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Showing posts from March, 2009

Into The Fire

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So I've been hanging out in Spain lately. I spent the weekend watching Woody Allen's "Vicki Cristina Barcelona," eating tapas and listening to live flamenco music. There's something about the intensity of Spanish culture that yanks at me. Watching flamenco dancers twirl their skirts and stomp out rhythms at the local nightclub/restaurant Alahambra Palace (more on this in another post), wasn't enough. So I dug through my flamenco music collection. I love flamenco in all it's forms, traditional guitar, nuevo and fusion. The drama, romance and emotion of the music enthralls me. But I haven't found a single flamenco artist that enthralls me quite like Concha Buika. Born on Mallorca of parents from Equatorial Guinea, Buika grew up in a swirl of African, jazz and gitano (gypsy) sounds. Her third CD "Nina de Fuego" (Fire Girl) shows her literally unveiled on the cover, with tattoos of the names of her female family members, her muses, trailing dow

Riding Through St. Lu

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All terrain vehicles supply another cool way to see St. Lucia. Rolling along the Honeymoon Beach area of Vieux Fort, on the island’s southern tip, the picturesque countryside and small fishing villages serve as a vivid backdrop. St. Lucia's landscape is extremely hilly and rocky so navigating an ATV can be a little jarring initially. I'd never rode an ATV and was slightly intimidated by the various gears. After bumping over rocks, potholes and hills along the rugged Atlantic coastline for about 30 minutes, you learn how to swerve around all of the obstructions. The heat from the ATV's engine can also burn your shins. Mine started tingling after about 15 minutes. Guides provide makeshift shin guards that do the trick with pieces of foam and an elastic band to hold them in place. Lead by the baby-faced and charming Bash, we glide past small houses perched on hilltops, bamboo and cinnamon trees and cows and goats freely roaming. The ATVs roll through coconut and banana

Paintball in Paradise

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A tropical island isn't the typical backdrop for a heavily equipped game of paintball but St. Lucia provides an unexpected Caribbean activity with an 11,000 square foot paintball field. Nestled among coconut palms and izora blossoms on the Coconut Bay Resort in Vieux Fort, a retro industrial-inspired war zone beckons. I'm not a huge fun of paintball or any activity that requires three layers of protection, especially in camouflage. But I can't pass up any travel adventure that promises a one of a kind experience. Guides strap a chest guard around your torso and then pull on a heavy tan camouflage jumpsuit. After an overview of rules and safety, players are equipped with mask, helmet and a 3-4 pound paintball marker, ready for battle. The poof sound of paintballs whizzing fills the air. If you're playing against seasoned paintballers, you're likely to be covered in crayon yellow paint splotches very quickly. A white canopy shelters eliminated players and onlooke

Climbing Volcanos

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A few years ago, I decided to celebrate my birthday by pushing myself (rather violently) out of my comfort zone. I travel solo all the time but I don't enjoy adventure travel by myself. What if I get hurt? What if I get killed and nobody's there to report it? I swept past these fears and headed to Costa Rica, where I zip-lined through the rain forest and climbed Central America's most active volcano, Arenal. From a distance, I could see lava spurting. The signs warning of the danger and entering at your own risk, got bigger and bigger as I marched closer to the volcano. It was raining and the rocks were slippery. My binoculars kept fogging up but it didn't obscure the glory of Arenal. I climbed close enough to stare at the ash creeping down crevices. Arenal rises about 1633 meters above sea level. It was like gazing at Mt. Olympus. Afterwards, I visited the hot springs at the foot of Arenal, in Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort. It's one of those tourist-fill

Traveling Through A Liberian Childhood

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I like to explore the world with books as much as I like to actually travel. A well-written narrative can transport you to places that you'd never experience with just superficial details like photos and descriptions. I've been interviewing writers about the criteria they use to select books for Summer reading and it made me think about my own general reading criteria. As a journalist, I'm really drawn to biographies, autobiographies and memoirs more than fiction. There's something about using the facts to entice readers into your world that gets me. It's no coincidence that some of my favorite writers--Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Zora Neale Hurston, Hemingway, started out as journalists. So when I glimpsed The House at Sugar Beach , at my local bookstore and saw it was a memoir written by a journalist, it was pretty much a done deal that I would buy it. Now it wasn't only that the author Helene Cooper was a journalist, it was that she was a Liberian journalist c

Taste Trippin'

Although most of my trips are scheduled, sometimes I like to fly off with spur- of -the minute jaunts. This weekend, I dashed off to Jamaica, Cuba and Peru with a quick detour to Spain. Instead of feeling strangled with jet lag, I feel full, very full. That's because my trips involved a visit to my favorite Nuevo Latino/Caribbean eatery, Cuatro. I started out with a visit to Spain, sipping on a white wine sangria sprinkled with berries. I'm a lightweight drinker and it almost knocked me out so I traveled to Peru, for a divine ceviche with hearts of palm, avocado and whitefish. For my main excursion, I tripped over to Jamaica and Brazil for jerk chicken drenched in tamarind sauce and spicy morros y christanos accented with plantanos. Meanwhile, my traveling companions ventured into Brazil for my favorite moqueca, which I was too stuffed to sample. It was a satisfying journey that almost completely transported me, except for the good old Chicago house music that blasted a remin