Thursday, August 27, 2015

Totem Poles and Teepees in the Yukon

One of the things that I loved about traveling in the Yukon was the vibrant First Nation culture that was visible everywhere. Traditional paintings, sculptures, food and clothing were displayed in every town that I visited but I really enjoyed seeing the totem poles. The one above stands in Whitehorse.

This totem pole sits in the middle of CarCross (Caribou Crossing), surrounded by shops covered in beautiful First Nation symbols. All tribes don't have totem poles but those that lived near forests carved them to represent the tribal nation's history and stories.You can see the intricate detail and work that goes into the carvings. I was tempted to climb them to look at the figures up close, but I didn't. Besides being difficult, it would be highly disrespectful to climb a totem pole.

I spotted this teepee on a farm just outside of  Dawson City. It's made with traditional elk skin and wood, with an opening on top for smoke. I really enjoyed connecting with First Nation culture when I was in the Yukon, have you ever experienced any aspect of the culture?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Yukon Wedding

There is no place on Earth like the Yukon. I had no idea what to expect when I visited this striking and unconventional region of Canada and that was probably a good thing because you just have to experience it. Descriptions and expectations just don't measure up. So when I sifted through the hundreds of photos I took of all of my out of this world experiences--glaciers! elk hearts! human toe cocktails! a real caveman!, it was hard to choose a singular image of how to sum up the Yukon. But this pic of a Yukon wedding does a great job of capturing the spirit of the place. This wasn't posed or set up, this is the real wedding party on a vintage fire engine, rolling through the dusty streets of Dawson City. It was actually the first of two wedding parties that I witnessed, the other was on a pickup truck. They waved and invited me to join the reception as they rolled off.  They didn't know who I was, I didn't know who they were but they didn't hesitate to invite me to their special day. That's the Yukon; adventurous, welcoming and unexpected.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Next Stop: The Yukon

After several years of scheduling issues, I'm excited to finally be visiting The Yukon. This region of stunning scenery is home to Canada's highest peak, Mount Logan, pictured above. It's also home to the world's largest nonpolar ice fields, which I'll be viewing along with glaciers on a flightseeing excursion. I'm actually traveling to The Yukon for its annual culinary festival, where I'll be learning about cuisine traditions and chef innovations. I'm also looking forward to gold panning and a visit to Diamond Tooth Gertie's in historic Dawson City and exploring the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site. My trip is sponsored by Tourism Yukon , who will be hosting me and three other journalists in what promises to be a really adventurous experience. Please stay tuned!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Quebec City Parliament Building

My first glimpse of Quebec City history and culture was the stately Parliament building just outside of Old Quebec. I thought the building looked distinctly French with its Second Empire architecture so I wasn't surprised to learn that it was inspired by the expansion of Paris' Louvre Museum when it was constructed in 1877. I was surprised, however, when I discovered that the Parliament houses a restaurant, Le Parlimentaire, that's open to the public. Anyone can make a reservation and eat with the prime minister if he's in the building. I watched the restaurant's chef pick herbs from the garden and then show visitors what they were used for. With a highly rated restaurant in the province's capitol building and a chef that works with fresh ingredients, it's clear that the French influence in Quebec shows up on every level!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Next Stop: Quebec City

For the first time ever, I will forgo, my first Quebecois love, Montreal and travel to  historic Quebec City. I'll check out the Le Festival de'ete de Quebec (French hip hop!) as well as the UNESCO Word Heritage Site of Old Quebec City and all its cobblestone and walled charms. My visit is sponsored by  Quebec Tourism so I'll be diving into all aspects of Quebec City history and culture. I expect to be dazzled so stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Medicine Woman

In the highlands of the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala, there are communities of  Mayan women who carve out a living from traditional ways of life. Many of these villages are filled with mostly women because Guatemala's Civil War claimed the lives of so many men. I didn't sense much sadness however, only a gentle determination to provide for their families. The cooperatives of women weavers are quite famous but there are also women who showcase and earn money from other Mayan traditions, including food, art and music. I met this woman in the back of a village, where her shop displaying medicinal herbs and herbal beauty products overlooks a river. I was impressed with her herbal knowledge and the innovation she used to display her potions and plants in recycled water bottles. But looking at this photo, snapped on the fly as I was leaving, I'm more taken with the strength and beauty reflected in her face.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In Remembrance of Charleston Part Two

In remembrance of the nine people who lost their lives in the Charleston Massacre, this is my second re-blogged post about South Carolina Gullah culture, which holds a strong connection with Mother Emmanuel AME Church. Like the resilient Gullah culture that continues to live on after hundreds of years, the spirit and names of  DePayne Middleton Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, The Rev. Dr. Daniel Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson will also live on.

Learning about a destination's culture and history are important aspects of the travel experience for me. I enjoy gathering insight into a place from a cultural perspective. One of the most fascinating culture's I've ever encountered is Gullah culture. This week, I have a feature story about Gullah culture in Travel Muse. The piece focuses on Gullah history in Hilton Head and St.Helena, South Carolina but the culture extends way beyond that.

The Gullah trace their heritage directly to the skilled rice farmers of Sierra Leone, West Africa. They were enslaved specifically because of those skills and were transported to work on rice plantations in South Carolina, Georgia and parts of Florida. The swampy conditions and malaria that went with it, made it uncomfortable for the plantation owners to live so they left the Gullah people to work the plantations mostly unattended. The isolation allowed Gullah dialect, customs and art to survive undiluted for 100 years. One of the hallmark's of Gullah culture is sweet grass basket "sewing" which mirrors Sierra Leone's centuries-old basket weaving tradition. Jery Taylor, pictured above, represents the fourth generation of her family to create sweet grass baskets. Jery has had her creations displayed at the Smithsonian and I quickly bought one of her designs, not just for the beauty but for the significant culture and history that it symbolizes.