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Photoshoot with Gillian Foster, May 2011.  Listen to my music here. Studio time starts TOMORROW!!!!!

Photoshoot with Gillian Foster, May 2011.  Listen to my music here.

Studio time starts TOMORROW!!!!!!  Sign up for the newsletter for daily blogs about our recording adventure :)  Also, sign up and win a free copy of my new EP when it’s done!  One lucky subscriber is getting one :D  The draw happens September 1st!

-Jess

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Hey guys! How are you?  I just want to take a quick second and thank you all for making my first yea

Hey guys!

How are you?  I just want to take a quick second and thank you all for making my first year as a solo artist RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME!!!

To celebrate my 1st Anniversary as a solo artist, I played a Battle of the Bands at The Rockpile in Etobicoke!

The Rockpile is a great, great venue located at Dundas and Kipling in Etobicoke, Ontario.  Middle of nowehere, but the sound is awesome, the stage is HUGE, and the staff were really cool :)  It’s a rock music room in it’s truest sense - complete with mugshot options (see photo above).  haha  They had $11.50 mini pitchers (about 1.5-2 pints) and really delicious nachos.

The show ROCKED.  The crowd was awesome - people on the dancefloor, lots of cheering, buttons on everyone…loved it!  And the best part: I WON SECOND PLACE!!!!

AMAZING.

Amazing, amazing, amazing.  Thanks so much to everyone who was there!!  Now, I’m entered into the Wildcard vote to play the City Finals for a chance to play in LONDON, ENGLAND.  *dies*  How amazing would that be!?!?  Please vote for me here!!!

So excited to see what year 2 brings <3

-Jess

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Hey everyone! I hope you’ve been enjoying my South African mini-series so far!!  Today’s

Hey everyone!

I hope you’ve been enjoying my South African mini-series so far!!  Today’s entry is part 3 of our epic adventure that started my foray into travel blogging.  Special thanks to WAYN.com and South Africa Tourism for giving me the chance to experience the marvel that is South Africa, and a special thanks to Gillian Foster for coming with me!!  Check out more of her photography here.

Day 5 - Sabi Sands Game Reserve

Today we spent the vast majority of the day in the car with TK’s parents - Joe and Sophie from JMT Tours :D:D  Excellent opportunity to get all the dirt on TK haha  They’re such a lovely family.  Steve and I spent a couple of hours sharing music on our iPods to pass the time!  I LOVE new music!! 

Joe and Sophie were really informative as we drove through the North-East South African countryside.  Apparently, Joburg is the largest man-made forest in the world!!  The city has planted two trees for every person.  Crazy cool.  Also, some cities have the suffix -burg (like Johannesburg) which means town, and other have the suffix -berg (like Magaliesberg) meaning mountain :D  Suddenly, iceberg made a lot more sense.  We also relearned the names of a couple of our favourite local dishes: maize is a delicious corn-based dish, and chakalaka is an awesome spicy one Gill and I both loved from our first lunch in Soweto!  Very good to know for future.

Another cool fact from Sophie and Joe: Afrikaans is the youngest language in the world!!  120 years.  Wow.

Observation: termite mounds here are HUGE.  Much more impressive than Canadian ant architecture.

We finally get to Sabi Sands about 7.5 hours later, and now we’re PUMPED!  We drive through a small town, and then the fence starts….and stops.  This is when you know you are in wildlife territory!!!  Our eyes were peeled for the next 12k.  Not even two seconds later - impala on the left!!!  Woohoo!!!  SO pumped!!  And more kudu!!  Then, Gillian is flipping out - we pull over.  She’s spotted GIRAFFES in the distance (her fave!!)!!!!  AMAZING!!!!!  When I turn back to my window on the left, I freak out!  ELEPHANTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  ELEPHANTS ON THE LEFT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Actually losing my mind.  Luckily, we couldn’t scare them away with noise seeing as our windows were closed.  lol  We also saw RHINOS!!!  (ok…what’s that?  2 of the Big 5?!?!?!  We haven’t even gotten to the lodge yet!) 

…to refresh: the Big 5 are: lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo, and leopard.

When we FINALLY got to Dulini Lodge (full 8 hour trip), we literally dropped our bags, drank some (homemade) ginger beer (DELISH), were welcomed by the staff, and got in the jeep.  SAFARI TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It’s getting dark now, so we are set for an hour night drive.  Normally they are three-hour drives, but we were a little longer getting there than we expected.  Setting out in the dark is a neat experience.  On a drive, you have a tracker who sits in a chair positioned at the front of the car (our guy was Isaac!  He’s pro, man.) and a ranger (Keri!  Awesome woman) who drives.  The tracker uses a spotlight at night to find animals in the bush. 

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We saw tons and tons of impala, but they aren’t nocturnal so it’s best not to shine the light directly at them.  The light can render them temporarily blind - not cool when there are lions hunting.  We saw a herd of wildebeest (!), and then we got radioed that a lion roar was heard!!  Lion tracking began.  We drove around for a while with no luck. 

Then, a leopard is spotted by another ranger and tracker!!  Getting to this leopard was insane.  I am convinced Jeeps can actually do anything.  ANYTHING.  We did a little off-roading (aka gravity-defying, aka tree-demolishing) and shortly, we were watching an alpha male leopard (in fact, THE top cat himself!) clean himself post meal (impala).  Unbelievable!!  Three down, two to go (Big 5)!  We then saw some rhinos and LOTS more impala. 

After tracking lions a bit more (to no avail) we headed back to the lodge.  We were shown to our (separate, private!!) lodges that - besides the bug factor - are immaculate perfection.  Dinner was three courses and wine served on the grassy common area.  We were treated to a lovely chorus of bull frogs (lol) and were joined by several other dinner guests (mostly beetles and moths).  haha!!  <3 

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After 6pm, you need an escort to walk you around the lodge.  Reason being, there are no fences, so other guests (like leopards) can wander in.  When the manager showed us around the features of our rooms using my lodge as the example, we were looking at the bathroom when he says “have you ever seen a buffalo before?”  He pulls back the curtains from the back door (that leads onto a sweet deck with a SWIMMING POOL *dies*) and there are two gargantuan buffalo just CHILLIN’.  Un. Be. Leavable.  The one right in front of us looks right at us like “what?”  hahaha!!  Amazing.  There’s #4 (Big 5).

I slept very poorly.  It’s tough to sleep when things keep landing on you.  lol  (I hadn’t discovered the Peaceful Sleep citronella tablets yet - night #2 was much improved)  And then I was petrified that I was going to miss my 5 AM *dies*  wake-up call.  Haha

Day 6 - Sabi Sands Game Reserve

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Oh, but 5am wake-ups are so worth it when you’re on safari!  In spite my fears the night before, I didn’t miss my wake-up.  We had coffee and granola bars at 5:30am, and were in the jeep by 6.  The sun is almost fully up by then, but you can’t reeeeeaaaally tell…because there was a massive thunderstorm this morning!  Bah.  Ponchos donned, we’re on our way to see some wildlife!  (hopefully)  And boy, did we ever!  Rhinos, guinea fowl, eagles, buffalo, black bellied bustards, kudu, impala, elephant tracks, giraffes, and LIONS (#5 Big 5!)!!!  A lion and a lioness, to be precise.  And he really liked her, it was so cute.  They’d caught a wildebeest, so there was a half-eaten wildebeest on the ground.  Amazing scene.

When we got back to the lodge, breakfast was served!  Waaaaay too much food was consumed, but so delicious.  Clotted cream is awesome.  The rest of the morning and afternoon are for relaxation until High Tea at 4pm and our second drive of the day :)  I bought postcards and some souvenirs for the fam :)  And this SUPER cute stuffed animal buffalo for me :D  haha  Honestly, large animals are the quickest way to bring the 14-year-old groupie out of me.  haha  Buffalo are quickly becoming my fave :D

The night drive was the best drive yet - for sure!!!!!  We seem to be a veritable animal wonder magnet!  Firstly, animals just seemed to jump out in front of us!  And a couple of times, quite literally.  lol  First, a hippo was bathing in the pond as we came around the first corner out of the lodge.  Then, a warthog came running across the road a little while later!  lol  They have massive tusks.  We then went to see a female leopard that had been spotted!!!!  She was gorgeous.  Her fur is so soft looking…it really does make you want to reach out and pet her.  lol  Bad move though, don’t do it.  She had killed an impala and was sitting next to it stuffed to the gills.  Next, we went on an elephant hunt!  To no avail, but we did see a lot of nice birds (the turquoise king fisher and a juvenile snake eagle included!) and then when the sunset really started to glow, we stopped near a watering hole.

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In this watering hole happened to be HIPPOS!!!  Three of them :D  One was a baby!!  <3  They started swimming towards us and started to roar at us in an attempt to intimidate us (very effective, in my opinion), but they never left the water, so Keri decided this was the perfect spot to get out of the Jeep and have sundowners (drinks).  lol  Biltong (essentially beef jerky) with chili is AMAZING.  We learned that the Big 5 are named as such because they are the 5 most dangerous animals in Africa to HUNT (there’s the distinction).  In actuality, the hippo is tops when it comes to being dangerous to humans.  I had trouble taking my eyes off of the three in the water after that.  haha

It got dark soon afterwards, and as we’re driving along, Keri suddenly shuts off the engine and asks us to listen - lions are roaring in the field next to us!!!!!!!!!!!!  OMG.  We listen for a while and then head into the clearing to find them!  Lions roar to intimidate or communicate.  These ones were having a conversation.   We found one and went to see him - and before long he roared again!  One to our left answered.  Then one behind us too!  *dies*  Surrounded by roaring lions.  AMAZING.  So we went to see Lion #2 - a short distance away, but a lot further than he sounded!  And this one is lying on his side roaring.  haha  He reminded me of an adolescent talking on the phone.  Then from our left comes lion #3!  All brothers, we learned.  AND brothers of the one we saw earlier :)  SO cool.  They all met up with each other shortly thereafter and walked across the clearing together.  Just incredible.  What majestic creatures.  On our drive home, we saw a massive scorpion and a chameleon!!  How Isaac spotted that one, I will never understand.  He’s one with nature, Isaac.

Dinner was a big BBQ with everyone at the lodge.  Gill found a scorpion in the bathroom and killed it (Keri flinches), and I bug sprayed my bed and put a Peaceful Sleep tablet in the wall.  I had a great sleep unlike the night before ;)  Only one termite or beetle flew into me!  haha  I also credit my new stuffed animal buffalo, Braai with fending them off.  lol

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Day 7 - Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Cape Town

I woke up to a great pile of elephant dung just outside my lodge at 5am.  According to staff, there were two bulls in the camp during the night causing havoc.  LOL  They were still around in the morning, so the one animal I super wanted to see today came to find us!!!!  Amazing.  We could see them in the bush as we ate breakfast and had to stealthily get into the Jeep so they wouldn’t see us walking near them.  There were three of them.  And they are huge.  HUGE.  SO intimidating!  But absolutely lovely.

This morning was also the morning of rhinos!!  They just seemed to be everywhere today!  We watched them graze when we stopped for coffee.  Our coffee was also had with a bunch of millipedes!  They’re cool, I like them.  We saw rhino quite closely later on and then there was a momma and a baby at the end of our drive!  The mum and baby also helped us out bigtime - you’re not supposed to off-road and upset the bush unless there is a Big 5 animal present (when it’s dangerous and you have to take the car), but in this one area there were wildebeest and ZEBRA!!  Since the rhinos were also in this area, we drove in for a closer look!  Zebra are actually gorgeous.  And they hadn’t been seen in 4 days :D  We were really lucky. 

Our morning drive also included a flat tire and a battery scare.  haha  So many events…I also think it’s wild that before breakfast we were drinking liqueur in our coffee.  7:42 am drinking.  Brill.  When we got back, we quickly showered/finished packing, had a quick breakfast, and Thulani (the manager) showed us out.  Nicest people on earth…I miss them all right now.  OH!  We finally saw monkeys this morning, too!  lol 

I slept in the car and then we got on a plane to Cape Town!  I couldn’t believe the last leg of our trip was upon us…I think I was in a bit of denial.  One more full day and we start the ludicrously long journey back home to Canada.  *sigh*  It’s been a supreme trip - South Africa Tourism knows how to do things RIGHT.

Once we landed in Cape Town, we discovered that my luggage never got on the plane :/  So….J-Dawg had no luggage.  Thanks guys.  Luckily, it’s only a 3 hour flight from Nelspruit.  It was at the hotel by 11pm when we got back from dinner :)  We arrived at the Protea Victoria Junction Hotel   and took an hour to spruce up (aka, Jess made some expert lemonade - no clothes, no hair product, no make up…thanks Gill for the help!) and then we ended up at the Victoria Junction Wharf for seafood.  Our new tour guide’s name is Jeremy from Whitestone Energy Tours , and we met up with William from SA Tourism at the hotel before dinner.  I had kingklip and chips - super delish.  The restaurant was this super great place in the middle of a mall!  It was like eating in a really posh food court.  We had a drink when we got back to the hotel, and then it was a much needed SLEEP. Protea Victoria Junction Hotel   and took an hour to spruce up (aka, Jess made some expert lemonade - no clothes, no hair product, no make up...thanks Gill for the help!) and then we ended up at the Victoria Junction Wharf for seafood.  Our new tour guide's name is Jeremy from Whitestone Energy Tours , and we met up with William from SA Tourism at the hotel before dinner.  I had kingklip and chips - super delish.  The restaurant was this super great place in the middle of a mall!  It was like eating in a really posh food court.  We had a drink when we got back to the hotel, and then it was a much needed SLEEP.

-Jess

The Jess and Gill Tried and Tested Guide to Safari

All-inclusive Accommodation and Safari

Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Dulini Lodge - http://www.andbeyondafrica.com/luxury_safari/south_africa/sabi_sand_game_reserve/and_beyond_dulini

Related Posts:

South Africa pt. 1

South Africa pt. 2

-Jess

The Jess and Gill Tried and Tested Guide to Safari

All-inclusive Accommodation and Safari

Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Dulini Lodge - http://www.andbeyondafrica.com/luxury_safari/south_africa/sabi_sand_game_reserve/and_beyond_dulini

Related Posts:

South Africa pt. 1

South Africa pt. 2

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Photo tribute to the Mayan Riviera, part two! Last May, I spent 6 days in the Mayan Riviera with pho

Photo tribute to the Mayan Riviera, part two! Last May, I spent 6 days in the Mayan Riviera with photographer Gillian Foster.

This is a tribute to our trip. All photos copywrite Gillian Foster. Visit her online at www.gillianforster.ca.

-Jess Related Posts:

Photo Tribute Part 1

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Last May, I spent 6 days in the Mayan Riviera with photographer Gillian Foster.  Here’s a trib

Last May, I spent 6 days in the Mayan Riviera with photographer Gillian Foster.  Here’s a tribute to our trip!

All photos copywrite Gillian Foster.  Visit her online at www.gillianforster.ca.

-Jess

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Promo photos taken Aug 2010 thanks to Jessica Pan.  Check out my music here: http://www.reverbnation

Promo photos taken Aug 2010 thanks to Jessica Pan. 

Check out my music here:

http://www.reverbnation.com/jessicaspeziale

http://www.myspace.com/jessicaspeziale

http://www.facebook.com/jessicaspezialemusic

Mylinks_join_mailing_list

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Promises on a Sea Shore

The last day of our trip to the Riviera Maya was to celebrate what brought us there in the first place: Gill’s sister got married!

Over the past few years, Destination Weddings have become incredibly popular.  In particular, lots of couples choose to marry on the beach of a far-flung (and Paradise-inspiring) resort.  Gillian Foster, my roommate and travel partner on this trip, was the photographer for the wedding in addition to being the bride’s sister!  So, it was an action-packed day for her! 

Gillian Foster at work - www.gillianfoster.ca

For me, I just had a blast.  It was the *perfect* day.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Calm waters.  Shades of turquoise everywhere.  And the wedding colours were turquoise, white, and orange.  Stunning.

The ceremony was beautiful.  There was a band, everything was perfectly set up, and I didn’t see an event planner ANYWHERE (mark of a great event planner).  I was thoroughly impressed. 

We had a few hours between the ceremony and the reception, so we all hung out for a while - some going for naps.  Gillian, ever the professional, took photos.

Sisters!

Dinner was delicious.

Hilarious.

Wedding guest sings an impromptu song for the Bride and Groom!

Touching.

And action-packed.

And then we danced.

I loved every moment of it.  Congratulations Heather and James!

-Jess

Related Posts:

Riviera Maya, Mexico - an overview

Riviera Maya

Tulum

Chichen-Itza

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