Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Next Stop: Cuba!


I can barely contain the joy and excitement that's bubbling through me. This week, I'm finally visiting the place that's topped my bucket list for years-- Cuba! My love of Cuban music has connected me to the culture for a long time and I feel like I'll be entering a vaguely familiar place, even though I've never been. As an American, visiting Cuba requires a few hoops to jump but it's not a big deal when compared with the reward. Except for an essential visit to the Tropicana Cabaret, I won't be doing many touristy excursions in Havana.  I'll be mingling and living with locals as I am celebrating the engagement of my talented friend Ugochi and her fiancee, Juan Miguel. I will  be supplying posts from a local perspective as well as tips on how to experience the vibrant Cuban culture when I return, so please be on the look out!



Thursday, May 4, 2017

Next Stop: Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival

Photo courtesy of Bahamas Tourism

It's that time again. No matter the destination, I never turn down the chance to participate in the joyful celebration of carnival. This weekend, I'm headed to Nassau for the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival.  I was in Nassau three years ago when plans for the inaugural event  were kicking off and I'm excited to be able to experience the festivities in person. Junkanoo is a series of concerts, costumes, competitions and street parties that incorporate Bahamian cultural elements like rake n scrape folk music. One of my best Bahamian memories was hearing rake n- scrape for the first time at the iconic Elvina's on Eleuthera.  I can't wait to hear it in another setting and learn about the history Junkanoo traditions as well as possibly participating in the Road Fever parade, so stay tuned!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Adobe Adoration in Santa Fe


One of the hallmarks of Santa Fe are the beautiful adobe buildings that fill the city and supply a distinctive, organic vibe. I've never been in adobe structures so I was thrilled to see them up close, touch their smooth walls and experience their indoor cooling effects.


Historically, Pueblo Indians in the Rio Grande valley constructed expansive homes made from sun-dried mud and straw. Stone floors and rooms surrounding a central plaza was another aspect of the architectural style that has been preserved as Santa Fe  Pueblo style.


Santa Fe features so many adobe buildings that it's actually startlingly when you see places made from regular bricks and wood. I fell in love with gazing at the soft clay colors of adobe under the bright Santa Fe sun.


Many Santa Fe museums and galleries are made from adobe but when you consider the ancient history of  adobe architecture, the art and history is reflected not just inside but outside as well.

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.