Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Taking pictures increases enjoyment of travel

When traveling, I’m a constant photographer. Photos serve to remind me of where I’ve been and experiences I’ve enjoyed (the pictures in my mind don’t last!). Of course, I also realize the value of putting the camera away, staying in the moment, and savoring the scenery or experience first-hand.
Use your camera to record what you
see and do when traveling.
Since I’m rarely without a camera (or two or three) when traveling, I was delighted to learn that people who take photos of their experiences usually enjoy the events more than people who don’t.

Yes, there was an actual study: Research published by the American Psychological Association affirms that rather than detracting, photo-taking adds enjoyment to activities, whether just everyday goings-on or special events such as people experience when they travel.
The research showed that, relative to not taking photos, photography can heighten enjoyment of positive experiences by increasing engagement. In other words, you tend to pay more attention to what is happening and your surroundings when you take pictures.

Active participation--taking your own photos—draws people into the experience, so you spend more time interacting or critically examining whatever you are photographing. The effect is lost if there’s just a camera recording an experience without a person’s active decision of what to capture.
Cameras in cell phones
are handy and take
good pictures, too.
When taking pictures, you may look at the scene from several different angles or take a series of photos as the scene or activity changes. You probably focus more intently on what the camera sees and notice details that a casual observer might miss. It’s this engagement that results in positive feelings about an experience. And those happy feelings are reinforced when you share your photos—and experiences—with others.

I won’t ever feel guilty again about shooting thousands of photos on my travels!

 Photos from free image sites.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Staying hydrated is essential to enjoying your vacation

Water is your first
line of defense against
It’s the middle of summer which means prime vacation time. As temperatures continue to rise, travelers need to stay adequately hydrated to remain healthy during their travels. Recycled air in planes and cars can be especially dehydrating, so pay special attention to your body’s water needs when using these means of transportation.
Drinking water is generally the first recommendation, but too many people either can’t, don’t, or won’t do it—at least not enough. So here are some additional strategies to keep you hydrated and energized through the heat of summer.

Citrus fruits have a high water volume.
 Eat water-based foods. Fresh berries; fruits like oranges, bananas, melons, peaches, and pears; and vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, and spinach not only contain water but they have other necessary nutrients and can replace electrolytes. These foods can be easy snacks when traveling and can help your maintain a balanced diet when unusual adventures play havoc with normal routines.
Maintain sodium levels. Despite the heat, many people use vacation time to try new activities. If you are outdoors a lot or very active, your body may lose sodium through excessive sweating. A teaspoon of salt, preferably sea salt, will help maintain essential sodium levels.
Melons also have a high water content.
Avoid caffeine.  Even though a cold, fizzy soda or iced tea may taste refreshing on a hot day, try to minimize drinks that contain caffeine. Coffee, energy drinks, and alcoholic beverages act as diuretics, so they contribute to vital water loss which could result in fatigue and dehydration. Who wants that on vacation?

No need for excessive ice
Skip the ice cubes. No need to load your water with ice (not a good idea anyway in many developing countries). Cool water is actually better absorbed than ice cold water.

Drink, baby, drink. Don’t want to miss a moment of fun? Keep a water bottle handy. That makes it easier to consume the recommended six to eight glasses of water a day. But when the temperature soars, consider consuming half your body weight in liquid.
You'll drink more if your water bottle is handy.
Add supplements. Vitamin supplements—either dissolved in water or taken with a large swig of water—can help replenish nutrients that may be lost from irregular eating and non-customary activities when traveling. Loading up on immunity supplements prior to your vacation--and continuing to take them during your time away--could help you stay healthy and forestall any effects from potentially dangerous summer heat.

Photos from free sources

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Antarctic icebergs are incredibly gorgeous

The whole scale of Antarctica is so awesome that you can’t help but feel like just a tiny, insignificant part of the world when cruising beside enormous icebergs and sailing beside the huge ice sheets that cover most of the land mass. Here are a few more icebergs from our recent Antarctic journey with Quark Expeditions.
But the magical part is viewing these beautiful creations of nature, especially when the sun is glistening off the ice or reflecting inner surfaces to produce a variety of effects and colors. Icebergs can contain shades white, blue, brown, green, and more—and their shapes are constantly changing. Icebergs can carry rocks and gravel within the ice, which may give them dark gray or black sections.

In the warming sun, the ice expands and can give off a variety of creaking or groaning sounds—or the loud bang and splash of a chunk breaking off (calving). A large berg can even create a tidal wave that washes up on shore or moves among other bergs causing even more noises.
Icebergs may break off from glaciers (more common in the Arctic) or an ice shelf—the most likely means of formation in Antarctica. It’s estimated that 50 to 99 percent of an iceberg lies beneath the surface, which is totally hard to imagine. The amount below water is related to how much air is trapped in the ice, which affects its buoyancy.

Icebergs are composed of fresh water that started as snow accumulating over hundreds, even thousands, of years. The amount of air trapped between flakes and ice crystals determines layers, striations, and colors, so every iceberg is different.
Mostly icebergs sit in the ocean bobbing around. Eventually they melt and erode, the balance-point changes, and the berg may crack or split. The result is an indescribably beautiful canvas of continually changing masses to enjoy but respect.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Dubai--Gateway to Desert Adventures

The complete article originally appeared in Arizona Highroads, March/April 2012

Dubai is truly a city of excesses, with the largest, biggest, tallest, and most spectacular of everything. Rapid and enormous growth has made the city an exciting place, but noise, dust, and commotion are unfortunate byproducts.
Beach at Fujairah resort on the Indian Ocean

As first-time visitors, my husband and I marveled at stunning glass and steel structures and wandered through elaborately decorated modern malls, while also taking in the souks (native markets), forts, and waterways of Old Dubai. There’s a lot of history here, though overshadowed by thousands of building cranes that line the landscape.

After riding the ancient abra (water taxi) across Dubai Creek, buying all the pashminas and spices I could carry home in my luggage, and haggling for that special piece of gold jewelry, it was time to escape the city for a different view of the region. Excursions provide an important perspective to better understand the federation of independent states on the Persian Gulf known as United Arab Emirates.

Pool and hotel at Fujairah Rotana Resort on the Gulf of Oman
Click on the link above to read about our overnight escape to Fujairah Rotana Resort. Known for golden sandy beaches and sparkling water, Fujairah is located on the East Coast of Unite Arab Emirates, on the Gulf of Oman, which leads into the Indian Ocean.

Another day we explored Al Ain—a natural oasis in the desert about an hour-and-a-half drive southeast from Dubai. Called the Garden City, Al Ain was once a place of respite for ancient wandering Bedouin tribes who traveled at night to escape the heat. It’s an important historical and archeological site off the beaten path for most tourists.
Historic buildings in Al Ain
On the last day of our week-long visit to Dubai City, we took the highly recommended Desert Safari, an adventure only 45 minutes from the city limits, but a world away for the senses. Trips begin in late afternoon, when the air has cooled, and take visitors to a dry, virtually uninhabited environment in one of the largest deserts in the world--a stark contrast to the bustling, well-irrigated city.

Riding the desert dunes is like being on a theme park ride!
Entertainment by a belly dancer
on the desert safari
Up and down our guide drove over steep sand banks, down hills, and then plowing back up again. For more than an hour, we skimmed magnificent dunes, marveled at geometric wind-swept patterns in the sand, and, at one point, slowed down for a herd of camels crossing the path.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Photo essay of Antarctic icebergs

You might envision Antarctica as one huge mass of ice and snow. There’s a lot of that, but it doesn’t always stay attached to land, which actually has lakes and free flowing water under all that ice. Large chunks of ice break away and move freely in the large expanse of ocean surrounding the continent.
Antarctic icebergs start with snow, which is 90 percent air and 10 percent precipitation. Over time, bubbles in the ice get compressed and the result is glacial ice composed of 20 percent air bubbles.

Most icebergs we saw in the water had broken off from an ice shelf (14 million square kilometers of Antarctic ice sheets are on top of the continent). Some of these patches of pristine ice resemble small islands slowly moving in the water. Imagine a variety of beautiful shapes (flat, pointed, domed, arched), colors (green, blue, white), and textures (grainy, crunchy, smooth, glistening) creating an ever-changing landscape in this wild territory.
As large as many icebergs are, it’s hard to imagine that two-thirds of the berg remains under water. Sometimes, two or three pinnacles can actually be joined underwater to form one massive iceberg, even though it looks like two or more above water.

Enjoy these images of icebergs from our recent Antarctic expedition.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Tips to make packing your suitcase a snap

Even if you love where you live, everyone needs time away occasionally.  For many travelers, packing is the least favorite part of taking a trip. Of course, making a list—and referring to it often—can help assure that you remember the important items, but here are some tips to make sure everything you want to take actually fits in your suitcase.

First, take the smallest size suitcase that works for the length trip you’re going on. If you’re flying and can fit everything into a carry-on bag, you’ll avoid extra fees and save time by not having to wait to claim a checked bag on arrival.

To conserve packable space, wear the bulkiest items you’ll need at your destination such as boots or a heavy coat. Don’t try to cram these into your suitcase because these add weight as well as take up too much space.
As you begin to pack, place heavy or odd-sized items like shoes, hair dryer, or mask and fins (going snorkeling?) on the bottom. Stuff socks and underwear into shoes and crevices. Some people like to use special packing folders for shirts to keep them clean and help prevent wrinkles.  Two-gallon zipper bags can also be used to hold items like multiple pairs of socks or underwear. Before sealing, compress all the air out, and you’ll be surprised at how much space is saved.

Then place long items like pants or dresses across the bag. Fold jackets facedown, placing arms on top. Fold excess length back in a criss-cross pattern, alternating directions. Some people put tissue paper between layers to protect fancy clothing and lessen the chance of wrinkling. Knit or polyester items such as t-shirts or sleepwear can be rolled up and placed on top or along the sides of the bag.
Tuck belts, jewelry bag, hair brush, and other small items into empty niches.  Finally, use the straps on your suitcase to hold items in place. If you’re only taking a carry-on bag, keep in mind that liquids and sharp items are not allowed through security, and you’ll be limited to the amounts that fit in your quart-sized baggie. Consider using solids for make-up remover, perfume, and deodorant.

In addition to your carry-on luggage, remember that you are also allowed a purse, backpack, or tote bag. I usually take a sturdy shoulder bag that contains everything I’ll need while on the flight, so I don’t have to scavenge through my carry-on after it is stored in the overhead bin.
I also try to leave some free space in the suitcase when departing on a trip, so there’s room to bring home any purchases I make. By planning ahead, you’ll be able to take what you need and keep it organized while you travel.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Knight in an Irish Castle

This article originally appeared in Arizona Highroads, March/April 2013 http://highroads.az.aaa.com/article/knight-irish-castle

Steeped in tradition and outfitted with charming amenities, turreted Irish towers stretch to the sky, offering visitors a fairytale experience. Ireland is home to hundreds of castles, constructed in ancient times as a symbol of status as well as a safe retreat. Today, many remain in the form of overgrown ruins on windswept hills, but some have been restored to their former glory and provide a full slate of activities for guests.
Here’s a brief introduction to five of Ireland’s most notable castles that welcome visitors today. Click on the link above to read the full article with more complete descriptions of these elegant properties.

Ashford Castle is a grand and opulent Victorian castle.

Ashford Castle

Last owned by the Guinness family (yes, of beer fame) as a private home, Ashford Castle bears the stamp of every family that lived there. From ownership by the O’Connors, whose abbey remains an attraction in nearby Cong, to its reopening as a hotel in 2008, the castle’s history is an important part of its appeal.

Multiple paths meander through the 300 acres currently on the Ashford Castle grounds, which are surrounded by government-owned forestland. A nine-hole golf course, horseback riding, falconry school, spa, and plentiful areas for games and conversation will keep any Lord and Lady occupied.
Gorgeous fitness area at Ballyfin Castle

Ballyfin Castle

 After eight years of restoration, this lavish Regency mansion opened in spring 2011. It’s a grand country house with the feel of a family home. Service is impeccable — butlers will unpack your luggage, hang up your clothes, shine your shoes, and do your laundry — all complimentary.
Luxurious furnishings in Ballyfin Castle
Fifteen guest rooms reflect the home’s original purpose as a place for entertainment. Lord Charles and Lady Catherine Coote started building the house in 1820, the same year he entered Parliament. During the six months spent each year on this 614-acre estate 35 miles from Kilkenny, they exemplified the finest Irish society.
Ballygally Castle
This scenic 17th century castle is perched on the tip of the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland. Sheep grazing on the hillside beside the Irish Sea add a touch of comfort to the grandiose landscape — and fishing is especially good off the coast.

Ballygally dates back to 1625 and is the only 17th-century building still used as a residence in Northern Ireland. Built by James Shaw and his wife Isobella during a time of political turmoil, it was designated as a place of defense as well as a home.
Towering cliffs by the Atlantic Ocean overlook an extraordinary promontory with 40,000 dark basalt columns and spires (the result of ancient volcanic activity) jutting up and out to sea — a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The 17th century classic manor house Castlemartyr is adjacent to the ruins of an 800-year-old castle. Located 20 minutes from Cork city, the family-friendly five-star resort is nestled in a natural woodland area with horse pastures, bike paths, and a golf course on premises. It was first built in 1210 by the Knights Templar, one of the most famous of the Christian military orders, under the leadership of Richard Earl de Clare (commonly known as Strongbow).

Many Irish castles now welcome visitors for an exquisite stay.
More so than some of the other once-royal properties, Castlemartyr welcomes families. Among the amenities geared to this clientele are a Kid’s Club, special children’s meals, and family activities, including biking, picnics, croquet, coastal walks, pony rides, swimming, and even a Wii.

Lough Eske Castle
Just outside Donegal in Northern Ireland, this historic building is in a fantasy destination. Dating back to the 1400s, Lough Eske Castle was exquisitely refurbished and opened to the public in 2007.
Beautiful gardens at Lough Eske Castle
Noted for superb service, this Tudor castle is situated on 43 acres of forest woodland hugging the shores of Lough Eske. With the Bluestack Mountains in the background, there are plentiful hiking trails surrounding the castle.

When you travel in Ireland, you'll come to understand why
it's said to have 40 shades of green.
After living in the lap of luxury of these converted Irish castles, it wasn’t an easy transition back to ordinary hotels.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Spend a weekend in Durango, Colorado

This article originally appeared in American Way, the magazine of American Airlines, February 2014.

Durango is well-known as the starting point for the historic narrow gauge railroad to Silverton. But with the free-flowing Animas River running through town and the rugged San Juan Mountains within view, it has become a gateway for outdoor activities in Southwestern Colorado. In addition to the beauty of its natural setting, Durango’s Old West history, Southwest-inspired shopping, and newly creative cuisine make it a top travel destination.


Durango's most famous accommodation is the iconic, and
perhaps haunted, Strater Hotel.
Built in 1887, the purportedly haunted Strater Hotel is a prominent landmark in downtown Durango. Within the hotel you’ll find the world’s largest collection of American Victorian antiques, many of which decorate the 93 rooms. Enjoy cocktails at the hotel’s Diamond Belle Saloon, fine dining at Mahogany Grill, and a show at the historical Henry Strater Theater.

The luxurious four-star General Palmer Hotel, also a renovated 19th century building, is conveniently located next to the railroad depot. Prefer something smaller and quieter? Go a few blocks off Main Avenue to the Rochester Hotel and Leland House where you’ll be treated to a daily gourmet breakfast in a flower-filled courtyard. This boutique hotel features 15 rooms with décor inspired by Western movies filmed in the area.
Take a relaxing ride on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
for splendid scenery.

Combine a ride on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad with a jeep tour over 13,000-foot passes in the San Juan Mountains, or get your adrenaline flowing with a white-water rafting trip. Play golf on a hillside overlooking Durango at Hillcrest, a public course just past Fort Lewis College on Rim Drive. On your return to town, stop to visit the Center of Southwest Studies at the college and admire a glorious overview of the city below.
Ride bicycles through Durango's older residential areas or
along the River Trail.

In town, ride bicycles along the River Trail (rent cruisers at the Rochester Hotel), then raft or float in a tube down the Animas River.   Explore downtown, a nationally registered historic district, stopping at Durango DiscoveryMuseum and art galleries like SorrelSky and Toh-Atin for Native American treasures.
Hillcrest is a public golf course with outstanding views.

Strike out on one of many hiking trails: The 500 mile Colorado Trail starts in Durango and ends in Denver, but even a short jaunt provides a taste of nature including views of the Rockies.  Prime hiking is also available during the summer in the San Juan Mountains, and in winter the slopes of Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort attract skiers of all levels.  

Just an hour’s drive away you can see original cliff dwellings and learn about culture of the Pueblo Indians at Mesa Verde National Park, an UNESCO World Heritage site.


Raft or tube on the popular, refreshing Animas River.
A plethora of talented chefs celebrate Durango’s culinary passion at numerous festivals, craft breweries, and fine restaurants. Steamworks Brewery Co. is a Durango favorite where guests trash peanut shells on the floor while enjoying pizza, sandwiches, or New Mexico style foods. Anything you can roll into a tortilla you can find at RGP’s Flame Grilled Wraps, a popular lunch spot. Even if you’re from Texas and think Coloradans don’t have a clue, give the ribs, steak, and brisket at Serious Texas Barbeque a try—might make you humble.  Growing in popularity are innovative, independent restaurants such as Chimayo, which offers eclectic selections.


Aptly named, Main Avenue is a shopper’s delight—no matter what kind of goods you’re looking for. Jewelry Works offers beautiful Southwestern designed turquoise and coral pieces.  Get everything you need for outdoor activities at Gardenswartz, a locally-owned sporting goods store. Find fashionable and unique clothing and accessories at Silk Sparrow. After dinner, choose delectable morsels at the original—yes, the very first--Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
Enjoy the beautiful San Juan Mountains on a drive or hike.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Lonely Planet's guidebook commemorates park service centennial

A new guide book by the leading travel media company Lonely Planet has been released to commemorate the National Park Service’scentennial. USA’s National Parks is an ambitious book, covering all 59 of the designated national parks as well as special features such as presidential memorials, other protected spots like national seashores, monuments, and recreational area.
With such a lengthy itinerary, the book hits the highlights of each park such as size, entrance fees, and the types of people that the park would appeal to. It provides an overview of top experiences and scenic destinations that visitors should not miss.

General information about where to stay and eat, best hiking trails and drives, of-the-path secrets, and nearby attractions are also packed into this handy 5 x 7.5 inch book. Hundreds of full color photos, many full-page, help readers visualize landscapes and available activities in each location. A pull-out map pinpoints location of each park, so you can see if several are close enough to visit in one vacation.
Plan the perfect destination using the book’s information regarding best parks for hiking, wildlife watching, amazing adventures, families, scenery, and winter time. Check out the list of top 10 experiences and tips on the best times to visit.

A section that includes history, conservation, wildlife, and geology provides need-to-know background that allows visitors to more fully appreciate America’s national parks.
Other Lonely Planet books on national parks

In addition to the general guidebook, Lonely Planet has published five updated guidebooks that include 11 of the most popular national parks in North America. Comprehensive coverage and practical information for exploring each park (such as clothing and equipment for hiking, best drives, and cycling tours) are also included in these full-color, detailed editions.
If you love beautiful coffee table books, Lonely Planet recently released a hardback version called Lonely Planet’s National Parks of America: Experience America’s 59 National Parks. This edition is a breathtaking, illustrated tour through every park in the U.S. and its territories, from Acadia to Zion. Stunning panoramic photography leads the reader through recommended itineraries. In addition to inspiring photos, it includes background, practical information, facts, and advice for exploring each park.

Photos courtesy of Lonely Planet

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Discovering Easter Island from Explora Rapa Nui

Easter Island is so far from any mainland that it almost seems out of touch with the rest of the world. And, in fact, it is. Born from three volcanoes, surrounded by some of the clearest seas in the world (but a rugged, unfriendly coastline), and home to an enigmatic ancestral culture, Easter Island is unique is so many ways. Fewer than 4,000 people live on the island, which is a protected national park.
Hike to a volcanic crater on Easter Island
overlooking the Pacific Ocean
Although it’s part of Chile, Rapa Nui (native name for Easter Island) is so remote that discovering the curious culture found there is best done with assistance from local guides. That’s why we decided to stay at explora Rapa Nui, a resort that provides lodge-based explorations for guests.

Moais on Easter Island at the rock quarry
where most were originally constructed.
Moai, crude sculptures of human figures that are scattered throughout the island, are the best-known example of this ancient civilization and what most people come to see, so guides make sure visitors come away with a sense of awe about these mysterious sculptures.

Getting there
To begin with, it takes a sense of adventure to put Easter Island on an itinerary, considering the trip requires a five-hour flight from Santiago, Chile (plane only goes once or twice daily) to get there. Of course, that’s part of the allure.

The architecture of explora Rapa Nui follows the
curving "boathouse" design of ancient settlers
So explora Rapa Nui builds on the inquisitive philosophy that most travelers to remote areas like this possess. Explora offers 20 included excursions, all with strong cultural and archaeological overtones, and each led by an expert bilingual guide. In this isolated environment, we expected--and got--a healthy exposure to nature.
Guests and guides meet each afternoon by the hotel bar to plan the next day’s activities, which might be on foot, by bicycle or boat. It’s a collaborative effort that ensures each guest has the kind of experience that suites their interests and skill level. Groups never have more than eight participants, and several times Larry and I were the only persons on our specific tours.
Rooms are beautiful and comfortable with exquisite views.
explora resort

Located eight kilometers from the main town of Hanga Roa, explora is situated in a tranquil spot by the ocean and surrounded by eucalyptus trees, perfect for in-depth exploration of this mysterious island. It’s an all-inclusive resort built in 2007 that provides everything a traveler needs—sumptuous dining, all excursions, drinks and snacks, water bottles and walking sticks, luxurious swimming pool and hot tub, and spacious, beautifully appointed rooms.
Room décor utilizes bright colors and sustainable materials.
The architecture of the resort blends with the island’s geography and heritage, following the curved form of so-called “boat houses” which sheltered ancient inhabitants. It is built mostly of wood and volcanic rock from the island and was the first lodge in South America to obtain LEED-NC certification, which is granted by the U.S. Green Building Council to buildings that meet high environmental standards.

A negative edge pool, hot tub, and spa provide soothing relaxation.
Explora Rapa Nui was built on land that was not suitable for agriculture, so much of the existing vegetation is intact. The award-winning lodge has 30 rooms with breathtaking views of sunset and sunrise--and excellent natural ventilation (air conditioning is available if needed).

A large in-room whirlpool tub helped soothe away any aches and pains from our hiking excursions. Lounging on the cushioned window seat while gazing at the Pacific Ocean was a favorite activity when we had a moment to rest. There’s no television or Wi-Fi in the rooms (available in common areas), since the idea is to disconnect from usual routines.
Common spaces are great for gathering before dinner and visiting
with other guests to talk about the day's activities.
If you chose to visit, come prepared to bask in the beauty of the island’s landscapes and engage with the history and culture of this amazing territory. Relax—because explora RapaNui will handle all the details of your stay.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier