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
Le Marais (or The Marais in English) is one of my favorite places to meander through….only thing is that for the past decade, every trip to Paris has been in December for a conference I attend there every year. I just returned from a couple of weeks in this fabulous city, one of my favorites in Europe, and was able to spend time once again in the Marais but on warm nights at the beginning of summer, from late May through early June, a perfect time to be there. See some of my photos of the Marais from a December stroll which also include the Latin Quarter.
It has long been known as the aristocratic district, housing many of the outstanding buildings of historic and architectural importance in Paris. Spread across parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in Paris on the Right Bank of the Seine, it’s a magical place to walk through anytime of year. The name means “swamp” which once upon a time, it was.
It is now one of the major shopping areas as well as boutiques, top end designers and cafes line its well preserved narrow streets. Amidst the shops, art galleries, restaurants, cafes and bars, you’ll find a collection of old Medieval and Renaissance architecture.
In 1240 the Order of the Temple built its fortified church just outside Paris’s walls, in the northern part of the Marais and you’ll still find churches and other religious institutions in the area including the des Blancs-Manteaux, de Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie and des Carmes-Billettes convents, as well as the church of Sainte-Catherine-du-Val-des-Écoliers.
I’ve read many a book on the Marais as well as seen movies set there, since it isn’t just known for its noble start. After the nobility started to move to the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the district became a popular and active commercial area, hosting one of Paris’ main Jewish communities. At the end of the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th, the district around the rue des Rosiers, referred to as the “Pletzl“, welcomed many Eastern European Jews (Ashkenazi) who reinforced the district’s clothing specialization. But, during World War II the Jewish community was targeted by the Nazis who were occupying France. And, they were taken from there, and their homes given over to Germans and non-Jewish French. The rest is history and many a’ novel and movie were created from these historical stories.
The rue des Rosiers remains part of Paris’ Jewish heritage and bookshops specialize in Jewish books, and numerous restaurants and other outlets sell kosher food. I wrote about Jewish bakery Sacha Finkelsztayn in the Marais, which is one of my favorites.
If traveling to Paris, check out some of the Paris hotels we’ve covered in the past as well as in our hotels section on WBTW and for food/wine in Paris. See my reflective post on Paris before I jumped on a plane earlier to Paris in the winter of 2012. Below is a great video I shot in the Marais in early June of this year of a trio playing classical music. They were lovely…..I didn’t want to leave.
Photo credit: Goodlifefrance.com. Video: Renee Blodgett.
ShaveMate, Titan, Diva, all-in-one simplify your shaving, a godsend when you’re on the road. We recently tried out the ShaveMate razors, and here’s what we love:
- The beautiful curves
- Great style and design, in other words, not your ordinary razar
- Nice, clean and smooth shave
- Comes in black for men or a fun pink for women
- 6 precision razors means a much closer shave
- Flex-neck, making it easier to use
- Shaving cream loaded inside – this is the unique thing we got excited about with the razor and the reason we thought it would be a great option for travelers. It comes loaded with a week (or possibly more depending on how much you use) of shaving cream, making it lighter and easier to carry on the road.
July is the perfect time to be emerged in Japanese culture. The Gion Festival takes place in Kyoto throughout the entire month and is one of the three largest festivals in Japan and is also part of the Yasaka Shrine. All throughout Japan, the festival is recognized for its beauty and size.
The summer festival apparently originated about 1,100 years ago, originally as a religious ceremony which was celebrated by the Japanese people who prayed to get rid of the bad plaque in hopes of appeasing the gods. There are 66 floats, symbolizing the number of provinces that were in Japan when the festival was first celebrated.
The main attraction of the festival takes place between the 16th and the 18th and is called the Yoiyama festival. At the festival, the floats are displaced and lit up with festive music called Gion-bayashi.
During Yoiyama, people visit each float and buy good luck charms called omamori, made from sass bamboo grass used to ward off evils. There are two types of floats used in the parade yama and hoko. The hoko floats are enormous and up to 25 meters tall and weighing up to 12 tons with unique decorations representing specific Japanese themes.
The importance of the festival is tied in Japanese history. Even today, the festival continues the tradition of selecting a young boy do be the divine messenger. Every day there are various events where different music, dancing, and food are celebrated.
Photo credit: Japan-Guide.
For nine days straight at the beginning of October in Albuquerque New Mexico, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta dominates the scene in this high-desert city along the Rio Grande, drawing some 700 balloonists and more than 100,000 spectators.
Every morning, hundreds of brightly colored hot-air balloons lift off into the sky just as the first golden rays of sunlight spill over the purple peaks of the Sandia Mountains. Mariachi musicians greet spectators of all ages, who stare up at the sky as they warm their hands on a cup of hot cocoa or savor a breakfast burrito laced with New Mexico’s signature roasted red or green chiles.
What began in 1972 with 13 balloons taking off from a shopping mall parking lot has grown into the world’s largest hot-air balloon event—and one of the most widely photographed events on the globe. The festival is held at the custom-designed 365-acre Balloon Fiesta Park, where visitors can browse the booths of food vendors, retailers and artists. In 2000, a record-breaking total of 1,000 balloons went aloft, though since then the number has been capped at 750.
A combination of geography and climate makes Albuquerque the ideal spot for ballooning. The winds in the Rio Grande Valley vary in direction according to altitude, creating a phenomenon called the “Albuquerque box,” which allows pilots to more easily return to their starting positions.
During the city-sponsored Balloon Fiesta, spectators can walk freely through the 78-acre launch field to get up-close views of the hot-air balloons and gas balloons. Mass ascensions take place in the mornings and are worth getting up well before dawn to see. At the evening Balloon Glow, the balloonists let their burners roar simultaneously, lighting up the clear night like gigantic lanterns.
Another festival favorite is the Special Shapes Rodeo, showcasing balloons shaped like animals, cartoon characters, stagecoaches and other forms. Spectators also can watch flying competitions and fireworks, listen to live music, and book their own balloon rides through a private vendor.
This year, the 43rd Balloon Fiesta will take place October 4-12, 2014 in Albuquerque! Truly one of the world’s most spectacular events, the Balloon Fiesta attracts balloonists from around the world.
Photo credits: Albuquerque.com and 1000 lonely places.
There’s fun to be had in Vegas – and of course the beauty of Sin City is that you just might be able to turn a small budget into a bigger one. Here’s a look at some of the highlights for Las Vegas visitors. Below is a look at the casinos, hotels, restaurants and entertainment options that’ll make your trip memorable.
Of course, nobody goes to Vegas without at least considering doing a little gambling. For newcomers, the most important factor in choosing where to bet your hard-earned money is trust. SportsInteraction recently reported that the Wynn Las Vegas was the highest rated casino in Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Most Trusted Brands” list. The building itself is a gleaming gold curve, unmissable on the skyline, and features all the games you’d expect, including slots, blackjack and craps. There are also daily poker tournaments.
The Wynn has luxurious rooms but if you can find less luxurious options in the Fremont Street area. The Golden Gate is over a century old, but the rooms have been recently renovated and represent a real bargain.
Most people know that it’s possible to drink more or less for free if you’re gambling at many casinos in Vegas, but there are also a huge range of dining options. High rollers will want to try Bar Masa at Aria, run by Japanese chef Masa Takayama, a veteran of the New York restaurant scene. The sashimi is flown across the Pacific several times a week and meals can set you back hundreds of dollars.
Also try the pizzas at Settebello on Green Valley Parkway – they’re excellent, authentically Italian and don’t forget Vegas’ legendary all-you-can-eat buffet
Entertainment options vary from huge shows and megastar performances to hot, sweaty bars with live bands. Rod Stewart appears at the Colosseum, Caesars Palace in September and October, with tickets starting at $74. Dinner & ticket specials are on offer.
To get closer to the spirit of rock & roll, try a visit to the Double Down Saloon on Paradise Road. The DDS never closes and there’s live music every night; acts have included Supersuckers and the Vibrators.
This post was made possible by our host sponsor Sports Interaction.
Images courtesy of wikipedia, vegas.eater.com, timeout.com.
Madikwe is heaven on earth – this malaria free National Park in Northern South Africa borders Botswana and the Kalahari which is why the earth is the red and sunsets are huge. Everything here is so African from the vast vistas with rolling and broken hills, to the red earth fluffing under elephants feet. The game here is abundant and the birdlife spectacular, with the brightly coloured lilac breasted roller living here in abundance. Madikwe blew me away on a recent trip but it was Madikwe Hills – Seasons in Africa’s lodge – which really caught my attention.
On arrival I was greeted with the smiling face of Missy the lodge’s Staffordshire bull terrier, never have I met such a soppy dog – all she wanted to do was be on my lap which made me feel very much at home right away. You are lead down immaculate wooden walkways which are elevated above the ground and through to the main sitting area – the view then stretches out beneath you and often your first sight is of elephants having a dust bath down at the water hole below. The mountains stretch out in the distance and the savannah below you is often dotted with game.
The staff at Madikwe Hills are some of the most friendly and welcoming we’d come across on our two week safari and although the lodge itself is most definitely in the top end, the atmosphere is relaxed and calming. You feel as if you can kick off your shoes, lie back on one of the comfy shady sofas and relax, which indeed you can.
Our room was a suite with sitting room, outdoor and indoor shower, elegant white bath tub and huge verandah with an equally stunning view. Our little plunge pool was built next to a large flat rock which provided the wall for our suite and was a welcome relief from the heat of the day. Hours can be enjoyed here where one only has to sit and watch the wildlife go about it’s daily business below you. Teas, coffees and mini bar snacks provide the perfect accompaniment to the cinematic views you have before you and before you know it lunch is ready, or it’s time for the evening game drive.
The food was out of this world – there has recently been a huge move in the safari industry towards healthy eating and really looking after your guests when it comes to nutrition – the food coming out of the Madikwe Hills kitchen was exceptional and always healthy and delicious. Here they really do feed you well but because of the quality of the cooking and the ingredients you are never left bloated or feeling sluggish, but are full of energy.
Similarly to the staff within the lodge the guides were also great characters. Our guide was hilarious but when it came down to it he also had a serious knowledge of the bush, and Madikwe in particular.
We sat amongst a pack of sleeping, then playing wild dog for an hour – just relaxing in the cooling sun as these amazing creatures did the same next to us. We saw elephant, buffalo and rhino before heading back to camp and encountering what remains to this day one of my top wildlife experiences. As the sunset we encountered a lioness and her three young cubs padding slowly along a dusty track. She was calling quietly to her elder daughters who were in the mountains on our left. The sun set in a million colours just beyond her as we followed her mischievous cubs while they played, and sat listening to her low calls – it was simply magical and sends shivers down my spine to this day.
This post was made possible by our hosted partner Luxury Safari Company in South Africa, where you can learn more on luxury safaris in Southern Africa.
Whether you’re a pagan or simply interested in the associated beliefs and rituals, planning a holiday around festivals in Europe can make for a fascinating trip. Few holiday companies offer tours based on these events, but it’s easy to find information on the internet and make your own arrangements. Along the way, you’’ see some beautiful landscapes and intriguing landmarks, and get a closer encounter than many tourists manage with the culture and people of the countries you visit. Once you’ve settled on your itinerary, holiday companies can help you with bookings and travel.
Image by vintagedept.
The prehistoric stone circle of Stonehenge is probably the most famous pagan site in the United Kingdom, and can be very crowded, especially around midsummer. Less well known, but larger and more ancient, is the Neolithic ring at nearby Avebury. Here, unlike at Stonehenge, you can approach and touch the stones themselves. The site is popular with pagans, naturally, and there are frequent ceremonies.
Image by Magic Madzik
Many cultures and religions have long standing traditions to celebrate the end of winter. In Poland, as well as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, an effigy of the goddess Marzanna or Morana is symbolically drowned, often after burning. Children particularly enjoy making a puppet or dummy, transporting it to the river, and dunking it in.
Image by Downatthezoo
Beltane falls between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, Samhain between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. Both are Gaelic festivals, so celebrate them in a Celtic region, such as Wales or Cornwall. Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, holds a yearly Beltane Fire Festival, a celebration of arts and culture. On Samhain, in some parts of Scotland and Ireland, you can still find costumed children guising, rather than trick or treating, and perhaps a traditional turnip lantern rather than a pumpkin.
Image by Bengt Nyman
There can be nowhere better to celebrate midsummer than in the land of the midnight sun. In northern Scandinavia, you can experience 24 hours of daylight on the longest days of the year. Regardless of the actual date on which it falls, the Swedes celebrate Midsummer Eve on the nearest Friday. It’s a time for leaving the towns and travelling into the countryside, to gather with friends and family. The maypole is an important part of the Swedish midsummer tradition, along with a feast of pickled herring and new potatoes, followed by the first strawberries of the season.
Those are just pagan festivals in Europe, though. What about the world? Have you been to pagan festivals in other parts?
Images by vintagedept, Magic Madzik, Downatthezoo and Bengt Nyman used under Creative Commons license.
Contributed by Jane Grant is a traveler and especially enjoys experience rare and unusual sights of the world. This was a hosted post made possible by our partner HolidayHyperMarket.
For those who aren’t yanks, Memorial Day is an American national holiday that remembers and honors the men and women who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.The holiday, which is celebrated every year on the last Monday of May every year, was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the war. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service and family members and also volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
Growing up, I recall visiting gravestones of uncles, cousins and friends who died in Korea, World War II and Vietnam and it was common that friends in the small town I grew up in on the east coast, did the same.
Annual Decoration Days for particular cemeteries are held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer in some rural areas of the American South, notably in the mountains. In cases involving a family graveyard where remote ancestors as well as those who were deceased more recently are buried, this may take on the character of an extended family reunion to which some people travel hundreds of miles. People gather on the designated day and put flowers on graves and renew contacts with kinfolk and others. There often is a religious service and a “dinner on the ground,” the traditional term for a potluck meal in which people used to spread the dishes out on sheets or tablecloths on the grass. It is believed that this practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the “memorial day” idea.
There are various events and parades that happen throughout the country with the biggest one in Washington DC.
Happy Memorial Day all if you happen to be in the states this week or are American – a toast and with gratitude to the people who served this country to keep it free.