BootsnAll Travel Network

A wannabe Carmel resident

June 29th, 2008

Carmel Point Lobos

I wrote about Carmel for Uptake this week from an “almost local’s perspective.”  My mom and dad have lived there for over twenty years, my husband and I were married in Carmel and I visit often.  I’m what you’d call a “wannabe” local.  Don’t get me wrong; I love my hometown in Contra Costa County, but someday I’d like to live in Carmel-by-the-Sea. 

Home to Clint Eastwood, Dorris Day and Betty White, this picturesque village is frequented by the newlywed and the nearly dead.  It’s a great place to visit with a special someone and with the cost and hassle associated with flying these days, Carmel is an ideal destination for the Bay Area roadtripper. 

 My favorite place to stay was the Cobblestone Inn, formerly owned by Four Sisters Inns.   (Has anyone stayed there since the changing of the guard in April of 2008? ) My new favorite restaurant is Volcano Grill and Mai Tai Bar, located in the more-often-than-not sunny Carmel Valley and owned by local restaurateur Billy Quon.  The outdoor fire pits are a hit with the locals, as are the Mai Tai’s.

I mention Volcano and a host of other things to  see and do in Carmel from a  local’s perspective over on the  UpTake blogUpTake, a new travel search engine, launched in May is quickly gaining a following.  From girlfriend getaways to pet-friendly travel, you can find everything you need to plan a vacation.  Stop on by.

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Seven Blogging tips for newbies

June 23rd, 2008

While I am in no way positioning myself as an expert blogger, I thought it might be helpful to list a few blogging tips for newbies on this site.  I also ran across “Useful Techniques to Optimize Your Blog for The Major Search Engines” by Nick Stamoulis, president of Brick Marketing.  I will be attending the July 18 Blogher conference in San Francisco and look forward to sharing my experiences with you. 

1               Decide between running a WordPress blog off of your domain name (i.e.,  or setting up a blog at a hosted site.  You have to be ready to get your hands dirty in SEO (search engine optimization) and HTML if you select the first option.


2              Get listed on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Technorati and Stumbleupon

3                Establish a blogroll on your site and ask fellow bloggers to list your blog on their site

4          If you establish a blog, it is best to contribute posts at least 1 x weekly, ideally 3 x week, to have your blog considered for listing on sites such as BlogHer.  If you cannot commit to the upkeep of a blog, perhaps blogging isn’t for you.

5              Comment often on other blog sites to create higher visibility for your blog

6              Offer to guest blog on travel sites that will benefit your exposure

7              Web 2.0 is all about social networking.  Check out Twitter for further visibility of your blog

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A southern Oregon river runs through it

June 21st, 2008

North Umpqua

Oregon’s North Umpqua River       photo credit: Marico Fayre

The only blackberries you’ll find at the Steamboat Inn come from the kitchen in a fresh pie or cobbler.  There is no cell phone reception at this southern Oregon lodge, but internet access is available in the main building.

It was during my visit to Steamboat that I met renaissance woman Patricia Lee.  She earned her chops on the Umpqua as a fishing guide, turned cookbook author with Steamboat Inn Owner Sharon Van Loan.  Now general manager, Lee is a jack of all trades as well as an amateur botanist.

Walking alongside the mighty Umpqua with Grace, her two-year-old chocolate Labrador Retriever, Lee pulled wild ginger from a stem for me to smell.  A few more steps along the Mott trail and minature orchids were revealed beneath the vibrant green canopy.

Back at the Inn I scanned the fly fishing books and magazines as some local men sat at a nearby table sorting fishing paraphenalia.  River devotees know to book a July reservation months in advance as the steelhead are plentiful this time of year.

 If you simply want to kick back and reconnect with nature, ask the front desk for a waterfall brochure with accompanying trail maps and photos of local falls such as Fall Creek, Toketee or Watson.  Visitors will want to stop at nearby Crater Lake for outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, fishing, bicycling or a boat ride to Wizard Island.

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Don’t let the sun go down on me

June 11th, 2008

Children cannon ball into the pool as the lazy days of summer approach.  For many, the season equals fun in the sun, while others, such as Rhonda Sparks, focus on protecting kids from the sun’s damaging rays*.

 Sparks lost her 32-year-old husband, Darren, to skin cancer just three days after the 9-11 tragedy.  Since then she has launched UVSkinz, a Sonora, California-based company, producing swimshirts and apparel that block out 98% of the sun’s harmful rays and carry a UPF rating of 50+. 

“The southern hemisphere is a good ten years ahead of us in sun protection awareness, “notes Sparks.  “I want parents here to know what I’ve had to learn the hard way.  And to prevent as many sunburns as possible. “

UV Skinz

 Boyz in their Skinz

Sparks sent a couple of samples for my fair-haired Norwegian teenagers to try.  Increasingly weary of the moles multiplying on my son’s back faster than a tic-tac-toe game, I was thrilled when I opened the package.  My 12-year-old swim team and water polo player was less than enthusiast about the chocolate brown short sleeve swim shirt and would not consider wearing the long sleeve blue tie-dye shirt.  My 16-year-old life guard and swim team daughter said no way to the pink tie-dye shirt or any other tasteful catalog items.

 What’s a frustrated, skin cancer prone mother to do with these responses?  Load up on the Coopertone SPF 50 sunscreen and make those yearly dermotology appointments.  What do you do to keep your kids or yourself protected from sun damage? 

*Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, affecting more than one million people each year.  And considering that just one blistering sunburn as a child can more than double the risk of developing skin cancer as an adult makes early awareness and prevention critical.  The good news is that nearly all skin cancer is 100% preventable if caught early!  Protecting your skin during the first 18 years of life can reduce your risk for diagnosis.  Wearing UV protective clothing is an important step in preventing sunburns, premature aging of the skin and skin cancer.

Top 10 Sun Safety Tips provided by UV Skinz

1. Seek the shade, especially during the sun’s peak hours (10:00am-2:00pm)

2. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.

3. Cover up with clothing,especially a broad brimmed hat and UN-blocking sunglasses.

4. Avoid tanning parlors and artificial tanning devices.

5. Keep newborns out of the sun.

6. Teach children good sun-protective practices.

7. Examine your skin from head-to-toe once every month.

8. Have a professional examination annually.

9. Do not burn!  One blistering sunburn doubles your risk for skin cancer.

10. Wear UV protective clothing.

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Technorati here I come

June 9th, 2008

Who knew that you needed to be web-savy to create a blog?  Anyone can launch a blog these days with the help of WordPress, BlogHer, Yahoo, Google and web-hosted sites such as Bootsnall.  But getting readers to visit your site, leave comments and sign up for your blog’s RSS feed is another thing.  I’d like to think that people read my blog for the travel writing and travelers that I interview, but I’ll never know unless you are brave enough to leave a comment.  I promise that I won’t bite.

 I’m learning how to create a blog presence one step at a time and it is painfully slow.  So, dear reader, please bear with me as I learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO), key word strategies, how to StumbleUpon my site, get ranked on Google and Yahoo and Technorati myself.  

 Happy travels.  It’s been quite a trip.

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Exploring unique places near and far

June 6th, 2008

Ephesus Library, Turkey

Ephesus Library, Turkey

Contra Costa Times article launched 06/06/2008

Heads rolled and blood paved the way when warriors like Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan ruled Commagene in the province of Adiyaman.  “I had no idea that all these civilizations had passed through Turkey,” exclaims Orinda’s Chris McLain.  Recently retired, McLain, wife Barbara and son, Brian, toured the southern region for 19 days.  McLain noted that Mount Nemrut and Ephesus, a well preserved Roman seaport from 100-300 AD, located on the West Coast near Izmir, were personal favorites. “The people respect their history.  They know that they are at a crossroads between Asia and Europe,” adds McLain. 

McLain selected Kommegene Travel and opted for a driver and guide this trip due to the proximity to Iraq and some of the locations, such as Nemrut, were very difficult to reach.  They enjoyed the people and learning about the Islamic religion.  The family also visited Istanbul and said they would return in a heartbeat as it was very unique.  “We like to focus on relatively small areas,” reflects McLain. 

Speaking of unique places, Lafayette’s Nancy and Mike Scribner have their Sonoma property available to rent through Beautiful Places. The company provides lavish estate accommodations.  “I like Villa Carneros because it’s close to the square and easily accessible to both Sonoma and Napa,” notes Nancy.  Beautiful Places Lorna Taylor says the property is ideal for families or couples traveling together. 

  1801 First Inn

For a beautiful property with concierge service, visit 1801 First, Napa’s luxury Inn.  Former Danville resident Darcy Tunt dreamed of creating a specialized experience for her guests.  “We’re all about the couple, romance and privacy,” adds Tunt.  “We offer individual breakfast times so guests don’t have to mingle.”  

Enjoy a glass of bubbly upon arrival and housemade truffles.  Evening wine and hors d’oeuvres are served in the parlor.  The culinary tour continues with a stop at the relatively new 40,000 square foot Oxbow Public Market.  Save room for dinner at Chef Greg Cole’s Celadon at 500 Main Street.  For a continued sugar high, visit Anette’s Chocolate Factory in downtown Napa. 

Anette Madsen

Anette Madsen

June unveils Tunt’s latest project, The White House Inn and Spa; Napa’s first hip, “green” hotel.  With cork flooring and recycled paint, the 17 rooms and suites are environmentally friendly.  The mansion also offers a 1,300 square foot cottage, ideal for weddings and special events.

Jacksonville Inn  

Jacksonville Inn Frank Carter Cottage

In keeping with our wine country and unique inn theme, I want to mention one I saw on a recent southern Oregon roadtrip.  The Jacksonville Inn in the historic town of Jacksonville is beyond charming.  The Inn offers eight rooms and four guest suites with a full course breakfast included with lodging.  A former gold-mining town, Jacksonville is a food and wine lover’s paradise.  The town is home to the Britt Festival, the oldest outdoor summer music festival in the Northwest.  It’s also home to many ex-Californians.   

Valley View Winery

 Valley View Winery

Every winery I visited had a California connection. Valley View’s founder, Frank Wisnovsky, was an engineer who worked on the Transbay BART tube before retiring and purchasing 76 acres in the Applegate Valley.  Tragically, he drown in nearby Lost Creek Lake in 1980 leaving sons Mike and Mark to run the winery, along with UC Davis Winemaker John Guerrero, now in his 22nd year with Valley View.  Troon Vineyard Winemaker Herb Quady grew up on his family’s vineyard property in Madera.  Finally, Wooldridge Creek Vineyard & Winery co-owners Kara Olmo and husband Greg Paneitz met while studying Enology at Fresno State University.  All of these wineries are a short, scenic drive from Jacksonville. 

The Country Cottage of Jacksonville is a cozy café offering a Brown Sugar Shortbread that would win any bakeoff contest.  School teacher Susanne Glass moonlights as the Cottage baker by night churning out such treasures as the Nanaimo Bar, a closely guarded recipe discovered in British Columbia.  Located steps away from the Jacksonville Inn on West California Street, Farmhouse Treasures Owner and Candymaker, Kelly Cason turns out delicious fudge.  “This is the real deal with butter and sugar,” says Cason.  Across the street Constance Jesser of the Jacksonville Mercantile introduced me to Lillie Belle chocolates.  Owner and Chocolatier Jeff Shepherd reminds me of renegade Rhone Ranger Winemaker Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Winery.  The tie-dyed, free spirited Shepherd operates an organic berry farm in Jacksonville and hand paints the world’s most expensive chocolate bars at his Central Point factory.  While some of his high-end chocolates are only available at the store, Andronico’s carries his groovy Hippie Crunch.      

 Chocolatier Jeff Shepherd

 Lillie Belle Farms Chocolatier Jeff Shepherd

Next door to Lillie Belle is the Rogue Creamery, home to the award winning Crater Lake Blue Cheese and a most unusual Smokey Blue Cheese truffle developed especially for Rogue Creamery by Shepherd.  I caught up with Lead Cheesemaker and Plant Manager Craig Nelson for a little background on the creamery.  Started by Thomas Vella in 1935, cheese production was ramped up during the war years to support nearby Camp White.  Vella’s son, Ignazio, often referred to as “The Godfather of American Artisan Cheese,” took over the business, eventually selling it in 2002 to David Gremmels and Cary Bryant.  

Nelson says that the creamery makes three types of cheese, good, very good and excellent cheeses.  “We know our cows and we know our dairymen,” prides Nelson and adds that they offer a quality, handmade, sustainable product. 

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Cave tubing in the Mayan underworld

May 9th, 2008

 Egyptian Women

Egyptian women wearing traditional abaya clothing

Contra Costa Times article launched: 05/09/2008

The girl is wearing an ugly brown Egyptian abaya.  It is so large that her body appears as a lump underneath.  Not one strand of hair escapes from her drab headscarf. She wears no make-up and has large brown eyes and unblemished skin.  She’s watching Orinda’s Monica Salusky watch her as she and her friends visit Egypt’s Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple.  

The girls appear to be fourteen or fifteen years old and take turns photographing each other in front of the monument.  The other girls are not wearing abayas.  Two are wearing loose fitting trousers, shirts, and pastel colored headscarves.   The fourth friend, a mere slip of a girl, is wearing low rise tight multi-pocketed khakis with a form fitting stylish shirt.  She is wearing clunky bracelets and her fingernails are painted red.  The eyes of the girl in the brown abaya lock Salusky’s.  Seeing that she has her full attention, she holds her camera towards Salusky and gestures to her girlfriends.  While Salusky and her husband, John Sutherland, were touring in Egypt, this scene could unfold just as easily in front of a California landmark.  Cameras, it seems, speak a universal language.    

A camera was of no use to Rick and Terri Humman and their kids as they floated on a gentle current inside a cave in Belize.  “You climb into an inner tube and wear a helmet with a light attached as you float in the pitch black cave,” remembers Terri.  “Stalactites cover the rock walls.”  In ancient days it was considered the Mayan underworld; today it’s about cave tubing.  

Ambergris Caye, Belize

The Lafayette couple stayed on the island of Amergris Caye (pronounced key) in the town of San Pedro.  The family met up with their oldest son, Chris, who was traveling through Central America.   “The weather wasn’t great, but the white sandy beaches were beautiful,” notes Terri.  “You rent golf carts to get around the island. The rainforests and jungles are amazing, but it is really expensive.  The people were so friendly.  Wandering into beach front places in town you didn’t get the feeling you were intruding.”  The Hummans also enjoyed discovering the locally brewed Belikin beer.  

 Wine Country Inn 

Wine Country Inn Vintners Cottage

Back in California, beers crafted at Calistoga Inn’s Brewery go down easy.  Springtime in wine country is hard to beat – the valley is relaxed and restaurant reservations easy to come by.  If you want to dine with the locals and winemakers, check out Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen on St. Helena’s Railroad Avenue.  After a bike ride on the Silverado Trail or day of wine tasting, I recommend the Wine Country Inn, a member of Unique Inns.  For a special celebration or if you find yourself in the dog house, request the Vintners Cottage overlooking the vineyards.  The website has a special package “For Men Only” and a simple quiz to see how you rate on the “Thoughtful Partner” scale.

  Napa Valley Wine Auction 2007   

 Napa Valley Auction  Jason Tinacci photographer

If you are serious about rubbing shoulders with winemakers, you’ve probably already registered to attend the Auction Napa Valley taking place at Meadowood, June 5-8 and made your lodging reservations a year in advance.  For wine country lodging accommodations any other time of year, visit MG Concierge.  The four day “Classic Package” for two costs $5,000, while arm chair bidders can join in on the E-Auction lots from the comfort of home with the swipe of a credit card.  The E-Auction opens for bidding May 23.  I have my eye on “Six Sweet Months,” the lot includes 45 bottles of Napa Valley wine and six months of chocolate provided by St. Helena’s Woodhouse Chocolate 

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Area families look for help in Hawaii as airlines close

April 18th, 2008

 Wailea Beach, Maul

Photo Courtesy Ultimate Resort – Wailea Beach, Maui

Contra Costa Times Article Launched: 04/18/2008

As the cabin door closed on Aloha Airlines Hawaii-bound flight from Oakland Airport, Val Pettegrew’s angst took hold and it had nothing to do with a fear of flying.  “If the word had gotten out that they were shutting down, we would have never gone,” lamented Pettegrew.  While they had a gorgeous ocean view room, their vacation was consumed with logistical calls to find available seats to the Bay area as their airline carrier had filed for bankruptcy.  Odds of finding open seats were lessened when ATA Airlines shutdown operations two days later.

The Aloha spirit was not in the air for numerous Lamorinda families who found themselves stranded in paradise over spring break.  Dawn Hess and her family were not able to return to Moraga as scheduled, same goes for the Reineckes and Baldwins of Lafayette.  “I think the airline shake out is going to continue,” notes Hess.

There were no crowded airports for our vacation as we hit the open road.  Our trusty Honda van logged 1,614 miles as we traveled from Lafayette to the Grand Canyon via Las Vegas, Nevada. Our AAA vacation specialist recommended Circus Circus Hotel for our 12 and 16 year old.  We were located in the older Skyrise Tower at the end of the Strip.  It reminded me of Tijuana more than glitzy Vegas. 

Hoover Dam

We left the neon lights and trapeze acts behind us and steered toward Hoover Dam and mighty Lake Mead.  While not a wonder of the world, Hoover Dam is one of the greatest engineering works in history.  If you have time, check out the Powerplant or Dam Tour

Majestic Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon did not leave us disappointed.  We opted for the Rails to Rim Package which included a night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel before and after our stay at Maswik Lodge.  Anyone traveling with kids will appreciate the cheesy Wild West show in Williams, Arizona before taking the train to the South Rim.  FYI, seven miles of Hermit Road will be closed until November 2008 for safety upgrades.

 Tallman Hotel Dining Room

 Tallman Hotel’s Dining Room

Closer to home, readers unfamiliar with Lake County are in for a treat.  A recent Unique Inns road trip took me from the Inn at Occidental to the historic Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake.  The 1890’s main building has been restored by owners Lynne and Bernard Butcher to its original glory, housing 17 rooms, suites and cottages on the property, while eco-friendly solar panels and Japanese Ofuro soaking tubs differentiate the place.  The location would be ideal for a family reunion with its meeting room and swimming pool.  Next door, the Blue Wing Saloon serves good food and microbrews at affordable prices.  Lynne Butcher told me that Lakeport’s Disney Boat Rentals will take care of all your water sport needs.

 Ceago Vinegarden

 Lavender Rows Lead To Ceago Vinegarden

Central to wineries, boating and hiking, the Clear Lake region offers more than a venue for aging rock stars at Konocti Harbor.  Accessible by float plane and car, Ceago Vineygarden  is located between the village of Nice and Lucerne on Clear Lake’s north shore.  Owner Jim Fetzer’s organic and biodynamic grapes go into Ceago wines.  Framed with olive trees, the lavender-lined paths are in full bloom now.  Eventually, Fetzer plans to unveil a spa and restaurant on the property. 

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Couple travels far from Moraga home

March 21st, 2008

 Hanoi Street Vendor     

 Contra Costa Times Article Launched 03/21/2008

Imagine hopping a “junk” to visit a dragon in Halong Bay, Vietnam.  According to legend the islands on Halong Bay were formed when a dragon came down to help the locals defend the land from foreign invaders.  The dragon spit jade into the sea turning it into 3,000 islands.  Boats or “junks” are key modes of transportation in Halong Bay.         

An overnight stay on the Halong Ginger was a highlight for Stan

and Wendy Holcenberg who recently returned from Vietnam.

“We got to see the fishing villages,” remembers Wendy,   “and

a very interesting cave that was lit up.”         

The Moraga couple traveled to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam with eight friends using Geographic Expeditions. They selected the upscale company because this was a challenging part of the world to visit.         

Orinda’s Cindy Wong and Charmian Dobell of Lafayette experienced an Asian-oriented two week visit to Vietnam with High Spirits.  Wong described the trip as having a “Vietnamese slant.  We stayed at Asian businessmen hotels in Hanoi and Saigon and overnight in a Buddhist temple.  We went to Hue, the old capital and to the French founded Dalat in the central highlands.  It’s like a resort town only it is much cooler and it rains a lot. It’s a very vibrant up and coming country.”           

Orinda’s Nancy and Milt Schroth along with Greta Westeson toured Vietnam.  They had a veteran in their group and said it was a very moving experience. “He was a tunnel rat during the war and this trip brought closure for him,” notes Westeson.  “What’s unique about Overseas Adventure Travelis that we get to meet people in their homes,” adds Nancy. “Our guide was the son of the mayor of Saigon and his uncle was a fighter pilot.  They take you into their life story so you feel their experiences.”           

All of the travelers noted the building boom with many high-end resorts under construction.  The general feeling was of friendly, energetic people who wanted Americans to appreciate their country.  “The government is allowing people back in,” comments Milt.  “We would see bomb craters, yet Buddhism believes in concentrating on the future.  Don’t dwell on the past,” reflects Milt.       

   I fully intend to dwell on the past because I don’t want to forget my visit to several unique wine country innsOnly a gas tank away, The Inn at Occidental offers an alternative to a B&B. 

“This is not your typical Victorian with a lot of lace,” says owner Jerry Wolsborn.  “My favorite time here is spring when the buds are breaking.” 

Located minutes from the Inn and off the Bohemian Highway, I experienced an enzyme bath and massage at Osmosis Day Spa in Freestone.  Two miles from Occidental, Freestone is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town.  One store you will not want to miss is Wild Flour Bread.  The brick oven breads are wonderful, but timing is everything.  The bakery is only open Friday through Monday from 10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m. 

While Freestone may be small and rustic, my enzyme bath and massage at Osmosis Day Spa was quite sophisticated.  A form of heat therapy used in Japan, guests hunker down in a redwood tub of finely ground evergreens and rice bran while hundreds of active enzymes create heat through fermentation.  What followed was a 75-minute massage that was part relaxation and part therapy as my masseuse was also a former social worker.  

After a dinner in Occidental’s cozy Bistro Des Copains, I retreated to the Marbles suite and woke to a drizzly morning.  The Wine Cellar dining room radiated heat in the stone hearth as I enjoyed my hearty breakfast.

Marbles Suite

 Inn at Occidental Marbles Suite

From Occidental I drove on Graton Road past some huge metal dogs standing guard on a hillside vineyard at the Marimar Estate.  The winery specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot and offers tasting daily and tours by appointment. 

My next stop was Passalacqua Winery off Lambert Bridge Road in Healdsburg.  Stop at the Dry Creek General Store for picnic supplies and enjoy a hearty cabernet on the property of this fourth generation winegrowing family. 

Did I mention that my travel companion on this road trip was a (GPS) global positioning system? The NUVI GPS didn’t eat, sleep or talk very much, yet was similar to google maps in that it locates direct routes, not necessarily the safest.  I avoided the Hopland Grade CA-175 and headed north on 101 for my Lake County destination.  Next month I visit the historic Tallman Hotel and tour Ceago Vinegarden in Upper Lake.                         

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New Zealand trip so good, the kids liked it

February 29th, 2008

Pelletreau New Zealand 

 Contra Costa Times

Article Launched: 02/29/2008 03:18:20 AM PST

Are your teens dreading the “F” word, as in family vacation?  Lafayette’s Ernie Furtado and Barbara Pelletreau recently returned from New Zealand with rave reviews.  “Both kid’s thanked me independently for taking them on this trip,” enthused Pelletreau.  “I would return in a heartbeat!” The family hiked glaciers, drove all terrain vehicles, mountain biked, swam in waterfalls, and helicopter toured their way through Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Mackenzie Country of South Island, New Zealand over Christmas break.

“I loved the bungee jumping because it was such an adrenaline rush,” says David.  An avid snowboarder, David liked free falling and flying upside down.

If your High School or college student is looking for a way to give back to the community while traveling, Lafayette’s Ibis Schlesinger has launched the non-profit Ties to the World.  The organization’s goal is to enable orphanages to be self-sustaining through the creation of social entrepreneurial businesses.  

Based in Lafayette, Schlesinger travels to her native Guatemala with groups of students. Each participant takes their unique talent like singing, painting, teaching English and shares it with the children.  Those interested in the business aspect spend time researching and meeting business people and local students who share the same zeal for entrepreneurship. There is the opportunity to meet Guatemalan people from all walks of life.

Hogar San Francisco Xavier is on Kilometer 21.5 on the way to Antigua.  The Hogar shelters 100 boys, ages 4-13.  Boys and girls from the neighboring community attend the 1-6k school.  Check Ties to the World website for information on Summer volunteer opportunities.  Applications are due February 28. Macchu Pichu

Last month I reported on Peru from an eco-tourism perspective.  This month we visit Peru with a trekker’s point-of-view.  Kelly Berry and Ed Bottoroff are a sporty couple.  You know the type; they run the Reservoir rim trail to jumpstart their morning!   In Peru they boarded the “backpacker” train for a two hour ride to Kilometer #104.   They met their guide at the Inca Trail check point after crossing the Urubamba River and began the 6.8 mile climb to Machu Picchu on an overcast day. 

The drizzle turned into a torrential downpour which flooded the trail.  They climbed rows and rows of terraces where natives grew their crops.  Finally, they reached the top of the trail known as “Sun Gate,” which could have been called “White out Gate” that afternoon.  On their decent they were rewarded with a spectacular view of Machu Picchu.  Tired and hungry, they boarded the bus for Aguas Calientes and the Inkaterra Hotel.  The Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, at $800 per night, was full.

The night’s rainfall had caused a huge landslide, closing the railway and all trains to the mountain.  Rather than the daily 2,000 visitors, the hilltop welcomed 400 people.  This was the day the Lafayette couple would conquer Wayna Picchu mountain peak as climbers 31 and 32 and take in commanding views of Machu Picchu.  And now we leave Peru’s terraced grounds to visit Sonoma’s terraced vineyards. 

 Landmark Vineyards Wagon Ride

Have you dreamed of owning a vineyard?  Imagine becoming a gentleman farmer without securing a mortgage.  Visit Kenwood’s Landmark Vineyards; take a horse drawn wagon tour and stay overnight in the cottage.   As a member of Friends of the Vineyard you’ll adopt a row of vines and in 2010 receive custom-labeled wine bearing your name.

Now take that wine and pair it with some chocolate during Concord’s Chocolate Festival, March 9 from 1-5 p.m. at the Crown Plaza Hotel.  The festival features a teen culinary competition, cooking demonstrations and of course, plenty of chocolate.        

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