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THE BEST in TRAVEL, JULY 2014

THE BEST IN TRAVEL JULY 2014

The travel news, posts, tips and photos that especially captured my attention in July. July-ish.

BLACK SCORPION, FIRE ANTS, FER-DE-LANCE SNAKES, JAGUARS, WILD PIGS AND BOT FLIES THAT LAY EGGS UNDER YOUR SKIN

PHOTO ESSAYInside the Darien Gap: An exploration in 19 photos by Matthew Karsten

SOURCE: Matador Network

Many of the resources I referenced when researching my trip to Panama basically stated not to even think about going into the Darién Gap, a break in the Pan-American Highway consisting of undeveloped swampland and jungle that straddles Panama and Colombia. Likewise, everything I read when looking into traveling to Colombia warned of the dangers of the Darién Gap. I got the message. I have no desire to get close to the area but taking in a photo essay on it by someone who survived nearly three weeks in there? Yes, please.

Matthew Karsten reveals the perils lurking within the untamed swath of land that is the Darién Gap: creatures that sting, bite and invade; plants that pierce the skin; and smugglers, bandits and paramilitary groups. His photos also capture the personalities of the people who have adapted to the rainforest as well as the beauty that can be found there, including the poisonous flora and deadly fauna.

Scorpion Matthew Karsten

Photo by Matthew Karsten

PLEASE PASS THE FERMENTED HORSE MILK

SLIDESHOW: Adventures in Mongolia featuring the photography of Brian Pineda (Brian’s Instagram)

SOURCE: Condé Nast Traveler

Mongolia. Just typing it gives this world traveler a thrill. No other corner of the globe feels as exotic, mysterious and remote to me.

Brian Pineda traveled across parts of Central Mongolia and the Gobi Desert by horse, camel and Soviet-era van and shared his captivating images, engagements with the local people and most memorable experiences from along the way.

Brian Pineda Mongolia

Photo by Brian Maranan Pineda

GEISHARAZZI

ARTICLE: Geisha hunting in Kyoto: 7 things to know before going to Gion by Karla Cripps

SOURCE: CNN

Having just visited Japan I found all of CNN’s Discover Japan series interesting, but my favorite post of the bunch was this one on “geisha hunting”. My last stop was Kyoto. I admit that I was always attuned to the possibility of encountering a geisha when I wandered the streets and alleyways of Gion, feeling a rush of excitement when I spotted one, and being fooled initially by the Japanese tourists who were only impersonating them.

Karla Cripps describes not only Kyoto’s paparazzi culture and the do’s and don’ts of photographing geisha as the title claims, but also educates readers on how to tell a legitimate geisha from a poseur, how to go about “becoming” a geisha for a day, and reveals the secret to to meeting a geisha if you’ve got the yen to do so. Pun intended.

Geisha Gion

MORE TRAVEL PORN

SLIDESHOW: Travel Porn: Featuring Marcelo Castro by Anna Starostinetskaya

SOURCE: Off Track Planet

Marcelo Castro has visited, and photographed, some of my favorite destinations in the world — Petra, Old Bagan, Istanbul. So why don’t my shots look like his? If I only possessed a better eye, timing, technical skill, knowledge, and equipment I think I would be in his league.

Marcelo Castro Photo

Photo by Marcelo Castro

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THE BEST in TRAVEL, JUNE 2014

INTERESTING.

The travel news, posts, tips and photos that especially captured my attention in June. June-ish.

TOBAGGAN IS A DANGEROUS SPORT

ARTICLE: Beijing Fast Forwards to the Future by Gary Shteyngart

SOURCE: Travel + Leisure

Another enviably well-written article from my favorite writer on travel. No one better captures the subtly humorous idiosyncrasies and absurdities of a destination than Gary Shteyngart.

bronze lion in the forbidden city

YOU GO GIRL

ARTICLE: How I quit my job to travel: the Washington DC lawyer by Sari Zeidler

SOURCE: BBC Travel

Truth is, as much as I like to think of myself as a world traveler I couldn’t handle going non-stop even if I *were* smart enough to figure out how to make it work: I like my pets, my routine, my personal stuff too much. But I still respect the hell out of people like Gina Dowd who have managed to lead a nomadic life. This article details how she turned her working-for-the-man desk job into a self-employed virtual office gig.

CAPTIVATING

POST: Faces of Afghanistan by Steve McCurry

SOURCE: Steve McCurry blog

The man behind THAT ICONIC NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTO OF THE GIRL WITH THE HYPNOTIC GREEN EYES (you know the one) is still at it. Steve McCurry recently posted his captivating Faces of Afghanistan series on his blog and once again the images are indelible.

Steve McCurry

A new photo of a girl with hypnotic green eyes by Steve McCurry.

CHUNKY STEW

POST: Why Americans never call themselves just Americans by Matt Hershberger

SOURCE: Matador Network

Another funny travel writer (why aren’t there more?), Matt Hershberger delves into Americans’ compulsion to apply genealogical math to define our identity (and points-out Europeans’ understandable annoyance at us when we do so). Interesting map (especially my home state, “Norwegian” Minnesota).

MIND, BODY AND WORLD ALIGNMENT

POST: The Ultimate Digital Detox: Walking by Robert Reid

SOURCE: National Geographic intelligent travel

Travel writer Robert Reid (a good-looking guy beneath that ridiculous green hat) elucidates the relationship between walking, disconnecting from the digital world and connecting to the present. I get him. The best way to lose yourself and find a destination is step by step.

Below: One of my favorite urban walks, Bondi Beach to Coogee in Sydney.

Urban Walking Trail Bondi Beach to Coogee Sydney

DOWN WITH DOCKERS

POST: We Rank Flight Attendant Uniforms from Worst to Sexiest by Sophie-Claire Hoeller

SOURCE: Thrillist

Maybe not the most highbrow article, but interesting nonetheless. What straight woman/gay man hasn’t mentally critiqued the flight attendants’ uniforms in between endless episodes of The Big Bang Theory while gnawing on stale pretzels from the discomfort of their seat? Pleated Dockers? They author makes a valid point. And I agree, Air France wins, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve always admired the exotic sassiness of those Emirates hats paired with the matching red lipstick. It’s a fabulous look.

Emirates Uniforms

LIBATIONS IN LISBON

POSTSardines, Sex and Cocktails in Lisbon by Guru4Travel

SOURCE: Unusual Hotels of the World

My go-to website for unique hotels showcases three unusual bars in Lisbon, including one that’s a fishing tackle shop by day. Why not?

Pensao Amor

Pensao Amor

FLOOD PRONE AREA

POSTHaunting Photos Of New Orleans Homes Reveal Louisiana’s Architectural Ghosts by Katherine Brooks

SOURCE: The Huffington Post

I dream about houses. Literally. A couple nights of the week domiciles I’ve never seen loom in my reveries. What it all means, I don’t know. But maybe it kinda sorta explains why I Cannot. Stop. Looking at. These Photos. of houses from New Orleans. And what dramatic accessories: a red El Camino, a fallen telephone pole, a “flood prone area” sign. This guy Frank Relle is a genius.

Brainard Relle Frank

Photo by Frank Relle.

PLANE FUN

GALLERYPlane hotels: five aircrafts you can spend the night in

SOURCE: The Telegraph Travel

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I’m a SUCKER for any sort of kitschy theme hotel, an easy mark for properties that bill themselves as unique. So of course I’m helpless to resist aircraft-turned-accommodations. I WILL stay in one of these jet pads sooner or later.

Airplane Suite

The Airplane Suite from HotelSuites.NL boasts a jacuzzi, sauna and three flat-screen tvs.

HIGH CULTURE, GRAND CRU

ARTICLEIn Argentina, Wine, Art and Altitude by Alessandra Stanley

SOURCE: The New York Times Travel section

Alessandra Stanley transports readers to Colomé, a winery and contemporary art museum in northwest Argentina. She writes good.

Colome Argentina

ILLEGAL BACON

And the punches continue to fly over at the comment section of the Brunei post at Adventurous Kate…

POST: Brunei: Perplexing, Infuriating, Unforgettable by Kate McCulley

SOURCE: Adventurous Kate

Brunei

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LE FOUNDOUK DEEP in the MARRAKECH MEDINA

RIAD MALIKA MARRAKECH

Amil seconds the restaurant Ellen and I have painstakingly selected for tonight: Le Foundouk, a French/Moroccan favorite buried deep within the medina labyrinth. Our guide books recommend it, although one mentions cryptically that

…most people turn back before ever making it to the restaurant.

Hmmm.

MARRAKECH MEDINA

Our taxi driver is kinda-sorta familiar with Le Foundouk. He can get us close to it, he promises. Our driver turns down a dozen dizzying backstreets and grinds to a halt deep within the bowels of the Marrakech medina, where he deposits us with a gang of street urchins who promise to deliver us to our dining destination. We exit the security of our cab with some hesitation, as would any sane human beings.

The kids run down the dark alleys ahead and, in exchange for tips, turn us over to a new batch of artful dodgers. Ellen is muttering under her breath and I am compulsively tearing off the tops of my fingernails. We reluctantly follow the hooligans past a burning trash heap, convinced that we will soon be sold into white slavery, although I can’t imagine that we’d command a very good price. Neither of us is any good at physical labor and our bodies have gone to shit.

Just as we’re on the verge of scattering wildly like house cats let loose a man in a red fez (no monocle) receives us (more tips). We’re relieved even though we know from watching countless cartoons and movies in our youth and teens that you can never trust the man with the potbelly in the robes and red fez. He hates “meddling kids” and will stop at nothing to seize them. And their car.

LE FOUNDOUK MARRAKECH

Ellen and I arrive at Le Foundouk unscathed. Too frazzled to request a balcony table as recommended by our guidebook (we’re just thankful to be alive), we settle for a table on the second floor over looking the dining room, which is plenty dramatic with chandeliers draping the ceiling like Christmas tree ornaments.

Le Foundouk Upstairs

Le Foundouk Marrakech

“What’s a wolf bar?” I ask Ellen, surveying my menu. It’s an item.

“Got me.” she confesses. “What do you think of this Crusty stuffed with salted conserved beef?” I don’t know from crusty. We are both thrilled to discover Medaillon rosé — our newfound old standby — on the menu.

Ellen orders the steak and I opt for a combination of appetizers. The food arrives and we rhapsodize over her magnificent bone-in filet, comparing it to the truly great steaks we have known and loved in our lives like they were lovers (Peter Lugar was my best). Whatever, it’s one of the best things we’ve ever tasted.

After dinner we wander up to the Le Foundouk rooftop deck for a gander.

Le Foundouk Deck

Damn! The candle-lit roof, abuzz with movie-star types, overlooking all of Marrakech, is straight out of a dream. We berate ourselves for not insisting upon a table up here. Oh well, que pouvez-vous faire?

Marrakech at night

Upon leaving Le Foundouk, a restaurant-appointed escort safely deposits us in a taxi.

“La Mamounia?” suggests Ellen.

“Roger.”

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