In Turkey, the ritual of tea colors everyday life in ways not seen in many cultures. Sit down in a carpet shop with little likelihood of buying anything and tea will be served as long as you remain. Make a modest purchase in a shop—as I did in Bodrum when I bought three skirts for my wife and two daughters—and the owner will send out for tea, apple or black, your choice.

But I’d never seen or tasted “yellow tea,” served to us in a café seldom visited by tourists in the village of Bozalan. The men of the town had congregated there, as they no doubt do every day, and welcomed us to their fraternity. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cruises, Sailing, Turkey

Soaring high above the canopy of a rain forest in Costa Rica was my first zip line experience.  Heights kind of give me the wimmers, a general malaise and tingling feeling at the base of my spine. It seems to have gotten worse with age, but in the end, it was exhilarating and fun to search for the elusive sloth or monkey in the treetops.  I vowed I would try it again and certainly my thrill-seeking boys would love it. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Fall Foliage Tours, Family Travel, Feature, North America, Travel

My boys and their peers are soccer freaks. We recorded nearly every game possible for the 2006 World Cup and I would love to take the family to see the 2010 games in South Africa. I was recently pondering the possibility and checked out some ticket prices for the events. Interest in soccer is growing every year in the United States and is certainly strong in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A recent article in the New York Times chronicled the opening of a Soccer Museum, where else but in Sao Paulo, Brazil. An elite sport that has become a sport for the masses, it has great lessons to teach both on and off the field. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Africa & Middle East, Barcelona, Brazil, Budget Travel, England, Europe, Family Travel, France, Museums, Paris, Soccer, South America

An experience that’s hard to avoid in Turkey is a visit to a carpet shop. In heavily touristed areas the hustlers descend upon foreigners and seldom let go until the tourists are rounded up and brought to the shop. On our gulet cruise we were invited into a home, not by a hustler but by our ship’s captain, to see how carpets are woven and to get a glimpse into the lives of the people who produce them.

Carpet merchants from the cities know that the women of Bozalan make some of Turkey’s finest carpets, and they come regularly to buy finished carpets or place orders. The labor and skill involved in weaving these carpets staggers the imagination. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cruises, Feature, Sailing, Travel, Turkey

Nearly thirty years ago, when I first visited Argentina during the Proceso military dictatorship, an apparently drunken policeman in the Patagonian town of Puerto San Julián insisted in telling me how much he loved Americans. In those grim days, any such attention from an official figure made you uncomfortable and, as it turned out, the policeman in question was heavily medicated - having shot himself in the foot the day before.

Fortunately, Argentina is a stable democracy now, but that doesn’t mean the country doesn’t shoot itself in the foot sometimes. Last week, interior minister Florencio Randazzo announced that the country would institute a “reciprocity fee” - similar to the one collected by neighboring Chile - on foreign visitors whose governments impose visa fees on Argentine citizens. This would mean, for instance, that US citizens entering Argentina would have to pay US$131 per person for the right to enter Argentina, while Canadians would pay even more. Australians and Mexican would pay less. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Argentina, Chile, South America, Travel

The author Moritz Thomsen, who died in 1991, didn’t have a huge following for his work as he toiled away in a poor Ecuadorian fishing village after a stint in the Peace Corps, but those who discovered his books—Living Poor (1969), The Farm on the River of Emeralds (1978), The Saddest Pleasure (1991)—loved his haunting and evocative revelations about life in equatorial South America. Now he’s seeing something of a revival in Ecuador, as Tom Miller reports in “Notes on an Andean Pilgrim” in The Washington Post. Miller, in his Introduction to The Best Travel Writing 2005, called Thomsen “one of the great American expatriate writers of the twentieth century…a soft-hearted cuss, a man of almost insufferable integrity, a lousy farmer and a terrific writer.” Can Bad News from a Black Coast, Thomsen’s unpublished memoir, be far behind?

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Books, Ecuador, South America

Cherries were twelve-Euros (about 18-dollars) a kilo, a coffee in an un-trendy, un-touristy area, six-dollars, and it seemed the only deal on food was, predictably, baguettes and wine.  I was stuck, trying not to spend too much money on my unplanned trip to Paris this August. I was visiting to help a friend though surgery and had not budgeted for the trip. Luckily, cooking in her adorable apartment was pleasant and she was nice enough to treat me to a few lovely meals. The dollar, however, was so weak it was painful.  I know Paris well, however, and know where to find deals, where to shop and how to live cheaply while still enjoying my stay. Here are a few simple things I did that saved me a lot, without compromising my visit too much.

1) Bring a reusable water bottle:  it’s great for the plane (empty it before going through security and refill before boarding.) Water was outrageously expensive, and I really didn’t want to spend twenty dollars a day on mere hydration.

2) Pack food from home.  Maybe it’s the mom in me, but I packed a few simple, nourishing snacks like sunflower seeds and dried fruit. It may sound depressing on a trip to the culinary capital of Paris, but I made room in my baggage, just in case I needed it on the long flight or during my stay. I even brought a few Trader Joe’s items to the hospital and the nurses and doctors loved them. It was a peak moment for laughs when I offered them up in a very American, very un-French gesture of generosity!

3) Choose your cafés wisely. Nothing makes me happier than sitting in a French café sipping a café crème, but at six-dollars a pop, I couldn’t stop for a pick me up too often. In fact, a few days I actually waited till I got to the hospital, where a coffee machine sold a good cup of coffee for one Euro or about a buck fifty. If a coffee machine at a hospital is not up your alley make sure you find a cheaper café; prices do vary.  You can also order a noisette,  an espresso with a dash of creme in it. It is called “noisette,” French for hazelnut, because of the rich, dark color of the coffee. If you are pinching your pennies, or just want to save for a few strategic splurges, don’t go to a café on the Champs Elysee, rather, opt for a small cozy spot like this one pictured in the Marais District. However, if you do want to linger, write postcards, rest your weary feet or soak up the scenery, an exorbitant cup of coffee is worth the price in Paris. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Budget Travel, Europe, Farmer's Markets, Feature, Food, France, Paris, Travel

“Yeah, but once you leave Portland, the people get weird.” I’ve heard that so many times (oddly enough, considering the “Keep Portland Weird” mantra), and I’ve found it to be almost entirely untrue. Except for that one town I drove through on a roundabout way home from the coast this summer (Brickerville? Rainrock? Deadwood? I don’t remember. But that place really was weird.)

This is downtown Mitchell (pictured) in Eastern Oregon. It’s the closest place to get a hotel room if you’re visiting the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (which, thanks to its rock formations and all the three-toed horse and short-faced dog fossils is weird.) Mitchell itself, however, is just like any other small American town, except, I guess, for the boarded up old cafes, the caged 800-pound bear at the town’s only gas station (”pump stop” would be a better description) and the fact that most of the people left in the area are unemployed, which, come to think of it, is probably not that weird at all these days. Other than these minor details, Mitchell is a normal everyday little town. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Family Travel, North America, Pacific Northwest, Travel, United States

We were waiting on the dock at Oren for our dinghy to fetch us back to the Kaptan Sevket when Nicola asked Captain Mustafa about the sculpture of a dolphin with a child on its back high atop a pole there. Evidently there is a legend here, similar to the Greek Arion the Dolphin boy, that many years ago during a shipwreck dolphins appeared and rescued the children. The sculpture is there to remind the villagers of the kinship they have with dolphins.

It was a charming story and I thought little more of it until about an hour later when we were cruising toward our next anchorage. Suddenly Jennifer shrieked “Dolphin!” and Captain Mustafa dashed to starboard and up to the bow howling with joy. He grabbed a steel rod and began banging it against the anchor pulley and calling to them. One after the other they leapt out of the sea alongside us, a dozen or more sleek gray creatures arcing above the surface like dancers. We leaned over the rail, too awed to do more than shriek and wail. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Cruises, Sailing, Turkey

If you practice yoga, sometimes your life begins to revolve around your time on the mat. After more than 20 years as a Yogini, I have learned to modify my asanas to fit my evolving world. Before kids, my practice was more frequent and vigorous. I shunned restorative poses and always sought improvement that could be measured by my backbends, length of headstand or other obvious results.

Now, with a busy family and work life, I’m constantly looking for ways to integrate my yoga to suit me: my moods, schedule and health. Traveling always includes my trusty mat, attached to the outside of my checked baggage, encased in a cheap yoga bag. This battered and dusty mat has a lot of miles on it. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Feature, Yoga