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.

img_4782

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.

IMG_4883

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.

IMG_0400

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

IMG_0329

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).

IMG_0059

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.

IMG_2162

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.

IMG_0158

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.

IMG_0175

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.

summer2005-113

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.

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-8-09-46-pm

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.

IMG_4883

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.

IMG_4752

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.

IMG_4841

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.

IMG_4851

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.

IMG_5688

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.

IMG_5683

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.

IMG_2463

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.

IMG_5824

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.

IMG_0258

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.

IMG_0168

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

IMG_0190

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.

IMG_0228

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.

IMG_0549

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.

IMG_0304

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.

IMG_0316

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)

View More: http://welovepictures.pass.us/ryan_kyly_preview

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.

View More: http://welovepictures.pass.us/ryan_kyly_preview

Fly safe,
JAZ

Advertisements

The Most Touristy Things That I Have Done

The  Most Touristy Things That I Have Done.

“I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.”  ~George Bernard Shaw

It is an amazing thing to see local customs,  festivals, traditions and entertainment in a foreign country.  But many  times, we are not in the correct location, season or time period to experience them. Here are some of the really touristy things I’ve done.  I’m not proud of them .

1.Vienna  – Mozart Concert.  Don’t buy tickets to any musical performance  sold by people in period costumes unless you are at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  It is probably a good rule of thumb to not buy anything from someone in a period  or ethnic costume ever  – unless you are hungry at a theme park.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 6.09.47 PM

2.  London – Madame Tussard’s Wax Museum .  It’s touristy, it’s crowded and there is always a queue but if you are into pop culture or have kids, you are probably seeing it.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 6.14.42 PM

3. Budapest – Gellert Thermal Baths  are listed as one of the Top Ten Things To Do in Budapest in most guidebooks – guidebooks probably not written by Hungarians.  They are expensive, dirty (both the water and the facilities ) and rundown.  The lobby looked like the photographs but the women’s area has all the charm of  Soviet housing.  Stuff gets stolen out of the lockers all the time.  Sometimes the towels are stolen when you are in the baths and then you are asked to pay for them.  The towels are very small –more like towelettes.  Most of the staff is rude or not helpful.   Save your money for Istanbul and try a hammam.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 6.26.34 PM

4. Hawaii-Luau.  Chances are if you grew up in a big city on the  Northeast coast, you have never seen a whole pig being brought out with an apple in its mouth. You probably have not eaten poi.  So on your first trip to Hawaii, you will experience a tourist luau – sitting at large tables with other tourists pretending to be Hawaiian in a James Michener novel.  Food served to hundreds of people is never good. But there are always some fire eaters, flame throwers and hula girls. If you are stoned or have little kids you will probably have a good time.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 6.12.54 PM

5. New York City – Horse and Carriage Tour of Central Park.  It cost  fifty dollars for twenty minutes and though tourists should not be denied their right to be ripped off on their vacations, many of the horses are overworked, abused and mistreated.  Also no one really has a cockney accent who drives those horses in NY.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 6.29.25 PM

6.  Cancun – Swimming With The Dolphins experiences have increased. Anywhere  in the world that has dolphins now has this attraction. The cruise lines  have forced an increase in this activity. .  Most dolphins do not live as long in captivity and the trash left near the pools causes intestinal problems for them. There is no regulation on how much swimming they have to do with us.  A dolphin suffered for those cute very expensive photographs. (Sadly you could probably substitute many animals from different countries – elephants, camels, llamas and donkeys etc)

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 6.21.39 PM

7. Sydney – Harbor Cruise. Nothing says tourist more than a harbor cruise serving bland  food and watered down drinks to many people . The Harbor narration is either a person or a tape but can only be heard from certain parts of the boat. Don’t worry if you miss anything – it’s repetitive. Sydney Harbor is amazing but I would rather take the ferries instead of an overpriced tourist ride.

IMG_2634

8. Though there are must see destinations in every major city, most of these places are usually over advertised, overpriced and  ridiculously overcrowded to really enjoy them.   Climbing to the top of any monument requires a long line,  and too many people.  I have stood on those lines to climb the Eiffel Tour, the Washington Monument,  Huayna Picchu,  the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Duomo and the Leaning Tower Of Pisa. (Washington Monument)

IMG_2653

Most famous religious buildings are not the spiritual quiet places of your imagination.  I usually stare at the ceilings to avoid the crowds as in the Blue Mosque, Notre Dame,  the Vatican and Sagrada Familia. It is the same with the Palaces – Peterhof, Prague Castle, Versaille, Windsor , Schonbrunn. They are all filled to capacity.  I check these off on my imaginary list of must see places. The amazing experiences I have  in these countries take place in a small religious building in a village or around the corner, a local park, or an old building outside the main tourist area. (Peterhof)

IMG_1482

9. As soon as a restaurant gets written up in the guidebooks, it seems to become a tourist restaurant – overpriced with mediocre, bland food. They may have been good once but when they become known, the glory is gone. If they are near tourist attractions, they definitely don’t try as hard – this includes any restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and any restaurant with someone outside who’s job it is to bring people in.  If you want an eating experience, see where the locals are eating and avoid the guidebook recs because if you have read about it, everyone else has also.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 6.19.05 PM

10.  Taxis. Even the most undeveloped countries in the world probably have a metered taxi system.  There are  regular fares  to get to certain places. The problem is we don’t know them and we don’t know where we are or how far everything is. Most taxis in the world do not have broken meters. The best thing to do before getting a taxi, tuk tuk or rickshaw is  to ask a reliable person who has no vested interest in the transportation business ( a cousin driving a tuk tuk etc). Do the taxis  use meters? Do they have flat rates? How much should it cost to reach my destination? Always carry small bills . In major tourist areas, you may be ripped off anyway.  It is best to take taxis in front of hotels if you can, the taxis there are more reliable .  Doing a little research will help  you avoid the life long grudge that  I carry against the taxi driver in Budapest who drove me around for twenty minutes to go across the street.  In countries where the taxi drivers are shady, I try not to take them and walk or use public transportation.

IMG_2825

Tourists do stand in out in many countries. We don’t speak the language, have jet lag, different money and are confused by the street signs. We deal with maps, luggage,  train tickets and we are much less cool in our temporary state of “tourist” then we are at home. But do the research, be street smart, and if you get ripped off, use it as a learning experience for your next vacation.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Top Ten Coffee Travel Moments

“This coffee falls into your stomach, and straightway there is a general commotion.  Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army of the battlefield. Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensuing to the wind.  The light cavalry of comparisons deliver a magnificent deploying charge, the artillery of logic hurry up with their train and ammunition.  Similes arise, the paper is covered with ink; for the struggle commences and is concluded with torrents of black water, just as a battle with gun powder. “

Honore de Balzac

Top Ten Coffee Travel Moments

I realized by writing this blog that I am addicted to caffeine. There are way too many references to coffee.  It is the only vice I have left.  I thought I would embrace it by writing my top ten coffee travel moments.

!. I am seventeen and in Europe for the first time.  We  are  in CERVINA in the Italian Alps. There is a cappuccino bar that we go to every morning and have fresh cappuccino before a day of skiing. It is pre cell phones and Starbucks.  The only cappuccino  you got in NY  was in the Italian restaurants  after dinner.  There was no decaf cap. Cappuccino every morning was as big a deal as skiing in the Alps for the first time.

2.   The island of SANTORINI in Greece is where i am spending my twenty third summer.   I am staying at my friend’s house on a mountain overlooking the sea.  It is one of those  Santorini white houses with blue tile.  We have to walk halfway down the mountain every morning to have coffee and fresh bread with butter and honey, at a café run by a family that doesn’t speak English. Santorini was  not the five-star  tourist destination it is now but it always had five-star views of the sea, volcano and black sand beaches. .  “kafe me gala  sketos parakalo” The grandmother always dressed in black would smile at my bad Greek pronunciation and bring me my coffee. They used condensed milk all the time with coffee and I love the taste.  I think they wear black  because someone in their family close to them has died – usually they are widows.

545319_436959296360980_1027944743_n

3.  My daughter who is twelve and her tap company have performed at the Cuban Ballet Festival throughout Cuba.  We are driving back to HAVANA from Santa Clara.  Since Petrol is scarce, members of the Columbian Ballet Company are sharing the bus with us. We get back around five and I have a serious lack of  caffeine headache.  I invite the Columbian dancers who I have spoken to in bad Spanish  for a coffee at the hotel.  I order a double espresso and drink it down  like I am doing a shot of tequila.   First they stare at me and then they laugh and do the same.  We start by drinking espresso shots –we move on to Mojitos. No one slept that night. (Cuba,Jim Kane)

734564_622571224426673_1184425465_n

4. We have arrived at the SACRED VALLEY in Urubumba, Peru.  We are spending the night at the beautiful Sol Y Luna  hotel and the altitude is 9000 feet. (2400 m)  It is our first night in the Andes.  I start to have this headache and feel dizzy. As we are going to our rooms someone says to me, “Be careful, the headache is the first sign of altitude sickness”.  I go right to the worst case scenario.  I remember my mindfulness training as I am going into high anxiety mode. I investigate the feeling in my body and think it isn’t that severe. It feels like a lack of caffeine headache.   I remember I didn’t have coffee that afternoon. I relax and go right to sleep. I wake up early and have a wonderful Peruvian breakfast  of yogurt , fruit, kikucha cereal ( grain like quinoa) and coffee. No more headache.

601689003311

5. I usually hate instant room coffee.  But in PANAMA it was really good. It is called Puro and I brought some home.   I have a confession. I kind of like non dairy creamer   Sometimes your diet needs a few chemicals.  I got up every morning in  Gamboa  to watch the sunrise over the rainforest and had a coffee while lying in a hammock on the terrace.

IMG_3727

6. Anna and I have spent the day on  the island of NAOSHIMA in Japan.  It is the island that Tadao Ando has designed and dedicated to art and nature.  There are museums, outdoor sculptures, galleries and installations in houses throughout the island.  It is a bit like a scavenger  hunt trying to see everything.  But we did it. We are at a small  ferry at the other end of the island that locals use to head back to the mainland . I am looking for coffee. We see something that looks like it might be open. We walk in. There is cool music and magazines and interesting furniture and art . It is  like a Japanese Greenwich village coffee-house  on this little island street.  We can’t believe our luck.  We have coffee and wait in this beautiful restaurant for the ferry and talk about our amazing day.

IMG_2345

7. I had been  in the  incredible  city of VENICE for a few days with my daughter and a friend. My son arrived after traveling around Europe alone.  He had a lot to say and wanted to have  a coffee in Venice and talk about his travels. We sat in a café on the canal and he told me his stories. I was happy sitting there listening to him  and I could hear  that he loved to travel as much as I did.  Family travel moments are few and far between now. It was a beautiful trip.

IMG_0258

8.  It was my first day in ISTANBUL. I had shopped at the Grand Bazaar with my guide for the day Renan.  We stopped for lunch.  We met  carpet salesmen from Los Angeles.  Suddenly, it didn’t seem so far away.  This was my first experience with Turkish food. Hot yogurt soup and something with my favorite vegetable –eggplant.  – delicious. I had my first Turkish coffee. (a lot like Greek coffee) I loved the thickness and the feeling of the grounds in my mouth ( coffee that you can chew).  It isn’t bitter either so I am able to drink it without milk. She read the coffee grinds to me.  We used to do this in Greece. It was my first coffee fortune in a very long time.  It wasn’t bad. My next one wasn’t great. So I stopped doing it and just drank the coffee.

IMG_4382

9. I am in EDINBURGH, Scotland for the Fringe Festival. My daughter is performing there with her high school theatre group. In the summer, walking down the Royal Mile is crazy. Everyone is in costume and giving out flyers and performing and begging to get you to go their shows. The Starbucks is right at the beginning of the Royal Mile, next to the Fringe Ticket Office. I meet a friend for coffee after picking up some tickets. We are surrounded by Vikings and Elizabethans all having cappuccinos and lattes. In fact, only the barristers are   dressed in modern-day clothing.  I felt  a little underdressed.

IMG_5252

10.   A few weeks ago, I was walking down Portobello Road in LONDON with my college friend Suzie.  Suzie was the first person I traveled around Europe with . We were about eighteen. We lost touch after college but reconnected  a few years ago through the magic of facebook.  We were both going to be in London at the same time. We aren’t looking for vintage clothes like we used to  (and still do) but vintage housewares.  It is freezing out. We go into a coffee house and see a long queue. It is called the Coffee Planner. The girl in front of me says it is the best coffee on Portobello Road and worth waiting for. Suzie buys an unbelievably good sandwich from a vendor outside and we sit and drink our coffees eating this sandwich.   Jayne and Suzie together again in Europe. ( St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge)

IMG_0456

Do you have any good coffee moments?

Fly safe,

JAZ