Movies That Inspire You To Travel

Movies That Inspire You To Travel

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”Ibn Battuta

Sitting in the dark with strangers is for me the best way to see a film. Movies take me to places I have never been. For a couple of hours, I escape into worlds quite different from my own. Movies are a way of traveling. They offer a window into a bigger world, broaden our perspective and open our eyes to new things. Here are some movies that made me want to see the places that they were filmed in.

Two For The Road

Motorcycle Diaries

The Way

Indiana Jones And The  Temple Of Doom 

Darjeeling Limited

Midnight In Paris

Australia

Lost In Translation

Y Tu Mama También

Under The Tuscan Sun

The Wind Will Carry Us.

Indochine

Fly safe,

JAZ

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So Jewy

So Jewy

“I am a Jewish mother. My dying words will be, “Put a sweater on” Amanda Craig,

My kids think that I have become so Jewy.  What does Jewy mean anyway? Does it mean too Jewish? Jewish seem to describe birth or upbringing. Jewy sounds like more of a choice.

I wasn’t observant but I did not want to raise my children without religion. It was important to me that they knew where they came from. I wanted them to have an understanding of the beliefs and identity of their great grandparents who escaped pogroms to come here and of all the Jews who died in the concentration camps. I believe in traditions and rituals—whether it was lighting the Hanukkah candles, going to temple on the High Holy days, the rite of passage of asking the four questions at a Seder, enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, birthday parties, the Tooth Fairy or sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bed after a nightmare. These things make up much of the fabric of our childhood memories and sense of family.

I did not go to Temple every week or celebrate the Sabbath.  Secretly I wish we had done that now, more for the family to get together than real Jewish study. I learned when my children were studying for their Bar Mitzvahs that our tradition comes with all sorts of advice about how best to behave in the world. What is a person’s obligation in this chaotic world? I could have used these life lessons.

And then there is the God thing. The Ten Commandments sound pretty easy yet it seems very hard for human beings to follow them. If you do not want to follow them, then it is easier not to believe in them. Are you a person of reason or a person of faith seems to be the dialogue. Why can’t you be both?

I thought that I had done everything right in terms of creating a religious background. But one of the most cherished myths of parenting is that parents create the child. There is no guarantee that your children will absorb everything you think they will. I believe that children are born more hard-wired than one would think. The nature/nurture debate goes on.

My job is done. I did my best to raise them that a little faith is important. It is understandable that young adults feel that celebrating the Jewish holidays is hypocritical (and boring) because it no longer goes along with their beliefs. Going along with family occasions as a respect to your parents without feeling defensive is a sign of maturity. A reality of modern life is that people get to decide for themselves what to believe, and emerging adults today feel they have not just a right but an obligation to make that decision on their own.

This year the events in Charlottesville make me feel the need to be more Jewy. My obligation in this chaotic world is to increase my good deeds, study,  go to temple on the Jewish Holidays and pray for a world that has gone insane.

Fly Safe,

JAZ

Street Art Around The World

Street Art Around The World

“I laugh at the way some people think graffiti is all selfish tagging and vandalism. Thoughtful street art is like good fiction – it speaks out on behalf of everyone, for us all to see.” Carla Krueger

Since cave painting, human beings cannot resist the urge to draw and write on walls. It is my favorite art. I am drawn to the bright colors, the fact that it is available to everyone and especially, the mystery. Who did this? Why? What does it mean? Sometimes I see the same artist in different countries. Here are some favorites from around the world. 

Lisbon, Portugal

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Capetown. South Africa

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Tel Aviv, Israel

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Bogota,Colombia

Los Angeles, USA

Melbourne, Australia

Rio, Brazil

Fly safe,

JAZ

Things That I Have Learned In The Napa Valley

Things That I Have Learned In Napa Valley

 “God made water, but man made wine.” –Victor Hugo

I’m not the right person to be writing about Napa wine or any alcoholic beverage. I’m a one drink one drunk kind of girl and wine just tastes like wine to me. Truthfully, I was much more interested in eating my way through the Napa Valley.  I do like the wine culture and the quiet beauty of the vineyard landscape.  I have visited them in many countries so it was fun to see it here. I learned a lot.

Four per cent of all the wine grapes grown in California come from the Napa Valley.

Ninety-five per cent of all Napa Valley wineries are family owned.

There are more than three hundred stone arch bridges in the Napa Valley.

Winemaking history began in Napa Valley in 1838, when George Calvert Yount, founder of the town of Yountville, planted the first commercial vineyards in the valley.

Napa Valley is one of the most renowned winemaking regions in the world, but it is also one of the smallest. The valley floor spans across five miles at its widest point and 30 miles at its longest point.

Napa Valley was once a little-known wine region, and nobody thought that its homegrown wines could beat the dominant, classic French wines. That all changed though in the Judgement of Paris, a competition where wines were judged through blind-tasting. Two Californian wines — Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon — overwhelmed the renowned Bordeaux and Burgundy, and won the top honors.

A Mediterranean climate is characterized by long hot, dry summers and warm, wet winters, where rainfalls are most scarce. Only 2% of the world’s landmass has a Mediterranean climate which is conducive to growing wine grapes.

There are over four hundred wineries in the Napa Valley.

The most popular grape in Napa Valley is Cabernet Sauvignon,

The sloping vineyards on rolling hills make up at least a dozen microclimates in the Napa valley  all known for being amenable to certain varieties of grapes.

Robert Mondavi had their first grape harvest in 1966 and has produced fine wine ever since.The wine is rooted in family generations, passion, knowledge, and experience. Robert Mondavi Winery Tours were some of the first to exist in the region.  There are a few different tours you can take. The signature tour includes a behind the scenes look of a well-known large brand. https://www.robertmondaviwinery.com/

Most of the wine being produced here is for premium or reserve bottles and we got to taste a few. The tour guide was knowledgeable and fun and clearly loves her job.

Calistoga’s Schramsberg Vineyards is a historic estate in the forests of Diamond Mountain and home to the oldest hillside vineyards. The tour will take you through the history of Schramsberg and its 125-year-old caves. These are the first caves dug in Napa for wine storage. You’ll learn about the method of producing Schramsberg wine as well as the fact that their sparkling wines have been served at official state functions by every US presidential administration. Perhaps you’ll find someone “riddling” the bottles to move the spent yeast into their necks, or catch a glimpse of the bottling process. Schramsberg is the first U.S. winery to commercially produce sparkling wine in the traditional method developed in Champagne. http://www.schramsberg.com/

K. Laz is a by appointment only, private sit down wine tasting experience in downtown Yountville.  It appeals to a high-end crowd. There is a personal lesson/tasting geared to your knowledge and what you want to learn and try. https://www.klazwinecollection.com/

 I made it very clear that I was just company on this tasting and was quite intimidated when I walked in. My lack of wine knowledge was very evident here. Garrett made me feel completely at home. We didn’t just taste the wines but heard the stories and back stories. I ended up buying some. I highly recommend this tasting for those interesting in learning about hard to find interesting wines.

Choosing a restaurant in the Napa Valley can be a tough decision with so many wonderful choices. Luckily the daughter made me a list. We got to some of them – Farm, Redd Wood, Oxbow Market, Cook and Ad Hoc – all good. For me, Ad Hoc was the standout.

Ad Hoc is in Yountville and from what I  can see, Yountville is Thomas Keller town.  There is Bouchon, the always crowded Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc and somewhere on that road is an unassuming ivy covered cottage which houses the French Laundry.

We couldn’t get into the French Laundry so back to Ad Hoc. https://www.thomaskeller.com/adhoc

For 55 dollars you get a price fixe menu of Thomas Keller’s food. It changes every day.

The delicious food is served family style with generous portions. – tomato fruit salad, steak, barley risotto, mixed green beans, cheese plate and milk shake with an oatmeal cookie.

The most important thing I have learned about wine is that decanting, swirling and sniffing wine does not make you a pretentious Ahole. Decanting really does make most wine taste better. It is important to swish but not like you are on spin cycle in the dryer. Swirling your wine is scientifically proven to increase aromas and improve flavors.  Sniffing the wine enhances the flavor by enjoying the scent first. Sniffing with your eyes closed and a fake gratifying smile while you inhale for a weirdly long time is not as scientific. Pulling out your phone and posting a photo of you holding the wine can have the pretentious Ahole look on Instagram and Snap Chat. 

If you buy a cork screw in Napa depending on if there is a knife in it, the rule of thumb is whoever is doing the screening at the time your bag is going through will decide if it will be confiscated. if you have a strict, observant TSA screener or “paratrooper’ it will be confiscated or checked. I didn’t see that it had a knife.

I came back from Napa relaxed, refreshed, replenished and totally glad that I had gone.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Travel Mistakes

Travel Mistakes

“You can handle just about anything that comes at you out on the road with a believable grin, common sense and whiskey.” Bill Murray,

We, as human beings make mistakes. It is part of our DNA. Even the best travelers make mistakes. Take a deep breath and move on. Here are some of my worst travel mistakes.

Failing to triple check your flight’s date, time and departure airport. This can lead to all sorts of disasters, including missing flights (yup), long layovers and even trying to leave from the wrong airport (twice). Your airline may book your departure from a different airport than your arrival. Check on every leg of your trip. 12 AM flights for me are a disaster. You only make that mistake once.

Over packing is my biggest problem. Most airlines charge for each checked bag and some even charge for carry on luggage. If you go over the weight limit, you’ll pay a big penalty. Small planes might not even take your bag. Cost aside, schlepping heavy, overstuffed bags through crowded airports and airport security is a nightmare. I am always doing this and swearing that next time that I won’t. But I do.

Not getting travel medical insurance or trip cancellation insurance. Accidents or a sudden illness can happen anytime, to anyone, even if you’re young and healthy. Travel insurance is especially important if you’re traveling to a country like the United States where a routine medical emergency, like a broken leg, is crazy expensive. It does take a while to get your money back but eventually, you do.

Not booking enough time between flights. You only have to miss a connection once or twice to know it is something you don’t want to do again.  I never take that one-hour connection anymore. There are too many variables for me.You have to claim your baggage at the point of entry now and that always takes more time than you think. Large airports are a problem. I have missed planes in Chicago, Miami, London, and Sydney. Weather is always a problem. There is always what I like to call Hakuna Matata in third world countries. Planes leave when they leave.

Over scheduling. It is never fun to pack too many activities and too many countries into one trip. I plan a lot but I have learned to go with the flow. I feel that you do and see whatever it is that you are supposed to. Be flexible.

Keep your valuables in the safe and check that safe before you leave. Also, remember to close the safe when you leave the room.  Yes, I made that mistake in Argentina.  Yes, I have left my passport in the room in St Petersburg and my jewelry in Johannesburg. Jet lag and many days of traveling will do that to you.

Not checking Visa Requirements. I have done this twice now. Don’t expect someone else to tell you. Your travels agent or tour company may think they told you and they might have but you didn’t hear it.  It turns out that you need a visa in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Australia. I had been to Australia before and forgot that part. Many countries issue Visa on arrival. Brazil does not and it takes longer than you think to get it. Same with Myanmar.

Always grab some local currency when you arrive in a country at the airport.  Also, carry extra cash for emergencies. Everyone in the world does not take credit cards. I am a worrier so I always get some before I leave. It is easier now with cash machines but depending on where you are, they are not always so easy to find.

Not letting your bank and credit card companies know that you are out of the country.  I watched in horror in London as the cash machine took my bank card. Apparently, I had not called to let them know I was there. In Spain, my credit card was turned down all day and when I called they were surprised that I had gone without a word.

Not checking airline security rules. Airline security changes all the time. If there is a recent terrorist attack, there are more rules. Nothing is more annoying than having to throw out your carry on stuff. If you have health issues, make sure you carry prescriptions and a doctor’s note.

So the next time you book the wrong flight or screw up something know that even the best travelers have made these mistakes (more than once) and survived. I learn from them and hope I don’t make them again – but I probably will.

Fly safe,

JAZ

The Worst Souvenirs

The Worst Souvenirs

Keep some souvenirs of your past, or how will you ever prove it wasn’t all a dream? ~Ashleigh Brilliant

Who doesn’t love looking at tacky souvenirs – especially in airports? What is it about us that makes us buy shot glasses, boxer shorts, tote bags, ashtrays and other inappropriate items to remind us where we have been? It always seems like a good idea at the time.

Snow globes. What is our fascination with snow globes? It isn’t even real snow –  it’s glitter. But there is something magical especially to kids about looking at a scene from the place you just visited in a snow globe. I love snow globes but remember you can’t carry them on the plane. I’ve seen airport security rip them out of a kid’s hand.

Tea towel.  Nothing says “couldn’t be bothered thinking of a proper present for you” like a souvenir tea towel. Every destination has them.  They are an easy to pack item for collectors of tea towels around the world, 

Refrigerator Magnets. They are like cats. You start with one. You end up with ten. Your refrigerator starts to look like a souvenir store. Then, you need to buy a bigger refrigerator.

Key Chains. All the other items usually come in a key chain as well. I did buy the Obama’s dog Beau key chain in Washington DC as a gift for my dog.. It was a great chewing toy.

T Shirts.  All I Got Was…. and I Heart ……. are still very popular in every souvenir store in every country.  I used to think an interesting local T-shirt was a good gift. They were cheap, light weight, easy to pack and a simple reminder of where I was in the world.  I soon realized that no one ever wore them.

National Clothes. It  seems like a great idea when you are there. I bought enough clothes from the different hill tribes in Thailand to actually join one.  It was the same with wool sweaters  and hats from Estonia and Peru. I  live in Southern California. It doesn’t get that cold.  I finally realized that I’m not really the ethnic, art teacher type dresser.  No one else I knew was either.

Baseball hats with logos. I do buy them from time to time as a gift but I usually end up keeping them. I have a lot of bad hair days.  At the moment I’m wearing the New Zealand All Blacks one. 

Miniature statues.  Every souvenir shop has tons of these. I always wonder who buys them. I’ve never seen anyone paying for one. Miniature Christ the Redeemer? Miniature Eiffel Tower? I guess it’s a good way of keeping track of the bucket list places that you have seen. Do you really want a plastic Leaning Tower of Pisa on your book shelf in ten years time?

Coffee Mugs are everywhere with everything you can possibly imagine on them. You can get them with Chairman Mao, Mickey Mouse,Vladimir Putin, Eva Peron  and everything in between. Since I collect Starbucks mugs from all over the world I don’t find this one as odd. I find it memorable.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Things To Do In The Napa Valley, California

Ten Things To Do In The Napa Valley, California

“The Napa Valley is Disneyland for alcoholics. Be honest, you’re not visiting wineries in four days because you’re an oenophile, you’re doing it because you’re a drunk. It’s the only place in America where you can pass out in a stranger’s house and it’s okay, because it’s a B&B and you paid for it.” Bill Maher

  1. Visit Wineries and Vineyards. There are many. You can do wine tasting, visit wine cellars, stomp grapes, blend your own wine, experience food and wine pairings or drink wine and view art. Ride the wine train. Purchase a wine tasting card to all the tasting rooms in downtown Napa. Drink wine and have a cooking lesson. See a winery with historic caves. Visit wineries owned by famous people.
  2.  Sample beer at micro breweries.
  3. Eat. The restaurants have more Michelin stars per capita than any other wine region in the world.
  4. Visit farmers markets and taste the local olive oil.
  5. Hike. Do yoga and have spa treatments.
  6. Visit Old Faithful Geyser of California in Calistoga which is not to be confused with Old Faithful of Yellowstone National Park. It is one of the three faithful geysers in the US due to regular eruptions. They are geysers that you can count on. It is one of the most photographed places in California. Add in mud baths and hot mineral pools when you are there.
  7. Go antique shopping and take a historic walking tour of downtown Napa or Yountville.
  8. Take a hot air balloon ride and watch the sunrise over the Napa Valley.
  9. Stop in at the Di Rosa Gallery. In the 1960s Rene Di Rosa introduced grapes to the Carneros region, but ultimately it was contemporary art that became his passion. With nearly 2,000 pieces created by 800 artists, Di Rosa has three galleries, a sculpture park, 35-acre lake and a wildlife preserve.
  10. Visit Greystone which is the original Culinary Institute of America in St Helena. Chances are good that if you are a wine connoisseur then you also like food. Take cooking classes or see chef demonstrations of food to go with all that wine. Maybe some hangover specials would be good to learn.

    Fly safe,

    JAZ