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.


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.


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.


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


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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,


Acai In The Amazon Gets Its Own Blog Post

Acai In The Amazon Gets Its Own Blog Post

“Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” Hippocrates


As froyo begins to lose ground to kale smoothies, the trendy. spendy acai bowl continues to gain in popularity. (Pinkberry gets in the game)


Though there is no scientific proof, acai is the new superfood because it is high in antioxidants and it tastes better than wheatgrass (an old superfood). It is more expensive than blueberries and raspberries (which also have antioxidants) and usually added to healthy smoothies or served in a bowl.


The acai outside of the Amazon region  is frozen puree and mixed with banana or strawberries, soy. almond or coconut milk. It is served with oatmeal, granola, nuts or fresh fruit and is definitely a fun ice-cream like breakfast alternative.


We as  Americans who mostly only speak English are poorly equipped to pronounce foreign words. Acai is Portuguese and is particularly difficult for us. The pronunciation in Brazil is Ah – Sa – Ee.

In the Amazon region, acai is not a superfood, it is just food. It is grown in the forest on the acai palm and harvested between July and December. (acai palm)


It was definitely acai season and we ate it a lot.  (Osvaldo finds acai in the jungle)


Till recently acai was a staple food for the poor in the Amazon region. A porridge of acai and manioc flour was not full of nutrition but cheap and very filling. Many families who live on the river now harvest acai.


It is always made fresh from the berries found in the Amazon rainforest. In Marajo, when a fresh batch of acai has been prepared, red flags appear on the road. If you see a red flag, it means that they are selling acai nearby. When the batch is sold they take the flags down.


We bought bags of fresh acai juice.


It is a good idea to check and make sure that is made with filtered water or what kind of water they use to clean the berries or the equipment.


Belém’s most famous açaí market, the Feira do Açaí, near Ver-o-Peso market building, bustles before dawn as wholesalers stack baskets of the fruit on the cobblestone square.

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Acai is  also made fresh here from cylindrical machines known as batedores de açaí, “açaí beaters,” that remove the thin layer of fruit from the pit. ( ‘acai beater”, acai pits, bracelets made from acai pits)




When the merchants are ready they hang red signs to show that açaí is for sale.



As in towns throughout the region, in Belém residents pick up pulp by the liter to have with lunch or dinner. (acai to go menu)


My first taste of fresh acai was acai ice cream mixed with the tapioca ice-cream and it was creamy delicious. There is no comparison between something made with fresh acai and what we get in the States. (Cairu –  best ice cream in the Amazon region)


We had  fresh acai at several meals. It is often served with dried tapioca. (La Em Casa)


Purists say that acai should be eaten without sugar but it is a personal choice. I had it without sugar and I liked it. It is hard to explain the flavor –  kind of like a refreshing, earthy berry. If you mix it with the manioc flour (which most do), it gives it a grainy consistency.

Point Do Acai is a restaurant in Belem known for serving acai.


You can have it as a juice, dessert or in bowl as a side to fried fish. (different tapioca flours)




In the Amazon region people think it is funny that acai is the new energy drink. They say that they usually have it with their midday meal and fall asleep after.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,


And So The Buffalo Swam To Marajo (Amazon, Brazil)

And So The Buffalo Swam To Marajo (Amazon, Brazil)

“There is a time when it is necessary to abandon the used clothes, which already have the shape of our body and to forget our paths, which takes us always to the same places. This is the time to cross the river: and if we don’t dare to do it, we will have stayed, forever beneath ourselves” Fernando Pessoa

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. The story goes that a ship on route to French Guyana ladened 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.


Marajo had an advanced pre Colombian society  from 400AD. The arrival of the Portuguese in the sixteenth century wiped out ninety per cent of the natives  due to lack of immunities to the European diseases. They left behind great examples of pre Colombian pottery. Artisans on the island recreate the designs.


Soure is a sleepy fishing village.


The people have a peaceful life, take things slowly and keep up their traditions.


Fisherman shacks, modern homes and large faziendas (farms) exist side by side on the island, It is the only place to have a water buffalo police force. They say it is used for looking for drugs in the forest but most of the crime is pilfering or the occasional lost drunk or “misplaced” bicycle.( newest police recruit)


Fazenda Sanjo is a ranch and hotel owned by Ana and Carlos Nunes. http://www.sanjo.tur.br You take a boat down a tributary of the Amazon to get there from Soare.


Then you have a choice of walking a mile or doing it on horseback to get to the fazenda.IMG_0236IMG_4269

The hammocks are an inviting place for a nap. (and I made a friend)



You can experience the daily life on a Fazenda in the Amazon.


There are many activities and nature is your host.


There is piranha fishing, riding and milking buffalo, canoeing and horseback riding through the river with the buffalo.


We did that.


I think pictures are better than words.



It was definitely the most different thing I have ever seen up close and pretty amazing.



On the boat ride back, it was very windy and I lost my hat in the Amazon.
It is one of those lifetime jungle, sun and mosquito repellant hats and luckily, it floats. The hat is usually on my head in my travels where there are mosquitos. I live in fear of malaria or dengue so I was glad to get it back.


A hotel in Soure is the lovely Hotel Casarao da Amazonia which occupies a restored blue colonial mansion. The breakfast is good and the atmosphere is immediately relaxed. There is not a lot of English but if you need it, they find someone.(http://www.casaraoamazonia.com.br)


The island is a spectacular visual feat of nature.


The marshlands attract many varieties of birds like the scarlet ibis.



Vultures fly overhead on the miles of quiet beach.


Marajo is located at the mouth of the Amazon River where the fresh water pours into the Atlantic Ocean. The fish can be fresh or salty depending on what the fisherman has found that day.


The Amazon rainforest has foods and flavors that dont exist anywhere else in the world.Every meal is juxtaposition of the intermingling of cultures of 400 years – European, Brazilian and African.
We eat buffalo steak topped with slabs of queijo do Marajo, sweet, soft buffalo milk cheese followed by fresh fruit.


In the morning there is buffalo butter on home-made toast and jams made from fruits that I never heard of till now.



There is always ground cassava (manioc) at the table and sometimes there is jambu a wild green that numbs your mouth while you are eating it. There is acai served with dried balls of cassava flour. In cities very far away acai has become the new superfood because it is loaded with antioxidants, but here you eat it in a bowl alone usually with fish. When red flags are up a fresh batch of acai has been made.



The weirdest thing to eat here is uncooked turu and we were on a mission to find some. (Gelderson)


(apparently Survivor was filmed here and they had it regularly) Turu are tree worms.


They are rich in calcium and can be eaten raw and like oysters are taken as an aphrodisiac.


I couldn’t decide if i wanted to eat it or not and when I finally said yes, they ran out of bottled water to wash it. I declined to clean it in the river. ( turu in motion – or my photo is blurry)


There is a small fishing village on a beautiful beach with houses set on stilts.


A woman is washing her dishes and setting her cups to dry on the posts children laugh and play quietly.


The beach is impossibly wide and the sand gives way to the Para River which joins the Amazon downstream and disappears into the horizon.


There are a few hut umbrellas and small restaurants serving cold beer, fresh fish and always fresh coconut water.


I walk for miles on this beach alone fascinated by the patterns in the soft sand surrounded only by vultures.

I can hear my thoughts and the only noise is the kind you make yourself.

I leave Marajo with my volume turned on low.


I have to thank my tour guides Osvaldo and Gelderson, who’s knowledge, kindness, patience, excellent English, sense of humor and nothing is a problem attitude made the trip to the Amazon even more wonderful. People like them always remind me of how small the world really is.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,