About Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.
She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.
Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.
Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett
One of Europe’s liveliest festivals, yet one of the least known, is Jao Joao Festival which is in Portugal‘s second largest city of Porto. Saint John, the patron saint of lovers, watches over as the town gets all lit up, decked out, and the good food flows like sweet Port wine.
The festivities have been held in the city for more than six centuries, yet it was during the 19th century that Saint John’s day became impregnated in the city’s culture and assumed the status of the city’s most important festival. An interesting tradition among the people of Porto during the ‘Festa de São João’, with roots in pagan courtship rituals, is to hit each other either with garlic flowers or soft plastic hammers.
The event starts early in the afternoon of June 23 and usually lasts until the next morning. The traditional attractions of the night include street concerts, popular dancing parties, jumping over flames, eating barbecued sardines and meat, drinking wine and releasing illuminated flame-propelled balloons over Porto’s summer sky.
At midnight the partygoers make a short break to look at the sky at Saint John’s fireworks. The event has sacred roots but is also mixed with pagan traditions, with the fireworks embodying the spirit of tribute to the Sun. You can also order grilled sardines on the street among other fabulous food delicacies.
Photo credit: QuirkyGuiide.
Today is Iceland’s National Independence Day and I am celebrating with locals in the very north in Iceland’s second largest town – Akureyri.
Icelandic National Day is known as the day of the nation’s celebration and is an annual holiday in Iceland which commemorates the foundation of The Republic of Iceland on June 17, 1944 and its independence from Danish rule.
The date was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, a major figure of Icelandic culture and the leader of the 19th century Icelandic independence movement.
Both Reykjavik and Akureyri held parade celebrations, including a brass band at the fore. Riders on Icelandic horses precede the brass band and flagbearers from the Icelandic scout movement follow the brass band. It is also a day of speeches, dancing and traditional music, played by local bands in the area.
In Akureyri, I hung out with some local artists who are preparing for an art exhibit opening on Saturday June 22, so I went in for waffle and coffee, served with berry jams and syrup. I also ended up on art walk through the town center before getting lost in a little fur and wool in the town’s Geysir shop.
One of the speeches is from Fjallkonan (the woman of the mountain), clad in Skautbúningur, who recites a poem. She represents the fierce spirit of the Icelandic nation and of Icelandic nature; this is in many ways an inheritance from the period of romanticism that reigned when the first steps toward independence were taken.
In the middle of it all, I ran into two adorable children running around with beaming smiles on their faces swaying the Icelandic flag back and forth with as much force as their little hands could fathom. It was a special day and one more experience in Iceland that has added to its incredible charm, one which I’ll cherish for years to come.
Māori kai food festivals are popular in New Zealand for international tourists and Kiwis since they showcase the best of natural local foods / kai Māori and indigenous Māori culture. For centuries Māori – the indigenous people of New Zealand – have had great love and respect for the fertile land of their ancestors, believing that the earth is the giver of all life as from the soil comes food, and the same food is cooked beneath the ground in hangi style.
Traditional Māori food was once reserved for Māori functions and events but now tourists can sample these delights at New Zealand’s growing calendar of kai Māori festivals.
Kāwhia Kai Festival – Hamilton Waikato
Acknowledged by Lonely Planet as one of the top Māori attractions in New Zealand, the Kāwhia Kai Festival is a full celebration of the indigenous culture with particular focus on native Māori food.
Locals call Kāwhia “kai food heaven” because of the plentiful supplies of seafood and wild game, and festival-goers feast on wild pork, a wide array of New Zealand shellfish as well as mud snails.
Held in early February, the festival is timed to coincide with New Zealand’s national holiday – Waitangi Day – on 6 February.
Each year more than 2500 kono / traditional flax baskets are specially woven to serve up portions of delicious hangi kai which has been cooked in a series of gigantic underground ovens – often required to feed more than 10,000 visitors.
Kāwhia, a coastal town in the central North Island of New Zealand, is the spiritual home of the Māori Tainui tribe and the resting place of their waka / ceremonial canoe.
On the menu: toroi / marinated mussels and puha / watercress, inanga / whitebait patties, kanga wai /pirau fermented corn, wild pork and puha spring rolls, koki / shark liver pate, and mud snails.
Te Ra o Waitangi – Wellington
Wellington celebrates Waitangi Day each year with a festival held on the waterfront and in Waitangi Park to celebrate the partnership between tangata whenua / the local people and the Crown.
It begins with a dawn ceremony for invited guests and involves traditional kapa haka, story-telling and contemporary music. A variety of food stalls sell Māori and kiwi-influenced kai, providing breakfast and lunch.
Visitors can take part in water sports and play ki-o-rahi, a traditional Māori ball game. The event includes displays by waka ama / canoes.
On the menu: Traditional Māori kai including hangi food, fresh kina / sea eggs and rewena – traditional Māori bread made with potatoes.
International Kai Festival – Nelson
Waitangi Day is also marked in the city of Nelson, at the top of the South Island, with a special celebration of both Kiwi and international food flavours.
Founders Heritage Park and Whakatu Marae work closely together to stage the Kai Fest event which provides visitors with an authentic experience of New Zealand’s indigenous culture.
Nelson is a region rich in wine production and locally grown and gathered foods, and festival visitors can wander the many stalls sampling a wide range of kai served up in small, reasonably priced portions.
Cultural performances are an added attraction and include powhiri / welcome and kapa haka / Māori dance. Traditional Māori massage is also on offer throughout the day, and arts and craft stalls showcase traditional Māori crafts.
On the menu: Mussels and watercress, kumara / sweet potato, kina / sea urchin pate, marinated fish.
Maketu Kaimoana Festival – Bay of Plenty
This authentic celebration of local kai is set in New Zealand’s pie capital – Maketu, in the North Island’s Bay of Plenty region.
While the emphasis of festival food is on kai moana / seafood, the festival also has a reputation for rewana paraoa or Māori potato bread.
Held each March, the festival is renowned for being more than just about food – it is a celebration of people, culture, entertainment and fine wines, and has continued to grow in popularity being unique in its situation and cultural significance.
Cooking demonstrations add to the culinary appeal of the festival.
On the menu: kaimoana / New Zealand seafood basket, prawn salad, seafood kebabs, curried mussels, paua / abalone fritters, seafood pizza.
Hokitika Wildfoods Festival – West Coast
Visitors can try some gourmet “bush tucker”, or native New Zealand food, at this annual festival held in March in Hokitika – on the rugged West Coast of the South Island.
Listed among the “world’s unmissable festivals” by US travel guide Frommers, the wild foods festival is a unique celebration inspired by some of the more weird and wacky ingredients provided by New Zealand’s bountiful landscape.
Popular kai includes New Zealand whitebait fritters, ‘westcargots’/ garden snails in garlic butter, gorse flower wine, mountain oyster / sheep testicle, ponga fern pickles and huhu grubs (an endemic New Zealand beetle).
Traditional Māori fare such as muttonbird – a seabird, considered a delicacy – is another rare treat on offer.
The festival has been running since 1989, and each year attracts a capacity crowd of around 13,500.
On the menu: Wild pork, pickled / barbecued / or live huhu grubs, eel, pukeko / NZ swamp fowl, kebabs, muttonbird, whitebait, wasp lavae icecream, mountain oysters.
Kai in the Bay Festival – Hawke’s Bay
The Kai in the Bay festival – staged in Hawke’s Bay in mid-November – serves up pre-European and contemporary Māori fare, as well as some unusual wild foods native to New Zealand.
The festival is held in Napier – known for its Art Deco architecture and palm tree-lined streets – and aims to promote the culinary arts around preparing and serving traditional Māori foods for the 21st century. Guests include talented Māori and Pakeha / European chefs.
The event includes more than 50 food traders selling mouth-watering treats such as whitebait fritters, pig on the spit, and crayfish along with more unusual items like huhu bugs, weka birds, parengo seaweed, and titi / muttonbird.
On the menu: koura mara / rotten crayfish, shark liver pate, kanga piro / fermented corn, huhu grubs, and kina / sea eggs.
Tauranga Moana Seafood Festival – Bay of Plenty
Held in late November, the Tauranga Moana Seafood Festival – in New Zealand’s fastest growing city – offers fresh seafood, fine wines, beer and top entertainment.
Most of the seafood and wine is locally sourced from the Bay of Plenty region, and for the environmentally-aware, the festival is a green event that aims to have zero waste.
Entertainment highlights on five stages include kapahaka / Māori dance and shows, cooking demonstrations, fish filleting and mussel opening competitions.
On the menu: fresh crayfish, oysters, scallops, mussels, seafood kebabs, whitebait & paua fritters, salmon kebabs, curly prawns, wild pork, venison, coconut fish and kina.
Reposted from New Zealand.com. Photo credit: Daisy Day.
Louisiana hosts a few hundred festivals each year, which makes it hard to narrow it down to a top ten list. Here are some random ones that are high on list. Since Mardi Gras is such a huge event and an international draw, you can read more about it on our site here.
Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, Ponchatoula: Each April, the “Strawberry Capital of the World” celebrates the sweet berry with one of the state’s largest free festivals.
The family-friendly event offers old-fashioned fun, from strawberry eating contests to sack races. Be sure to sample the many strawberry-flavored treats, including the shortcake.
Festival International de Louisiane, Lafayette: For five days every April, downtown Lafayette is turned into an international music mecca, complete with six music stages, street musicians, arts and crafts boutiques, a world music store and more.
All of the events, including cultural workshops and cooking demonstrations, are free.
French Quarter Festival, New Orleans: Hands down, NOLA knows how to throw a music festival, and we admit it was hard to decide between Jazz Fest and French Quarter Festival.
What tipped the scales was the price tag. French Quarter Fest (held in April) boasts 21 stages and 400-plus hours of live entertainment without charging you a dime. But do bring some bucks for purchasing festival foods and taking part in the “World’s Largest Jazz Brunch.”
Christmas Festival of Lights, Natchitoches: Santa comes here when he needs to catch the Christmas spirit. From around Thanksgiving through New Year’s, the historic, lakefront city decorates with more than 300,000 Christmas lights. Take a romantic carriage ride and enjoy fireworks over Cane River Lake.
Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, Breaux Bridge: Eat your weight in mudbugs, shimmy your way to victory in the zydeco dance contest and set your lawn chair in front of the Crawfish or Festival stage to hear incredible local music. We love cheering on the critters during the crawfish races. Held each May. Make your own crawfish étouffée using the recipe from three-time Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival étouffée cook-off champion Mike Huval.
Red River Revel, Shreveport: An October tradition, the Revel is recognized as the largest outdoor arts festival in North Louisiana. Shop beautiful works from more than 140 visual artists and hear live entertainment on three stages. There’s a great children’s area, with art projects, a Ferris wheel and a geological dig site, too.
International Rice Festival, Crowley: It seems Crowley is best known for two things: producing one of the country’s largest rice crops and throwing one of southwest Louisiana’s biggest parties! The October festival has been going on for nearly 80 years and a carnival, frog derby, queen’s pageant, parade and live music are among its many features.
Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Festival, Bogalusa: Though a new event, the inaugural Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival generated a lot of buzz and was named New Event of the Year by the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals. The September festival pays tribute to Bogalusa’s amazingly rich music history.
French Food Festival, Larose: This October festival celebrates the Cajun way of life, from dancing to boat building, and pays particular attention to foods from Cajun kitchens. Sample traditional Bayou Lafourche dishes, like shrimp boulettes, crawfish fettuccine and tarte a la bouille, a custard pie.
Franklin Parish Catfish Festival, Winnsboro: Some 4,000 pounds of catfish are fried up and served at this Saturday festival each April. Bring your family and enjoy the strolling street performers, a wide range of musical entertainment and much more.
Photo credit: Image of French Quarter Festival from CityProfile.com.
I was introduced to the ever so exciting Photon Shower at the All Things D Conference recently, a new concept product created by Delta. For frequent travelers, we increasingly get hit with less than stellar conditions, whether it be last minute cancellations, hotels that are not up to par or the simple fact that we’re always running from one place to the next. The idea behind the Photon Shower is to give travelers a boost of energy by allowing users to bathe in a specific kind of light while they’re going from Point A to B.
Above, I’m hanging out with Delta’s social media guru Judd Hooks outside the Photron Shower before experiencing it in real time. Yeah I know, we look like cool cats, even before my Photon Shower boost. The technology behind the Photon Shower is based on research by Professor Russell Foster that shows that exposure to bright blue light at the right times can help people suffering from jet lag recover more quickly than they otherwise would.
This research also shows that light acts as a stimulant, optimizing alertness and cognitive function in people suffering from drowsiness, regardless of their recent travel. Delta’s Photon Shower puts this research into practice by allowing jet-lagged users to jump-start their recovery, and anyone to jump-start their metabolism, with a quick dose of bright blue light.
Below, you can see the bright but soothing blue light through the open door of the Photon Shower, a nifty looking structure that looks like a bit like a modern space ship we might all take to the Moon one day for a “holiday.”
The below shot gives you an idea of what it looks like once you’re inside the Photon Shower.
A Bit Behind the Science and Why it Works: Circadian desynchronosis occurs after the body rapidly shifts multiple time zones. We all know and experience it as jet lag. Our brains contain a master clock (called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN) that coordinates the circadian rhythms of our body’s many systems.
The symptoms of jet lag occur because the body gets off schedule, not only with the day/night pattern of its new location, but with itself. This is where light comes into play. Professor Foster and his team discovered a photoreceptor in the eye – one that senses light, but isn’t used for seeing.
The photosensitive retinal ganglion cell (pRGC) responds strongly to blue light with a wavelength of 480 nm, and is responsible for regulating the SCN. By targeting this receptor, we can reset our master clock that much faster. The faster our internal clock is reset, the faster we recover from jet lag.
While it can’t yet be found at airports, its a fabulous concept in the making and I for one can’t wait until the Delta Photon machine goes live in various Delta destinations. To get a sample of my experience, I had a chance to chat with Judd about Delta’s new initiative to help travelers on the road. See our video below which includes my time IN the photon shower. It was quite “the experience!”
After the Photron Shower, a revitalized me!
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Delta Airlines but all opinions expressed are my own.
You don’t simply jump on a plane and head to Cuba for a random weekend event, however if you care about jazz, dancing and love vibrant festivals, here are four festivals you may want to plan a trip around.
The International Havana Jazz Festival: The International Havana Jazz Festival is usually held in the month of February every year. It is one of the most interesting festivals liked by both the natives of Cuba and visitors.
It was started in the year 1978 as a local form of entertainment at the Casa de la Cultura.
The festival comprises of both Cuban and international Jazz. Cuban Jazz stars such as Chucho Valdes, Eman Lopez, Bobby Carcasses, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba together with international jazz stars such as Steve Coleman, Ronnie Scott, and Dizzie Gillespie usually come together to thrill the audience.
The Pepe Trova Festival: This festival was founded in the memory of Jose Pepe Sanchez who was a well-known composer in Cuba. This festival is usually held in Sala de Concierto Dolores and the Casa de la Trova every year.
Different creative and lively musicians from different parts of of the world come together to showcase their skills to the delighted audience. The music is also accompanied by food and other cultural activities.
The Low-Budget Film Festival: This festival is usually held Gibara town every year. It acts as a platform for awarding documentary, reality, and fiction films. The festival also offers extraordinary art exhibitions, recitals, and concerts. The main aim of this festival is to encourage and empower creative artistes in Cuba.
Havana International Guitar Festival: The Havana International Guitar Festival was founded in 1982 by Leo Brouwer, one of the most famous guitarists in Cuba. It is usually held in May. The festival brings together guitarists from Cuba and other parts of the world who come to compete among themselves while providing entertainment to the audience.
Below are five not to be missed festivals in Malaysia.
Chinese New Year
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