One of the perks of being self-employed is having the flexibility and freedom to take time away from work when other people are the busiest. For the past two and a half years, I've worked as an independent business consultant helping restaurant chains strategically grow (my day job: www.goodworkforce.com.)
With two holiday cycles behind me, I've learned that when clients get busy with holiday parties, Christmas planning and end-of-year activities, I can take some time away to relax and get ready for the busy new year ahead.
A few weeks ago, I took that opportunity and turned it into a two-week vacation in Australia - enjoying the start of summer in the southern hemisphere; visiting some friends in Sydney; snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef; and making a stopover in Auckland, New Zealand; before returning to Dallas. Thanks to my friend Geoff for connecting me to Cranky Flyer's concierge service who turned my credit card points into a round trip flight for a small service charge.
Lucky for me, I stayed with my friend Carmine in his beautiful home in Kirribilli neighborhood overlooking the Sydney Opera House (photo below from his balcony!) and caught up with Alissa, a Leadership Dallas classmate. By staying and visiting with locals, I stumbled across some really special places that I thought you might enjoy knowing about, too.
Celsius Coffee Co. at Kirribilli Ferry Wharf
Thanks to Carmine's guidance and neighborhood location, I had an opportunity to see Sydney's many tourist sites and also experience Sydney like a local (the best of both worlds.) You no doubt have a great list of key Sydney experiences which should include::
Harder to find are those spots that locals like to keep a secret. Here are three locals spots I stumbled across thanks to the hospitality of Sydney locals that you might check out when you make it to Sydney.
The first place I recommend is the Celsius Coffee Co. located on the Kirribilli Ferry Wharf (Commuter Wharf, Holbrook Ave, Kirribilli NSW 2061, Australia.) When you visit Sydney, you'll find out that it's a wonderful place to use ferries for transit from place-to-place.
I took the ferry from Kirribilli Wharf over to Circular Quay many times on my visit and stumbled across the gem with just a handful of seats and limited hours. I ordered the Celsius waffle with berries, maple syrup, toasted nuts, and peanut butter cream -- it was, without a doubt, the most beautiful waffle I've ever eaten in my life!
More than likely, you'll be coming from downtown and the Circular Quay Wharf. Find a ferry that goes from Circular Quay during the morning hours -- this places is only open 7:30 am to 2:30 pm on weekdays and 8:00 am to 3:00 pm on weekends. It's the perfect mix of a few minute ferry ride, having brunch in a secluded gem that is a coffee shop and small restaurant, and enjoying views of the water and nearby shoreline.
The lobby of Celsius Coffee Co. on Kirribilli Wharf, which has limited hours and does not take reservations. Be sure to take the ferry over. Super sorry to the lady in the chair on the left who definitely didn't want to be photographed, but happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Photography: Jamie Griffin
Dulcie's Bar Bohemia in Kings Cross
Because of my minor obsession with online "thirst trap" and all around nice guy, Brandy Martignago, on Instagram, I discovered that I would be in Sydney the week his bar, Dulcie's Bar Bohemia in Kings Cross, opened (44B Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross, NSW 2010 Sydney, Australia.)
After visiting the newly opened Employees Only, Carmine and I visited Brandy and Dulcie's to find a very cool 1930's bohemian bar serving only Australian distilled spirits. Beyond the inviting space and craft cocktails, the stage featured a singer with an amazing voice... I think we called her the "Lady Gaga of Kings Cross." We literally could have stayed all night -- but Dulcie's closes around midnight so get there immediately after dinner.
If you make it to Sydney, be sure to go to Kings Cross and check out Dulcie's for a craft cocktail. Brandy mentioned something about a naked magician, psychics and other very interesting entertainment to compliment a talented bar team and beautiful space managed by a warm & friendly host.
Inside Dulcie's Bar Bohemia. [Photograph by Josh Raymond, www.joshraymond.com, @joshraymond]
The Boathouse Shelly Beach
A fun part of traveling is catching up with friends when you find yourself in their city. I've had some of the best times visiting friends in their "hometown" from around the world and even visiting friends of friends and family of friends. People within your circle make wonderful hosts and always know how to direct you to a local's spot or two that will really take your vacation to the next level.
Such was the case when I visited Sydney. Aside from staying with my friend Carmine, I had a wonderful dinner with my dear friend Alissa Booker, a Sydney-based Leadership Dallas classmate who returned home a few years ago. We had dinner at The Bathers' Pavilion restaurant & cafe (another wonderful find.)
Over dinner, I was talking to Alissa about my next day's adventure to Manly Beach and she insisted I travel the path away from Manly Beach and walk over to Shelly Beach (where I would find a more local beach and also The Boathouse (1 Marine Parade, Manly, NSW, Australia, 2093.)
Alissa also firmly recommend I take the local transit system ferry boat (these are green and tan) to Manly Beach and not the FastFerry (yellow and blue) from Circular Quay. It's really a beautiful boat ride through the Sydney Harbor.
After a few minutes walk from Manly beach, I stumbled across the restaurant pictured below and had a wonderful brunch of poached eggs, bacon, tomato, and sourdough bread. The Boathouse had many other wonderful fresh juices, cocktails, and delicious items on the menu. It's worth a visit.
The approach to The Boathouse at Shelly Beach.
Poached Eggs with Bacon, Roast Tomato + Sourdough at The Boathouse Shelly Beach.
If you have the time and enjoy the adventure of finding unique places, check out Jangling Jacks, Thirsty Bird, and Stitch Bar!
In the past year, II have taken two trips to Lebanon to meet refugees from the Syrian war and people in Lebanon and near the Syrian border making a difference. I have met countless families who fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs. Like you, I can’t imagine making the choice to leave the only home I knew to move to an unfamiliar place, live in a tent or makeshift conditions and have no access to work and no education for your kids just to stay safe. That is reality for over two million people right now, over half children.
It is hard to put in words the level of need for these people, but it is my direct experience in Lebanon meeting people with needs that led me to join my friends in taking action to help. We created and organization that will directly impact widows and children through education and psychological support. There are many organizations that help with shelter, clothing, support, and food, but few deal with the psychological trauma of war and lack of education these kids desperately need.
Safe Spaces Lebanon, 501c3 non-profit, was formed to empower refugees and others in need who are experiencing the devastating effects of war. Safe Spaces Lebanon is confident that the greatest lever for affecting positive change is education coupled with psychosocial development. Safe Spaces Lebanon’s mission is to engage, empower, and educate refugees in the midst of crisis.
With your help, we will empower women and children affected by the war in Syria to rediscover hope for their futures by creating meaningful opportunities for them to realize their potential and envision a future of promise. We are opening our first Safe Space site, which doubles as a school, in the municipality of Saida, in partnership with Al Reaaya, an NGO providing relief and developmental support to orphans and widows affected by the war.
To advance our mission, Safe Spaces Lebanon has set a fundraising goal of $500,000 over the next 36 months – this will allow us to build & the school including educational and psychosocial support for hundreds of refugees and poor Lebanese and Palestinian children. I have personally committed to raising 10% of our total goal.
Would you and your family consider contributing to help us engage, empower and educate refugees in the midst of crisis?
Here’s how you can help:
Thank you in advance for your support. Your contribution toward our goals and mission is greatly appreciated.
Happy Mother's Day!
In the last two weeks, I've spent time in Berlin & Amsterdam. I'm writing this quick note as I head to Paris by train. We're just leaving Belgium and entering France and the landscape is beautiful -- I only wish it didn't move so fast.
The highlight of the trip so far has been the weather! May has turned out to be a fantastic time to be in Europe with the nights in the mid-60s and the days in the mid-70s -- it makes you want to be outside nearly all of the time!
I started the trip in Berlin, in part because I've become fond of the direct flight from Dallas to Frankfurt on Lufthansa Airlines and otherwise because I love the freedom of expression and spirit of Berlin.
After adjusting to the time difference, it was easy to settle into everyday Berlin life. It's so fascinating to see how the East and West have merged since the Berlin wall has fallen. I'll be putting together a "perfect day" itinerary for each side of the city that highlights some fun and unique experiences like an old airport turned into a city park, a mall filled with boutique shops and a great view of the bombed church, and my favorite eating spot -- a jewish deli!
On Tuesday, travels took me into Amsterdam and old city full of beautiful canals -- seriously not sure why anyone thinks Venice is so amazing when we have the 7 canals of Amsterdam to wander. The city, it's people, it's cocktails, and night-time centric lifestyle really reminds me so much of New Orleans. Beyond that, my best day was spent biking around the city and into Vonderpark to relax and people watch. And, my favorite nighttime activity was taking pictures and having cocktails at Hotel Pulitzer.
I've attached just a couple of the photographs I took in Berlin and Amsterdam.
One from Berlin is of a proposal that happened in Mauerpark in Berlin -- a huge city park famous for its flea market and open-air karaoke.
The other from Berlin is a nighttime shot of the Cathedral. I actually had to follow someone into a private apartment building and the ascend to the top floor to find a small terrace to take that picture -- it's one of my favorites!
Amsterdam was the perfect city to take nighttime landscape photograph. The first photo is a landscape with a small shop to the left, a canal, a smokestack, and boats to the right -- it was featured on an Instagram account with 60K follows called Super Holland. It really captures that magic of Amsterdam. The second is a photo of a small waterfront cafe with a light trail coming in from the left side of the frame formed by a bicycle headlight -- I hope next time I'm in Amsterdam you'll be with me there having a coca cola, Aperol spritz, or something even stronger!
Until next time -- Bonsoir!
I'll be visiting Paris and have drafted the following list of places to eat and drink. Would love feedback on this list from anyone who lives in Paris or has recently visited. What should I add, remove, or adjust?
Paris, France (organized by arrondissement)
(Rest) Restaurant Spring, $$$, 6 Rue Bailleul, 75001 Paris, France (IG)
(Rest) Ellsworth, 34 Rue de Richelieu, 75001 Paris, France (IG)
(Cocktails) Bar Hemingway Ritz Carlton, 15 Place Vendome, 76001, Paris, France
(Cookeware) E. Dehillerin, 20 Rue Coquillière, 75001 Paris, France (IG)
(Museum) The Louvre, Musée du Louvre, 75001 Paris, France
(Shopping) Goyard, 233 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris, France
(Rest, Wine Bar, To Go) French, 5 Rue du Nil 75002, Paris, France
(Rest, Old Fashioned French), Chez Georges, 1 Rue du Mail, 75002, Paris, France (IG)
(Cocktails) Experimental Cocktail Club, 37 Rue Saint-Sauveur, 75002 Paris, France
(Cocktails) Candelaria, 52 Rue de Saintonge, 75003 Paris, France
(Cocktails) Little Red Roor, 60 Rue Charlot, 75003 Paris, France
(Rest) Chez L’Ami Louis, $$$, 32 Rue du Vertbois, 75003 Paris, France (IG)
(Museum) Carnavalet Museum, 16 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75003 Paris, France
(Museum) Musée des Arts et Métiers, 60 Rue Réaumur, 75003 Paris, France
(Ice Cream) Berthillon Glacier, 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, 75004 Paris, France (IG)
(Rest) Cafe Georges, 43 rue Saint-Merri, 75004 Paris, France
(Church) Notre-Dame de Paris, 6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France
(Bakery) Maison Kayser, 8 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris, France (IG)
(Rest - Lunch) Les Papilles, 30 Rue Gay-Lussac, 75005 Paris, France
(Jazz Club) Le Caveau de la Huchette, 5 Rue de la Huchette, 75007, Paris, France
(Rest) La Société, 4 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris, France (IG)
(Pastries) Pierre Herme, 72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France (IG)
(Bakery) Poilane, 8 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris, France (IG)
(Takeout) Gerard Mulot, 76 Rue de Seine, 75006 Paris, France (IG)
(Gardens) Jardin du Luxembourg, 75006 Paris, France
(Museum) Musée d’Orsay, 1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris, France
(Bakery) Poujauran, 20 Rue Jean Nicot, 75007 Paris, France (IG)
(Rest) LE CINQ-MARS, 51 Rue de Verneuil, 75007, Paris, Franche
(Pastires) La Patisserie des Reves, 93 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris, France (IG)
(Cheese) Fromagerie Quatrehomme, 62 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris, France (IG)
(Cheese) Bathelemy, 51 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, France (IG)
(Shopping) LV Maison Champs Elysees, 101 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris, France
(Museum) Musée Jacquemart-André, 158 Boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris, France
(Cocktails) Baton Rouge, 62 Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, 75009 Paris, France
(Cocktails) Le Syndicat, 51 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010 Paris, France
(Cocktails) Le Calbar, 82 Rue de Charenton, 75012 Paris, France
(Rest) Le Duc, 243 Boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris, France (IG)
(Rest - ET View) 6 New York, $$$, 6 Avenue de New York, 75016 Paris, France
(Entertainment) Moulin Rouge, 82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris, France
(Market) Boulevard Raspail Street Market
I'll be visiting Berlin and have drafted the following list of places to eat and drink. Would love feedback on this list from anyone who lives in Berlin or has recently visited. What should I add, remove, or adjust?
House of Small Wonder Coffee Shop
Father Carpenter Coffee Brewers
Bonanza Coffee Heroes
Concierge Coffee (tiny)
Silo Coffee (also good brunch)
Bar Marques — under Spanish Restaurant
Fragrances Ritz Carlton
Becketts Kopf — portrait of Beckett’s head, ring doorbell.
BRLO Brwhouse (restaurant/brew/“mod” biergarten)
Cafe Am Neuen See (overlooks a lake)
Loretta am Wannsee (sunset)
Restaurant Slate Berlin
Panama Restaurant & Bar
Maison Han (Vietnamese)
Burgermeister — lunch, expect a wait.
KaDeWe (department store food court)
No Hablo Español
Donau 115 (jazz)
Piano Bar Van Gogh
Bikinhaus / Bikini Berlin Sopping Center
I'll be visiting Amsterdam in a few weeks with a few friends. If you've lived in Amsterdam or visited recently, I would love any feedback you have on this list:
Door 74, Reguliersdwarsstraat 74, 1017 BN Amsterdam, Netherlands
Hiding in Plain Sight, Rapenburg 18, 1011 TX Amsterdam, Netherlands
Vesper, Vinkenstraat 57, 1013 JM Amsterdam, Netherlands
Twenty Third Bar (with a view),
La Rive (fine dining), Professor Tulpplein 1, 1018 GX Amsterdam, Netherlands
Madam (with a view), Overhoeksplein 1, 1031 KS Amsterdam, Netherlands
Dum Dum Palace (pan asian), Zeedijk 37, 1012 AR Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam Foodhallen (food hall), Hannie Dankbaarpassage 16, 1053 RT Amsterdam
Patisserie Kuyt (bakery), Utrechtsestraat 109-111, 1017 VL Amsterdam, Netherlands
Choux (wine, lite), De Ruijterkade 128, 1011 AC Amsterdam, Netherlands
Restaurant Stork (cool vibe, near water), Gedempt Hamerkanaal 201, 1021 KP Amsterdam, Netherlands
La Perla (pizza), Tweede Tuindwarsstraat 53, 1015 RZ Amsterdam, Netherlands
Thrill Grill (burgers), Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat 37, 1054 BR Amsterdam, Netherlands
Le Garage (French),
The Fat Dog,
Keukenhof Gardens (early or late in the day)
Zaanse Schans Windmills
De Tweede Kamer
Travel gives you the ability to live life at a hyper pace enjoying the very best parts of a destination. Trips can be filled with magical moments exploring famous places, eating delicious food, and interacting with locals.
It is also not unusual when you're in a far away place to hit a few snags. Here are a few of the apps I have on my phone that help me smooth out the bumps in the road. If you're about to go on a big trip, consider some of these apps that I use on a regular basis when traveling.
Apps for Planning
Packpoint is a packing list app that considers where you're going, your planned activities, the weather, and the length of your stay. I like to travel lite, so the max number of days I'll pack for is 10 (which I can pack in a three-day carry-on bag).
TripIt stores all of your travel plans in one place including information on flights, hotels, transportation, special events, travel insurance and more. Setup your account, then forward your confirmations to an email address. TripIt builds your electronic itinerary.
I love TripIt for two reasons:
Apps for Getting from Point A to B
Rome2Rio allows you to discover the costs & time of traveling between two points by any mode of transportation (plane, train, bus, ferry and automobile). I typically use this app up front to decide the best mode of transportation between two cities (Amsterdam to Paris, for example) including what rail or air transportation company sells tickets between those cities.
If you need help navigating major city transit, check out the Citymapper app which helps you find the best route between two places in a city using any combination of bus, subway, train, ferry taxi, bike share, and walking. Citymapper even tells you the nearby departure times. If I'm using a subway or bus system, I almost always refer to Citymapper.
There are occasions where I'm traveling with slow to no coverage on my cell phone. Maps.me allows you to download maps for offline use with turn-by-turn navigation. It also lets me mark favorite destinations on a map. As a backup, I typically always download the city map for my destination and mark my hotel for future reference.
Apps for Translation
The Google Translate app & website are my go-to's for translating on the fly when traveling. I've used Duolingo to learn conversational language in the past, but I found that the learned language goes out the window when you're tired, hungry or frustrated. It's nice to be able to quickly translate back and forth with whomever you're trying to communicate with in the moment.
This is a a catchall for other apps to consider downloading to your smartphone before you travel:
I'll be traveling abroad later this spring and would love to know what apps you use when you travel. Share them below.
As you know, I've been transitioning from my first adventure in life, working at Raising Cane's, into work focused on improving the lives of hourly workers through my new company Good Workforce. I'm excited to say the transition is going well and I'm grateful to your for your encouragement and support.
Perhaps a downside of leaving a high growth company is having too much time to consume the barrage of bad news, especially about international refugees. Recently, an opportunity presented itself to join leaders from the www.safespaceslebanon.org American Methodist Alliance of Love (AMAL) on a scouting trip to Lebanon with two purposes: raise awareness & return with insights on how to help.
An upside of my new work life is that I have the flexibility to pursue adventures when I'm called to them. Though nervous, I'm looking forward to joining a small group of leaders from the Dallas area to experience the humanitarian crisis unfolding around Syria firsthand and document it through the lens of my camera. I know the AMAL leaders are genuine people and focused on doing good work.
The purpose of this post is to seek your spiritual and financial support for my fellow travelers. I'll be funding my own expenses but to make this trip 100% successful, please considering donating to the AMAL=Hope Go Fund Me page to defray the necessary costs for this exploratory visit to various refugee and NGO sites in Lebanon. No donation is too small or too big to be supportive.
Regardless of your position to donate, I appreciate your prayers, love and light toward a safe and constructive journey for me and my AMAL friends. I look forward to sharing my own story with you through words and photographs upon my return.
Alex de Tocqueville once said “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” If we learn only one thing from the outcome of presidential race last week, I hope we learn there are serious faults in our country that must be repaired. Regardless of party affiliation, we all have a duty to make America greater or great again and here are five ways to participate in the process:
I woke up this morning. Since we are all destined for a dirt nap; I count waking up a good thing. This morning was a little different than my morning just five nights ago. I’m in the middle of sailing around the British Virgin Islands with Paul, Ann, Justin & Jennifer.
I woke up feeling the gently rolling waves of beautiful blue, salty water. The sunrise breached into my cabin through a small port window gently warming my face. The more you resist waking up here, the more you toss and turn knowing you are missing a glimpse of paradise.
I woke up this morning in paradise. I have had the same feeling daily since we arrived in the islands. Our boat is currently moored off Anegada Reef Island among other catamarans & sailboats with the fortitude for a long sail. The sun is yellow. The sky is blue. The clouds are white & grey. Water laps at the edges of the boat creating the sound and feeling of tranquility.
I woke up this morning in my own temple… without worry. There is a deep feeling of gratitude for the spiritual gifts of water: relaxing, invigorating & cleansing; renewal & rebirth. Without direct knowledge, I can understand why Christians use water for baptisms, the Hindus consider the Ganges River sacred, the Buddhists say life is a stream.
I woke up this morning wishing you were with me to enjoy just a single day here. Until then, the next time you take a hot shower, go for a swim, or tip your toe into a large body of water, I hope you’ll experience your own renewal. Let your worry wash away and renew yourself in being the person your called to be.