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Friday, June 2, 2017


FLY-FISHING PATAGONIA!

 

What I know about Fly-Fishing you could put on the head of a strait pin.  So when asked to visit Patagonia, I thought …this is my chance to learn!

In early March I flew to Buenos Aires and then to Bariloche and an hour drive to Villa Angostura.  Aroyo Verde, the famed Fly- fishing lodge, was further on down a dirt road.

No signs, no directions, just a general sense of where we were going, Anthony my naturalist guide, headed into the Traful river canyon. 15 minutes later we were greeted first by an authentic gaucho and then riders on horseback. After another 20 minutes, in the distance was a lovely chalet with a sculpture garden along a stream. Estancia Aroyo Verde! 

This private fishing and riding estancia is home of one of Argentina’s most elite families.  Located within the Nahuel Huapi National Park, the family managed lodge hosts visitors from across the globe.  The Traful River is also home to land-locked salmon, brown and rainbow trout.  This is a catch and release river with a season from November through April. In this remote setting, the fish, (some reaching 28 in. for salmon and 29 in. for Rainbows and Browns) swim right up to you in the crystal clear water.  Best of all, bring only your favorite fly rod.  Everything else is available on site. Imagine standing in the river surrounded by the Andes…what more could you ask for?  Miles of nothingness surrounds this pristine spot.

Rooms are cozy (all with private baths) and meals served family style. If lucky join the family for an Argentine style barbeque (Parillada) cooked outdoors by one of the resident gauchos. 

Fishing, horseback riding even mountain bikes are here for enjoyment.  Too bad I had to come back!

 

EATING MY WAY THRU NORTHERN SPAIN

 
Fact: Spain has more Michelin Star Restaurants than any other country outside of France.
Fact: Spanish wines and Cavas (sparkling wines) are some of the best in the world.


Fact: Northern Spain has some of the most beautiful scenery on the Iberian Peninsula!

 

With that knowledge in hand, when a friend asked me to travel to the land just south of the Pyrenees and to the Costa Brava….my answer was yes yes yes.

 

First stop, San Sebastien - located on a beautiful bay with green mountains for a backdrop, it was once the undiscovered playground of the rich and famous. Now lovely mid-century buildings make it look for all the world like a little Paris or Cannes.

The fresh seafood here is not only copious, but delicious. Everything from Sea Urchins to lovely grouper and snapper top the tables of several Michelin star restaurants.

 

Bilbao was next and a visit to the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank O. Gehry and an architectural masterpiece.  Dinner at Extranobe (on the list of the World’s best restaurants) surpassed expectations. Each dish hand crafted with locally sourced products and presented with artistry.

 

A 2-hr. drive past Castles and green farms we visited the Rioja region where the grapes of the same name are grown.  Special tour through the Maques de Riscal vineyard and wine tasting surpassed expectations.

 

On to the Costa Brava, where Spain connects with France. Lined with spectacular cliffs cascading down into the Mediterranean far below offered spectacular vistas. Walking next to the sea learning about plants and herbs to pair with wine, world renowned gastro-botanical consultant Evarist March had much to teach. Evarist is part of the team at Cellar de Can Roca, named second best restaurant in the world!

Wonderful Northern Spain and the Costa Brava means lazy days of 3 hour lunches, great wines and amazing creativity of its famed chefs. Thank you, Spain, for this lovely learning experience!

 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

THE THREE TIERRAS OF CHILE

Tierra means land in Spanish, and in Chile it means a chain of hotels that have made the most of three areas in this south american country that are so typical of the regions.
The northernmost  part of Chile, Tierra is located in the Atacama Desert.  At a heigh of 9000 ft, the stars at night on this high desert are spectacular.  The Tapatio Hot Springs come from the subvolcanic region below the earth and provide wonderful opportunities to swim after a long hike or sand boarding.
South of the capitol Santiago another Tierra is located on a special and very historic island of Chiloe. there are 3 tidal surges per dayn on chiloe and As Chile is a country lined with volcanos, there are Tsumami warnings everywhere. even with the regular tides, houses can be swamped easily the  Chilean people who live there have adapted and their homes called "palafitos" or houses on stilts.  All very colorful, these houses resist the constant fluctuations and an occasional Tsunami which can follow the occasional earthquake as well. Fishing, kayaking,hiking and horseback riding and visits to the surrounding small villages in the area are great activities.

Tierra Patagonia is perhaps the most iconic of all the hotels.  Built into the dunes of Toro Lake, the strong winds in Torres Del Paine national park, do not affect its location,while giving guests stunning views of the famed "Torres" from every vantage point. From here you can hike the area, horseback ride from any of the nearby haciendas, or take a boat to nearby Grey Glacier or even climb the "Torres", wheather permitting.
It used to be that a hiking vacation was done camping, or at a rough hostel.  With the three faces of Tierra....you can enjoy activities in Chile in luxury!



Monday, May 23, 2016

SUNRISE SYMPHONY IN NICARAGUA





Who knew? Costa Rica has always been the darling of Adventure Travel, but just to the North and across the border in Nicaragua, is a secret waiting to explode.

Arriving at night in Managua, lighted electronic trees designed by the President’s wife, line the streets. Trees the symbol of life and so it is in Nicaragua. Costa Rica, once the symbol of nature and “Pura Vida” has become an extension of Miami. Nicaragua is now “naturaleza” in the true sense of the word,

Little was known about Nicaragua until the development of Mukul Resort one of the newest darlings of the luxury travel market in the world. Not only is there a fabulous hotel, but there are villas, and lots available to build a dream home.

Costa Rica is overbuilt with condominiums with names in English, and subdivisions to attract Americans at high prices. But Nicaragua is nature in the best form.
A mere 30 minute ride from Managua, historic Granada sets the tone of everything Latin American. Lovely buildings from the 18th century dot the streets and carts with horses or oxen pull products to market.

Best of all, everything in Nicaragua is about 2 hours distant at the most. Just a short 20 minute ride from Granada is the lovely Jicaro Resort set on an island in the middle of Lake………

Lovely pool and waterfront setting set the mood for these lovely two story bungalows where you can awake in the morning to a symphony of howler monkeys, birds and in the distance the mooing of cows and roosters greeting the sunlight. This lake boasts over 365 islands, some of which are for sale for the right price.

An hour from Granada toward the coast is quaint hippie town of San Juan del Sur. Reminiscent of Guatemala’s’ Panahachel…retired “hippies” from the 1960’s are living the good life on the beach along with tons of young people who have discovered it rich surfing life.

All along the Nicaraguan coast are beaches for fabulous surfing. Long curving waves stretch from one end to the other on secret bays and coastline. Playa Hermosa has some fantastic surfing and 10 foot high curls that roll in on a regular basis. Stay at Morgan’s Rock Resort, high on the hills nearby for fabulous hiking in the wilds with great birding as well as ferocious surf crashing. Tented cabins are so deluxe that they make camps on African Safari’s look simple by comparison.

Look no further for the newest and special real Central American destination. Nicaragua is a surprise symphony you won’t soon forget.



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

First Tango in Argentina




Pam in front of Tango House in Buenos Aires

I have always wanted to learn the Tango.  The dance has grown in popularity since  "Dancing with the Stars" became one of the hotests programs on TV.  Its flare and raw emotion is as inspiring as it is fascinating. `So when I arrived in Buenos Aires for a meeting, the first extracurricular activity I wanted to do was to learn.......the Tango!


The history of the tango is amazing in itself.  What began in the bordellos of the port area of La Boca did not move to the upscale neighborhoods of Buenos Aires until the early 1900's.  Society women were not allowed to be seen doing the steps with bodies pressed together in a sexy embrace. The first people of Buenos Aires society to do the dance were men who danced together to learn the steps.  As the tango grew more popular, well bred ladies wanted to learn too.  

Carlos Gardel, considered the father of the Tango, made the dance a true art form when he opened his first restaurant  where dancing was permitted.  He became so famous that he made several movies in Hollywood and became an international tango star.

Today in Buenos Aires, his home is a museum, there are murals decorating the subways and paintings all over the city dedicated to his celebrity.  Milonga (local places where you can dance tango) are all over Buenos Aires and actual Tango Shows stem the gammut from the very sexy show at Faena y Universo hotel, to the show called Sr. Tango with flashing lights and a huge white stallion that appears on stage as a finale to a 3 hour show of Tango


But for me, the most fun were those 4pm tango lessons at a local place where I learned to kick my feet and feel the emotion of this sexy dance. Of course the only way to end a lesson is with a deep back extension and a kick to the sky with the final step to my tango lesson.




Saturday, April 16, 2016

CUBA-80 YEARS AND COUNTING

 
I went to Cuba years ago when a window of oportunity opened in the 1980's.  I was young then and it all seemed so sad and dilapidated in Havana. Then the door to the US closed.
It is now 2016 and once again, I find myself in Cuba...a country that until now the world has been visiting but citizens of the US were not allowed. Now, after 80 years, we are again permited to visit.  

This fall, there are 6 US airlines that have asked permission to fly from the US to various cities in Cuba.  Cruise ships are planning stops and hotel companies are getting ready to build on the facades of those historic dilapidated buildings.  Here in Havana where their capitol building was created to mimic our own, tourism is on the rise. Restaurants are opening daily with owners given permission to make a profit on their own.  Private enterprise is permitted and the countryside is awash in new enterprizes.

The Russians left Cuba in 1989 and across the Cuban countryside everything fell into disprepare. After the gloroious days when Fidel made trade deals with all the communist countries and Cubans were living in the lap of Russian luxury, when the Berlin Wall fell with the colapse of the cold war, Cuba colapsed as well.  Blackouts were regular and food and water were in scarce supply.

Today with toursim at an ever increasing demand, the Cuban economy is rebounding.  Iberostar and Melia hotel groups have created large properties hosting thousands daily. 4 & 5 star hotels, guest houses, restaurants and clubs are filled to the brim daily with visitors from across the globe.  Tour buses are full and there is a lot to see and enjoy.  Not only the history of these wonderful old buildings is blosoming, but museums, botanical gardens and small cities in the mountains as well as by the sea are weloming to everyone.  
The public buildings are still very empty and in ruins....but all is changing fast.  Now is the time to visit the new Cuba, before it turns into a place that will be like all the rest.





Monday, April 4, 2016

A STUDY OF OXFORD!




 

Oxford University…….Rhodes Scholars....have such a dignified connotation.   In approximately 1096 the school was founded by a group of English scholars and today is the oldest university in the world.   When in 1167, Henry II banned English students from studying in France, little did he know that the humble beginnings would one day be a small city in England with a total of 38 colleges....all named Oxford University. 

 

Most of the colleges are closed to visitors, but in the lucky case that you meet an Oxford Fellow (graduate), you will be blessed with some spectacular sites in each college.  Most colleges are constructed around a big quadrangle of grass. But beware stepping on the grass as you can go to jail for the offense.  Inside each quadrangle are student’s rooms, a dining halls (most looking like Hogwarts of Harry Potter fame) and impressive chapels with their historic depictions of various scenes from Bible history.  Portraits of England’s kings and queens are also hung reverently throughout the University.  There are also many libraries that are available to students and some to the public, but no books are allowed to be checked out, ever.  All books, both new and ancient, must be taken from the stacks, used and returned the same day. There are deep tunnels under the buildings housing books dating back to the time of Elizabeth I.   

 

Outside of the college is a fun town of pubs and shops filled with students and visitors alike.  To find a table at a pub any time of day takes luck!  There is also a covered market, quaint old hotels and much more.   Oxford is a true gem of the English countryside and a great place to absorb the modern and historic culture of the United Kingdom!   Day tours are available from London.


Pam Walker is a Virtuoso travel consultant and can be reached @ pam@walkeradventures.com

Sunday, September 27, 2015

IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD!



I am so lucky! Traveling from country to country and city to city is the stuff that dreams are made of.....and I live it every day!

this year, I have visited Germany,  Colombia, Myanmar (Burma), Canada, Kenya, Dubai, Montana, Las Vegas, Guatemala, Patagonia (Chile and Argentina) and Peru!

I travel to see new hotels and  new adventures that are created every day by creative folks in the travel industry.  Those Zip Lines that are so popular were an idea created by someone in the adventure travel industry to give people something to do besides go to the beach.  Zip Lines today are everywhere in the world.  In Costa Rica, there is even one that has 12 platforms from tree to tree to tree.....!  

I have just come from a meeting of Latin American travel suppliers held in Guatemala City!  Not only are new hotels popping up everywhere, but so are new activities like a bike tours through the vineyards of Chile after which you sit down to a fabulous meal of farm to table freshness created by an amazing chef and served with wines that are to die for!

New also are fabulous self-drive adventures through the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park in Chile created in combination JEEP!  How about another where you can drive across the Andes from Argentina to Chile staying in one fabulous hotel after another. Both can be done on your own, or with the assistance of a driver/escort!  What about staying in a cozy lodge at the end of the world in Puerto Williams, Chile, where they have a 3 hole golf course or you can "heli" fly-fish meaining you can fly to places seldom seen by humanity in a helicopter. You disembark to catch amazing fish which you can bring back to the lodge where the chef will serve it for dinner.   From here you can also take a one day flight to Antartica to see  that fabulous continent at the bottom of the world!
These creative friends in travel have allowed me to swim with the Pink Dolphins in the Amazon, ride camels across the desert of Egypt at the base of the Pyramids, attend a polo match with the King of Jordan, enjoy a candlelight dinner at the base of some Mayan ruins in Belize.  I have helped roof a building with Tibetan workers at 16,000 ft., watched burial services in knats along the river in Kathmandu, Nepal. I have also played golf in Scotland,enjoyed tapas in Barcelona, truffle hunted in France, did a hut to hut cross country ski trek in Norway, meditated in a cermony to "Pachamama" with a friend who is a Shaman in Peru, ridden horses in almost all of the 90+ countries I have visited in the world, shared meals with monkeys and hiked with a friend's elephants in Botswana, flown around Everest with close friends from Nepal and overnighted  in homes of travel friends from Bhutan to Ecuador, to Norway.

I am totally blessed with friends from all over the world.  I can call any of them at any time and they too are welcome in my home. All are in the travel industry as I am.  I love what I do and am so glad that I can share my adventures with you my readers!

Pam Walker is a Virtuoso Travel Advisor and can be reached at pam@walkeradventures.com/ www.walkeradventures.com



Sunday, September 20, 2015

AN ACTIVE CRUISE TO QUEBEC



I am not a cruiser.   I like to be active.
Hiking vacations, or horseback riding trips are more my style.   When I won a cruise for 7 nights on one of the major cruise lines, I tried to give it away to someone who might appreciate it more than me.  After all, I am a budding vegatarian, trying to lose weight and do all kinds of things to make me more healthy.  
That said, I was told that my "gift" from a local arts group that I support, was non-transferable. 

Where would I go that I have not been before?  Cruising? Who me?
Decisions, decisions.  These huge cruise lines go everywhere in the world.  Alaska?  No, done that!  South America?  No am there a couple times each year. Europe?  Also there at least once per year. The Caribbean...Eastern or Western?....no I don't think so.  

I have always been fascinated by the beautiful scenery off the coast of Canada and New England, and in June, the Eastern Right Whales are moving south from their northern seas to the south.  So, decision made, I opt for a cruise up the St. Lawrence Seaway from Quebec to Boston.

I check out the shore excursions on this trip, and find that the cruise lines version of extremely active tours are bus trips to Arcadia National Park and then a 1 mile hike. I can even rent bikes in Nova Scotia or ride around St. Johns in Newfoundland.  Most of the acitivities are  bus tours with hundreds of your shipboard friends to places like........
and.....where you can see Canadian historic forts and pretty lighthouses.

I am excited about these ports as they are places I have actually never been. But rather than take the bus route, I will just go it alone to poke around places like..........Prince Edward Island and Bar Harbor on my own.  

The highlight of the trip will be Quebec City, with time to practice some Canadian French and enjoy some typical Quebquian food...like Poutrain (french fried topped with cheese and brown gravy).  

Back on board, there are several restaurants to enjoy, and I have paid extra to eat in each one of them.  I also have upgraded my free cabin to a cabin with a verandah so I can just sit and read while the scenery goes by.   

There is also a gym on board and excercise classes which i will undoubtely take part in as You can only jog around the deck so many times.

These modern ships are like floating cities.  Not only do they provide activities, they also have shops and fun places to sip a drink and people watch.  The more I think about it...the more I know it will be fun. No unpacking, no thinking of what to cook for dinner each night. Walking around new places and seeing new scenery and every day in a new place that i have never been.  Active cruising....and Canada....here I come!

Pam Walker is a Virtuoso Travel Advisor and can be reached at pliwalker@earthlink.net.  www.walkeradventures.com or www.walkeradventuresltd.com.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A VISIT TO THE AMAZING GEMAN HISTORY MUSEUM IN BERLIN!





I love museums. I always find one or two history museums to visit wherever I go. To me it is fascinating to see what brought today’s modern cities to their present form a how different politics of individual countries help formulate what is today each country in the world.

In the USA we have from the beginning fought for freedom. Freedom of religion, freedom of government, freedom from other people telling us what we can and should do.

In Germany, that was not the case, and the German History Museum in Berlin is perhaps one of the finest museums in the world to illustrate what can go wrong in history.

From its feudal inception, Germany was ruled by lords and Prussian kings and queens who shared incalculable wealth. In other museums, there are statues of religious figures and Madonna’s with the baby Jesus depicted in paintings as well. In the Museum in Berlin, I was struck by huge replicas of royalty mounted on their horses complete with suits of armor not only for the royals and lords, but also for the horses. Horses and men as well were fitted with chain mail, or a mesh of metal links that covered their bodies and those of their horses as well which fit under these heavy clad pieces of metal. It is a wonder that man or horse could move let alone joust of fight off foes.

The peasants just farmed or took care of the nobles in those early days and throughout the museum, the workers just followed instruction so that they could be given food and a roof over their heads which was given them from the nobles.

Walking through the history of Germany in this museum, it is no wonder that when Adolf Hitler came along with his promises of work and good standard of living, that the people fell in line to listen to his speeches and scream in adoration at their “Feurr”. Those screams of adoration, turned to screams of terror as the Nazi’ under Hitler’s direction, started to concur Europe one country after another. Not only did he create the Hitler Youth (where one had to have only Arian blood to belong), but if anyone showed opposition…it was off to the gas chambers along with those of Jewish descent whom Hitler deemed evil. His propaganda machine throughout Europe depicted anyone with a swarthy completion as a person not to be trusted. Millions of people, Jews, Polish, Turks, Greeks, Gypsys from Hungry…all were sent to the gas chambers to purify Hitler’s view of the Arian race. No one dared oppose him. As long as he was creating jobs and putting food on their table…no matter how horrific he proved to be…there was no opposition. Finally in 1945, Hitler committed suicide, knowing that the allies were going to kill him as world opposition to what was happening in Europe grew. He preferred ending his life as a martyr rather than being belittled in war crimes trials like so many of his generals.

It took another year to clear Europe of the Nazi forces and as in many wars, “carpetbaggers” took advantage of the downtrodden by supplying a steady stream of necessary things at high prices.

Throughout the museum, you can trace this feudal society and most likely understand why Germany is such a strong nation today. The attitude of most Germans is that they will not be weak again and not let anything of the kind happen. I asked my driver if there had been incidences of Isis terrorism in Berlin or anywhere else in Germany and his answer was. “This will never happen in Germany. We are not afraid to fight!”

I could have spent more time in this museum learning about life and how one country could go so horribly astray by having a very rich leadership and a very poor populace. As it was I spent four hours in this magnificent museum with its wonderful displays, historic treasures and films and photos of how Germany went the wrong way in its history. Perhaps it was the lack of freedom, lack of religion, or lack of common sense that brought Germany to its knees before the 21st century. We could all learn what not to do by a visit to this amazing museum in the center of Berlin.