Sunday, January 29, 2012

WiTList - Danielle's Chile Adventure: Top 5

5. Private Show of Traditional Chilean Song & Dance

Families, anywhere in the world, are proud of their heritage. In a sleepy suburb outside Santiago, Chile, one local family let us in to their culture, their traditions and their home so much so that we felt like we were extended members. The men were Huasos, or Chilean cowboys, and in conjunction with the women, they sang and danced in traditional Chilean custom. Each song told a story, one about a chicken, another about a child who pretended to be drunk. The kids participated fully, bouncing around the patio in local garb, excited to show off for the Americans. The matriarch, pictured above leaning against the house in purple, was a member of the town council and after the show, she set up a meal inside with the town's mayor. 

4. Casablanca Wine Region

Visually stunning and viniculturally delicious, Chile's Casablanca wine region rivals anything Napa to the north can offer. Sitting and sipping under a luxurious summer sun and you can hear the soft breeze rolling down from the nearby mountains to rustle the acres and acres of grapes vines right over the railing. The highlight of a day's winery tour, Emiliana Wineries, was a green haven in every way. Not only did the vineyards sprawl for miles into a wavy green sea, but the entire facility was bio-organic and bio-dynamic. Meaning every animal and plant on the grounds served a unique function for the benefit of the soil, air, etc. Except the peacock. The owner made sure to point out that one allowed luxury. The peacock is simply for added beauty.

3. A Visit to Chilean Congress

Ted Kennedy look-alikes, Politicians updating their status and shout outs on Chilean C-SPAN: not the average tourist's typical South American experience. The name "Harvard" opens a lot of doors. In Chile, those doors lead to the floor of Congress. Our tour group from the Harvard School of Public Health was treated to front row seats for a session of Chile's legislative branch. One of the congressman spent the majority of the session browsing Facebook, while another gave the thumbs up to our group upon exiting. The sprawling chamber of Chile's version of a House of Representatives was crowned by a wall of untreated, unpolished copper (the green wall behind the dais). Like the copper wall, the representatives are of the people - unpolished and working. On the Senate side the copper wall is polished to a grand sheen.

2. Front Row for the Changing of the Guard

Imagine standing up against the Buckingham Palace wall, staring across the yard from the inside out while hundreds of tourists enviously look through twenty foot gates for a glimpse at one of the world's most recognizable pomp and circumstance spectacles. Now move it to the Southern Hemisphere. A visit to La Moneda, Chile's Presidential Palace, requires prior booking but luck allowed for a last minute reservation and private tour of the facility. The tour ended just as Chile's version of the changing of the guard began and since the tour guide enjoyed our American enthusiasm, allowed us to stand right outside the door of the Palace, in the actual yard, to watch the event while all the other tourists leered from outside the gates. It was reminiscent of its British counterpart, with musical numbers, synchronized marches and intense patriotism. But the Chileans give you better seats.

1. Osorno Volcano & Puerto Varas, Chilean Lakes Region

As you head south along the sliver of a nation that is Chile, the cultures broadens to include an Eastern European flare seemingly out of place in this corner of the world. At a hostel in Puerto Varas named Casa Azul a couple of German expatriates have transplanted their Bavarian hospitality to South America. The owner and his wife welcome with open arms and he offered his knowledge and services, garnered from 15 years of living in the area. He led a private tour, complete with lunch, driving us to waterfalls and to the ultimate in Chilean landscape, Osorno Volcano. We drove as far up the mountain as automobile's are allowed. From a scenic vista we boarded a chair lift to the summit, which coincidentally was also home to a ski resort. After indulging in breathtaking panoramas, the valleys sprawling away from the peak like fish from a boat hull, we were dropped off at a hiking trailhead. The descent on foot took us thought wooded glades and over the ebony lava bed, an alien landscape with a curiously beautiful tinge. At the bottom, at the trail outlet, was our driver, the hostel owner, who greeted us with that same German hospitality and a comfortable ride home.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

WiTList - Best Travel-themed Songs

Sometimes when you’re on a lost and lonesome highway, east of Omaha, your only friend is the voice harmonizing out of the dashboard radio. There are songs that inspire us to explore, and there are those that keep us company while we do so. Granted, rock stars have a much easier time executing the escape plans laid out in their lyrics, but I’m not one to ignore the calling to relaxation or adventure. Music and travel share a creative, somewhat restless spirit. And if nothing else, you need a good iPod playlist to drown out that latest Kathryn Heigl abomination playing on your next transatlantic flight. 

My Picks:

10. Land Down Under by Men At Work
“Buying Bread from a man in Brussels/ He was six foor four and full of muscles. I said “Do you speak-a my language?” He just smiled and made me a vegemite sandwich.”

9. The Life by Kenny Chesney

“It was early one morning, Playa del Carmen, that’s when I first met Jose. He had a 12 foot schooner, a 3 foot cooler full of the catch of the day. And he was wrinkled from grinnin, from all the sun he had been in, he was barefoot, cerveza in had. He said gracias senor when I paid him too much for all of the snapper he had. Now I told him my friend it ain’t nothing, in the best broken Spanish I knew. I said I make a good livin’ back home where I’m from. He smiled and said, “Amigo, me too.”

8. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes by Jimmy Buffet
“Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I've been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again”

7. London Skies by Jamie Cullum
“Will you let me romanticize,
The beauty in our London Skies,
You know the sunlight always shines,
Behind the clouds of London Skies.”

6. Ramble On by Led Zeppelin

“Got no time to for spreadin' roots, The time has come to be gone.
And to' our health we drank a thousand times, it's time to Ramble On.”

5. Two of Us by The Beatles
"Two of us sending postcards
Writing letters
On my wall
You and me burning matches
Lifting latches
On our way back home"

4. Jet Airliner by Steve Miller Band
"Leavin' home, out on the road 

I've been down before 
Ridin' along in this big ol' jet plane 
I've been thinkin' about my home 
But my love light seems so far away 
And I feel like it's all been done 
Somebody's tryin' to make me stay 
You know I've got to be movin' on 

Oh, Oh big ol' jet airliner 
Don't carry me too far away 
Oh, Oh big ol' jet airliner 
Cause it's here that I've got to stay"

3. Free by The Zac Brown Band

"Travel all across this land, me and you"

2. Counterclockwise by Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers

“Bought a pancho and sandals
I threw away my shoes
Brought a toothbrush and a razor
I probably won't use
Hit the track, turned my back
on the Headline News
On my way to meet the moon on the bay
Where she's risin' big and full and blue”

1. Turn the Page by Bob Seger
"Here I am 
On the road again 
There I am 
Up on the stage 
Here I go 
Playin' star again 
There I go 
Turn the page"

Your Picks:

Danielle Hartigan - Sweet Baby James by James Taylor, cuz I've been on that turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston when it was covered with snow

Bren SullivanGreatest travel songs: "Werewolves of London" and "Lawyers, Guns and Money" both by Warren Zevon.

@MaldenMark - Hungry Heart by Bruce Springsteen
"I went out for a ride and I never went back/ Like a river that don't know where it's flowing/ I took a wrong turn and I just kept going."

Kelly Cheeseman - Africa by Toto
"As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus from the Serangetti"

@Shemkus - On the Road Again by Willie Nelson, clearly

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Year of the Goat - 2012

I don’t grow it very often. When I do, it makes some folks nervous. In every instance, it becomes irritating.

But still, I think I look good when I grow out my facial hair.

I’m not talking full-on Grizzly Adams beard here. Something moderate, manageable and above all, meaningful.

All good modes of expression carry weight; so if you’re going to accessorize your face it damn well better mean something.

Facial hair at its roots carries significance in the world of Man, harkening back to ancient times when a boy was not grown until his whiskers grew in. Philosophers stroked their beards while pondering Earth’s mysteries; Salty sea breeze flecked those of pirates set sail to plunder. Every mountain man, wild west cowboy and National Hockey League playoff team for the past hundred years has rocked a shaggy beard, a 'stache or a goatee.

Somewhere along the way, facial hair became a symbol of adventure. From the crusading knight to the unkempt explorer, each was too ingrained in discovery to bother with manscaping. Darwin's beard was an evolution in itself. Indiana Jones wore the stubble well. Because when faced with a challenge, the manly man needs something upon his chin to scratch introspectively.

Perhaps it is a nod to the great bearded adventurers of yore, or perhaps I'm just lazy and have sensitive skin, but either way, when traveling, I've grown accustomed to growing it out.

The sense of adventure just calls for it. My wife's insistence to the contrary be damned, when I'm away there is nobody around to impress. I say embrace the inner explorer by looking like one on the outside.

Growing a goatee has grown into a tradition of sorts. It only occurs when I travel (and during the Boston Bruins playoff run to a Stanley Cup Championship - that was founded in pure superstition and luck and I fully believe that by not shaving for a couple months I contributed in some small part to their victory. Go ahead, prove me otherwise).

The practice began in Switzerland, partially because it shielded my face from the brisk Alpine air and partially because I ran out of shaving cream. Ever since, from the Tower of London to the top of Yosemite Falls, my vacation photos are peppered with me sporting the Goat.

True, the process requires a few days of itching at stubble and hearing the requisite, "oh you're doing that again?"

But shaving time is cut in half. My face is partially prevented from chapping during mountain hikes. If I'm ever picked out of a lineup with the threat of being locked up abroad, I can claim I'm not Mike Hartigan, just his evil twin.

And dammit, I think I the look suits me. But only when traveling (or if the Bruins make the playoffs again). Because then it means something. It has purpose; it represents the clich├ęd freedom that sprouts from adventure; it suggests autonomy from the person not traveling.

There is Me and there is Travel Me. Me works clean-shaven to make money so Travel Me can exist. And when Travel Me stumbles upon hidden tea shops or discusses the meaning of life with two fishermen in Key West, he scratches his goatee introspectively in thanks to Me. When I travel, there's just a little something extra.

In the end it's just facial hair, itchy and irritating. It comes and goes with the swipe of a blade. And yet, thousands of years of grizzly faces holds some significance.

I plan to grow my goatee more often this year. Which only means I have to travel more.

And that is an exciting proposition for 2012, the Year of the Goat. I can feel the follicles tingling already.