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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UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Unesco World Heritage Sites. (photo above  by Emilio White, Iguazu Falls, Argentina)

“The list could surely go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis ”  Umberto Eco

“And this is a Unesco World Heritage Site”, says the Tour guide proudly at Quebrada de Humahuaca, Iguazu Falls, Dubrovnik, Machu Picchu, Selim Mosque,etc.  ( Dubrovnik, Croatia )

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I finally did it. I looked it up. I knew it had something to do with the United Nations. I know it was a part of UNESCO. (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) (Machu Picchu, Peru)

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In case you don’t know what UNESCO  is I took this from the website. “The main objective of UNESCO is to contribute to peace and security in the world by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, culture and communication in order to further universal respect for justice and the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion. “ (Great Wall, China)

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In my head I check off the places. Oh good another World Heritage Site, I must be near the end of the list. (Ayutthaya, Thailand)

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What is it about us and lists?  Lists make us feel better.  There is a finite number of things to do. There is less time for our brains to process our choices. We know a Unesco World Heritage Site is an important thing to see  and we do it. Everyone agrees to do it. Lists help us make sense of the world. ( Venice, Italy)

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The World Heritage List includes 981 properties which the  World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. It is ongoing. (Mt. Fuji, Japan)

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To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. (Cappadocia, Turkey)

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(If you are interested in reading the requirements,  this part it is from their website)

“(ii)  to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;

(iii) to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;

(iv) to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;

(v)  to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;

(vi)  to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);

(vii) to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;

(viii) to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;

(ix) to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;

(x) to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations.

Since 1992 significant interactions between people and the natural environment have been recognized as  cultural landscapes.

Only countries that have signed the World Heritage Convention, pledging to protect their natural and cultural heritage, can submit nomination proposals for properties on their territory to be considered for inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Like other lists, it requires an extensive nomination process. (St. Ignacio Mission, Argentina)

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The World Heritage committee is represented by 21 countries and the elections are held at the General Assembly meeting annually.  . Each country can hold a place for six years but some step down voluntary after four to give other countries a chance. (Hiroshima Dome, Japan)

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The  current 21 Committee Members are: Algeria,Colombia, Croatia, Finland, Germany, India, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Republic Of Lebanon, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, Poland,  Portugal, Qatar, Senegal, Serbia, Turkey and Viet Nam  with a third of them leaving this year. (Uluru, Australia)

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In my last trip I’ve knocked off the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, The Daintree Rainforest, Tasmania Parklands, Port Arthur and the Sydney Opera House. I only have several hundred more to go …… but they keep adding them, so I will keep traveling. 

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Fly Safe,

JAZ

How To Be An Explorer Of The World

How To be An Explorer Of The World

“The list is the origin of culture,” Umberto Eco 

How To be An Explorer Of The World by Keri Smith  is a book with 59 ideas for how to get creatively unstuck. It began with  a simple list by the author scribbled on a piece of paper in the middle of the night.

Always be looking (notice the ground beneath your feet). (Oaxaca, Mexico, Ben Goodman)

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Consider everything alive and animate. ( Barro Colorado Island, rainforest, Panama)

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Everything is Interesting. Look closer. (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

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Alter your course often. (Great Wall, China)

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Observe for Long Durations (and short ones). (Vancouver, Canada)

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Notice the stories going on around you.(Museumplatz, Vienna)

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Notice Patterns. Make connections. (Istanbul, Turkey)

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Document your findings (Field notes)   in a variety of ways. ( Beijing,China )

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Incorporate indeterminacy. (no photos  because we don’t know how it will turn out)

Observe movement. (Intha fishermen,  Lake Inle Burma)

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Create a personal dialog with your environment. Talk to it. (Silver Pavilion, Kyoto)

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Trace things back to their origins. (Machu Picchu, Peru)

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Use all of the senses in your investigations. ( Bangkok, Thailand)

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Fly Safe,

JAZ

Things I Have Learned In Croatia

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Things I Have Learned In Croatia

At the entrance to the Rector’s Palace in Dubrovnik, there is a sign from the middle ages that says, “keep your personal affairs outside, attend to public business only. “

When entering a jazz concert at the Rector’s Palace, during the Summer Festival, you are handed a program and a moist towelette. (which you will need because there is no air conditioning or windows. You will also be putting cold water on your face during the intermission. ) But it will be worth it, the musicians were great.

At the Dominican church in Dubrovnik the columns are filled in halfway up. This is so you can’t see the ankles of the women as they walked up the stairs.

In the old city in Dubrovnik, you will find War Photo Limited. It is a museum devoted to war photojournalism. The exhibitions are different conflicts throughout the world. The lesson is that war is bad no matter what side you are on.  It is very well done and graphic- not good for children.

American Express is not as welcome in Croatia as American tourists.

Bosnia Herzekovina is a good place to buy cheap liquor, cigarettes, bootleg movies and drugs.

Croatians refer to communism as the time of the Yugoslavia.

If you like oysters, you must go and see the oyster beds and have lunch in Ston. Even if you don’t like oysters (me), you should go. If you like wine tasting, you can do that on the way.

If you need to get money from a bank in Dubrovnik any American passport will do.

Croatians are very proud that they have five star hotels. They mention it all the time. ” You want room service? No problem,  this is five star hotel. You need towels? No problem,  this is five star hotel.”

This is not us.

The old city of Dubrovik and Diocletian’s Palace are both UNESCO protected sites. In the 1991 battle for independence, the old city of Dubrovnik was in flames. The UN did not go in and protect it. We aren’t really sure what UNESCO protected site means.

Georgio Armani has a black yacht.

Walking the walls around the old city  in Dubrovnik is good way to look into people’s backyards and see their plants and  hanging laundry.

If you are walking the walls of the old city, and it is summer,  try not to be behind a hairy sweaty man with his shirt off, where it gets very narrow and crowded.

The Adriatic Sea is twice as salty as the Pacific which is why the fish tastes so much better. They have been soaking in brine for their entire life.

The stone used to build Diocletian’s Palace in 300AD and the stone for the White House both came from the island  of Brac. Diocletian used thousands of Christian slaves, Im not sure what religion the slaves that built the White House were.

Diocletian’s palace, located in Split was built in the fourth century. It  is the most complete Roman ruins of a palace in existence today. . It is not a museum . Three thousand people live and work  on the grounds and there are many shops and restaurants. It is best seen when not besieged  by cruise ships ( the bane of summer travel for me)

Apparently no dogs are allowed in the Palace.

The Meridian Lav in Split is Eastern Europe’s Grand Wailea/Club Med. ( and don’t ever mention Borat here –they don’t think it is funny)

A table with a view of the sea  in Split is a whole different thing.

Everywhere in Croatia is a photo opportunity.  Here we are waiting for the  car ferry to Hvar.

Bubba Gumps is spring break in Hvar.

I cant get enough of Hvar harbor -a view from the room.

Hvar is the number one grower of high quality lavender. Yes, I brought back a lot of lavender oil.

One of the most beautiful days I have ever had was to rent a boat and go out around Hvar with my daughter . The beaches are rocky but the water is so blue and clean that you don’t mind cutting up your feet.  ( They sell Crocs everywhere  –now I know why)

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It is great to eat seafood in a restaurant  in Cavtat when the owner is walking in wearing a bathing suit and carrying the fish. It is not so great to do the meet and greet with the fish beforehand.

My favorite foods are grilled octopus and squid. I was so happy to have it  every day in  Dubrovnik, Hvar and Split. After a while everything becomes like chicken.

According to my kids, when I am speaking to someone who’s second language is English, English becomes my second language as well.

On a serious note Dubrovnik and Hvar could be among the most beautiful places in the world and we had a great time.  It has some of the best seafood I have ever eaten.  Croatia  is one of my most favorite places and I can’t wait to go back. (Hvar, Dubrovnik)

Ugodan let

JAZ

Rick Steves -Love Him or Hate Him?

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”               Mark Twain

I have this hate love affair with Rick Steves. Rick Steves is the host of Rick Steves Europe on American Public Television and Public Radio.  He has published many guide books. On the surface , we have nothing  in common.

Rick travels around Europe with a backpack or carry on luggage (which never looks very heavy). He wears relaxed comfortable clothing and sensible footwear.  He motors through countrysides finding quaint inns and farmhouses to stay in.  He is always looking at something old. He goes to places that we have been to or would like to go to –nothing outrageous or dangerous.  If he is shopping , it is in some outdoor market or picturesque shop. He is always using a lot of hand motions to show that  he is buying it for himself to eat now. There is nothing that Rick Steves ever buys that I would want.  He has perfectly behaved children who eat Sacher Tortes in the Bavarian countryside and don’t get hopped up on sugar. Sometimes they stay with a Czech sitter at the hotel while Rick and his wife go to a medical spa in Karlovy Vary. Rick is the everyman of traveling.

So what is his appeal for me? He makes us feel safe and comfortable in a place we have never been.  If Rick has been there or met them, we will be ok.

That is how I ended up having an amazing vacation in Croatia with my kids. I had been trying to go to Croatia for two years.   Both my tour and my cruise had been cancelled. I decided to use the internet for the first time to find a tour guide.  I found Petar Vlasik .  I went to look at his references and there it was –recommended by Rick Steves.  I immediately emailed Petar and he immediately emailed back.    I had a good feeling and ….Rick Steves liked him.  We planned to go to a few places in Croatia  – Dubrovnik, Hvar, Split and Cavtat as well as some side trips. .  Petar was  an amazing  charming, knowledgeable, helpful  cool guy to organize our trip and take us around . The trip was perfect. We have a friend in Croatia.   I highly recommend Petar to all of you when you go to Croatia (and you must). http://www.dubrovnikrivieratours.com   Would I have done this without Rick Steves? ( I do now – that is another blog) I like to think I have good intuition but Rick Steves definitely helped.

Which is how I came to watch his shows . We aren’t as different as I would like to think.  I  realized that I love to travel as much as he does. I love meeting the people in new places  as much as he does.  I love the old churches and ruins as much as I love the modern buildings and  contemporary art. I admire him for making a  successful career out of his passion.  I  love his enthusiasm over a tiny hand made flute or an old French cheese.  I feel exactly the same way when I find the perfect bracelet or  walk into an amazing five star hotel.

Fly Safe

JAZ