As we close out another year and say good-bye (for now) to one of the best travel editors and writers in the USA (John Flinn of the San Francisco Chronicle, who’s retiring today) it’s fitting to take a look at John’s collected Weird Travel Stories of 2008, and while we’re at it, how about an interview with him by Jim Benning on Worldhum?

Looking ahead to 2009 and the possible hangover headache that might greet you on New Year’s Day, why not see what people around the world do to celebrate, as compiled by NileGuide?

And after that, have a Happy New Year!

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As snow blankets much of the country from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine you can’t help but dream a bit about Hawaii and other tropical climates. Our President elect and his family have been enjoying some R & R in the land of Aloha, gaining strength and focus for the herculean tasks ahead. There is something healing and rejuvenating, not just about a vacation, but returning to one’s home turf, immersing oneself in salt water; having downtime.  While everyone was focused on Obama’s buff torso, it seems like he was going to his fountain; recharging his batteries.  An article in the New York Times entitled: Obama’s Zen State, Well, its Hawaiian got me thinking about what the Aloha Spirit is all about. My sister in law and her family lived in Hawaii for many years and would always talk about that special island attitude.  Aloha is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation. The laid back spirit which is often interpreted as ‘mellow’ or even lazy is actually quite a complex mindset and mode de vie. Continue reading »

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A few years ago I found myself in Adelaide, Australia in the days before Christmas. Because I’d been traveling around the continent, including in the searing outback of South Australia, Christmas was pretty far from my mind. But I encountered something in Glenelg, a seaside suburb of Adelaide, that brought many things home to me. My account of this experience, reproduced below, originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and on the Travelers’ Tales web site.

Christmas Carols in Adelaide

I didn’t have high hopes for Adelaide. No one I knew had ever said anything good about it. They’d raved about Melbourne and Sydney, even Darwin, but Adelaide hadn’t generated much enthusiasm. So I planned just one quick overnight before heading up to the tropical Northern Territory after a week in the arid outback of South Australia. Continue reading »

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Every year in December, my husband and I have the discussion about a tree. I have this vision, as a young girl, of going to New Jersey to cut one down every year. This was quite a trek from Manhattan and made for great memories. It’s a bit of a Laura Ingalls Wilder fantasy but, hey, could be worse. So we argue about “killing a tree” for Christmas, something that didn’t occur to me in the twentieth century.

I understand and share the concern for the planet but I also love the whole ritual of setting up the fresh tree. As a compromise, for the last few years we’ve bought a live tree in a pot and put it outside for the rest of the year, the idea being we would re-use it again the next year. Well, for the first time in four years, our tree survived the year and is resplendent in our living room trimmed and beautiful. So, when I suggested we go to this fabulous Christmas tree farm for a day of fun, giant swings, wreath-making, picnic, tractor ride, bonfire and marshmallows, like every year I got the same grumpy answer.  I persevered.

Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Christmas Tree Farm, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Feature, Northern California, San Francisco

Many of us like to believe that we’re remarkable travelers, having visited dozens if not hundreds of countries and connected with people in many cultures, but a news story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle about the death in Venezuela of a husband-and-wife team of travelers brought home what one meaning of the phrase “world traveler” is: one who never stops traveling.

How many of us will continue fearlessly roaming the globe into our 90s? That’s right, our 90s? The odds are that few of us will even reach our 90s but the amazing Hugh and Elsie Chang of Walnut Creek, California did just that, and perhaps they would have continued into their 100s if their lives had not been cut short in a boating accident on the way to see Sapo Falls the day before heading to Angel Falls.

Hugh Chang was 92 and Elsie was 90. We should all be so lucky to live the way they lived, to see what they saw, and to keep going until only an accident can stop us.

1 Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Venezuela

Japanese Bullet Trains or Shinkansen are modern marvels: sleek, fast and on time. These trains are magnificent, and a testimony to Japan’s resurrection from the ashes of World War Two. The first-ever Bullet Train made its last run today, 44 years after its debut for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The original model, the zero-kei (zero-series), was called the “dream superexpress.” The symbol of the nation’s recovery, the train attracted many fans and holds a special place in many Trainspotter’s hearts. The lighter and faster bullet trains today, carry millions of passengers and tourists around the island nation. The latest N700-series travels at nearly 200 MPH. There is a new line in the works; the maglev line will transport passengers from Tokyo to central Nagoya at more than 300 MPH! This train is expected to be in service by 2025.

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Anyone who’s been to Buenos Aires since the political and economic meltdown of 2002 is aware that the city has become the top gay travel destination in all of South America, and one of the most important in the world.

A recent issue of the Economist provides a good summary of BA’s gay appeal, with its vigorous nightlife (including a gay milonga or tango dance club), Latin America’s most liberal domestic partnership laws, the arrival of gay cruises, and even the five-star “hetero-friendly” Axel Hotel on the edge of San Telmo.

Another of Argentina’s attractions, for all sexual orientations, is the country’s wine. As far as I know, though, Buenos Aires is the only city in the world with an openly Gay Wine Store, near Plaza San Martin in the upscale barrio of Retiro. Personally, though, I’m bewildered as to what constitutes gay wine, and would appreciate it if anybody could clue me in. Red, white, or rosé?

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Usually what comes to mind when one thinks of traveling to Jordan is the ancient red-rock city of Petra or the modern metropolis of Amman sprawling over its seven hills. Not many people think of national parks, wildlife, eco-travel, or extreme sports, but Jordan has a lot to offer the adventurous traveler.

You can rappel down the waterfalls of Wadi Mujib, explore the desert and Bedouin camps of Wadi Rum, search for the Syrian wolf and horned ibex in the Dana Nature Reserve, and paraglide in the Mujib Gorge, among other adventures.

Jordan came to environmental conservation early for countries in the Middle East, establishing the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature in 1966, and creating the Dana Nature Reserve in 1989. Associated Press reporter Dale Gavlak wrote about many possibilities for adventure in his Dec. 10 AP story.

1 Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Africa & Middle East, Desert Travel, Eco Friendly Travel, Feature, Jordan, Travel

There are lots of places on the planet that qualify as the back of beyond, but the tropical South American nation of Suriname can certainly lay claim to the title, as Andy Isaacson reveals in his Dec. 7 story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Once upon a time, long before Costa Rica became a prime eco-tourism destination for North American travelers, Suriname was a haven for birdwatchers, but political troubles in the 1980s shut down the country’s small tourism industry. Just when the country was about to sell off big chunks of forestland to timber interests, Conservation International stepped in and helped convince the government to stake its future on conservation and eco-tourism development rather than strip out its natural resources. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Birdwatching, Eco Friendly Travel, South America, Suriname, Travel

You may not be up for camping where you get snowed in, but in many parts of the country, camping in November and December can be memorable.

It was the day after Thanksgiving and with stretched out bellies we threw our camping gear in our car, made sure we had hats, gloves, plenty of cocoa and we headed out of the city towards the Sonoma Coast. My husband had to work so I was initially reluctant to join our friends on the impromptu trip. I’m loath to admit it, but despite my claims of equality and the notion that I can do most anything I put my mind to, I usually wind up caring for the kids and organizing food when we go camping. Sometimes I over-think the food and this time I just raided the fridge and cabinets and grabbed what we had.

On a beautiful day, without much preparation, off we went. Near Jenner on the Sonoma Coast we turned inland to Pomo Canyon Campground; a stellar walk-in site for tents. Continue reading »

3 Comments | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, California, Camping, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Feature, Food, Hike/Backpack