: Paris

Day 12: Paris

Day 13: Flight back

Each stop had one or two must-sees that were preplanned, everything else we saw was considered an added bonus. Each night we would research for the next day or two to see what our specific itinerary would involve factoring in drive time, weather, operating hours, etc. A great advantage was France’s sunset timing. Used to a sunset of 6:30 pm in Rwanda, we were ecstatic with a 9:30 pm sunset in France which allowed us to squeeze in so much more into one day at each location than we could have imagined.

In total we saw:

  • Museums/Historical Sites: 28
  • Gardens: 3
  • Beaches: 3
  • Cathedrals: 5
  • Crypts: 2
  • Boat rides: 1
  • Ferris Wheel ride: 1

A few tips if you want to follow in our footsteps:

  • Budget for tolls: We planned the expenses of the rental car but didn’t even consider there would be tolls much less that they would add up to several hundred euros over the course of two weeks.
  • Splurge for the GPS: We were so thankful we did this. We did have stacks of google map print outs with directions for each stop on our journey, however, we added a few things into the mix on the spot and liked up-to-date information it provided. Well worth the money!
  • Pack light: Because we were coming from the US and were bringing things back with us as well as because we had a total of three weeks away in a variety of climates and for a variety of events, we had more than necessary during our time in France. Although, if you find yourself in a similar situation, take a page out of our book. Every day or two we would pull out the articles of clothing, toiletries, and miscellaneous items we needed (based on the weather for each stop). We consolidated it all into our smallest bag. So at each hotel with their small elevators (or lack there of) and small city hotel rooms, we were only bringing our backpacks and a small suitcase with us leaving our other three large suitcases in our car. In Marseille, we had a larger room and needed to do laundry. So, we brought all of them in with us…our bellhop asked if we were moving there! Sure seemed like it and why not…but sadly no we just have A LOT of baggage.
  • Checking Out:  Some small hotels may not have 24 hour reception desks. If you plan to leave early in the morning, check with the receptionist the night before to see if you need to check-out then instead of having to wait until they open the next morning to be able to leave.
  • Share Your Food!: A foodie tip for you and your spouse – Try ordering a two or three course, price fix meal for one person and then the other order just an entree (if three course) or an entree/dessert (if ordering two). We found this was a great way to sample more options on each menu and to ensure we didn’t overindulge too much, too often. It also provided a back-up option in case the most traditional dish wasn’t something we enjoyed…of course it was always delicious and the back-up was never necessary!
  • Get tickets in advance: When possible, buy tickets for the popular tourist attractions that you know you will see but don’t space too closely together. Buying in advance often means a shorter wait and less of a hassle. Plus, it helps you plan your timing right for when to do things and when you will have time to explore other places. Pay close attention to operating hours and days to ensure you plan properly.

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Akagera 5_JPP

Hakuna Matata | Akagera National Park

When my parents were here in January, we spent the whole day out with our tour guide Emmanuel in Akagera National Park. We started the day with high hopes of setting our eyes on the giraffes we didn’t see on our last trip and the lions that were re-introduced into the park.


We immediately got off to a great start. As soon as we arrived at reception, our guide jumped in the jeep and rushed us toward the entrance of the park. He had left a family of elephants by the entrance the night before and hoped they were still there. As we pulled up, we saw other cars stopped. We came up on a group of elephants. We couldn’t believe how close we were to them, only about 50 feet or so away from us. With such ease, they just tore down tree after tree leaving a path of destruction behind them. It was so incredible to be able to watch them as they moved about and ate in the early morning.

Akagera - Elephants_JPP

Up close with a group of elephants – what a way to start our game drive

With the lead of other guides on the radio and cars we passed by, we headed off for another area to find other park inhabitants. Along the way, we saw giraffes for the first time. One lead us down the road and stopped every once in a while to offer us a pose for the camera.

We even saw a hippo out of water, an uncommon sight as their skin is sensitive to sunlight. We learned that impalas travel in packs which only have one male; the “loser” males, as our guide referred to them, were the ones who lost their chance to be the male of the group. Instead, they roamed the park together as losers.

For the first time, we saw warthogs, or “pumbaa” from The Lion King. Throughout the day we saw a number of them and couldn’t help but sing Hakuna Matata to ourselves.

Akagera 7_JPP

Group of pumbaas out and about in Akagera National Park

This time we traveled up to the northern of the park which offered a different landscape and more opportunities to see water buffalo, giraffes, zebras, topis, kudus, impalas, oribi, antelopes, and much much more.

Akagera Zebras_JPP

Our guide Emmanuel’s enthusiasm was infectious for my husband. What started as a spark of excitement for birds on our sunset cruise, transformed into a new love of knowing the types and even starting to recognize them on his own. With at least 525 species of birds, Akagera is a paradise for bird watchers.

Akagera 3_JPP

After all that we saw and the great day we had exploring the park, it really was the perfect start to my family’s visit and a memorable time with my parents as they experience their first safari.


View from our lunch break stop

Akagera 30My mom loved these thistles

Veggie Wrap with Chickpea Spread and Cucumber Salsa

Veggie Wrap with Chickpea Spread & Cucumber Salsa

Weekends are great for getting creative. With so many fresh and colorful ingredients, lunch can always be bright and healthy. This past weekend, I sought to try out a few healthy and tasty lunch options to add to my repertoire.

Chickpea Spread - Before and After

This wrap was packed full of protein, flavor, and a nice crunch. Throw on some chicken, fish, shrimp, or any other left overs you have in the fridge.

Cucumber Salsa 2

Adding habaneros or jalapeños to this cucumber salsa gives a little spice that compliments the cumin and red pepper flakes in the chickpea spread. If you are anything like me, you may also want to eat the chickpea spread by the spoonful – it’s addictive – or keep to dip carrots in.

Veggie Wrap with Chickpea Spread and Cucumber Salsa 1 Veggie Wrap with Chickpea Spread and Cucumber Salsa 2 Veggie Wrap with Chickpea Spread and Cucumber Salsa 3 Veggie Wrap with Chickpea Spread and Cucumber Salsa 4 Veggie Wrap with Chickpea Spread and Cucumber Salsa 6 Veggie Wrap with Chickpea Spread and Cucumber Salsa 5


Chickpea Spread

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and skin removed
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Cucumber Salsa

  • 1/2 cup of cucumbers, chopped
  • 1 small plum tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon habanero, finely minced
  • Dash of lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of pepper

Wrap Filling

  • Avocado
  • Peppers, julienned
  • Carrots, julienned
  • Cucumbers, julienned
  • Purple cabbage, shredded

Veggie Wrap with Chickpea Spread and Cucumber Salsa


For chickpea spread:

  • In a food processor, combine all ingredients except olive oil. Pulse until ingredients start to combine. Add olive oil a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired texture.

For cucumber salsa:

  • In a small bowl, mix ingredients together. Adjust seasonings as desired.

For veggie wrap:

  • Spread a tablespoon of chickpea spread on a tortilla (flour, spinach, etc.). Layer on avocado, purple cabbage, peppers, carrots, and cucumber.
  • Add cucumber salsa to the top. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top.

Roll the wrap and enjoy!