Some Of My Favorite Tour Guides

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Some Of My Favorite Tour Guides

“To let life happen to you is irresponsible. To create your day is your divine right.”Ramtha

A great tour guide is one that creates an experience that you will remember. The best guides I’ve had have left me wanting to go back to the destination or have left me feeling like I’ve made a new friend. I have had many amazing tour guides but I picked ten in no particular order.

Ogus Kaya, Turkey

Ogus is such a warm, friendly and truly motivated guide. He is organized and punctual. We traveled for a few weeks in Turkey with him. He taught us a tremendous amount about the history and architecture. I was obsessed with the Mosque architecture of Sinan. We felt that he wanted us to love Turkey as much as he did and i think everyone did.

One of the highlights of the trip was the balloon ride over Cappodocia. I like my feet on the ground and was not going to do it. He finally said that he would go with me. He reminded me that he had two small children and one on the way. This balloon ride became one of my most cherished travel memories which I would never have done without him. ogus 51@yahoo.com

Petar Vlasik, Croatia

Petar was my first internet tour guide. After a land tour and small boat tour both cancelled, I decided to take my kids and plan a trip through Croatia by myself with Petar. This was the first time I had ever done anything like this without a husband. It was before Trip Advisor. He was recommended by Rick Steves  (so i knew he wasn’t a serial killer). Petar was smart, funny and so knowledgeable about his beautiful country.

We had a wonderful trip. Croatia is still one of my favorite countries for those who have not been there yet. I did not listen to him about hotels and I was sorry. I learned from Petar that a good tour guide always knows best and to trust my instincts about internet tour guides. http://www.dubrovnikrivieratours.com

Dvir Hollander, Jerusalem, Israel

Dvir’s knowledge, insight, humor, non judgmental world view and kindness made touring this amazing city with him a special experience. We met at lunchtime and we were hungry. When Dvir recognized that we were kindred spirits about food, he described himself as a “ friendly dictator” when it came to where we should eat.

If you are going to Jerusalem, I highly recommend hiring him – not just for the delicious food, but for how much you will learn and experience. He has the unique ability to figure out just what you want to do and then he casually adds in what he feels you are missing. The trip was perfect. Contact him at hollander2000@gmail.com.

Guide Gift Bangkok,Thailand

Gift was another guide that I found online before trip advisor. I read the reviews on her page and went with my gut. She is knowledgeable, kind, and fun to be with. I felt like I was seeing Bangkok and Ayuthetta with one of my friends.

She has her plan but is always ready to change if there is something you want to do. She also knows a very good place for Thai Massage. When you are in a part of the world that feels very different from yours, Gift can make it feel like home.
http://www.privatetourthailand.com)

  Do Sy Quy “Buffalo Joe”Hanoi, Viet Nam

My guide in Hanoi  was Mr. Do Sy Quy. He was my first guide in Viet Nam  and set the tone for an amazing experience. “Buffalo Joe” is kind, friendly, funny, intuitive and very knowledgeable about Hanoi and Viet Nam history.

I connected with him immediately and feel like I have a friend in Hanoi. i will always remember our drive to and from Ha Long Bay and everything we did –  especially the Thanh Chuong Viet Palace. http://www.incensetravel.com

Andres Miguel, Buenos Aires, Argentina

i have had a few great guides in Argentina but I had to pick Andres Miguel because he is a tango dancer.  Everything we did that day was related to tango  –  a boat on a river, good food, shopping, a milonga and always tango stories. He changed things around and went with what interested me.

The boat ride was an impromptu surprise as was eating at a family restaurant on Sunday for the best empanadas. He was the perfect tour guide for me and gave me a gift of the perfect Buenos Aires day.  tango@culturacercana.com.ar

Jose Villa, Cartagena,Colombia

The hot, sleepy city of Cartagena is such a special place and seeing it with Jose is the way to go. Being alone he let me tag along to teach English at their church and visit the music school his son Kevin attended..They were both knowledgeable and fun.

We saw the old city, beaches, markets, took a private boat to the islands, visited a fishing village, paddled a canoe through the mangrove tunnels and strolled the streets of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I stayed an extra few days because I loved this city and felt so safe and taken care of. http://cartagenadestiny.com

Carolina Velasquez Obreque, Santiago, Chile

Carolina was our tour guide in Santiago and Valparaiso. She was funny, knowledgeable and organized. She came to us through Vaya Adventures. We spent a beautiful day with her exploring the Casablanca wine region between Valpo and Santiago.

The trip was seamless – except when I lost that paper that they give you at customs when you land. Apparently it’s very important in Chile. She went with me to get a new one before driving to Valpo which is why I am home and able to write this. I highly recommend spending some time in Chile with her. https://www.vayaadventures.com

Michai Bojanowski , Wroclaw, Poland

Michai is a wonderful guide who loves his country. With knowledge and humor, we spent a long day in Wroclaw exploring the beauty of the city. He incorporates the darkness of the past as we explore the Jewish quarter. He has such passion for passing on the truth.

Before lunch I saw a street art drawing of man looking out the window. I ask about it. He tells me it is Poland’s most famous poet and playwright Tadeusz Różewicz.

After lunch, he has brought copies of a beautiful poem that he thought would go with what he was speaking about.He made sure we learned a little extra. I love that.  michal.bojanowski@chidusz.com

Wayne Thomas, Aukland, New Zealand

I usually don’t write  about a half day group tour of a city but I learned and retained more information with Wayne Thomas of Bush and Beach Tours http://www.bushandbeach.co.nz/, then any day tour I have ever been on.

He has a way of passing on knowledge that is sometimes funny and sometimes personal  that makes you remember it.  This is a wonderful welcome tour of New Zealand. I highly recommend him.

Fly safe,
JAZ

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Humans Of Chile

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Humans Of Chile

There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” Robert Frank

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I have to thank our Santiago, Valparaiso and Casablanca guide Carolina for everything. She is knowledgeable, kind, fun and has a great sense of humor.  We felt completely taken care of in Chile.  Our driver Victor was great and funny.

If you are going to South America, Gabriella at Vaya Adventures https://www.vayaadventures.com  is a the person to help you plan your trip. The trip was perfect. Thank you so much for this amazing adventure.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Wine Tasting in Chile

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Wine Tasting  In Chile

“I like on the table,when we’re speaking,
the light of a bottle of intelligent wine.” Pablo Neruda

Casablanca is a newer wine region between Valparaiso and Santiago. In the 1980s some entrepreneurs started drilling for water underground and the first vineyards were planted. The climate is good for grapes. Cold air from the nearby Pacific Ocean give the grapes a long ripening period.

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The summers in Casablanca are warm but not hot, which is perfect for white wines. In the beginning, the wines in Casablanca were mainly white. Now Pinot Noir and Syrah are also doing very well here.

Our first winery at 10am was Loma Larga Vineyards. It is a Chilean boutique winery.  Alejandra Guiterrez  greeted us with a smile  and was very knowledgeable about all things related to wine.  This vineyard is a good place to taste red wine in an area that is famous for whites. The setting is beautiful with the vines growing among apple, avocado, almond trees and rose bushes.

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We toured the production room, a modern facility with a steel walkway overlooking the tanks, and the barrel cellar.

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The vineyard produces two lines, Lomas de Valle and Loma Larga, which ages in French oak casks.

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The tasting took place indoors because it was a really cold morning. Breakfast is the most important wine tasting of the day. We bought wine. They have a warehouse in Napa, California and they deliver.

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Our second winery was Kingston Vineyards. It is another boutique vineyard with a small but high quality group of wines.

It was closer to lunchtime and still very cold for spring.

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We walked through their exquisite vineyards. By we I meant  me and my stray dog.

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The American Kingston family splits their time between the US and Chile. This vineyard was founded in the 1900’s by their ancestors as a dairy and cattle ranch. They began growing grapes  in 1998. In the wine production room there are stainless steel tanks, French oak casks and concrete eggs.

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The shape of the eggs allow for optimal circulation of the juice. I had never seen that before. A few other vineyards in the valley use them.

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We then had a tasting and lunch in a small private room. It felt more like sitting and tasting their delicious wines with friends. Lora Kelley our guide was from the US and taught us a lot about the vineyard.

Kingston also has free shipping to the United States. We bought more wine.

Our last vineyard of the day was The Matetic Vineyards which are located in the Rosario Valley. This completely enclosed valley is perpendicular to the ocean and features ideal climatic and topographic conditions for both red and white wines.

The Matetic family emigrated from Croatia to Chile in the late nineteenth century. Chile has the largest Croatian community outside of Croatia. In 1999 they planted their first vineyards.

The winery now owns about 120 hectares of vineyards, all which are certified organic and biodynamic. They produced the first cool-climate Syrah in Chile, and with their success, other wineries began producing their own cool-climate Syrahs too.

In 2004, the Matetics constructed a state of the art winery.

The wine tasting was outside overlooking the beautiful vineyards. The wines were superb. It had warmed up by then. Tipsy and happy by the third vineyard, I could not remember this pleasant French guide’s name. They don’t deliver to the United States. We had brought wine travel pouches with us so we bought more wine.

We broke one of the cardinal rules of wine tasting that day, which is that evaluating the later wines will be difficult if you swallow the earlier ones. The alcohol you consume will cloud your judgment  and your memory. A few weeks after we arrived home, bottles of wine started arriving. We did not remember buying that much.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Street Art In Valpo (Valparaiso, Chile)

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Street Art In Valpo.

“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 H Krueger

This picturesque port city of Valparaiso or Valpo as it is called to locals attracts artists from all over the world who proudly come to leave their mark on its walls.

The city has become internationally known as an open canvas for the creative urban artists.

You can visit Valparaíso and discover plenty of magnificent art on your own. But, for those low on time, and high on interest, I recommend taking the street art tour with Al Ramirez.

Al is a graffiti artist.

Graffiti has gained recognition from the art world more and more as a legitimate form of art.


While tags are probably the most popular forms of stylized writing, graffiti art is much more than that.

It can mean a colorful mural with a message or a black and white stencil piece. In each case, graffiti art makes a statement.

The tour includes all kinds of street art.

“We are not Hippies, We are Happies” might just be the most popular piece of street art in all of Valparaíso. It was painted by Art + Believe, an English creative duo based in Brighton, UK and is located on one of Valparaíso’s most central streets. You may have to fight your way through the crowds to get a picture as it’s always packed with photo-happy tourists.

The most famous Valpo born artists is INTI. INTI’s murals are massive, his work literally demanding attention. It’s impossible to walk by one his monumental paintings without taking notice. He’s become quite the legend among street artists in Chile and has left his mark in almost every corner of the globe.

I learned on the tour that Pablo Neruda (Valparaiso’s most famous resident) invited artists to get creative in his city.

Consider it the social media of the day – as politicians now tweet their latest opinions to the masses, the street artists would spread their political messages via art.

Under the Pinochet dictatorship, street art in Chile emerged as a form of protest. It is still a form of protest today.

Street art is about communication, whether it is a beautiful mural, or fancy bubble letters.

I read everything. I’m a huge fan of walls that tell a story. (or stairs)

Thanks Al for a great day. http://www.ValpoStreetArt.com

Fly safe,
JAZ

Myths Of Chiloe Island, Chile

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Myths of Chiloe Island,Chile

“After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of ‘truth’, and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear.” J.R.R. Tolkien 

There is a rich legacy of myth and magic infused into the island of Chiloe. Mythology and religion live side-by-side on these shores, which is a testament to a history molded by both the indigenous Mapuche and Spanish conquistadors. 

The Jesuits who came to Chiloe did not wipe out the Native culture but incorporated it into a religious context.

The wooden chapels of Chiloé are considered as UNESCO World Heritage sites for their cultural significance, blending native and Spanish beliefs into the churches.

Each chapel has southern-facing front doors to protect them from the rain.

We see many of them throughout the island.

  i appreciated the calming, subtle colors of the church’s interior and the solid construction of its supports, all made from wood.

You can see how functional and integrated into daily life these churches  are.

Residents of Chiloe call themselves Chilotes  instead of Chileans. Their remote location, enabled them to keep their identity and remained loyal to Spain for many years.

The first thing we seen in the town of Castro are small children dressed in the costumes of these mythological creatures.

I am surprised they let us photograph them.

The teacher tells me in Spanish “I am bruha (witch) like my people. I know who is bad and who is not. “

Witches and Warlocks are often blamed for the unexplainable things in Chiloe.

Every night there is a post card with a child’s drawing on our bed at Tierra Chiloe. It is one of the colorful supernatural mythological creatures of Chiloe with an explanation in English and Spanish. It is from books written by the hotel manager’s wife and illustrated  by their children.

La Pincoya is one of the most ancient mythical creatures In Myths and Legends of Chiloe.

It says that “If Pincoya appears to fishermen facing the sea, their catch will be abundant. If her back is to the sea, the fish will be few.”

Huenchula is a girl who falls in love with the King of the Sea.

“The legend of Huenchula lays down a number of rules about how to extract shell-fish from the sea:

Take them out by hand; don’t fight over them; don’t use wheel-barrels or trucks to extract them.”

 Fiura  is an ugly woman with bad breath. She lives in the woods and seduces young men before driving them insane.

Trauco, the forest troll, seduces young women and is blamed when they return — pregnant.

 Caleuche is a ghostly ship  which glows in the fog and travels at great speeds both above and below the water, emitting beautiful music, carrying the witches to their next stop.

Journeying through the archipelago, it’s crewed by shipwrecked sailors and fishermen who have perished at sea.

There are many more creatures. I realize at the end of my visit that these stories, like the scenery, architecture,  handicrafts and food is part of the essence of Chiloe and a bit of what makes it so special.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Isla De Chiloe (Chiloe Island), Chile

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Isla de Chiloé, Chile

“In winter the climate is detestable, and in summer it is only a little better. I should think there are few parts of the world, within the temperate regions, where so much rain falls. The winds are very boisterous, and the sky almost always clouded: to have a week of fine weather is something”Charles Darwin about Chiloe Island

In the beginning of the 16th century the Inca Empire ended at Chiloe Island and a strange and unknown world began. I like going places that not a lot of people have heard of.

Chiloé is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean composed of more than 40 minor islands, just off the Chilean coast. The archipelago was formed from lava and debris from the ring of volcanoes that cluster near the bottom of the world — producing scenery that can be other-worldly.

The Mapuche Indians and the Spanish lived there together for over three centuries. The culture in Chiloe is based on this relationship. There are many beautiful small wooden chapels and fascinating local mythology.

The Incas called it the place of seagulls. Up until recently it was only linked to the mainland by ferries.

Castro is the island’s main town. We saw the ‘palafitos’ (colorful houses on stilts) down by a beautiful lake, surrounded by rolling green hills.

The Incas were definitely right about the seagulls.

In Chiloe there is no excuse not to eat well. The food market in Castro is small but interesting filled with fresh local fruits and vegetables and plenty of fresh seafood. Chilean woman are surrounded by woolen sox, hats slippers and sweaters. There are strings of smoked dry mussels and boxes of multicolored potatoes.

Curranto is the national dish of Chiloe. Cooked in a hole in the ground covered with leaves, the dish consists of clams, mussels, smoked sausage, smoked ribs, chicken, and potato pancakes It is 6000 years old and the oldest dish in Chiloe. It is very delicious.

The people of Chiloe have been making clothes out of wool for centuries in the cold winter months. Sheep’s wool is a southern Chile speciality.

Dalcahue is about an hour from Castro. It is best known form its Feria Artensal Manos Chilotes and Sunday Market.

.Artisans here produce higher quantity handiwork than the commercial market.

Maybe the most representative local art is the one made with wood. Boats, houses, furniture and utensils highlight the work of the carpenters, who are artists in their construction of ships and fishing boats which are so necessary for both fishing and transportation.

A lot of rain falls here. It is green like Ireland.

There are sheep and cows throughout the landscape like New Zealand and Tasmania.

This time of year, there’s an added splash of color: bright yellow flowers known locally as espinilla coat the landscape, great for photographs but bad for agriculture — the plant is actually an invasive weed the islanders could do without.

Many of the buildings and houses on Chiloé also take advantage of the wooden architecture, and are often covered with wooden shingles called tejuelas cut from the native Alerce tree, to create roofs that can withstand the frequent rain showers in the region.

The more intricate the shingles, the fancier the people.

Our hotel, Tierra Chiloe is a perfectly designed wooden building with comfortable space and spectacular views.

Wooden furniture, Chilean books, woven baskets, woolen throws, wooden dishes and platters give an authentic yet modern feel. The food is some of the best I have had in Chile.

Every day we have excursions which include culture, nature and hiking.  The staff is attentive and personable.

The hotel’s beautiful wooden boat called Williche took us to small fishing villages.

I brought home a lot of seashells.

 All the guides were knowledgeable and fun. We spent most of our time with Gonzalo who bent over backwards to make sure we had an unforgettable experience.

Chiloe has a subtle beauty. It’s a place where it is quiet enough to take time away from the noise of your daily life to figure out what you really want. Sometimes what you really want is just to look out the window at the landscape.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Birdman And The Destruction Of The Moai On Easter Island

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Birdman And The Destruction Of The Moai On Easter Island

“History teaches us many things. Most importantly, the things that made us who and what we are.” Robert Bonvill

When Jacob Roggeveen arrives on Easter Island he finds few trees, a couple of thousand people and nine hundred statues.

Both he and later Captain Cook surmise that there must have been a much larger population at one time to have built all these giant statues. The statues are lying on the ground in disarray and the natives ignore them.

The statues you see standing up now have been restored.

The story goes that at some point in the island’s history, the art and the increasing population were depleting the natural resources. There were too many trees being cut down. Without trees you have no canoes to get fish.There are no fishing nets to be made  without the mulberry trees. Rats were overrunning the island and eating the seeds and fruit.

Speculation is that the people were starving, fighting and blamed their idols.

They threw them down or lay them down and started killing each other. There is evidence of cannibalism.

The natives that were there when the Europeans came, follow a Birdman Cult, Tangata-Manu. The Rano Kau area has been considered sacred since ancient times. It is here in the fifteenth or sixteenth century that the Orongo ceremonial village is built for the new order.

After the fall of the Moai carving era society, new gods replaced the old ones while a struggle for power came to light. In order to settle this in a non-violent way, the Birdman Cult competition was established to help decide who would lead the Rapa Nui each year. They competed in a yearly Hunger Games-style race to retrieve an egg from an island in shark-infested waters with many deaths. The supreme deity of the Birdman Cult was the fertility god Make-Make.

There are petroglyphs that show the fish, marine life and canoes near Papa Vaku. Many Birdman petroglyphs were found near the Orongo village.

Over the next 150 years the remaining Rapa Nui culture shrunk to 150 people due mostly to European diseases.

The fate of the Rapa Nui on Easter Island is often used to illustrate how humans destroy their communities with environmental destruction and warfare. They had a highly developed civilization for about six hundred years and then they destroyed the environment and it ended in catastrophe.

We don’t know what is true and what isn’t, but the Moai stand as a reminder of the demise of an ancient culture.

As we deplete our natural resources, do we go the way of the Rapa Nui or do we hold ourselves accountable for our global excess?

Fly safe,

JAZ