Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Next Stop: Santa Fe


Any place with the tag line, "the city different" immediately attracts my attention but its vivid and multi-layered culture and history placed Santa Fe, New Mexico at the top of my bucket list for a long time. After years of scheduling conflicts, I'm finally visiting this magical mountain town this week, courtesy of  Tourism Santa Fe. I 'm delirious with excitement about exploring the city's art museums including the Museum of International Folk Art, New Mexico Museum of Art and of course, the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. I'll be taking a few art classes as well as sampling the distinctive Santa Fe cuisine. As the nation's oldest and highest elevation (7,198 feet!) state capital,Santa Fe promises an unforgettable trip. Stay tuned for posts!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Natural Splendor of Haiti


When I traveled to Haiti for the first time, I expected to be moved. For centuries, the island was called the "Pearl of the Caribbean" and the waterfalls and rolling, emerald mountains that prompted Tainos to name the paradise Ayiti, which means mountainous land. was just one of the reasons. But I didn't even consider this. I expected to be thrilled because as the world's first Black Republic, Haiti represents the pride of Black people. Haitians dared to snatch their freedom back from a European power and its entrenched system of slavery and injustice. Despite decades of contemporary oppression and natural disaster, Haitian pride and spirit remain intact. That's what I came to experience. But I was blown away because it's not just the Haitian people and culture that are beautiful but the land itself. There were so many aspects of  Haiti that mesmerized me, my instagram is already overloaded with them. So I thought that I would start with the landscape first. The island's hallmarks are the many mountains and hills, as you can see from the photo above.


Historic ruins almost blend into the landscape so that there is an ancient, reverent vibe to the island. That's Sans Souci Palace above and I'll be discussing the significance of  landmarks like this in future posts.



Haiti is also very green, trees, plants and parks like these are all over the island.


In bustling Port Au Prince, the scene is more urban but there are still parks and trees to remind you that Haiti's natural beauty takes many forms.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Impossible Beauty of Victoria's Butchart Gardens


I love gardens and flowers so I always try to visit the botanical gardens of the destinations that I visit. I've explored many gorgeous gardens and been absorbed by the heady delights of blooming plants and trees. But I've never seen anything like Victoria's Butchart Gardens. It's called a garden but it's more like a fairytale land, as you can glimpse in the photo. The thing is, there's not just one garden at Butchart Gardens, there are many, including a sunken garden, an Italian garden, a Japanese garden,a rose garden and a Mediterranean garden. There's even a carousel with exotic animals!  With a restaurant that serves an afternoon tea service and dishes created from the organic produce grown on the grounds, Butchart Gardens is the kind of oasis that beckons you to spend days, not hours.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Totems and Treetops


One of the things that I love about Vancouver and Victoria is the vibrant presence of First Nations culture. From the time you step into Vancouver International Airport,, aboriginal art pieces,especially totem poles, are on prominent display. Strolling around both cities, I discovered that totem poles are as common as the trees that often surround them.


At Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, totem poles dot the landscape, they tell the story of the people who lived there hundreds of years before. In fact, totem poles are sometimes called story poles.


I learned that totem poles are monuments created by Northwest Coast aboriginal people and they can serve as signboards, genealogical records or memorials. They are typically carved from red cedar and then painted. The poles communicate symbolically across all First Nations groups.



The surprising thing that I discovered about totem poles is that they don't have to be towering heights but that they come in all sizes. There are six  main types of poles: memorials, grave figures,house posts, house front poles, welcoming poles and mortuary poles. Historically, totem poles were commissioned by a chief to mark a special event and they continue to hold deep significance for First Nations culture.



Thursday, March 23, 2017

Views From Vancouver's Granville Island


When I landed in beautiful and bustling Vancouver, it was hard for me to understand that I was actually on a coastal seaport. I spotted mountains and buildings everywhere I turned but it wasn't until I headed to the peninsula of Granville Island that I grasped the water connection.


Granville Island is a shopping district that actually requires you to hop a ferry to reach. Floating on the boat, I glimpsed the prettiest aquatic scenes. Vancouver showcases sleek architectural structures like the Science World sphere above.


The city also boasts quaint Victorian building like the ones adorned with Canadian flags above. It didn't really matter where I looked, the water just seemed to make everything that more scenic.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Next Stop: Vancouver, Victoria and Haiti


I'm kicking off my travel year by visiting places that I've been interested in exploring for years. First, I'll be headed to the vibrant metropolis surrounded by mountains and water called Vancouver. Destination British Columbia is hosting me for a dive into the city's culture and natural beauty. I'm especially excited to attend the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival where I'll witness indigenous songs, stories and dance. I'll also be exploring the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Granville Island, Punjabi Market and hiking near the North Shore Mountains, among other things in my packed itinerary. Then I'll hop a helijet to Victoria and take in the famous Butchart Gardens and other sights in this old world city, pictured below.


Next, I'm off to the unspoiled beauty of Haiti for the International Jazz Festival of Port- au- Prince. The strength and pride of Haiti, despite the country's challenges has always attracted me. I'm thrilled to finally experience Haitian culture as well as view famous landmarks like Citadelle Laferriere, the largest fortress in the Americas, built by formerly enslaved Africans and a UNESCO World Heritage Site,shown below. Please stay tuned for posts about my whirlwind experiences.




Monday, February 27, 2017

When Anguilla and Australia Meet




The best part of travel is meeting people who share experiences and stories that reflect how diverse and exciting the world truly is. On the flawless beach of Anguilla's Sandy Island, I met DJ Kristelle Morin, who performed as part of the Livin In The Sun EDM Festival. I'm not a huge fan of EDM (electronic dance music) unless it's the house music that I grew up with in Chicago. I need an element of emotion to enjoy music and most techno and electro music lacks that element. But I learned a few things when I met international DJs in Anguilla, especially a sunny-faced DJ named Kristelle Morin from Australia. Lounging on Sandy Island, Kristelle explained how she started out as a DJ in Sydney and travels between London where she works with  Tribe Records, and the rest of the world, spinning her music.
 It's not easy for women DJs to establish themselves in the EDM industry and Kristelle explained the challenges of pushing past the sexism and misogyny. What really intrigued me was how Kristelle mixes parts of her native Australian culture into her music. Although she specializes in deep soul house, she often weaves aboriginal chants between the beats.She not only blended the soulful singing of house but she added chanting for extra layers of emotion. It was the most evocative EDM music that I've ever heard. I watched her at the booth as the rhythms pumped from her turntables and indigenous chants floated over Anguilla's blue waves. It was almost like Australia and Anguilla were joining right before my eyes and it was an unforgettable feeling.