Category Archives: Travel

Book About Travel Opposites

MIT linguist wrote a fine travel memoir.

TravelJunkie-coverI Married a Travel Junkie has been on my “to read” list for too long. I finally picked it up and found it so delightful that I raced through it. Being an MIT professor emeritus of linguistics, author Samuel Jay Keyser (known as Jay) not surprisingly has a way with words.  I identified with his and his wife’s different travel styles — that is, she is passionate about travel and he would just as soon stay home. My husband and I are similar.

Jay wrote with humor and insight about the reality that Nancy is more passionate about travel than Jay is. Similarly, I love to travel much more than my husband does. I have a taste for the exotic and am willing to wade into unfamiliar cultures. He prefers traveling to uncrowded places where English is widely spoken and the food isn’t too weird. We both love beautiful natural places, plus the occasional beautiful man-made environment.

But one Jay Keyser observation rang especially true for us. My husband  can identify with: “Being married to a strong-minded, travel-committed woman can be a real trial or travail. ‘Travel’ and ‘travail’ are  originally the same word…toil; exertion; hardship; suffering….I have become, in spite of myself, what most people would consider a world traveler. This is not out of choice. My world-traveler status is a epiphenomenon–the cost of being married to Nancy.”

I enjoyed the book — a lot — and felt a distant kinship with Jay and Nancy.

Marvelous Memoir of Extended Honeymoon

Newlyweds’ epic adventures chronicled in new book.

CrocodleLove-coverI met Josh Berman at some writers’ event a number of years ago. We went through the usual “what do you write about?”, “where are you from?”, “where do you live?” pleasantries. I learned that he had written a couple of guidebooks to Nicaragua and Belize, that he was wrapping a up a gig as a book editor and, most interestingly, that he and his wife Sutay had traveled around the world for something like two years under the auspices of the Peace Corps and American Jewish World Service. He was planning to write a book about their adventures and experiences.

Then came a few gigs as a fixer for Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain filming in Nicaragua, a book about the Maya calendar that “predicted” the end of the world in 2012 and a transition to teaching Spanish — and he and Sutay, a nurse, childbirth educator and doula, had three little girls. Hop ahead to the end of 2014, when the book came out. It is called Crocodile Love: Travel Tales from an Extended Honeymoon, and it is a very good and lively read about the couple’s experiences in Asia and Africa.

Highlights include Sutay’s unique family legacy in Pakistan that opened many strange and unexpected doors, experiencing the world’s great religions through a traveler’s lens, three months of volunteering on a tea plantation in India, two months with the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana and most poignantly, their unannounced arrival in the mud-hut Gambian village where Sutay had lived as a Peace Corps Volunteer ten years earlier.

I couldn’t wait to read it, so I wove it into the busy holiday period, but it is also the kind of book I like to read when traveling.  The short chapters are further divided into sections, which means it is easy to start, put down and restart without losing the thread. The inspiration for the unusual title doesn’t come until the end, and it’s worth waiting for. I hope you read the book, so I won’t spoil it for you.

Need Extra Passport Pages? Get Them Now

Extra page policy ends at on December 31.

passportMy most treasured expired passport was valid from 1995 to 2005. The reason I like it best is that traveled so often during that decade that I actually had to get extra pages. I beef up the need did by requesting a stamp “as a souvenir” at every passport control opportunity. (I did get close to needing extras in the 2005 to 2015 passport. ) It will also be my only passport with extra pages, because starting on January 1, 2016. Americans will no longer be given the opportunity to add pages to existing passports. I have no idea why.

Bottom line is that if you travel a lot internationally, you might want to apply for extra pages before the end of the year so you won’t have to prematurely renew. After the first of the year, renewing (i.e., getting a whole new passport) is your only option At the time, however, you will be able to choose a 52-page book rather than the standard 28-page passport. FoMoInfo on the new regs.

Cuba Soon to Be Easier to Visit

Restoration of diplomatic relations good news for travelers.

CubaUSflagsThe Obama Administration’s long-overdue removal of Cuba from America’s terrorist list is great news for travelers. The nation at our doorstep, with which the US severed ties more than half a century ago at the apex of anti-Communist fever, is a wonderful vibrant place to visit.  Do so now. Both countries’ embassies will open on July 20, so get those travel plans going.

Independent travel is possible, but for convenience, check out these tour operators that include Cuba programs:

  • Cuba Elite.  Luxury hotels and upmarket private villas, apartments and residences. Who says it’s a hard-line Communist country.
  • Cuba Travel Network. Booking service for hotels and resorts, rental cars, excursions and more geared to Canadians and European who have not been restricted as have US citizens.
  • Cuba Travel Services. It has been dedicated to reuniting families, but with the normalization of relations, it’s format might change.
  • Friendly Planet. Tour operator with long-time presence in Cuba. running fully escorted Cuba tours.
  • Globus. Three Cuba programs are on this major international tour company’s roster.
  • LaTour. New weekend getaway to Havana.
  • National Geographic Expeditions. In addition to local guides, some tours are accompanied by well-known authors and other authorities.
  • Road Scholar. Educational programs for seniors.
  • smarTours. 11-day “Rediscover Cuba” package.
  • USA Cuba Travel. Sells packages to Havana and all-inclusive resorts.

I traveled there with smarTours a couple of months ago, not on their 11-day program but for four days in Havana. IsramWorld’s new weekend getaway is essentially the same program — one night in Miami, three nights in Havana, Cuban visa, guided sightseeing, medical insurance and so on.

Shuttle Between Bozeman Airport & Yellowstone

Shuttle service eases a winter stay at America’s first national park.

Park entrance sign in winter. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.Yellowstone National Park is a magical but challenging place in winter, so anything that makes it easier to visit is a very good thing. One is Yellowstone National Park Lodges‘ convenient airport shuttle service from Bozeman.

Now in its second season, it runs when the only two winter lodges in the park are open.  The Old Faithful Snow Lodge opens on December 20 and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel the following day. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel closes for the season on March 2, 2015, and Old Faithful Snow Lodge closes a day earlier. The historic Old Faithful Inn is among the park lodges that do not operate in winter.

In addition to the challenges of winter driving for some people who do not live in snow country, a rental car is really superfluous. Except for the road between Gardiner and Cooke City, Montana in the northern part of the vast national park, winter travel on park road is limited to snowmobiles and enclosed heated snowcoaches that offer daily transport between a variety of locations.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts also offers half- and full-day snowcoach, ski and snowshoe tours and ski and snowshoe rentals and instruction. Visitors to Yellowstone can catch the shuttle from the Holiday Inn near the airport at 1 p.m. It returns to the airport to pick up arrivals for a 1:45 p.m. departure to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. The shuttle leaves Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel daily at 8:30 a.m. and arrives at the airport at 10:30 a.m. and can drop people staying in at the Holiday Inn. The fare is $53.50, plus taxes and fees, each way. Guests who have booked a winter package receive a special rate on the airport shuttle of $39 plus taxes and fees, each way. FoMoInfo: 307-344-7311 or 866-GEYSERLAND (866-439-7375).

South Coast Scenes in Iceland

Travel along Highway 1 (aka, the Ring Road) yields bucolic and natural scenes.

IcelandTravel-tiny logo.-jpgGuðmundur Trlyingsson driver-guide Jakob Narfi Hjaltason piloted our small group along the South Coast of Iceland before the official start of the Society of American Travel Writers convention in Reykjavik. Our four-day itinerary started under overcast skies but pleasant weather. As we drove farther east, clouds settled lower and we experienced periodic sprinkles. Any hopes of seeing the Northern Lights diminished with every mile.

When we reached the small port town of Hofn on the southeast coast, the sprinkles escalated to driving through pounding rain and heavy fog. Planes were grounded so instead of flying back to Reykjavik on the southwest coast, Jakob drove us back. We retraced our route in reverse, reinforcing what we had seen. Here are images from some of the sights we saw and experiences we had — and I’m not going to attempt to include all the difficult-to-pronounce and difficult-to-remember names. You need to visit and see for yourself.

From Reykjavik – Day One

Icelandic horses on their pasture. These small, spirited horses are ridden for pleasure by Icelanders and visitors alike, and they also star in indoor and outdoor horse shows.
Icelandic horses on their pasture. These small, spirited horses are ridden for pleasure by Icelanders and visitors alike, and they also star in indoor and outdoor horse shows.
The Saga Centre in Hvolsvöllur interprets the Njals Saga. I've written a separate post about it.
The Saga Centre in Hvolsvöllur interprets the Njals Saga. I’ve written a separate post about it.
A short trail leads behind this waterfall -- an unusual experience, even in waterfall-rich Iceland.
A short trail leads behind this waterfall — an unusual experience, even in waterfall-rich Iceland.

Day Two

This higher waterfall can conventionally be viewed only from the front.
This higher waterfall can conventionally be viewed only from the front.
We hiked up a trail in Katla Geopark for a mile or more. The park was created in 2010 to protect the area of the Katla Volcano, which is under glacial ice and had been predicted be "the next" volcano to erupt. The prediction was off Bardarbunga to the north has been erupting since August.
We hiked up a trail in Katla Geopark for a mile or more. The park was created in 2010 to protect the area of the Katla Volcano, which is under glacial ice and had been predicted be “the next” volcano to erupt. The prediction was off Bardarbunga to the north has been erupting since August.
We put on crampons but didn't have to rope up as we crossed a lateral moraine for a short circuit on glacial ice.
We put on crampons but didn’t have to rope up as we crossed a lateral moraine for a short circuit on glacial ice. Helmets were also provided, but unlike in the US, we didn’t have to sign any liability waiver.
An easily avoided crevasse, like the rest of the exposed ice, carrying debris and therefore not pure winter-white.
An easily avoided crevasse, like the rest of the exposed ice, carrying debris and therefore not pure winter-white.
With Arnkell "Keli" Aronson, a young guide with Arcanum, a guide service (www.arcanum.is).
With Arnkell “Keli” Aronson, a young guide with Arcanum, a guide service (www.arcanum.is).

Continue reading South Coast Scenes in Iceland

AirBnB: First Time But Not the Last

Prague apartment more than meets expectations.

AirBnB-logoThe AirBnB listing promised an awesome view and a great location in central Prague. The photo looked good. The price was right (under $250 for four nights). There’s WiFi in the apartment. So after checking with friends who have not only stayed but also hosted via AirBnB, I was in. I corresponded a bit with Katerina, my hostess. When I arrived, her friend Martina let me in, showed me around and gave me the keys. Katerina, it turns out, is in Barcelona. That means that I have the whole apartment to myself — except, of course, Katerina’s own room.

The baronial door between two skateboard shops pretty much symbolizes Prague today --- a co-existence between the traditional and new.
The baronial door to Katerina’s apartment building is between two skateboard shops, which pretty much symbolizes Prague today — a co-existence between the timeless and the hip. The concrete rectangle with the steel railing is the entrance to the Metro.

The apartment is on the third floor. Since Europeans label the ground floor as 0, it is on what we would call the fourth floor. Taking into account that the ceilings are 10 or 12 feet high, it is like being on an American fifth or sixth floor. There is no elevator. I travel light, especially in summer, and had just one small roll-aboard, a small purse and a daypack for my netbook, assorted battery chargers, electrical cables and adapters. Still, I was grateful that Martina, who is probably half my age, offered to take my little suitcase. The ascent is worthwhile for the apartment’s artsy ambiance and great river view.

My room features high ceilings, a comfortable bed, a small desk and a bathroom that I might have had to share with my hostess if she were here.
My room features high ceilings, a comfortable bed, a small desk, fresh flowers and a bathroom that I might have had to share with Katerina if she were here.

Continue reading AirBnB: First Time But Not the Last

Revisiting a Quick Trip to Greece, Part I

Eight days + one city + three islands + ferries = happy me in Greece.

My husband and I recently made a quick trip to Greece, a country I long wanted to visit. Our itinerary was the predictable “big three” (Athens, Mykonos and Santorini, with a day trip to Delos). I posted reports almost daily on my Facebook page, but so many people have asked me about the trip that I am putting it all into one post here.

I found the trip on GroupOn Travel for a very affordable package for roundtrip New York-Athens air fare, two nights at each of the three destinations including breakfast and fast ferry transport. I ended up talking directly with Go-Today, which had assembled the package. By the time I got off the phone, we had a reservation for the dates we really wanted (including one day/night more than we expected) and for a great price ($2,400 each) including air from Denver. Eureka!

Continue reading Revisiting a Quick Trip to Greece, Part I

Whole Journeys Cites International Food Festivals

Travel offshoot of natural food market lists five faves.

globeWhole Journeys, a travel branch of Whole Foods, just sent out a list of five compelling international food festivals. There’s not one that doesn’t make me want to whip out my credit card, make a reservation and go. I actually have been to the Food and Wine Class at Aspen several times, but alas, not recently. At any rate here’s the Whole Journeys list, several of which are over for this year, but there’s always 015:

  • Alacati,  Turkey. Festival of Wild Greens along the Izmir Coast. A contest involves who can gather the largest variety of  wild greens and who prepare the best recipe with them. Sounds like an event from the fertile mine of a Turkish Rene Rezapi.    It also includes concerts, races, a large farmers market and outdoor stalls selling food and crafts from Izmir.
  • Motovun, Croatia. Teran & Truffle Festival (TETA). Local winemakers who produce traditional Istrian Teran wines gather with top chefs and truffle hunters during the harvest season to feature truffle dishes.
  • Carnivale in Italy. Whole Journeys directed readers to a blog post written by Carol Sicbaldi, a Whole Foods operations manager who resides in Italy. She notes that during February towns all over Italy celebrate Carnival, “a few weeks traditionally devoted to enjoyment, pleasure and naughtiness in the period preceding the austerity of Lent. ” In the US, this period culminates with Mardi Gras.
  • Logroño, Spain’s Basque Country. Riojan Harvest Festival during which people pay homage to San Mateo, patron saint of Logroño. Young people wearing traditional dress stomp the grapes and offer the first grape juice of the season to the Virgen de la      Valvanera. Village ceremonies include Herri Kirolak, Basque rural sports that I’d never heard of, includ stone carrying and wood chopping competitions
  • Cusco, Peru. Corpus Christi Festival,  Villagers carry statues of 15 saints  for  many days to the Cathedral in Cusco.  On the eve of the main day of Corpus Christ,i twelve typical dishes including cuy, chiriuchu, huatia and chichi or prepared to represent the 12 Apostles. They do not contain meat in honor of Christ’s passion, though I don’t understand how cuy, which is guinea pig, can be meatless.
  • Aspen, Colorado. Aspen Food and Wine Classic attracts people in the food industry such as top chefs, international and domestic wine makers, cheese mongers and others, plus well-heeled foodies who are all passionate about food and wine.

Cross-posted to www.culinary-colorado.com.