Ten Amazing Travel Days

Ten Amazing Travel Days

“It’s a perfect day, drank Sangria in the park, later on when it gets dark, we go home”  Lou Reed

A perfect travel day is when everything falls seamlessly into place. There are days when you experience amazing things because the world is an incredible place. I picked ten of my favorite days

Cappadocia , Turkey

Cappadocia could be among my favorite places in the world.  The dramatic landscape is the result of volcanic eruptions that happened millions of years ago. Wind and water eroded the land leaving these odd surreal land formations, fairy chimneys, caves and underground cities.

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Floating across the sky at sunrise, above the lunar-like, rugged moonscape of Cappadocia in a hot air balloon was one of the most incredible mornings of my life and should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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Dubrovnik and Peljesac Penninsula, Croatia

I had a great time in Croatia with my kids. A particularly beautiful day was spent exploring the Peljesac Peninsula with our tour guide Petar Vlasik http://www.dubrovnikrivieratours.com.  We stopped at a few different wineries for wine tasting. Ston is a fortified city from the middle ages with stone ramparts said to resemble a small great wall of China. Ston is known for their lush oyster beds and salt pans and is a great place to eat the freshest oysters and buy salt.

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That night we attended a really good jazz concert at the Old Rectory Church in Dubrovnik. It was a great family memory.

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Onsets and Ryokans, Japan

Ryokan are Japanese style inns found throughout the country in hot springs resorts. Ryokan are a traditional Japanese experience, incorporating elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, Japanese style baths and local kaiseki ryori (eight course typical Japanese meals with local and seasonal specialties).

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The main activity besides eating is bathing. The geothermal springs located throughout the country( onsens) provide hot mineral-rich water for indoor and outdoor baths. The chemistry, temperature, pressure, buoyancy, sulfa and magnesium of thermal baths have curative properties . The meals show all that is beautiful about Japanese culture. Kaiseki is a multi course meal rooted in the Buddhist idea of simplicity. I have been fortunate to visit a few ryokans in Nikko, Yufuin and Iso Nagaoka. Each one has been special.

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Marajo, Brazil

Marajo is an island in Brazil in the state of Para at the mouth of the Amazon. It is the size of Switzerland and home to many beautiful birds and water buffalo.

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The story goes that a ship laden with goods and water buffalo from India hit a reef and sank off the coast of Marajo. Some of the buffalo escaped the wreck and swam to shore. The buffalo are descendants of this shipwreck though now more have been brought in. There are large herds of domesticated water buffalo on the island. At Fazenda Sanjo you can experience life on a farm in the Amazon. There is piranha fishing, riding and milking buffalo, canoeing and horseback riding through the river with the buffalo. We did the riding with the buffalo. It was definitely the most different thing I have ever seen up close and pretty amazing.

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Edinburgh, Scotland

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a summer theatre festival that includes cutting edge theatre, interesting comedians, and everything else. It is a festival where anyone can perform and my daughter’s high school took advantage of that and had a three-week summer program in Edinburgh. My son and I went to see her perform. It was my first time at the Edinburgh Fringe. Being a theatre person, I loved every minute of it and have been back a few times.

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My son worked there the following summer. The Royal Mile is the definitive part of the fringe. This road is packed full of street entertainment, groups doing excerpts from their shows (mainly musicals) and lots, lots and lots of acts trying to flyer you to get you to see their shows. There’s not really any equivalent to this anywhere else. Theatre goes on all day and all night. We had a blast.

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Cartagena, Colombia

The heat in Cartagena gives it a sleepy feeling which kind of makes it okay to sit on the wall, browse through shops and street vendors, buy fresh fruit from a woman carrying it on her head and not go to a museum.

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La Boquilla is a poor fishing village twenty minutes outside of Cartegena. It is a peninsula at the end of a beach with the Caribbean Sea on one side and a lake with mangroves on the other. The guide takes you on an old canoe through mangrove tunnels with flocks of birds and fishermen fishing for crabs ,shrimp and small fish.

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After the canoe they pull out a fresh coconut and make a hole for a straw with a machete. I walk for a long time on the beach with my feet in the Caribbean Sea. I have lunch on the beach of fresh fish, plantains and coconut rice.

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez became a writer in Cartegena. His novel Love in The Time Of Cholera Is set here. It is one of my favorites. I see Fermina riding in the horse and carriages and Florentino wandering everywhere in despair. You can see how much of Cartegena is in his books.

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Hoi An, Viet Nam

Hoi An is one of the most charming cities in Viet Nam .Hoi An’s Old Quarter is lined with two-story old Chinese buildings that now house shops with elaborately carved wooden facades and moss-covered tile roofs.

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The food market reminds visitors of another era when it was filled with goods from all over the Asia. (mangos, rambuchan, snake wine) Hoi An is a place where you can get clothes and shoes made at a reasonable price as long as you have a picture. It is also one of the best eating cities in Viet Nam and known for cooking classes and especially delicious food.

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After spending the day in the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Hoi An, i head back to the Nam Hai all-villa resort on quiet Hoi An Beach. The contemporary architecture is welcoming and eye-catching as feng shui mingles with strong modern lines.

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The Spa at the Nam Hai is truly something wonderful. Composed of 8 villas, floating around a lotus pond, it is the ideal location for a relaxing massage, steam shower and herbal tea! The people who work there are most helpful and always want to practice their English.

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Venice, Italy

Every corner you turn in Venice ,you walk deeper into some real-life watercolor painting that a camera can never do justice. It’s like no place else I’ve ever been.

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It’s  a maze of canals and small streets, whimsical bridges, and colorful buildings. And as with all mazes, you should prepare to find yourself lost a time or two. I was there with my kids and a friend,  It was during the Art Biennale in the summer.

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We got to see incredible modern art from all over the world in the morning and explore the city in the afternoon.

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An important Venetian holiday is held on the third week in July. It is the Feast of the Redentore commemorating the end of the plague that killed fifty thousand people including Titian. The fireworks display is so extensive and significant that the re-election of the mayor is contingent on their quality (sort of like us picking a governor based on his movies) I have to add that they were the most incredible fireworks of our lives –I hope that mayor got re-elected.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina

It started in Tigre, a port a half hour from Buenos Aires. We sailed through the different rivers of the Delta Del Parana.

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At lunchtime, we went to Tres Esquinas in Barranca, a working class barrio in Buenos Aires for steak and empanadas. I love outdoor markets but the Sunday antiques market in Plaza Dorrego  in San Telmo is a phenomenon. The antiques are around the plaza but the shopping continues with arts and crafts vendors for many blocks. It is curbside capitalism at its finest.

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La Confiteria Ideal did not start as a tango hall but as  a pastry café in 1912. In the nineties it became a tango hall. Its faded glamour was a perfect background for the faded glamour of the tango dancers I saw that day. Dance has been a big part of my life. Andres Miguel my tour guide is a tango dancer.  tango@culturacercana.com.ar  Everything we did that day was related to tango  –  a boat on a river, good food and shopping, a milonga and always tango stories. He was the perfect tour guide for me and gave me a gift of the perfect day.

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Krueger National Park, South Africa

My daughter and my new son-in-law  were married on a safari In South Africa with sixty-five of their closest friends and family. A game park in Africa is an unlikely wedding destination. (We Love Pictures)

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You know that word that we Americans overuse for everything – awesome? i didn’t expect to have the feeling of humbleness and awe I had when seeing the African animals in the wild up close. There are moments of joy in your life. Watching your daughter get married to the right guy   in the peace and beauty of the African Bush is a distinctive moment of happiness. Watching your son officiate the wedding with intelligence, humor, kindness, sensitivity and even a bit of spirituality  (albeit in the form of animals)  makes it perfect.

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Fly safe,
JAZ

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

“I wondered about the explorers who’d sailed their ships to the end of the world. How terrified they must have been when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams.” Jodi Picoult

The heat in Cartagena gives it a sleepy feeling which kind of makes it okay to sit on the wall, browse through shops and street vendors, buy fresh fruit from a woman carrying it on her head and not go to a museum.

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The city was founded in 1533 and was the main South American port for the Spaniards. They stored treasures pillaged from the indigenous people in Cartagena to ship to their homeland. Silver, gold, cacao beans, chile peppers and tobacco from the new world were shipped to Spain. Cartagena was a marketplace for slave ships coming from Africa. It was probably the most looted port in the world. As a result of constant pirate attacks, the Spanish built a solid wall to surround the town to protect their valuables. It was built during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries and is the only walled city in the Americas. It took more than two hundred years and fifteen million African slaves to build the wall.

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The main fortification was the Fort of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (named after Spain’s King Philip IV) which is located on a 130-foot-high hill towering over the city. Originally built in the mid-1600s, it was rebuilt and enlarged several times over the years to become the greatest fortress Spain ever built in the Americas.

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Las Palenqueras are the famous fruit basket ladies you see around the walled city. They come from San Basilio De Palenque which is an hour away from Cartagena.

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These women are the descendants of South American slaves and San Basilio De Palenque was the first city in South America of free slaves. Las Palenqueras keep their African culture and traditions.

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The food market in Cartagena is hot and dark with a lot going on. The smell hits you. It is a mixture of sweet smelling fruit, fish smelling fish, raw meat and live birds.

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The thing I always notice in these markets is that they use every part of the animal and the parts are all there to buy. There are always flies and fast-moving, knives, machetes and hammers.

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Tables are filled with all the local fruits and vegetables. I eat delicious tamarind from the pod. I have never seen a raw one before. (tamarind)

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Everyone is moving quickly carrying a lot on their heads or in their arms. It is a market for locals and you can buy anything from toiletries to clothes as well. I bought flip-flops.

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La Boquilla is a poor fishing village twenty minutes outside of Cartegena. (poor but happy)

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It is a peninsula at the end of a beach with the Caribbean Sea on one side and a lake with mangroves on the other.

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The guide takes you on an old canoe through mangrove tunnels with flocks of birds and fishermen fishing for crabs ,shrimp and small fish.

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After the canoe they pull out a fresh coconut and make a hole for a straw with a machete. When you finish the water they quickly open it up and slice up the meat. It was clearly not the first coconut they’ve opened with a machete. It feels very far away from Cartagena.

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Then I walk for a long time with my feet in the Caribbean sea. I have lunch on the beach of fresh fish, plantains and coconut rice.

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Day and night the sound of clip clopping horse and carts carry tourists around the city. I prefer to wander around and walk the walls at dusk.

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez became a writer in Cartegena. His novel Love in The Time Of Cholera Is set here. It is one of my favorites. I see Fermina riding in the horse and carriages and Florentino wandering everywhere in despair.

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You can see how much of Cartegena is in his books. Garcia Marquez or Gabo died a few days after I returned . But now I can picture him  sitting in La Vitrola, Café Havana or in a square in Cartegena writing his stories. ( a person standing in front of Gabo’s house, some famous characters from another author play chess in the square)

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Thank to Jose and Kevin Rodriguez for their kindness and knowledge of a city they love.

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Colombia is now one of my favorite places. One of my best trips happened because I said yes to something I never thought I would be doing alone. Thanks Jeannine Cohen from Geox for planning this wonderful adventure.

Viaje Con Cuidado,

JAZ

My Favorite Band Is Grouplove – Teaching An English Class In Cartagena, Colombia

My Favorite Band Is Grouplove  – Teaching An English Class In Cartagena, Colombia

“Small acts of kindness may or may not change the world, but they definitely change you.”   Nipun Mehta

My tour guide  was on his way to teach an English class at his church. He and his  family volunteer their time to teach English. I asked if I could tag along thinking I would sit in the back. It turned out that I was to be the surprise English teacher.

The students ranged from kids to adults and were at all levels of English. The class was usually larger but because it was a holiday there were fewer people. They are amazingly enthusiastic with a real will to learn – even from someone who sounds as illiterate in Spanish as I do.

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While learning  English grammar,  we share experiences and insights.

“My favorite band is Guns and Roses.”

“Her favorite actor is Brad Pitt.“

“His favorite soccer team is Brazil.”

“Their favorite place is this church.”

“Our favorite writer is Marquez.”

You can see with each one of the students that every sentence requires thought. It is not only about how to say it correctly but how to answer the question. It becomes important what we tell each other about ourselves. “But I don’t have a favorite sports team because I don’t like sports.” It is more than just a grammatical exercise.

I believe that those of us who travel  seek knowledge to grow and share with others. What better way then to not only teach but to represent English as something more than a workbook. For people who live in cities where tourism is the main industry learning English will help them get better jobs and have better lives.  I could see in their eyes that I inspired them to work on their English that night and I felt honored to be there. If you happen to be in Cartagena, and have a couple of hours to spare for some conversation in English before dinner, contact Jose Villa Rodriguez ( also a terrific tour guide) josevillarodriguez@yahoo.com. It’s a great way to interact with people from a country.

If only someone would volunteer to help me with my Spanish.

Muchas Gracias Daniel, Diana, Edwin, Erdas, Laura, Leidy, Manuel, Muriel, Nini and Salvador.

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Viaje con cuidado,

JAZ