Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cuba in Pictures-Part 2

Cuba resembles a vibrant quilt, with patches of brilliant abstract art, soul-touching sounds of Son, Danzon and other music, vast swaths of dense forest reserves, petite organic farms, and urban streets lined with 1950s-era Buicks and Chevys. I've written numerous pieces on Cuba, including for National Geographic Traveler where I discussed bird watching. Now check out my latest video slideshow on YouTube.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Romania in Pictures

Romania is a wonderful mix of the rustic and the ultra-contemporary, the verdant and the gritty. It's a country that doesn't relinquish tradition while also being firmly committed to a vibrant present.

And, yet, I'm always surprised by the number of people who solely know Romania via its association with Dracula. They're missing the dense conifer forests and the winding roads in Transylvania, the charming centuries-old villages of Brasov and Sibiu, the edgy weekly craft market and delicious seasonal food festival in Bucharest.

I've written quite a bit about Romania and have also been interviewed on my travels there. My YouTube video slideshow will give you a glimpse of how I view Romania. If you're so inclined, I'd love it if you could comment and share this video. 
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Friday, April 25, 2014

The Azores (in Portugal) in Pictures

It's uncanny how few savvy people know anything about the Azores, a pristine Portuguese archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic and 1,000 miles from any shore. I just returned from my second trip there. The first time I visited five of the nine islands. This time I visited three more, leaving little Corvo for another journey. Yet, curiously, ever person I met  in my home town, New York City, and told that I was venturing to this island chain asked the same exact question: "What's that?" Not even where's that but what's that. How odd.

I've written (for National Geographic Traveler, Outside Magazine and other major publications) and blogged extensively about and been interviewed on  these volcanic isles where each bears a distinct personality. On this recently trip, I visited two of the smaller islands -- Graciosa and Santa Maria -- and one of the largest: Terceira. My YouTube video  represents only a snippet of some of the authentic features I found during this one-week trip. And this video, The Azores in Pictures, represents the first of my new travel series that will appear on my YouTube Channel, so please make sure to subscribe, comment and share. You'll see plenty of hidden treasure travel images wherever I venture.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gear Review: Rugged/Stylish Sandals

What cramps a savvy packing style that revolves around never checking luggage? In my opinion, shoes are one of the chief culprits that force travelers into lugging around and checking large bags. Not me, though. I usually wear one pair of shoes and pack another in my carry-on. Most women especially are adverse to wearing fewer than three pairs of shoes per trip. I've found the solution, at least as far as non-winter travel is concerned: Chacos.

This company makes a variety of different sandals (and now shoes) that are sturdy, comfortable, good looking versatile. Recently they sent me the ZX2/Yampa Sandal to test.

These were my only outdoor shoe on my recent one-week trip to the Azores where I went bicycling, light hiking, and kayaking as well as doing plenty of walking on cobbled lanes in the towns and villages, and along sandy stretches of beaches. The Vibram sole with lugs performed well under all circumstances but one: moss- or algae-coated rocks. But I've found that only my ultra sticky-soled 5-10 hiking boots are the only ones that kept me from slipping under these circumstances.

These sandals are stylish when worn with a dress or skirt but are also plenty rugged for all my adventures on this trip. (I like the versatility of the black straps but other models come in a variety of patterns and bold colors.) Most importantly, they were oh-so comfortable, especially along my arch which ordinarily would be fatigued after a long day of nothing but walking. And, while I know many people find a toe loop uncomfortable, I loved the security it provided.

A negative about Chacos is they take a bit of tweaking to get the straps to fit. And, perhaps I'm a bit challenged because the accompanying directions illustrating how to loosen and tighten the straps only made things more confusing. Furthermore, it seems the main tightening strap (along the buckle side) is way to long for my feet. No worries, though. I simply had my talented shoemaker cut and resew the strap. So these negatives were easily taken care of with the slight expense for the alteration.

When I head to Southeast Asia for a month of travel, I'll be bringing along one of my Chacos as well. And, despite the fact that I'll be away for a month, I won't be checking luggage.
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