Some Of My Favorite Tour Guides

Image

Some Of My Favorite Tour Guides

“To let life happen to you is irresponsible. To create your day is your divine right.”Ramtha

A great tour guide is one that creates an experience that you will remember. The best guides I’ve had have left me wanting to go back to the destination or have left me feeling like I’ve made a new friend. I have had many amazing tour guides but I picked ten in no particular order.

Ogus Kaya, Turkey

Ogus is such a warm, friendly and truly motivated guide. He is organized and punctual. We traveled for a few weeks in Turkey with him. He taught us a tremendous amount about the history and architecture. I was obsessed with the Mosque architecture of Sinan. We felt that he wanted us to love Turkey as much as he did and i think everyone did.

One of the highlights of the trip was the balloon ride over Cappodocia. I like my feet on the ground and was not going to do it. He finally said that he would go with me. He reminded me that he had two small children and one on the way. This balloon ride became one of my most cherished travel memories which I would never have done without him. ogus 51@yahoo.com

Petar Vlasik, Croatia

Petar was my first internet tour guide. After a land tour and small boat tour both cancelled, I decided to take my kids and plan a trip through Croatia by myself with Petar. This was the first time I had ever done anything like this without a husband. It was before Trip Advisor. He was recommended by Rick Steves  (so i knew he wasn’t a serial killer). Petar was smart, funny and so knowledgeable about his beautiful country.

We had a wonderful trip. Croatia is still one of my favorite countries for those who have not been there yet. I did not listen to him about hotels and I was sorry. I learned from Petar that a good tour guide always knows best and to trust my instincts about internet tour guides. http://www.dubrovnikrivieratours.com

Dvir Hollander, Jerusalem, Israel

Dvir’s knowledge, insight, humor, non judgmental world view and kindness made touring this amazing city with him a special experience. We met at lunchtime and we were hungry. When Dvir recognized that we were kindred spirits about food, he described himself as a “ friendly dictator” when it came to where we should eat.

If you are going to Jerusalem, I highly recommend hiring him – not just for the delicious food, but for how much you will learn and experience. He has the unique ability to figure out just what you want to do and then he casually adds in what he feels you are missing. The trip was perfect. Contact him at hollander2000@gmail.com.

Guide Gift Bangkok,Thailand

Gift was another guide that I found online before trip advisor. I read the reviews on her page and went with my gut. She is knowledgeable, kind, and fun to be with. I felt like I was seeing Bangkok and Ayuthetta with one of my friends.

She has her plan but is always ready to change if there is something you want to do. She also knows a very good place for Thai Massage. When you are in a part of the world that feels very different from yours, Gift can make it feel like home.
http://www.privatetourthailand.com)

  Do Sy Quy “Buffalo Joe”Hanoi, Viet Nam

My guide in Hanoi  was Mr. Do Sy Quy. He was my first guide in Viet Nam  and set the tone for an amazing experience. “Buffalo Joe” is kind, friendly, funny, intuitive and very knowledgeable about Hanoi and Viet Nam history.

I connected with him immediately and feel like I have a friend in Hanoi. i will always remember our drive to and from Ha Long Bay and everything we did –  especially the Thanh Chuong Viet Palace. http://www.incensetravel.com

Andres Miguel, Buenos Aires, Argentina

i have had a few great guides in Argentina but I had to pick Andres Miguel because he is a tango dancer.  Everything we did that day was related to tango  –  a boat on a river, good food, shopping, a milonga and always tango stories. He changed things around and went with what interested me.

The boat ride was an impromptu surprise as was eating at a family restaurant on Sunday for the best empanadas. He was the perfect tour guide for me and gave me a gift of the perfect Buenos Aires day.  tango@culturacercana.com.ar

Jose Villa, Cartagena,Colombia

The hot, sleepy city of Cartagena is such a special place and seeing it with Jose is the way to go. Being alone he let me tag along to teach English at their church and visit the music school his son Kevin attended..They were both knowledgeable and fun.

We saw the old city, beaches, markets, took a private boat to the islands, visited a fishing village, paddled a canoe through the mangrove tunnels and strolled the streets of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I stayed an extra few days because I loved this city and felt so safe and taken care of. http://cartagenadestiny.com

Carolina Velasquez Obreque, Santiago, Chile

Carolina was our tour guide in Santiago and Valparaiso. She was funny, knowledgeable and organized. She came to us through Vaya Adventures. We spent a beautiful day with her exploring the Casablanca wine region between Valpo and Santiago.

The trip was seamless – except when I lost that paper that they give you at customs when you land. Apparently it’s very important in Chile. She went with me to get a new one before driving to Valpo which is why I am home and able to write this. I highly recommend spending some time in Chile with her. https://www.vayaadventures.com

Michai Bojanowski , Wroclaw, Poland

Michai is a wonderful guide who loves his country. With knowledge and humor, we spent a long day in Wroclaw exploring the beauty of the city. He incorporates the darkness of the past as we explore the Jewish quarter. He has such passion for passing on the truth.

Before lunch I saw a street art drawing of man looking out the window. I ask about it. He tells me it is Poland’s most famous poet and playwright Tadeusz Różewicz.

After lunch, he has brought copies of a beautiful poem that he thought would go with what he was speaking about.He made sure we learned a little extra. I love that.  michal.bojanowski@chidusz.com

Wayne Thomas, Aukland, New Zealand

I usually don’t write  about a half day group tour of a city but I learned and retained more information with Wayne Thomas of Bush and Beach Tours http://www.bushandbeach.co.nz/, then any day tour I have ever been on.

He has a way of passing on knowledge that is sometimes funny and sometimes personal  that makes you remember it.  This is a wonderful welcome tour of New Zealand. I highly recommend him.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Advertisements

Wine Tasting in Chile

Image

Wine Tasting  In Chile

“I like on the table,when we’re speaking,
the light of a bottle of intelligent wine.” Pablo Neruda

Casablanca is a newer wine region between Valparaiso and Santiago. In the 1980s some entrepreneurs started drilling for water underground and the first vineyards were planted. The climate is good for grapes. Cold air from the nearby Pacific Ocean give the grapes a long ripening period.

fullsizeoutput_5ea4

The summers in Casablanca are warm but not hot, which is perfect for white wines. In the beginning, the wines in Casablanca were mainly white. Now Pinot Noir and Syrah are also doing very well here.

Our first winery at 10am was Loma Larga Vineyards. It is a Chilean boutique winery.  Alejandra Guiterrez  greeted us with a smile  and was very knowledgeable about all things related to wine.  This vineyard is a good place to taste red wine in an area that is famous for whites. The setting is beautiful with the vines growing among apple, avocado, almond trees and rose bushes.

fullsizeoutput_5e9b

We toured the production room, a modern facility with a steel walkway overlooking the tanks, and the barrel cellar.

fullsizeoutput_5e94

The vineyard produces two lines, Lomas de Valle and Loma Larga, which ages in French oak casks.

fullsizeoutput_5e95

The tasting took place indoors because it was a really cold morning. Breakfast is the most important wine tasting of the day. We bought wine. They have a warehouse in Napa, California and they deliver.

fullsizeoutput_5e99

Our second winery was Kingston Vineyards. It is another boutique vineyard with a small but high quality group of wines.

It was closer to lunchtime and still very cold for spring.

fullsizeoutput_5ea3

We walked through their exquisite vineyards. By we I meant  me and my stray dog.

fullsizeoutput_5ea0

The American Kingston family splits their time between the US and Chile. This vineyard was founded in the 1900’s by their ancestors as a dairy and cattle ranch. They began growing grapes  in 1998. In the wine production room there are stainless steel tanks, French oak casks and concrete eggs.

fullsizeoutput_5ea2

The shape of the eggs allow for optimal circulation of the juice. I had never seen that before. A few other vineyards in the valley use them.

fullsizeoutput_5e8d

We then had a tasting and lunch in a small private room. It felt more like sitting and tasting their delicious wines with friends. Lora Kelley our guide was from the US and taught us a lot about the vineyard.

Kingston also has free shipping to the United States. We bought more wine.

Our last vineyard of the day was The Matetic Vineyards which are located in the Rosario Valley. This completely enclosed valley is perpendicular to the ocean and features ideal climatic and topographic conditions for both red and white wines.

The Matetic family emigrated from Croatia to Chile in the late nineteenth century. Chile has the largest Croatian community outside of Croatia. In 1999 they planted their first vineyards.

The winery now owns about 120 hectares of vineyards, all which are certified organic and biodynamic. They produced the first cool-climate Syrah in Chile, and with their success, other wineries began producing their own cool-climate Syrahs too.

In 2004, the Matetics constructed a state of the art winery.

The wine tasting was outside overlooking the beautiful vineyards. The wines were superb. It had warmed up by then. Tipsy and happy by the third vineyard, I could not remember this pleasant French guide’s name. They don’t deliver to the United States. We had brought wine travel pouches with us so we bought more wine.

We broke one of the cardinal rules of wine tasting that day, which is that evaluating the later wines will be difficult if you swallow the earlier ones. The alcohol you consume will cloud your judgment  and your memory. A few weeks after we arrived home, bottles of wine started arriving. We did not remember buying that much.

Fly safe,

JAZ

The Houses Of Pablo Neruda

Image

“Poetry came in search of me.” Pablo Neruda

The Chilean Nobel Laureate poet Pablo Neruda may be one of the greatest poets in the Spanish language. His poetry is hard to translate and there is only a small amount in English. It is difficult for me and also for many Chileans to disassociate his words from his intense political views and/or personal failings.


He wrote exquisite poems about love and human nature. Neruda has three houses—one on San Cristobal Hill in Santiago, another in Valparaiso and the third is in Isla Negra. I visited two of them. To decorate his houses he has scoured antique shops and junkyards for all kinds of objects. He has many collections. Each object reminds him of an anecdote. You can not photograph inside.

Riding the funicular to the top of Parque Metropolitano is the classic tourist activity in Santiago.

When we got to the bottom again, it deposited us a block away from La Chascona, the house the poet bought in 1951 for his then-secret lover, Matilde Urrutia.

La Chascona (the name refers to the wild tangle of Matilde’s hair, a recurring element in his poems) is a house filled with objects – not for their value or beauty, but as an expression of the person who assembled them. It was destroyed in a military coup after his death and has been rebuilt and restored. For a Communist, he is quite the shopper.


Isla Negra (Black Island) is neither black nor an island. It is an elegant beach resort forty kilometers south of Valparaíso. No one knows where the name comes from; Neruda speculates about black rocks vaguely shaped like an island which he sees from his terrace.

Thirty years ago, long before Isla Negra became fashionable, Neruda bought—with the royalties from his books—six thousand square meters of beachfront, which included a tiny stone house at the top of a steep slope.

“Then the house started growing, like the people, like the trees.” His collections of bottles, nautical things and odd objects grew as well.


l love these collections and I love this house with its magic light and expansive views.


It is at Isla Negra where Pablo Neruda and his third wife, Matilde have established their most permanent residence.


His most iconic works were written here. It is where he was happiest entertaining a constant stream of visitors with Chilean wine and food. The names of his dead friends are carved in the beam above the bar so he can always have a drink with them. There are seventeen names.

When he died, which was during the Pinochet reign of terror,  Neruda was given a pauper’s grave. Chile didn’t officially embrace its most famous writer until democracy was restored in 1990. Then he and Matilda were buried outside facing the sea according to his wishes.

“Bury me at Isla Negra, in front of the sea I know, in front of every wrinkled place, of rocks and waves that my lost eyes, will never see again.”

Fly safe,
JAZ

Ten Things To Do In Chile

Ten Things To Do In Chile

“Latin America is very fond of the word “hope.” We like to be called the “continent of hope.” Candidates for deputy, senator, president, call themselves “candidates of hope.” This hope is really something like a promise of heaven, an IOU whose payment is always being put off. It is put off until the next legislative campaign, until next year, until the next century.”  Pablo Neruda

Eat at Borago. which is one of the top Michelin starred restaurants in the world.

See the street art that defines Valparaiso.

Visit the homes of Pablo Neruda.

See the Museum of Memory and Human Rights commemorating those who suffered under the Pinochet regime.

Visit Chiloe Island and hope it isn’t raining,

Visit the art museums and galleries of Santiago.

Eat Chilean empanadas (different from Argentinian ones). Drink Pisco Sours.(like Peruvian Pisco Sours). Have Chilean hot dogs (different from American ones.)

Have a ski day in the Andes Mountains.

See Castro which is famous for its colored wooden houses built on stilts. I love colored houses.

Spend a day visiting Chilean wineries and Vino Del Mar. 

Fly Safe,

JAZ