How I Roll – The ABCs of Travel

A set of questions about my approach to travel – fascinating set!   Posted by Leah (check out her post:  http://leahtravels.com/site/things/how-i-roll-the-abcs-of-travel) who in turn received it from someone else who got it from someone else, … you get the pic.  Thanks, Leah!  And in turn, I will say other important “thanks” as I respond.  Here it goes!

A. Age you went on your first international trip

Technically going to PR from Miami as a toddler doesn’t count since it is U.S. territory…  My first trip abroad was when I was eleven.  I went to visit my aunt and her family in Panama.  I went with my grandmother and my sister.  It was SO cool.  We flew to Miami and then to Panama.  We either flew Eastern or Pan Am to Miami but it must have been the latter since we then flew Pan Am to our final destination.  I remember my grandmother was a little nervous.  I?  I was on an adventure!  I remember that on the Pan Am flight to Panama (that’s an alliteration!) each passenger was given a small bottle of wine (not the mini ones but maybe a 0.5L bottle) – and that included, apparently, 11 yr olds too!  My grandmother made me give it to my uncle once I arrived in Panama since I clearly couldn’t drink it.  I knew she was right but I sorta felt cheated…  Thanks, Abuela!

B. Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where

A Belgian Trappist beer called Chimay.  The blue label one.  It then became my goal to get a Chimay glass (way before they started selling them).  I got one but to hear the story, well, I will have to tell you in person because I am not typing how I got it 😉  Just want to say, thanks Joy!

I first tasted it when I lived in France in 1999.  Upon my return to the wonderful state of Georgia, I discovered that it was not sold here because of its higher alcohol content.  Ridiculous!  A co-worker who commuted every week to Atlanta from DC would bring me a batch every so often in her carry-on (this was in 2000).  Now THAT is a friend.  We are still friends today, needless to say – thanks, Laura!  (P.S. – A few years ago Georgia left the Middle Ages and I can get Chimay here any time I want.  Thanks, legislators.)

C.  Cuisine – favorite

Well, duh, Cuban!  All that garlic, pork, fried stuff, and black beans.  I am working myself into hunger as I type…  Italian is a good runner up for sure.  And could I turn down Peruvian??  But Cuban it is.  My Mom cooks it VERY well.  She must have learned from her grandmother, whom we called Doña as kids for some reason.  I remember her cooking still.  For teaching her granddaughters to cook well so I could enjoy Cuban food, thanks Doña!

D.  Destinations:  favorite, least favorite, and why

Favorite:  Chilean Patagonia followed closely by the southern island of New Zealand.  Why?  Breathtaking examples of God’s work.  A+!  Check the pix out!  Thanks, God.

Cueva del Milodón in Chile's Patagonia

View from la Cueva del Milodón

Least favorite:  I tend to find something I like about most places.  It may not be pretty but the people make it likable, or the food, or who I was traveling with.  But if I search for places that didn’t impress me (not that I did not like being there), Copenhagen was one.   It had some nice things, it wasn’t unlikable.  But it seemed bland (maybe I was comparing it to Stockholm and Oslo which did impress me).  Beijing was an absolute disappointment with the terrible pollution.  Of course, it had some sites that were worth seeing but overall as a city, my least favorite.  San Marino seemed to be only a duty-free zone or a tourist trap zone, except for the church.  Oh, I was the one in the group who wanted to drive through it – and I heard it a few times…  Thanks, Me.

E.  Event you experienced above that made you say “wow”

Several things come to mind.  Seeing Holy Week processions and events in Malta was pretty awesome.  Being in Chile during a historical year:  first time in the World Cup in 40 odd years, a historical election seeing the right come to power for the first time since the dictatorship ended, the trapped miners, the massive and terrible earthquake, and there was a fifth one but it escapes me… Seeing the emotion of Chileans watching their national team with such joy was a wow.  Seeing the very civilized behaviors between election winner and loser (which made me feel for my country…) was a wow.  I wasn’t there on the day of the earthquake otherwise that would have won THE wow.  But being there for the miners’ rescue was one of those moments that truly was a wow.  Gracias, Chile!

F.  Favorite mode of transportation

Well, a plane.  I don’t totally enjoy the ride but when time is limited, nothing like getting there fast!  First class preferred, of course.  Thanks, Wright bros.

G.  Greatest feeling when traveling

Discovering something new that blows me away.  Like the landscapes of southern New Zealand.  Or phenomenal hole-in-the-wall eateries like La Porta in Montecchiello in Tuscany.  Thanks to my passport!

Osteria La Porta, Montecchiello in Tuscany, Italy

Osteria La Porta, Montecchiello

H.  Hottest place you have traveled to

At the World Expo in Sevilla in 1992 it was over 40C (over 104F).  That ranks up there though my hometown sometimes can feel hotter than hell.  Well, really, it is because of the humidity.  Thanks, H2O

I.  Incredible service you have experienced and where

Quite a few but in my over 20 round trips to Chile a couple of years ago, I tended to coincide with a flight crew every other week or so.  These flight attendants took GREAT care of me, even though I flew coach.  Let’s just say, at some point, I no longer was served coach wine…  Thanks, Delta for having flight attendants that know how to treat your valuable frequent flyers even when your rules prevent the Delta staff from doing the right thing…

J.  Journey that took the longest

I would like to say going to Australia but that wasn’t the longest.  Nor was it driving from Atlanta to Denver with my college roommate.  My actual longest journey was when I went to Tanzania.  I went with work, an international NGO, so I thought I had to absolutely get the cheapest possible itinerary.  So I ended with a 2-stop (not awful per se) trip to get to Dar es Salaam (via London and Dubai; a 6 and 9 hr layover respectively).  I learned later that policy was to get the cheapest flight with a reasonable duration which meant I could have gone for the cheapest 1-stop route…   Overall the journey was over 30 hrs. and I was supremely beat though when I landed in Dar, the tiredness dissipated for a little bit as I soaked in everything around me!  Thanks, former employer for laying out the rules clearly – grrrr….

K.  Keepsake from your travels

I always bring back money from the countries I visit for me and for kids I know.  I do it to perhaps stir curiosity of the world in them much as stamps did for me when I was a kid.  I also mail post cards (though not many) to share a little of trip with people close to me.  Other than that, photos, photos, and more photos!  On occasion, if I find a particular item that grabs a hold of me, then I get it.  But I am not a big shopper usually because it means I have to carry it all back!  One of my prized acquisitions was a wood carving I bought at Los Dominicos in Santiago, Chile.  Gracias, Señor Salazar.

L.  Let-down sight, why and where

Stonehenge, hands down.  A pile of big stones, yes, put up by people long ago for mystical/spiritual purposes when there wasn’t machinery to make things easy.  But it wasn’t just that.  The place is cordoned off so you watch them from a distance.  Not that touching them would mean something but if I could have walked amongst them or at least get close enough to “feel” their size.  It’s not like watching the Great Pyramids at a distance.  It is watching large stones at a distance.  It is not watching the giant heads in Easter Island.  Those are carved.  It is watching large stones at a distance.  Get it?  But, of course, I am glad I saw them so no one can tell about them.  Thanks to my college roommate, Andreas, for driving us there and checking it off the list.  One-and-done. No repeat visit.  (P.S. – I am not sure if I have been clear on what I think about Stonehenge…)

M.  Moment where you fell in love with travel

None.  I was born loving travel as far as I can tell.  The thrill of going somewhere new, exploring.  Or of getting back to a place I really like (Paris, Chile, Venice).  Now the wanderlust was created by my childhood hobby of stamp collecting.  I wanted to know about all these places, I relished seeing new stamps that told me something about each country.  I HAD to see them!  Thanks to my Mom, Dad, tío Ernesto and all those who used to save stamps for me for supporting me in this hobby that stirred this passion!  (Hence, the wallpaper on my Twitter page!)

N.  Nicest hotel you have stayed in

I would say the Four Seasons in Dallas but it was an overnight stay for work and I arrived very late the night before.  The Loew’s in Miami Beach for a work conference was very nice.  But my favorite was the Boca Raton Beach Resort where we went a couple of years for work “retreats”.  Thanks, Andersen Consulting!

O.  Obsession, what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling

In one trip to Italy, I was obsessed with capturing a nun in motion (her habits flowing as she walked).  I didn’t take any great picture.  That I knew of…  When I got home and developed the film, a nun had crossed the street in one of my pix.  You see, I must have missed the fact she was there because I was switching lenses to take a picture of the same view with and without zoom lens to see how the two pix would contrast.  I probably was so engrossed in not dropping the lens I wasn’t using and in focusing on the arch far away that I missed what was in front of me:  a nun in motion!  Thanks, miracle nun!

But that was only for that trip.  Generally, I like to take pictures of people doing nothing in particular.  Just walking, sitting, being…  But I have developed a little interest in taking pictures of people taking or posing for pictures for others when I go to very touristy areas.  It is interesting to watch people touristing!

Happiness at the feet of the Torres del Paine in Chile's Patagonia

P.  Passport stamps – how many and from where

In the current passport or in all my passports??!!  I do not plan to count them, especially since one very full passport was stolen during a home break-in a dozen years ago.  Plus I have more than one stamp of some countries.  Which led to requiring new pages added to the passport…  Thanks Chile for stamping my passport EACH AND EVERY time I entered and departed 26 times in 2010…

I have visited 49 countries and thanks to the breakup of Yugoslavia, in April I won’t just hit 50, I will get to 52!  Thanks, Marshall Tito!

Q.  Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where

I want to say somewhere in the middle of Kansas through one of my drives to/from Boulder.  But nothing comes to mind.  Or something in Central Florida.  That sounds right, right?  The Big Chicken in Marietta – is that an attraction or just a fast food place?  Thanks to no one for quirky attractions.

R.  Recommended sight, event, or experience

Leah said the Scavi tour under St. Peter’s Basilica and I would agree.  I have done it twice but will pass on this next trip to Rome.  Other things to see!  The Great Pyramids are an obvious answer to this.  In terms of views, seeing Rio from the Corcovado is tops.  The view of Cape Town from Table Mountain is also outstanding.  And experiencing the peacefulness and breathtaking landscapes of the Chilean Patagonia rounds up my answer.  Thanks to these eyes for letting me soak it all in…

Looking at Cape Point in the Cape of Good Hope in Africa

Outstanding views near the Cape of Good Hope! (Cape Point)

S.  Splurge, something you have no problem forking over for while traveling

A great meal!!  I don’t mean going to the Maxim’s or some other fancy-schmancy restaurant.  I mean at a local place with great food like La Porta in Montecchielo or the restaurant in Venice we so enjoyed or at Cuero Vaca in Santiago.  Once I am there, the price on the menu is ignored.  Oh, that’s for the food part.  You DO have to look at the price of a bottle of wine – don’t intend to fork $500 any time soon for a bottle of wine – plenty of good stuff out there for much less thanks to many great winemakers!

T.  Touristy thing you’ve done

Throwing a coin over my shoulder in the Trevi Fountain in Rome to make sure I return!  But it has worked twice already!  Grazie, Trevi!  Bella!

U.  Unforgettable travel memory

A few for sure.  Typically when standing in front of magnificent scenery many of which I have cited above and many that I have left out.  Another is my first helicopter ride to see the 12 Apostles near Melbourne and then my second ride to land on Franz Josef Glacier in NZ.

But one of the most unforgettable travel memories for me is when I walked into the room where the future John Paul II was born in Wadowice, Poland.  There was a large picture of him as a toddler and I got goose bumps thinking who would have told that child, that family, those neighbors that this child would become a giant in the faith of millions and a giant in the battle against oppression in the Communist world, etc.  It hit me that the potential of ANY child is about infinite.  It only starts narrowing with every passing year, depending on circumstances, education, health, etc.  Very unexpected moment for me.

V.  Visas, how many and for where?

One, from CapitalOne.  What’s in your wallet?

W.  Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

A glass or two of Sauternes at of Chateau Sahuc-Lestours.  We randomly visited this winery and met the owners who sat down with us to sip Sauternes (they sipped, I almost gulped) in the garden of their home/winery.  At the end of the visit, they corked the unlabelled bottle we had drunk, and gave it to us (plus the bottle we each had bought).  Fast forward 8 yrs, and I return.  The husband wasn’t there but the wife was.  I recounted not only the visit but the things they had told us and she knew it was true that I had been there before.  I don’t recall her name but we called her Margaret on that first visit for some reason.  Merci beaucoup et au revoir, Margaret!

X.  eXcellent view and from where?

So I mentioned earlier the views from Corcovado in Rio, Table Mountain in Cape Town, and any view in Chilean Patagonia.  I will add:

–   the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower which puts all of Paris at your footsteps

–   the view from Pienza in Tuscany where you can see the rolling hills of the region and the neighboring mountain town

–  the view as you fly over the Andes – endless mountain range (and I mean east-west, not just north-south!)

–  the view from my apt building in Paris:  the Arc d’Triomphe almost right across the street with the Eiffel Tower behind it in the distance

–  the view from the executive lounge of the Santiago Marriott at sunset looking at the Andes

and I could keep on going… thanks for letting me list more than one!

Crossing the Andes

Flying over the glorious Andes

Y.  Years spent traveling

Since I was a toddler ilivetotravel!   My first trip to Europe was when I was 25.  Kids are spoiled today, they get to go younger, thanks to deregulation.  Who says deregulation is bad???

Z.  Zealous sports fans and where?

Have never been to a World Cup.  Have been to a World Series game but, it is baseball.  Have been to 2 Olympics.  But the best memory is watching fans of many countries who made it to the 2010 World Cup work together and compare notes as the World Cup took place was fun.  Unfortunately, my bragging rights ended on the earlier side so then it was fun to throw ambers on the fires around me 🙂  Those Brazilians, Chileans, Spanish, Argentines, and Mexicans definitely showed zealotry and good spirit.  Thanks to my client in Chile for installing flat screen TVs around the building so people could peek at matches during work hours.

Thanks for reading some or all of the above!! 

Just as I was tagged, I get to tag others. So…

Pola at http://www.jettingaround.com

Tawny at http://www.captainandclark.com

Henie at http://www.HennArtOnline.com

Mark at http://www.twylah.com/marktravel

TAG, YOU ARE IT!

Comments

  1. Great job, Raul. You’ve had such excellent adventures, and I’m so glad I tagged you so I could learn more. You are officially my guide to Chile!

  2. This was so much fun to read, Raul! Glad you mentioned my hometown too (no, not Paris, Wadowice 😉 ). The nun story was fun and it will come as no surprise that I absolutely love the pic of flying over the Andes…

    Thanks for tagging me, I’ll do the write-up soon.

  3. loved reading this, raul! i want in on the chile trip (but i think you may already know that!) 😉
    you cracked me up about the visa remark! american express is in my wallet. i don’t leave home without it! *wink wink*

    • I actually really prefer AMEX – that’s where I score my points, er, my frequent shopper points! But I do have a Cap1 Visa for those crazy places that do not accept AMEX

  4. I was laughing about that visa answer too!! Speaking of which, Cap1 doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, wish the airline cc’s were like that too, naturally…

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