A Journal, with Pictures

Happenings

New Zealand 2020

by on Mar.10, 2020, under Happenings

On  Sat­ur­day, Feb­ru­ary 15 we left Savan­nah for a two-hour forty-minute flight to Hous­ton, then the fif­teen-hour flight to New Zealand on Air New Zeland. The Air New Zealand flight was very good or at least as good as a fif­teen-hour flight can be. We arrived in Auck­land ear­ly in the morn­ing where we were met by the Sea­sonz rep­re­sen­ta­tive who had us in the car in short order being dri­ven to the Auck­land Hilton. We had booked the room the night before so we were tak­en direct­ly to our room. We show­ered had lunch and met our guide for a tour of the city . The tour includ­ed a vis­it to the Auck­land Memo­r­i­al Muse­um which includes an exten­sive Mau­ri (Indige­nous peo­ple) exhib­it as well as the memo­r­i­al to the World War I New Zealan­ders who were lost. We then drove around the city as well as the quaint sub­urb of Par­nell. In the evening we dined at a water­front restau­rant called Soul and I had two of my New Zealand favorites, local oys­ters and White Bait then fin­ished with a Pavlo­va for dessert.

The City of Auck­land has grown and changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly since I had last vis­it­ed. Our stay was just one night and we left the next day which was Feb 17 since we lost a day trav­el­ing across the inter­na­tion­al date­line. The rest of our trip would take us to three Lodges on the North Island and One on the South Island over the next two weeks. Our next stop would be The Lodge at Kau­ri Cliffs which is on the East Coast (Pacif­ic Ocean) at the north end of the North Island.

 

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The lodge at Kauri Cliffs, North Island NZ

by on Mar.10, 2020, under Happenings

We flew to the Bay of Islands air­port from Auck­land the after­noon of Feb­ru­ary 18th arriv­ing at the lodge late in the after­noon. Kau­ri Cliffs is a Robert­son Prop­er­ty devel­oped by an Amer­i­can who pur­chased 6500 acres and in addi­tion to the lux­u­ri­ous lodge, cot­tages and a cham­pi­onship-lev­el golf course oper­ates a sheep and cat­tle ranch on the property.  There are three Robert­son resorts in New Zealand and we will vis­it two. The Lodge and cot­tages have a spec­tac­u­lar 180-degree view of the Pacif­ic Ocean and over­look the golf course. Dur­ing the tour of the beau­ti­ful facil­i­ty, we learn that there will be a beach bar­beque that evening, so it’s time to unpack and then we are trans­port­ed over the graz­ing land and hills down to a stun­ning beach that reminds us of the Mon­terey, Cal­i­for­nia Coast. Cock­tails and great din­ing at sun­set on the beach, plus a chance to inter­act with the oth­er guests from around the world is a great way to start our New Zealand Lodge experience.

The next day we have a pri­vate char­ter to cruise the near­by Bay of Islands. After a great break­fast, we scur­ry around get­ting all the things we were told we should take, tow­els, swim­suit, sun­screen, etc. etc. and show up at the lodge with half of the list. The staff hands us a bag with every­thing need­ed when we get to our car and we real­ize we need to stop think­ing and let these great peo­ple take care of us. We arrive at the dock and are met by our Cap­tain (own­er) Alan and his first mate Jen­nifer and wel­comed aboard “Buck­et List”. We are get­ting over jet lag and our instruc­tions are we look for­ward to a relax­ing day explor­ing the Bay of Islands. This is exact­ly what we expe­ri­ence, cruis­ing through islands, see­ing the spot where Cap­tain Cook the first Euro­pean land­ed, anchor­ing in a cove and hav­ing Alan and Jen­nifer pre­pare fresh snap­per fil­lets, bar­be­qued rack of lamb served with fine New Zealand wine, topped off by a Pavlo­va for dessert. More cruis­ing and final­ly back at the dock ends a per­fect day. Again, the New Zealand theme con­tin­ues, Alan and Jen­nifer make us feel like fam­i­ly, not char­ter customers.

The evening after the cruise on the Bay of Islands dur­ing cock­tails we were treat­ed to a per­for­mance by a local Mau­ri trib­al group.

The final day at Kau­ri Cliffs includ­ed a round of golf. The course was stressed by recent droughts, but still beau­ti­ful with great holes along the coast. We enjoyed our golf and had anoth­er great din­ing expe­ri­ence then it was time to pack.

We rose to see a beau­ti­ful sun­rise then enjoyed anoth­er great break­fast over­look­ing the golf course, and ocean. Then we were off to the air­port bound for the Huka Lodge.

 

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Huka Lodge North Island NZ

by on Mar.08, 2020, under Happenings

On Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 21 we trans­ferred to the Bay of Islands Air­port from Kau­ri Cliffs Lodge. Oops the flight to Auck­land was fine, but the ongo­ing con­nec­tion Taupo air­port was can­celed, so instead, we flew to Rotarua and were dri­ven the one hour trip to Taupo where the car from Huka lodge was wait­ing. On our dri­ve, we saw exten­sive forests that were being har­vest­ed and replant­ed and a lot of geot­her­mal activ­i­ty. This part of the island was formed by vol­canic activ­i­ty. The lodge is sit­u­at­ed on the Waika­to Riv­er that flows out of Lake Taupo New Zealand’s largest lake. Our suite had a great view of the riv­er gen­tly flow­ing by. Just below the lodge is the Huka Falls, which gave the lodge its name. It orig­i­nal­ly was a fish­ing lodge. Fish­ing is still a rea­son to vis­it but of all the great din­ing expe­ri­ences we had in New Zealand, Huka Lodge had by far the best. We start­ed our first night with a gourmet tast­ing menu served to us at our pri­vate table in the wine cel­lar, paired with a dif­fer­ent New Zealand wine with each course. We fol­lowed this reg­i­men every din­ner while at Huka Lodge.

It was driz­zling a lit­tle on the sec­ond day at Huka Lodge but that did­n’t stop us from going fly fish­ing for trout on the Waika­to riv­er, with super guide Chris Bren­nan. Joyce had nev­er fly fished and it had been years since I cast a fly, but we lit­er­al­ly got tired of catch­ing nice large Rain­bow and Brown trout. We had a great time, catch and releas­ing well over 20 fish and enjoyed a pic­nic lunch on the riv­er for a great day.

On Sun­day we drove back to Rotarua to vis­it a Mau­ri Trib­al meet­ing house (Marae) and learn about the Mau­ri peo­ple. We were treat­ed to the wel­com­ing cer­e­mo­ny which made us hon­orary trib­al mem­bers, we watched tra­di­tion­al dances and saw how a feast (Han­gi Meal) was pre­pared then cooked under the ground on heat­ed stones. While the meal was cook­ing we took a short excur­sion to near­by falls hiked through the for­est then watched white water raft­ing. Again, the New Zealand hos­pi­tal­i­ty pro­vid­ed by the two Mau­ri fam­i­lies made us feel right at home wel­com­ing us and treat­ed us like family.

One last incred­i­ble din­ing expe­ri­ence, then time to pack and in the morn­ing after anoth­er great break­fast we were off to Cape Kid­nap­pers by car.

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Cape Kidnappers North Island NZ

by on Mar.08, 2020, under Happenings

On Mon­day, Feb­ru­ary 24 we were dri­ven the two-hour dri­ve to the Hawks Bay Region stop­ping for lunch at the Clear View Win­ery. This is one of the wine regions of New Zealand with the largest city in the area Napi­er. Napi­er is inter­est­ing in that it was destroyed by an earth­quake in the 1920s and rebuilt in the art deco style. After lunch, we con­tin­ued the short dis­tance to the Farm at Cape Kid­nap­pers, which is a 6000-acre work­ing ranch with approx­i­mate­ly 2000 sheep and 500 cat­tle. Over­look­ing the bay is the world rat­ed top 100 Cape Kid­nap­per golf course and lodge where we stayed. Our suite had a great view of the prop­er­ty and Hawks Bay and was only a short walk from the beau­ti­ful lodge. This is anoth­er Robert­son resort so we knew the evening rou­tine, cock­tails, and canapes served in the lounge area fol­lowed by a gourmet din­ner with fine NZ wine and out­stand­ing service.

Our first day of explo­ration start­ed with a Kiwi dis­cov­ery walk. Lau­ra our nat­u­ral­ist guide took a group of guests into the woods to find a Kiwi, which is the nation­al bird of NZ and an endan­gered species. To help pre­serve the Kiwi pop­u­la­tion a num­ber of Kiwi sanc­tu­ar­ies have been estab­lished to increase the sur­vival rate of young birds. Cape Kid­nap­pers Farm is one of the sanc­tu­ar­ies and Lau­ra used a radio direc­tion find­er to locate one of the chicks that had a radio tag. We got a brief­ing on the Kiwi and saw the humon­gous egg of this species. The full-grown Kiwi is about the size of a chick­en and does not fly. Kiwi’s are noc­tur­nal feed­ers so the Kiwi was awak­ened from his sleep so we could observe it. Lau­ra weighed the bird, checked its health then placed it back in a bur­row with some food. It was an inter­est­ing and edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence and helped us work up an appetite for lunch.

After lunch, it was time for a Can-Am (All-Ter­rain Vehi­cle) tour of the prop­er­ty. This includ­ed a vis­it to the fur­ther­most reach­es of the farm through old creek beds, across expan­sive farm­land and down to the ocean.  We also vis­it­ed the rook­ery of the Gan­net, the chicks first flight is eight-day non-stop to Aus­tralia. This is the largest rook­ery and it is esti­mat­ed that these birds con­sume eleven tons of fish per day. We observed the par­ents feed­ing the chicks.

On Wednes­day we played the Cape Kid­nap­per golf course. This is a stun­ning set­ting and the design­er Tom Doak took advan­tage of the sea­side cliffs and rugged ter­rain to pro­duce a visu­al­ly spec­tac­u­lar and dif­fi­cult test of golf. We enjoyed our round and had a “small world” expe­ri­ence on the 16th. hole. A sin­gle caught up with us so we let him play through and low and behold it was Will May­hall a fel­low mem­ber at Chechessee Creek Club.

Anoth­er nice evening enjoy­ing the great din­ing expe­ri­ence and ser­vice, then pack. Tomor­row after break­fast we leave for the South Island.

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Blanket Bay Lodge South Island NZ

by on Mar.07, 2020, under Happenings

On Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 27 we flew from Hawks Bay on the North Island to Auck­land and then to Queen­stown on the south end of the South Island. We trav­eled by car an hour to the south end of Lake Lake Wakatipu to the Blan­ket Bay Lodge. The lodge is a very impres­sive stone and wood struc­ture over­look­ing the lake and the Liv­ingston Moun­tains. Our suite was at the south end of the hotel and had a patio and win­dows that gave us spec­tac­u­lar great views.

The weath­er changed our plans for Fri­day so we moved the day’s activ­i­ties to Sun­day and enjoyed a day of relax­ing at the lodge and a vis­it to the lit­tle town of Glenorchy for some shop­ping and sight­see­ing in the driz­zle. Sat­ur­day the weath­er coop­er­at­ed so we embarked on our Dart Riv­er Jet Boat Wilder­ness excur­sion. This includ­ed a mini-bus ride through the coun­try­side lead­ing to the rivers enter­ing the south end of the lake, then a hike through the for­est and final­ly a Jet Boat ride up then back down the Dart Riv­er. The Jet Boats are fast and boun­cy able to trav­el with only 8 inch­es draft over the rocky riv­er rapids. We had pon­chos but we still got a lit­tle wet but the incred­i­ble scenery and excit­ing ride made it worth it.

Sun­day was our last day of tour­ing and it was also Joyce’s Birth­day. We were picked up in front of the lodge after break­fast by our heli­copter for the morn­ing. We lift­ed off head­ed across the lake and climbed over the Liv­ingston Moun­tains, through val­leys, over glac­i­ers, tra­versed the val­ley to the next range, the Franklin Moun­tains, and descend­ed into Mil­ford Sound to the beach on the Tas­man­ian sea. A recent “rain event” washed a large amount of drift­wood and a num­ber of boul­ders onto the beach which made for an inter­est­ing walk. We land­ed on a glac­i­er and the beach for a hike as well as on the side of the moun­tain over­look­ing Lake Wakatipu and had a cham­pagne birth­day toast. The sites were spec­tac­u­lar, our pilot Rene was great and when we were done we land­ed back on the east side of the lake at Moon­light lodge the head­quar­ters of a 33000 acre “Sheep Sta­tion” (Ranch). One inter­est­ing obser­va­tion was that the glac­i­ers had a red hue, which was caused by ash from the recent fires in Aus­tralia. The three-hour heli­copter explo­ration of the South Island moun­tains was one of the high­lights of our trip.

We were met by Pad­dy our driver/guide at Moon­light lodge and were intro­duced to John Fos­ter the own­er of the sheep sta­tion. We then took a tour via a Can-Am ATV (All-Ter­rain Vehi­cle). We drove up and down over lots of rugged ter­rains which is where John rais­es his sheep. The area is graz­ing land, native beech for­est, lakes, rivers, min­ing huts, and tracks from the gold min­ing era. Before lunch, we explored pri­mar­i­ly sheep graz­ing land with panoram­ic views of the moun­tains. We then enjoyed a pic­nic lunch with John and Gin­ny Fos­ter and his son and grand­son as well as Pad­dy in front of Moon­light lodge which is also John and Gin­nys home. In keep­ing with our entire New Zealand expe­ri­ence, we were wel­comed and treat­ed like fam­i­ly in the typ­i­cal open com­fort­able sin­cere style of the peo­ple of this beau­ti­ful coun­try. We learned a lot about the busi­ness of pro­duc­ing fine meri­no wool, main­ly that it includes a lot of hard work and the mar­ket for wool is uncer­tain. After lunch, we reluc­tant­ly said our good­byes to con­tin­ue our tour. Pad­dy then took us down the canyon which was a major gold-pro­duc­ing area, with rema­nents of past min­ing activ­i­ty and beau­ti­ful clear streams to ford. We swapped vehi­cles and then toured what was the gold rush town of Arrow­town that is now most­ly shops and restau­rants for tourist. We then head­ed back to the Blan­ket Bay lodge for our last din­ner in New Zealand.

In hon­or of the birth­day, the lodge poured cham­pagne for cock­tails and since it was a beau­ti­ful evening we dined out­doors on the deck with the incred­i­ble view we have enjoyed so much. It was anoth­er exquis­ite din­ner with anoth­er excel­lent New Zealand wine fin­ished with a birth­day cake to cap off a won­der­ful stay.

 

We had a leisure­ly morn­ing Mon­day pack­ing and one last great break­fast served by the out­stand­ing Blan­ket Bay staff. Our dri­ver picked us up and we were dri­ven back to Queen­stown for our flight back to the U.S. through Auck­land. This was the fifth trip orga­nized by Tony Huff­man for us and again it was anoth­er incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence. Tony and his asso­ciates as well as his part­ners, in this case, Sea­sonz in New Zealand, made the trip effort­less, absolute­ly first class with every detail attend­ed to. Our New Zealand expe­ri­ence was one of the best ever, Thanks, Tony.

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Jordan Revealed

by on Jan.26, 2019, under Happenings


Jan­u­ary 13, 2019


We flew from Cairo to the Jor­dan­ian cap­i­tal of Amman which was an exten­sion of the Wendy Pang­burn’s (PI) YPO Egypt trip. Twen­ty-eight of the orig­i­nal group plus a cou­ple who joined us made our group thir­ty in total expe­ri­enc­ing the Hashemite King­dom of Jor­dan. We were met by our two excel­lent Jor­dan­ian guides, Zak Salameh and Maj­di Saleem. Amman is a clean, more mod­ern city with more order­ly traf­fic than Cairo with one-sixth the pop­u­la­tion. Our first stop was the Citadel which is at the cen­ter of the city on one of the hills upon which Amman was built. The Citadel is impor­tant because it has a his­to­ry of being occu­pied by many great civ­i­liza­tions. There is evi­dence from pot­tery exca­vat­ed of use dur­ing the Neolith­ic peri­od (12000 years ago). Mon­u­ments show the his­tor­i­cal names of Amman includ­ing Philidel­phia. The promi­nent struc­tures include the Tem­ple of Her­cules, a Byzan­tine church and the Domed Umayyad Palace.





Jan­u­ary 13, 2019


We then trav­eled by bus to our hotel the Kempin­s­ki Ishtar Resort on the shore of the Dead Sea. The hotel com­plex is amaz­ing and we enjoyed a lit­tle down­time although the windy cool con­di­tions pre­clud­ed a float on the famed Dead Sea. We worked out in the hotel gym which shocked our bod­ies back to real­i­ty before of course more cock­tails and dinner.



Jan­u­ary 14, 2019


After break­fast, we board­ed our bus with the first stop being the site on the Jor­dan riv­er where accord­ing to the bible Jesus was bap­tized by John the Bap­tist. The Al-Maghats ruins are locat­ed on the Jor­dan­ian side of the Jor­dan Riv­er that includes ruins of church­es, bap­tism ponds, as well as pil­grim and her­mit dwellings. Thir­ty yards across the riv­er is Israel and a bap­tism loca­tion which was in use at the time of our vis­it. There is also a new church on the site for wor­shipers on the Jor­dan side of the river.



We then trav­eled to Mount Nebo the high­est point in this part of the ancient king­dom of Moab. In the Bible, Mount Nebo is the moun­tain where Moses was grant­ed a view of the Promised Land. This is also the place where Moses died and was buried. The Fran­cis­cans have exca­vat­ed the site and in 1993 com­plet­ed the Memo­r­i­al Church of Moses. They have incor­po­rat­ed mosaics from the ancient basil­i­ca that occu­pied the site. There is a cave stone used to close cave dwellings from bib­li­cal times on dis­play on the approach to the church.



From Mount Nebo we con­tin­ued the short dis­tance to the City of Mad­a­ba, known as the “mosaice city”. The city is on the site of a very ancient set­tle­ment. In 1881 set­tlers dis­cov­ered mosaics buried beneath the rub­ble. The most famous is the unique par­tial map of the Holy Land in the Greek Ortho­dox Church of St. George. We vis­it­ed the church pri­or to hav­ing a fun lunch at a Jor­dan­ian restaurant.



After lunch, we trav­eled to the ancient city of Petra and checked into our unique hotel which was orig­i­nal­ly built by the Bedouins. The next morn­ing we got an unau­tho­rized 5:00 AM wake up call with the call to prayer from the near­by mosque.


 



Jan­u­ary 15, 2019


After break­fast, we vis­it­ed one of the new Sev­en Won­ders of the world. Petra is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock faces by the Nabataeans, who set­tled there more than 2000 years ago. The Nabataeans, pros­pered tak­ing advan­tage of the loca­tion at an impor­tant junc­tion for the silk, spice and key com­modi­ties trade routes that linked Chi­na, India, and south­ern Ara­bia with Egypt, Syr­ia, Greece, and Rome. The entrance to the city is through the “Siq” a nar­row gorge, which is flanked on either side by soar­ing cliffs. The Siq has tombs and tem­ples carved on the cliff sides as well as an amphithe­ater and advanced water con­trol and dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tem. With sea trade sup­plant­i­ng over­land trans­port Petra fad­ed, but it was redis­cov­ered in 1812 and has become Jor­dan’s num­ber one tourist attrac­tion. The film “The Last Cru­sade” with Indi­ana Jones that was filmed in Petra did­n’t hurt tourism, but the place exceeds its hype. Petra is tru­ly a won­der­ful wonder.



Faces of Petra



 


Jan­u­ary 16, 2019


After break­fast, we left Petra and head­ed south towards Aqa­ba, a city on the Jordan/Saudi Ara­bia bor­der loca­tion of the world-famous Wadi Rum. It is an amaz­ing desert land­scape made up of mono­lith­ic rock for­ma­tions that rise up from the desert floor to heights of 5740 feet. It was made famous by being the place where Prince Faisal Bin Hus­sein and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Ara­bia ) head­quar­tered dur­ing the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans. This where the movie Lawrence of Ara­bia was filmed as well as the recent film “The Mar­t­ian”. We explored by four-wheel vehi­cle and saw the nar­row gauge train like the one that Lawrence tar­get­ed and viewed the unique land­scape. We had tea in a Bedouin tent and lunch cooked in the tra­di­tion­al Bedouin style under the sand.



After lunch, which got a lit­tle grit­ty when a sand storm start­ed, we began our dri­ve back to Amman. The sand storm inten­si­fied, then turns into a thun­der­storm, then a hail storm and final­ly as we entered Amman a snow storm. We checked into the Four Sea­sons and show­ered the sand out of our hair, had din­ner and then after a lit­tle weath­er based uncer­tain­ty took four-wheel vehi­cles to the air­port to catch our one AM flight back to the Unit­ed States through Paris. What an incred­i­ble adventure!


 

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Egypt Revealed

by on Jan.22, 2019, under Happenings


We trav­eled to Eyg­pt as part of a trip spon­sored by the YPO group and orga­nized by Wendy Pang­burn prin­ci­ple of Pang­burn Inter­na­tion­al (PI). The peo­ple on the trip and the PI team were absolute­ly great, with out­stand­ing guides (Egyp­tol­o­gist), lec­tur­ers and infor­ma­tion resources. This was not just a fab­u­lous sight­see­ing expe­ri­ence it was an in-depth edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ty. We arrived a day ear­ly, and checked into the famous Mena House Hotel. The next day (nor­mal arrival day) we had a bonus excur­sion to the vil­lage of Saqqara. There we saw the old­est stone struc­tures in Egypt, the Step Pyra­mids 2700 BC, the tomb of Pharaoh Zos­er, the Saqqara tem­ple com­plex and a local rug weav­ing school. That evening at the open­ing recep­tion and din­ner the keynote speak­er was Dr. Zahi Hawass, for­mer Egypt­ian min­is­ter of Antiq­ui­ties and world-renowned archaeologist.


Jan­u­ary 6, 2019



January 7, 2019


The next day we vis­it­ed the Pyra­mids of Giza, the Sphinx and got a pre­view tour of the new Grand Egypt­ian Muse­um. We start­ed at the largest pyra­mid the tomb of Pharaoh Khu­fu built between 2560 and 2580 BC. It is 481 feet high and the base is 756 feet square. It is con­struct­ed of 2.3 mil­lion blocks of lime­stone and gran­ite. There are three oth­er small­er pyra­mids in the com­plex, tombs of son and grand­son of Khu­fu, Khafre and Menkau­re as well as pharao­h’s wives.



We then vis­it­ed the Khu­fu ship which is an intact full-size ves­sel (143 feet long 19.6 feet wide) from ancient Egypt that was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyra­mid com­plex at the foot of the Great Pyra­mid. The ship now is pre­served in the Giza Solar boat museum. 



Next Stop the Sphinx



The new Grand Egypt­ian Muse­um (GEM) under con­struc­tion will be 5,000,2000 square feet, hous­ing 125,000 arti­facts. We did a pre­view tour of the con­struc­tion and some of the exhibits under development. 



Final­ly we toured the cur­rent Egypt­ian Museum



The first day end­ed with din­ner Nile river­side with Pro­fes­sor Sal­i­ma Ikram and stu­dents from Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty in Cairo. Quite a first day. 


Jan­u­ary 8, 2019


We checked out of our hotel and go by bus through the chaot­ic Cairo traf­fic to the air­port. On our way, we pass by miles of blight­ed build­ings, evi­dence of a weak econ­o­my and/or failed gov­ern­ment pro­grams. We board­ed our char­tered Jet for the short flight to Lux­or (Thebes in ancient times) on the Nile. We board­ed our home for the next few days, the Sanc­tu­ary Nile Adven­tur­er. After lunch, we explored the Tem­ple com­plex of Kar­nak. The com­plex cov­ers over 200 acres and was in con­stant expan­sion and use for over 2000 years. It is con­sid­ered one of the most sacred sites in Egypt. We vis­it­ed the main restored area, that is con­nect­ed by the avenue of the Sphinx. Oth­er parts of the avenue are being exca­vat­ed that con­nects to a sec­ondary com­plex that we vis­it­ed as the sun sets. The com­plex is across the Nile from the Tombs of the Val­leys of the Kings and Queens. 



Jan­u­ary 9, 2019


We crossed the Nile in local boats for our vis­it to the Val­leys of the Kings and Queens. Specif­i­cal­ly, we will vis­it King Tuts and Rame­ses VI Tomb as well as Queen Nefer­tar­i’s Tomb. We passed by Queen Nefer­tar­i’s Tem­ple and the Colos­si of Mem­non. Where­as the Pharaohs in the north built pyra­mids to house their tombs in the south, they dug the bur­ial cham­bers into the sand­stone moun­tains. There are 62 tombs iden­ti­fied in the Val­ley of the Kings, num­bered in the sequence of dis­cov­ery. For more infor­ma­tion about the Tombs go to http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/ The most famous is num­ber 62 King Tuts, which con­tained a trove of arti­facts, pri­mar­i­ly because it was over­looked by tomb rob­bers. King Tut was his­tor­i­cal­ly a minor king since he lived only to age 19. In the after­noon we cruised south on the Nile to the next stop which is the city of Esna. 



Jan­u­ary 10, 2019


On our cruise to Esna, we got a good view of the Nile riv­er val­ley, two things that strike you is how nar­row the fer­tile area is adja­cent the riv­er and that every vil­lage has a mosque with a minaret usu­al­ly broad­cast­ing. In Esna, we focused on the Gre­co-Roman Tem­ple of Khnum. The Tem­ple was com­plet­ed around 250 AD and fea­tures 24 beau­ti­ful­ly dec­o­rat­ed pil­lars and the walls cov­ered with reliefs. On the west­ern exte­ri­or facade, we saw reliefs show­ing the god Horus (god of Vic­to­ry) as well as Khnum (god of cre­ation). The sur­round­ing site is being dug out and there are mar­kets cater­ing to tourists around the exca­vat­ed tem­ple site.






In the evening its dress like an Egypt­ian night, and after cock­tails and din­ner our boat crew intro­duces us to Egypt­ian danc­ing. FUN!!



Jan­u­ary 11, 2019


Overnight we cruised to the city of Kom Ombo and in the morn­ing vis­it­ed the Tem­ple with the same name. This Tem­ple is for the wor­ship of two gods, Sobek: the croc­o­dile god, and Horus the fal­con god. This is a clas­sic tem­ple design of the Gre­co Roman peri­od but made up of two par­al­lel tem­ples. The design starts with huge entrance struc­tures, open­ing into pil­lared court­yards, lead­ing to the cer­e­mo­ni­al cham­ber at the back of the complex. 




We then had lunch as we sail to Aswan our last stop. After lunch, we go by bus to the Phi­lae Tem­ple, which was res­cued from under­wa­ter. After a cof­fer­dam was built it was dis­man­tled (40,000 pieces) and moved then reassem­bled on near­by Agilkia island. We then expe­ri­enced a sail on the tra­di­tion­al Egypt­ian sail­ing boat called a feluc­ca. After the sail we had tea at the famous Cataract Hotel at sun­set before return­ing to the Nile Adven­tur­er. That evening we heard from Ambas­sador Karim Hag­gag regard­ing Egyp­t’s per­spec­tive of the U.S.






Jan­u­ary 12, 2019


We left our float­ing hotel and board­ed our char­tered Jet to Abu Sim­bel, the site of the Abu Sim­bel Tem­ples. The Tem­ples were built by Ram­ses II one of the longest rein­ing Pharaohs in 13 cen­tu­ry BC. The walls depict the pharaoh in his var­i­ous exploits and next door is the tem­ple ded­i­cat­ed to his favorite wife, Nefer­tari. The tem­ples were orig­i­nal­ly carved out of the moun­tain­side. The com­plex was relo­cat­ed in its entire­ty in 1968, to an arti­fi­cial moun­tain high above the Aswan High Dam reser­voir to save it from sub­mer­sion in Lake Nass­er, once the dam was complete. 




We re-board­ed our jet and flew to Cairo for our last night in Egypt. On the way in from the air­port we had a spe­cial treat, a pri­vate tour of Abdeen Palace. The palace was built in 1863 by order of King Ismail. It was the scene of the blood­less Coup staged by the mil­i­tary that oust­ed the last Egypt­ian king Farouq I in 1952. The refur­bished 500 room palace has been vis­it­ed by heads of state and is not open to the pub­lic. Our group was the first, non-gov­ern­ment group to receive a tour. 



After the tour, we had our last din­ner in Egypt at the U.S. Embassy. The next day some returned home or con­tin­ued else­where on their own and we join the part of the group that con­tin­ues on to Jordan.

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Florence/Tuscany 2018

by on Jun.13, 2018, under Happenings

Since we decid­ed to got to the Cir­rus Own­ers and Pilots Asso­ci­a­tions Euro­pean Migra­tion in Rome we added a week in Tus­cany. We arrived in Flo­rance on Fri­day after a long flight with two stops, so the rest of the day was relax­ing and do a lit­tle sight­see­ing then din­ner at the hotel.  We stayed at a fan­tas­tic small bou­tique hotel right on the Piaz­za S. Maria Novel­la, and a short walk to the incred­i­ble Piaz­za Duo­mo (Reli­gious Cen­ter). We had vis­it­ed Flo­rence before so we did­n’t have to see the must-see tourist sights, so the plan was to soak in more of the cul­ture and of course, par­take of the great Tus­can food and wine. On Sat­ur­day we start­ed the process with a “Culi­nary Tour of Flo­rence”. Our delight­ful guide Bar­bra intro­duced us to every­thing from local truf­fle sand­wich­es, to final­ly Gela­to, with lots of inter­est­ing things in between includ­ing tripe and local wines, olive oil, pas­try, cheese, and on and on. We passed a steak restau­rant where the min­i­mum thick­ness is four fin­gers (three and a half inch­es) and rare is the only choice.  We con­tin­ued our tour through the Medici seat of gov­ern­men­t and viewed the famous stat­ues in the Piaz­za Sig­no­ria then over the famous Ponte Vec­chio, once a meat mar­ket known for its smell and final­ly on to our gelato.  One inter­est­ing site is the Medici Jus­tice stat­ue, no blind­fold, and a sword. The plaque essen­tial­ly says “I’m Cos­mos Medici and jus­tice is in my eyes and I have the sword to car­ry it out”. We spent the after­noon walk­ing off the morn­ing calo­ries doing more sight­see­ing includ­ing the Medici chapel/museum. The evening we dined at Il Cibreo a very spe­cial Flo­ren­tine restaurant.

Our next day adven­ture start­ed with a “Flo­ren­tine Cook­ing Class” with our chef/teacher Lau­ra of www.cookinginflorence.com. This turned out to be great fun and we learned and pre­pared bro­chette, Pici pas­ta, chick­en breast stuffed with moz­zarel­la, and Ter­ra Ma Sue. Then we added a lit­tle Tus­can wine, music by Boclli and we ate the whole thing for lunch. Deli­cious, edu­ca­tion­al and great fun.

A lit­tle more walk­ing off the calo­ries, then a tour “off the beat­en path” by golf cart. Our guide, who was a delight­ful char­ac­ter, enter­tained us with lit­tle-known his­tor­i­cal facts and hid­den trea­sures of Florence.  One piece of Medici gos­sip was the fact that one mar­ried a Haps­burg daugh­ter and they made sure every­one knew by dec­o­rat­ing the city hall with Vien­nese scenes. We fin­ished the golf cart tour high above Flo­rence with a breath­tak­ing view of the city, from S. Mini­a­to al Monte. We then board­ed a boat on the Arno for a sun­set cruise. We fin­ished the day with din­ner at the 100-year-old fam­i­ly run restau­rant, Bucas Mario, fea­tur­ing tra­di­tion­al Flo­ren­tine recipes.

The next day our dri­ver guide Simon picked us up at the hotel and drove us into Tus­cany. We first toured the love­ly medieval hill-town of San Gimignano. We explored this walled town with per­fect­ly pre­served tow­ers and build­ing with a won­der­ful view of the coun­try­side. We then dri­ve to a win­ery for a relaxed lunch and wine tast­ing, (and buy­ing) expe­ri­ence. After lunch, we meet our local guide in the beau­ti­ful city of Siena who takes us on a walk­ing tour of this fabled medieval city, includ­ing the remark­able shell-shaped Piaz­za del Cam­po-home of the famous Palio horse race and Unique Goth­ic-Romanesque Duo­mo. Final­ly, we dri­ve out into the coun­try­side to our hotel/castle, Castel­lo di Casole, where we will stay while in Tus­cany. Our hotel turns out to be a real gem on a hill over­look­ing the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side of Tuscany.

On Tues­day Simon picked us up at the hotel for a day of learn­ing about Chi­anti wine. We Began with an excur­sion to Pan­zano, then a vis­it to a his­toric abbey cel­lar. We then had anoth­er light Tus­can lunch accom­pa­nied by Ital­ian wines.

Wednes­day our great driver/guide picked us up again and we were off to the town of Mon­tal­ci­no. Mon­tal­ci­no is impor­tant in that it is the cap­i­tal of the leg­endary Brunel­lo wine region. We explore the wind­ing streets and medieval walls and fortress with a great view of the Tus­can hills. Brunel­lo is made from Chi­anti grapes, but they pro­duce a very dif­fer­ent wine in this region. We then vis­it a local win­ery for a tour, tast­ing, and lunch. We add some Brunel­lo to our cel­lar to accom­pa­ny the Chi­anti we pur­chased ear­li­er. After lunch we decide to vis­it one last vil­lage in Tus­cany, Pien­za, fin­ish­ing our Tus­cany explo­ration with a cel­e­bra­to­ry Gela­to before head­ing back to our hotel for our last night din­ner of real piz­za and Tus­can wine.

Tus­cany was won­der­ful, Cul­ture, Food and Wine and won­der­ful places and peo­ple. Tomor­row we dri­ve to Rome to meet fly­ing friends and vis­it a great city. It will be hard to beat the unique ambiance and char­ac­ter of Tus­cany. If it’s not obvi­ous by now, we love Italy, Ital­ian food, and Ital­ian wine.

 

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Rome

by on Jun.13, 2018, under Happenings

On Thurs­day, we were dri­ven from Castel­lo di Casole to Rome. It’s a beau­ti­ful dri­ve and we arrived in time for lunch. Our hotel was the Mar­riott Park near the Inter­na­tion­al Air­port since the major­i­ty of those attend­ing the Euro­pean Cir­rus Own­ers and Pilots Asso­ci­a­tion “Migra­tion” planned to fly in. I said planned because only five of the planes end­ed up hav­ing park­ing spots in Rome and the rest of the planes were spread all over Italy. Turns out we could have stayed down­town which would have been much more con­ve­nient. It was a fun three days, start­ing with a group din­ner at the hotel, then the next day was a bus tour of Rome, lunch, then an after­noon to explore the city on foot. We took this oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it one of our favorite places the Piaz­za Navona, for a cool bev­er­age and watch­ing the dai­ly spec­ta­cle. Fri­day evening was the Gala Din­ner, then Sat­ur­day there were excel­lent sem­i­nars in the morn­ing and after lunch an option­al walk­ing tour of the city and din­ner. It was great to see old friends and make new ones while vis­it­ing one of the great cities of the world.

Sun­day we flew back to the Unit­ed States in what turned out to be a very long day due to flight delays. We final­ly got home and start­ed the manda­to­ry diet after a great ten days of food, wine, and cul­ture, plus spend­ing time with fly­ing friends. It was a great experience.

 

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Beijing

by on Jun.30, 2017, under Happenings

We embarked to Chi­na on May 5th, 2017 for a three week tour of Chi­na. The trip was orga­nized by our friend Tony Huff­man who employed Impe­r­i­al Tours of Chi­na that turned out to be a great expe­ri­ence. We had a Chi­na host, Lotus Qi, who accom­pa­nied us for the entire three weeks and in each city a guide and in some cas­es spe­cial guides for a par­tic­u­lar area. We stayed at great hotels, and had a pri­vate car and dri­ver  in each loca­tion. I do not com­ment in each city about the food, but we ate at the best restau­rants, most­ly Chi­nese, but also inter­na­tion­al cui­sine. We laughed at “anoth­er light Chi­nese lunch”, because every meal was a feast, orches­trat­ed by our Chi­nese Food­ie, Lotus. We had the best Piz­za we ever had in Chi­na (Truf­fle Piz­za) and the best French Toast. We ate our way through Chi­na. We also wit­nessed what has been called the “Chi­nese Eco­nom­ic Mir­a­cle”, which has pro­duced an infra­struc­ture now world class and the largest mid­dle class in the world. I will save my com­ments of what I have learned about the Chi­nese sys­tem of Gov­ern­ing and the “Eco­nom­ic Mir­a­cle” for a sep­a­rate blog that I will post lat­er and just focus on the sights of Chi­na for now.

We arrived in Bei­jing and were met by Lotus and tak­en to the Penin­su­la Hotel. As we were descend­ing into the area the first thing that struck us was the huge  num­ber of high rise apart­ment build­ings and how mod­ern the Air­port and oth­er infra­struc­ture was. Bei­jing is a city of twen­ty two mil­lion cov­er­ing about one hun­dred square miles. We had a good flight, but hav­ing done this many many times, I con­clud­ed I’m get­ting old, won’t go work out right way. Our first day was spent tour­ing Tian’an­men Square, the For­bid­den City and doing a tour of the Hutong dis­trict of Beijing.

Across the street from Tian’an­men Square is the For­bid­den City the Impe­r­i­al Palace of the Emper­ors of Chi­na. This com­plex served as the home and seat of pow­er for 24 emper­ors, their courts and harems from 1420 to 1924.

 

Of course we had a lunch of Peking Duck, which was great, but I said I would not obsess about the food but it was spe­cial hav­ing Peking Duck in Peking. We then did a tour of the Hutong, means alley ways, which was an exclu­sive neigh­bor­hood before the revolution.

On our sec­ond day in Chi­na, which was a Sun­day, we vis­it­ed The Tem­ple of Heav­en. This struc­ture was build in 1420, using no nails, and was where the Emper­or would vis­it twice a year for three days to med­i­tate on the affairs of God and man. On the way to the Tem­ple we vis­it­ed an exer­cise park paid for by the Wel­fare Lot­tery, that’s right, no enti­tle­ments in Chi­na. We also wit­nessed moth­ers in the park solic­it­ing wives for their sons, since the one child pol­i­cy has pro­duced a thir­ty mil­lion man sur­plus. Anoth­er exam­ple of unin­tend­ed con­se­quences when gov­ern­ments med­dle in the peo­ples business.

 

After the Tem­ple of Heav­en we vis­it­ed Bei­jing’s Art Dis­trict that was cre­at­ed from a Cold War arms fac­to­ry. This area was very live­ly and an impres­sive use of Fac­to­ry 798.

On our last day in Bei­jing we vis­it­ed the Sum­mer Palace and then trav­eled out to the Great Wall. The Sum­mer Palace was rebuilt in 1888 by the Empress Dowa­ger Cixi and con­sists of 3000 build­ings, gar­dens and ponds, around the man made Kun­ning Lake.

The Great Wall was built to pro­tect Chi­na from preda­to­ry nomads, and is an impres­sive struc­ture with ques­tion­able effec­tive­ness. This again demon­strates that a gov­ern­ment project is hard to stop once start­ed. We saw the wall and were sur­prised to learn that a pri­vate lun­cheon was catered for us, on top of the wall.

 

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