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travel world


• Albuquerque Balloon Festival • Belize • Loreto Mexico • Newfoundland • Niigata Japan • COLCOA Film Festival: France/LA


The Magazine Written by North American Travel Journalists Association Members

Note from the Editor Get ready for a trip of a lifetime and you don’t have to sit in an uncomfortable seat in a crowded airplane and, best of all, your luggage won’t be lost! This issue of TravelWorld International will take you on an exciting escape to places obscure and others that will be well-known to you. As you well know, the members of the North American Travel Journalists Assn. are a talented bunch and their creativity and sparkle are very evident in this issue of TWI. So, sit back and enjoy. You’re invited on several very special journeys. Ronald Kapon wants to be able to say he has visited 150 countries as he takes off to the United Arab Emirates, but he is in for a little surprise and an extremely interesting trip complete with camels, desert and over-the-top opulence. You also probably don’t know that tea is being commercially grown on Vancouver Island, as Donna Janke discovered, or that one of the largest Mayan ruins is in the tiny country of Belize, as Priscilla Willis learned when she visited Caracol. Julie Hatfield thought she knew a great deal about the lovely city of Boston and was delighted to learn there is a dark side there too in the Boston Underbelly. When folks in Japan think of the village of Niigata they can only conjure pictures of rice, sake and snow. But Rob Gross, an American ex-patriot living in Japan, found there is much more there that engages the first-time visitor. There is so much more in this issue that I won’t spoil it for you here. But when you read Efrain Villa’s cover story and look at the fabulous photographs you will learn why you Don’t Call it a Crash! Enjoy, and please let us know what you liked and what you would like to contribute to future issues of TravelWorld International.

Dennis A. Britton, Editor To submit story queries, please email Dennis at:


TravelWorld International Magazine is the only magazine that showcases the member talents of the North American Travel Journalists Association

Group Publisher: Publisher: Editor in Chief: Editor: Creative Design Director: Operations Manager:

NATJA Publications Helen Hernandez Bennett W. Root, Jr. Dennis A. Britton Joy Bushmeyer Yanira Leon

Contributing Writers & Photographers: Rob Goss Julie Hatfield Donna Janke Ron Kapon Barbara Singer

Deborah Stone Efrain Villa Kathleen Walls Priscilla Willis Kaila Yu

Editorial /Advertising Offices: TravelWorld International Magazine 3579 E. Foothill Blvd., #744 Pasadena, CA 91107 Phone: (626) 376.9754 Fax: (626) 628-1854

Volume 2017.02 July/August 2017. Copyright ©2017 by NATJA Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Advertising rates and information sent upon request. Acceptance of advertising in TravelWorld International Magazine in no way constitutes approval or endorsement by NATJA Publications, Inc., nor do products or services advertised. NATJA Publications and TravelWorld International Magazine reserve the right to reject any advertising. Opinions expressed by authors are their own and not necessarily those of Travel World International Magazine or NATJA Publications. TravelWorld International Magazine reserves the right to edit all contributions for clarity and length, as well as to reject any material submitted, and is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts. This periodical’s name and logo along with the various titles and headings therein, are trademarks of NATJA Publications, Inc. PRODUCED IN U.S.A.

travel world JULY/AUGUST 2017


& S T O R I E S


6 Albuquerque Balloon Festival Story & Photos by Efrain Villa

18 Belize: Ancient Mayan Ruins of Caracol

Story & Photos by Priscilla Willis

22 Canada's First Tea Farm

Is in Vancouver Island's Cowichan Valley Story & Photos by Donna Janke

26 Loreto: Mexico's Hidden Gem

Story & Photos by Kaila Yu

Story & Photos by Deborah Stone

31 Newfoundland - The 'Edge of the World'








travel world JULY/AUGUST 2017



& S T O R I E S

40 Niigata, Japan - Rice, Sake, Snow

Story & Photos by Rob Goss

46 The COLCOA Film Festival (France/LA)

Story & Photos by Barbara Singer

51 The Darker Side of Boston

Story & Photos by Julie Hatfield

Story & Photos by Kathleen Walls

Story & Photos by Ronald Kapon

56 San Angelo, Texas: From Cowtown to Culture 62 United Arab Emirates: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman


40 46




Flying over the Rio Grande Valley




Flying over the Rio Grande Valley


il V n i a y Ef r


“We’re gonna hit!”


hose were the last words I heard before the thunderous crack of tree limbs breaking beneath us and the explosion of autumn-leaf confetti burst around us. Everyone aboard the wicker gondola had braced for impact; everyone except for Bandit, the dog lazing happily at our feet during our plummet. It had been a beautiful flight for all four of us, including Bandit. We traveled nearly eight miles south of Balloon Fiesta Park, where thousands of onlookers had cheered and snapped pictures as we launched along with hundreds of other balloons during the second-day mass ascension of the 45th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s premiere annual ballooning event.

Jeff Haliczer had been masterfully maneuvering the 90,000-cubic-foot orb of hot air suspending us high above Albuquerque’s Rio Grande Valley. Now, as our journey was coming to an untimely end just blocks away from my house, Jeff tugged on ropes and yelled at my barely-awake neighbors stepping out of homes in various states of undress. “Everyone down there,” he announced, like the Wizard of Oz in the balloon scene, “jump on the basket as soon as we’re on the ground. We need the weight or we’ll get dragged.” We were low enough that I could clearly make out the smiling faces of children waiving up at us from their parents’ arms. I could even see the teeth of backyard dogs barking, perhaps sensing a special animal kinship with one of their own aboard.

Flying over the Rio Grande toward the Sandia Mountains flanking Albuquerque's east side A groggy man stepped out of a porch, rubbed his eyes and squinted as he tried and failed to cover the hairy, round belly protruding from his haphazardly wrapped robe. Looking up and realizing what was about to happen, he quickly dug his feet into fluffy slippers and began jogging along our trajectory. “What do I need to do?” he yelled, craning his neck up to us like a wide receiver ready for a catch. I spotted a familiar face in the crowd of people now gathered in the middle of the residential street below, nervously waiting for… something to happen. The teenage girl and her mother had been following us in their car since we had missed the park by a few yards just five minutes earlier.


Flying over the Rio Grande Valley in Albuquerque

“Are you landing in the park?” The teenage girl had shouted at us. “We’ve been following you, what do you need?” “We need help!” I replied. Jeff, attempting to disguise his annoyance at my unhelpful exchange, had calmly chimed in to instruct the good Samaritans. “Looks like we missed that park, we’re gonna need to come down soon, probably on the street,” he said. “Hang onto the basket and put your weight on it as soon as we land, okay?” “Okay! We’ll follow you.”


I looked around and noticed that we were alone; the hundreds of balloons dotting the sky earlier were all gone. After three near-landings spoiled by the threat of hitting powerlines, and an hour of being in the air, we were the last balloon in the air. The wind had completely died down. We seemed to be barely moving. “Talk to me, Efraín,” Jeff said. “Where are we?” “That’s San Pedro Drive right there and that’s Candelaria Road,” I pointed at the streets and honking cars directly beneath us. “My house is six blocks that way.”

Jeff got on the phone with our chase crew, the team of volunteers in the truck chasing us from the ground to assist with the landing and repackaging of the balloon. “We’re just north of Candelaria and east of San Pedro,” he said. “It’s a residential area with lots of trees and powerlines, I need you to get here now. I’m going to bring it down on the street. Oh, and since it’s probably really important that you know, Efraín lives six blocks away.” Somehow, sarcasm seems to always work its way into every one of my near death experiences.

The Dawn Patrol gets ready to take flight. They 'test the air' before other pilots are given the 'okay'

A WIND AND A PRAYER “The flag just turned green this morning, so we’re a go,” the sprightly press attendant at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta notified me. “You’ll be flying on Sin. Chronic.” “Did you say Sin and Chronic? Is that, like, a 90’s rapper’s balloon?” I asked, intrigued. “Oh, I am sorry. I meant to say Synchronicity. Your pilot’s name is Jeff Haliczer. Have you flown before?” “Yes, several times. Last year I was on the Jesus balloon.” “The special shaped one that was kidnapped?”

“No. Not the Jesus-coming-out-ofthe-clouds balloon. The other, regular shaped one. I think it’s called WWJD. We held hands and prayed in the air.” The attendant stared and blinked at me expectantly. “Oh, that’s the whole story,” I explained. “It’s just that praying is way weirder for me than flying.” “Well then. Please follow this young man to your launch site,” she said, pointing to a bearded volunteer. More than 1,000 volunteers from all over the world travel to donate their time in order make the fiesta possible, and that does not include the two

thousand chase crew volunteers that must follow the balloons. My escort quickly led the way through the pre-dawn lights of the park already crowded with neon trinket vendors and gawking spectators. Phone screens lit up all around us every time one of the gas burners exhaled a loud snore and sent a tall tower of flames into the air. Eight Dawn Patrol balloons flickered on and off in the night sky, like exposed light bulbs. If wind conditions are adequate for flying, indicated by a green flag in the middle of the park, a few Dawn Patrol pilots take off before sunrise to test the wind for the rest of the balloons that will take flight as soon as the sun peaks out over the mountains.



round the center of the 72acre field, I paused to snap a picture of a group wearing Viking hats, which was hard to do since I was also simultaneously trying to take a bite out of my giant green chile-cheese-and-papas breakfast burrito, a handheld delicacy that is rumored to have been invented at the fiesta many years ago. Just as I put my camera and burrito away, I caught a glimpse of my escort ducking out of sight between two zebras. Fiesta is always teeming with zebras; not the Serengeti kind. Because of their black-and-white striped uniform, “zebra” is the title given to each of the more than sixty volunteer launch directors who help coordinate events on the field. It takes up to two years of training to become a zebra, so many of them go all out in flaunting their status. Some wear giant zebra head hats, others prefer to be more decorous and opt for donning dignified face paint and furry hoof coverings over their shoes. The Special Shapes Glowdeo is a crowd favorite


I started to run after my escort but stopped once again, this time to stare at Darth Vader and Yoda, who were already inflated enough so that their faces did not look like that creepy mask from Scream anymore. I noticed for the first time that Yoda is actually a pretty small balloon compared to some of the other gargantuan special shaped fliers, like the purple dragon that was beginning to bow its head upward behind Yoda’s pointy ears. “We should hurry to your launch site,” my escort said, snapping me out of my trance. Having been born in Albuquerque, I have been to dozens of fiestas, but I still get mesmerized by the sight of balloons. As a kid, I remember thinking the popular children’s book James and the Giant Peach was probably partially based on a true story. In hindsight, the child’s logic makes sense even now; after all, what would be so weird about a giant, flying peach carrying humans through the air when, with my own

eyes, I had seen a giant, monocle-wearing Mr. Peanut balloon carrying passengers touch down at the playground of my elementary school? “Is this Synchronicity?” my escort asked a cheery lady standing next to a trailer painted in blue with Humpty Dumpty, shoe, and balloon motifs. “Yup,” she said, taking off her gloves to give me her hand. “I’m Karalyn Vavra, and that’s the pilot over there, Jeff.” My escort turned toward me and said, “I leave you in good hands. Have a good flight.” I went around and introduced myself to the team. Lynn Gunn, a volunteer who traveled from West Covina, California with her RV group, asked me if it was my first time flying. “Nope, I’ve been high on Jesus,” I replied. “That’s nice. Here, have some cocoa.”

A Dawn Patrol balloon tests the air

Fiesta is one of the most photographed events in the world... it was, even before cell phones

Sunset at the Fiesta


For the 550 pilots that attend the fiesta, the Balloon Glow and Special Shapes As the sun peaked out of the Sandia Glowdeo are a chance to showcase some Mountains flanking the city’s east side, of their more difficult-to-fly balloons, balloons began to take to the skies. Jeff since none of the balloons take to the happily handed out collector’s cards sky in the evening. Instead, the balloons with balloon images on them and remain tethered to the ground and the collector’s pins that have become illuminate simultaneously, prompted an integral component of the fiesta by various countdowns. A “twinkle experience for many families. countdown” indicates the sea of balloons “Should we be inflating the balloon?” I will be flickering on and off, an “all burn” means the balloons will remain lit as long asked. as possible, which is not very long; it “Nope. We’re probably going to be in the takes a lot of heat to make those balloons last wave today, but we won’t know for glow so brightly, and heat makes it harder to keep them on the ground. After the sure until a zebra tells us,” Jeff said. Glow, a fireworks and laser show lights This year, there were 108 special shaped up the sky. balloons in attendance, 17 of them were new to the fiesta. I noticed the cards Jeff “So you’ll be flying with me and Bandit,” Jeff said, scratching behind the ears of a was handing out to children had the black dog wearing a vest and sauntering photo of a colorful, laced-up sneaker atop a tipped-over gondola with a sign flying through the air. reading, “Dog is my co-pilot.”

Burners ignite to fill the balloon envelope with hot air

“Is Synchronicity the shoe balloon?”

“Really?” I said. “That’s pretty cool. I just heard the first balloon to ever “Nope. The sneaker is called High Top Flier and this one here is called Off the fly with living creatures had a duck, a Wall,” Jeff pointed at a stylized depiction rooster, and a lamb aboard.” of a flailing, upside-down Humpty Dumpty painted on the trailer; a picture A crewmember looked at me, waiting for he said was based on children’s drawings the punchline. that he receives from pen pals. “We’ll be flying on that one,” Jeff said, showing “No, seriously,” I said. “It was in France.” me a black, regular shaped balloon illustration. “We’ll probably inflate High “Oh, I guess that makes sense,” he said. “Ah, the French.” Top Flier and Off the Wall for the Special Shapes Glowdeo, though.”

Off-the-Wall Glows at the Special Shapes Glowdeo


Darth Vader and Airabelle the Flying Cow are very popular return visitors to the Fiesta

Mr. Fish- Special shape balloon from Oregon

Mr. Scarecrow

Two special shape balloons named Puddles and Splash can frequently be seen rubbing beaks in the air. Catching a glimpse of one without the other is rare.

*Bimbo Bear- Special shape from the USA Piranha


Great Eggspecationsdelivering a great photo opportunity and a little something extra

Black Sheep

Little Dog

Hundreds of balloons fly over Albuquerque's Rio Grande Valley every October

The Special Shapes Rodeo is one of the favorite events at the Fiesta


Shocking Realities Once we started inflating Synchronicity, a crowd gathered around us. I asked Karalyn if I needed to have gloves on to help out. “Not with us,” she said. “Some people think the oils on your fingers get on the balloon and collect dirt. And there are people who say it weakens the fabric. We don’t use gloves on our balloon and it has over 600 hours. You can better manage the fabric with tactile feeling.”

for two raised $600 for the charity. I give it away because I’m selfish, it takes four people to fly, not counting me, so I then only have to find two of my crew to make it happen. To me it’s all about having fun and sharing it with people.” We climbed into the gondola. The crowd burst into applause when they saw Bandit would be flying with us. Jeff asked Bandit to look through a tiny window built into the gondola at knee-cap height. When his snout peered through the hole, the small group of photographers that had gathered went wild and rapidly snapped pictures as if Kim Kardashian had just sneezed.

However, accidents are quite rare. In the last decade, the National Transportation Safety Board has logged 17 balloon accidents taking place in the greater Albuquerque area during the month of October, the month in which the fiesta takes place. Out of those accidents, there were two fatalities.

Thoughts of crashes were the last thing on my mind, though. I have had the good fortune of flying with expert pilots able to land balloons with more accuracy than most people can park cars. I have even flown with pilots who have swooped down and gracefully dipped the bottom of the Once the balloon was upright, Jeff gondola in the Rio Grande waters for a walked over to Lynn and asked her if Then we were off. The fiesta is just as few seconds before rising again; a tradition she wanted to fly as a passenger along spectacular from the air as it is from the known as “splash and dash.” with Bandit and me. ground, and the kaleidoscope comparisons So when we had first started descending are apt. The strange part for me is how and abandoned the landing attempt when Lynn was visibly shocked by the quiet it is up there. It seems like there Jeff spotted powerlines, it was a surprise invitation. “Are you sure?” she asked, should be some kind of whooshing sound. to me how quickly powerline phobia took beaming. It is so quiet, in fact, that you can clearly hold over me. hear conversations on the ground from It turns out that Jeff gifts flights surprisingly high altitudes. “So how do powerlines work?” I asked Jeff. frequently. “I donate balloon rides to “Is the pigeon thing an urban legend? Do charities back home, in Reno, whenever We flew over a mega church hosting an you really have to be touching multiple I can,” he said. “One of balloon rides outdoor service. The person at the pulpit lines to get shocked? Is there, like, a rope was saying something about salvation, or ladder on this thing?” maybe it was damnation. I pointed at our shadow on the large stained-glass windows Jeff ignored my questions and spit over emblazoned with the words: “Crash and the edge of the balloon. “I call it my Burn.” spitometer,” he said. “See how the spit moves with the wind? It’s a good indicator “Hey Jeff, look at the words on the of what’s happening down there.” windows,” I said. “Hopefully it’s not a sign, huh?” “Hmm, sophisticated. So about landing, we’re heading toward the freeway and When you grow up in Albuquerque, you malls right now. Will the mall parking lots Jeff, Lynn, Bandit, Efrain Passengers to survive the crash have an instilled, healthy respect for the work for a good landing?” awesome audacity of man in flight. Along with beautiful images of hundreds of “Even a street can be ideal if the wind is balloons flying over our city, occasionally parallel. I always say anytime you can television broadcasts will feature a balloon walk away from a landing it’s a good tangled up in powerlines as terrified landing. Anytime you can walk away passengers scream in helplessness. These from it and re-use the aircraft, it’s a great days, that sort of thing is much more likely landing.” to go viral on social media long before the networks pick it up. I realized just then the importance of discussing expectations prior to putting one’s life in other people’s hands. Dog is My Copilot Bandit looks through


gondola window

When the Bough Brakes The gondola plowed through the tree, landing smack in the middle of the street. My neighbors quickly ran up and clung to the basket as it tilted on its side. Bandit simply rolled over to use the wall as his new floor.

Jeff instructed the group holding onto the gondola to move us down the street as he pumped a few quick bursts of fire into the balloon above. “Is everyone okay?” he asked, visibly concerned. Lynn and I looked at each other. “I’m fine,” she said, smiling from ear to ear.

People lined up along the envelope, once it was laid out in the middle of the street, to help fold it back up. In the last part of the repackaging process, a procession of people dumped their small portion of the balloon’s folded fabric into the balloon’s container. Jeff then grabbed Bandit and several children and placed them on top of the fabric to tamp it down while parents took pictures.

Neither of us had so much as a scratch, The teenage girl who had followed us in and I’m not entirely sure Bandit was the car introduced herself as Kiki. She even awake for any of it. said her mother, who had been driving, had been chasing balloons for forty “Did you see us crash?” I asked years. “I’m really glad Bandit’s okay,” Karalyn. I tried to strike an I-didn’t-just-pee-in-myKiki said, petting Bandit’s head. pants pose, but Jeff was not having any of “Sweetie, that wasn’t a crash,” she it. “Does this look like a good photo-op Jeff passed out collectors cards with said. “That was a rough landing.” time right now, man?” He asked. Synchronicity’s photo. On the back, it read: “Time spent ballooning is not “And a tree pruning,” I said, pointing The balloon tittered down onto the trees subtracted from one’s lifetime.” at the broken bough on the tree. lining the street. Karalyn appeared out of nowhere and suggested to Jeff that the Only two panels of Synchronicity were I’m sure the same thing cannot be said balloon be walked toward an opening with slightly damaged by tree branches. about tree pruning. less overhanging branches. A man took out his cell phone and asked us to look up and smile as the gondola started to get dragged though the street with us in it.

Our shadow next to the Crash and Burn windows at the church! All Signs Point To...


Flying above Fiesta Looking south toward Albuquerque Downtown



ith nearly one million visitors, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the most popular event in New Mexico and the biggest ballooning event in the world, so advanced reservations for hotels, flights and rental cars are highly encouraged. The fiesta begins during the first full weekend of October and lasts for nine days; this year it will take place from October 7-15, 2017. There are ticketed events, known as sessions, throughout the day; the most popular ones are the morning Mass Ascensions and the evening Balloon Glows and fireworks shows. Other attractions include concerts, chainsaw carving competitions, ballooning competitions, children’s carnival rides and, of course, the many food vendors and product exhibitors.


Unlike balloon festivals elsewhere, at the fiesta you will be right in the middle of all the balloon inflating action. Morning events begin before sunrise, so an early start is important. If you drive, plan on spending anywhere from a half-hour to an hour (or more) in traffic as you enter Balloon Fiesta Park, where the launch field and the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum are located. Admission for the museum, a building shaped like a hot air balloon, is $4 for adults and $2 for seniors and children under twelve (children under 3 are free). There are several options to avoid the traffic congestion. Park and Ride buses leave from several locations throughout the city and include admission. The Rail Runner, a commuter train, offers special rides that connect to the park via shuttles. The area is also served an extensive network of bicycle trails; bicycle valets are on-hand at Balloon Fiesta Park to store bicycles free-of-charge. Uber and Lyft are also options, although drivers should be knowledgeable about the

best route to use to get passengers to the parking area. Free trolleys and shuttles to the park entrances depart frequently from the parking lots. Although Albuquerque usually provides ideal conditions for flying, ballooning events are at the mercy of the weather. A 40-foot flag pole sits in the middle of the park near the main stage tent, the color of the flag on the pole indicating the status of the balloon session. A green flag indicates all events are scheduled to go as planned. A red flag means the balloon session has been cancelled. A yellow flag indicates a decision has not yet been made. If you hear someone mention that the “Albuquerque box is working,� they are referring to a wind phenomenon that allows pilots to navigate a predictable wind pattern in the valley, allowing them to land almost in the same location where they launched. Last bit of advice, autumn in the high desert means big changes in daytime and nighttime temperatures, dress in layers!


Belize Barrier Reef A prime location for diving and snorkeling along the Belize Barrier Reef system, the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere.

Caracol ancient Mayan ruins


The Ancient Mayan Ruins of Caracol By Priscilla Willis

A visit to Belize can take you from jungle adventure to pristine white sand beaches along the bright Caribbean blue sea where explorers of all ages can play and learn.

Thus, the official language of Belize is English, which helps to make your trip even more stress free.

Coming from California, I took a red-eye flight and arrived a day before my sister, which gave me a day to relax before It is a showcase of nature in all its heading out to the rainforest area of tropical glory. It is largely unspoiled Western Belize where we were to stay on the mainland and smaller outer three nights in San Ignacio. At the top of islands, such as Caye (pronounced our list was a visit to the ancient ‘kē’) Caulker, which is a prime Mayan ruins of Caracol, followed by location for diving and snorkeling along the Belize Barrier Reef system, zip lining through the jungle canopy and cave exploration, also known as the largest barrier reef in the spelunking. All things considered – even Northern Hemisphere. the three-hour each way, bone-rattling drive on a washed-out dirt road – Caracol Tucked between the Caribbean Sea was still the highlight of the trip. and the rainforest on the eastern coast of Central America, Belize is a small and diverse nation. Formerly Tip: Tourism is a major source of income known as British Honduras, it was the for the people of Belize and all hotels are able to book tours for you. With their United knowledge of local guides, I recommend Kingdom’s last colony on the making tour arrangements through your North American mainland and still hotel. maintains strong ties with Britain.


We stayed at the modest Midas Belize, made our reservation for a Caracol tour the night before, and felt like we totally lucked out in getting Selwyn, a Yucatan Mayan raised in the jungle and who calls himself a naturalist. We sure couldn’t disagree because he was extremely knowledgeable about plant life, history of the Mayans, and Belize as a developing nation. Caracol is huge. In fact, it is the largest Mayan site in Belize, and one of the largest in the Mayan world. The core area alone is 15 square miles and once supported a population of more than 120,000 people. The ruins are still being excavated and much of the area remains un-cleared. Unlike Chichen Itza and Tulum, the betterknown Mayan ruins of the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula, where climbing is banned, it is permitted at Caracol.

Caracol ancient Mayan ruins

Caracol ancient Mayan ruins-terraced steps

Jaguar carving, Caracol ancient Mayan ruins

Caracol Altars

Caracol ancient Mayan ruins



Caracol’s central core consists of three plaza groups surrounding a central acropolis and two ball courts, along with a number of smaller structures. The complex covers 30-square miles of thick, high-canopy jungle, and includes five plazas, an astronomic observatory and over 35,000 buildings.

Selwyn our guide to Caracol ancient Mayan ruins

Traditional Belizian lunch of stewed chicken, rice, beans, plantains, raw vegetables

The Caracol Archaeological Project of excavations and restorations started in 1985 and is ongoing. Students from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, are currently living and working on the site. The main pyramid at Caracol is called Caana or “Sky Palace.” At 136- feet high, it is the tallest Mayan building in Belize and the tallest man-made structure in the country. Caana contains four palaces and three temples. More than 100 tombs have been found, as well as a rich array of hieroglyphic inscriptions.

Research camp at Caracol ancient Mayan ruins


We spent a good two hours exploring the ruins and listening to all that our guide had to tell us about the Mayan culture and discoveries excavated from this former grand empire. Selwyn pointed out reservoir systems, roads, altar-carvings that indicated warriors and gods, and much more. I highly recommend hiring a guide even though there is a Visitors Center exhibiting a number of photographs and diagrams of the site, along with artifacts. I was fascinated by the root system of the sacred Mayan Ceiba tree – one of the most important elements of ancient Maya sacred flora and medicinal plants. The branches of these majestic trees reach to the heavens and the roots are believed to stretch into the underworld.

Research camp at Caracol ancient Mayan ruins


After several hours, we returned to the Visitors Center area where there are restrooms and covered picnic areas. Our most excellent guide, Selwyn, wins again by bringing a traditional lunch (included in the tour) prepared by a local Belizian widow. And, rum punch, which we soon discovered is the refreshment that comes with every all-day outing.

Sacred Mayan Ceiba tree root system

Our tour of Caracol ended with a visit to Rio Frio Cave in the Mountain Pine Ridge area and a stop at the Río-On Pools for a refreshing dip in cool waters cascading down among huge boulders. Well-maintained steps and stepping-stones lead visitors into the impressive entrance to the Rio Frio Cave with huge stalactites hanging from the cathedral-like vaulted ceiling and a pool of water surrounded by fine white sand. With 70-foot high arches on two sides beckoning you to venture within, this is an easy cave to access for first-time cave explorers, seniors, kids, and those less athletically inclined. If Belize is on your bucket list—and it should be--pin this image to remember that a visit to the incredible Caracol Mayan ruins is a must-see!

Rio Frio Caves

Rio-On Pools


Tea and Clay on Canada’s First Tea Farm Story and Photos by Donna Janke The rolling hills of Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley are home to organic farms, medal-winning wineries, artisanal food producers--and a tea farm, something you might not expect to find in Canada.

Terraced Tea Field

The driveway into Westholme Tea Farm winds past a terraced field of tea plants to a parking lot in front of a converted barn. Whimsical clay face masks hang on the knotted wood siding. Inside, the smell of a wood fire greeted me. A young woman offered me tea of the day in a ceramic teacup. Black cardamom. Smooth and slightly smoky with a hint of vanilla. Tea in hand, I browsed while I waited for Victor Vesely, one-half of the couple who own the farm. Honey-colored wood planks cover the floor and ceiling. Light streams through floor-to-ceiling windows. Shelving contains a large assortment of tea blends for sale. Rustic tables offer space for customers to linger. A separate room displays pottery handmade by the other owner, Margit Nellemann. Funky tea sets, small plates, clay lanterns and birdhouses.

Teashop exterior

Victor arrived, wearing a brown sweater under dark denim overalls. As we talked, he interrupted our conversation several times to greet customers entering the shop. Many were regulars, here to refill their supplies of a favorite blend.

Pottery for Sale-wall

Victor beside the display of tea grown on the farm


When Margit and Victor bought the property in 2003, they hadn’t intended to create a tea farm or even a tea shop. They removed invasive blackberry bushes, and planted lavender and garlic. They harvested hay. They converted the old barn into usable space for Margit’s pottery studio. They grew more food, selling it at farmers’ markets. In 2008, they held their first “Art + Tea” event, pairing Margit’s pots and cups with tea tastings and performing artists. They began creating their own tea blends, with organic tea and herbs sourced from around the world. Over time, tea became their sole focus and Victor questioned why tea wasn’t grown in Canada. To my surprise, weather was not the reason. Victor discovered tea growing in Cornwall, whose latitude is similar to Vancouver Island, and saw photographs of Japanese and North Korean tea fields covered in snow. The winters in some parts of Canada may be too harsh for growing tea, but that was not the barrier in this part of the country. The reason was the cost of labor and the cost of land.

Teashop Pottery for sale-blue group interior

That did not deter Victor. He said if you make an artisanal product that people seek out, you can charge its value. Victor and Margit imported and planted 200 Camellia sinensis seedlings. It takes five years for tea plants to reach a stage where leaves can be harvested. At the five-year point, Victor and Margit decided the plants were not quite ready and waited another year. They harvested their first crop in 2016.

Teashop with wood burning stove

“It is one thing to grow tea, a different thing to make tea,” Victor said. Margit is self-taught in clay and Victor became self-taught in making tea. He said his lack of knowledge was a disadvantage, but there were also advantages in being able to innovate and create new tea styles based on millennia of tea-making traditions.

Pottery for sale-blue group


Westholme harvests tea three times a year, in spring, in mid-summer, and again in fall. Victor created seven single origin teas from his one-acre field. He made green teas from the handpicked leaves of all harvests. He pan-roasted withered and bruised leaves several times to create an oolong tea. Tea flowers, added to a fall harvest tea, created an earthy tea with a fruity scent.

Tea Plants

Teapot and strainer

Tea & Sweets


His Quail’s Nest tea is a Japanese kukicha style tea, also known as twig tea because it is made from the twigs and stems of the plant, not the leaves. Twig tea has very little caffeine. A maple leaf falling into Victor’s basket during harvesting became the inspiration to add maple stems. The result was the popular Maple Quail’s Nest tea. Westholme’s homegrown single origin teas cost six to seven times more than their other blends, but Victor appears to have been right about the willingness of people to pay for a quality, artisanal product. When I visited the farm in the spring of 2017, most of the 2016 harvest tea was sold out. The small remaining stock included Quail’s Nest Twig Tea. I chose to sample that tea, served of course in Margit’s pottery. “The marriage of tea and clay is thousands of years old,” Victor said.

Orange torte


Our server brewed the tea in a glass beaker before straining it into a pottery teapot. The twigs remained in the beaker, ready for another steeping. She said some teas, oolong and green teas for example, can be steeped two or three times. The flavor changes slightly with each steep. Quail’s Nest had a pleasant, earthy taste. The second steep was mellower, but I noticed little other taste difference.

Tea and sweets complement each other, each subtly changing the taste of the other. Westholme’s menu includes a number of tea-inspired sweets. My husband and I sampled raw chocolate brownies and cranberry turtle bars with black breakfast tea in its caramel crust. We shared a piece of gluten-free orange torte made with whole oranges, almond flour and earl grey tea. The tea became smoother and more flavorful with each bite and each sip. Terrior, a term typically applied to wine, also applies to tea. The combination of soil, minerals, temperature, wind and moisture affect taste. I visited the farm when spring regrowth was just beginning, after a harsh winter that saw colder temperatures and more snow than usual. Victor looked forward to tasting the impact on 2017 harvests. “Extremes of heat and cold stress the plant and create unique and interesting flavors,” he said. The first 2017 harvest is now complete. The tea plants “bounced back with bravado.” In addition to producing a green and an oolong tea, Victor used frost bitten leaves and stressed branches to create a new tea, a maple smoked Japanese style hojicha tea. He describes it as a “woodsy tea that will leave a sweet smoky linger on the palate.” Now, back home and miles away from Westholme Tea Farm, I brew the tea I purchased at the farm and think about the visitor book, filled with drawings and sketches, customers using more than words to express their feelings. Beautiful as the drawings were, it is a written comment I remember. A customer described the tea farm experience as “hygge”, a Danish word that doesn’t translate directly into English, but roughly means coziness or comfortable friendliness contributing to contentment and well-being. It is a good description.

Photo credit: Robert Demar / aerial view, Mark Gardner / bikes, Mike Bertrand / Friday Harbor, Jim Maya / whales

Lopez Island • Orcas Island • San Juan Island / Friday Harbor

InspIratIon For the senses

Explore Historic Friday Harbor Find Endless Adventure

Discover Nature’s Splendor


Loreto: Mexico’s Hidden Gem By Kaila Yu

Kayaking in Loreto


Life is tranquil in Loreto


ven our speedy boat ride to our snorkeling destination is somehow unhurried. Our guide and captain stops several times along the way to point out exotic birds such as the Blue-footed Booby birds and pelicans diving for their lunch. Midway through the trip, we stop at a private beach to picnic and to explore the sea life teeming in the rocks and to eat guacamole while feeling the sand between our toes.

Amazing view from the hiking trail behind the Villa Del Palmar

The gentle lapping of the waves interrupted by the noisy calls of birds dancing in the sky, the baking heat of the Baja sun and the laughter of friends. This is truly Island life. Loreto is also known as the Galapagos of North America. Jacques Cousteau called it the "Aquarium of the World." I'm surprised that Loreto is still mostly undiscovered by tourists it should be a mecca for any active wildlife enthusiast. When we finally arrive at our snorkeling destination our party is completely free to explore the ocean life to our heart's desire without any interruption from other sightseers. We see thousands of colored fish, sea urchins, adorable puffer fish and more. We are more than satisfied. After snorkeling, we explore the tiny city center of Loreto. The streets are mostly deserted save for the few shops that seem as if they are open just for us. Life here is relaxed, happy-go-lucky and unrestrained. We have an hour to explore the area but we finish early, there's not too much to see. Loreto is not meant for a city girl, it's a haven for the active adventurer. Its highlights are its wildlife, the ocean and the surrounding mountain range of Sierra de la Giganta. Things are quickly changing in Loreto. We stayed at the Villa del Palmar, a lush all-inclusive resort. The Villa del Palmar is not only a hotel, it's also a time share and it boasts a world class golf course, Danzante Bay Golf Course, with some of the most stunning views in golf anywhere in the world. The golf course is currently open for business with 11 holes completed. Once all 18 holes are completed the resort expects an influx of golfing enthusiasts. In fact the resort group is so confident about the popularity of the course that they are developing an entire community of homes right next to the course. Loreto has the ambitions of becoming a major tourism destination.

Another amazing view from the hiking trail behind the Villa Del Palmar


Loreto is an ideal destination for bird watchers

Pelican catching it's morning breakfast



urrently the population of Loreto is approximately 15,000 people but it's expected to balloon to 100,000 in the next 20 years. This will undoubtedly transform the entire ambiance of the island as a quiet and secluded getaway. I'm glad that I've had the opportunity to visit the city in advance of all these changes.

We visited Loreto in June. It's a popular destination at this time for sports fishers and expert scuba divers. Here experienced and novice fisherman alike can look forward to catching Striped Marlin, Sailfish, Whale sharks, Dorado, Yellowtail and more. The local hotels welcome you to bring back your daily catch and will happily prepare your fish for your next meal. Scuba divers have more than 50 diving sites from which to choose their next adventure. They can select from the 5 islands nearby: Coronado, Carmen, Danzantes, Montserrat and Catalana. Over 900 types of fish and 2000 species of marine life abound in these 206 acres of ocean and ready for viewing if you've got your scuba license. We talk about returning in the winter months of January or February during whale watching season. During this time, various species of whales travel over 5,500 kilometers to the Sea of Cortez in the protected Marine Island of Loreto Bay to give birth to their baby calves. We are told that the whales often swim so close to the boats that wildlife lovers are able to gently pet them as the frolic in the salty water.

The next day, we start the morning with a hike behind the resort, before the afternoon heat penetrates the earth. It's a workout walking up the hills of the Sierra de la Giganta and our passionate guide Carlos excitedly stops to teach us about the unique flora and fauna of the region. He later quizzes us on which plants would be our saviors if we were lost in the unforgiving desert-like environment. We learn which cacti will provide the most hydration and which plants act as effective insect repellants. At the top of the well-worn hiking trail we are rewarded with gorgeous views of the Sea of Cortez. We stop to catch our breath and pull out our cameras. After the hike, we are treated to a kayaking trip around the shoreline, discovering secluded coves and ancient cave paintings along the way. Our trip is delayed when two of the less coordinated members of our party have to be towed away by a boat. Despite all their best efforts, they've only been able to kayak around in circles. It's a great moment of levity and even though our trip has been delayed quite a bit, no one minds. Life in Loreto is tranquil and easy. We have absorbed the happy go lucky attitude of the locals and feel like we have all the time in the world.

For more hotels and tours in this area contact the tourism board: Discover Baja California Phone. (664) 682-3367 View from the Danzante Bay Golf Course




In So Many Ways Just a short drive from Phoenix, Arizona, Sedona awaits you. Moderate temperatures in the daytime are perfect for swimming, kayaking or fishing. Hike or bike over 100 trails through the magnificent red rocks. And the cool nights will give you a chance to unplug and reconnect under the stars. Plan your adventure, today, at




THE Edge of the World Story & Photos by Debbie Stone

Newfoundland boasts picturesque, unspoiled scenery


issing a codfish was never on my life’s to-do list. In fact, up until recently, I could honestly say it was not even in the realm of remote possibility. But, there I was at Skipper Hots Bar in Straitsview, Newfoundland, puckering up to smack a big one on this buggy-eyed cod. I had been talked into taking part in a “Screech In,” a ceremony that folks in this Canadian province like to conduct to make visitors feel at home. Newfoundlanders are well-known for their friendliness and hospitality and they definitely live up to this reputation, though their methods are unique! At a “Screech In,” which is typically held at in a local

watering hole, the master of ceremonies asks participants to don oversized fisherman garb, repeat various quirky Newfoundland expressions, smooch a cod, recite the Screechers’ Creed and down a shot of Screech Rum. The latter is a particular type of libation originating in Jamaica that long ago became a staple in this part of Canada. At the time, salt fish from Newfoundland was being shipped to the West Indies in exchange for rum. This resulted in fish becoming the national dish for Jamaicans and rum becoming the drink of choice for Newfoundlanders. The early fishermen tended to drink the beverage at full strength with no attempt to temper its taste. Story has it that the name “Screech” was coined

when a visiting American WWII serviceman drank the rum in one toss. His howls of distress got the attention of a bystander who inquired as to the cause of this horrific screech, which prompted a Newfoundlander to reply, “The screech?” ‘Tis the rum, me son.” The name stuck and today this drink and its place in the province’s culture are legendary. At the completion of a “Screech In,” participants are given a signed certificate acknowledging their new status as Honorary Newfoundlanders. This ritual is just one of many out-of-theordinary experiences visitors may have during a trip to “The Rock,” an affectionate term residents often use when referring to their home – a place that claims more rocks than soil.



ewfoundland, together with neighboring Labrador, make up Canada’s most easterly province. It’s a huge land mass that covers three times as much territory as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI. And if it were a U.S. state, it would rank fourth in regards to size, right behind Alaska, Texas and California. With a mere half a million residents, however, you’ll never encounter crowds or get into traffic jams when traveling through this vast terrain. Many regard Newfoundland as “the edge of the world,” as it is an off-the-beaten-path destination that takes some effort and time to reach. The rewards, however, are great for those who make the trek to this awe-inspiring region.

Known as an island of adventurers and adventures, Newfoundland boasts picturesque, unspoiled scenery and an incredibly diverse landscape. There’s everything from miles of rugged, windswept coastline and pristine waters with sheltered coves and inlets to dramatic mountain ranges, towering cliffs and stark moonscapes. The geology of Newfoundland stretches back to the beginnings of the earth itself. One of the best spots to see this evidence is Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the western side of the province. Ranked as one of our planet’s most significant natural areas, Gros Morne contains rocks that were once

part of an ancient ocean and later thrust up to form the Appalachian Mountains as two continents collided. Glaciers carved this place, creating its notable geological features and exposing the rock for scientific study, helping define and provide some of the world’s best illustrations of plate tectonic theory. As you hike around this park, you’ll be spanning over 500 million years of Earth history. At the Tablelands, for example, you’ll witness one of the few places where Earth’s mantle is revealed. Take note of the orange weathered rock, as it is from the middle layer of our planet, and is, in many scientists’ opinion, the best and most accessible example of exposed mantle material in the world. In the words of a Canada Parks’ interpreter, “Here’s where you can see the Earth naked.”

Tranquil villages with colorful homes dot the province


Cruise around a glacier-carved fjord lake on a Western Brook Fjord Boat Tour


ros Morne is a place of raw beauty that impresses with its array of mountains, forests, lush meadows, barrens and seascapes. There’s much to explore and a good place to start is at the Discovery Center, where staff, exhibits and daily activities will help you get your bearings. The park offers twenty trails leading to panoramic overlooks, sea stacks, waterfalls, coastal bogs and other natural wonders. Within its boundaries are several fishing communities, a marine research center and even an historic lighthouse. Built in 1897, Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse features interpretive exhibits about the communities of the National Park and how people

made their living from the sea for more than 4,000 years. Original artifacts, documents and photos help to make the story come alive. A special wall pays tribute to the lighthouse keepers, while one of the rooms portrays the light keeper’s den as it might have looked in the early part of this century. Short paths through elfin forest take you to several viewpoints over the Gulf of St. Lawrence and a set of stairs winds down to the shore. For an opportunity to observe marine flora and fauna in this part of Newfoundland, make sure to stop in at Bonne Bay Marine Station. Operated by Memorial University, this world class teaching and research facility is located on scenic Norris Point. A guided tour of the aquarium allows you to discover the unique sea life living in Gros Morne National Park. The touch tank is a highlight, but the blue lobster takes top billing in my opinion.

Another highly recommended activity at Gros Morne is the Western Brook Fjord Boat Tour. You’ll spend two hours cruising this iconic, glacier-carved, freshwater fjord lake with its stunning billion year-old cliffs and cascading waterfalls. It’s a jawdropping setting and a favorite of photographers. If you’re still chomping at the bit for more boat tours, rest assured as Newfoundland has them in spades. South of Gros Morne in Humber Valley, at Cox’s Cove, check out True North, which plies the waters within the Bay of Islands. Captain Tony is a font of knowledge when it comes to all things Newfoundland. He will regale you with tales and even sing you some songs, while accompanying himself on the guitar…and steering the boat with his feet at the same time! His wife Joan joins in on the act, too, with stories of her youth and the resettlement era.


Gros Morne National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Lobster Head Cove Lighthouse



y favorite boat excursion, however, took place in the coastal waters off St. Anthony, near the northern point of the island. Northland Discovery Tours offers memorable trips through a section of Iceberg Alley, an area known for its bounty of icebergs, whales and seabirds. These frozen giants, each weighing between one and two hundred thousand tons, drift past the shores, making their way entirely at their leisure. They come in all shapes and sizes and as they never stay in one place too long, their presence creates an everchanging landscape. Northland’s tours, which are fully narrated by an onboard naturalist, bring you within spitting distance of a number of these behemoths. We were told some of them were up to 15,000 years old and that they came from the west coast of Greenland, taking close to two years to make the journey. You’ll discover that the bergs have names such as tabular or bergy bit, based on their size, or in the case of a growler, for the sound they make as they plunge into the sea. We passed a ginormous tabular with dimensions over fifty feet high and 500 feet long. The sheer size of it was impressive, especially when you learn that only ten percent of an iceberg is actually visible. The other ninety percent is below the surface of the water. These cathedrals of ice often serve as means of transportation for polar bears and seals and if you’re very lucky, you might spy one of these creatures hitching a ride.

Iceberg Alley abounds with bergs in many sizes and shapes

You’ll also have the chance to see whales, as the coastal waters off St. Anthony are noted for its annual gathering of humpbacks. Sightings of minke, fin and killer whales are common, too. Additionally, this area has the greatest concentration of white-beaked dolphins in the North Atlantic, along with a display of bird life that includes puffins, kittiwakes and eider ducks. A host of other wildlife makes its home in this province, and locals will be the first to tell you to mind the moose. These creatures, which are prolific in Newfoundland, can be found roaming all over the place. You’ll probably see them along the roads munching away at the vegetation. At night, however, they’re less visible until they’re right in front of you and by then, it could be too late. Use caution when driving in the evening, as that is when the majority of accidents occur.

Though many visitors are eager to spot large animals like moose and caribou, the littlest of species warrants equal consideration. I was ready to promptly dismiss the Newfoundland Insectarium & Butterfly Pavilion outside of Deer Lake, one of the province’s regional airports, but as soon as I walked in the doors, I did a 180. This awardwinning destination is a showcase for some of the most fascinating creatures. Housed in a restored historical barn, the Insectarium features live and mounted exhibits of butterflies, beetles and insects from around the world, with special emphasis on those from Newfoundland and Labrador. I was particularly impressed with the observation bee hive, the amazing leaf cutter ants, stick insects and hissing cockroach. And the butterfly area is a tropical paradise where you can sit by the waterfall and watch hundreds of butterflies glide over the pond or feed from the flowers. If you’re very still, they will come and land on you. The iridescent Blue Morpho is the undisputed star.



hen it comes to history, Newfoundland is in a class of its own, as it is the oldest of Canada’s provinces. At L’Anse aux Meadows, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll come face to face with the only authenticated Viking site in North America. Half a millennium before Columbus, the Vikings established a base in Western Newfoundland, a wilderness they called Vinland. The remains of their camp, which was only discovered in 1960, is the oldest known European settlement of the New World During your visit to L’Anse aux Meadows, you’ll be able to trace the Norse journey that Leif Eriksson and his crew made, immerse yourself in Old Norse literature as you listen to the translated Vinland sagas, picture what the site looked like 1000 years ago by viewing a scale model, see authentic artifacts that proved Vinland’s origin and stand on the actual site. The remains of three halls and five smaller buildings where the Vikings lived and worked have been carefully preserved as they were when they were later discovered by Norwegian explorer and writer Helge Ingstad. At the reconstructed sod huts, you’ll be greeted by Viking re-enactors like merchantadventurer Bjorn, his wife Thora, the blacksmith Ragnar or other members of the crew. They’ll tell tales of trade and Norse society, and bend your ear on the best way to turn bog iron into nail. You can even get into character yourself by dressing up as a Viking and taking a picture to show the folks back home.


Mind the moose!

Towering waterfalls are just some of the sights you’ll see as you cruise the waterways


o gain further understanding of Norse life, drive over to nearby Norstead Viking Village, a replicated Viking port of trade, circa 7901066 A.D. There, you can step aboard the full-scale replica of the Viking ship, “Snorri,” which sailed from Greenland to L’Anse aux Meadows in 1998 with a crew of only nine men. In the Chieftain’s Hall, hear some eerie Viking tales, sample homemade fry bread and take a turn at shaping clay into pottery the way the Vikings did. Or try your hand at spinning sheep fleece into yarn using ancient drop spindle technology. With the assistance of costumed interpreters, the site conveys the look and feel of the Viking era. While you’re in St. Anthony’s, you’ll hear of an Englishman named Sir Wilfred Grenfell. He’s famous in these parts for the work he did to improve the life of the people in Newfoundland and Labrador. Grenfell practiced medicine, built hospitals, established schools and orphanages and traveled around drumming up financial support, while encouraging others to help him in his mission. For his many years of selfish devotion and service, he was knighted by King George V. Visit the Grenfell Interpretation Center for a fascinating look at Grenfell’s life and times. The medical equipment used in those days will make you shudder and appreciate the modern advances made in this field. Nearby is the Grenfell House Museum, the home of Dr. Grenfell, his wife

Hand knit socks for sale

Anne and their three children. Overlooking the harbor, the building was regarded as the “castle.” Newfoundland is dotted with charming towns and equally charming inhabitants. The people are open and warm, as well as famous for their sense of humor. They enjoy talking to visitors and will often pepper you with questions as to where you’re from and what you think of their home. Conversations with the locals can be quite amusing, as “Newfoundland English” is peculiar and sometimes downright incomprehensible. Initially, you may think it’s a foreign language and will want to rush into the first bookstore you see to get a dictionary to help you make sense of what’s being said. There are actually over 360 dialects that carry the thick

remnants of Irish and English accents and expressions. A favorite that tourists will often hear is “come from aways,” as that indicates you’re not from Newfoundland. Another oddity is the use of the plural form of the verb when speaking in the first personal singular, such as “I wants a drink.” I particularly like the expressions “I’m just swarving around,” meaning one is wandering aimlessly and “I dies at you,” which is short for “I’m dying of laughter at you.” And then there’s “tuckamore,” the name Newfoundlanders have given to the stunted trees you’ll see near the coast. Due to the harsh growing conditions, these shrubs start bending and contorting themselves into bizarre sculptural shapes as a way to adapt to their environment.


Music plays an important role in Newfoundland’s culture


f you think the language is unusual, try keeping track of time here. Newfoundland has its own time zone due to its unique geographic location. Newfoundland Standard Time is a half hour ahead of Atlantic Standard Time. However, if you visit Labrador, you’ll be back on Atlantic Standard Time. Confusing, to say the least! The province has a colorful and romantic cultural heritage, which is especially evident in its arts scene. Music is part of both the natural and cultural landscape and you can find it practically everywhere you visit. Drop into a pub or go to a festival or event to sample live traditional music that speaks of the pride and deep attachment Newfoundlanders have for their home. Celebrations abound heralding everything from the icebergs and whales to lobsters and the arrival of spring in a region where winter can be long and cold. But these hearty salts of the earth are rarely bothered by their weather. They accept and embrace it, as it has been a continuous part of the fabric of their lives.

One of the area’s signature musical experiences is the Anchor’s Aweigh Show at Anchor Pub in the Ocean View Hotel, which is located in Rocky Harbor. This musical group has been entertaining tourists for twenty years and its blend of humor and nostalgia gives audiences the ultimate taste of Newfoundland culture. You’ll be clapping your hands, tapping your feet and maybe even doing an Irish jig to the band’s tunes before the night is over. Newfoundlanders are also known for their stories and creative talent. A variety of popular amateur and professional theatrical companies offer visitors a glimpse of authentic Newfoundland history. And artists abound displaying their crafts from rug hooking and ceramics to glass and iron work. There’s plenty of places to shop for folk art and traditional products, and often the proprietors are working artists themselves who are happy to demonstrate their craft. With all this activity, you’ll need sustenance. No worries there! Newfoundlanders love to eat and with the rich waters off their coast, it’s no surprise that much of their traditional cuisine includes fish. Seafood reigns supreme, with cod the belle of the ball. You’ll find it on every menu, prepared in dozens of ways – salted, au gratin, pan fried, deep fried in the proverbial fish and chips style, hazelnut

For more information about visiting Western Newfoundland: 38

crusted, in cake-like form and more. And if you’re a shellfish aficionado, you’ve definitely come to the right place, as you can feast on the likes of fresh lobster, crab, scallops and shrimp. For the carnivores, moose is a must. Accompany your meal with a glass of Iceberg Beer, made with – you guessed it - water from icebergs. There’s no minerals in the water, just a lot of tiny bubbles, which gives this golden brew a very light taste. Finally, top off your meal with a dessert made from local partridge berries or cloudberries, more commonly known as bakeapples in Newfoundland. You won’t be disappointed! Then again, disappointment is not a sentiment you’ll ever experience while visiting this captivating and enchanting place.

Iceberg Beer is made with water from Newfoundland’s icebergs


We’re not sure exactly what it is around here, but something magical happens when you just add water to your vacation. From the natural healing powers of our mineral hot springs to the beauty of Hanging Lake. From the fun of the world’s largest hot springs pool, to the recreational paradise supplied by our two rivers. Dads act younger. Moms laugh more. Brothers actually don’t mind sisters as much. Couples rediscover each other. And somewhere along the way, everyone remembers the feeling of unabashed joy. That’s the power of our water. Plan your Glenwood Springs getaway at


Niigata City History Museum

Photo Courtesy of Japan Photo Library

Niigata • japan Story & Photos by Rob Goss Niigata Mountain skiing


Photo Courtesy of Japan Photo Library

Rice • Sake • Snow As the bullet train works its way north from Tokyo, the capital’s high rise gradually gives way to a suburban sprawl increasingly punctuated by rural pockets of green. Then mountain ranges emerge on the horizon, and, but for the occasional blurred towns, civilization begins to give way to vast swathes of farmland. We are only a couple of hours from one of the world’s largest cities, but the transformation when we reach Niigata prefecture is pronounced.

Ask a Japanese resident what comes to mind when they think of Niigata and the answers will almost always be the same, the Niigata trinity: rice, sake, and snow.

The farmland you see from the train window produces some of Japan’s best rice, highgrade varieties for eating like Koshihikari, plus others designed for making sake (or nihonshu, to use the more common Japanese term for it), while the region’s snow and snowmelt is said to account for Niigata’s fine water quality, which in turn helps the prefecture’s nearly 100 sake breweries produce a tipple that’s considered crisper and dryer than other parts of Japan, and with subtler aromas and flavors.

STORY & PHOTOS BY ROB GOSS Saito Family Villa garden from tea room

Niigata scenery


The Imayo-Tsukasa sake brewery, a 10-minute walk from Niigata Station, puts on several free tours daily.


isit the Imayo-Tsukasa sake brewery (www.imayotsukasa. com), about a 15-minute walk south of Niigata Station, and you learn that there’s more to it than just the rice and water. On one of the several free daily tours of the brewery and its sweetly scented 80-year-old main brew house one of the brewers explains that the three key elements to making the finest sake are the koji (malted rice), moto (yeast starter), and tsukuri (mash). “What we do with the rice before brewing is important, too,” he adds, “the more the rice grains are polished down, the purer the rice we get to use and the higher the grade of sake we get as a result.”


During the sampling session that follows the tour, staff are on hand to go into even more detail. A large portion of sake is made with rice that’s polished down to 60 or 65 percent of its original size, while premium sake could use a 35 percent polish – the latter costs more partly because it takes more rice to make, but there’s a stark taste difference, too. In fact, comparing a 60 next to a 35 is almost a revelation; both on the sampling bench at Imayo-Tsukasa are fresh and aromatic, but where the sake using 60 percent polished rice has a pleasant warming alcohol bite to it, the 35 percenter is dangerously silky smooth.

A selection of local sake with detailed tasting notes. There are roughly 100 sake brewers in Niigata Prefecture.

By day, brewery tours aren’t the only thing to do in Niigata City. On the northern side of the station, close enough to the Sea of Japan to occasionally smell the ocean and be whipped by cutting winds, you can experience another traditional element by visiting the old summer villa of the Saito family (, one of the three main Niigata business families that flourished on the back of trading, shipping and other activities from the Meiji era (1869-1912) onward.

180ml “one-cups” are a cheap version of sake, but in Niigata the quality is still pretty good.


he two-story wooden building was built in a fully traditional style in 1918, replete with tatamimat rooms where visitors can now take green tea and wagashi (Japanese sweets) while looking out to an acre of landscaped garden, which has walkways that lead around and above a central pond, in the process passing a small waterfall and several spots for sitting down to take in the seasonal foliage. Or you can get a modern view of Niigata from on high from the free 33rd-floor observation deck at Toki Messe (, a rare tower on the Niigata skyline, to understand why the city is sometimes called the “city of water”, looking down on ferries as they leave slow-motion ripples in the bay, some carrying tourists to nearby Sado Island, others headed to ports further afield. You can see parts of the fishing fleet at rest in the port, and to the south rivers leading inland, crisscrossed by long, low bridges. More than anything, though, Niigata is a city for indulging in food and drink, for exploring at night. And a good night out could start right at the station, at the Ponshukan ( and its wall of 100 or so small sake vending machines, each of which delivers a shot of a different Niigata sake for ¥100 (about 90 cents) – ideal for getting a glow on before heading out into the biting winds that often whip through the city. Just outside the station’s south side, the mostly standing-only Craft Beer Kan offers the chance to try a more recent Niigata specialty—beer—with 40 everchanging, but mostly Japanese brews on tap that usually includes something from highly regarded craft brewers such as Baird from Shizuoka, Shiga Kogen from Nagano, and Minoh form Osaka, plus a dozen or so from Niigata-based craft breweries like Echigo, the brewery that kick started Japan on its now hopheavy craft beer flight of fancy.

At the end of the free tour of the Imayo-Tsukasa sake brewery, you can try a tasting session for ¥500, comparing different grades of sake side by side and getting insights into the brews from English-speaking staff.

As well as being a nihonshu (the more common Japanese term for sake) heartland, Japanese craft brewing started in Niigata when tax laws were eased to allow small-scale brewing in the 1990s. The Craft Beer Kan by Niigata Station serves 35 local brews on tap.

A couple of the old branding irons the ImayoTsukasa sake brewery once would have used to label their produce.

For sampling different styles of sake, the Ponshukan at Niigata Station is easily worth 30 minutes. There are more than 100 types, all from Niigata, available for pocket change from its vending machines.

The bank of sake vending machines at the Ponshukan. Pop you cup under the tap, put in your token, then watch as it pours you a sample. Unusually for Japan, in Niigata it’s not uncommon to take a little salt as a side to one’s sake. The Ponshukan has several dozen varieties from around Japan and as far afield as Bolivia to try with your tipple.


The former summer villa of the Saito family, one of the three main Niigata business families of the Meiji era (1869-1912), is a lovely old building with landscaped stroll garden – a chance to soak up a bit of old Japan.

Night Scene from Toki Messe, Shinanogawa River

Photo Courtesy of Japan Photo Library

Guidebooks often talk about the best sushi being in Tokyo’s plushest restaurants, but in regional ports like Niigata you get excellent sushi (and other seafood) super fresh at a fraction of the price. Niigata Souph

Nodoguro-black throat fish


Monkfish liver - called ankimo, is cheap (unlike the rest of the monkfish) but akin to foie gras in texture and flavor. Paired with local sake, it’s especially good.


hen comes the food. There are little alleyways dotted around the city that are home to enclaves of restaurants, lanterns hanging out front giving the streets a gentle orange glow. North of the station, however, you get something livelier in the Bentencho area, which aptly for part of a port city takes its name from Benten, who as well as being the patron goddess of such things as literature and femininity has a long and close association to the sea. Restaurants dominate for several small blocks here, and between them they have all of Niigata’s signature dishes covered, many with signs in hiragana advertising the local noppe—a simple seafood and vegetable hotpot—others with posters showing kiwami sushi, a local branding initiative that sees many restaurants offering a 10-piece set of seasonal sushi for a fixed ¥3,000 (about $27); something that competes with the Echigo sushi bowl (a bowl of rice topped with fresh salmon roe, raw tuna and other seafood) as the perfect combination of Niigata’s rice and seafood. All, of course, are a perfect combination with sake, too.


n hour by jetfoil from Niigata city (almost three hours if you opt for the regular ferry), is rugged, windswept Sado Island ( en) with its colorful past, for centuries serving as a place of exile and then briefly flourishing on the back of a gold rush. Among the most notable figures to have involuntarily found their way to Sado, the monk Nichiren, who founded the sect of Buddhism that takes his name, was exiled here for several years in the 1270s as a result of his then controversial writings on established sects of the day. But, he was hardly repentant; instead, he converted the island and completed what is now Sado’s standout historic sight, Kompon-ji, a tranquil temple compound featuring thatched roofs and large wooden gateways (www.sado-konponji. com). He wasn’t the only exile to leave a mark, either. Two centuries later, Zeami, the man who formalized noh theater in the 15th century, cemented the island’s long association with the slow, theatrical dance form. Growing out of those theatrical roots, the island has in more recent years become home to the world-renowned Kodo Drummers (, a troupe of taiko drummers who besides performing internationally, host the three-day Earth Celebration on Sado every August, a festival that brings percussionists from around the globe to the otherwise sleepy Ogi village on the southern end of the island. It’s all very different to the rest of the year, when Ogi is mainly known for its tarai-bune fishing boats, odd little vessels that look like sawn-in-half wine barrels and that were traditionally used by fisherwomen for collecting seaweed and shellfish from Sado’s rocky shores – nowadays, they function as a tourist attraction; a fun one if you don’t mind getting a little wet during the 10-minute rides they do for visitors.

Geiko in Furumachi, Niigata

Photo Courtesy of Japan Photo Library

Sado City-Tarai-bune (tub boats)

Photo Courtesy of Japan Photo Library

Then there are the remnants of the gold rush, which saw the population of the northern village of Aikawa surge to almost 100,000 after gold was discovered in the 1600s. Although it’s quiet again now that the gold has long run out, it is worth a visit as part of a day trip to Sado just to see the old Sado Kinzan gold mines ( and get a vivid sense of the brutal conditions the miners worked in. The third in the Niigata trinity— snow—reminds about skiing and this is where it all started, all the way back in 1911 when an Austrian major called Theodore Edler von Lerch first introduced the sport to his Japanese counterparts in the Joetsu area of Niigata. Fast forward to the present day and there are now more than 500 ski resorts across Japan, 16 of those within a short drive of just one town in Niigata – Echigo-Yuzawa. In terms of both location and language, the town’s resorts are arguably the most accessible in eastern Japan; just 75 minutes by bullet train from Tokyo Station (50 minutes from Niigata city) and with ski areas perfectly geared so non-Japanese speakers can easily rent equipment,

buy lift passes, get lessons, and do everything else with getting lost in translation. More importantly, the skiing and snowboarding here is also extremely good. And when the skiing is done, many of Echigo-Yuzawa’s hotels and ryokan (traditional inns) have their own hot-spring baths to unwind in; if not, there are several free public footbaths around the town that work wonders on tired ankles and calves. Just as good, the station also has a duplicate of the Ponshukan (www.ponshukan. com) sake tasting area found at Niigata Station. Photo Courtesy of Japan Photo Library

Uzawa Town, hot springs foot spa





City Of Lights • City Of Angels

Story & Photos by Barbara Singer

How chic is this……..a French film festival right in the heart of Hollywood ! It’s COLCOA, an acronym for City of Lights (Paris), City of Angels (Los Angeles), where “French films and TV series shine”. It’s the largest French Film Festival in the world and its host is the Directors Guild of America (DGA). This is a festival of love--the love of French cinema, where the directors and actors premiere the newest films and TV series from France.


community, French film lovers and thousands of students. This year’s festival attracted a record-breaking attendance of 25,000 visitors to see the 70 films plus television and Web films that were premiered from early morning to late at night.

Fans fill the DGA theatres daily, joined by distributors and press for nine days. I have attended the Cannes Film Festival for twelve years, so it was a delight to discover this all-French cinema festival in Hollywood that has continued to capture my interest now for the last six years.

Hollywood, with its past glamour and decadence is worth a visit, so when in Paris visit the Champs Elyse and when in Hollywood stop by the Hollywood Walk of Fame with its star-studded memories down Hollywood Blvd. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, once owned by impresario Sid Grauman, has always been a beloved movie palace for movie premieres and today it continues the legacy as Mann’s Chinese Theatre.

Year after year for 21 years COLCOA has made an impact on Hollywood attracting the French

COLCOA answers the question: What has French cinema been up to this year? One thing is certain,

Los Angeles has an interest in French cinema and COLCOA is the best place to view the latest entertaining films and classics, documentaries, shorts and television programs. I am completely absorbed by French films and this is definitely the place to see the best in April of every year. COLCOA 2017 got under way with a kick-off reception at the Beverly Hills home of Christophe Lemoine, Consul General of France in Los Angeles, an avid supporter of the French Film Fest and who confirmed it was the largest French Film Festival in the world. The visionary of COLCOA is its Executive Producer and Artistic Director, Francois Truffart, under the auspices of the Franco-American Cultural Fund.

Famed Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Boulevard

COLCOA banner at Director's Guild of America


French Consul General Christophe Lemoine and COLCOA Executive Director Francois Truffart

t the Renoir Theater, DGA President Taylor Hackford welcomed Academy Award winner Claude Lelouch to premiere his latest film “Everyone’s Life,” a tribute to his 50 years of filmmaking. He said people continually remind him of his famed film “A Man and a Woman” winning two Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film and Best Screenplay. This 79-year old French director has a passion for films and is always seeking ideas for new films.

Director Claude Lelouche

Poster opening film Lelouche's "Everyone's Life"



is new film story is a diversion from Lelouch’s usual style and offers a fresh look at many unexpected aspects of people’s everyday lives in France, especially in Burgundy region, with highlights reflecting Johnny Hallyday, a French actor and pop singer, Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin and other French stars. The well-received film was followed by a Q & A with Lelouch and his writing collaborator Valerie Perrin.“There is not another French film festival better than COLCOA in the U.S. and the American public is very important for us. Every filmmaker in the world loves Los Angeles where films are produced that are most seen around the world,” said Lelouch. At last year’s festival, Omar Sy was in the spotlight for “Monsieur Chocolat,” a spectacular opening film by writer and director Roschdy Zem following the life of France’s first Black clown, who faced a lifetime of prejudice as he sought fame, fortune and freedom. This year, Sy’s new film “Two is Family,” a heartwarming comedy, was another favorite. Other French actors devoted to COLCOA included Lambert Wilson, who starred in two noteworthy films in competition: “Corporate, a realistic study of what happens in a business at onset of crisis and cover up and “The Odyssey” a biopic look at oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, the man, his family, his vessel Calypso and the sea. Lambert Wilson could well be the Brad Pitt of France, with boyish good looks and strong English accent, acquired from his studies in England; he is continually in demand for making new films.


Another engaging film, a biopic written and directed by Lisa Azuelos was “Dalida starring Italian actress and model Sveva Alviti, in the true story of a young singing sensation in the 50’s, who broke many hearts and later committed suicide in Paris.

Pop singer & actor Johnny Hallyday

Sveva Alviti, model & actress

Omar Sy

During the nine-day festival more than 3,000 high school students and teachers from around Southern California came to the DGA to see the film “A Bag of Marbles” by Director Christian Duguay, with actor Patrick Bruel present to discuss the film about of two young brothers during World War II and their journey for survival, as well as discussions about French filmmaking. At one of the Happy Hour Talks, writer/director Stephane Brize was featured for his new film “A Woman’s Life,” which opens in the U.S. this month. It is a tragic story of woman’s arranged marriage, doomed by an unfaithful husband. Its star, Judith Chemla, won the 2017 French Cesar for Best Actress.

Lambert Wilson



Dany Boon, director & actor

veryone’s favorite actor, director, comedian Dany Boon premiered his newest comedy “R.A.I.D. Special Unit.” He stars opposite funny lady Alice Pol, whose character is yearning to be a member of a French SWAT Team. Failing all the tests, she still gets in. Well, why not, her father is a government official. Boon wrote the part for Pol, who resembles Sandra Bullock in looks and antics. At the Q&A, Boon said he trained rigorously for his part and even researched how the SWAT team operated. A hilarious comedy ended the COLCOA French film journey with the North American premiere of “Choose Me” by Director Eric Lavaine, starring Alexandra Lamy. The film deals with one woman’s inability to make choices in love and life to the point that she has two fiancés and can’t make a choice.



AUDIENCE: COLCOA AWARD: Thank You Mister Imada JURY: COLCOA AWARD: Chasse Royale


COLCOA WEB SERIES AWARD (New in 2017): Amnesia


Everyone’s Life: director Claude Lelouch A Bag of Marbles: director Christian Duguay Mr. and Mrs. Adelman: director Nicolas Bedos You Choose: director Eric Lavaine Dalida: director Lisa Azuelos TV SERIES: Call My Agent: director Laurent Tirard SHORTS: Thank you Mister Imada: director Sylvain Chomet

Find out more information at: Official Site Alexandra Lamy and director Eric Lavaine


B r e a t h e 4S a v o r 4R e p e a t

the outer banks

To find out more about the Outer Banks and media partnerships, please contact Aaron Tuell at or 877.629.4386. 50 4 @theouterbanksnc


A meri ca ’s F i rst Beach


Boston has an Underbelly . . .

Copp's Hill Burial Ground - it was legal for medical students to use cadavers, Massachusetts General Hospital suggested that they send their students out to Copp’s Hill at midnight or later, to dig up bodies for that use!

The Darker Side of Boston Story & Photos by Julie Hatfield



verybody knows about the patriots and Paul Revere and the great universities and hospitals and Brahmin lifestyles and winning sports teams, but one of the more quirky and surprising tours that visitors (and residents too) can take from the 40-year-old Bostonå By Foot organization reveals a completely different view of this fair city. Called “The Dark Side of Boston,” the tour shows that the old town wasn’t always the shining example of its Puritan roots.

Gov. Thomas Hutchinson's former Boston home. When patriots in the late 1700's became furious over being taxed by England, they stormed the royal governor's house and ruined everything inside it

Bad things have happened in Boston, from the very earliest times, beginning in the 1630’s when Boston Harbor brought ships into town and was called a “sailor’s playground.” According to the guide on this walking tour which takes place in the North End, the Richmond Street area, today a lovely neighborhood of upscale residences and restaurants, was also called “The Black Sea,” a very dangerous place, filled with gambling halls and “dram” shops, or bars, and houses of ill repute. “Harvard boys,” the guide explains, “liked to go slumming in the dance halls here.” Boys under the age of 13, who were not allowed in the bars and dance halls, created their own brand of fun, called “ratting.” Each boy would find 20 live rats and throw them into a corral along with a mean and hungry street dog. They would take bets on how long it would take for the dog to kill the rats – 15 seconds was considered a good time – and whoever’s rats were killed the fastest won the money from the bets they all had made earlier. The Old North Church, made famous by Paul Revere’s midnight ride, once was located in North Square, the center of life here in the 1700’s. The church has moved a few blocks north and now, in its place, sits Mama Maria’s, the most elegant Italian restaurant in the North End. During these same years, the pews of the Old South Meeting House, a few blocks to the west, were torn out by British soldiers to make it into a stable.

Where once smallpox killed Bostonians. Sailors brought smallpox here to Boston but Cotton Mather figured out how to inoculate for it and stopped the plague.


Cotton Mather, the famous minister and judge of many of the Salem girls and women deemed witches in that town north of Boston, had also studied medicine, so he had his good side and his bad side. When he deemed Goody Glover, a laundress for the Goodwin family accused of stealing their linens in addition to washing them, a witch, she was one of four women hung on nearby Boston Common. Glover had come from Ireland, and when she said the Lord’s Prayer upon hearing her fate, she said it in her native Gaelic, and the locals thought she was talking gibberish, all the more reason to believe her a witch.


hen 60 sailors arrived in Boston in 1721 they brought with them the smallpox epidemic. Mather, who had heard from a black servant that people in his country of Africa had figured out a way to avoid the illness by transferring the pus of an infected person into a scratch on a healthy person, encouraged Dr. Zabdiel Boylston to try this as an inoculation. Strange as it seemed at the time, Dr. Boylston tried this on his own son and two slaves, with the happy result that smallpox was eventually eliminated. What’s left of the beautiful home of Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson still sits on Garden Court Street, across from the childhood home of Rose Fitzgerald, who later became the matriarch of the John F. Kennedy clan. Angered by the Stamp Act and other taxes put on them by the British, Boston mobs rioted 28 times between 1765 and 1775. The worst mob tore into Hutchinson’s house – he and his children had escaped earlier– and left it in ruins. He returned to England where he later died. Famous crimes continued to darken this neighborhood in the early 1900’s, when notorious forger Charles Ponzi created a scheme of theft using postal reply coupons. When Ponzi was finally declared guilty, he served his time and afterward left for Florida, where he sold swampland to unsuspecting buyers. This is also the neighborhood where explosion anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti lived and were put to death at the Charlestown jail in 1927.

Here, where now the statue of Paul Revere on his horse stands, was where Ponzi, of famed Ponzi scheme, as well as Sacco and Vanzetti, who were killed for their supposed bank robbery, lived.

The pretty little Charter Street Park is the scene of Boston’s “Crime of the Century. In 1849, Dr. George Parkman, a respected Beacon Hill surgeon and real estate tycoon, went to the home here of John White Webster to collect rent money. He disappeared and was never seen again, until a janitor crawled through the pipes from the Charles River to Webster’s house and found teeth and bone fragments in the furnace. Among character witnesses for Webster was writer Oliver Wendell Holmes, and not until Dr. Parkman’s dentist came to the courthouse with a mold of Dr. Parkman’s teeth was Webster found guilty of the murder. Copp’s Hill Burying Ground just up the street from the current Old North Church is one of the oldest cemeteries in Boston. At the beginning of the 18th Century, it was an active scene for grave robbers, especially Harvard Medical School students who were told to dig up cadavers for medical study, an illegal activity until the Massachusetts Anatomy Act of 1831. The grave robbers of the time were called “resurrectionists.” During the Revolutionary War, doctors also found and used the bodies of dead soldiers who had no known relatives and were not claimed.

This is North Square, in Boston’s North End, an area that in the 1600’s was a rough area where saloons and houses of ill repute entertained the many sailors who arrived in town, and where boys under the age of 13 went “rattling,” a contest with mangy hungry dogs to see how many rats they could kill.



lso in the 1800’s in this same neighborhood, “Jolly Jane” Kelly, whose mother had died and whose father had given her to a family as an indentured servant, went to nursing school and began mixing morphine and atrophine while at Cambridge Hospital and later Massachusetts General Hospital, poisoning a number of patients before her crimes were discovered. “She liked to climb into bed with the patients in order to listen to their last breath,” noted the guide.

This is the area in the North End where the infamous Brink’s Robbery took place, one of the biggest heists in history. Now a lovely upscale residential area.

Older Italian men love to play bocce ball in the bocce court down by the waterfront in the North End. It was not so peaceful here on January 15, 1919, when the enormous tank of 2.3 million gallons of hot molasses exploded, pouring into the street at 35 miles per hour, crushing buildings in its wake, injuring 150 and killing 21 people. The molasses had been used in triangular international trade, with Boston importing molasses from the Caribbean, which in turn received lumber, cheese and flour from Boston. The city made the molasses into rum, which they traded with Africa, for slaves. But the molasses tank was in bad shape even before the explosion. Some residents of this area claim that on certain days they can still smell the molasses. One of the last big crimes in this neighborhood – and it was a whopper – was the January 19, 1950 Brink’s Robbery in which $2.3 million was stolen in 20 minutes by a gang that had a locksmith among them who made keys from the locks of the doors of the garages housing the armored vehicles. One of the robbers, James “Specs” O’Keefe, ratted out his buddies and the crime was solved, after which $28 million was spent recovering the original $2.3 million. Today, where the Brink’s Robbery took place, there is a pretty public park. The crimes are not so spectacular now. The neighborhood is calm, peaceful and gentrified. But this tour, at $15 per person, brings chaos, illness, mayhem and dark history strikingly to life for a fascinating hour and a half. The tours run through October.

Now a bocce ball court for Italian men who live nearby, this was the site of the Great Molasses Flood, when thousands of hot molasses broke through a rickety barrel holding it and rushed at 30 mph into the street, killing 21 people, knocking down building in the way, and causing a horrific mess.


Check out


Miss Sunshine makes use of the original fainting couch in Miss Hattie's office.

Miss Sunshine tells a story about the room's original inhabitant.

San Angelo

From Cowtown to Culture Story & Photos by Kathleen Walls Brenda Gunter, owner of Miss Hattie's Restaurant, shows where the tunnel is located beneath the floor.


Miss Hattie's Restaurant has its own sheep.

The door to Miss Hattie's Bordello probably wasn't worded like this back in the day


he name San Angelo conjures up visions of a place filled with lore and legend. Let’s take a trip into the past to see San Angelo’s early days and the things that created those legends. As everyone knows if you plan to do any time travel, you need to stoke up on the calories and carbohydrates. Some protein and wine never hurts either so let’s start off at Miss Hattie’s Restaurant and Cathouse Lounge.

Much of Miss Hattie's Restaurant contains original building's material.

would enter the bank and step down into the tunnel leading to the basement of Miss Hattie’s Bordello. The only connection to banking was money did change hands. After the gentlemen finished their deposits and withdrawals, they returned through the tunnel to the bank and rejoined the wives with reputations intact.

You can tour the bordello but not through the tunnel. You’ll have to return to the 21st century and walk down the street to Legends Jewelers where the tours begin. Legends jewelers can you the story of the rare Concho pearl found only in the lakes and rivers There’s a reason you’re starting here besides nearby. Don’t go wading around searching for the mussels that create the pearls as there are the terrific food, interesting décor, and said to be snakes in those waters. entertainment. This building was once San Angelo National Bank. You’ll notice Next to the Jewelry store there is a fittingly the tin ceilings and brick wall in the main dining room and the rock walls in the bar discrete doorway leading upstairs to the bordello. One of the “ladies” will lead you and adjourning rooms. They date back to the late 1800s when the bank was built. If around and dish the dirt on everyone from you go into the main dining room and tap Miss Hattie to each of the ladies whose rooms you visit. on the floor, there’s a hollow sound near the center of the room. This is where one Our guide was Miss Sunshine. She offered us of San Angelo’s most interesting legends females an application just in case we tired begins. of travel writing. This is a very authentic The story goes that back in the day, farmers museum but it’s not a stuffy “Don’t Touch” one. We sat in the parlor on authentic sofas and ranchers would come into town with and chairs. their wives and children in horse-drawn buggies. The gentlemen would part with Back in the day, this block contained many the wives sending them to go do their saloons and bordellos. The Hattons owned shopping while the men were busy with their banking business. The gentlemen

a saloon where the jewelry store is today. Miss Sunshine explained, “The Hattons divorced in 1852 and, of course, Miss Hattie’s reputation was ruined. She moved upstairs and opened the bordello. Being a shrewd businesswoman, she did well and had the first automotive in San Angelo.” Miss Sunshine continued, “Miss Hattie was a good Christian. Every Sunday she would load some of her ladies in her automobile and go to church. She caused quite a stir. Now those ‘good Christian’ ladies were appalled. They didn’t want sinners in their church and they would hold up signs protesting. Miss Hattie started going to a different church every Sunday so the ladies didn’t know where to prepare for her.” Miss Sunshine showed us the tiny kitchen and explained that all meals were catered as Miss Hattie didn’t want her ladies hot and sweaty. She reminded us there was full maid service, too, in case we were undecided about those applications. She led us through each room and told the stories of the lady who occupied it. Most of the furnishings are original so there is a real feeling of authenticity.


The Blacksmith Mural


he entire section of E. Concho Street feels like a step back to the turn-of-the-century era. The sidewalks are wood planks and buildings have historic plaques telling their history. There are antique shops, boutique shops and on the corner, Eggemeyers General Store. It sells gifts and food now but was built in the late 1800s as a buggy factory. The ceilings still have original tin and walls are the same block used to build the fort. Down the block is M. L. Leddys Boot Makers. You can watch Texas footwear of choice being custom made. Murals on many buildings depicting San Angelo’s history. Another unique idea related to the town’s history as “The Wool Capital of the World” is San Angelo’s Sheep Spectacular program. Life-sized fiberglass sheep are painted by local artists and placed around town at sponsors’ businesses. You may have noticed one in front of Miss Hattie’s Restaurant. That one is “Marino Antoinette.” The one at the Convention and Visitors Bureau is “Welcoming Ewe.”

Mural of Sheep - The mural next door to the bootmaker portrays the air force base. One of the sheep stands guard in front of the parking lot

Steamboat - The Tule Princess sits at anchor


One of the reasons this area developed was Fort Concho. The fort came first and anywhere you have a large population of young soldiers, drifting buffalo hunters and other unattached males, an “adult entertainment” section prospers. The area around Concho Street was first called “Across the River” for the good reason that the fort and more respectable “Old Town” was on the opposite bank.

When you travel across the Concho River, you need to step back farther in time. Fort Concho was established in 1867. The first thing you notice about Fort Concho is it isn’t the typical “John Wayne movie” fort. There are no walls and the buildings are stone.

Fort barracks

You can do a self-guided tour or opt for a guided tour. The fort is open daily except traditional holidays. Guided tours are Tuesday - Friday: Every hour on the half hour from 10:30 to 3:30, Saturday - 10:30 am and 2:30 pm, and Sunday 2:30 pm. Site Director Bob Bluthardt led us into many of the buildings and told stories of life on the Texas frontier. The infirmary was one of my favorite buildings. Better trust home remedies than pay these surgeons a visit. Fort Concho saw many famous regiments including all four of the buffalo soldiers and is reputedly haunted by cavalrymen and Indians. Near the fort, stop and brows around Old Town. This is a collection of the more respectable pioneer buildings of San Angelo. One of them is A.J. Baker & Co. Bank Building designed by famous architect, Oscar Ruffini. It probably did a more staid form of banking than the one across the river. Another interesting building is the Zenker House also designed by Ruffini.

Fort barracks

Another attraction in San Angelo that will take you back to an earlier era is taking a tour of Lake Nasworthy on the Tule Princess. She is an authentic reproduction of an American walking-beam steam engine on a side-wheel paddle boat. Mack Fox is the captain and can tell some interest tales about the construction of his ship and the history of the side wheelers that ran up and down the rivers of American in the 18th century.

A modern day bootmaker working on a custom boot

Fort barracks - The soldiers didn't have the most luxurious quarters


The lilies at the garden are such gorgeous colors


ime marches on even in San Angelo. The city is filled now with cultural places to visit. A truly unique spot is the Lily Garden, home of the Official Water Lily of Texas and foremost collection in the United States. Ken Landon, who runs it, knows more about lilies than any encyclopedia. Many of the lilies are extinct in nature and can only be seen in collections like this. Ken has succeeded in creating hybrids that many people said couldn’t be created. The result is a stunning display of colors and scents. Bring a camera with a large media card as you will be snapping and snapping. Next stop is the San Angelo Museum of Fine Art, home of the National Ceramic Competition. Laura Huckaby, assistant director there told us about some of the art there. There is a focus on early Texas art and Spanish Colonial and Mexican Religious Art. The ceramics there are impressive, both historical and world ceramics. My favorite is called “Lola”. It is of


Ken Landon

a senior citizen who was about 94 years old and the artist, Michaela Valli Groeblacher, posed her in a pink ballerina costume looking up to where her husband who had just passed away would have been standing. The piece won “People’s Award” in the annual National Ceramics Competition. The model was sad when the piece was bought by the museum. She said, “You mean I’ll never see it again?” So the artist made another stature of Lola in a blue ball dress dancing and looking up towards her husband. Before the piece was completed, the real Lola passed away. The museum’s back deck overlooks the Riverwalk and the city’s premier artwork, "Pearl of the Concho." It’s a large bronze of a fresh water mermaid stretching out her hands holding a mussel containing a Concho pearl. There is so much to see and do here no matter your interest. Its blend of old and new, rustic and sophisticated, make San Angelo a fun place to visit. You will just have to come see for yourself to get the full impact.

Mermaid - San Angelo's own mermaid near the Riverwalk

"Lola" is such a poignant piece in the museum

Two Choncho pearls nestled in a mussel shell at Legends Jewels.

Riverwalk - View of the Riverwalk from the Art Musuem


Burj Al Arab Hotel

View from 125th Floor- Burj Khalifa

Gold ceiling Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

Gold Souk Shop Dubai


150 Countries or Bust UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Dubai • Abu Dhabi Oman


Story & Photos by Ronald Kapon

The hotel has 154 rooms and is located in the Bur Dubai section of town. There was a rooftop pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, fitness center with a buffet breakfast included in the price. My room contained a refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, stove, kitchenette table and king-sized bed, with a full bathroom, couch, desk and large television. I checked out the hotel (I gave it 4.5 Stars with a very friendly, An ad for Pacific Holidays , helpful staff) on Trip Advisor (good , showed up to very good reviews), arranged for a in my inbox. One of their featured trips front row aisle bulkhead seat and gave was to Dubai. The price was right and the Pacific Holidays my credit card. The trip coincided with my mid-March spring total cost was just under $2,000. break from teaching at Fairleigh Dickinson University. The address listed was a few blocks from the Path station I used to take to my Included in the price was a half-day Hudson County Community College wine morning city tour, an evening Dhow class in downtown Jersey City. dinner cruise on the canal, Burj Khalifa When I walked into their office and I noticed visit to the 124th floor observation about a dozen desks and people on the phone, deck, a full day in Musandam (Oman) apparently selling trips. This did not look like with lunch, a desert safari and BBQ and a return trip to the airport. a retail/customer walk-in operation. I was assigned to Ruta Kliucininkaite who explained I bought trip insurance since my all the details of the trip. Included was round- decision was made a few months from my actual departure. I almost trip coach on Emirates Airlines, meet and greet at the airport and transportation to the had to use the insurance when a huge snowstorm was set to hit the NYC area Savoy Central Hotel & Apartments (part of a four hotel operation) where I was to spend on the day of my departure. Emirates five nights (I bought a sixth night and single occupancy). have been sitting idle at 147 countries visited for several years. Palm Springs, Palm Beach, Oxnard (California), Seattle, Puerto Rico (not a separate country), Finger Lakes (NY) and Puerto Vallarta have been my recent trips. I realized it was time to move forward.

contacted me and asked if I could leave the day before. Yes, I could and I then added another night at my hotel. I had never flown Emirates before. The Airbus A380-800 was only half full (I had an empty seat next to me). There were 399 economy seats, 76 flatbed business class seats and 14 private suites in first class. The flight crew was from 8 different countries and was very friendly and helpful. The food was quite good for airline cuisine and a small bottle of German Rhine wine was included. My personal television had lots of movies and television shows. I watched La LA Land (loved it) and parts of several other movies. I managed a few hours of non-deep sleep. After landing on time I had a 15-minute wait for my bag. Passport control was empty and Royal Gulf Tourism was there to greet me. Half an hour later I was at my hotel. The 12-plus hour flight and 8 hour (ahead) time difference took its toll. I had an early dinner ($15 for three courses and quite good) at the hotel and it was off to bed.



ince I had nothing scheduled for the first day, I decided to explore the Old Town (Al Raffa) area on my own. I was given general directions at the front desk and just started walking toward Dubai Creek. For 1 DM (about 15 cents) I boarded a small boat that took me across the creek. You can also drive over a bridge (did that the next day on the city tour). I walked along the Spice & Gold Souk (market) and looked at store after store all filled with gold rings, bracelets, earrings, watches etc. All the shops seemed to carry the same items. Each had their hustlers outside trying to entice buyers inside. A return boat trip and a 10-minute walk brought me to the Dubai Museum (repeated on the city tour) at the 150-year-old Al Fahidi Fort. The displays depict Dubai from its beginnings to modern times.


The next morning I had a 4-hour city tour by bus (part of my package). I found it a waste of time. We revisited the Dubai Museum and the spice and gold markets (not their fault I did them on my own). I hope our guide gets commission for the sales made at a rug

Rug Shop in Dubai



shop and at the souks because we spent over 40 minutes there only had time to take a photo of the Jumeirah Mosque-from across the highway and did not even stop for a photo at Atlantis The Palm Dubai. We just drove by it. We did stop briefly for a photo of Jumaira Beach and the world’s only Seven-Star resortBurj Al Arab. I gave this tour a 2.5 with a 0 for the guide. I had become friendly with David Froelke when he taught property management at FDU. He is a senior vice president at the Related Corporation which owns the Galleria Mall in Abu Dhabi. When I mentioned my trip to Dubai he said that his company would like to host me at the Galleria Mall. I thought great, that would be country 149. I was a bit disappointed when I learned that the UAE was the country and Dubai & Abu Dhabi were cities within the UAE. Back to 148 (until my trip to Oman). The champagne will have to wait for another trip when I reach 150. A travel connection introduced me to Dakkak Travel and Dubin Thomas. They are a competitor to the company Pacific

Holiday uses (Royal Gulf Tourism) for its tours. Dubin kindly offered me a complimentary desert Safari & BBQ dinner. And it was an adventure. Shameer Ali, our driver used his fourwheel drive as a toy. Up and down, over and under and around the sand dunes he went. Thank goodness I had skipped lunch. I held on tight and screamed a lot which seemed to embolden Shameer to try even more stomach turning tricks. Getting there was a 5, but once at the Bedouin campsite it went straight downhill. The sand was blowing and whipping everything around. We sat on mats (I borrowed someone’s chair) for an hour with no instructions. We couldn’t even get something to drink. Finally, they offered coffee, tea and water. More sitting and waiting. As everything was blowing away they finally moved use inside a tent. Better, but still no food. The buffet opened. Thanks to Shameer I got into line. I would rate the food and, the wait as well as lack of announcements, a 2 (out of 5). The belly dance and fire-eater show was okay. Shameer pulled the car around next to the back entrance so we did not have to walk to the parking area. Day 4 was cloudy so I decided to stay at the hotel and write. That evening I had scheduled a Dubai Dhow Cruise, with dinner, along Dubai Creek (a Dhow is a one or two-masted Arab sailing vessel). I sat with 5 other folks who I had met at my hotel. I would have preferred the open top deck but was told that was reserved for another group. I did get them to put on the AC in the enclosed deck. There were no announcements made as to where we were and what we were passing. The buffet was adequate and the “dancing man” show took place right in front of our table. The cruise gets a 3, which would have increased, to a 4 with commentary. ae/en/Live-Our-Heritage/Pages/ Dubai-Museum-and-Al-Fahidi- Fort.aspx


ay 5 was all about Abu Dhabi. It is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain. It is the largest emirate by area as well as the capital. It also has the largest population with 2.34 million people, out of a total UAE population of 8.1 million. Located about 100 miles from Dubai, they control about 95% of the oil in the UAE. That explains why the Related Corporation, in a joint venture with a local company, decided to build the Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island. The area had been desert just a few years ago. Across the street from the Galleria Mall will be something for us ordinary folks-- a mall with Macy’s and Bloomindales, plus a food court. Did I mention that President Trump’s company is building a golf course in Abu Dhabi? Maybe the biggest WOW! of my trip was the hour tour of the sixth largest mosque in the world- Shekh Zayed Grand Mosque. In 1996, the UAE founding fathers decided to build this cultural and religious landmark on 30 Ron at Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

acres (1996-2007). All material used was sourced from nature (marble, glass and semi-precious stones). There are 82 domes featuring pure white marble decorated with gold glass mosaics. The main prayer hall has the largest carpet in the world (5,700 square meters). The main courtyard has an area of 17,400 square meters. The mosque is large enough to accommodate over 40,000 worshippers, while the main prayer hall can hold over 7,000. The largest chandelier in the world hangs in the main prayer hall (it weighs 12 tons). There are over a thousand columns decorated with marble and semi-precious stones. Day 6 was spent relaxing, writing and sunning. Later that afternoon I was taken to the 124th floor of the Burj Kalifa, the world’s tallest building. The tour begins at the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest in area with 1,200 stores. There is an indoor ice rink, Dubai Aquarium and underwater zoo, as well as the Sega indoor theme park. There is a multi-media presentation of the history of Dubai and the building of the Burj Khalifa. I was told that except for the early morning tours every other hour grouping is sold out. I was allowed to skip the line and was escorted to a private elevator. I am not sure if it was my

age or the fact that I walk with a cane, but I am grateful for that extra service. There was an outdoor space (open at the top only) as well as indoors-on floor 124. Floor 125 is enclosed. For an extra fee one can ascend to the Sky Lounge on floor 148 (the building has 160 floors). I would strongly suggest they ban selfie sticks. I was hit twice as I tried to look out the windows. The other negative was the bus parking area. Most of the buses looked alike. I spent more than half an hour before I finally found my tour bus. Day 7 was a full day in Oman at Musandam, an Omani peninsula that juts into the Straits of Hormuz, the entry into the Persian Gulf. Its location gives Oman as well as Iran control of that strategic strait. Around 20% of the world's oil passes thru the straits. It is about a two-hour trip from Dubai. We do have to show our passports as we enter Oman; it is not part of the UAE. The jagged coastline features fjord-like inlets and is home to dolphin and marine life. Dhow cruises are very popular. Our boat had two decks. I chose to get some sun on the upper deck. A few people snorkeled; a few chose to rest at the private beach. The rest of us went swimming and then riding on a banana boat. The driver made sure that everyone fell into the water. I chose to watch from the boat. There was a buffet lunch served and we were soon back at the dock and aboard our van back to Dubai. My last day was all about relaxing and packing. The tour company picked me up 3 ½ hours before my flight. I spent an hour at the Diners Club affiliated lounge- Marhaba. Great buffet that puts U.S. lounges to shame. Long 14-hour flight back with not much sleep. Easy passport and baggage pickup. Car service home and to bed. All in all it was a great trip!



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TravelWorld International Magazine July/August 2017