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    Our experience in Lima Peru

    Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Tue, Jul 02, 2019 @ 11:55 AM

    Lima Peru

    On our first trip to South America we visited both the stark and beautiful Andes, as well as a few days in a Peru’s capital, Lima.

    As American tourists, we stuck to the safest and cleanest sections in the city, and stayed in the section known as Barranco.   Barranco and Miraflores are two of the three or four districts along the coast known to be safe and clean, and there was plenty to do there for several days.

    Lima Peru Biking - Gordon Atlantic Travel

    One of our first activities was a bicycle tour of coastal parks and sites. What jumped out for all of us was the dedication to bike lanes through parks and along streets.   In Boston, riding a bike can be a contact sport.  In Lima, the car traffic and bike traffic seemed to integrate safely and efficiently.   It was a great way to see a large section of coastal Lima with its beautiful parks and boulevards.

     

    Lima comes right out of the Pacific Ocean, and the beaches along the coast are a mix of sandy and rocky with several sections producing good surf.   

    Surfing in Lima Peru - Gordon Atlantic Travel

    We joined Pucana Surf one morning, in spite of their website that says they speak no English. They didn’t speak much English but enough to outfit us with a good selection of wetsuits, then get us into the water, and safely up on our boards on 1 meter, but plentiful waves.  Check out the skyline on the coastline in this picture; we're surfing right off the City of Lima!

    The food in Lima was spectacular, and lunch was particularly inexpensive.   I ordered ceviche for lunch each day when we were in Lima. Ceviche is a fish dish that uses lime juice and hot peppers to cook the meat.  Light garnishes of lettuce, corn, and potato slices made for beautiful presentations as well.  This is a specialty of Lima which our guide at Machu Picchu strongly suggested we try, and we did, and we all enjoyed it..  Ceviche in Lima Peru - Gordon Atlantic Travel

     

    As potatoes are indigenous to Peru, there are some 200 versions of potatoes growing today. French fries, Papas Fritas in Spanish, can be served with many dishes. These are not McDonald’s string french fries; they are more like steak fries; you might get a half a dozen papas fritas out of one potato.  Ketchup is rarely served.


    The most popular local drink is the Pisco sour. Pisco's origin came from Spanish restriction of wine cultivation and production in Peru. The Spanish overlords wanted locals to buy Spanish
    wine. But Peruvians created their own liqueur from grapes, some from Madera or Italian grapes, the liqueur now known as Pisco.  Mixed with lime juice, egg whites and plenty of ice, it is a delicious, tart, and cold drink. It was perfect for watching the sun set over the Pacific. 

    The people we met in Peru in general, and in Lima in particular, always seemed pleasant and eager to help us enjoy our stay.  Even language differences were never met with contempt, but rather, with mutual efforts to understand.  

    One inescapable observation was the homogeneity of the local people.  Some 40% of Peruvians are indigenous people, with similar size (shorter than most Americans), complexion and facial features.  In the United States we are so used to a broad variety of people, seeing so many people with such similar features was noteworthy and memorable. 

    Lighthouse Lima Peru - Gordon Atlantic Travel

    As is the case with many urban centers around the developing world, Lima has sections that are reflective of first world luxury and development, as well as third world poverty, inequality, pollution, and crime.   Of Lima’s 45 districts, 3 or 4 are clean and safe, while the other roughly 40 districts are characterized by Third World conditions including lack of clean water, lead-laden air pollution from old cars, and limited economic opportunity.   Crime there however, is evidently limited to petty theft; we heard that violent crime is uncommon.  Civil strife from two decades ago was evident nowhere.

    For me personally, this trip was my first to a Spanish speaking country, so I was nervous with the language uncertainty.  Before our trip I downloaded a tourist’s app to get a basic grasp for directions, food, transactions and greetings: just enough to get by.   While Peruvian hospitality - particularly in tourist heavy locations - might have been more than we can expect from other destinations, having eased into enough Spanish to get around has given us the confidence to explore more of South America - and Spain - in our future. 

    This was a great trip, and Lima is a beautiful place to explore. 
     

    Tags: travel, biking, Gordon Atlantic Insurance, Peru, Lima Peru, surfing

    Jerusalem and Israel

    Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Sun, Apr 14, 2019 @ 07:16 PM

    Jerusalem is a city of opposites and extremes, of curiosity and revelation, with breadth and depth that is unequalled in the world.  It is the birthplace of monotheism. The thoughts that follow include new understanding and personal insight from exposure to new facts, places and ideas.   This exposure turned a good vacation into a great life experience.

    The parallelisms evident through the Judaism, Christianity, and Islam deserve a brief overview for perspective, offering insight into these religions that even secularists might appreciate.

    Adam to Abraham to Jesus to Mohammed

    Jerusalem is a destination for religious reasons for many people, so it's logical to begin here.   All three religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam believe that Adam was the first man, and Eve his wife.  They ate forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden, man’s first sin, and were set off out of the Garden of Eden into the world by God.  Later, Abraham, a righteous man and father of all three religions, was tested by God (was Abraham testing God?), when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac to show his fealty to God.  Abraham brought Isaac to the altar on Mount Moriah, the height of the land in Jerusalem, today held within the Temple Mount, before God stopped him, presenting instead a ram, symbolizing God’s wish never to condone humans sacrificing humans.  We are all created in God’s image. Life is precious: Thou Shalt not Kill.

    Consider this backdrop as we visited the Western Wall my second time.  (The first visit has its own story). I paused nearby to read the inscription of the ‘Binding of Isaac’., where the father prepares to kill his first son.  After donning a yarmulke I approached the wall, and was overcome by emotion, reminded from my Christian heritage that God sacrificed to mankind his only son, that we may be forgiven our sins.  If in the early Jewish religion sacrificing a sheep was better than a dove, a cow better than a sheep; what does sacrificing your only Son for the benefit of mankind convey? This is a powerful place for people of faith, and it struck me unexpectedly deeply.

    Western Wall

    Shalom, Salaam, Peace.

    Shalom is a Jewish greeting, Salaam Arabic, both words meaning Peace.  In the Arab quarter, ‘Salaam’ or a variation (as-salaam 'alaykum, or ahlan wa sahlan) is a greeting that works… usually.  When challenged by a young shopkeeper with an edge, ‘What is Salaam?’, Peace, I replied. ‘What is Peace? Do we have peace?’, I was reminded of the plight of Palestinain cab drivers, indigenous Isreali Arabs, and other Muslims we met.  I replied, ‘God willing, some day there will be Peace’, which defused the exchange, but reminded us of the undercurrents of a land where many religions converge, and convergence is not always peaceful.

    The Western Wall, where only 50% shows above ground.  There are another 17 courses below ground.

    Breadth and Depth

    The breadth and depth of religions (including cultural manifestations) is everywhere.  Within the Jewish community, for example, the ultra-orthodox play an over-sized role as kingmakers in Israeli politics. While they represent a relatively small minority, they coalition with Likud, extracting goodies: e.g. no busses on Shabat (sabbath), and continuation of a 1948 law allowing Yeshiva (students of the Torah) to study - at taxpayer expense - in some cases indefinitely.    We experienced schisms evident on election day - Tuesday - as Bibi Netanyahu continued on as Prime Minister for his sixth term.  Secularists are unhappy with the absence of busses on Saturdays and with their paychecks supporting lifetime students. Between these bookends on simple religious / political spectra are many Jews, from literally all around the world, on multiple other spectra.

    Below are pictures of a Bedouin village and an Israeli Settlement, both in the West Bank.Bedouin villageSettlement

     

    Christianity’s breadth is on display at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  This is the site of Golgotha Hill where Christ was crucified, as well as the site of his burial chamber.  (As an aside, a floor below Golgotha, evident through glass is the same rock with red streaks: where - according to legend - Jesus’ blood permeated the rock, reaching Adam’s skull, symbolizing Christ’s blood freeing Adam from original sin).  Heady stuff.Church of Holy Sepulcher

    The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is too holy for one denomination, so it is managed by six Christian denominations: Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syriac Orthodox.  The effectiveness of this management by committee is evident in a ladder set upon a balcony above the main entrance, and unmoved since 1757, a testament to the Status Quo rule: that no order may change or rearrange anything without approval of the other five represented denominations.  

    Note the ladder below the middle window at Church of the Holy Sepulcher


    An alternative ‘Golgotha’ - the Place of the Skull - with its own burial chamber nearby, ‘discovered’ by Charles Gordon (of Sudanese fame) outside the walls in the late 19th century, appeals today to Evangelical Protestants.

     

    Islamic breadth in Israel was not as evident with our limited exposure, but one metric is civic engagement: citizenship for resident Arabs with voting rights and economic opportunity are a long way from Palestinians on the West Bank (aka - the occupied territories).  Here prominent signs at crossroads entering ‘Zone A’ warn Israelis that entering may cost them their lives, and where taxes (collected by Israel) are transferred for disbursement to the Palestinian Authority where leadership is less responsive: taxation without representation.  Arab engagement with the political process may vary, but one unifying force is recognition that political leaders don’t care much about them. The disappointment and frustration is evident, and manifestly understandable.

    Roads within the Palestinian Authority allow for travel, but Israelis may not stop or enter.

    Sign in zone A

    The most unifying force in our experience was economic, revealing today’s BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) promoted by a Palestinian from Qatar) for its purely political and provocative ends.

     

     

     

     

    A Land of Extremes

    We met a group of three young Palestinians at the Dead Sea.  It’s a resort. You can float in the Sea, enjoy a mud bath, ride a camel for a few shekels, have a meal or a drink, and hang out by the pool.  These three young men explained that they live in a small village, and left their wives at home with their families, explaining that they didn’t want to expose them to the women in swimsuits, the drinking, overt capitalism (skin care products, ladies?), and other western / modern influence at the resort.  

    Juxtapose this to our day in Jaffa / Tel Aviv, with beautiful young men and women on the beach and a bar every few hundred meters.  The latter may seem normal, but it’d’ve been as extreme to these rural Palestinian men as their sheltering their wives from a resort seems to us.

    Dead Sea camel

     

     

     

    Geography

    Tel Aviv is also the recipient of good healthy rainfall out of the Eastern Med.  The land is lush (think Jaffa oranges) with a European feel. As the land rises 2,500 feet to Jerusalem, most moisture is squeezed out of the clouds, terminating at Jerusalem.  Immediately to the east is the Judean Desert (more about John the Baptist and Jesus before we are done), a land dominated by the Dead Sea and bordered with Jordan River, receiving less than 10 cm water annually.

    The Jordan River baptismal site and the Dead Sea resort were highlights, for different reasons, but both offered simple pleasures, and timely breaks from information overload.  Below are the Jordan River (baptismal site), and checking email while floating in the (30% salinity) Dead Sea.

    Jordan river

    Dead Sea float


    War and Peace

    In 1967, several Arab nations staged a surprise military assault on Israel in what would become known as the Six Days War.  Having secured their borders (as it turned out, for only anther six years, until 1973), Israel began digging.  Many of the ancient sites we visited, Qumran (Dead Sea scrolls), Herodium, and the City of David, had been lost to time until recently. But since Jews had been expelled from Israel since the second rebellion (against Rome) in about 165 CE, there was a sense that showing Judean history can better secure their place today. Excavating and exposing the Western Wall (of the Temple, which Romans destroyed) was one initiative that drew Islamic ire since most Muslims believe that Muhammad ascended to heaven from the very spot where Abraham bound Isaac, where the Temple itself stood, and its Western Wall stands today.

    Today the three religions cohabitate the Old City’s respective quarters mostly peacefully.  But agitators agitate. The entrance to the Temple Mount (Muslim controlled) is at the Western Wall.  Shortly before we ascended, we heard a group of young men boldly singing Zionist songs as they approached this Islamic holy place.  Israeli security or Islamic proctors managed to silence them, but offence and escalation is never further than the next street corner.

     

    War and Death… long ago

    New understanding from archaeological sites is often framed by “First Temple”, ‘Second Temple’, and first and second rebellions; we knew nothing about these on our arrival.  But they frame some core ideas today, and are worth summarizing. The First Temple was built by Soloman in about the 10th century BCE. That’s three thousand years ago.  Early Jews worshiped there, until the Babylonians (led by Nebuchadnezzar) conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.  Babylon expelled the Jews about 500 years later, so they returned to Jerusalem to build the Second Temple.  Another 500 years later, King Herod added magnificence to the building (We climbed the stairs that Jesus climbed to enter the Temple to flip the tables of the money changers.).  In about 66 CE, the first revolt against the Romans occurred, with a predictably forceful result.  AbMasada to Roman siege campout 60 years later (132 CE) the bar Kokba revolt resulted in the most forceful consequence.  Fighters held out in two of our visited sites: Herodium and Masada, two of Herod’s palaces. But the Romans hunted down and killed the last Jew to prevent another insurrection, Jewish slaves could be bought for less cost than a half day’s horse’s ration. The Jews would not repopulate the area for nearly 2000 years.  

    One of the last holdouts was Masada, Herod’s palace located on top of a mountaintop near the Dead Sea (which we visited).  Its cisterns held water and stores were adequate. After an 8-month siege, the Roman army breached the northern gate. That night, 960 soldiers committed mass suicide, preferring to die on their own terms to being slaughtered - or sold into slavery - by Romans.

    The area’s climate has preserved many elements of those days including the siege line and eighth encampments, and its remote location preserved its outline well.  

    Herodium was another Herod palace and burial site we visited, near East Jerusalem, an incredibly restored site since its recent excavation.  



    Another religious parallel

    Moses led the Israelis out of Egypt, but he never led them out of the Jordanian desert (today’s trans-Jordan).  That job was left to Joshua, who led the Israelite's out of the desert, across the Jordan River, to the land of milk and honey: Israel.  ‘Jeshua’ is the Aramaic name for Joshua, and the name of the prophet who led Gentiles out of their wilderness after his baptism in the Jordan: We call him Jesus.

    There are multiple other parallels between the Old Testament (Judaism’s bible) and New Testament (Christian Bible), but standing on the banks of the Jordan River, with the Jordanian desert to the east and Jerusalem to the west, the Joshua - Jeshua connection was palpable.

     

    Chuck and Lynna

    Our hosts were gracious, fun, and beyond interesting.  They are friends from home who had an unexpected free bedroom in their apartment for their month-long trip to Jerusalem.  Chuck is not a religious person, but a serious scholar of history and humanity. Lynna is Jewish, non-practicing, and equally interesting and engaging.  Not only were they gracious hosts and fun to be around, they introduced us to David Zwebner, our outstanding tour guide for our first full day.

    DavidDavid Mt of Olives

    David’s family is six generations in Jerusalem, his great-grandfather arriving in the mid-19th century and his grandchildren living nearby.  David has made his way in life doing other interesting things (with a personal letter from Donald Trump to show for one of his interests), and does tour guides as a personal love.  Monday was a firehose of information, beginning on the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane, throughout the Old City with all its richness and variations, concluding at the U.S. Embassy.  He led me respectfully to the Western Wall, discussed the confluence of religion and history with ease, and surprised us with his skill for avoiding crowds, while seeing Jerusalem’s most important sites.  My favorite line from David was his birthday greeting: ‘On this day, God decided the world could not manage without you.’



    Haim

    Chuck and Lynna also arranged for Haim Karel to guide us east, out of Jerusalem:  to Masada, En Gedi and the Dead Sea one day, and Herodium, Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls), the Inn of the Masada viewGood Samaritan, the River Jordan and the Dead Sea (resort) on a second day.  A valid metric, happened on two separate times and in two separate locations. While passing other larger groups, the tour-guides stopped to interrupt their own tours to remark, ‘Folks, meet Haim.  Haim was my teacher. He is the best! You guys (meaning the four of us) are so lucky!’ They were right. Haim was as passionate about learning (sporting multiple languages and multiple degrees) as anyone I’ve known; entertaining, energetic, and generous with his tea and his container of dates and nuts.   

    A people person, he convinced an architectural archaeologist student working at Herodium to give us a lecture on the top Herodiumelements of Herod the Great’s impressive palace and burial site, just by befriending him.  Assaf’s best line, ‘A good visit is a done visit, so I have to get back to work.’


    Final thoughts

    Jerusalem is rich and deep, not only on a religious basis, but ethnically and culturally as well.  It sits at one end of the fertile crescent (Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, at the other) and people have been trading and passing through for millennia.  Today Israel is playing a long game, trading increasingly with its closest neighbors Egypt and Jordan, inviting new Jewish citizens from around the world, while still requiring that all youth serve in the military or comparable defensive capacity:  They live in a tough neighborhood where absence of war appears enough to get re-elected. Most people deeply want peace. May it be so.

    We barely scratched the surface, but we scratched a lot and found a wonderful place. May peace prevail.   

    Tags: travel

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

    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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