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

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My Top Ten Instagram Photos This Year (travelwellflysafe)

“Just give me a thousand words and you may make your own pictures.”
Erica Goros

I have been instagramming for about half of the year. I see the world in pictures anyway so it is really fun for me. I learn as I go. I have “internet brain” now. i think it’s going to be a real thing. It is getting harder and harder to immerse myself in a book or lengthy article. It is much easier to spend time looking at photos that have nothing to do with anything, places I want to go or have been or finding the perfect emoji to put on my comment. My topic hopping, time-wasting, hashtagging, bad spelling sessions have resulted in this blog. (No particular order)

#sunset (Yesilkurt,Turkey)

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#hiking in#redmountain (St. George, Utah)

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impossibly#wide #beach (Marajo, Brazil)

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Can you take a bad #Venice photo? (Italy)

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#car in#cuba (Varadero,Cuba)

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#streetart in #bogota (Colombia)

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Holding up the #mountain just noticed the #cross (Tilcara, Jujuy, Argentina)

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#cactus or #cacti  (Jujuy, Argentina)

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#sunset makes the best #photo (Izmir, Turkey)

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Another boring day in #marajo (Belém, Brazil)

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None of my LA photos made it into the top ten. Instagram likes me out-of-town, with mountains, a beach and a great sunset. I agree.

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

Luz A Salento Music School In Colombia

Luz A Salento Music School in Colombia

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” JK Rowling

In one room kids are playing the clarinet. The youngest children are singing downstairs. There is a violin class going on in an outside courtyard.

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It could be any music school in the world but this one is in the town of Salento, Colombia. It is Luz A Salento a music school geared to training and teaching local students ages 6-14. They start with lessons in violin, violincello, clarinet, flute, drums and eventually become part of the children’s orchestra.

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The founders of this program believe that “ if these young kids take an instrument in their hands, that instrument will never be changed for a weapon.”

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The Arts teach discipline to children without their knowledge.  They are learning it because something is enriching them and they want to go to the next level. They begin to put the time in to get better.  It isn’t about being the best. It’s about being the best you can be which translate into school subjects as well. Does listening and playing music make you smarter? Studies say Yes.

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Art and Music should be within the reach of every person.  Countries with strong dividing lines between rich and poor make the cycle of poverty hard to break. There is not just material poverty in these villages but also a spiritual poverty. Teaching music teaches skills which translates into learning to value high achievement. Playing an instrument is empowering to children. They learn in group lessons which promotes confidence in what they create together. The children in this town are doing something that people don’t expect them to do. This music school is teaching them something that they never would have had the chance to learn.

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But they need help. This isn’t a big foundation. It’s a small school in a town in the mountains of Colombia. They don’t have access to a lot of advertising and fundraising.

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So any music lovers who want to help………..

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If you don’t speak Spanish and want more info email Edeardo Olier (a retired dentist who has taken over running and funding the school) at edolier@hotmail.com.

You can wire tax-deductible donations to any of these accounts: 7248-7230658 BancoColombia –Armenia Norte 07707024-1 AvVillas Bogota 31206054-4 Av Villas Armenia Norte.

The school email is luzasalento@gmail.com.

Music is the great uniter. It’s a thing that people and countries who cant’ agree on anything else can have in common. Music speaks to everyone when words cannot.

Please send anything you can.

Viaje con cuidado, JAZ

The Cocora Valley, Colombia

The Cocora Valley, Colombia

What did the tree learn from the earth to be able to talk with the sky?
~ Pablo Neruda

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The Cocora Valley in the Coffee Triangle is very beautiful. The national tree of Colombia which is the wax palm grows here up in the clouds (6000-8000 feet above sea level.). They are very skinny, incredibly tall trees – the tallest palm trees in the world. IMG_4372

Wax palms grow up to 200 feet and can live for up to 120 years. The leaves are dark green and gray and the trunk is covered with wax. The wax was used to make soap and candles. The outer part of the stem of the palm has been used locally for building houses, and was used to build water supply systems for farmers. The fruit served as food for cattle and pigs

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For centuries, the Christian worshippers used to cut palm fronds from their wax palm trees to celebrate Palm Sunday, The exploitation of the indigenous people reduced the number of wax palms, prompting the Colombian government to give protection for the remaining trees. In 1985, an edict sponsored by both the Catholic Church and the government, forbid the cutting of wax palm fronds. We hike for a while along a muddy path and rickety bridges which heads up into the Andes. IMG_4417 IMG_4404 IMG_4392 IMG_4398

Lunch is served at the Bosques de Cocora, a countryside restaurant that serves regional cuisine, including the area’s famous trout. IMG_4431

Throughout the coffee triangle you will see Jeep Willys. After WWII, the United States had a surplus of these, which Colombia bought very cheaply. Their durability is great in the coffee region and you can see them in all the towns. IMG_4386

The “Ritual de Palma” is a way to help the continuation of the wax palms. Visitors from 48 countries so far have helped plant future wax palms here. IMG_4439

It would probably have been better without the rain and sprained wrist. I had help. IMG_4446

Someone planted these tall skinny trees a long time ago and I felt connected to those people hoping that in the far future , people will be planting trees  to grow as tall as mine.

Many Thanks to  Alex Rodriguez for showing me the coffee triangle of Colombia  with kindness, knowledge and humor. This is a better and safer job then your past one and you are good at it.

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Viaje Con Cuidado,

JAZ

Picking Coffee In Colombia

Picking Coffee In Colombia

“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?” Cassandra Clare

Coffee is my most important meal of the day. In my life, morning is not possible without coffee. I am in the coffee triangle of Colombia – the Utopia for coffee drinkers. The coffee triangle is the region of Colombia where most of the coffee crops grow.

The Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia was recently declared UNESCO World Heritage Landscape for its “centennial tradition of coffee growing”.

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The exquisite landscape is characterized by rivers, steep hills with coffee plantations and coffee farms. The major cities are Armenia, Perreira and Manizales. I flew into Perreira.

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My coffee lesson begins at the beautiful Hacienda Venecia. (http://www.haciendavenecia.com)

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Lunch is served.

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It is my new favorite Ajiaco soup and that is their specialty. It is a chicken soup made with three kind of potatoes and Colombian herbs. It is served with avocado and cream. (the chefs)

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Coffee beans begin as red berries.

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The coffee beans are the seeds.

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We head down across a river bed to pick coffee beans.

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They are always hand picked off the vine and don’t pick the green ones.

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We start along a path but gradually we are walking through thick bushes smacking us all over.

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I’m sure I must be getting malaria. The lives of the coffee pickers are hard and the work is tedious and difficult. ( I just walked out of that)

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We learn how the beans are processed and about all the machinery, certification and care involved in transforming the berry into coffee beans.

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, The fresh beans are examined. I was slow at finding the good ones.

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These are good ones. Not broken and no scars.

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Then we roasted my beans in a special toaster. (my coffee beans)

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We smelled different coffee bean aromas from tester bottles.

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The premium beans are dried and sent to Europe and North America. They are sold to a distributor who is responsible for roasting and export.

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The low-grade beans stay in Colombia and are brewed into a sugary watery coffee called tinto sold all over Colombia. The Colombian coffee “revolutionaries” are trying to change that by introducing their quality bean coffee in Colombia. Juan Valdez cafes and chic coffee houses are popping up everywhere like Starbucks. But it is hard to get people to change what they have been drinking all their lives.

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We have a last cup of coffee at the coffee farm. It is starting to rain. I think about all that work that went into producing this one cup of coffee . I think about picking those beans every time I have a cup of coffee now. Coffee will always reminds me of Colombia.

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Viaje Con Cuidado,

JAZ