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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Kinugawa Onsen, Nikko, Japan

Kinugawa Onsen, Nikko, Japan

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps.” Frank Herbert

Being naked with friends and strangers is a traditional practice in Japan. Being American, I’m a little uptight about that. But having been to Japan a few times, I have gotten a lot more comfortable with it.

Staying at a ryokan (Japanese style inn) in an onsen town in Japan is my most favorite thing to do now. I have been lucky enough to do it a few times. I’ve written an earlier blog explaining ryokans and onsens so I’m not going to do it again. Feel free to read that one. https://travelwellflysafe.com/2013/06/11/onsen-and-ryokan-in-japan/

Water is very important in Japanese culture and religion. There are many hot springs in Japan and you are probably never more than an hour’s drive away from one.They are found in remote mountains, on beaches, in major cities, on the edges of cliffs, on the tops of hotels, on river banks and just about anywhere.

This time we stayed in Kinugawa onsen. It is a Hot Springs resort in the city of Nikko two hours from Tokyo by train. It is located on the Kinugawa River where there are many onsen hotels.

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Of course we needed lunch. Yuba (skin of the tofu)  is very popular in Nikko. At one time there were many vegetarian Buddhist priests here and there are still many Yuba restaurants.

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We had soba with yuba. Yuba can be cooked in many  different ways. These were heavy yuba -like matzoh balls –  very filling.

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We stayed at the Kanaya Ryokan Hotel and it was wonderful.  They have indoor bathing and showers for people like me who can’t bathe outside in the cold. The rooms are spacious and lovely.  The food was delicious as well.  http://www.kanayahotel.co.jp/english/index.html

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The bathing areas are constructed of stone, built with fragrant woods and decorated with Japanese ceramics. Everyone was Japanese.

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The main thing at a ryokan are the kaiseki meals. (food photos -Reiko Hirai)

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They consist of six to fifteen different foods.

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They go from appetizers, sashimi, side dishes, simmered, sauced, pickled, seasonal, local, marinated, grilled, steamed, hot pot, rice , miso soup and dessert.

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Kaiseki meals are one with nature and represent shapes and things found in nature. (persimmons, persimmon ice cream)

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The food is always prepared and decorated in a seasonal and visually beautiful way.

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There is always way too much and it is all about mindfulness and being focused on each course.

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The first day I ordered American breakfast and got kaiseki American breakfast. It was smoked meats, cooked meat, steamed meat, sausages, bacon,  salads, pickled vegetables, soup, yogurt, raw eggs, cooked eggs and croissants. The next day I had  the Japanese breakfast which is what they do best.  It is a lot of food as well but mostly fish. The boiling waters and steam of hot springs can be used for cooking. Onsen tamago which are eggs boiled in hot spring are often served.

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I went hiking around the Kinugawa River on the crisp fall mornings.

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The colors were amazing.

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Healing with hot springs has a long history in Japan. Samurai healed their wounds and relaxed in springs after battles.The thing about onsens is it feels good when you just sit there. The water is warm, the air is cold and everything is really quiet. It is a place to make some good decisions about your life.

Yo I sorano tabi o,

JAZ

Thirty Things That I Wanted To Do In 2014. Did I Do Them?

Thirty Things That I Wanted To Do 2014. Did I Do Them?

“Every hundred feet, the world changes.”  Robert Boitano

  1. Go to Colombia. Yes
  2. Go To Southeast Asia. Yes
  3. Go to Seattle. Yes
  4. Read more books on the 1000 Books You Have To Read Before You Die. Yes
  5. Go to the theatre with my son. Yes
  6. Meditate every day. I think this may be like a dieting resolution. I will make it every year. Still not every day.
  7. Do an Urban Art tour in LA. No definitely in 2015
  8. Do a spa day with my daughter. Yes
  9. Watch even less Real Housewives. Yes they are getting boring now that so many of them are going to jail.
  10. Go to Guatemala. No
  11. Go To Miami. Yes
  12. Have more spiritual friends. Now I want to have less spiritual friends.
  13. Eat less sugar. Hmmmmm not sure but probably not.
  14. Go to the Bridge On The River Kwai. No
  15. Try ten new restaurants in LA. Yes Orsa and Winston, Bucato, Sushi Tsujita, Bachi Burger, Cleo, Republique, Wallys, Everleigh, Carousel and Escuela De Taqueria
  16. Try ten restaurants in other places. Yes Andres Carne De Res – Bogota Colombia, Matiz – Bogota, Colombia,  Salou – Cartegena, Colombia, Morning Glory –  Hoi An, Viet Nam, Golden Rice – Hue, Viet Nam, Pepper Tree – Phu Quoc, Viet Nam, Washoku Bar – Tokyo, Japan, The Dining Room – Siem Reap, Cambodia, Salumi –  Seattle, Washington, Anchovy and Olive – Seattle Washington.
  17. Have ten meals with Kitchensurfing. Yes
  18. Go back to Japan. Yes
  19. Spend more time at 826 LA.Yes
  20. Practice tai chi. Yes sort of.
  21.  Go to a ryokan.Yes
  22. Go To Angor Wat, YES ( a bucket list item)
  23. Drink less coffee maybe No
  24. React less. Maybe
  25. Go To Agua Dulce. Not yet
  26. Get more people to read my blog. Still trying
  27. Do more yoga. Yes
  28. Go to Bainbridge Island. Yes
  29. Go to the Grand Canyon. Not yet.
  30. Go to a Grouplove  concert. Yes

Not too bad.  Two thirds yes. I don’t beat myself up over stuff like this. On to the 2015 list. I’ll make it smaller and harder.

25 Things I  Want To Do In 2015

1. Do something big that I am afraid of.

2. Drink less coffee.

3. Go to Rio.

4. Go To Another Grouplove concert.

5. Finish my hamburger blog.

6. Get more people to read my blog.

7. Try eleven more new restaurants in LA.

8. Try eleven restaurants in other places.

9. Go to another place on my bucket list.

10. Read more books – the kind you hold in your hand that smell like books.

11. Go to Sao Paulo..

12. Meditate every day.

13. Look up less random questions on the internet.

14. Go To Brazil.

15. Have more real friends.

16. Go to The Stanley Film Festival.

17. Get more involved at 826 LA.

18. See ten documentary films.

19. See ten foreign films

20. Eat less gluten.

21. Read more of other people’s blogs.

22. Do more beach walks.

23. Be more grateful every day.

24. Finally do that urban art tour in LA.

25. Be a tourist in LA.

Happy New Year and Fly Safe,

JAZ

Top Ten Reasons To Visit Tokyo

Top Ten Reasons To Visit Tokyo

“The overriding sense of Tokyo…is that it is a city devoted to the new, sped up in a subtle but profound way: a postmodern science-fiction story set ten minutes in the future.” David Rakoff

If you haven’t been to Japan you are missing out. I can’t wait to return.

1. It is so exciting. Whatever cool electronic experience or sleek new building we have in NY, they have ten of them.

2. Their subway system is crazy good, clean, efficient, on time, safe restrooms, vending machine heaven, huge shopping malls and delicious food.

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3. The food in Japan is outstanding and served beautifully. Everything is amazing but the sushi and sashimi will change your life.

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4. It is one of the safest cities. The Japanese aren’t big on scamming tourists. It doesn’t go with their mindset of politeness and duty.

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5. You can take a quick train and end up in an hour at a ryokan ( typical Japanese Inn and bath house) in Nikko and see the temples which is what we are doing. . Or go to Kamakura and see the giant outdoor Buddha if you haven’t already. (I have)

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6. Their museums have weird exteriors but interesting exhibits. There are a few exhibits I want to see this time.

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7. Tokyo street fashion is amazing and so entertaining to see. Even in this global society, it hits LA a few years later. Fashion changes so quickly in Japan that it is easy to find trendy inexpensive pieces. Fashion chain stores offer high-quality Japanese-made clothing in the latest styles — at reasonable prices. Halloween in Shibuya!!!!!

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8. Tokyo has the world’s best customer service and multi stage gift wrapping for anything you buy. It sometimes feels a little stalky as they follow you to the door carrying your beautifully wrapped purchase.

9.Tokyo has the most expansive sake list. Remember if you are drinking, Tokyo has very strict drunk driving rules for drivers and passengers so take one of the hundreds of cabs around at night.

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10. The most interesting thing about Tokyo is the juxtaposition of the old and the new. The unparalleled mass transit system and skyscrapers are next to shrines and paper lanterns. The fancy shopping malls are near small noodle shops and Japanese pastry stores. It is unbelievably crowded during the day, Nobody seems to sleep except on the train,  but it can also get very quiet late at night.

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For more Tokyo blogs

https://travelwellflysafe.com/2012/08/06/things-i-have-learned-in-tokyo/

https://travelwellflysafe.com/2013/06/11/onsen-and-ryokan-in-japan/

https://travelwellflysafe.com/2012/08/25/japanese-food/

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/things-i-have-learned-in-japan/

yo I sorano tabi o,

JAZ