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

Floatplane From Vancouver – Conquering The Fear

Floatplane From Vancouver – Conquering the Fear

“There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.” Orson Welles

My fear of small prop planes started on my very first one. I was flying from Santorini to Athens. There was a lot of seat shifting before takeoff. I was asked to move to the front. When I questioned it, the stewardess said to my friend in Greek, “We need to put the fat people in the back to equalize the weight on the plane.” My friend was American Greek so she thought that was what the stewardess said. I looked around in horror making sure that no one had lied about his weight. I believed my life was dependent on the people who had not stuffed themselves on vacation with generous helpings of moussaka, saganaki,  tiropites. spanakopita, pastitsio and baklava. To this day when I go on a small plane, I wonder if I should I tell them that I gained a few pounds.

The next incident happened when I was leaving Aspen Colorado, with my very young children who had their whole lives ahead of them.   It was late and the airport was very quiet and had only a few people in it. They said the plane had  just arrived. We did not hear anything.  Shouldn’t the airlines have told me if they were putting me on a sixteen seat prop plane through the Rocky Mountains at night all the way to Los Angeles? I asked the pilot if that plane was safe. He said, “Of course, this plane has real leather seats”.  I have no idea what that means. Were the seats the most expensive piece of equipment on the plane? The good news was that I had an individual very small solo seat by the window. So did each of my very small children. This way they did not have to see me plan my own death. Did it hurt more to crash into the mountains at night than to crash in the water and drown?

After that I avoided small planes at all costs. I planned vacations into larger airports and always looked up the plane I was going to be on.

I don’t know why I wanted to take a floatplane from Vancouver to Victoria, British Colombia. Life happened and my children have made it alive to adulthood so maybe a small plane was less scary now. I thought it would be a fun thing to do with my son.

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My hotel window in Vancouver faced the water and I could easily see the small seaplane terminal. For three days I counted the planes that left and made sure the same number returned. I watched the Canadian News to make sure no crashes were reported. It was all good so far but it was exhausting being the safety police.

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My son and I have different meanings of the words, on time for a flight – especially when you can walk to the terminal. When we arrived, the plane was already full and we could not sit together.

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I happened to mention to the man sitting next to me that I was afraid of small planes. (in case I started clutching him in terror) He told me not to worry because he had been a fighter pilot in the Air Force. He proceeded to tell me every almost crash horror story that happened to him. “After all,” he said, We are flying during the day.  It isn’t like we are landing on what we believe to be an airstrip at night in bad weather, with no lights, in the mountains of India.”

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The plane took off. It was so quiet. There was no bumpy turbulence or loud noise of a prop plane. This time we glided into space like a bird in flight.

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It was so incredibly beautiful to look down at the Canadian landscape,

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Flying at a low altitude through the clouds, i saw a completely different perspective of the world below.

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The land looked dreamlike and other worldly.

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It was breathtaking and relaxing. The landing was just as smooth as we cruised into Victoria harbor.

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Its amazing when you find out that you can do what you are afraid to do. I learned that day to not limit my experiences because of my fears . I couldn’t wait for the flight back to Vancouver.

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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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Do you have any good coffee moments?

Fly safe,

JAZ

Memories of Greece

“When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, pray that the road is long, full of adventure and full of knowledge.” — Constantine

Memories of Greece

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Greece is the most special place for me. When I was eighteen, I did the Europe tour with my friends  and Greece was the country I connected with.  I went back any summer that I could afford to after that until I was married. I never carried a camera when I was I young. I thought it made me look like a tourist. I  was there again recently as well.   I’ve never written anything about it. I thought I would start off by listing a jumble of memories old and new and see what happens. Maybe it will jog your memory of your travels.

Athens Landing in Athens first time at three in the morning with nowhere to go , meeting some new friends and sleeping at their apt in Kolonaki,  Acropolis –  when you could still walk around everywhere.,  Olympic Airlines,  baklava ,   private cars with handmade  taxi  signs,  something is always on strike in Athens,  cats,  Thodorakis  concert  at the outdoor amphitheatre on Mt Lycabettus,  getting lost on the way down,   Delphi on the hottest day ever, amazing feta cheese, drachmas, Nine Muses in Glifada,  the Archaological Museum,  trying to get the soldiers  guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier to talk to us or laugh (you have no idea how many years I did this), sleeping every afternoon because everything closes from 12-5,  watching the tourists throw plates in the restaurants in the  Plaka,  lamburgers,   Cat Stevens, bouzouki places ,   more cats,  worry beads, Voulagmeni,  Monastiraki Flea Market,  Parko restaurant ,  best hair dry ever,  Port of Piraeus – no better feeling than taking the hydrofoil (flying dolphin) or ferry to any Greek Island.  Happy.

Santorini – sunset over a volcano, black sand beaches,  red sand beach,   tavernas  on the beach, How many bikinis can I wear in a summer? Walking up and down a mountain every day and night from the house we were staying at in heels,   fresh bread with butter and honey and kafe megalo ,  a few hours later having  fresh-baked  tiropita (fried buttered phylo dough stuffed with cheese and egg) ,   Akrotiri   ( famous Minoan ruins)  , throwing up in front of the tour buses (all my drinking stories end up like this),  dancing all night at the two discos on the island, eating fried sardines  with bones in them for lunch in Megalohori after wine tasting at the vineyards , motorbiking  everywhere,  fishing early in the morning and bringing the fish to a restaurant to cook for us in Oia,   coffee in town watching the tourists come up  to Thira from the cruise boats on the donkeys, tired of eating lamb every day, ( Greek islands had  only Greek food back then. It was pre cell phones.) Amazing.

 Mykonos –  Every  day in Mykonos with Eva and  George,  Nine Muses,  Remezzo,  , Pierros,  more  friends  from Athens ,  staying out all night , Paradise Beach ,  Super Paradise Beach, sitting in the town with our new  drag queen friends and entertaining the cruise boats,  shopping in the cool boutiques, (I needed new clothes by then) ,  tube tops, retsina and ouzo –yasas,  2am (the summer of the curfew), Mykonos Harbor, Beatles  “Don’t say goodnight”, Love.

Paros –  White rocky beaches , peace after the craziness of Mykonos,  fresh fish, Greek salad and tzaziki, planning our future., swimming in the clear blue sea, movie theatre (outside), how tan can I actually get?  Romantic.

Thessaloniki – Riding horses on the beach at George’s beach  house outside of Salonika,   walking on the beach to get anywhere, (town, clubs restaurants), going to market and getting fresh food  every day,  playing house,  Greek music festival  (Opa!), sailing every day, boats are a lot of work,  more new friends,   Greek coffee  or Nescafe,  drinking retsina on the beach,(tastes like turpentine)  ouzo shots, more Greek words, promises.  Spectacular.

Helkidiki  –  Jewish holidays at temple with Mendy’s family,  the women sit upstairs,  the service is in Greek and Hebrew –I am completely lost, picking lemons off a tree and smelling them when I fainted from fasting, , watching a Greek funeral as they marched through the streets to transport the casket from the home to the church and then to the grave site. I see a friend and join  wearing short shorts and wedges. One of the old women ( always in black)  gives me her shawl to wrap around me..  She alternates between crying and pointing out where everyone in the procession lives.  I am strangely moved by this old woman and this whole experience.  My friends are  stunned to see me walk by in a funeral procession. They join.  Surprising.

Spetses – mosquitos –It is the green island, we kill them with perfume, Reading Nikos Kazantzakis on a beach ,  Avgolemono soup for a cold( egg lemon chicken soup),  horse and carriages, boat races,  , Greek and British tourists,   Peaceful both times.

Hydra – First time in Hydra  – no cars only donkeys, rocks instead of beaches, second time in Hydra –  many bars and clubbing, third time in Hydra – I finally have the money to shop –cute stores!.   Very Different.

 Aegina –  We fall asleep and  our bicycle boat  ends up in the open sea . We are rescued  by a yacht. We dont attach the rope well (we are city girls)  and we turn over. My friends lose  all their money. I don’t because  my sportsac bag turns out to  be waterproof and  floats and I hang on. (why do we have all our money on the beach? There are no atms then and we are young and apparently stupid) I  drift close enough to the yacht to get on. My friends end up in a small fishing boat with several octopi. They look really angry at me –  I am drinking water and they don’t have any.  I am in shock. I almost drowned, For the rest of the summer Mendy tells the story in broken Greek and English to someone every day.  ‘We did not know the sea,” she  begins.   second time in Aegina –I don’t go in the water. I know that sea.   Scary.

Samos –  Having  fresh caught Calamari, that had hung on a clothes line, waking up to drunk Germans throwing up every night outside, playing with  Eva’s family on the beach,    ferry to Kusadasi Turkey ,   taken away by the police upon re-entering Samos because they thought I was smuggling drugs ( I was really seasick and nauseous and I needed a coke, I forgot to go through customs first  and walked into the store which was before customs.  –.  Eva spends a long time telling them I am another stupid American and they let me go.  Dumb.

Naxos –  taking a ferry in Greece after not being there for so long, Walking on the most beautiful soft sand beach in Naxos, grilled  fresh caught calamari as much as possible., beautiful villas, beautiful sunsets, old friends.  Wonderful.

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Poros – Walking down to the town, back on a hydrofoil in Piraeus,  No Americans,  Having an amazing Greek salad with Eva on Poros 25 years later and realizing that it never tasted as good in the US,  watching Greek families  on the beach ( It was a Greek vacation area) Greek yogurt,  boat to concert in outdoor theatre.,  dinners with Eva’s family, rocky beaches, clean water,  gold bracelets,  kids running all over, another summer  and I am in Greece. Lesson learned.

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Memories last longer than photographs.

Calo taxiti and fly safe,

JAZ

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