Category Travel Writing

The Joys of Miami in the Summer

Summer in Miami is the time to get creative while exploring your cooling off options. Slather on sunscreen, pack a lunch, or scope out the menu at local digs to make the most of your daylight hours.

Biscayne National Park

Just a short drive from Miami Beach, Biscayne National Park is a gem in Miami. Book a snorkeling adventure or simply buy a snorkeling mask and venture into the waves. The salt water is so refreshing on a hot day that most will insist on staying wet until sundown. Make sure to wear sunblock and pack a picnic.

The Everglades

One of the world’s unique ecosystems is The Everglades, also called The River of Grass. Endangered birds soar overhead while lizards sun themselves out in the open.  An airboat ride gets you closer to the aquatic life underneath the rolling greens. Take pictures of the wide spectrum of wildlife, from birds to fierce reptiles.

Homestead

Most visitors are surprised to find that Miami has a rural area. Leave behind the sand and iconic buildings of Miami Beach to experience Miami’s farms. Pop into the dozens of U-Pick spots to hand-select the finest summer fruits and vegetables, including strawberries and corn. Avoid the tractors and bring an appetite.

The Beach

Everyone wants to be on Miami Beach during the summer. The sunrise welcomes breezes that return after the near-daily afternoon shower. This respite allows visitors to change clothes and take a siesta after a filling lunch. Play in the waves knowing that the whole city wants to be where you are now.

Miami during the summer is an experience not to be missed. By staying on the Beach, you will have access to the delights of the city with options to venture outwards and explore other areas of the Magic City. Delight in all the city has to offer during the hot season.

Landmarks on Miami Beach

Miami Beach is a jewel along the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. Historical landmarks complement the amazing nightlife and exclusive dining scene. A day in the famous Florida sunshine can include a trek to these timeless gems.

Art Deco Historic District

Art Deco was a response to the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1923. Bold geometric shapes and an abundance of gold paid homage to ancient Egypt, and scores of hotels and residences sprung up in this ornate style. Every January, the Art Deco Festival celebrates the iconic designs and looks toward the future of architecture. Wear comfortable shoes and prepare to look up at all the grandeur.

Vizcaya Museum

John Deering built a luxurious residence that topped all others in South Florida between 1914-1922. It attracts more than 170,000 visitors each year and is a preferred location for private celebrations. The garden and home located on Biscayne Bay has been turned into a museum housing an international collection of art that curates 2,000 years of human imagination. Browse the collection and walk about the grounds enjoying the famous orchids.

Freedom Tower

The Freedom Tower is part of Miami’s Hispanic culture. Built on the design of a Seville lighthouse, it was once the home of The Miami Daily News and Metropolis newspaper.  In 1962, it was ground zero for the biggest cultural shift the Magic City had ever experienced. Fidel Castro’s regime forced many to flee Cuba for a better life, traveling 90 miles in shark-infested waters. New citizens were processed, vetted, and received medical attention in a southern version of Ellis Island. Visit the museum on the first floor dedicated to the struggle for freedom the Cubans experienced.

Lincoln Road

Lincoln Road stretches from Collins Avenue to Bay Road in Miami Beach. Paved in the 1920s, it was christened the 5th Avenue of the South. Following the 1960s national trend of pedestrian malls, cars are forbidden on Lincoln Road. The landmark is a study in great design paired with the hottest retailers. Sit outside at one of the fresh air bistros after a day of shopping and do some of the most exciting people watching in the world.

Takeaway

Art Deco has been chic starting in the 1920s and continues to be so, as seen in Miami’s celebrated district. John Deering’s Vizcaya home has been converted into a museum that incorporates natural elements and an exclusive art collection. The Freedom Tower is a cultural landmark of Miami’s welcoming nature, symbolizing hope. Lincoln Road is the 5th Avenue of the South and awaits your visit. Make a schedule and visit these historic landmarks to experience the Magic City’s timeless gems.

Panama SEO Sample

Dance is the ultimate non-verbal communication. It can convey a story with synchronized moves and gestures. Many cultures all over the world use dance to keep their traditions alive for past and future generations.

As the bridge connecting South and Central America, Panama is a mix of Spanish, Indian, African, and European cultures. Its natural beauty and warm personality have made it a hit among tourists. When traveling the world, it is a joy to find the uniqueness of each country.

El Tamborito, which means ‘the little drum’ in Spanish, is Panama’s most popular folkloric dance, celebrated for its vibrant costumes, lively themes, and three-drum percussion core. Originating in the 17th century, the national dance took on its modern characteristics in the 1940s. The dance focuses on couples and the art of courtship.

The cantalante, a female singer, leads the dance and keeps time with rhythmic chorus clapping. Feet stomp and the chanting of coplas, or harmonic poems, create a lush soundscape. Lyrics focus on lust, sexual tension, and the frustration that one experiences at Carnival, which takes place between February and March. The beat centers on three drums: the Caja, the Repujador, and Recapidor.  Performers include the cantalante, female singer, and the estribillio, a group of clappers.

The Caja is the smallest drum, and it produces staccato tones. The Repujador provides the masculine element and is the base of the song. Long and slender in shape, the Recapidor creates feminine properties.

During the courting dance, men traditionally knock the floor with their boots while the signature dance move for women is to curtsy as the crowd claps the beat. With shuffling steps, women move their colorful skirts as men make protective gestures. La Pollera is the name of the women’s bright skirts with two large ruffles that mimic the Spanish styles popular in the 17th century. Men wear El Montuni, a long-sleeved shirt that harkens back to cowboys.

There is a distinct courtship element to this dance. Trying to play hard to get, the woman does not smile. Instead, she moves with her skirt and spurs the man’s advances. He works to maintain eye contact. The audience is intended to participate, which is characteristic of African tribal dances where the entire community is involved.

 

Sample Travel Piece

Paradise Found

Phuket, a tear-shaped island in southern Thailand, is quite simply paradise. After the devastating tsunami of 2004 that has left scars on the island in the shape of crosses, warning signs, and portraits on street lamps the exuberance for living is still present on the island with just a twinge of grief. Phuket was once a sleepy beach town visited only by those who wanted to counteract the seediness of Bangkok and nearby Patong. Now it boasts luxury resorts, a water park, top-rated dining and even an art community that is gaining international recognition.

The commuter plane from Bangkok is a short 45-minute ride and offers the best views of the island. Upon initial approach to landing, all one has to do to have their breath taken away is to look out the plane window below. Blue water and greenery meet the eye, but there is a sense of the magical. Your eyes have to blink quite a few times to understand fully the view is real. Within minutes, you are on the ground still mesmerized by the natural beauty.

The Phuket airport is small, but right away you have genial Thais willing to help you hail a cab or find food. Once you are outside, in broken English, a line of Thai cab drivers offer to take you anywhere you need to go. Ask them to take you to a food cart that specializes in rotis. Since the influx of tourists, Phuket has fused foreign dishes with their native flavorings. A roti is a crepe filled with egg, fruit and dowsed in condensed milk all for 30 baht (roughly 93 cents). After the hours of flying, it nourishes you enough to regain your sense of wonder.

It only takes fifteen minutes to reach the Grand West Sands Resort & Villas Phuket Resort, which resides on the western side of the side. Mai Khao, the local beach, is the quietest, yet longest stretch of beach available on the island. Blending ecological responsibility with tourism, West Sands customized a green system to conserve the local area. Once you put your bags down and check in with the transgender (aka a lady boy) concierge, make your way over to Mount Nagakerd.

You will seek refuge from the world at the white jade Buddha that is big enough to see from almost any side of the island on a clear day. Officially known as Phraphutthamingmongkhol-akenagakhiri, the statue is over 147 feet tall and rests on a lotus overlooking the Andaman Sea.  The stray dogs will guide you as you walk/drive up to the entrance and are not a problem as the monks in saffron robes care for them. One word on tourist etiquette: do not touch the monks. The holy men are happy to bless anyone (a donation is appropriate afterwards), but they are forbidden to touch women.

You will work up an appetite on the way up and will be tempted to chow down at one of the numerous beckoning restaurants targeted towards tourists. Resist the urge and instead experience food like the locals. One way to do this is to attend the night market on Ong Sim Phai Road near the Robinson Department Store. This is a glimpse into the real Phuket. Locals shop there during the day, but at night, it is a festival of food. A sea of portable stalls and carts greets you as do the salty wafts of freshly caught seafood. White plastic benches and chairs spill out into the street as a makeshift dining area.

The cornucopia of offerings might be overwhelming at first glance. Look around to see which stand has the longest line and join it. Take note, however, most local cuisine will be quite spicy, and they may not be able to accommodate special orders. However, with fresh papaya salad, pork buns, all forms of curry and barbecued fish balls there is a dish to suit your palate.  A must have dessert is white rice soaked in condensed milk served with slices of juicy mango. The best part of this market is most meals, including beer, will not cost more than 300 baht or $900.

Afterwards, head straight to your hotel room as tomorrow morning will be an elephant safari. This is a perfect activity if you have youngsters in tow. The pachyderms have enormous saddles on their backs resembling cages. There are four bars on either side to ensure maximum safety. These excursions are led by mahouts, elephant wranglers, that perch themselves on the elephant’s head. Once secure on the back of these majestic creatures, you ride for less than an hour through shallow streams, the mountainside, and groves of rubber trees. While it does take a bit to adjust to the saddle, the views are beyond compare for roughly 1500 baht or $45 per hour.

Ultimately, Phuket is whatever you want it to be. It can be a Buddhist retreat, a debauched seaside holiday or an ecological adventure. Plan ahead to take in all this earthly paradise has to offer and remember to tip well.

Sample Travel Piece –Blue Lagoon Tour Copy

Short Description:  

The Blue Lagoon is the landmark that surpasses all others in the land of fire and ice. This geothermal spa located in a black lava field with milky teal water comprised of 70% seawater and 30% freshwater has more visitors every year than there are residents in the country. The waters, which maintain a temperature of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit year round, nourish your skin from the outside as the mineral salts find the balance between your body and soul.

Long Description: 

The Blue Lagoon is an outdoor spa with surreal views unlike anything else on Earth. You will transfer from the capital city of Reykjavik where pure nature is all around into Reykjanes Peninsula. You will arrive at the lagoon with ample time to bathe in the healing waters if you chose to do so. Rather stay dry? There is an abundance of other options for land dwellers such as souvenir shopping, partake in traditional cuisine at the café or restaurant. Find a chair and enjoy the unspoiled views of West Iceland.

Please note that both bathing and non-bathing guests must pay an entrance fee not included in the tour’s price. Bathing guests will be expected to follow the local custom of taking a shower sans swimwear before entering the Blue Lagoon. Gender designated dressing rooms and showers are provided within the facility. Don’t miss one of the many highlights of Iceland and one of the twenty-five wonders of the world.

Rawai Beach

An Invitation to Transformation

I sat on the front porch with three plates before me. One was of colorful exotic fruits, and the other two were heaping salads. This would be my sustenance for the next five days. This wasn’t dieting; this was detoxing. I sat on the massive porch of the Atsumi Healing Center Lakeside Cottage, an economy room that had a massive front porch, on a simple journey to discover the healing benefits of fasting on a budget. There might not be a better place in the world to do this other than Phuket, Thailand.  Phuket, which came to prominence in the 1990s when jaded British tourists christened it the new hotspot, is a hub of detoxing facilities. Throughout its history, this island, located on the west coast of the Andaman Sea, has been known for its prosperous tin trade. The English, Portuguese, and Dutch traders who once used the country as a trade route between India and China now return as health seekers.

Phuket Island has thirty-six breathtaking beaches and with a twice daily shuttle from Atsumi, you never feel landbound which helps when you want to eat your mattress in response to the fasting. The Atsumi Healing Center is situated at 34/18 Soi King Pattana 4. Saiyuan Road., Rawai, Phuket, Thailand. The sky was a crystal blue as were the beaches with their white sands complete with passing sea gypsies selling trinkets. Although it was not high summer yet in Thailand, the air was humid and perfect for sweating out toxins. Upon my arrival at the log cabin front office, there was neither a sense of doom or hope. The grounds were spacious and other retreaters received massages, sunned by the pool or entered the sauna house. Once the formalities of signing in were completed, they led me into a smaller office to ask questions related to bodily functions. I respectfully declined the colonics, therapeutic irrigation, blaming a cultural divide. It simply was not for me. However, if there were ever a place to do one, this might have been it; colonics had their own special house on the property to ensure privacy and a designated specialist to administer them. Everything here is done with privacy and luxury in mind. There are three houses on the property and several villas. The Yellow House ($86 a night) is the biggest with spacious rooms and private bathrooms. The villas ($82 a night) are the premier accommodations with a private deck and a king size bed. Newly constructed five studio apartments comprise the Bamboo House, which are mostly for singles that are not on a budget, and can be had for $62 a night.  The economy rooms are called the Lakeside Cottages, costing only $32 per night. I selected a Cottage and, while it was small and did not have a private bathroom; it had a small bed, dresser and enough room to maneuver comfortably. The massive front porch was a surprise. When I was fantasizing about food, I would sit outside breathing in the local beauty.

A robust Thai woman delivered the cleansing meals early in the morning, before the first beach run of the day. She tells me in her broken English all the nutrients of the fruit and how they are organic. Thais are renowned for their friendliness and “Melba” answered all my questions with enthusiasm. Each morning I rushed to her and we conversed as she handed me over the plates. My meal plan for the next few days was an exotic fruit platter consisting of mango, mangosteen, and dragon fruit for breakfast. Lunch and dinner were two salad plates with a combination garlic, chia seeds, and miso dressing. Two juices were included and I immediately went for my childhood standby of apple juice. Between the jetlag and the lack of a solid meal, the lush surroundings encouraged a languid feeling, as did the twice-daily bus rides to the beach. Socializing with the other guests became a saving grace.

Every morning there was a mandatory meeting of all retreat members. Many came from all parts of the world, but Australians seemed to be the most well-represented group here. All of us detoxers congregated around the meeting table as ginger tea was poured and cheered as if each cup contained cocktails. There is no caffeine or alcohol involved in the ginger tea. A ginger root, once called Billings root in America, was boiled in hot water and then sweetened with lime and honey. This was the only kick available at the retreat. My first time tasting it, I was tempted to do a dramatic show of spitting it out. It had a sharp taste that while refreshing, had too much bite for me. Ginger can burn as much as garlic when too concentrated. My Australian counterparts threw it back like tequila shots as I shrinked away from the teapot. We laughed over it as the staff made their way to the meeting table. The Atsumi personnel tried to make the morning meeting as entertaining as possible before signing guests up for different treatments. We chose a spirit animal card, shared a dream or said good-bye to departing guests who stood next to their before pictures.  Many enthused during their parting testimonials about the wonders of Atsumi. It was meant to give hope during the initial dark days when the monster of cravings and temptations were hounding you to find a heavy meal.

To distract from mounting, hunger there were dozens of treatments from ion cleanses to personal training sessions from a retired pro Thai boxer. For those on a more spiritual bent, there was yoga and private sessions with a Buddhist monk to answer all esoteric inquiries.

The price for detoxing depends on how many days you plan on staying and which accommodation you chose. For the uninitiated, there are three levels of fasting. A full fast is hardcore and should be used by a seasoned detoxer. It involves no juice, but cleansing drinks, vegetable shooters, broth, teas and liver flush drinks alongside plenty of colonics. Full fast with juice is the same as the full fast, but with juices to give you some sweetness throughout the day. Raw fast is what I ate with the fruit plate and the two salads. The Raw fast is perfect for those about to embark on a full fast or those coming off. The full fasts were quite intimidating.

All this had seemed silly to think on the first few days, but by the second night my body did feel cleaner and more relaxed. All the promised benefits began showing up on the third morning. My skin was clearer, my clothes hung loose and I did feel a sense of giddiness. This could have been from the hunger, but the release from nicotine and caffeine was immeasurable. The other detoxers and I went to the beach twice a day and sat in the sauna with coconut oil in our hair. It was a vacation not only from bad habits, but truly an invitation to transformation just as Atsumi promised.