Best of 2013

I stared writing this post on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve from our apartment in New York City. The walls were white and bare, mildly pockmarked from the few posters we had hung for our three-month stay. You could tell we had lived here for a short time by the gray and orange cat hair suspended in a ray of sunlight that managed to poke from between a skyscraper and enter our apartment. That ray of light enters every morning around ten but it’s gone by noon. Our four suitcases were sitting by the door, and the Diplocats were drowsing atop them, totally unaware that in twenty-four hours, they’d be in the cargo hold of a transatlantic flight to their new homes, where they’d suddenly transform into gatos.

If you happened upon Mr.YemenEm in the midst of packing up to depart for a new place, you’d hear sad folk music and smell the remnants of a good few glasses of whiskey on his breath. I was certainly nostalgic when I packed up the apartment where I’d lived in Washington DC for five years, but I’m never actually sad about moving. I’m really just excited. Or, in Spanish, Estoy emocionada!” (and not “Estoy excitada” which I keep saying only to be informed that means sexually excited)

We’ve already arrived in Spain (and much more on that in the next post). We will live here for two years, so no doubt 2014 and 2015 will be vastly different than 2013. The past year was pretty remarkable for me. Since I’m a fan of distilling complex emotions and layered experiences into simple lists, here is my Best of 2013 list.

Best Thing I Ate
Winner: Grilled asparagus pizza topped with a perfectly runny egg in Nice, France on my 29th birthday.
Runners Up: All the many creme brûlées that Mr.YemenEm and I consumed in France; everything from a French restaurant at which we ate twice in the charming town of Luang Prabang, Laos; the first bowl of Spicy Noodle Soup from DC Noodles after returning to the U.S. in June.

Best Accomplishment:
Winner: Getting started writing a book. About Yemen. Inspired by true events (most of which occurred in 2012, but I also have 2013 to thank for providing me with inspiration).
Runners Up: Learning Spanish; seeing tons of friends and spending a good amount of time with my family in Michigan; working out consistently; completing two hard hikes in Zion Canyon and one never-ending one in southern France.

Best View:
Winner: Sunset in Luang Prabang, which is also my favorite travel spot of the year. Mr.YemenEm and I trekked up to a hilltop temple, along with the hundreds of other tourists to see a Luang Prabang sunset. It felt weird to watch a sunset with so many other people. I mean, I figured it would be pretty. But it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
Runners Up: The farmlands and ancient houses out my window during a drive to town outside of Sana’a, Yemen; the epic desert in Abu Dhabi; the epic desert in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona; Kuang Si falls in Luang Prabang; looking down into quaint villages in Provence from our rented Mustang convertible; the impossibly blue and sparkly Mediterranean from the top of an old park in Nice, France; the Grand Canyon; seeing hundreds of sea lions from my kayak in a Marina in Monterrey, California; the view of Washington DC and of Virginia while stand-up paddle boarding in the Potomac River; seeing Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island from a former co-workers site-seeing boat on a freezing cold day in December.

Best Day:
Winner: One day on our California trip, we woke up at a seaside motel, grabbed a coffee and drove up the coast San Simeon where we saw tons of elephant seals flopping around and being disgustingly amusing. Then we toured the Hearst Castle, home to the best swimming pool in the world, stunning views, and tons of Catholic art and secret little stories from old timey Hollywood stars, who all used to hang out there. Afterwards, we did a short hike in Big Sur. That day was sunny, vibrant, full of breathtaking ocean views, a little exercise in a forest, and it was filled with the worry free attitude of being on a relaxing vacation. And, like most of my other days this year, spent with the guy I love.
Runner Up: Really any other day spent on vacation with Mr.YemenEm where we walked, ate, napped, drank wine, and then ate some more. Or just a few days ago, when running an errand with Mr.YemenEm in New York turned in to lunch at Eataly, a hot toddy stop, a movie, and then making a cozy dinner at home.

Well folks, that is all from YemenEm, the moniker and the blog name. Here out, I’ll be blogging as The Dame in Spain, from You can still visit, but you’ll be redirected to

It’s been a joy to share my experiences via this blog. Thanks to everyone who has read it.

With love, gratitude, and adventure,


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