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The Colors of Morocco

As our plane left Paris en route to Casablanca, I closed my eyes and started to imagine what my next 2 weeks would be like in Morocco. Having never visited the country before, I let my imagination take flight. I pictured being surrounded by varying shades of desert orange. Sand in my toes, my hair, and probably my mouth. Men and women adorned in scarves that kept the wind and blowing sand at bay. So you might be amused at my surprise when as we were about to land and I asked my sister, who had the window seat, “What does Morocco look like?” She responded… “Like California…”

California? Yah, I guess we have a desert, but that is not the first visual association most people have with the state. So, in disbelief I leaned over my sister to get my own first look of Morocco. She was right. It looked liked we were flying over Central California. There were bright green agricultural plots of land, rolling hills, and snowy mountains. All I could think was, did we get on the right plane?

Over the next 2 weeks I was amazed and in awe each day as Morocco surprised me with a new landscape, a new set of colors, a new destination image to add to my travel memories of this magnificent land. Here is a taste of  the kaleidoscopic backdrops of Morocco.

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Ruins of Volubilis which are surrounded by olive fields

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Evening walk in Midelt, a town known for it's apple production

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The Sahara Desert

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Palm grove oasis in Todra Gorge

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Snow in the High Atlas Mountains

Sunset in Essaouira

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Tourism Ads That Make Me Happy

I love a good tourism ad, don’t you? Sometimes they make me want to travel to a destination, and other times they just make me happy and remind me why I love tourism people so much. Here are some of my favorite tourism gems.

1) Visit California – I love Jason Mraz and Betty White. Therefore awesome commercial.

2) Switzerland Tourism – This makes me writhe in agony… but I can’t stop watching. I love old men, and this one is particularly adorable.

3) Enjoy England – The goal of this advert is to encourage Brits to travel domestically in 2012. Little do they know, it makes Anglophiles, like myself, go weak in the knees with all the delicious britishness.

4) Las Vegas – Know the code. Need I say more?

5) Switzerland Tourism… again. This one is my all time favorite. Only tourism advert that literally had me going to kayak.com to look at flight prices after watching it. They clearly understand their target market. Hubba hubba. Switzerland for the the win!

An Urban Adventure In Your Own Backyard


Staycations seem to have become a rather popular replacement for vacations these days due to the current economic environment and growing environmental concerns over vacation related carbon footprints.

But doesn’t STAY sound boring? I don’t know about you, but when I take vacation days off of work I want to GO somewhere, not STAY at home. So the question is, how do you GO on a vacation while sticking to a low budget and a commitment to a small carbon footprint? An urban adventure, that’s how.

What is an urban adventure?

Urban Dictionary defines it as:

1. urban adventure
when you intend on looking up 1 random word on urban dictionary, but actually spend hours being entertained by the randomness

Well, that is one version of an urban adventure, but not really what I was aiming for. The Urban Adventure League in Portland, however, describes it more accurately as:

“…events that explore the urban environment using feet, bicycles, public transit, and possibly other alternative forms of transport… events and projects will emphasize fun, de-emphasize competition, and foster connectivity and awareness. There’s plenty of interesting things to be done in an urban environment, and we want to encourage and foster creative ways to enhance out living experience to its fullest. Boredom will no be allowed.”

Exploring urban environments while away on vacation is a pretty common activity. Most people, while away on a vacation, stay in centrally located accommodations so that they are able to walk around a town’s historic center or downtown area. But what is less normal is taking the time to explore the urban environment in your own backyard. This allows you to STAY at home, while still getting the sense of adventure that you would come from GOing on vacation.

There are two ways to participate in an urban adventure.

1) Book a tour with Urban Adventures.

Urban Adventures offers unique local day tours in over 100 cities around the world. They follow a simple recipe: small groups + local transportation + local guides + real local experiences = urban adventure. The best part? The affordable prices. For example, in New Orleans, for $25, you can: “See Hermann-Grima House, learn about Creole mourning customs, visit the oldest cemetery in the city, wander past the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, spot the tomb seen in the film Easy Rider, and take a peak at the future tomb of Nicolas Cage.”

So, the next time you plan your staycation, see if Urban Adventures has a tour in your city and maybe you can learn something new about your homestead.

2) Plan your very own Urban Adventure in your home or neighboring town.

Plan 2 was exactly what I did for myself and four of my friends a couple of weeks ago. We went on a homemade urban adventure in… drum roll please…. SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA!

After preaching about the benefits of sustainable tourism to my friends for the past couple of months, they finally gave in and demanded I plan a day of sustainable tourism for them. With some creativity, a sense of adventure, and a bit of research, I planned an urban adventure in Sacramento. The theme was Art in Public Places. I can guarantee that my friends were not expecting our plans would be to spend the day in our own city, Sacramento. But, at the end of the tour they were all asking when the next urban adventure would be.

The Sacramento urban adventure included the following: using public transportation (the light rail), visiting and learning about locally owned shops, uncovering and learning about some of the public artwork Downtown Sacramento has to offer, and some treasure hunting in the form of geocaching.

All-in-all the urban adventure was a great success. My friends were surprised at how much fun they could have by exploring their own city in a new way. So, with a little bit of creativity, I was able to successfully plan an urban adventure that was both economically and environmentally friendly, while also making it feel like we got to GO somewhere as opposed to STAYing at home.

Below are some photos from our Sacramento urban adventure:

My traveling companions and I enjoying the sunshine while on a break by the Capital.

Stanford Mansion - It was Free Museum Day so we were able to check out the Stanford Mansion for free, among other museums along our route.

We spotted this on top of a rooftop garden.  Photo by Emilia Cottrell.

"Golden State" by Lita Albuquerque and Mitchell De Jarnett

Eat Local, Eat Cheap – California Restaurant Month

As I previously mentioned in my Sustainable Tourism post, part of traveling sustainably is supporting local economies. One of the most fun and self-indulgent ways to do this is through food. Particularly in California, where most of our food is locally sourced, eating out means you are supporting local agriculture, as well as local business owners. Additionally, visiting local eateries allows you to experience the local culture of a destination, by tasting their culinary delights.

The California Travel and Tourism Commission has decided to kick off the new year with California Restaurant Month.

So, what does this mean and why is it so cool? Let me tell you…

Throughout the month of January, cities and towns from Northern down to Southern California will be holding Restaurant Weeks. Each destination is doing it a little bit differently, but the underlying theme is that some of the best restaurants, cafes and bistros in California, for their designated week, will be offering discounted prix-fixe meals just for you. For 1 entire month you can enjoy the seasonal and local culinary concoctions of some of California’s best known chefs, but for a fraction of the price.

You can go to official California Restaurant Month website to see the list of participating cities, as well as the dates of their participation.

For those living in or near Sacramento, or just want a reason to come visit me, our Restaurant week starts TOMORROW! Dine Downtown runs from January 7-16. 30 of Sacramento’s best restaurants will be offering top class 3 course meals for just $30. To see who is participating, what the menus will look like, and to book your reservations in advance, go here.

So what about those of you not from California, or not planning to visit the sunshine state this month? Don’t worry! Many cities and states across the nation are planning similar events this month! Here are some examples. Check out your cities tourism board to see when they are hosting one.

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