Category Archives: Glamping/Hiking/Expeditions

Worldwide Adventure and Sports

An acquaintance of mine has a fascinating job as a television producer who travels the world filming sports and adventure programs. He has been to over 100 countries, on 6 continents. While interviewing him, I was equally fascinated by the job details as I was by the destinations he’s reached. His journey is both geographically and intrinsically developed as he has made career choices based on fulfillment and a word I admire--“balance.”

What is your job description?

I’m a television producer for a Tulsa based production company called Winnercomm, Inc. I currently produce a variety of shows, primarily for Outdoor Channel. Over the years, I have produced sports and adventure programs for national networks such as ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS and the Golf Channel.

What was the inspiration for this job?

I went to school (University of Oklahoma) to become an advertising producer. For the first five years after college, I did just that … and it was a fast-paced, tremendous learning experience for me. However, that lifestyle was geared more towards selling products & services and increasing profits. For me, the effort versus reward just didn’t balance out .

That’s so important.

Fortunately, an opportunity came about through one of our major clients to make the transition from commercial production to national programming production and I took it! It was a launching pad into the outdoor sports production for Winnercomm at the time.

Was the travel part of your job for sports and adventure?

The planning, editing and writing happens locally but the adventures have to gathered by traveling. Based on the assignment, I’ve traveled to more countries than I’ve taken the time to tally an exact count, on every continent except Antarctica. I’ve had to add several pages to my passport.

Have you had a favorite trip?

That’s tough to answer. Based on assignments I’ve had, the travels primarily centered around adventure and the outdoors. I rarely go into metropolitan areas but rather the countryside. What’s beneficial about that is the chance to see the real culture of that area. I think one of my favorite trips has been New Zealand because it’s so American-friendly, clean, and the people are so welcoming. It has so much to offer because the geographical area and landscape varies so dramatically in relatively short distances.new-zealand-340329_960_720

While the North and South Islands are both very different, the entire country has a common cultural thread that is very appealing. The country’s epic and varied landscape has make it a popular destination for big, movie production sets. Plus, there is so much to offer for outdoorsmen. They offer hunting, fishing, sailing, hiking and back country adventure.

New Zealand
New Zealand

What is the typical New Zealand meal like?

Mostly meat and potatoes, but there’s access to amazing seafood. It depends on where you visit, I guess. If you go into the interior, it is different. The Maori culture is still very strong there. A traditional haka ceremony is a sight to behold! It’s a type of ancient war dance typically used in the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace. The dance and ceremony is very exciting and energetic, using facial expressions for intimidation…. strange, bizarre, facial expressions and forceful dance movements.

How long were you in New Zealand?

I’ve been a few different times on assignments. The trips are typically 1 week to 10 days.

Describe your African experience.

I’ve been to Africa several times and have had the opportunity to experience the remarkable culture and wildlife. Botswana and Tanzania, particularly. It is both humbling and amazing to have the opportunity to experience wildlife in that type of environment. Specifically, the elephants—I have a whole new respect for their power, strength and speed. To see them in the wild….they truly are the “King of the Jungle”.Elephants_at_Amboseli_national_park_against_Mount_Kilimanjaro

Not the lion?

The lion commands another level of respect, that’s why the lions are called the “King of the Beasts”.

To see these animals in their natural habitat is an experience that is hard to describe. It’s one of the reasons that Africa has been the inspiration of so many epic tales of adventure.

I’ve been up-close and personal with a lot of wildlife over the years. Like the coastal brown bars in Alaska, for instance. You learn very quickly to respect the animals’ power and territory. Unknown-2There have been bizarre adventures and near death experiences. Weather is one of the reasons. The combination of wind, snow, bitter cold, extreme heat and darkness—and being caught miles from a vehicle at night are examples. Or, hanging out of a helicopter to capture that perfect angle from above. I put myself in these situations. Sometimes scary when you look back on it, but well worth the experience!

How do you set up a whole movie production set, equipment and logistics in a remote country?

It’s typically a very mobile, bare bones production in the backcountry. You can’t disrupt a natural environment with a lot of production equipment. It’s a small scale production, usually with a couple of camera guys, a local guide and a host or celebrity guest. We try to have minimal impact on the environment.

That’s good.

The struggles of getting there and the discoveries along the way are a big part of the storyline development.

Do you keep a journal?

Not a detailed personal journal. Writing scripts geared toward the production and overall experience is my main responsibility. It’s rarely from my personal perspective.

We have taken several celebrities on adventure trips. I’ve fished with Liam Neeson in Belize, Michael Keaton in New Zealand and hunted elk with Hank Williams Jr. to name a few.

Michael Keaton on right
Michael Keaton on right

I’ve traveled with several country music stars and sports celebrities. I’ve gone bear hunting with Herschel Walker. I’ve gone fishing with actor, Jason Priestley who is an avid fisherman. He owns a resort on Vancouver Island that is run by his father.

with Jason Priestley
with Jason Priestley

Priestly Panama Sail

I’ve fished with Craig T. Nelson in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We produced a show called New American Sportsman that featured these celebrities enjoying their passion for the outdoors.

The most difficult thing about these types of productions is that there are detailed start and end times, with an infinite amount of unknowns in between. When I plan a trip, I have no control over some of what happens with travel details, flight delays, weather delays, etc. Some details are weather dependent. If you’re hunting or fishing, the environment often dictates success or failure. Trips can be difficult as a result of that. For instance, I traveled to Mongolia during the SARS outbreak.

We landed and 2 mummy-dressed people got on a checked every passenger for signs of fever before they let us deplane – in case a quarantine was needed. We spent five days getting to our final destination in Mongolia—cancelations, delays, missed-connections. This involved a 16 hour ride in a Russian jeep with no roads. We fished for one day when the Siberian run off started. That’s when melted snow causes the rivers to flood. Huge trees were uprooted and were floating down the river. No fishing that day!

How have these adventures enriched your life?

I go in with an open mind. Because I do travel into the countryside, I have the opportunity to see people at a genuine level. To step out of the metropolitan areas and go into people’s homes and small towns, I get to know the honest culture of a place. Getting out of the city gives a better sense of their history, heritages, meals, lifestyles, etc. You get a better sense of the simple pleasures in life—the environment and landscape.

You forget about going through the difficult experiences of traveling. The amount I’ve grown from pushing myself miles and miles into backcountry carrying all of my camera equipment, cameras, food and water… in the end, they are good experiences. Even here in the U.S., places like Wyoming and Montana. You find yourself deep in the backcountry, way out in the dark, hiking 13 miles or more, one way carrying an 18 pound camera.

We pay so much money for comfort and style, but the reward of an experience is so much more rewarding than the superficial product and material thing. Material things last a moment; experiences last a lifetime. When you think about what makes you happy—-it’s our thoughts, shaped by fond memories of adventure.

Sierra Exif JPEG

 

www.winnercomm.com

Hiking the Samaria Gorge

My visit to Crete (Greece’s largest island) was mystifying for many reasons. One of the well-known landmarks in this legendary island is the Samaria Gorge which is reportedly the longest gorge in Europe. We did not hike the gorge on that trip but I would like to return to Crete someday and hike it with my husband and Boy Scout sons. My relative, a native of Greece, has hiked it three times and has led school groups through it as a volunteer for the Red Cross. I interviewed my charming and lovely relative about her expertise on the Samaria Gorge.20160104_200052

What inspired you to hike the gorge? Describe the terrain.

I hiked it three times; once with the Red Cross team escorting 15 secondary school kids. I enjoyed the scenery changes going down. At the end of the 13 kilometers it becomes very difficult because you walk on large stones. There’s a lot of animals and trees. images-1You see the water coming down from the mountains and the huge rocks over you. The change in scenery was the most exciting thing. You go down many steps made out of stones and have to be very careful because there are many accidents that occur. Broken hands, broken legs….It’s very hard to get out of the gorge if you’re hurt. They use small donkeys. (Other animals can be seen along the landscape.)20160104_200010

I’ve heard they use helicopters, too.

Yes, they do. Many hikers are from Europe—Belgium, France, Switzerland….and they want to explore more of the gorge, so they get off the path. This is extreme—it is not an easy gorge. You must follow the directions of the leaders.640px-Samaria_Gorge_02

Did it require special training to hike the gorge?

No, but you must listen to the training information before you go on the trail. You need the right shoes. People think they can wear sandals but you need good hiking shoes.wooden-bridge-111058_960_720

How long did the hike on the gorge take?

6 1/2 hours, 7 maximum with 2-3 stops and a snack. You get time to relax and take pictures. You can’t stop anywhere because others are behind you. The paths are very narrow and dangerous. There are many avalanches and you can hear stones falling. They tell you to not turn your head up when you hear the rocks. Some people want to see where the stone is coming from. You have to protect your head.

Is it free to hike the gorge or is there an admission price?

It costs 5 euros but it’s free for schools.IMG_0221

Did you encounter dangers or accidents?

One lady sprained her ankle going down because she wasn’t wearing the right shoes. Good shoes with the proper toe is important.

Do people camp there?

In the middle of the gorge, at the 7th kilometer, there is the Samaria Old Village. Once a year, they have celebrations and people camp during the night and have liturgy during the day. It was a very nice moment. I think the churches were called Agios Nikolaos, St. Irene…–they were small churches. After the 13 km in the gorge, you walk 3km more to end up in Agia Roumeli village with a marvelous beach.20160104_200023

How has this experience enriched your life?

Oh!–I experienced many different feelings! I was very scared in the beginning that I wasn’t going to complete it in 6 hours but I did it in 5 1/2 hours. Going with the school kids make it quicker because they are running  and it was dangerous and we were trying to hold them back. You feel like you are in a different country—I couldn’t believe I was in Greece.  I met a lady while volunteering for the Red Cross and we’re still close friends since that time.  I was so full of happiness that I managed to go through the gorge. We made so many friends because we were trying to help others. It was a unique experience.IMG_0200

www.agreekadventure.com/hiking-in-samaria-gorge-crete/FullSizeRenderwww.impanahrantou.blogspot.gr/2012/05/blog-post_10.html

A Guys’ Trip to Hike Hadrian’s Wall

My history-loving brother and my adorable nephews went on a guys trip in 2011 to England and Scotland to hike Hadrian’s Wall. I interviewed my driven and handsome nephew about his experience on this trip.216874_10150328592551565_6796995_n

What inspired you to travel to England and Scotland to hike Hadrian’s Wall?283441_10150328596086565_3909414_n

My brother had just graduated from college and we wanted to go on a boys’ trip. It’s not something you do often. We had been to England but not Scotland. We wanted to do something not overly touristy and to discover new things. It was my dad’s idea and his friend had done it.251403_10150328595251565_6423784_n

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What did your trip itinerary involve?

We arrived in London and drove to Hadrian’s wall. The first two days we walked 13 miles a day. The wall is in England, not Scotland and it used to be the northernmost border of the Roman Empire. Hadrian commissioned to build the wall to keep the barbarians from attacking Roman settlements. It’s considered, “the Great Wall of England.” Contours Program (from the travel agency) set up our stays at bed and breakfasts and transported our luggage for us. We only needed backpacks. It was perfectly set up. We walked along the wall and there were different historic sites along the way:229781_10150328592946565_94284_n

  • military barracks
  • ancient pagan ritual grounds
  • museums along the wall281494_10150328592996565_4100000_n

224402_10150328593076565_6173186_nDid you experience any problems walking it?

It started raining a bit but overall it was very pleasant. In July and August, the temperature was in the 70’s. I thought it was perfect.283416_10150328593156565_6455106_n

Did you do any training for it?

Nothing out of the ordinary. My dad and brother did some extra walking ahead of time.229702_10150328593251565_10825_n

Describe the vibe of the culture.

The (Scots and Brits)  people were overly welcoming, kind, pleasant and went out of their way to help us.267222_10150328594081565_4657654_n

Did you observe any customs there and did you incorporate any of them back home?

We noticed how much everyone is communal at the pubs. There’s no technology there (phones, TVs), and they spent time enjoying each others’ company. That was different from America. I’m trying to incorporate that back home by not being on my phone as much when I’m out and trying to give people my full attention.254739_10150328593121565_5422297_n

What did you learn about yourself on this trip? Did you grow spiritually?

I learned that I really enjoy hiking. 13 miles a day could seem daunting but it was enjoyable!–the fresh air. I grow as a person whenever I experience new things and cultures. I want to take a trip every year if I can. To learn that your way is not the only way in life and that we can all make improvements is important. There’s not only one way to skin a cat.305231_10150395741461565_1043337983_n

www.britannica.com/topic/Hadrians-Wall

www.history.com/news/british-police-warn-nighthawks-to-stay-away-from-hadrians-wall

Hiking in Alberta- Lake Louise and Banff

I interviewed my friend about her mother-son hiking trip. This fit, athletic superwoman is passionate about traveling and being outdoors. Her background as a professional cyclist is fascinating, too! I am especially intrigued about her mother-son relationship and what a role that plays in her life and athletic life.10435414_843857815668472_1786296225720200107_n

What inspired you to travel to Lake Louise and Banff in Alberta, Canada?

The gorgeous scenery there and the hiking trails are the reason I chose this location. You can hike daily there for a month and not see the same trail. There are tea houses along the way.

Banf
Banff

Tea houses? How many do you encounter?

They are refreshments and welcome centers. You can get sandwiches there. There are several tea houses along the way.

Tea House in Banf
Tea House in Banff

What did your trip itinerary involve?

We hiked 6-12 miles per day for 6 days. It was exhausting.266554_185455884842005_5254718_o

Exhausting for you? With all of your training?

Hiking is totally different than cycling.280200_186195181434742_7382430_o

Describe your workout regimen.

I cycle 1-5 hours a day. When I bike, it’s with a lot of intervals and I also lift weights 2-3 days week.

278430_185882791465981_2847673_o 2

Tell me about your cycling background. It’s so fascinating!

I was a professional cyclist sponsored by a team and companies. We cycled all over the world. Bike, shoe, helmet and clothing companies sponsored me. Oakley and Power Bar are two companies that sponsored me. This was 20 years ago. I was at the ’96 Olympic trials and I have won some national races. I raced in Europe where soccer and cycling are their main sports.10452946_658308634223392_4960235286686251685_o

Did you camp or stay in hotels? Did you fly there?

We stayed in nice resorts: Fairmont Lake Louise and Fairmont Banff which looks like a castle.  We flew into Calgary and then drove 1.5 hours to get there.

How would you describe the camping meals?

We’d have a big breakfast before hiking–protein bars and our camel pack. We’d eat sandwiches at the Tea House.

What was the terrain and weather like?

The trails go through glaciers. It was cold in the mornings but it warmed up during the day so I wore layers.271202_186195758101351_2769977_o

Describe the vibe of the area.

It was totally “granola”, earthy, laid back. Everyone was happy to be outdoors—very earth-loving people.

Describe a custom that you observed there. 

July 1st is their independence day celebrations. There were celebrations going on.

Were there any challenges in your trip?

Some trails were so steep, we had to use our hands and feet to get up. It’s a term called “scrambling.” It lasted for 15 minutes or so.

scrambling
scrambling

What did you learn about yourself from this trip?

I learned how much my son and I have in common. We both love adventure and the outdoors and we are both obsessed with sports and outdoors. Another time, my son and I wanted to do the Mont Blanc hiking trip but ended up doing a biking trip in Northern Italy.

Italy
Italy

We also want to do snow skiing in Chile someday. My husband and younger son are more alike and both like hunting.

mother and son hiking in Lake Louise and Banf
mother and son hiking in Lake Louise and Banf

My friends did the Mont Blanc hiking trip! You can read about it on the blog.

www.gypsyfamilytravel.com/hiking-mont-blanc-with-backwoods/

How did this trip enrich your life? Describe any experiences that made you grow spiritually?

Being in the outdoors, you have a lot of time to reflect and appreciate how blessed you are…..to be able to go on hikes and to be blessed with athletic ability.

 Click on link to see Tea Houses.

www.banfflakelouise.com/Things-To-Do/Summer-Adventures/Hiking-in-Banff-and-Lake-Louise/Unique-Experiences/Tea-Houses

Hiking the Adirondacks

My adventurous and athletic friend loves to hike. We were impressed to recently learn that he goes on solo treks that are rigorous. We were fascinated and daunted to learn that he does these hikes alone! He shared his trip details with me.

What inspired you to go on this trek through the Adirondacks?

 I traveled to hike solo (I always hike solo) across the Adirondacks because I wanted to see Niagara Falls and visit my son who lives in Manhattan on my way back. I had heard how beautiful upstate New York was and I had only been to Manhattan so I had to see for myself. images-2

What did your trip itinerary involve?

 I left late on an afternoon and drove to Kansas City, got up early the next day and drove to Buffalo, NY where I had my first Airbnb experience (awesome). The next morning got up early and drove to Northville, NY. I parked my car, then hiked for the next 6.5 days (about 152 miles) and this included a side trip to the High Peaks where I climbed 3 separate mountains, the highest of which was Mt. Marcy (photo below) then on to Lake Placid. IMG_64651From there I hitchhiked back to Northville then drove to Manhattan. I ate and drank till the wee hours of the morning with my son and his girlfriend, got 4 hours sleep, got up early and drove straight back to Tulsa, stopping only for gas.

Do you recommend any particular sightseeing?

Niagara Falls was incredible. I thought it would be cheesy, but loved every minute of it. Would go again in a moment.IMG_35191

Also, when in Lake Placid, I got to go to the Olympic training center and rode an elevator up to the top of the ski jump and was able to watch the future Olympians training by jumping into a pool.Unknown

Describe the typical hiking meal.

Typical meal was beef sticks, candy, chips and cheese and cookies (my standard hiking fare). The hike was beautiful forest and the views from the mountains were unbelievable. It’s hard to believe I was in New York. It was unseasonably hot so I saw nobody on trail for 4 days. Buffalo had a very cool bar/restaurant area lots of beautiful, nice people.images

Describe the terrain.

The terrain was very dense forest and beautiful lakes. Hiking on the mountains was on primarily large rock trails, think of a river stone, then imagine a path only of river stones the size of suitcases to cars.IMG_08741

People I saw on the trails were from Europe, Japan and most of the surrounding states with a few Canadians.

Were there any challenges in reaching your destination?

No challenges traveling there. There were unbelievable orchards and wineries in the Finger Lake region of upstate NY. When you have really great food in NYC it is because the food was just picked a few hours before you had it in the restaurant.

What was your workout regimen to prepare for the trek?

I lifted weights 2-3 times a week and did 7-15 mile hikes at Turkey Mountain each week.

 How did this trip enrich your life?  What did you learn about yourself from this trip?

I remembered like I always do when I do long distance hikes how much I like being alone.IMG_88191

 Did you have any experiences that made you grow spiritually?

I always am surprised how much I enjoy being around people once I have been alone. It is like fasting for 3 days, then having an orange.

It is always the best orange I have ever had.images-1

Dove Hunting in Argentina

My childhood friend went on an adventurous trip to Argentina for a dove hunting excursion. My friend  defines “dapper” and “driven” gentleman.  I”m impressed with  my fellow Greek friend and his love of traveling. He shared his February 2015 adventure with me.photo 8

What inspired you to go to Argentina?

We had always been avid bird hunters here in Oklahoma and it was my father-in-law’s dream to go to Argentina where there is some of the best dove hunting in the world.

What did your trip itinerary involve?

The people from the lodge picked us up from the airport. We changed clothes and they put us out in the field where you just shoot all day. There was a full staff. They feed you gourmet meals with game, meat, classic Argentine meals, and provide Cuban cigars (which are legal there), a fire pit and a stocked bar. We drank Scotch and talked politics. photo 5They fed us breakfast and then we hunted. They served us a gourmet barbecue in the field on a table they set with linens, wine, meat, salad and empanadas. photo 10They set up hammocks between trees where we took a one hour nap before shooting all afternoon. Then, they picked us up and took us to the lodge for horsd’oeuvres on a table on the lawn with mixed drinks. They washed our clothes, cleaned our boots and then we repeated the whole schedule again the following days.

What was the name of the lodge?

Laportenita Lodge.photo 13

How would you describe the perfect Argentine meal?

It’s very meat-heavy. There are lots of cattle raised in Argentina and it’s known for meat and barbecue. images 7There are hunks of meat on the cutting board, salad and Malbec wine.photo 9

What did you learn about yourself from this trip?

I became better at shooting. Birds were so plentiful there. My hunting skills became better. It was a chance to reconnect with male friends and discuss things relevant to guys.

Describe the vibe of the culture.

They are really friendly and laid back….sort of like being in Mexico. They don’t give a bad vibe that they don’t like foreigners.

How do you describe the terrain?

Where we were was very flat. We flew over the Andes in Chile. The west part of the country goes over the Andes Mountains and then, where we were was vast plain, farmland and cattle.

Andes Mountains
Andes Mountains

Were there any challenges in getting to your destination? 

The flight was 10 hours from Atlanta to Santiago and then 2.5 hours from Santiago to Cordova. This is an area where birds feed on the crop so much that they’re considered a pest, unlike here where you’re limited in how many you can shoot. They decimate the crop there in Argentina.

We did have an adventure where we got caught in a flood! We went to dinner and bed to prepare for our 4:00 a.m. pick up but it rained all night and bridges got washed up. We were trapped at the lodge. We missed our flight at the Cordova airport and they had to reschedule our flights. They found a back way to get us there and loaded us up in a Forerunner SUV for a 3 hour drive that would normally take 45 minutes. We went over farmland and back ground to get to town.

the flooded terrain
the flooded terrain

How did this trip enrich your life? 

It enriched my life because I’d never been to South America—that part of the world–that culture. I got to experience a different region   of the world!photo 7

Writer’s sidenote: I looked up La Portenita and read more details about the itinerary, at my friend’s suggestion. I found out the following details:  “Asado” is the word for local barbecue.  Cordova is known as the dove capital of the world. It is estimated that the dove population there is approximately 32 million birds.photo 12

www.handhoutfitters.com/la-portenita-lodge-2.html  485584_525847477472238_903871361_n

Peru and Machu Picchu

My friend, who was born in Peru, shared her knowledge with me about growing up there. Listening to this lovely, well-spoken and intuitive woman describe her Peruvian culture and background was inspirational.

I have always been mesmerized by foreign accents and my friend’s lovely accent was not only soothing but revealed her passionate personality and the essence of her Peruvian heritage.

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When was your last trip to Peru?

In 2010, we traveled to Lima to see my relatives.

What  museums do you recommend? Which restaurants?

The Art Museum and National Archealogical Museum are very good. Las Americas in Miraflores is a good restaurant. There are many excellent restaurants in Lima. They have international choices of food.

What excursions do you recommend?

You must go to Machu Picchu if you go to Peru! I went there for 4 days with my school when I was 16 years old. We stayed in houses. I remember breathing pure air there. It is so natural. I felt God was there and you feel the history of long ago. When you listen and learn there, you transport yourself to the past. They talked about different gods and how they survived. I visualized living in their time–the time of the Incas. We learned about the god of the sun, the god of the moon.images-6 2

Huaraz is another place to see. When I climbed that mountain, it was the first time I touched ice and snow!IMG_7154

Caraz is a city that was destroyed and the only thing that survived was this statue of Jesus. It’s a popular trekking destination and there are day walks into the Huascaran National Park. IMG_7157

There is a pond that looks dirty but has healing, medicinal qualities. The pond water comes down from the stone mountains. Tourists are enchanted with going into this healing pond and they call it miraculous.

Describe your experience at Machu Picchu.

It is steep. You have to be strong and in shape to hike it. It’s a lot of walking and hiking. images-5 2They offer you traditional Inca food: white corn for protein, boiled potatoes, small portions of black eyed peas, and Swiss cheese. images-2 2You see campesinas from the villages in traditional dress. You’ll always find these people.2864238341_c07589242d_b

(writer’s side note: I am so interested in these campesinas because I learned about the similarities between the campesinas and the Berber women I write about in my Morocco articles! images-4 2The pompons and the outfits are similar. The influences came from people’s travels to these regions. The (Moroccan) Berber women also live in villages in the mountains.)

images-3 2 images-1 212186211_1007667269253414_542396932_oWhat is the terrain like?

It’s a very beautiful view…..very green. There’s a lot of walking. There are big structures of rock and stone. You get a sensation of how people lived.images-7IMG_7155

How would you describe the perfect Peruvian meal?

They serve a lot of soups. The primary dish is soup. Then there is white rice or chicken. Lomo Saltado is a good dish. Lomo= the best part of the cow and Saltado = mix of onions and tomatoes. There are beef and fries, tomatoes, and long red onions. Lima overwhelms you with types of fried fish and different ceviches because we are on the coast. There’s lots of salad around, boiled potatoes and spicy salsas on the table.  Wine is usually served at dinner and beer is for walking around.

Lomo Saltado
Lomo Saltado

Describe the vibe of the culture.

In South America, we are very warm and loving with foreign people; “extranjeros”. We are respectful because we appreciate that tourists come to our country. We serve and accommodate them so that they leave happy. We feel fortunate because we learn from extranjeros. Many of them work in Peru.

Describe a custom from Peru that you incorporate in your life back home and what does it symbolize?

There is a tradition women do (my mother, aunts, etc) where we light scented candles every Monday until they burn out. They are special candles which are sold in Peru.  It is believed that Monday is the day that all the saints are together listening to you.images-8

How long is the flight to Lima, Peru?

It’s 8 hours from Dallas to Lima. And 3 hours from Miami to Lima.

What does your Peruvian heritage mean to you? How does it enrich your life?

Being Peruvian, I describe myself as having compassion and love for others and for family. My family always treated me with love and told me I was a gift from God. It is love. I teach my daughter with very affectionate actions. I tell her to be compassionate with others. If you can help, help. You are here to be good–to be a giver.  IMG_7153

suggested reading: Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams

www.limaeasy.com/culture-guide/museums-lima/the-lima-art-museum-mali

www.limaeasy.com/culture-guide/museums-lima/national-museum-archaeology-anthropology-and-history

Aaron Lake, Canyon del Pato and and Tumshukayko are recommended points of interest.  Tumshukayko is a pre-Incan remain approximately 3,000 years old.

There is a FASCINATING and informative short video on the link below about Machu Picchu. Please watch it.

www.history.com/topics/machu-picchu

Tour de France

My friends, a married couple, went on a bike tour in France in 2011.  The wife, a gorgeous go-getter and her handsome, athletic husband described their trip in detail to me. Her husband’s hobby is cycling so this trip was very meaningful for them. They are also avid travelers and passionate about seeing the world. It was a very fulfilling collaboration to do this interview together because my friend had the most organized method of researching this trip. IMG_7170What inspired you to travel to France?

We went to the Tour de France because of my husband’s love of cycling. I kept a journal while researching the trip to map out the logistics. I used Google Maps to research the driving time. For the train details, I read The Man in Seat 61 which is a website about a man who has done extensive traveling throughout Europe by train. There are websites of train schedules with the timetables, etc. There are different types of trains; high speed trains, scenic trains, etc. SNCF.com is one of the sites I used.  I used the book Eyewitness Travel France as my guide for the trip. Even the maps in that book were useful to us.

What did your trip itinerary involve?

I wrote down different possible itineraries. The main reason for the trip was the Tour de France so our itinerary coincided with that. We asked ourselves, “what major cities do we go to to make that work? ” You’re not really there to see the cyclists because they go by so fast…..you are there more for the experience.

What excursions or museums do you recommend? 

Louvre, Palace Versailles, Luxembourg Gardens, Tuileries Gardens (next to the Louvre) , Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumphe

Describe the Tour de France.

There’s a big carnival before the stage. There are 21 stages. Each stage goes from one city to another. Each host city has a carnival which is a huge parade, tents with vendors, shows, awards for kids’ festivities and an area for team buses. You see cyclists getting off tour buses and journalists interviewing them. IMG_7179

When we were in college, Lance Armstrong’s popularity influenced us to to go to Tour de France. Even if you’re not into cycling, you should go because it is so beautiful! You’re there for the atmosphere. From the time that the  first security car gets there, to the camera crews, and the parade coming through up the mountain….it’s several hours. (each stage). You go to places you normally wouldn’t go to and it’s so beautiful in the tiny towns and villages. When the tour comes through, it gives the town so much business! You have to book your trip months in advance for your accommodations. IMG_7173

How would you describe the tiny towns and villages?

Quaint, storybook, romantic, picturesque cottages, and authentic! We stayed in Joursac , which was a tiny town of 45 people. We stayed in a bed and breakfast where the owner hosted us and some of the media people. There’s no hotels in these towns! The owner told us to show up for dinner. He cooked a French meal– custard, meat, milk–all from the cow on site. There are old cobblestone homes and the local baker came down twice a week, driving around selling bread for the week.IMG_7172

The bakery was decorated with jerseys of the cyclists.IMG_7174

It’s free entertainment because you don’t pay to watch the tour. You have to park far away and walk up the mountain. You meet people from different countries. We met some Norwegians and cheered with them.IMG_7175

What hotels and restaurants do you recommend?

We used Bed and Breakfasts!–not hotels. We like that experience.  We also prefer street vendor sandwiches, Nicoise salad and bread from a bread store in Paris.IMG_7171

 

Describe the vibe of the culture.

It was fashionable, nice and upscale.

Describe a custom that you observed there. Did you incorporate any of their customs back home?

We buy Nutella a lot more and we made crepes when we returned.  The first time we had Nutella crepes was in France. We also buy French mustard more. We bought French cafe music ….like Edith Piaf. We also loved the sunflowers in France so now we buy them and have them in our home a lot more.

sunflowers in France
other lovely French flowers

Were there any challenges in getting to your destination? 

Driving through France and the overnight trains had their challenges. We once found a dirt road with a  sign pointing to get there….but on foot! We took our rental car on that road, (a hiking trail) seeing deer pass us and not thinking “this is wrong!” The car stalled, got stuck and then it started raining. We couldn’t abandon the car because all our luggage was in there. On another occasion, on the overnight train, from Nice to Paris, it was suspected that a criminal was on the train so an armed militia came onto the train.

What did you learn about yourself from this trip?

We learned to trust one another and trust God. It’s easy to choose to never travel but you have to  push yourself out of your comfort zone into new experiences. We drove from Paris to Nice on windy mountainous roads. We went to the South of France where there were beaches, flowers and wineries. In Cannes, there were yachts and blue ocean!

Cannes
Cannes

How did this trip enrich your life? 

It brought us closer together emotionally and spiritually. We had interesting moments and learned from them. We ask ourselves before every trip, “what is the purpose of this trip? sightseeing? relaxation?” This trip was phenomenal because it gave us both! —time in the car driving and being together but also sightseeing in the urban and exciting hustle bustle places. We saved the Eiffel Tower for the last night.IMG_7176

Your planning journal is so organized! Any planning resources you want to share with us?

IMG_7181www.en.europa-bed-breakfast.com

www.en.gites-de-france.com

I also used Trip Advisor to read about some of the B & B’s as well as the City’s Chamber of Commerce website. Many of these websites listed recommended accommodations. I also used the official Tour de France website: www.letour.com

©Gina Michalopulos Kingsley

Star gazing in Greece

On the island of Lefkada on the Ionian side of Greece, there is a star gazing cruise you can take out of the port. Our Greek American friends told us about it and we joined them for one of the most magical nights we’ve experienced as a family. The boat took us to a remote, uninhabited island. We climbed off the boat, down a ladder and were handed a beach mat. We set up our mats, waited for the Greek food picnic buffet to be set out. We skipped rocks, ate our picnic food and waited for the sun to completely set. Once it was pitch dark, our captain started his lecture about the skies….the astronomy and all its glory! He pointed out satellites, comets, constellations, space station, (with the naked eye) and Saturn through a telescope. IMG_5693Many people fell asleep but I stayed up for the whole thing. To lie there with my 10 year old son fast asleep in my arms, was something I’ll never forget. All of us alone at midnight on a beach of an uninhabited island; gazingIMG_5300 IMG_5692 at the stars and listening to stories and astronomical stories….in beautiful Greece?!— nothing like it!IMG_5700

comet (from internet)

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