Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve in Ecuador

Ecuador...New Year's Eve...Most Americans would not think of combining the two. But to whet your appetite, I'm including a short entry written by a writer at International Living.

Cuenca, New Year’s Eve
By Kent Zimmerman

If you are a pyromaniac, living in Cuenca anytime is a thrill—but on New Year’s Eve, it’s nirvana. You can buy just about any kind of firework imaginable (Ecuador is just behind China in producing fireworks). You can set them off anywhere to your heart’s delight, and people around you will applaud, not complain.

Happy travels,

To view more from International Living, click on the link below.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's Eve Safety

My mother always warned not to go out on New Year's Eve, because -- as only she could put it -- that's when "all the drunks are on the road."

She certainly had a point. A little common sense is in order. Here is a quick list of New Year's Eve safety do' s and don't s.

1. Don't drink and drive.
2. Drive defensively.
3. Be careful when handling fireworks.
4. Never, ever fire a gun into the air.
5. Keep your pets indoors.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merida, Mexico -- Youtube video rocks!

Check out this rockin' YouTube video! Just scroll down a bit and you will find it. Click and enjoy!

Nos vemos, Joyce

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mexico -- Part Four: Does a yucca tan in the Yucatan?

As I have mentioned in a previous blog, I love to watch the telenovelas (soap operas) on Spanish-language TV. One that I follow somewhat is called "Sortilegio." (A charm, or spell.) The setting is Merida, in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

I've never visited the Yucatan -- no, not even a resort vacation to Cancun -- but the place sure looks beautiful. I imagine the climate and landscape to be similar to Florida's. Flat land. Lots of heat and humidity. A place where hurricane forecasts are taken seriously.

Merida is the peninsula's largest city with a population of about 735,000. It was founded in 1542 on the site of a former Mayan city. The Yucatan Peninsula and the bordering country of Guatemala are considered the homeland of the Mayan Indians.

Merida may well be the oldest continuously occupied city in the Americas. The historic center of the city boasts Spanish-colonial architecture, such as the Cathedral Mayor on the Plaza on the right.(credit, wikimedia commons.)

Happy travels,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fairbanks, Alaska: The Ice-fog Cometh

After several posts on Mexico, I've decided to give you all a quick look at Fairbanks, Alaska in the dead of winter.

I lived in Fairbanks from 1970 until June of 1977 when my son, Adrian Paul, was born. The summers were magnificent, but the winters? When something called an inversion layer kicked in, you found yourself stuck in ice-fog. Meaning? The exhaust from cars would freeze, forming a noxious cloud of near-zero visibility. I can't believe I spent seven  winters walking through and breathing in the stuff. Of course, if you were fortunate to live "up in the hills," -- above the inversion layer -- the air was clear and winter snow-scape beautiful. And living in Fairbanks in the winter meant you could collect quite a few tales to share later in life.

Over the years, one of the lines I most like to share at parties is this: You haven't lived until you've chopped wood at sixty-below!

For the most part, I found winter in Fairbanks to be a beautiful experience. Quiet, star-studded nights. And the northern lights were an unbelievable experience.

Back to the ice-fog. To better understand it and to see some amazing photos, click on the link below. It will take you to the blog of my friend Dermot Cole, a writer for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Happy travels,
Joyce &id=5090287-Going+with

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Guest Post on Mexico: Or How Harrison Got Lost In Translation

 My good friend Harrison Shaffer was inspired to send me the following after reading my post "Colombia: Gem of the Caribbean." Enjoy!

Your mention of Colombian Spanish brought to mind a humorous experience I had in Guadalajara many years ago. I was staying in an older hotel on the edge of the city where the desk clerk was from Colombia, so both his English and Spanish came out with a sort of Castilian flavor. I wanted to go to the pottery village of Tonola and asked him which public bus I should take, to which he responded with something that sounded like "jello." He said "Ju take dee jello bus," and so I went out to the main boulevard and looked for a bus with a sign on the front for anything that sounded like "jello." I figured it was the Spanish name of another town or region, maybe like "Chielo" or "Che Lo." After about a half hour, though, I realized I could have taken any number of buses that had been passing by--the ones that were painted yellow!

I don't know about what you're thinking right now, but I'm getting hungry for some lemon Jello with a dollop of whipped cream!

Happy travels,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mexico -- Part Three: Riding the Rails

Pardon me boys, is that the Guadalajara Choo-choo?

In years gone by it was possible to take the train from the Arizona-Mexico border in Nogales, Sonora all the way to Guadalajara, the capital city of Jalisco.

It was a 24-hour trip. Kurt and I took the train at least once by ourselves and once when our son was a toddler. One memory is of the kind you see in movies -- an overstuffed rail car with some chickens on the loose.

But the most emotional moment? We were a few miles short of the border heading home. It was around 9 pm on the 4th of July. Kurt, our son and I were standing outside the train, when, in the distance, we saw the welcoming display of fireworks just north of the border in Arizona.  

Nos vemos pronto,

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mexico -- Part Two: Los Cabos and The Day of the Dead

In Mexico Part One, I talked about my very first visit to Mexico back in 1972. This time I'll take a look at my last visit which was in 2006.

I had always wanted to visit Mexico during their Day of the Dead festivities, which is November 2. All Souls' Day.

The Mexicans have a ritual where they set up memorials to their deceased loved ones. The memorials include the favorite foods and memorabilia of the loved one.

In 2006, Kurt and I decided to combine a beach vacation with the day of the Dead, or El Dia de los Muertos, as it's known in Spanish. Incidentally, our wedding anniversary coincided with the dates.

In late October, we flew into the airport at Los Cabos, a resort area at the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula. If you plan to follow my footsteps on your own trip to Cabo, don't do what my husband and I did -- allow ourselves to get talked into a timeshare spiel.

At least we got a free boat ride and meal out of the nonsense, but it was an otherwise waste of our time.

Anyway, The Cabo (cape) area is home to two towns -- the touristy San Lucas, and the more authentic Mexican town of San Jose del Cabo. Since we had never visited either before, we chose a boutique hotel mid-way between the two towns. (It's about 20 miles from one town to the other along the "corridor".)

We couldn't have enjoyed our location more. The beach was deserted, and every night we took sunset strolls to the sound of crashing waves. We were in Cabo for Halloween, our Nov. 1 wedding anniversary and the marvelous experience of the Day of the Dead festivities in San Jose del Cabo.

Can't wait to visit there again.

Happy travels!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mexico -- Part One: My First Visit South of the Border

OK, if yesterday's blog was about Mexico, why am I calling this second blog on the country Part one? That's because I just thought of the idea of doing a series of articles on the one country I've visited more than any other.

Let's travel back in time to summer 1972.

I was dating Kurt, my eventual hubby, when I first set foot in Mexico. Kurt grew up in Phoenix, and I was visiting his hometown for the first time. That's when we decided to take a day trip to the Mexican border town of Nogales.

Nogales is much smaller than the better-known border cities of Tijuana and Juarez. We drove down to Nogales, Arizona, parked the car, and then walked through customs to other side.

The tourist area is one big flea market -- or so it seemed. Nogales would never rate as a primary travel spot by anyone's definition, but it was tons of fun for me -- someone who was studying Spanish and had yet to set foot in a Spanish-speaking country.

So I had the chance to practice my Spanish and bargain for a few trinkets. I may have taken a picture of a burro standing on a street corner. I do recall that Kurt bought me a silver ring with a turquoise stone. I still have it.


Until next time...nos vemos pronto.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Telenovelas and the Magical Towns of Mexico

Mexico! I absolutely love the place. Recently my husband and I started watching a telenovela -- a Mexican soap opera -- on one of the Spanish-language TV channels we get. The network is Univision.

So you are wondering: what the heck are Magical Towns and what do they have to do with a silly soap?

Let me explain. The program we watch is called "En Nombre del Amor." That's "In the Name of Love," for those who may be romance-language challenged. It's your typical soap...heroes, villains, everybody fighting over the opposite sex and half the characters clueless as to who their biological fathers are.

But that's what makes a soap, right? What's neat about this soap is its setting -- the city of Real del Monte in the state of Hidalgo.

In recent years, Mexico has started a program where they designate different communities as Magical Towns -- places whose culture and architecture make the community special.

Real del Monte is such a place. Thanks to an influx of Cornish miners in its past, the town boasts some architecture that is a tad more English than it is Spanish colonial -- Although Spanish colonial style reigns supreme.

At an elevation over 8,000 feet, Real del Monte enjoys a climate Mexicans like to call "perpetual spring." Warm days and cool evenings year-round.

And with only a population of around 11,000, it's not an overwhelming community to get a handle on.

So next time you're planning a trip to Mexico, consider Real del Monte in your plans.

Happy travels, Joyce

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Go Phillies!

Last night the incomparable Philadelphia Phillies won the National League Pennant for the second year in a row. Can another World Series win be far behind?

Living just forty miles from the City of Brotherly Love, I can't help but be a fan. If you're planning on being in town for this year's World Series -- or at any other time, for that matter -- here are a couple quick picks for touristy things to do while in Philly.

1. Visit the Liberty Bell. This symbol of liberty is not just something cutesy for school kids to visit on field trips. Staring at it and its jagged crack, you can imagine the blood, sweat and tears (Sorry Winston) that went into the founding of this country.

2. Check out the Philadelphia Art Museum. OK, run up the steps like Rocky if you so desire, but the true treasures are INSIDE the museum. Personally I love the French tapestries that date to the early 1600s. And the replica of a Moorish-inspired Spanish plaza is a favorite.

3. Last but not least, you gotta visit South Philly for an authentic Philly cheesesteak. Mentally travel back in time and imagine Frankie Avalon and Fabian singing on a street corner.

Enjoy your visit!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Colombia, Gem of the Caribbean Sea

I have been having the greatest time teaching ESL to a young woman originally from Barranquilla, Colombia. I've learned much about her native country during the few weeks we've been working together.

Unfortunately Colombia has the reputation as a crummy place for Americans to travel due to the negative publicity surrounding drug trafficking. Also, when looking online for great travel destinations in the Caribbean, the north coast of Colombia never shows up on the radar. Cancun, yes. Cartagena, no.

My student has lived in the three Colombian cities of Barranquilla, Cartagena and Bogota. Here is a bit about what I've learned of these cities:

Barranquilla: a tad cooler and dryer than nearby Cartagena, but still a warm and humid spot. It's a major industrial city and boasts three quality universities. Home to singer Shakira and birthplace of renown writer Gabriel Garcia Marques. Barranquilla is the port city for Colombia's major river, the north-flowing Magdalena.

Cartegena: also on the Caribbean but about 60 miles southwest of Barranquilla. Basically it's an expensive tourist center; enormous high-rises dot the coastline. It does boast an old fort which is a World Heritage Historical Site. A great hideout for pirates in days past. Ready for a sequel, Johnny Depp?

Bogota: a big-ass city high in the northern reaches of the Andes. Its innovative mayor at the turn of the millennium did wonders to make the city's transportation accessible to even the poorest of its citizens. On Sundays, the Alameda is closed to traffic and open to pedestrians and bicyclists only.

Colombians have the distinction of speaking the best Spanish second only to Spain.

Hail, Colombia!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Summer Road Trips

Hit the road!

July and August are the high travel season for loading up the car and rolling on down the highway.

Where are you headed this summer season?

Most every August my husband and I pack up the little Toyota Echo -- 50 miles per gallon of gas on the open road -- and set off for Henniker, New Hampshire.

We often take back roads from our home north of Philadelphia, so it takes us longer to reach our goal than if we drove the mind-numbing interstates.

But it is so much more fun. The little ice-cream shop north of New York's Taconic Parkway, the first sign of a goat once crossing over into Vermont.

It's priceless.

Happy travels, Joyce

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tombstone Epitaph

Back in my days as a graduate student at the University of Arizona, I worked one summer as the editor for the local edition of the Tombstone Epitaph.

It was during that time that I fell in love with Cochise County, Arizona's most southeastern county. Other parts of Arizona get the most travel press -- Sedona, the Grand Canyon, the resorts of Scottsdale -- but Cochise County is my favorite, quiet nook.

And Tombstone is my favorite Arizona town.

OK, there are a lot of tourist-oriented goings on what with reenactments of the shootout at the OK Corral, for example. But the people, the historic buildings, and the star-studded skies -- well, I could easily call this town home.

An insider hint for first-time visitors: The shootout at the OK Corral did not happen inside the corral itself but on the street outside the corral.

Now you know.

Happy travels, Joyce

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I have decided that the next Spanish-speaking country I should visit is Panama. For one thing, I've never set foot on an isthmus -- that I can recall.

For another thing, we have a long-time friend who now lives back home in his native Panama. Nothing like an experienced local to show you the ropes.

Panama City is low-lying which makes for humid conditions. But I understand the interior of the country is cooler due to its higher elevation.

Come January -- when the snow and wind pummel my humble home -- you may find me dipping my toes in the canal. That's the one in Panama, not the one that goes from Albany to Buffalo!

Happy travels, Joyce

Monday, July 20, 2009

Buying a Home in Southwest France

Greetings one and all...I am currently trying to link my blog with a website I really like. Their name is

The problem is, I have yet to figure out the required tech skills needed. But once I do, we can all find out how to buy a lovely little home in France. Sounds delightful!