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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Traveler’s Block

Traveler’s Block

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
Charles Bukowski

Today I have nothing.

I have written about packing and not packing, carry on luggage, check in luggage, travel clothes, travel companions,  souvenirs, my bracelet collection, my Starbucks collection, my good luck charms, LA – where I live, Manhattan and Brooklyn where I am from, places I love, places I hate, my mother, my dog, people who have died, animals that have been killed, airports, airplanes, stewardesses, airport security, things I’ve learned from traveling and not traveling, hotel rooms and things Ive left behind in them, travel addiction, people who think they are black, superstitions, proverbs and quotes from around the world, movies, books, children’s books and songs that have inspired me to travel, food, restaurants, turkey burgers, acting like a tourist, not acting like a tourist, tourist traps, tourist attractions, holidays, traveling alone,eating alone, random photos, being a godmother, travel etiquette, third world countries, countries that have changed names, countries not to travel to, misspelled countries, auto-correct, photography, art, urban art, music, world affairs terrorists and should you blame your parents if you are one,  philosophy, spirituality, religion, prejudice, meditation, things to say and not say to a world traveler, places I haven’t been to, bucket lists, top ten everything, travel problems, imaginary places, movie locations, trip planning, weddings, World Cup, Olympics, first world problems, blogging, Nellie Bly, touching strangers, things i like, things I dislike, the 100th monkey, coffee, sunrises, how to avoid the paparazzi, travel tv shows and people in the world.

I don’t know why they call it writer’s block. I have idea block. I could start reblogging pieces, post other writers, post more instagram photos, read more books and think about writing. I could hope that this is only a temporary setback, go out and do something and then write about it – like move to Spain, go to a wedding in Africa or perhaps the new Broad Museum in LA.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Josette And Ron’s Wedding – God, America, Jamaica And Israel

Josette and Ron’s Wedding – God, America, Jamaica And Israel

‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
 I took the one less traveled by,
 and that has made all the difference. “ Robert Frost

It is not a poem I expected to be read at a wedding by the father of the groom. It is one of my favorite poems. I had to memorize it in high school. I know it well.

I hadn’t spoken to Josette in a while . She was a good friend of my daughter and they had grown up together in the dance world.  Josette is a beautiful Jamaican American girl. She contacted me to invite us to her wedding. I knew she was engaged to an Israeli boy. I responded that “I know rabbis’ ha ha.”  She said “Not so ha ha. I’m Jewish now and I live in Tel Aviv.” I spent that day laughing about how strange the world was and that people will always surprise you.  She was having two weddings one in California and one in Israel. It turned out that you can not be married twice by a rabbi so she was getting married in California by the pastor from her church.

I’ve known her family for seventeen years. They are the most devout Christian family I know. We have never had a conversation that didn’t mention Jesus or God or praying – a lot of praying.  I wrestle with God so their unshakable faith is hard for me to understand. I’m also a little bit jealous of people who have that kind of faith. I think they are happier.

I was curious how they would feel about their daughter marrying outside their race and religion and moving  far away to start a very different life. Their close family and their faith was such a big part of who they were.

The families couldn’t have been more different. Jamaican Americans and Israelis from Israel. For younger Americans, racial and ethnic diversity are a part of their lives now– for their parents not so much.

It turned out that these families had more in common then one would think. They were both intact loving families. Their parents had long-term marriages and were growing old together. Both Josette and Ron talked about learning honor, integrity and kindness from their families. Their values and their belief in God made them more the same than different. I think that is what God is supposed to be about – not the separate God of individual countries and religions. There was a lot of praying and it was the first time I heard Christ Our Lord and Mazel Tov (pronounced with the accent on the zal the way the Israelis do) in the same sentence.

There was so much love in that room. Ron and Josette seem to have the same soul, the same values and the same dreams.    If they change the world around them a little bit and offer some hope for the future , that is a bonus. (Oh and they both can dance) Both families seemed very happy with their new family members and they loved Ron and Josette!!.

The ceremony was beautiful. The setting was exquisite. Their Christian ceremony ring was placed on the third finger. Their Jewish ring will be the fourth finger and then they ended the ceremony by jumping the broom. This practice is common today in African-American families as a remembrance of the “mock marriage” ceremony for the slaves in the South in the 1840s and 1850s. They will be married now in the eyes of God, two religions and history.

Ron’s mother ran up to Josette’s brother’s girlfriend. “Are you coming to Israel next month?” They talked about travel plans. We saw Josette’s mom when we were leaving. I said “I can’t believe that you are going to Israel before my kids.” She replied in her beautiful Jamaican accent to my daughter. “You haven’t visited the homeland? You know that you can go for free.” (Birthright trip)

I said congratulations. We talked about how brave Josette was to make a decision to live such a different life. She answered, “that we can only pray.” (photo -Nicole Lennox Creative.)

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Keep Safe Josette and Ron and Fly Safe Everyone,

JAZ