Safari: Cats

I have never really been a “cat person.” Growing up, we always had dogs. Even now, Reed and I have three dogs. I have never really owned or enjoyed any feline. However, our safari time might have changed my mind. We weren’t exactly seeing house cats, but these larger felines had quite big personalities and surprising habits.

Let’s start with the obvious… the lion! Lion cubs are usually born in litters of 2 to 4. Surprisingly enough, cubs are born with spots (see below), but lose their spots as they mature. Born in litters, the cubs learn to wrestle with each other and eventually their parents. This wrestling gradually teaches them the skills they need for basic survival, killing prey, and leading their own pride. Male cubs are pushed out of the pride when they are mature enough to survive on their own, or are becoming a threat to the male dominance within their pride. Males can form group with other males, often brothers, to eventually build their own prides.

**Lion King trivia: “simba” actually means lion in Swahili**

This cub’s spots are easily seen now, but will lose them after a year or two.


This cub is practicing hiding and pouncing on his father. The parents encourage this to help prepare the cubs for survival as adults.

Although the male is the dominant in a pride, the females do a lot of the work. Besides the birthing, nursing and parenting of the cubs, they are responsible for most of the hunting. Occasionally males will hunt, but, more often than not, the lioness is responsible for feeding the pride.


When not hunting or eating, lions are actually quite lazy! Although we found several eating, most of the time, we found prides relaxing and cooling off in the shade.


Their coloring is the perfect camouflage for hiding in the tall, dry grass.


Don’t be fooled, he’s just yawning! 



One of the smaller cats in East Africa is the serval cat. Relatively the same size as a bobcat, the serval cat is nocturnal. They track small rodents and birds to survive. We saw one from a great distance at dusk, but this one was out hunting midmorning. We watched it track something small through the tall grass, maybe a mouse or small rabbit, then finally pounce on its prey!

Another example of how coloring and camouflage makes it easy for them to hide in the tall grass. 


Pouncing on his prey

The other two big cats in East Africa are the cheetah and leopard. These cats often get mixed up or mistaken for the other, but once we learned their differences, they are very easily distinguished! First off, the leopard is much larger than the cheetah, but not as large as a lion. The cheetah has a very slender body, however the leopard is larger and appears thicker. Second, their spots are very different and help when identifying them. Cheetahs have a light tan coat with black spots. Leopards have a slightly darker coat and their spots are more like a black “U” around a brown spot.

Although both are incredible agile, fast and carnivorous, the cheetah is faster and spends more time on the ground. Leopards are quick, but spend a lot of their time in trees.

A cheetah’s tail is like a fifth limb. Their tail helps them steer and stabilize when running at high speeds.
This young male leopard was resting in this large tree with his mother


Notice the leopard’s paw, much longer, almost like a human’s foot, compared to the small paw of the cheetah


Safari: Babies!

Who doesn’t love babies? Especially animal babies! We saw so many babies on safari, I just couldn’t help it.. they needed their own blog post! Again, if you missed my other Safari posts, go back and read about the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.

As I’ve said previously, we knew all animals were different, but we were so surprised to learn just how different each one is from the next. Even seemingly similar gazelles had such different eating, breeding, parenting and social habits. One of the most interesting characteristics we enjoyed learning about was the parenting of each animal’s young and the young animal’s growth, development and entrance into adulthood.


Lioness with her cubs cooling off in a riverbed
Cubs lose their spots with maturity
Lions encourage their cubs to practice stalking, pouncing and wrestling them to learn how to defend and feed themselves as adults.

Warthogs are usually skittish, but this momma let us get a good look at her piglets. We saw a lot of piglets but these were definitely the youngest we saw. Their lack of tusks shows their youth, maybe less than a few weeks old!


Ostriches are communal parents. The females all lay their eggs in one nest, taking turns keeping the eggs warm. After hatching, the alpha female takes care of them until they reach maturity.


These black faced monkeys, or vervets, carry their young. This mother hopped down looking for a snack while carrying her baby. These baby monkeys usually hang on the mother’s stomach until they are about one week old. After that, they ride on the mother’s back until strong enough to keep up with the rest of the family.


Elephants have a 22 month gestation period. Once birthed, calves stay right with their mothers to nurse until they can no longer walk underneath the mother. After that, they remain with the female dominated herd. Males move out and roam solo once old enough to be on their own. Females often stay with their family herd, mostly consisting of closely related females (one matriarch, her sisters and/or daughters and their young).


Mother nursing her calf


Herds keep their young in the middle of herds to keep them protected 

Giraffes give birth while standing up and the baby is up and running within 5-15 minutes. This young was less than 14 days old. Young are often shown by the amount of hair on their ossicones, or horns.


Hyena pups playing right outside their den
Zebras looking for water in the dry season
Cape buffalo and calf
Hippo swimming with her young
Grant gazelle

Safari: Ngorongoro Crater

A few days ago, I posted about the Serengeti, the first blog in my Safari series. If you missed it, you can read it here! Tanzania is so diverse and has so much to offer, so we decided to split our time between the Serengeti Plains and Ngorongoro Crater. Although they are pretty much neighbors on the map, these two conservation areas could not be more different!


To give you some background information, the Ngorongoro Crater was once an active volcano that imploded, causing a caldera or volcanic crater. It is believed that, before its fall, Ngorongoro was actually taller than Mount Kilimanjaro. Now, one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, the remaining crater has now created an oval shaped basin about 21 kilometers wide by 19 kilometers long. Due to the rocky layer from the crumbled mountain, roots cannot go very deep, making the crater floor mostly plains, with the exception of one forest and two marshes. The remaining walls of the volcano now look and act as a circular mountain range, closing the crater floor off from the rest of the plains. Animals can still get in and out if desired, but due to the steep crater walls and the complete ecosystem within the crater, most remain in the crater.

View of the Crater from what is believed was the peak of the mountain before its collapse
Inside the crater, looking across the plains at the one forest on the crater floor

To access the crater, one must drive up and over the crater wall and down to the crater floor. The drive on the dirt road can take up to two hours, one way, depending on weather, or even elephants in the road. This conservation area is run by the Tanzanian government, unlike the game reserve we were previously at, so there are very strict guidelines for entering/exiting, driving through, and viewing game in the conservation area. Also important to note, a conservation area is different from a game reserve or even a national park. Game reserves are usually privately owned by a company or individual, allowing them to determine guidelines, etc. A national park is usually strictly for nature and game to be preserved according to the country’s guidelines, but no human habitation can occur. A conservation area can often allow for humans to live or tour in the area, as long as they adhere to specific and strict guidelines. Since Ngorongoro is a conservation area, they allow the Maasai tribe to continue living in and around the crater as they have for many generations. Traditionally, Maasai tribes are warriors and grazers, defending their tribes and grazing cattle. They live in small villages composed of several huts and are often identified by their bright red wraps they wear.

On our way into the crater, you can see the small huts of a Maasai village

Viewing the crater from above, it seems as though it is barren and lifeless, but once you descend the 2000 feet of elevation, its entire ecosystem is quickly seen. As opposed to the Serengeti where there is plenty of space to roam (or escape a predator), the confined space of the crater naturally allows for more animal interaction. Herds mingle, prey accidentally walk right in front of sleeping predators, movement can be spotted from far off, resources can be scarce, but always shared. We saw more animal interaction in our short time there than we did in over a week in the Serengeti!

Beautiful sunrise peeking through the clouds

One of my favorite interactions was seeing two Thomson gazelles dueling. Unlike impalas who live in bachelor herds, Thomson males live on their own and are very territorial. Their territory is more than just where they live, this also determines who they mate with. If a male challenges another’s territory, it will result in a fight like is pictured below. The two males will wrestle, pushing the other with their head and/or horns. The first to surrender, give up, or get tired must immediately flee the area or risk getting hurt by the champion. Sometimes, their horns can accidentally lock together. This can have serious consequences if they cannot untangle themselves, such as one breaking a neck, a broken horn, or a predator taking advantage of the stuck animals. As we watched this match, they did actually get stuck and struggled for quite a while. However, I am happy to report they were able to untangle themselves, a winner was declared and the loser was chased off his territory.


Notice how their horns are both stuck in a compromising angle across the others faces. 

Another thing we loved about the Ngorongoro Crater was the lions! Although we saw more cats (including leopards and cheetahs) in the Serengeti and were able to get much closer to them, they were often sleeping or not doing much due to their nocturnal nature. In the Ngorongoro Crater, these cats were almost always on the move!


In the Crater, many habits (eating, sleeping, etc) are different due to the geological circumstances of living in the Crater. If prey walks by a predator, they might go after it, even if they’re not hungry. We got to see many different instances of lions stalking and chasing, eating, or protecting a prey they had just killed. We even witnessed a lion chase down an unsuspecting warthog, the warthog barely escaping with its life!  On the surface, the killing of any animal can seem terrible. However, this seemingly “bad” part of the circle of life is just another example of God’s perfect design within Creation. The most obvious results of lion killing a prey are that a lion (and his or her pride) is fed and natural population control of herds of zebra and wildebeest. However, there is so much more. After a lion and his pride have had their fill, they move on looking for water. Waiting very close behind them are the scavengers – hyenas, jackals and other small carnivores. After the first round have had their fill, the next group moves in. Vultures, other carnivorous birds and even safari ants (who only eat protein) all depend on larger predators to provide their basic necessities. None of these animals can kill or take down an animal such as a zebra or wildebeest, but their diet cannot survive without it, therefore by the Divine design of our Creator, the life and wellbeing of many species literally lives and dies by prey and predator relationships.

While these 2 lionesses finish off a wildebeest carcass, the golden jackal waits patiently for his turn.
This male is protecting their kill from a hyena hiding in the grass, trying to sneak an early snack. 
Here at the river, you can see how water is life. All creatures need it, therefore it was a prime spot for game viewing, especially during the dry season.

We did not have the opportunity to see a hippopotamus in the Serengeti, but in the two marshes within the Crater, hippos are happily bathing in the mud. These massive creatures are very territorial but if relaxed, often found just trying to cool off during the heat of the day.


Don’t miss the baby swimming next to Mom! 
We stopped for breakfast one morning on the shores of the larger marsh, occasionally spotting a hippo peeking from the reeds. 


Kori Bustard, the world’s largest flying bird, can weigh up to 42lbs 
The Superb Starling bird has one of the most beautiful plumage I have ever seen, ever changing between blue, green, black and purple with every movement.
A lone, “soldier” Cape buffalo, likely pushed out of his herd by a younger, stronger male for dominance
Grant gazelle

My mom traveled to Kenya and Tanzania in the late 1960s to safari with her mother and grandparents. Over the past few weeks, I have been sharing our experiences with her and we’ve been comparing stories. In every conversation, she kept saying how it was exactly as she remembered, to which I would think “Of course it is!” But it wasn’t until a comment she said just yesterday that it really struck me… She said, “Through the 50 years since I went to Kenya and Tanzania, everything man has made has changed, either by developing or deteriorating. But everything God has made has stayed the same.” She hit the nail on the head. His design, His will, His purpose.. everything is perfect and everlasting. He is unchanging.

Trying to write or even photograph what we experienced is near impossible. Not because it can’t be explained or captured, but just the way God lays out His creation and His perfect design… its just such a testimony to His good and perfect will. And if this is His design for animals and birds of the air, can you imagine how good and perfect His will is for us?




Mugaritz // San Sebastian, Spain


While in San Sebastian, we booked a lunch time slot at Mugaritz. Mugaritz was a gastronomy experience like no other.  Mugaritz is all about incorporating the 5 senses into a dining experience.  We used our hands for almost every dish so we were able to capitalize on all the textures from each course. Every course left us laughing in disbelief that the dishes in front of us were edible. Mugaritz deserves much more than description, so check out the slide show below! Also, if you are planning on coming to San Sebastian to experience Mugaritz, don’t worry… The courses we had are going to be completely different than the dishes you have since the menu changes with what ingredients are available. Enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Crab Claw
Half Roasted Garlic | Bread | Basil
Marshmallow Peanut Butter Sandwich

Common Texture:

Sweet dishes turned savory. Tricking the mind with actual and expected temperatures.

It was an amazing experience to have a lunch at Mugaritz. Over the 4 1/2 hours of culinary excellence, Mugaritz exceeded my expectations. Every dish was different and rarely did it resemble actual food. I found this amazing! Besides the actual food, the service and drink pairings were immaculate. I think one dish even came with a dry sake, which I couldn’t get enough of. Definitely going to have to find this one when we are in Japan next month!

Next is going to be a review a small gem we stumbled upon in Tuscany!

Safari: Serengeti

Hi everyone! We’re finally back after about two weeks of exploring Tanzania! This was, by far, our favorite place yet! We already knew we loved Africa, but had never traveled Tanzania. We quickly fell in love with the land, food, animals, and especially the people! We saw and experienced so much I have decided to do a series of posts to adequately show and discuss what we experienced.

Remember the scene in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” where Wonka sings as he’s revealing his world of candy and chocolate… “Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look, and you’ll see all the beauty.” That’s what I felt God was whispering to me this week… “Look at my creativity.. the product of my imagination. My Creation.” Everywhere we looked, His perfection was shown. From the intricacy of a bird’s feathers to the vastly different social patterns between two seemingly similar gazelles, it was undeniable that He put this all into motion. Each animal and species has different patterns of birthing and parenting their young, eating, social habits, and defense mechanisms, just to name a few. Sadly, evolution is what is generally believed and woven into education and even explanations on game drives. But the more we saw, the more it was confirmed to us this was part of His Divine design. There is no way this happened by chance. Our Creator purposely placed every detail very strategically.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
Genesis 1: 31
Our first stop was a former game hunting block turned game reserve the northwestern side of the Serengeti Plains. Game drives are usually flexible, but for prime game viewing, its best to go before and after the heat of the day when the animals are often most active. The two daily drives are usually 6am – 11am and 4pm – 8pm, each with a stop for coffee and snacks to stretch your legs. Beyond that, there is usually no agenda other than to follow the animals. All rangers, or guides, are constantly sending out updates of any rare animal sightings across the reserve so all can have a chance at any particular sighting.
Our first drive did not disappoint! We came up on this mother-son pair of usually elusive and nocturnal leopards casually relaxing in a tree.
Mother leopard
The young male leopard will leave his mother when old enough to hunt and fend for himself.

This lion pride consists of 5 male brothers and their females and cubs in total, but prides are not always found together. We spotted part of the pride with 2 males, 2 females and 4 cubs. These cats were on the move when we caught up to them.


This cub was preparing to pounce on its father. Cubs are encouraged to pounce and wrestle with their parents to learn how to eventually track and kill prey.
After reaching a certain age, male cubs will be pushed out of the pride by their father, keeping the father’s dominance of his own pride and forcing them to create their own prides. 

It can be rare to see animals interacting, but we caught these two warthogs (or ngiri in Swahili) wrestling. They would stand nose to nose to hook their tusks then try to swing and push each other around. There was no female present that they would be fighting over, so they were probably just wrestling for social purposes


One of the things that makes the Serengeti Plains so iconic and prime for game viewing is the wildebeest migration. Every year, the wildebeest migrate clockwise from Masai Mara down to southern Serengeti to drop their calves, then journey back. Constantly on the move, the 2.5 to 3 million animals make this annual journey across the plains, often joined by zebras.

Grazing wildebeest and zebras in the morning mist


Impalas are a medium-sized antelope. The males live and feed in “bachelor” herds, while the females and young are called a “breeding” herd. Impalas are easily identified by the black “M” on the hind legs and tail.


Male impala

Much like the impala, giraffes live in bachelor and breeding herds. Females give birth while standing up and the young is usually up walking around within 5 minutes. A group of giraffes is called a “journey.”

This bachelor herd had a total of 14 males. 


Zebras can appear to travel and live in large herds, but they actually have very specific families they belong to. A zebra harem, or family, is usually made up of one male, two or three females, and their young. When traveling, they are in a single file line, male at the back to protect his harem from any potential predators.


Zebras often stand facing opposite directions to make sure they are not attacked from the rear.
Male waterbuck, with his female standing behind him

Although we were mainly camping in the bush, we would occasionally go to a neighboring lodge for lunch. At one particular lodge, they have lots of trees surrounding their dining area. Black faced monkeys fill the trees waiting for staff to leave so they can jump down and steal a snack from guests. This cheeky monkey jumped down right as we were eating dessert, grabbed an almost empty bowl and quickly finished it off, scurrying off just as the waiter came back!

Africa is hot and I had just taken a huge bite, but there’s the culprit behind me!
Another monkey from the same tree carrying her baby. This baby is probably less than a week old and will switch to riding on the mother’s back in about a week when it is strong enough. 

Pictured below is the Cape buffalo. These male dominated herds can range from small to large numbers. Once the dominate male(s) are too old and weak to keep their dominance (shown/measured by pushing and wrestling with their head and horns), younger, stronger bulls will push them out of the herd. These lone males usually live in small groups of 2 or 3 at a time and are often called “retired soldiers.” Although generally peaceful grazers, these large animals can stampede if feeling threatened.


Another amazing animal on the Serengeti is the elephant. Being the largest animals on the plains, elephants can weigh up to 13,000 lbs. Their size coupled with poor digestive systems, elephants spend up to 18 hours per day eating. They favorite snacks are small, thorny acacia bushes and the inner side of tree bark. Their force while eating often results in uprooted and/or knocked over trees. A herd of elephants consists of females and their young. Everyone is usually very closely related. For example, there is a matriarch and she will be accompanied by a sister or daughters and their young. Bull (male) elephants usually roam solo. Elephants are very protective of their young and can be very dangerous when feeling threatened, charging, stomping and swinging their massive trunks at the threat. Despite all of that, they are so majestic. Their generally slow gait shows grace and the use of their trunk is fascinating.


This male has stripped bark from a tree and now chewing on the inner part. 

We loved our time in the Serengeti, but don’t worry… there’s more about Tanzania coming soon! Stay tuned!

Our evening breaks usually occurred right at dusk, allowing us to experience some amazing sunsets!



Serengeti, we will be back!

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian has never really been on my travel radar or bucket list. I honestly did not know much about the Spanish beach town until the past year.

As Reed and I got more and more interested in food (especially over the last year), we began watching food documentaries, following chefs and restaurants, and, as you know by now, trying to seek out any and every kind of food experience. We have some friends who are equally, if not more, interested in food and food experiences. They shared with us San Sebastian is on their travel bucket list because of its food. Following their recommendation for this destination, we began researching and quickly decided we needed to add this to our itinerary.
We arrived at our hotel Sunday night, so couldn’t see anything until the following morning. However, our late arrival did not deter our dining. Everyone in Spain keeps a late schedule, so arriving at dinner at 10:00pm was just on time! We had researched some dinner places but once en route to our Trip Advisor recommendation, we decided to ditch it for a busy tapas bar. Not having much experience with tapas, we quickly felt intimidated. If you’ve never been, typical tapas bars are long bars filled with what looks like appetizers. Small plates of little sandwiches, meats, fish, cheese, etc. and you pay for what you take. There’s usually not a lot of ordering, just grabbing and paying for what you eat. Everyone is standing around, eating, and chatting. Its loud and we don’t speak a lot of Spanish, so we were nervous to order.  (If I’m being totally honest, I finally googled “How to order tapas at a tapas bar!”) A kind waitress finally saw our struggle and helped us. Despite a huge language barrier, she walked us through it (not a lot of words, just a lot of pointing and gesturing) and we ended up having a great meal! (It really is pretty simple and we now feel a little foolish for not knowing, but you just need to have a little confidence to step up and get what you want!) We even returned the following evening for dinner, this time choosing a sit down meal. The same waitress served us, but we asked her to choose her favorites for us (which in our broken Spanish sounded something like “tu favoritas para dos?”)… again, we were not disappointed! Through our travels, we have found some of our favorite meals have been when someone else is ordering for us!
Tapas bar
We woke to an amazing beach view. Originally a port and naval base, most of the city is situated in regards to the sea – everything wraps around the coastline. We spent our first morning trying to get our bearings, aka – trying to find some coffee and a place to do our laundry. After that, we really got going exploring the town. We quickly found it is a very walkable city. Small streets and quaint squares make for picturesque scenes.
When I used to think of Europe, I imagined every city looked like the movies – small streets, outdoor markets, church bells ringing and little cafes. To some extent, you can probably find that in every city, but like anywhere else, cities are just that.. cities. San Sebastian was the exception to this. Walking around, this was the Europe I had imagined – cobblestone streets, markets, and cafes on every corner!
Tapas al fresco
We love dining al fresco, so we decided to have lunch on the beach. We ran to the market to grab a few bites. On the outside, their markets look like a typical grocery store, but on the inside, they feel more like a farmer’s market… individual vendors for different items such as fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. We got an assortment of fresh goods and hit to the beach! The weather was perfect – sunny, but with a gentle breeze!
Lunch on the beach
We also visited several churches throughout San Sebastian. It is so fun to be exploring such small streets and then it opens up to a square, revealing a huge church! I won’t go into detail of all the churches we visited, but I will show you my favorite, San Vicente. Rather empty when we walked in, San Vicente was very dark. There were a few other couples in the pew as we looked at the beautiful high altar. We were having a hard time seeing and figuring out the design on the altar when we heard someone drop a coin into a metal box. Instantly, the altar was illuminated, a stunning reveal.
San Vicente altar
The multilevel altar showed the story of the crucifixion of Christ. Beautifully intricate and delicate carvings, paintings and statues told the most sacrificial story in history. In each scene, from Judas’ betrayal to Christ hanging on the cross, you can see every detail, muscle and facial expression of each person. The art truly drew us in and reminded us of His ultimate sacrifice. Although we both know and have heard the crucifixion story many times, Reed and I both felt this was a unique retelling of the story. We sat in awe for quite some time observing each scene.
As stated in my first blog post, our goal for this trip was to experience God’s creation in all shapes and forms. We firmly believe His creation includes the gifts He has given people – art, music, food, and so much more. We loved how this creative expression of art was not just for retelling a story so many already know, but reminding us of His love and the reason we worship Him.
Front of San Vicente
Another day in the city, we hiked Monte Urgull. The hike was relatively mild, but the views were incredible. The winding path leads up to the remains of La Mota Castle. Originally dating back as early as the 12th century, the castle served as a naval base and port. Changing hands about as many times as the country changed ruling parties over the following centuries, the castle experienced many attacks, demolition, and new construction. It became a public park in the early 19th century and received the Statue of the Sacred Heart (Jesus Christ) in 1955. Now, the castle remains have been turned into a museum telling the castle and city’s history. The viewing decks give the perfect bird’s eye view of the city and mountains.
San Sebastian
As I’m sure you can guess, we experienced many other restaurants while in San Sebastian… Reed has another food review coming soon!

Vienna, Austria

Vienna was not on our original travel itinerary. We had put it on our travel wish list, but when we had to start narrowing down to what we could fit in, unfortunately, it got cut. We were supposed to be elsewhere this week, but after a very thoughtful friend sent us a travel advisory for our destination, we decided we would rather be safe than sorry! Thus, we found ourselves heading to Vienna.

(We did travel to Edinburgh before Vienna. I am so behind on blog posts, I do not think I will write about our time there. However, we were there with Reed’s brother and his family. Our sister-in-law wrote a great post about our time there. You can read that on her travel blog here.)

It was quite the journey… delayed flights, lost luggage, not arriving to our room until after 1:00am.  As we ordered dinner, Reed found an NFL game on TV. It was in German, but needless to say, he was a happy camper after such a long day! img_9225

We allowed ourselves to sleep in the next morning, but quickly began exploring a city we knew nothing about! We had again relied on our SPG loyalty reward points to help us find the Hotel Bristol, conveniently located in the city center.  Being so centrally located, we took off on foot to explore museums, cathedrals and many of Vienna’s city parks, or “gartens.” We so enjoyed the friendliness of the city and the beauty of its architecture in every building.

Our first evening, we found tickets to a concert honoring Austrian born and raised composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I grew up playing the piano, so I spent many years learning and playing classical music. This concert was such a nostalgic event that took me back to my piano-playing days. The music was phenomenal and was so fun to show Reed the musical side of my youth! img_9298

One thing that has quickly become one of our favorite things to do is worshiping in, praying in, and touring churches and cathedrals in each city we visit.  Vienna was most definitely an amazing place to do so. We first visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Although first construction completion was in 1160 and major reconstruction and expansion was completed in 1511, time, wars, and pollution have caused ongoing construction and renovations to this day.

Street view


Here, you can see the Gothic and Romanesque architectural style coupled with the colorful tiled roof. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We opted for the full tour, which included a self-guided headphone tour of the cathedral and a guided tour of the catacombs.  These two tours taught us so much about the architecture, history and spirituality of the church. Over time, St. Stephen’s has experienced many governments, wars, uses, life and death, but it remains as a beautiful monument and, most importantly, a sacred place of worship.

From the side, you can see the effects of pollution. The lighter stone shows areas of the exterior that have been restored.
The intricate pulpit
The detailing on the handrail up to the pulpit shows the battle between good and evil, but the banister has 2 different types of wheels. The 3-prong wheels are shown to be rolling upwards, representing the Trinity going up with the priest. The 4-prong wheels are shown to be rolling down, representing the four seasons (representing mortal or worldly life) going away from the priest as he preaches. What a prayer to pray over our pastors as they teach and preach!
High Altar – The painting shows the stoning of the church’s patron, Stephen, but the altar itself was designed to draw the eyes upwards, towards heaven.
View from the North Tower
South Tower

We toured several art museums, but sadly were not allowed to take any photos. When looking at our tourism map, we saw there was an aquarium, Haus des Meeres! On a free afternoon, we decided to go! It had a great mixture of fresh water, salt water, land creatures and birds!

Nibble fish – the feed on dead skin, but its very ticklish!

Our time in Vienna also consisted of smaller stops, tours and exploring, but our last major stop was Schonbrunn Palace. The former summer residence of the imperial family was originally built in 1642 by Emperor Ferdinand II’s wife, but the extensive 1400 rooms were redesigned by Maria Theresia in 1743 after Turkish occupation. It continued on to be the home of the royal family, but is now a restored piece of history. The beautiful estate also has immense gardens, grounds and a zoo to be explored and enjoyed.


Vienna was unexpected, but an amazing stop! We hope to be able to return and explore more of Austria soon!

Coming soon… San Sebastian, Spain!



reed’s restaurant and food reviews

The Kitchin // Edinburgh // 9.8.16

Where to start with Tom Kitchin and his masterful culinary techniques? First off, Kitchin is the youngest chef to receive a Michelin star… and rightfully so. With Kitchin, it’s all about the ingredients and locally sourcing those ingredients. Here’s a map that we received at the beginning of our experience. This map shows where most, if not all, ingredients are sourced from within the United Kingdom.


All ingredients sourced from the U.K.

After receiving our map, our waitress approached us and explained the menu to us. We had several options. We could choose any item off the menu and enjoy it a la carte, or we could do one of the tasting menus. We chose the “Celebration Surprise” tasting menu. This was the chefs preferred tasting menu where dishes were brought to us according to what the chef chose to prepare. If you don’t know by now, I am a huge advocate of tasting menus. After we decided the direction for our evening, our first dish was presented.

4 Crisps

Essentially a 4 crisp amenity… all with different tastes and textures of sweet, salty, crunchy and oh and the one in the back was made of seaweed. All accompanied with a lovely “mustardy” dipping sauce. When I have dishes like this I tend to try each one in its natural state first, and then add the sauce to it after I have tasted it without. This essentially makes for 2 tastings in 1 dish. My favorite was the one drenched in local honey. It was sticky but fingerlickin good. *Becca was not impressed when I licked my fingers*



I really have enjoyed eating these gazpacho’s. They work excellent as a palate cleanser and they are just down right refreshing! This one had an exceptional texture because every element was in the shape of a sphere so when it was in your mouth, everything just rolled around on your tastebuds. Brilliant if you ask me!  Light, crunchy and tasty… a perfect way to prepare for the next course! Speaking of..

Here’s #3

Mackerel Tartare

The presentation of this dish was spot on. I love crushed ice with the seaweed on the outside. Dressed in a seaweed and lemon dressing, the mackerel tartare was salty and acidic. It was a perfect dish to follow the fresh taste of the gazpacho that came previously.


& the highlight of my night

Bone Marrow // Mushroom // Egg

This dish was served on the bone with a slice of bread and a spoon. The real treat from this dish was realizing that you’re not just eating the elements laying on top of the bone. Scooping into the bone you find a buttery, salty surprise laying underneath all the other delicious elements. The bone marrow was meant to be hallowed out of the bone and eaten with the bread. I had a difficult time making “one perfect bite” since there were so many unique tastes and textures. I took my freshly baked sourdough bread in one hand, my spoon in the other and created what I thought was the perfect bite. The crunchiness from the bread counteracted the soft, creaminess of the marrow. And the small bites of beef, mushroom and egg brought the salty flavors home.


Half Lobster

This lobster was not your traditional lobster. This was like the twice baked potato of seafood. I am under the assumption that the chef cooked the lobster first with the shell on, then removed the meat from the shell, added some goodies and then put the meat mixture back into the shell and baked again. The reason I say this is because when I dug my fork in, there was no fighting with the shell at all. I really enjoyed this dish because with most other lobster preparations, I struggle to get all the meat off the shell and then I have to drench the meat in butter for it taste good. The preparations at the Kitchin definitely made eating lobster easier and more delicious.


Wagyu // Aberdeen Angus cross beef

There’s a lot to be said about Wagyu beef.. especially at a place like The Kitchin. It’s comforting to know the quality of the ingredients you are eating before it even hits your table. With The Kitchin’s philosophy of from nature to plate, I knew I was receiving the absolute best cut of meat possible. This dish had the beef prepared several different ways with the brisket portion taking up the majority of the plate. Accompanying the beef was a mixture of deliciously roasted carrots, mushrooms and herbs. The only thing that I didn’t eat from this plate was the stem of the carrot, which thinking now, it probably would have been perfectly acceptable to eat.

Some of these dishes may appear to have elements to them that are very strange. I get the question all the time “Reed, how do you eat all this crazy, weird food?” Well the answer is simple. The food really isn’t that weird at all.  As Americans, a normal or traditional meal includes a meat, vegetable and a starch presented on one plate with the occasional side salad. The reason why these dishes may appear to be weird is because we’re not used to food being prepared and presented like this. Most times these are normal ingredients just prepared in a different way. This is why I always like to encourage people to get out of their comfort zone and try new food.

Slideshow of deserts

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These desserts worked really well for me. I tend to prefer “fruity” desserts instead of “cakey”desserts. The reason being is that I normally am not a big dessert eater but I love all fruits (with the exception of the durian fruit… if you haven’t heard of it, go ahead and google that one.) These fruit oriented desserts left me feeling lighter by the end of the dinner. The elements of edible flowers were a nice touch and I really appreciated those carefully placed elements. All that being said, I thought these were great and complemented the dishes nicely.

All in all, The Kitchin was excellent. I really loved the philosophy “From nature to plate.” I appreciate when restaurants have high quality standards for their ingredients and take great pride in locally sourcing those ingredients. If you’re ever heading to Edinburgh, I highly recommend The Kitchin. Given the chance to come back again, I would love to go back to The Kitchin as well as try Kitchin’s sister restaurant, Castle Terrace Restaurant.

Unit Next Time… Stay hungry my friends.


The Kitchin

Castle Terrace Restarant

London Calling

Last week, we explored and enjoyed London!

After our week in Ireland, we popped over to London for a few days. Neither of us had ever visited London, so we were excited to explore some iconic London landmarks and historical sites.

Not very familiar with London’s neighborhoods, we resorted to our Starwood hotel loyalty account to help us find a good hotel. We ended up at the Le Meridian Piccadilly. Again, not really knowing where we would end up, this turned out to be the perfect location! Right around the corner from Piccadilly Circus and walking distance to many major sites in London, including Buckingham Palace! Piccadilly Circus is quite a busy tourist area, similar to Times Square. We really tried to avoid the heart of it due to massive amounts of bright lights and tourists. However, just down the side streets off the main square, it almost instantly quiets down and the crowds thin out. These little side streets are lined with cafes, coffee shops and other small businesses. Our location was on the border of Piccadilly and Soho, so we really got a good taste of both.

Upon arrival to our hotel, we dropped our bags and headed out in search of lunch on some recommended streets in Soho. We stumbled upon Dishoom, a casual Indian restaurant with comfortable dining and a quaint courtyard where we dined. I haven’t really experienced a lot of Indian cuisine, but I must say, this place was amazing! Small plates, comfortable seating and friendly staff. There were also many other great restaurants and  cafes in this area, so we would definitely recommend Kingly Street and Carnaby Street for easy dining with lots of options.

Dishoom in Soho

Our first full day in London, we set out to hit some of London’s most popular sites. We headed straight for Big Ben, the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Since you cannot go inside Big Ben or House of Parliament, we just admired the two from the street level. Even from there, you can see the intricate detail and amazing architecture.

Big Ben

We then turned to visit Westminster Abbey. We decided to skip the large group guided tour and opted for the self guided, headphone tour – such a good choice!  With about 20 stops and detailed, historic descriptions of the church, architecture, tombs and memorials on the tour, we were able to experience the church on our own and it was such an experience. I was so consumed with the architecture and beauty of the building itself, knowing its original purpose was to bring praise and glory to the Lord.  The time, devotion, money, design and continued restoration that the building contains just shows He is alive and deserves to forever be praised. We were there also for a time of prayer. The way the prayers echoed throughout the building gave me goosebumps, knowing He was present and He was being glorified.


Westminster Abbey // Photography is not allowed inside, so I don’t have more photos. However, if you have never been before, do a quick Google image search of the Abbey to see more! 



Tuesday, we took the Tube to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral. Same as Westminster Abbey, we were immediately awestruck at the size and beauty of the cathedral. Its intricate details and decor were equally amazing. We opted for the self guided headphone tour again and were not disappointed. Much like Westminster, St. Paul’s statues and memorials are beautiful. However, what I found more amazing and special about St. Paul’s was all of the detailed paintings and mosaics depicting Christ, Bible stories, the disciples and others on the ceilings and domes. Here, we were able to attend their Eucharist (Holy Communion) service.


St. Paul’s Cathedral with the statue of Queen Anne in front

As most of you know by now, Reed is a pretty big “foodie” (and I’m happy to follow along on all his food explorations and adventures) and he follows lots of innovative and creative chefs and/or restaurants. When we decided to do this round the world trek, we knew we had to take advantage of our destinations and experience the culinary culture – from world renown chefs to pizza stands and street food – we want to experience it all! We had lots of requests asking Reed to do a food blog, so his first report is about The Clove Club. To read his first food blog, click here.

Check out Reed’s review of The Clove Club here

Wednesday, we had big plans to explore Buckingham Palace and the exhibits currently open (The Royal Gallery, Royal Mews, The Queen’s wardrobe from the last 90 years, State Rooms in the Palace). However, we arrived to purchase our ticket, only to learn you are assigned a designated time for later in the day to tour the Palace state rooms and current exhibits. Sadly, we couldn’t come back at the later time, the only thing we could fit into our morning was the Royal Gallery. Not knowing a lot about art, Reed and I were initially bummed and only went to the gallery so our ticket wasn’t wasted. I am so glad we went! The Royal Gallery is always rotating exhibits, but the two exhibits available when we went were Maria Merian’s Butterflies and Scottish Artists from 1750-1900. The Butterflies exhibit was really nice, but what we loved was the Scottish Artists’ works. These paintings and drawings created a beautiful collection of commissioned family portraits, Scottish landscapes and drawings collected as mementos from vacations and other visits. No guided tours were currently available, so we happily took the headphone tour and it provided plenty of information regarding the artwork, artist and which royal acquired it. We enjoyed getting to observe the collections centuries of Royals have acquired.

Scottish Artist exhibit // The Royal Gallery at Buckingham Palace

That afternoon, we got to the part of the week Reed was most excited about – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Reed and I both enjoy any kind of live performance – concerts, street artists, musicians – but our favorite is probably live plays and musicals. Reed also grew up reading the book series, so this was something we were both excited about. Although we both loved the show, its music, actors, and more, they ask everyone to #keepthesecret for those who have not read the latest book or seen the show.


All in all, London was a great city! We both love New York City, but London might take over as our new favorite. From the history, royal family and traditions, beautiful churches, cathedrals and more,  London was so fun to discover!


Gates at Buckingham
Tower Bridge



reed’s restaurant & food reviews

The Clove Club // London 9.7.16

We had the privilege to experience another sensational tasting menu provided by Isaac McHale and the team over at The Clove Club in London. Our reservation was at 19:00 so naturally, we left our hotel at 18:30 and got there about 15 minutes early so that we can enjoy a cocktail before our meal.  Walking into the dining room was a real experience. As you go through the door, you must walk through the kitchen in order to get to the seating area. The Clove Club has a capacity of 36 persons in their dining room so you can imagine, its pretty excellent being that close to the kitchen. After passing the kitchen (which was smack dab in the middle of the dining room), we were immediately greeted by our server. He asked us if we had any dietary requirements that they needed to be aware of, and continued into the plan for the evening. He told us that we had a couple options for how the evening can play out. The first thing he explained to us was that there was a supplemental course that we could add to our meal if we preferred. I’m not going to say what the course is yet, simply because I want to give you the experience as it came for us. After explaining the supplemental course, he asked us if we would like a wine pairing with our meal. Personally, I prefer doing this when doing a tasting menu. The reason being is that chefs have sommeliers for a reason and they’re the experts in their field, not me. Small disclaimer here… Keep in mind that the pairings are not full glasses. The wine pours are simply tastings to complement the dish as they are presented.

The Clove Club was a seven course tasting menu. If you don’t know what a tasting menu is, then let me explain. A tasting menu is a set list of dishes that the chef has hand selected to prepare based on availability of ingredients, what’s in season, the chefs specialty, etc. In addition to the seven courses, our server told us there was going to be some “snacks” at the beginning of our meal to get us started. The first one was brilliant and surprising.

Melon Gazpacho

This was a melon gazpacho that really reminded me more of a shaved ice that tasted like Captain Crunch cereal. It was incredible! Not at all what you would expect to come as the first thing you put in your mouth at a restaurant.

The second “snack” was a crab tart. Soft, salty, and meant for one bite. It didn’t last long, but man was it good.

Crab Tart

The third snack was all about presentation.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken // Haggis Buns

The absolute best interpretation of fried chicken I’ve ever had!

The fourth snack was a baby sweet corn. When this was served to us, Becca and I were like um… how do we eat this? Needless to say we figured it out!

Baby Corn

Our first course came after the baby corn. It was cornish mackerel served “sashimi style,” meaning it’s served raw. I hadn’t had mackerel sashimi but It was excellent. It was soft and salty and the presentation was beautiful.

Cornish Mackerel

The second course was my second favorite of the night. Our waiter explained to us that since truffles aren’t in season right now in the UK, they had to import some from Australia. This was the second raw dish and I fell in love with the combination of the buttery scallop with the truffle. The mushroom added an element of firmness to the dish so that every bite wasn’t “mushy.”

Scallop // Truffle // Mushroom

Our third dish was served in a bowl. Inside this bowl was a hot green soup with many different flavors. Basil, mint and parsley were the main flavors that stuck out to me as we enjoyed this dish. We asked our server what herbs were in this soup and he said he couldn’t say because there were so many. We laughed.

Green Soup

After the soup we were presented with some made from scratch bread. This one wasn’t too exciting but was delicious and I probably ate too much of it!

Bread & Butter

The monkfish was presented next. I’ve never had monkfish before this, and honestly I had to google what it was after I ate it. After looking at the picture I said to myself “Are you kidding me? I ate this?!” Absolutely the craziest looking fish, but works well on my dish, that’s for sure!

Monkfish & What tasted like an empanada

Now to my favorite dish of the evening. When our server brought this dish he called it “Buckwheat pancake with succulent pig.” He recommended that we fold the edges over and eat it like a taco. I did exactly that. Usually it takes a lot for me to enjoy a pork dish, but this one was done to perfection. The top was crispy like the top of cream brûlée. The middle was lean but soft and perfectly cooked. No signs of pink within the protein which is what I look for in a pork dish. The pancake on the bottom was textured like a corn tortilla but didn’t fall apart and have that strong corn tortilla taste. It was grainy and held together perfectly throughout the entire handling of the dish. All together it was perfectly executed and stuck with me the entire evening.

Buckwheat Pancake // Succulent Pig

The next course was fun because it was served solely from a wine glass. The sommelier came to our table with a bottle of wine that had been fermenting for over 100 years and a decanter with a mystery liquid. He poured us a small taste of the wine and said to have a taste but to leave a small drop at the bottom of the glass. After we took our sip he took the decanter and poured it in our wine glass. He explained that this was a duck confit and was meant to be sipped. We did exactly that. A dark salty broth exploding with flavor and balances the sweetness of the 108 year old wine.

108 Year old Wine // Duck Confit

Our first main course was a British meat trio.

British Meat Trio

Three styles of meat. Sirloin, sausage, brisket. All with different flavors and textures. A Carnivores dream.

Our second main course was the supplemental course that I mentioned earlier. Grouse. For those who aren’t aware what Grouse is, its essentially a large chicken with extremely elegant feathers. (You’ll notice from the picture of the dish what I am talking about.) If you haven’t seen one, I recommend looking them up.  This course came in two parts since each part of the bird had a different taste. It was incredible! The leg had a more “game-y” taste than the breast but it was really interesting that each piece had different flavor.

United Kingdom Grouse

Now that our mains were done it was time to move into the desserts. Two desserts followed by petit fours. The champagne jello with fresh berries was an extremely creative way to have fruit in a dish without looking like a stock dessert with chunks of fruit slapped on a plate. It was beautiful and tasted amazing. The other desert was a mango sorbet covered with cream and a crunchy sugary top. I found myself scraping the bottom of the bowl on this one and regret nothing.

The last thing that came was two after dinner candies. The candies came with a little story which you can read for yourself below.  We were instructed to put it on our tongue and let it melt. Once the shell melted the candy exploded with flavors from the mint liquid inside. A fun way to end the experience.


Final Words

Overall, The Clove Club was anything but a disappointment. It was fun, cheeky, casual and a really fun experience. Everything complemented each other. From the different elements on the plates to the wine pairings, everything was planned to perfection. I can’t wait to visit again.


Follow us!

Snapchat & Instagram: reed_lambert
For live updates as we experience cuisines from around the world!