All posts in art and cultural travel

Why Palm Beach County, FL needs a cultural concierge

Known the world over for fabulous beaches, exciting nightlife and upscale living, Palm Beach County, FL, also boasts a tremendous array of cultural attractions. ExpertFlyer goes One-on-One with Bama Lutes Deal, the first cultural concierge, to learn about the finer things in Palm Beach County.

WATCH our video interview with Bama Lutes Deal, cultural concierge.

 

Why did Palm Beach County decide to establish a Cultural Concierge?

Palm Beach County is Florida’s Cultural Capital™, with more cultural venues and events per capita than any destination south of Atlanta.  With so many museums, art galleries, performance halls and other cultural venues, visitors to The Palm Beaches have 42,000 cultural offerings to choose from.  With so much for tourists to experience, the Cultural Council decided to bring in a cultural expert who could curate events and help travelers plan the cultural aspects of their visits to The Palm Beaches. The goal is to showcase our vibrant cultural landscape and help travelers fell more like locals, to help them find authentic local experiences that reflect their own tastes and interests. Continue reading →

San Diego — The birthplace of California

As part of our series on historical getaways, we’ve gone West to San Diego!  Most people think La Jolla Cove, the San Diego Zoo or  Balboa Park when they hear San Diego, but the city has a long interesting history and attractions that define it as the Plymouth Rock of the west coast.  We interviewed Robert Arends of the San Diego Tourism Authority, who shares some unique stories and places to visit, particularly if you’re a history buff.

WATCH our interview with Robert Arends, San Diego Tourism Authority

Why is San Diego considered the birthplace of California?

On September 28, 1542 Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain, anchored his flagship San Salvador on Point Loma near the entrance to San Diego Bay. On this historic day, Cabrillo became the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States. And the San Salvador became the first recorded European vessel to sail along California and survey its coastline; sailing north in search of new trade routes. The San Salvador is the ship that discovered San Diego and of the (future) State of California.

San Diego made history again this past Labor Day weekend.  Tell us about the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s maiden voyage celebration of the first full-scale working replica of the San Salvador. Can tourists board the vessel throughout the year?

Designing the San Salvador

Designing the San Salvador

Yes, the Maritime Museum of San Diego hosted a big annual Festival of Sail – the largest Tall Ship festival on the West Coast – over Labor Day weekend and a full-scale working replica of the San Salvador, the “Mayflower of the West” made her public debut as the star attraction. For the first time ever, visitors got to walk her decks, marvel at her rigging and step back into time to the Age of Discovery [15th-18th century] with exhibits on the ship’s historic significance – akin to the Mayflower as the origin symbol ship of New England.

On September 10, the San Salvador will make her inaugural voyage up the California coast for the Pacific Heritage Tour, where visitors can sail aboard one of 3 passenger legs. She will also make ports of call stops in Oxnard, Monterey, and Morro Bay.

Upon its return to San Diego, visitors will be able to board the San Salvador year-round as part of the Maritime Museum’s permanent collection.

What are some other attractions that history buffs will enjoy?

  • Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma, San Diego’s only national park. Features the film “In Search of Cabrillo,” an exhibit hall presenting Cabrillo’s life and times, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, tidepools to explore, a whale watching overlook, an original WWII gun battery and old military radio station exhibit.
  • Juniper Serra Museum on Presidio Hill, marking the spot where a group of Spanish soldiers and Franciscan friars established Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1769, over 225 years AFTER Cabrillo’s discovery of San Diego. This was the first mission in California’s string of 21 famous missions and the state’s first church.
  • Old Town State Historic Park, San Diego’s first downtown which sprang up around Presidio Hill. Features a historic plaza, several adobe buildings and Old West architecture that brings to life San Diego’s Hispanic heritage from the early to late 1800s.
  • Mission San Diego de Alcala, established in 1774. It was relocated from Presidio Hill to nearby Mission Valley so it could be closer to the San Diego River, the region’s primary water source. Features a museum of original artifacts, a chapel, beautiful gardens and an excavation site believed to be part of the monastery.
  • Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. covering 6,800 acres. Features the Old Mission Dam, hiking up Cowles Mountain (the highest peak in City of San Diego at over 1,500 feet), boating and camping, a state-of-the-art visitor center and popular rock climbing at Mission Gorge.

So, when the history lessons are over, where do you recommend tourists visit to relax, unwind and take in some pretty vistas?

San Diego’s 70 miles of beaches, including scenic La Jolla which is pretty as a postcard! And Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, where visitors can enjoy 360-degree views of San Diego. There’s also the iconic 200-foot tall California Tower in Balboa Park, part of the Museum of Man. Interesting bit of trivia: the tower is topped by a San Salvador ship weathervane. I also recommend taking a fun harbor excursion with Flagship or Hornblower to see San Diego Bay and the coastline just as Cabrillo did!

Any upcoming special events, festivals or other attractions coming up this fall?

Cabrillo Festival on Sept, 30-Oct. 1, featuring a re-enactment of Cabrillo’s historic landing on Point Loma at Ballast Point on Naval Base Point Loma. The event is FREE, family friendly and features cultural demonstrations, folk dances, art vendors and food booths bringing to life traditions of local Native Americans (Kumeyaay tribe), Mexican, Portuguese and Spanish cultures.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Myers Valley Inkopah Gorge  20100320

San Salvador Petroglyphs | Photo: (c)Ted Walton

There was a discovery in San Diego’s East County of a petroglyph rock depicting Spanish ships that is believed to be the only remaining first-person documentation of Cabrillo’s arrival in San Diego in 1542 (see attached photos); recorded by the indigenous Kumeyaay tribes of San Diego County who have lived here for more than 12,000 years. The petroglyphs are believed to be the oldest graphic representation of a recorded event in U.S. history.

The Maritime Museum has a replica of this amazing find.

To plan a trip to San Diego and learn more about our fascinating history and attractions, visit SanDiego.org

The US & Cuba have agreed to restore commercial air travel – Time to expedite your visit

air travel to cuba

For the first time in half a century, commercial air traffic will be restored between the United States and Cuba based on a deal signed this week between the two countries.

According to the Associated Press, dozens of new daily flights will bring hundreds of thousands more American travelers a year to the island as early as this fall.

So, is now the time to go?  Forbes contributor, Ann Abel, says, “Cuba is evolving, which is why visiting right now is fascinating. We’re nearing another inflection point—Cuba’s succession plan for when (if?) Raul Castro steps down in 2018 is a big question, as is the outcome of the upcoming US election.

For now, the safest, and most educational, way for Americans to go is on a “people-to-people” visa arranged by a tour operator that has earned State Department approval and has organized heavily structured itineraries of “cultural exchange” with at least one Cuban contributing to the conversation at all times.”

cuban street

Photo: Sonia Laguna

Expertflyer caught up with Cuba travel expert, Sonia Laguna, Founder and CEO of Just 90 Miles, to take a pulse.

EF: Now that the US and Cuba have officially opened commercial air travel between the two countries, what do you think the impact will be?  
SL: I believe the impact will be positive. Once it takes off, it will make it easier and more convenient to book flights.
EF: Is there greater pressure to visit Cuba sooner rather than later? 
SL: As relations stabilize and the influx of American tourists becomes greater, changes to the island will most definitely come.  For people who want to experience Cuba as it’s been for many years, I recommend planning your trip sooner, rather than later.  As time passes, Cuba will change and modernize.
cuban beach

Photo: Sonia Laguna

EF: Will this affect the affordability of visiting Cuba? 
SL: People do expect that with competition prices will be more affordable.  Today a round trip ticket from Miami, FL, on a charter airline ranges from $300 to $500, depending on the month. Similar flights to the Bahamas are in the range of $200 to $550.
Expedia prices over the past 21 days:
$204
Lowest price
$556
Highest price
$254
Average price
EF: Which airlines do you think will be the best bet for Cuba travel and why?
SL: The airlines that are currently operating with Charter Companies are American Airlines, JetBlue and Eastern Airlines. But I think all the major airlines will try to get routes. It will largely boil down to individual traveler’s preferences and associated loyalty programs may also have a bearing.
cuban architecture

Photo: Sonia Laguna

EF: What else should we know about Cuba tourism today?
SL: Today Cuba is on so many people’s bucket lists.  If you are looking for  a once in a lifetime experience traveling to Cuba, TODAY will guarantee you a country different from any other, with very little modern conveniences, but wonderful architecture,  classical cars, the world’s greatest cigars, music, rum, and most importantly, the warmest and friendliest people you will ever meet.

 

Homeless and lovin’ it — Tips from a present-day nomad for living the life of your dreams

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

It’s difficult to put a number on how many people think about chucking caution to the wind and leaving the rat race for a life of untethered wandering and cultural enrichment — not to speak of the cost savings that come with living in far away destinations, like Southeast Asia.  That said, dreaming and reality are two very different things — or so we thought until we interviewed Paul Kortman, co-founder of nomadtogether.com, a site for people who have decided to live a life of location independence.

Check out our interview with Paul and learn how he and his wife and four kids have learned to live as a “homeless” family over the past two years.  Their experience has been life altering and the community they have congregated serves to give inspiration, support, feedback and camaraderie to others who dare to live outside the box.

 

Sampling the banquet of natural wonders and attractions of Chile

In this month’s One-on-One feature, we interviewed Juan Lopez, North American Market Manager for the Chilean Tourism Board.  Whether it’s skiing in the Andes Mountains, hiking and exploring in Patagonia and Easter Island, or dining in the beautiful, multicultural city of Santiago, Chile offers an unmatched variety of landscapes, activities and attractions for just about anyone.

If you’re not a freewheeling backpacker with limitless time to meander up and down Chile, what’s the best way to plan your first and maybe only trip to this uniquely diverse country?

First you should start in Santiago, to acclimatize to a new country, new language and new people. It shouldn’t be difficult since Santiago is quite a modern and cosmopolitan city. Actually it’s the place where you should relax after a flight from the U.S. Here you should experience the wonderful national and international cuisine that can be found in the city, accompanied with a nice glass of Chilean wine. Depending on what your interests are, you will fly either north to the Atacama, the driest desert in the world, or south down to Patagonia. If you really want to avoid flying within the country, you can always mingle around Santiago and Valparaiso (the former Pearl of the Pacific) enjoying the arts and culture atmosphere of these cities. Between Santiago and Valparaiso you can get lost within Casablanca Wine Valley. If the season allows it, you could go up to Andes and enjoy skiing in the Andes.

Patagonia

Patagonia

September is the start of spring in Chile.  What does that mean for travelers?  Is this a good time to visit and what are the best locations this time of year?

September through May is the best time of the year to visit Chile, mainly if you want to go south and visit Patagonia, Antarctica, the Lakes & Volcanoes Regions. You can still go to Patagonia during the North American summer months (Chile’s winter) but it will be colder. Central area and north of Chile are pretty much open all year round; remember in the northern part of Chile is the driest desert in world where in some area not a drop of rain it has been seen in years, hence this region can be visited year round, from January to December. Central area can be visited in any season, expecting rain in winter, yet getting amazed by the snow-capped Andes Mountain. In spring you will enjoy the beauty of a colorful city.

hiking in chile

Skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts seem to hold Chile in high esteem.  What’s special about skiing in Chile and where are the best snow sport areas?

Skiing in Chile is very particular since you will be skiing in between the highest peaks of the Andes Mountains. When coming from the USA you would be able to ski in the North American summer months (Chile’s winter). Skiing is available just 90 minutes away from downtown Santiago, with four ski resorts easily accessible from the city. The world class ski resorts we have, actually Valle Nevado belong to Mountain Collective Network as Aspen & Whistler do, does tell you the level of ski offerings available in the country. There are also ski resorts down south of Chile, Corralco, Termas de Chillan, Pucon, Huilo Huilo, Osorno Volcanoe.
Now it is quite difficult to pick an area as the best, since this is a personal preference. Yet I can personally say that I prefer to ski in Santiago since the ski resorts are quite close and they cater in an amazing way. Yet I have a Swiss friend that always argues with me that the best ski is in south of Chile – Corralco particularly. Once again it is a personal opinion.

The natural landscape and diversity of Chile is extraordinary, what are your top 5 favorite sites and why?

First the Atacama Desert, since I was born there…. People believe that there is nothing to do in the desert, yet in fact there plenty of activities and natural attractions to sight see. You can find penguins, geysers and lagoons in the Atacama Region. In addition to all this the culture experiences due to the native people that still live in this area is wonderful and unique.

Second, Santiago, place where I currently live, Santiago is such a livable city,  super multicultural and modern that it feels good to be back after being wondering around the world for six six years. Santiago blends that old & modern architecture, cuisine from Peru, Spain, Italy, and Asian influence.

Third, Easter island, it is such a unique and mystical place, it is in fact an open air museum, that you can explore at you own peace, where the Rapa Nui culture (people for island) still preserve their traditions, language and food. In addition you will feel in the “belly bottom” of the world right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Fourth, Patagonia, with Torres del Paine National Park, the fjords and glaciers area. This remote area of the world will just connect you with pristine and pure nature, allowing you to forget the stress of living in a big city. Every time I want to disconnect, I escape to Patagonia. In addition the food here it is just amazing.

Last but not least, it is the Lake & Volcanoes region, I love this area since I am pretty very active and I love outdoors activities, so hiking up to a Volcano, trekking or cycling around one lake to another. What’s best is after a full on day… going and relax on one of the dozen hot spring pools is the best.

Chile is known to be one of the safest South American countries. Is that still the case?

Chile is super safe, and it is not just me saying this, but it has been said by the British Publication “The Economist” and its Safe Cities Index 2015 report.

Chile is that safe that Chilean people don’t need Visa anymore to travel to the U.S., this is due to a waiver program scheme that the Chilean and American government have signed up. This is actually a vote of confidence to Chile coming from the American Government.

What type of shopping should tourists plan for and what types of items offer the best value?

For American people, I would say Chile is not a shopping destination, mainly because we have the same brands and stores you can find in the USA, and similar prices. Yet handicrafts would be interesting to the North American traveler. A precious stone called lapizlazuli is interesting to the North American traveler. Another interesting purchase would be some of the native wools like the one from Alpaca. In lieu of shopping, we recommend Americans spend money on food and drink given the variety of sea food available (remember 3000 miles of coast) and the beautiful wines.

What about the cuisine of Chile – are there native dishes or specialties that visitors should seek out?

I always recommend people to try seafood, especially lobster from Robinson Crusoes Island. In south of Chile, I recommend to try Curanto – a very ancient and very local dish made of different meats, seafood’s and vegetables cooked in a hole dug from the ground and is covered with Nalca (a  local plant) leaf. You can’t leave Chile without trying Patagonian lamb or Charquican.

Are there any special events or festivals happening in the fall (Sept – Nov) that visitors should check out?

During September we do celebrate our independence day, which some times last an entire week. Music, dances, parades, and traditional Chilean games came to play. Parades include huasos, the traditional Chilean cowboys, music, and displays of national pride. Much of the celebrations occur in ramadas, temporary open buildings with thatched roofs traditionally made from tree branches. Ramadas feature a dance floor, music, and tables to eat. Fondas, or refreshment stands, offer a wide variety of Chilean foods including empanadas, anticuchos (shish kabobs), chicha (alchoholic drink), and more. These Ramadas are held in every single little town or village of Chile. Additionally during September also occurs a religious festivity right in the Atacama desert, that is called Ayquina Festival. During this time pilgrims and visitors from around the world converge on the village, celebrating throughout the night until the skies flare with a blaze of fireworks as the clock strikes twelve. There are many different groups of dancers that you might see throughout the festival, with dances inspired by both indigenous and imported traditions. The International Film Festival, held in Valdivia (South of Chile) happens every October. Due to the German influence this city of Chile has, we also have our own OctoberFest, originally from Germany, yet our celebration is held in early January, when summer is in place. Yet, during October (15-18) we have the homemade beer festival.