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    How can we clean up and protect our oceans?

    I was recently having dinner with some friends and the topic of plastic in our oceans came up and quickly the conversation shifted from light and jovial to despairing. The conversation inspired me to want to better understand what organizations are out there that are doing work in this area and how I could get involved.

    Below are three organizations dedicated to cleaning and developing solutions to protect our oceans:

    1. The Ocean Cleanup foundation is one organization that is doing innovative work to clean the oceans of plastic. A young Dutch inventor, Boyan Slat and his team have designed massive floating booms that sit on the surface of the ocean and use the ocean currents to collect the plastic. Their goal is to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the ocean located between Hawaii and California, that has the highest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world in 5 years’ time. Watch his presentation on how the system works here. As Boyan Slat states, “We must diffuse this ticking time bomb” and the time is now to begin this massive cleanup effort.
    2. Surfrider founded 34 years ago in Malibu by a group of passionate surfers and is focused on protecting and preserving our oceans. The organization has mobilized chapters of activists across the US and Canada to help clean and protect beaches. They focus on 5 key areas: clean water, beach access, ocean protection, coastal preservation, and plastic pollution. Learn how you can join a local chapter here.
    3. Would you like to support the next generation of ocean leaders? The 5 Gyres Institute is an Ocean Heroes Bootcamp created in partnership with the U.N. The program is designed to help mentor an cultivate youth on how they can take action against ocean plastic pollution. Learn more about the program here.

    Anyone living near the water is particularly conscious of just how delicate the future of our ocean ecosystems is. There are organizations working hard to solve this problem, ideas being tested as solutions, and people out there doing great work to support. If you need some additional inspiration to figure out what your role could be to help clean and protect our oceans, I recommend listening to Dr. John Todd’s podcast on ‘Working with Nature to Clean Water’. As he states in the podcast, “What has been destroyed, can be healed. There is an alternative to destruction.”


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    Marseille: What to see in 24 hours?

    There is so much to see and explore in Marseille, and a 24-hour period could not possibly do this city justice. Especially seeing as Marseille is the second largest city in France after Paris. If I had only one suggestion it would be to go to the Mucem museum. During our 24-hour visit, we wandered along the old port city and spent most of the day at the Mucem but we still hadn’t seen everything this museum has to offer. Walking up to the museum felt somewhat like stepping into the warmth of the Alhambra in southern Spain until we crossed the bridge connecting the different parts of the museum which stretches over the sparkling blue Mediterranean sea, and entered the main exhibit building which is modern and sleek.


    We were fortunate enough to be there when the Ai Weiwei Fan-Tan exhibit. I was particularly interested in learning about his father Ai Qing who was one of China’s most renowned poets. The exhibit includes a wall of Ai Qing’s poetry and tells the story of how deeply embedded activism was in Ai Weiwei’s entire life.  There was also an exhibit called ‘Connectivities’ which included a section on the Mediterranean in the16th and 17th century and the Contemporary Mediterranean cities and urban planning challenges for a few of the megacities of this century – Istanbul, Cairo, Aix-Marseille, and Casablanca.

    A quote included in the ‘Connectivities’ exhibit by Frédéric-Louis Sauser, better known as Blaise Cendrars, Swiss-born novelist and poet captured my brief exposure to Marseille for me:

    “Marseille is today the only of the of the ancient capitals that does not crush us with the monuments of its past…It is not a city of architecture, of religion, of academies or fine arts. It is not the product of history. It is easy-going and jovial. It is dirty and rundown. But it is nonetheless one of the world’s most mysterious cities and one of the most difficult to decipher”.

    I was immediately drawn into this mysterious and exotic city. I love visiting big port cities … there is a sense of openness and connection to the world that is captivating.


    This is what is next on my list to explore when we return:

    1. Walk in the Panier quarter: We just scratched the surface of the Panier after visiting which reminded me of the Alfama in Lisbon… If you enjoy getting lost on small streets, looking at murals, exploring small cages and shops then the Panier quarter will be up your alley. I definitely plan on spending a full day in Le Panier on our next visit.
    2. Eat “Navettes de Saint Victor” cookies: I have no idea how I missed these but they look delicious. You would think since I was 5-months pregnant, I would have been solely focused on finding these cookies
    3. Visit and eat at one of the restaurants in Vallon des Auffes: Vallon des Auffes is a small fishing village on the outskirts of Marseille. Here is a brief history and some photos to get you excited.
    4. Explore La Maison Empereur: La Maison was founded in 1827and has treasures for the home but also small items to take back in your suitcase.
    5. Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille: The view of the city from the basilica is supposed to be spectacular. I also really wanted to see the Cathedrale de la Major but after two weeks of traveling through France and Italy, my feet had finally decided that they needed a rest.

    I look forward to visiting this vibrant, diverse port city in the future with much more time and getting to know it better.

    Only have 12-hours in Marseille? Visit here for more ideas to make the most of your visit.

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    Dreaming of Miami?

    There are places you need to go with no expectations. No preconceived ideas or notions of what you will find. Miami for me is one of those places.

    When I go to Miami I am transported to so many places all at the same time that I have a distinct feeling of being detached from the U.S. The Spanish tile roofs contrasting with modern glass skyscrapers, the sounds of a myriad of Spanish accents and dialects that are spoken on every street corner (not to mention the many other languages), and the humid sticky air of the tropics always pulls me in.

    Admittedly I have just scratched the surface of this city…and be warned it is easy to get lost in the vibrant colors or find yourself gazing into the ocean on a balcony for the afternoon. If you have plans to visit Miami,  here are a few spots I wouldn’t want you to miss out on.

    My top 5 tips for a weekend in Miami:

    1. In the mood for a romantic Italian dinner? Il Gabbiano on the water is not to be missed for a more upscale evening out on the town. The night we went there were dolphins playing in the water at sunset. If you are looking for a more Bohemian romantic restaurant then Soya e Pomodoro is one of my favorites. This restaurant is nestled into an alley between two buildings and you can easily imagine you are sitting on the cobbled streets of a Napolitano café. They also have live Latin jazz to make the atmosphere even more romantic.
    2. Restaurants in the Design District: We recently discovered Ghee Indian Kitchen and Mandolin Aegean Café over in the Design District. We will definitely be going back to both these restaurants and they both have an outdoor area to sit and relax.
    3. Favorite music spot? Lagniappe is a gem. They have live music every night at 9:00 pm, offer over 150 wines, a magical backyard covered in lights and tables, and an inside area with plush couches in a cozy house setting.
    4. Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM): I would go to the PAMM for the building and view alone. The museum is perched on the water and a LEED-certified building.  The mission of the museum is to ‘be a leader in the presentation, study, interpretation, and care of international modern and contemporary art while representing Miami-Dade and cherishing the unique viewpoint of its peoples.’ It’s a special place and when we visited they had a wonderful exhibit of Latin American artists whose work I hadn’t seen before.IMG_2995
    5. Wynwood Walls: A perfect way to spend the afternoon is to head over to Wynwood and explore the Wynwood Walls for an explosion of color and to see all of the diverse murals. There are also boutique shops and restaurants to check out while you are there.



    Is it Cuba calling from the shores of Miami, or Latin America, or the world? Miami is truly an international city. Walking down the streets of downtown Brickell there is one thing I notice above the rest – big broad smiles. People just seem to be having fun in Miami even on a Tuesday afternoon in the hub of the business center.

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    Pen & Places is a journal to explore, dream and discover. It is a place to celebrate the people, communities, and organizations who are pushing boundaries to make the world a better place. It is also a place to create more time to see and connect to the positive changes taking place all around us every day.

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