Travel Pinch Me Moments

“You have to travel to see new light, find new hope, renew the mind and revitalize the soul.” Lailah Gifty Akita

It was summer in January on a beach in Napier, New Zealand.  The weather was hot and the sun was setting at 930 PM. The moon was out at the same time.  My new friend pinched the fingers of both her hands together and said, “This is a pinch me moment”.  I had heard of pinch me moments when someone wins an Academy Award or accomplishes a dream but I had never heard of it standing on a beach watching a sunset.  She explained that, “You pinch your fingers to save the moment. When I am sitting in my kitchen in England and I look out the window at the dreary weather, I will remember this moment.” 

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 As I watched the moon that night, it made sense that it is also the small moments that resonate in our minds. They are part of the story making events of our lives. Here are some of my travel pinch me moments. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Looking out at the balloons in the air over Cappadocia, Turkey.

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Watching the sun set over the Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia

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Rainbow over Iguazu Falls, Missiones, Argentina

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Angor Wat, Cambodia

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Walking on the beach in Varadero, Cuba

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 Sailing on the Mekong Delta, Viet Nam

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Machu Picchu .

Seeing the elephants up close in Kruger National Park, South Africa

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The Tori Gates on Myajima, JapanIMG_1074

The view of the volcano in Santorini, Greece

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Fly safe,

JAZ

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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

Things I’ve Learned In Venice

“ If you read a lot, nothing is as good as you’ve imagined it.  Venice is! – Venice is better. “             Fran Liebowitz

Things I’ve Learned in Venice

Venetians hate Napoleon because he stole from them the very treasures that Venice had previously stolen from Constantinople. The French hate that the Venetians have two museums (Palazzo Grassi and the Dogana) devoted to French modern art.

The pigeons in Venice have special protection because of their popularity with the tourists. No self respecting Venetian over the age of two would pay any attention to a pigeon.

There are two Venices – the actual one and the reflection in the water. Which is real and which is the illusion?

Directions in Venice may involve going” through a sestiere, past the scuola, down the fondamenta or the riva to the rama to the rio tera, to the calle, rughetta or salizzada and under the soltoportego”.( good to travel with map people)

Peggy Guggenheim has a room in her museum devoted to her daughter’s art. (don’t we all?)

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.

If you find  yourself in Venice on a vaporetto going out into the open sea, don’t worry, it will come back into the city……. eventually.

Vaporettos (water buses) in Venice are on the honor system. Many stops do not have kiosks to buy tickets which makes it hard to be honorable.

St. Mark, (patron saint of Venice) had his body “rescued” from his grave in Alexandria. Venetian fishermen covered the relic in pork to repulse the Muslim inspectors. There are mosaics that tell this story in the Basilica. If it was today, it would be covered in pork belly-something I see on every menu.

There is always reconstruction and renovation going on in Venice. The city slogan is “com’era dovera “  ( as it was and where it was)

The Biennale  ( Worldwide Art  Exhibition) in Venice is filled with the same pretentious art people one finds anywhere else. The difference is that in the summer,  they bring their kids. You can hear in several different languages, what was that? When are we leaving?

The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) connects the Doges palace to the Prigioni  (prisons). The name comes from the fact that the prisoners used to sigh as they saw Venice from the tiny windows on their way to the prison. “I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; a palace and a prison on each hand.”   Lord Byron

There is always a small choice of musical concerts in Venice. They all play Vivaldi.

Napoleon called St Marks Square ‘the finest drawing room in Europe.’  In the summer it is filled with tourists, pigeons, musicians and waiters. Try to see it late at night or early in the morning .

Volare is a song I never expected to be woken up to in the morning or hear 100 times a day.

The Rialto Bridge was built in just three years between 1588-91. It replaced the wooden bridge built in the twelfth century. The architect was Antonio Da Ponte. He beat out Michelangelo and Palladio for the contract. His name means Anthony of the Bridge . I cant help thinking he went into the competition with an edge.

Venice has no sewer system. Household waste flows into the canals and is washed out into the sea twice a day with the tides.(in case you were thinking of tasting the water or swimming )

There are many mask shops in Venice but only a few are traditional mask makers. Remember if its cheap, its fake.  La Bottega Dei Mascareri is a traditional mask making studio near the Rialto Bridge.

They say the best way to explore Venice is to get lost among the endless narrow streets and bridges. I don’t think that is the best way to explore Venice with my daughter. But no matter how good at directions you think you are, you will get lost in Venice.

Bauer Il Palazzo Hotel is one of Leonardo Di Caprio’s favorite hotels. (and mine also!)

Don’t touch the produce in Venice. In fact it is considered offensive to touch  fruits and vegetables in the markets  all over Italy.

The Bellini was invented by Guiseppi Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar. It is fresh white peach juice mixed with Prosecco. (sparkling wine). Its pink color reminded him of the color of the toga of a saint in a painting by Giovanni Bellini.  It is named for the artist.

Gondolas are operated by highly skilled oarsmen.  Only 3 gondolier licenses are issued annually after extensive training and a written exam. There are only 400 licensed Gondolieri operating in Venice today and 350 gondolas. (I wonder if anyone else had to take it three times)

Almost everyone in Venice belonged to a scuola in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. They were  like fraternities formed around occupations or immigrant groups .The scuole were self governing and helped their members integrate into society or with their problems. They became important artistic patrons. The themes were usually the lives and miracles of the Saints. Caravaggio was a favorite painter of the scuole.  It is worth it to go and see the art in some of the scuole around Venice..

Venetian food is simple, fresh and delicious. There are no food jokes here. Seafood, small birds, liver,  fresh fruits and vegetables and local grains are the staples.  Some traditional dishes are risi e bisi (risotto with peas) eaten by  the Doge on St Marks Day, pasta e fagioli ( pasta with beans a hearty peasant dish), dried cod, cuttlefish cooked in squid ink and sardines with onions. They are not known for pizza,  but eating pizza in Italy is always a good thing.

Ciao, Fly Safe,

JAZ

My Top Ten Sunrises

“ Living on Earth may be expensive but it includes an annual free trip around the Sun.”

My Top Ten Sunrises

Sunsets are easy.   You are usually awake and can make a  plan.  “Lets  have a drink and watch  the sun set over the Ocean, the River,  the Volcano, the Old City,  the Rainforest  etc.”  They are usually social.  Sunrises in my life  are fewer,   accidental and  sometimes seen alone. My goodbye to a city  is often at sunrise.  I  take a lot of early morning flights .

1. Machu Picchu, Peru   My plan was to meditate at sunrise on Machu Picchu.  By 4:30AM , the road into  Machu Picchu becomes Disneyland on a crowded Sunday. .   It wasn’t easy to find a quiet place .  Machu Picchu is in the clouds. The sunrise is cloudy and rainy most of the time.  Still, the eery light hitting Machu Picchu  in the morning  feels very spiritual.  We will never  know why  Machu Picchu was built and who lived there but we know that every morning they saw this same sunrise.

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2.  Mount Masada, Israel   When I was in college,  we climbed   Mount  Masada.  It was very hot and very dark. At the top,  there was  water and a ladle that everyone drank from (I know we didn’t have Aids then, but we did have germs!!) It is still the best water, I have ever tasted.  We sat down to watch the sunrise .  The guide told us the story of the Jews  surrounded  by the Roman army. We reflected on their choice to kill the women and children themselves before the Romans got up there.   It was a somber sunrise.

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3. Venice, Italy    My kids and I were taking a boat to the airport  in the dark as the sun quickly rose over Venice. The colors change with every light and shadow and it is truly the most beautiful city in the world .

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4. Havana, Cuba   Leaving Havana in darkness, thirteen years ago,  I was filled with a lot of emotions.  My daughter had performed at the Cuban Ballet Festival. We had no information going in and had no idea what to expect.  It turned out to be one of  the most amazing experiences of our lives.  The dark streets were filled  with humanity going to work.    They were crowding the bus stops to get on the few running buses .    People were selling snacks.   The sun rose over  the busy streets and faded colors of the buildings. It sparkled off the water hitting the  Malecon ( sea wall) and shined on the old cars from the fifties.    I took an imprint in my memory because I knew when I came back and Fidel was gone it would be different.

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5. Barcelona, Spain   was the opposite experience.  It was summer and the city was crowded with tourists. As I drove to the airport at sunrise, the streets were filled with students and young people  who had been out all night, dressed in their club clothes. They were all  on Las Ramblas, trying to keep the evening going.

6. Perissa Beach (black sand), Santorini, Greece   I also had been out all night and now we were sitting on  the beach .  A large Pelican stood next to us, waiting for the restaurant to open for breakfast, as the sun rose over the black sand beach.

7. Gamboa Rainforest, Panama   We came into the hotel at night and everything was very dark .  At sunrise,  I saw and heard the sounds of the  amazing rainforest for the first time.   The sunrise is nature’s alarm clock.  I got up every morning  to lie in my hammock and have a  coffee (best room coffee called Puro –I brought some home) and listen to the sunrise .

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8. Cervina, Italy    Sometimes a sunrise involves a decision.  I was seventeen and it was my first trip to Europe. I  had gotten up to ski from Cervina to Zermatt, Switzerland.  We had to bring our passports. (it was so WW2) As the light of day broke,   all we could see was the white of a  huge snowstorm.    I went shopping in Milan instead.  I can be flexible.

9. Bangkok Thailand   The sun rose just  as  we pulled up to Suvarnabhumi Airport.  There was no one  outside  except for two monks wearing saffron robes and sandals. They were leaning up again the modern steel and glass building of the airport. The sunrise reflected them in the glass.

10. Yufuin, Japan    It was our last morning and we wanted to use the onsen (mineral baths) . I was the only American in the ryokan (probably in the town)  I decided not to wear my kimono and just go in my pajamas and a jacket. It was outside and very cold.    To my surprise, the pre dawn bathhouse,  was filled with Japanese women in kimonos  or showering. It was 32F degrees and I just  couldn’t shower outside.  .I jumped in as the sun rose in the sky.  I made so many cultural mistakes that morning (including coffee before breakfast)   Luckily, the Japanese are  very polite.

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Brooklyn, NY    When I was growing up,   my favorite place to see the sunrise was to go to Kennedy Airport and watch the planes take off .  After the sunrise, we would have breakfast there.   I wondered when I would be a person, going to some exotic location on an early morning flight.

Fly Safe

JAZ

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