Monday, May 12, 2014

6 More Things I'm Loving Right Now

1. Namibia's Atlantic Coast The "Go West" command has never resonated quite like it does in Namibia. After a weekend in lackluster Windhoek, my four days and five nights to the left in Swakopmund turned my birthday week around. Sure the sunset-to-morning fog that shrouds the town on a near-daily basis can give it an eerie, intimidating effect (it wasn't until it lifted the morning after my arrival that I began to appreciate Swakopmund's German-accented appeal), but it also contributes to the entire area's distinctive character, which was so lacking in Windhoek. I wouldn't want to live there, and Village Cafe might be the only thing I'll miss about Swakopmund a week from now, but it was a fascinating place to turn 45.

2. The Namib Desert As a solo traveler who prefers to improvise and plan as I go, I had two strikes against me in Namibia. Unless you're willing to rent a four-wheel drive and brave Namibia's occasionally difficult terrain (which is not exactly my idea of a relaxing holiday), you're at the mercy of tour companies, most of which have a two-person minimum. Being a party of one and arriving in Namibia on the Saturday of a three-day weekend drastically reduced my options, which meant I couldn't book a three- or four-day camping tour to the spectacular desert sights around Sossusvlei. Thankfully, Swakopmund is teeming with tour planners, including the local Tourist Information center, where I booked my three day trips, including two to local parts of the Namib Desert (the dunes adjacent to the coast and the "living" desert further inland). Looks like I'll have to plan another trip to Namibia (and this time actually plan) if I want to climb the more than 170 meters up Dune 45, which would have been such a perfect place to celebrate my 45th.

3. Seals The colony of seals at Pelican Point in Walvis Bay might be even better than the penguin colony on Boulders Beach on South Africa's Western Cape. You haven't experienced adorable until you've watched a seal swim frantically to catch up with your boat as it crosses Walvis Bay and then use its flippers as "arms" and "legs" to crawl onboard. Awww.

4. "Problem" Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea The one singer in her 21-ish age group with undeniable talent, Ariana Grande deserves all of those comparisons to a young Mariah Carey. Alas, image trumps talent a lot more in 2014 than it did in 1990, so Grande is not yet the queen of the crop. If it were 24 years ago, she'd already be the biggest thing since Whitney Houston, with more than just a pair of Top 10 singles, the latest of which debuted this week at No. 3 on Billboard's Hot 100.

5. "You Lie" Reba McEntire I recently saw an episode of The Voice in which Blake Shelton assigned someone on his team the unenviable task of tackling Reba McEntire's 1990 No., 1 country hit. The judges all loved it, but I thought the contestant did a terrible job, possibly because I'm too familiar with the original. Years ago, Kelly Clarkson and I bonded during a commercial break at the MTV Video Music Awards because it was both of our favorite Reba song. Adam Levine said he couldn't imagine anyone singing it better than the girl on The Voice did, but clearly, he's unfamiliar with Reba's oeuvre. When she starts somersaulting while scaling the upper end of her range at the fade out, her technical mastery and vocal control are nothing short of astounding.

6. 45 I may have missed Dune 45 in Sossusvlei, but I've still got the next year to enjoy 45.

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