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    Istanbul Reflections

    Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 @ 12:02 PM

     

     

    Istanbul reflections

    I recently returned from our first trip to Turkey, and came away with great memories, and new appreciation of Turkey and the Turkish people.  We were fortunate to have had a Turkish student as our house guest for three months in 2012: Atahan.  We decided to visit Atahan, who had grown from a "guest son" kid into a young adult friend.  One of the highlights of our trip was the development of our relationship with Atahan. 

    Below are some of my other reflections on our stay.

     

    Hospitality - not just in Atahan's home where we were guests, but Turkish hospitality in general.

    We had dinner with an old acquaintance from when I was studying in Munich in 1976/77. I called him locally, as he had frequently said, “If you are ever in Istanbul, I'm the only Opak in the phone book”.  My intention had been simply to call to say hello and reminisce for a few minutes.  He graciously invited my wife and me and Atahan to dinner.  He offered to pick us up, enduring a brutal traffic getting out of town, with grace and patience.  Not only was it a pleasure to reminisce further about our days in Munich, but this meeting gave me the opportunity to communicate with a Turkish person without Atahan as our interpreter.   We talked about his Haj (pilgimmages to Mecca), his business, and other local topics.  (and dinner was outstanding).

    I remarked to him the hospitality we had seen and experienced seemed particularly special, well beyond the cordial politeness some Americans or some Europeans show struggling visitors. He mentioned that he traveled a lot for business, and confirmed that my observation was on target.   Turkish hospitality is indeed extraordinary.

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    On Islam and terror in the Middle East

    We enjoyed a day and evening with our host's father, and our conversation covered many subjects, including both Turkish and American politics, and religion. I asked about the effect radical Islam was having on Turkey. This man pointed out that Turkey has long been a European country as well as an Asian nation with a mosque in every town (over 3,000 mosques in Istanbul alone). It is also the transit point for people heading from the east to the west (today, Syrian, Afghani, and Sunni refugees), and from the west to the east (as we were). Thus, Turkey is accustomed to many cultures and ideas flowing through its land.

    This fellow is a 'Secular Muslim'. (We were having this particular conversation over drinks at one on Istanbul's many rooftop bars.). He remarked that nowhere in the Quran is alcohol prohibited. The prohibition is implicit in preservation of the purity of every body created in God's image,;but nowhere is it expressly forbidden.   This man's decision to enjoy alcohol is between himself and God.   This feeling is remarkably in line with many Americans who don't want to be told what to do by others, but desire to be left alone with these choices of conscience.

    The concern with radical Islam is far more complicated than simply an opposition to being told what to believe. For one, there is the simple economics of Turkey, and Istanbul in particular. Tourism is an important part of the economy, and Americans don't visit Turkey as they used to. The next 9-11 type attack will turn the trickle of tourists to a complete halt.  Merchants know it, hotels know it, and nobody who is providing services to tourists likes to think about the effects of the next terror attack.

    There are national and tribal differences as well. Turkey's exposure to the rest of the world provides exposure to socially progressive ideas. (Turkey was one of the first European nations to adopt women's suffrage, in the 1920s). Other Middle Eastern countries similar to Turkey in their acceptance of such ideas include Jordan, Egypt, and once,   On the other hand, Lebanon. Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are far less tolerant of others' religious expression.  That night we all agreed on one concept: God is great, it is people who malign God's will into something ungodly.

     

    The risk of visiting Turkey

    Before our trip, we had asked our host Atahan if my wife should wear a veil, and the question underscored our lack of exposure to the city of Istanbul or the country of Turkey. His response was that Istanbul is a city of over 20 million, twice the size of New York City, and is located half in Europe. There are plenty of veils in the city, including full burka'd women from Saudi Arabia (often with Gucci bags or expensive shoes), but few among the local women. Thus, our light skin and blue and green eyes barely stood out. We felt as safe in Istanbul as we would in any US or European city. I would not hesitate to return, and already look forward to further exploration in the countryside (We will avoid the east, a war zone).

     

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    Refugees    IMG_8068-1

    As mentioned, Turkey has long been a transit point for eastern and western passage. Today, thousands of Syrian and Sunni refugees are trying to get to Germany or the UK. These people come from varied backgrounds and personal circumstances, but all are trying to find a better life in the west. We watched this man catch a fish in the Bosphorus. When he landed his first, he pulled a plastic bag from a waste barrel to keep the fish. Nearby his 7 or 8 year old son was trying to sell tissue packages to passersby for 1 Turkish Lira (about $0.33).  Istanbul was NOT their final destination. There is no safety net for these foreign visitors (although Turkey has erected huge refugee camps in the east, near the Syrian border). Refugees are easy to spot, with their darker complexions, and frequently begging or selling something on street corners.  Istanbul, as with many visitors, is a transit point.

    The effect on Istanbul cannot be overstated,and concludes this reflection.  Visit and see people from all over the world, enjoy heartfelt hospitality, and see ancient places remarkably preserved..

     

    Tags: Turkish Hospitality, The Risk of Visiting Turkey, Istanbul, Turkish Customs, Istanbul Reflections, Turkey Vacation

    Travel: St. George, Utah

    Posted by Gordon Atlantic Staff on Fri, Aug 07, 2015 @ 09:55 AM

    After my family spent a week in Las Vegas, we drove for about two hours to St. George, Utah. It was a lovely and relaxing place to go after spending a week in such a bustling city, yet St. George is a quickly growing metropolian area itself!

    The first thing we did when we arrived was get lunch at George's Corner Restaurant. I had a caesar salad sandwhich that was absolutely delicious. We went because online reviews indicated that they had excellent gluten free options, and my sister was diagnosed with Celiac disease on the first week of our trip in Vegas. She was also more than pleased with her food! They give generous portions and have a fabulous menu, plus there's a very homey feel. 

    On our first full day, we went to the Rosenbruch World Wildlife Museum, which was very well done. If taxidermy offends you, then this is not a good place to go, but my family enjoyed learning about all sorts of different animals. Admission was very cheap, but we were provided with talking wands; you press the number of the exhibit you are in, and the wand plays a recording with info about all the animals in the area. The gift shop had lots of choices for all age groups, and overall the whole facility was very well done if you're looking for a one or two hour indoor activity. We also went to the St. George art museum at the center of town, which as an artist, I enjoyed, but may be a little dull for the average tourist (the facility is nice, but most of the paintings are of cowboys and landscapes, so my siblings were quickly bored). 

    Travel_review_St_George_Utah_Andrew_G_Gordon_Inc_InsuranceThe next day, we hiked in Snow Canyon (warning: it's not actually snowy). St. George is only about an hour and a half away from Las Vegas, so if you read my previous travel post, you'll know that temperatures were around 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day. If you go hiking in national parks, be sure to bring water and never go alone. We saw some old volcano caves, and the scenery was beautiful. To the left is a picture of my sister in Snow Canyon.

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    We also went hiking at Zion Canyon, which was about an hour from our hotel (the beautiful Villas at Southgate). Zion is structured a little differently from the other national parks; there are multiple stops and hiking spots that you reach via shuttle. The area has a rich history and has been home to Native American groups for generations. The canyon is gorgeous, but again, I didn't enjoy hiking in such extreme heat. Right is a picture of a notable spot at Zion; "The Three Patriarchs). 

    We spent most other days in Utah in the condo's pool, which was very relaxing after so much hiking and the stress of Las Vegas. My parents also went to Bryce Canyon, about a two hour drive away, and they both said it was an absolutely breathtaking, incredible place. Overall, I enjoyed the relaxing parts of our trip, but I would recommend going during a cooler season. 

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    Emily_Kirslis

    Travel: Las Vegas

    Posted by Gordon Atlantic Staff on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 @ 01:00 PM

    Warning: if you don't like the heat, don't travel to Las Vegas in the middle of July! I went for a week with my family and did family-friendly activities, as none of my siblings or I are over the age of 21. Temperatures were around 105 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the week, and there was a flash flood one night, so be prepared for extreme weather!

    Travel_to_Hoover_Dam_Andrew_G_Gordon_Inc_InsuranceThere was about six hours total of flying time to Vegas, and there's a three hour time difference between Nevada and Massachusetts. On our first full day, we went to the Hoover Dam. While it truly is a wonder of the modern world, my family found the tour disappointing and the visitor center was extremely small. The main message of the place was that it is an amazing engineering feat and that today's kids aren't smart enough to do things like that, which I found to be pretty offensive. Overall, it's one of those places you should make the 40ish minute trip to from Vegas so that you can say you've been there, but it's not a full day's trip. 

    On Tuesday, we went to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum at the Venetian, which was awesome! It's a nice, air-conditioned indoor activity, and there are so many wax people from a wide variety of fields and times that any age will have fun. I've also been to Madame Tussaud's in NYC, and I felt that the quality of the figures in Vegas was better, especially the faces! 

    The next day we went to Red Rock Canyon, which was actually probably my favorite part of the trip. There are parks for hiking around the area, but be warned; the heat is really extreme, and I'm someone who is usually fine with it! There was a lovely visitor center with an info movie, gift shop, and tortoise exhibit. Then we went on the 13 mile scenic drive. There were many stops to get out and really take in the scenery, but being able to enjoy the view and then jump back in an air-conditioned car was fantastic. It really is a beautiful place!

    We also went to a show called "Legends" at the Flamingo, which was excellent! It featured impersonators of Michael Jackson, Barry White, Britney Spears, Steven Tyler, and of course, Elvis! It was only a little bit over an hour long, but I really enjoyed the music. We ate a lunch at the Margaritaville at the Linq Promenade, and my cheeseburger was delicious. We ate another day at the Hard Rock Cafe that isn't on the Strip, and the service and atmosphere was not nearly as good as other Hard Rock Cafes I've been to. 

    Little_France_Las_Vegas_Review_travel_insurance_Andrew_G_Gordon_IncI went walking around 6 am with my mom every morning to beat the heat and see all the hotels. My personal favorite was the Bellagio; I loved the fountains and the fun decor they have inside. I also walked through Ceasar's Palace, the Mirage, the Luxor, Excalibur, MGM Grand, the Venetian, Paris, and New York-New York. I didn't ride the roller coaster in New York or go up the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but I was disasppointed with how small little France was. We stayed at the Holiday Inn about a 15 minute walk from the Strip, but even the heat from the walk was brutal. However, the Holiday Inn was lovely and had great pools!

    Overall, the atmosphere of the city was a little bit stressful for me, and as someone who is under 21, four days would have been enough for me. I'm sure it's much more fun if you're over 21 and going out with your friends. I would also not recommend visiting Vegas in the middle of summer if you plan to be outside! Contact us with any insurance questions and browse for more vacation reviews!

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    Emily_Kirslis

    Travel to Harry Potter World!

    Posted by Gordon Atlantic Staff on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 @ 02:53 PM

    There are now two Harry Potter worlds at the Universal parks in Orlando. Hogsmeade has been in the Islands of Adventure park for a few years, but Diagon Alley just opened last summer! The Hogwarts Express is there too, a train that connects the two parks. 

    Insure_your_travel_plans_to_Hogsmeade_with_Andrew_G_Gordon_Inc_InsuranceI'll start with Hogsmeade, the older park. To be honest, although I have been a HUGE Harry Potter fan my whole life, this park is a little disappointing. There's a dragon ride roller coaster for little kids, but the only big attraction is the ride within Hogswarts castle. And if rides make you sick easily, or if you're with young children, I would NOT recommend this ride at all. It's like you're strapped into a roller coaster with the overhead reinforcer, but the ride does not move straight forward. It turns and twists so that you'll be laying upwards facing the ride, then moves you upright, facing down, and any which way. I love extreme rides, but this isn't one of my favorites. 

    The architecture in Hogsmeade is beautiful. Although tourists often come in the heat of the summer, the snow and buildings are super realistic and it's like being in England. There's a singing show, as well as a few general clothing and souvenier shops. I do love Honeydukes (the candy shop), and there's also the Hog's Head Pub. However, there's not much to see. A huge portion of the park is literally just benches and seating areas for all the people waiting for their family and friends on the rides. Seriously, whenever I'm at this park, there are hundreds of people just sitting around. You should visit this park at least once for the candy shop and experience, but be sure to take the Hogwarts Express over to the new, better park!

    Get_travel_insurance_for_vacation_with_Andrew_G_Gordon_Inc_InsuranceDiagon Alley is in the Universal Studios park, so if you want to take the train back and forth, you'll need to buy tickets for both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.

    I LOVE the Diagon Alley park! It's much, much larger than Hogsmeade, and it's also more detailed which makes it fun for the devout Harry Potter fans like me. The buildings are colorful, gigantic, wacky, and beautiful. It feels like you're in the books/movies. You can stop at the Leaky Cauldron for lunch, which offers a ton of nontraditional theme park options; instead of just chicken and cheeseburgers, there are a ton of realistic Harry Potter foods, such as Beef, Lamb, and Guiness Stew! You can also have some famous (nonalcoholic, don't worry) Butterbeer!

    There are a ton of specialized stores, unlike in Hogsmeade. For example, instead of just general merchandise, one store has specific broom and outdoors items, while another hosts the dark magic items (this is the shop where Harry ends up in one of the movies!). Gringotts Bank is the highlight with a huge, fire-breathing dragon on top and an AWESOME ride inside. It's sort of like a roller coaster, but even if you don't love rides, walk into the bank (where the line for the ride is). It is built to be just like the one in the movie, moving goblins, chandelier, and all, and it is breathtaking. The ride itself is easily my favorite ride ever; it's fast paced, interesting story, beautiful animation, and a thrilling plot. 

    Pretty much every kid in either Harry Potter park is walking around with a wand from Ollivander's, which are in both parks. Even if you're not interested in paying $40 or so for a stick, I definitely recommend waiting in line for the Ollivander's presentation, where someone is chosen to receive a wand (I saw the one in the Ollivander's in Diagon Alley).

    Check out my first two blogs on Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and read up on these great travel tips! Don't forget to contact us with any travel insurance or vacation safety questions!

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    Emily_Kirslis

    Orlando, Florida: Islands of Adventure

    Posted by Gordon Atlantic Staff on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 @ 03:41 PM

    Visit_Universal_with_personal_travel_insurance_and_tips_from_Andrew_G_Gordon_IncYou can't go to Universal Studios without spending some time in the Islands of Adventure park, too! Islands of Adventure contains a few more thematic areas (like little mini parks) than Universal Studios, and is home to some infamous rides like the Hulk and Jurassic Park.

    The first mini park you encounter (after walking past lots of shops in immediately after getting in) is Superhero Island. There's the Hulk, a roller coaster that I personally think is worth no more than a 30 minute wait. I love roller coasters, but after the first 15 seconds for me, the Hulk just feels bland. There's also a teacup ride for kids as well as many superhero themed shops. The Dr. Doom ride is just an up and down dropping ride, a style I love, but I would say don't wait more than 15 minutes for this one. For me, the highlight of the superhero park is the Spiderman ride. Similar to lots of the rides at Universal Studios, Spiderman is a motion simulator that's fast paced and exciting, if you love 4-D. There are some cool stores here too, and the heroes ride by occasionally on motorcycles!

    After Superhero Island is the toon park; I personally don't spend too much time here, but the Dudley Do Right Ripsaw Falls is a water ride sort of like Splash Mountain at Disney. There's also a Popeye themed river rafting ride (the kind where ten people are seated in a circular float), which is a fun way to cool off after a hot day. Perhaps these cartoons just don't cater to my generation, but if you're familiar with these sort of cartoons it's a great place to check out!

    Next is my favorite part of Islands of Adventure; Jurassic Park! The ground has cool leaf patterns and dinosaur tracks, and there's the infamous River Adventure Ride. This seemingly calm ride takes a surprise twist (and drop) near the end, and I wouldn't recommend it for little kids. There's a restaurant in this mini park called Thunder Falls Terrace, which is pleasantly indoors but with lots of windows and light. There are unique and healthy meal choices here, and it has clean bathrooms!

    I'll save the Hogsmeade section of Harry Potter World for my next blog, and as I don't know anything about the Poseidon's Fury show, I'll skip that too.

    Last is Dr. Seussland, a GREAT place for kids! There are soft serve places, candy shops, and the rides are low key but fun. The Cat in the Hat ride is similar to Disney rides, where you're in a cart and move throughout the story (this one is my sister's favorite)! There's also a One Fish Two Fish ride with the same setup as the Dumbo and Aladdin carpet rides at Disney, but there is water spraying involved! My favorite ride here is the High in the Sky Trolley Train, in which you're in a little cart and ride around over the park. You go into the ceiling of a restaurant! There's also a roof to keep you cool, and this is another calm ride.

    Overall, Islands of Adventure is great, though I personally prefer the Universal Studios park. If you get a three-day pass to Universal, I'd say spend one day in Islands of Adventure and the other two in Universal Studios, though it also depends on the ages of the people you're traveling with. Definitely check out Superhero Island, Jurassic Park, and Dr. Seussland!

    Get some travel tips here, and read the first part of this Universal blog series!

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    Tags: vacation, travel, review, tips, florida, universal studios, islands of adventure, amusement park

    Orlando, Florida: Universal Studios

    Posted by Gordon Atlantic Staff on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 @ 03:31 PM

    Have_the_best_vacations_with_advice_and_personal_insurance_from_Andrew_G_Gordon_IncThis summer I went to Orlando with some of my extended family. We bought 4 day passes for the Universal theme parks: Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. As of last month, there is a new Harry Potter park, Diagon Alley! This area is in Universal Studios, while the old Harry Potter world, Hogsmeade, is in Islands of Adventure. Here's the first part of a review of my trip and a basic guide for getting the most out of your Universal passes. There's so much to do in Universal that this blog will focus on Universal Studios, excluding the new Harry Potter world.

    As I mentioned before, Universal has two theme parks: Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios (the same way Disney has Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and more, but they're separate). You have to walk through CityWalk to get to either park, and a Hard Rock Cafe is in between. So you don't need a Universal ticket to enjoy the restaurants on CityWalk, but you still need to pay for parking (which is only $5 after 6 pm, $17 during the day). There aren't any rides or other real attractions at CityWalk.

    For the most part, I personally prefer the rides at Universal Studios. If you love a calm but exciting ride or have kids, E.T. is a good choice. It's also a cool, air conditioned ride if you're looking for a break from the Orlando heat. E.T. is my favorite movie and was my favorite ride until recently. Next door is a Simpsons themed area, and even as someone who has never watched the show, I really enjoy the main ride; it's a motion simulator, so you're in a cart that moves while you watch a screen (like a 4-D movie). There's also a Men in Black ride where you shoot aliens, similar to the Buzz Lightyear ride in Disney's Magic Kingdom. 

    After the Simpsons and Men in Black comes London, a facade in front of the new Harry Potter park, but I'll get to that in another blog. Continuing past London is the brand new Transformers ride. I've never seen the Transformers movies, but the ride was my second favorite of the week; 45 minutes of waiting was definitely worth it! It's another motion simulator ride, but it moves more than the Simpsons. Next to Transformers, our favorite eatery of the week, Louie's serves pizza, pasta, and chicken parm. We ate there twice, and I recommend it for lunch or dinner.

    Get_personal_travelers_insurance_from_Andrew_G_Gordon_IncContinuing down is Disaster, which is a fun show in which the audience participates to make a movie, and the Mummy. The Mummy is a dark and scary roller coaster (again, I've never seen the movie), and while I personally love the ride, I wouldn't recommend it to most kids or those who don't like roller coasters. Also in the area is Twister (a show about the movie and that simulates a tornado: I wouldn't recommend it for kids, as it made my brave 9 year old cousin cry) and Rip Ride Rock It (a roller coaster which plays music). Shrek is a 4-D movie which is great if you're looking for a break with kids, but I find it underwhelming, and the new Despicable Me ride is another motion simulator that's kid friendly. 

    Universal Studios also has a new show at 9 pm. As long as you can see the lake at the center of the park, you'll be able to see a screen, but remember to claim your spot early unless you want to stand! The show is about 15 minutes long and is just a series of short, 2 or 3 second long clips of memorable movies. As someone who loves movies but has yet to see many of the classics, I found the show extremely boring. Many of the clips were too short for me to recognize the movie, and there isn't really any guidance or narration. Overall, if you're already there that late and love movies, see the show, but I would say it's not that important. 

    I absolutely had a blast at Universal Studios; even as a huge Disney fan, I have to say that the rides at Universal are more exciting and interesting for teenagers and adults. The atmosphere at Universal was also extremely pleasant; every employee I encountered was extremely helpful, patient, and friendly. However, if for some reason 3-D rides bother you or upset your stomach, I would really only recommend E.T., Disaster, the Mummy, and the roller coaster. The food was also great (especially Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream!). I'd recommend Universal Studios to families whose children are over age 10 and any adult or movie lover. 

    Read some general travel tips to further enhance your vacation, and don't forget to have fun! Contact us with any insurance questions.  

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    Tags: vacation, travel, personal, insurance, review, tips, harry potter world, universal, orlando, florida

    Aruba - One Happy Island

    Posted by Gordon Atlantic Staff on Mon, May 13, 2013 @ 11:00 AM

    In March I had the pleasure of going to Aruba for the first time. Although I have been to many islands in the Caribbean, this was certainly one that I am looking forward to going back to. When I mentioned to people that I was going to Aruba, I heard nothing but wonderful remarks. This indeed made me wonder; what was so special about this "Happy Island"?  I was soon to find out…

    Aruba is located 15 miles north of Venezuela in the souther Caribbean. The island is 19.6 miles long and 6 miles across. The trade winds that constantly blow keep the temperature comfortable, but the winds are very bad for the hair. My advice: relax, and don't worry about it! Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986 and became a separate member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Although the main languages are Dutch and local language Papiamento, Aurbans speak fluent English as well.

     

    The first experience that was great was that Jet Blue flies directly to the island, so we left in the morning and arrived with over half of the first day to enjoy at the beach, not in airports.  When we got there, the friendliness of the people was overwhelming. Everybody seemed genuinely friendly and helpful; they would offer to answer any questions or assist in any way.

    We were able to do just about everything we could want to. There is snorkeling, wonderful restaurants, shopping, all the water sports that you can imagine, and of course, just plain relaxing. And these are just a few of the many wonderful things Aruba has to offer!

    We did lots of walking around, which you can do quite easily in Aruba, because you feel safe anywhere you go on the island. At many other islands, once you leave the resort area, you take your life into your own hands- not so in Aruba.

    Over course, there is the beach, which is absolutely stunning. The color of the water is amazing, and the sand is clean and rock-free. You can float around in the water for hours if you want. We stayed at Eagle Beach which had chairs and Tiki Huts so we were always comfortable.

    After we were there for a couple of days, we rented a Jeep and drove all over the island. There are absolutely breathtaking waves on the “far” side of the island where nobody really goes. The surf crashing against the rocks is beautiful and angry at the same time. See picture below. 

    Aruba waves

    While we had the Jeep we went to Baby Beach which is just amazing, simple, and peaceful. On the way there you drive through what looks like a desert with plenty of cacti to keep you looking constantly out the window. See picture below.

    Baby Beach

    If you go to Aruba, drive out there at least one day; it is well worth it. However, be sure to buy the insurance you are offered as your Massachusetts Personal Auto Policy will not cover you there.

    One of the best days was our visit to De Palm Island. For one price, you get to stay on the lovely little island just about 5 minutes off of the main island. It includes food, drink, snorkeling, water park, banana boat rides, and a beautiful little beach with plenty of places to get out of the sun.  This was one of our best days.

    Aruba is working very hard to maintain a beautiful and econonmically growing island. They do not have intentions of adding hotel after hotel. The government wants to improve life for their own citizens as make Aruba a wonderful place for tourists. I think this is especially what makes Aruba special- the perfect "One Happy Island."

    I cannot wait to go back!

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    Sue Shiels

    Tags: vacation, travel, aruba, tropical, one happy island, tropics, caribbean

    Gunstock: Learning How to Ski

    Posted by Gordon Atlantic Staff on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 @ 11:56 AM

    Last week I was on school break, and I am proud to say that my major accomplishment during this vacation was learning how to ski. I'm eighteen years old, and to me (a first time skiier), it seems incredulous that some people learn how to ski as soon as they learn how to walk. It's safe to say that some small children certainly kicked my butt when it came time to hit the slopes.

    Gunstock

    I learned to ski at Gunstock Mountain Resort, located on Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, New Hampshire. They have a lot of things going for them there- several ski lifts, loads of trails, and even adaptive sports so that everybody- regardless of mental or physical disability- can enjoy skiing and snowboarding. Besides all of the activites on the mountain, they have an incredible lodge and a quick and easy system for renting equipment. They also have night skiing at Gunstock, which was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The lights reflecting off the snow made the mountain even more fantastic.

    Night Skiing

    Mountain Magic

    In order to learn how to ski, I enrolled in a three day program called "Mountain Magic". Three days, each with two hour lessons, with fantastic ski instructors that don't care how old you are or how bad you are- they just want to help you improve. Their encouragement and love of the sport truly shines- making the experience all the better. And hey, at the end of it all, I learned how to ski. In fact, the last step of my ski lessons was skiing down from the summit, which has an incredible view of the nearby Lake Winnipesaukee.

    Summit

    Lake Winnipesaukee

    Obviously my February break from school occurred during February, so Lake Winnipesaukee was mostly frozen. When driving, my family and I would even see people ice fishing out the lake! (I'm not so sure how I would feel about that... What if the ice cracks?) However, the scenery was truly gorgeous and only added to the fun experience. We stayed at the Village of Lake Winnipesaukee in Weirs Beach. Our living space was nice, even though I didn't spend much time there because I was skiing and hanging out at the mountain so much.

    lake w views resized 600

    Skiing

    Before I went skiing, I had to get all new ski equipment. A couple of hundred dollars later (sorry, Dad) I had ski pants, googles, gloves, jacket, socks, and mostly importantly, a helmet. I looked like a skiier. All I had to do was become one. But, as I've said, the Mountain Magic program at Gunstock really worked for me. There were ten new skiiers that day, including myself, my brother, and my sister.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my skiing adventure. It's sad that I learned how to ski when the end of the season is so close, but it was worth it. But, who knows? Maybe it'll snow one more time before spring and I'll get to go back. If not, then there's always next winter, and this time I will be ready.

    For some skiing safety tips and snowboarding safety tips, click the links.

    Julia Kirslis

    Tags: skiing, snowboarding, gunstock, new hampshire, nh, mountain, winter

    Travel Tips

    Posted by Sue Bird on Mon, Jul 16, 2012 @ 12:57 PM

    travelHopefully you are enjoying your summer and you are lucky enough to take trip somewhere fun!  It’s handy to have a checklist of things to do or bring along so that you are better prepared. 

    Confirm reservations.

    - You never want to get caught at a check in counter with either the wrong reservation or none at all.

    Check weather conditions for your destination. 

    -It will also help you determine what clothes to bring. Don't get caught in a storm without a raincoat, the sun without sun screen, or up a creek without a paddle.

    Put mail delivery on hold.

    -You won't enjoy the overstuffed mailbox upon return and neither will your postman.

    Keep lights at home on timers and keep a stereo turned on.

    -See our blog about home safety and break ins. You don't want your return to be marked by theft and insurance claims.

    Leave a car in the driveway if possible.

    -It's a great way to deter theifs and other unwanted guests if they think someone is home.

    Have a friend/neighbor keep an eye on your house

    -Give the number of where you will be staying. Offer to do the same for them if they go away, a few neighborly actions can lead to a stronger friendship and mutually benefit both of you.

    Make sure you have prescriptions filled ahead of time

    -And keep a list of those prescriptions, doctor’s and pharmacy’s numbers on hand. It's important to stay on top of your meds and other needs, especially with a younger family member who may need it and not keep track of them.

    Make sure pets are taken care of

    -If your pets are staying home and you have a sitter, make sure they have your number and the vet’s number in case of an emergency and plenty of food. Your dog is a part of the family and although he couldn't come on the trip, he still should be taken well care of.

    Bring cell phone charger.

    -Having emergency numbers and housesitters is great unless they can't get in touch with you during a crisis.

    Happy Summer!

    Sue Bird

    This is just a list of suggestions and cannot absolutely guarantee you home safety, pet protection, or a fun vacation.

    Tags: vacation, travel, trip, summer, vaca, outing, adventure, plan, destination, mail, theft, theft prevention, travel tips

    Fishing in Dumoine – licensing changes

    Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 @ 10:23 AM

    turn off the road toward quebecWhen visting the Dumoine region of Quebec, I’m struck first by what has changed, and then by what has stayed the same.   The man-made changes are usually more surprising, because the natural changes are such a part of the environment to be predictable in their dynamism.

    This year the man-made changes included a new licensing station location.   The licensure in Quebec is a byzantine operation created by the quebecois government many years ago; its original intent is hard to figure, but the net effect is a complicated system that seems to be more about holding on to make-work desk jobs in tired old air conditioned offices than managing a fishing stock. 

    Fishing in Quebec is controlled by ZECs (Zone-d'Exploitation-Contrôlée, meaning controlled harvesting). The first stop has always been to obtain a transit pass at the Rapides des Joachim (Swisha) ZEC.  Then, about an hour in, one has to buy a Quebec fishing license and a ZEC Dumoine 1, 3, 7-day or year fishing license at the ZEC Dumoine station.  A 3-day Quebec and Dumoine license costs about $90.   What the woman at the Swisha ZEC (where we got our transit pass, just off the paved road) didn’t tell us, was that the Dumoine licensure station had moved to a trailer about a mile back out on the paved road.  So after an hour on bush roads, we found the station closed and had to re-trace our steps to get our actual fishing licenses.  Fortunately, these stations keep long hours, so the extra two hours of driving across poor sandy roads didn’t prevent us from fishing early the next morning.  

    Moving both ZEC licensing offices closer together and near where the road turns to bush road makes sense, even if we did miss the trailer the first time by.  Maybe they’ll combine the offices, but that would mean losing the opportunity to pay someone to transcribe name and address information and collect a fee.   

    swisha air signThe road across the Swisha ZEC hadn’t changed much, be we were pleased to see that the Dumoine roads had been dragged, culverts cleared of beaver dams, even a new culvert installed.  Thus, the roads were greatly improved from last year.

    The changes that are constant are in the natural world.   For our five day stay (with three days of active fishing), we learned that the water temperature (taken at West Trout) was a balmy 62 degrees after the mild winter.  This is generally too warm for trout to feed aggressively, and our trout count (3) was weak.   We were skunked at our first lake, Whiskey, a normally well-stocked, easily accessible lake, and a proven good early hit.  In addition, high pressure weather followed us in, making the sun hotter and the wind calmer over each successive day.   That’s pike and walleye weather.

    Our second attempt at trout was at a highly controlled, natural-only (no stocked fish) Lake Benwah.   A special pass is required, and fishermen must report total caught, pardoned (released) and kept (eaten) on departure.   This usually productive water yielded two trout, only one worth keeping, with two canoes on the water early, and working for about three hours.     Thus, we changed our program to meet the conditions.  That afternoon we headed into the waters of the Fil de Grande, a mostly river, relatively fast moving body of water on the way home from Benwah.   Upstream from where the river crosses under the road is Lake Dixon.  At Lake Dixon we got well into the northern pike.  In fishing lingo, we touched a lot of big fish.

    The next morning, we decided to explore our camp lake, Lake Cullen, known for northern pike and walleye, a little better.   We got our even earlier that we had for Benwah, and fished new areas of the lake with great success, before breakfast.

    A great way to become familiar with the region is to join a club such as the Dumoine Rod and Gun Club, which maintains an array of cabins with easy access, on great lakes.  Members of these clubs also have years of great experiences they're usually glad to share.

    On balance, the trip was a success.  One noteworthy change was the lack of bugs.  Normally the black flies and mosquitoes are ruthless, infinite, and never ending.   One should never travel to water country without proper preparation.  In addition to your favorite bug spray, don’t leave behind a bug head net

    bug jacket,

    and even if you’re in a bug-proof cabin, I strongly recommend Coughlin’s mosquito netting to assure a good night’s sleep.

     

    Changing objectives on conditions is part of the experience of fishing in Quebec.  While we only ate trout one night, the fishing experience was fulfilling.  We’ll have to see what next year’s conditions bring.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and miss the bugs.

    Geoff Gordon

    Tags: vacation, travel, trip, Dumoine fishing, Dumoine licenses, ZEC Dumoine, Lake Whisky, Lake Benwah, Lake Dixon, Fil-de-Grande, canada

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