Friday, January 31, 2014

AIRBnB founder claims they "are not at war" with Hotels

I have used AirBnB 3 times - in Santa Monica, Montreal and Arlington VA. I have been very happy all 3 times. This is an interesting take on how AirBnB views the complaints about them by hotel chains.

Link to article -  AirBnB not at war with hotels

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Loiza - Afro-Puertorican culture

There is a lot that can be written about the culture wars between San Juan and Ponce in Puerto Rico. And I will describe some of that in another post. There is another cultural outpost that gets very little attention, especially by tourists and travelers. That is the town of Loiza. (see map) Loiza is one of two historically afro-puertorican townships in the general San Juan area. Loiza is famous for its traditional music, artisans and burin style of cooking. It is about 15 miles east of Isla Verde.

Vejigante masks – Taller Ayala
Among Loiza’s most famous artisans are the Taller Ayala (Rte. 187, Km 6.6, Loíza, 00772) – producers of traditional vejigante mask. The vejigante tradition goes back to the defeat of the Moors in Spain by St. James. They originally represented demons and were included in processions on St. James’ saint day to scare parishioners back to church.  In Puerto Rico this celebration became infused with African and Taino traditions which have led to inclusion of bomba y plena music and the production of the masks out of coconut husks. While vejigante masks are available in many sizes a tourist shops throughout the island, It is worth the trip to see the work of a family that has been producing them for close to 100 years. - Raul Ayala Carrasquillo

Samuel Lind – Local fine artist
Across the street from the Ayala family workshop is the artistic studio of Samuel Lind. Samuel was born in Loiza and his work  has a great feeling for the rural society of that part of Puerto Rico and for the traditions of Bomba y Plena music. His work includes representations of the local country-side that are almost magical in nature. He has also painted portraits of dancers and celebrants of musical cultures.
Samuel and the Amazing Ms. D
Samuel Lind -  Carr. # 187 km. 6.6 interior | Mediania Alta, Loiza 00772, Puerto Rico
Samuel Lind and Bronx Teacher

Burén Cooking
Burén style cooking is local tradition with ties to African roots. They are usually open only weekends. The burén is a large piece of metal that is heated by a wood fire. The food is “grilled” on top of the metal, often cooked while wrapped in the leaves of a plaintain tree. Some typical dishes are Tortas de Yucca – a pancake made of yucca base with cream of coconut, milk sugar, vanilla; Arepas de Maiz – corn cakes;  and Alcapurias and Empenadas de Jueyes   - fried or grilled pieces of ground yucca and yautia filled with local crab meat. The most famous burén is El Burén de Lula see here. There are other smaller buréns  throughout Loiza, just ask a local for directions.

The nicest (not fastest) way to get to Loiza is to take root 187 east from Isla Verde (see map). This will take you through an area called PIÑONES. This a beach front area that is unincorporated. The people who live and own businesses there were originally squatters. Their restaurants (called kioskos) were originally shacks set up on the beach. Some have become more substantial and permanent. Piñoes is some of the most beautiful beach in Puerto Rico. However it is all undeveloped, so no services and no life guards, just pull off the road and open your blanket. Be warned that Piñones gets very crowded on the weekends and it can take 2 hours to travel the 10 miles from Isla Verde to Loiza.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why I travel....again

Okay, I am new to blogging. I don't know the etiquette. I rewrote my first piece. I think it is better. Let me know what you think.

Yesterday I bought a travel pouch with the saying "I am not so much a traveler as an explorer." This is what gets me up off the couch. At the age of 52 some people like to settle in. "Been there, done that." Well that is not me. I was raised by parents who thought that getting the car and driving for the weekend was fun. I have spent many days in the back of our car seeing the surroundings while my brother slept. I even spent two weeks traveling to and from Prince Edward Island from New York City trading the “way back” (behind the luggage in our Datsun station wagon) with my brother.  My wife (hereafter known as The Amazing Ms. D) and I were toasted at our wedding as "having been to more places that no one has ever heard of."

There is nothing more exciting to me than beginning a trip. I will plan for months, but never too much. I never want to have all of the details ahead because that is called a tour and the last thing I want to be is tourist. I know where I want to go, and some of the things I want to see. But I also have room and time to see the things I hear about on the trip. 

This is fun. I love to see what is down THAT road.

Drive across the country staying OFF OF THE INTERSTATE? Love It!

Where is the Corn Palace?

Let's eat lunch UNDER the Jolly Green Giant!

A museum (any museum) can get me to pull off the road for an hour.

So why "Travels in the 2nd half?" Well I am 52. I am in the second half of life... although I hope that, like "Car Talk" I will be getting 3 halves. Now I am coming to the end of one part of my life and the start of another. I have been a teacher for 30 years. In 2 years I will be retired. I was faced with dilemma of what to do next. I am too young to sit around the house, besides, my wife would kill me. So I am looking ahead. I want to see more of the world. , I don't stay at youth hostels anymore, although I will stay at just about any motel I find on the road that look "decent."  I want to chronicle what I see. For me and anyone else who finds travel fun and interesting, and who likes to hear about places from someone who finds new things fascinating. There is so much of this world that I have not yet seen, and I would really love to see it all. And as I am looking for something to do in my soon to be retired years, writing about my travels sounds like fun and a challenge. So here goes nothing.

Soon I start on another trip, this one to Puerto Rico, where The Amazing Ms. D was born. I have been there many times, but I always go looking for that wonderful mix of seeing the familiar and finding something new. Now I have an audience to share it with.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

You Think the Temperature is What!

A contrast in style when the temperature was "only" 82 degrees. As we were told many times- "It's winter! We don't go to the beach in the winter!"

NYT-Frugal Traveler on saving money

Some good ideas and tips from the NYT

NYTimes: Tips for Travel Savings in 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014

What to do in case of an emergency

I have been a long time subscriber to Budget Travel. I find their articles and information to be the most useful for my kind of traveling.

Here is a piece from their web-site on how to handle an emergency when traveling. many their suggestions are common sense but bear repeating:

 Budget Travel - All-time Worst Travel Scenarios

I hope you never need this info, but it is good to have, just in case.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Visit the Real NYC Part 1 - Riverdale

One might think that when a traveler comes home he or she does is sit and hibernate until their next trip. Well, not this traveler. One of the advantages of living in NYC is that I can spend a lot of time being a traveler in my own city. There are so many things to do and explore right outside my door. 

It is my goal to write this traveler blog to showcase parts of NY that people don't always think about visiting. Everyone writes about Mid-town, Times Square, The Village, hell they even write about Williamsburg. But there is not a lot written most of the outer boroughs, or Manhattan north of 116th street. You know, the places where most REAL New Yorkers live.

So this will be a place to read about my favorite places, the places I've discovered. So let's start with my home neighborhood - Riverdale.

Riverdale - 

Riverdale  (see map) is the neighborhood that in the North-west corner of the Bronx. (that is only borough actually attached to the mainland). There are three main reasons I would travel to Riverdale.
Van Cortland Park -  (see map)  sits at the northern end of the #1 subway line. This is one of the larger parks in NYC. It is home one of the most famous Cross-country running courses in the country. Runners come from all over the Northeast to compete on a courses that includes almost 1.5 miles of flats with some of the most challenging hills on a standard 5K course. The park also includes a skating rink in the winter, a pool in the summer, Soccer, baseball/softball  and cricket fields, along with the first two public golf courses in the country.
Wave Hill - (web site) is a former estate of that has housed Mark Twain, Teddy Rooseveldt, Arturo Tuscanini and the British delegation to the UN. Today is a culture and environmental education center. It sits on the Bronx side of the Palisades looking out over the Hudson river and the NJ Palisades. It houses several organized gardens and hosts literary, music, and artistic events and classes.

Taken from my living room window.
Some of the most amazing views in NYC - Riverdale is the highest spot in the Bronx. As such it has some amazing views. Living on the 19th floor of a building that sits at the highest point in Riverdale makes these views even better.

 Most of all Riverdale is neighborhood. a place where people live, eat, work and play. It is the kind of place that most tourist books ignore, but that is well worth visiting and hanging out in.