So put Uzbekistan on your list and come with us next fall. You'll be glad you did. There's even a direct non-stop flight from New York straight to Tashkent. Stay tuned for dates and prices...
VISIT US AT WWW.PORTERRATRAVEL.COM
Uzbekistan. Central Asia. The Silk Road. Think Genghis Khan, Marco Polo and Aladdin and his magic lamp. Their second largest city, Samarkand, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on the planet. Deserts, mountains, grassy steppes, modern cities, spice bazaars and nomads. All in all it's an amazing and intriguing place. Magical and mystical with tons of history.
We just returned from a fantastic exploratory trip to put together a Porterra trip there for next fall. One of my favorite parts was sleeping in a yurt (a nomad's tent) in the desert in the shadow of a 2500 year old mud brick fortress. The night sky was as bright as I've ever experienced in my life and it was so peaceful and quiet. The only sounds at night were from the camels meandering around our camp!
Uzbekistan is a very safe place. It's an ancient part of the world, but they have only been a country since 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. They are a constitutional republic and their current president is relatively progressive. I really wasn't sure what to expect but any reservations I had were immediately put to rest upon our arrival where we greeted with welcoming smiles from the immigration officials in the super clean, new and efficient international airport in their capital city of Tashkent. We found the local people to be welcoming as well.
Their cities, and indeed the entire country, were very clean. I really didn't see trash anywhere. No homeless, no panhandlers, and even the "aggressive" stall owners in the bazaars were tongue in cheek. Cars stop when you cross the street. School age kids, after hearing us speak, would bashfully approach just for the opportunity to practice their English with us. It was all so refreshing. Tourism is so new here.
The food is great and very plentiful. Lots of meat, especially lamb, and lots of fresh salads. Uzbek wine is delicious too. We even found a brewery to tour!
So put Uzbekistan on your list and come with us next fall. You'll be glad you did. There's even a direct non-stop flight from New York straight to Tashkent. Stay tuned for dates and prices...
VISIT US AT WWW.PORTERRATRAVEL.COM
I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. Backyard BBQ's and trips to the beach!
I just wanted to let you all know that we have a few last minute openings on some of our 2018 trips...
We are currently accepting deposits for our 2019 trip to the Republic of Georgia.
Details here... http://www.porterratravel.com/2019-georgia.html
There's a single space on our trip to Italy this September... http://www.porterratravel.com/2018-rome--tuscany1.html
2 spots left for Machu Picchu in October ... http://www.porterratravel.com/2018-machu-picchu.html
and 2 spots left for our trip to Belgium in December (an annual favorite) ... http://www.porterratravel.com/2018-belgium.html
Sign up on the website or send me an email if you're interested, but don't wait too long!
While back home in Easton, PA folks were dealing with high humidity and temps in the upper 90’s we were enjoying pleasantly warm and sunny Scotland. Wait… What? Sunny Scotland? That’s right folks, we had bright blue skies and super comfortable temps in the mid to upper 70’s all week, virtually unheard of in Scotland. I’ve been there a half a dozen times and this is the first time I’ve been able to photograph Edinburgh Castle with bright blue cloudless skies in the background, what a treat!
The other surprise, at least for me, on this trip was gin; the new national drink of Scotland. Yes, of course, you can still get at least a dozen varieties of Scotch in virtually any pub, but there are gin bars popping up everywhere! There are at least seven craft gin distilleries in Edinburgh alone, each producing their flagship bottle as well as numerous other styles and flavors like elderflower or rhubarb & ginger. You can get dry gins, floral gins aromatic gins. And the plethora of tonics is out of control with dozens of brands concocting all sorts of flavors. So when you ask for a gin & tonic at your local pub be prepared to answer a few questions; which gin would you like? Which tonic? And what would you like for a garnish? Thankfully all the bartenders are super friendly and glad to help us Americans sort it all out. Personally, after much testing and tasting (and more testing and tasting), I settled on The Botanist; a floral but dry gin with Fever-Tree Indian tonic and a grapefruit garnish, although it went pretty well with a thyme garnish too.
Another advantage of going in late June and early July (besides the weather) is that it stays light until after 11:30 at night. We were on our way back to the hotel after enjoying some wonderful traditional Scottish music at Gellions Bar on Bridge Street in Inverness and I took one picture from the bridge over the River Ness at a quarter to one in the morning. There was still a faint glow on the horizon.
All in all it was a fabulous trip… We spent our first night in Stirling, a delightful town with a great pedestrian zone. Large enough to have lots of options and small enough to feel comfortable and cozy. We walked over the famous Stirling bridge where William Wallace defeated the superior English forces in 1297 and toured Stirling Castle, perched high on a rock overlooking the town below. Then on to Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands. From there we visited Glenfiddich and had a tour of the Speyside Cooperage. The cooperage tour was especially fun, it’s an aspect of whisky that most people don’t even consider, but it’s where much of the flavor of a whisky comes from. Being able to look out over the production floor and watch the guys repair and wheel the barrels around was amazing. It’s a highly specialized craft requiring a four year apprenticeship and lots of hard work. These men are truly the unsung heroes of the whisky trade. Oban was our next stop, a pretty little fishing village on the west coast and home to the famous Oban distillery. Last but certainly not least we ended the trip in Edinburgh and visited the town of St Andrews from there.
Scotland is a truly magical place and I’m sure I’ll be going back again. Until next time…
Roberta was the winner of our What's Your Adventure? contest earlier this year. Here's her account of how she did it...
How to go to Belgium in 5 Easy steps
Some of you have asked me how I won a weeklong free trip to Belgium. Here is the answer...
Enter a contest sponsored by Porterra Travel
The swimming pool at Rodale Aquatic Center was an unlikely setting for two swim friends to talk about travel plans. But my friend Jill and I gabbed happily about her recent trips to Belgium and Prague through Porterra Travel in between swim sets, while watching the time clock for our rest period and gulping down water during our Mid -Morning Masters Swim class. Jill’s experience with her fellow travelers inspired me to look up and subscribe to the Porterra Travel website, Instagram and Facebook. I read through the upcoming trips and noticed to my dismay that the December 2017 trip to Belgium was filled. “If only there was a way for me to go to Belgium”, I thought. The architecture, culture, intimate roads, canals and chocolate were calling me. I wanted to explore the pubs, breweries and cuisine that Jill told me about as we caught our breath in between laps at the pool under our coach’s watchful eye. A few weeks later I answered a post on the Porterra Facebook page calling for contestants to enter their “What’s Your Adventure?” contest. I was interested and hooked.
Take a chance
“Share with us a photo and a story of one of your travel adventures for a chance to win a free trip to Belgium, “the Porterra Travel site said. My prayers had been answered. “What travel adventure could I post about?” I thought. My husband Wayne and I went on a trip to Germany. A favorite picture of mine was one of us standing in front of an ancient castle in Heidelberg, Germany overlooking the Rhine River. I thought this picture would be great since Wayne and I are both of German ancestry AND love beer. Imagine that! The city of Heidelberg is one hour away from a small town called Friedelhausen where my grandmother’s family hails from. The picture of us in Germany held a special place in my heart as I lost my grandmother at a young age.
Every vote counts
I selected my favorite picture and wrote a brief description of my favorite travel adventure to Heidelberg and submitted it to the “What’s Your Adventure?” contest. Now I had to watch and wait. I wasn’t sure if I had written enough of a story to go with my picture. Was my post colorful and exciting? How did I compare with the other contestants’ posts? What would the judges think of me as I seemed older than a lot of the contestants? Days went by and I watched more and more people enter the contest lured in by the prospect of winning a free trip to Belgium. I hoped that the other contestants were beer lovers as well. To win a trip to Belgium and not like beer would be such a shame. Belgium is a beer lover’s paradise. Jill told me that people often brought beer from the U.S. with them as a means of bartering for Belgium beer. That idea sounded interesting to me. Next, I had to get family and friends to vote for my entry via Facebook. The contest allowed me to post my entry on Facebook so that I could tell friends to vote for my entry. I had to make it to be one of the top ten contestants. There were 50 contestants…The contest said that the top ten contestants would have to go through an interview process. I was nervous. What if I made it to the top ten? What would they ask me? To my surprise I was tie for 7th place when the date closed to determine who would be in the final top ten. I was anxious and excited. I told my three daughters that their votes and the votes my friends casted had helped me make it into the top ten entries for the contest. They were excited for me and were like “Way to go Mom!” At the next swim class, I told Jill that I made it in to the top ten as our swim coach Nancy counted down “three, two, one” to signal that we had to start our next swim set. I gave Jill a “thumbs up” under water. Every vote counted towards the final selection. Now it was time for the interview.
The young inquisitors
Anyone who made it in to the top ten finalists had to be available for an interview. The interview date and time was set up via email. We met at the Easton Public Market. I had not been to Easton much in my life. My Mom was from Harmony Township, New Jersey but had moved to Easton in her twenties. She studied Cosmetology at the Easton Beauty Academy and owned a hair salon in the 500 block of Northampton St. in the 1950s. My parents lived on 2nd St. in Easton in an apartment after they were married at St. Michael’s Church in 1954. My Dad had recounted how they had helped people out of boats on the Delaware River when Hurricane Diane had hit Easton in 1955 and water flowed over the free bridge between Easton and Phillipsburg. I was rambling on about all of this when the three young inquisitors asked me how I came to know about the contest and Porterra Travel. I also mentioned the role my friend Jill played in my curiosity about her travel experiences with Porterra Travel. The interview with Larry Porter, Matthew Praetzel (Marketing guru for the contest) and Amend Wun (friend of Larry Porter and owner of Connexions Art Gallery in Easton) was relatively short and uncomplicated. Yet I was nervous. They asked me why I wanted to go to Belgium. I told them about my love for European beers and my longing to go to Belgium as the monks have been brewing beer there for hundreds of years and have it down to a science. I told them that I was surprised that they didn’t ask me what I was going to bring home in my suitcase. When asked, I told them that I was going to bring home beer of course!
Risk taking and the Finale
After participating in the interview, the top ten finalists were required to attend Belgium Night at the Easton Public Market. The event offered complimentary Belgian styled beer, snacks, music and trivia interspersed with final pitches from each candidate as to why he or she should be picked as winner for the trip. I was nervous as I sported a German dirndl. A dirndl is a woman’s dress in the style of an Alpine peasant costume, with a full skirt and close-fitting bodice. It is worn by women in Bavaria. I had picked up pieces of the Dirndl on that trip to Germany – a shirt in a regular clothing store and an apron in a resale shop. To make my outfit complete I found a beer stein made in Heidelberg in an Allentown thrift shop of all places! I left the price tag of $1.97 on the stein and considered it as a good luck find. I had seen the same stein in a shop in Heidelberg last year. I nervously rehearsed my 60 second pitch at home and in the car on our way to the event. I looked up how to sing “Ein Prosit” as part of my spiel. My best friend Karen came to support me along with my husband Wayne. Other contestants brought family and friends to cheer them on. I have fond memories from that night as Karen called for me to spot her on the street as she drove around several times in search of parking for the venue. I literally was running up and down Northampton St. in my dirndl flagging her down amidst traffic. Wayne came out and called me in. He said I was going to be on soon. I ran in breathless like Maria von Trapp from the sound of music as she runs into the Chapel just in time for prayers as a young novitiate in the Sound of Music. I waited anxiously and tried to hear everyone’s testimony. It was all a blur. Next it was my turn. I got up to the front of the venue in my dirndl and said “Where do German girls go to drink beer when Oktoberfest is over?” “They go to Belgium!” Then I began a heart rendering edition of “Ein Prosit” (a German beer drinking song) that only a Mother could love. In my nervousness I mispronounced a few of the words. I guess that we never covered words like “Gemutlichkeit” in Frau Ellis’ German class in college. The song means “a toast to cheer and good times.” Even though it was not written by a German it has been a staple in German beer halls during Oktoberfest since 1912. I anxiously awaited my fate after my 60 seconds of fame and misfortune was over. I was more than surprised when my name was called as the winner. My husband gave me a hug and a kiss as I went up to the front to say a word of thanks and to receive my box of fine Belgian Chocolates made by Chocodiem and gift certificate from Graze in the Easton Public Market. It was truly a wonderful night and I am so thankful for the opportunity to go to Belgium! Now all I have to do is pack my bags! The trip runs from December 13-20th, 2017. It is during the time when all of the Christmas markets are open in Belgium. What a great way to enjoy the holiday season!
Thanks to Roberta and all the contestants for participating. The whole process was loads of fun! I especially enjoyed the interview process and learning what motivates people to travel. For me, it's a passion and almost a compulsion! Hope to see you on a trip. - Larry.
Learn more about how to join our 2018 trip to Belgium!
All the finalists received a box of Belgian chocolates courtesy of Chocodiem in the Easton Public Market.
I borrowed this from Conde Nast Traveler - It's spot on with everything I believe.
Just ask this 86-year-old who has been to over 87 countries—and shows no signs of stopping.
When 86-year-old June Scott is asked where she’s based, she responds: “This morning or in travel?”
Considering she’s visited all seven continents and over 87 countries, it’s a fair question. The Oak Brook, Illinois-based traveler just returned home from Palestine and Israel; before that, she was in Cuba; and in December, she slept in a pop-up tent in the world’s largest sand desert, the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter—often considered one of the least explored places on Earth. Last August? She and her family hiked sand dunes over 900 feet high, flew over the Skeleton Coast in a tiny plane, and kayaked with seals in Namibia.
But Scott isn’t just an active grandmother with a passport full of stamps. She’s also a participant in Northwestern University’s SuperAging study—a research project analyzing the brains of people who seem to be resistant to the detrimental memory changes all-too-often associated with aging.
As most of us age, our brains shrink, which leads to a decline in cognition (or thinking skills) the older we get. “Atrophy is thought to contribute in part to the moments of forgetfulness we experience with aging," says Emily Rogalski, Ph.D., the director of the study. SuperAgers like Scott, however, lose less brain volume—one study found that over the course of 18 months, 'normal' agers lost volume in the cortex (the brain area linked to critical thinking) twice as fast as SuperAgers. In other words, Scott’s brain is considered younger than she is, with parts of it looking similar to the brains of people in their 50s.
It's no secret that sociability is a trait that proves to be a crucial part of growing old.
So, what has travel got to do with it? It depends on who you ask.
Scott will tell you that her travels keep her youthful. “I’m a curious person,” she says. “I want to be a lifelong learner, and to me, travel makes life so much more interesting.”
Instead of renting a cottage in Michigan or Wisconsin, like many of their peers did while raising a family, Scott and her late husband spent summers exploring the U.S. National Parks with their three children. When her children were young, Scott stayed home, and then at age 40 became a teacher; but she’s never stopped traveling. Throughout her life, Scott has tracked gorillas in Rwanda and followed her family tree to Czechoslovakia. A particular point of pride: Through her travels, she’s seen all 17 species of penguins.
But are all SuperAgers world travelers? No. In fact, results from Northwestern University’s SuperAgers studies suggest that the only common denominators among SuperAgers seem to be their amazing memories and youthful brains.
However, anecdotally, researchers have pieced together another common thread: “Initial hints suggest SuperAgers tend to be socially active, including volunteering at homeless shelters, participating in church groups, playing cards, reading to young children, leading exercise groups, and of course some, like June Scott, are avid travelers," says Rogalski.
It’s no secret that sociability is a trait that proves to be a crucial part of growing old. Not only do strong social connections help fend of issues like depression, known to steal years from a life, but as Rogalski explains, talking is taxing: “Conversations make your brain work.”
Melissa Gartenberg Livney, Psy.D., a geriatric psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, points out that when people travel, they are typically doing so either with a partner, spouse, group of friends, or in some kind of organized fashion. “There’s a built in sense of community… As people get older and friends’ abilities may not be on par with theirs, traveling in a group format can help you connect with similar people," she notes.
As for Scott? She has met friends all over the world; finding commonalities across oceans. “We may speak a different language, have different traditions, wear different clothes, have different faces, but we’re all human,” she says. “We want the same things.” She still writes letters back and forth with a woman she met in Saudi Arabia, and some of her best friends are people in their 50s. “Last year, I made a list of how many friends I have lost. I’ve lost 18 friends. It makes you realize we’re not immortal.”
According to Scott, who doesn’t like to repeat trips, her adventures “open her vistas.” It’s a point researchers agree with, as our brains thrive off of newness and challenge. “It was previously thought that we were born with a certain amount of neurons and that number only went down,” Rogalski says. “Now, we’re understanding that might not be the case.”
Neurogenesis—the formation of new neurons—is driven, in part, by new and novel experiences. “When you go to Iran, Dubai, India, or China and then read about these places in the news, everything makes more sense,” says Scott. “In a three-week trip, I know I don't have the whole story, but I have more than I did.”
“I believe in travel. I think more and more people should do it so we can be ambassadors for the world we live in."
She’s fortunate, she notes, to have the means and the energy to fuel her sense of adventure. “If I don't have tickets in my drawer, I feel like I am going into withdrawal.” Though she admits traveling the globe well into her 80s isn’t without its challenges. “Sometimes I think, ‘Have I bit off more than I can chew?’” she says. “You have to be flexible and lug your luggage through airports and walk miles and miles and take buses or trains.”
But the benefits outweigh the hardships: “Once you arrive, it makes up for everything. I believe in travel. I think more and more people should do it so we can be ambassadors for the world we live in.”
Currently, Scott’s busy creating a keynote program about her travels to Namibia that she’ll share with local schools, libraries, and retirement homes (she still works as a substitute teacher, too). But travel is never far out of sight for the octogenarian. Next on the cards? A trip to Ethiopia this fall, where she plans to explore rock churches and learn about the different tribes in the south. “It’s going to be an active walking experience,” she says. “So I thought, Well, the sooner the better. Yesterday, I got over 18,000 steps on my FitBit to prepare.”
This is an excerpt from a blog called Musings from Colin Treadwell. Made some sense to me...
Solo in Groups
I have enjoyed traveling in many different ways: alone, with a companion or two, in groups and in combinations of those configurations. But of all of the ways I have traveled, the one that has worked best for me most of the time is traveling solo within an organized group.
That arrangement brings a number of advantages. One big overarching advantage is having professionally organized and guided travel, with all that goes with it. Long story, but it boils down to being able to be sure of an efficiently organized trip, well designed and executed by experts to make the most of the time and place.
I want to get the very best I can out of a destination in what may be the only week I’ll be there in my entire life. I know from experience that it usually takes a few tries to get things right, and I don’t want my one trip to be a trial run based only on my own limited competence and knowledge. I’ve been through that enough to appreciate the difference.
Traveling solo within an organized group gives me the best of both worlds: I can go alone to the sanctuary of my room to write about the experiences of the day while they are fresh, and then start the next day fresh. And I also have the advantage of having people to talk to when I am not writing.
That’s important because for me the process of writing not only requires solitary time, it also draws from conversations, with either locals at the destination or traveling companions. Those are all part of the processing of information that is part of writing about a travel experience.
Beyond that there is comfort and pleasure in the presence of other people. We humans are highly social animals. People need people. All of us in our individual ways, whether we are introverts or extroverts, need some time alone with our own thoughts and some time with other people.
People you meet on organized trips are surprisingly easy to make friends with, because meeting people is part of the attraction of traveling with a group. It is one of the reasons to choose that kind of travel.
River cruises add an extra benefit to the advantages of group travel in that you are given your own room at the start of the trip and you don’t have to give it up until the trip is over. You can create your own personal space in your cabin and cultivate it throughout the trip.
Tour operators say that solo travel is becoming more and more popular within their groups. They are selling more single passages, and finding that many of their clients prefer to have their own room. It seems they too appreciate the combination of solitary and social time that I enjoy.
There is a price disadvantage to traveling solo. You do give up the cost advantage of sharing a room. That’s unavoidable. If I’m going to get a room by myself, I will have to pay for the whole room, not split the cost with my traveling companion.
Tour operators have traditionally priced their tours based on two traveling because that is the most common way to travel. If you take the rooms by yourself, tour operators work out the difference by charging what they call a “singles supplement.” That may be an unfortunate term because some people have understood it to mean that tour operators are discouraging solo travel in preference of couples. But that’s not it. It just means is that if one person is buying the whole room it will cost more than if two split it. Fortunately, it won’t cost twice as much, but it will cost some more.
The increasing popularity of solo travel is also a reflection of our social evolution. Travelers are becoming more experienced and more confident. They seek experience and set out boldly in pursuit of it. Professional travel services are increasingly reliable in providing ways to travel to exotic places without exposing yourself to much danger. And they compete with each other to produce an ever-renewing range of creative ways to enjoy and experience a destination.
The entire article can be found here... http://www.tauck.com/travel-blog/musings-from-colin-treadwell/flying-solo.aspx?NameID=6186365&WT_mc_id=16ColinTreadwellVolume16_AB_2016KZWQ
A Taste Of Colombia
Photos by Lee Hackman of Leaning Ladder Photography
Terra Cafe, 321 Northampton St, in Easton - February 2017 all month.
Warm your body and your soul during February and visit the beautiful country of Colombia without leaving Easton! Enjoy the amazing street art of Bogotá, the vibrant colors and tranquility of Cartagena and the Caribbean coast, the charm of Villa De Leyva, and the spectacular Cocora Valley and coffee country around Salento and Manizales. Photos taken during 2015 and 2016 trips with Porterra Travel.
The Lonely Planet named Colombia number two in their top 10 countries to visit for 2017. Porterra Travel has known this for years. Come with us and discover the magic of Colombia.
"Decades of civil war and violent crime meant Colombian passport stamps were once for hardcore travellers only. Fast forward to the present day, and the lost years seem but a dust speck in Colombia’s rear-view mirror. There are no world wonders, but the country’s mix of vibrant culture, nature and hospitality is a rich tapestry woven by welcoming arms. Over a decade into its dramatic about-face, this South American jewel is even expecting a visit from the world’s number-one Catholic. When Pope Francis kisses Colombian soil in 2017, it will mark the Andean nation’s first papal visit in 30 years."
- Lonely Planet.
Typical colonial street in Cartagena, on Colombia's Caribbean Coast. We're going in February!
A small village in the Andes. We're going in August!
“I must say that the best part about brining beers over to trade was not the actual beer I received in return, (although I did get some amazing beers!) the best part was the people I met, some became instant friends, and we have stayed in-touch on a regular basis. One person in particular is my friend Rudy, owner of a small bar and bottle shop “Café De Bierboom”, (Langestraat 73, 8000 Brugge, Belgium). Rudy not only runs a great place (with bottles we did not find anywhere else), he also brews his own amazing beer. Rudy took us all around Brugge one evening, introducing us to his friends & family, and his favorite beer hangouts. None of this would have happened if I didn’t throw a few bottles of beer into my suitcase before leaving for the airport. If I ever have someone I know planning a visit to Belgium and they are going to be near one of my friends who live in Brugge or Brussels, I try and send beer along for them to drop off, and my awesome friends in Belgium send beer back. We even take photos of each other enjoying each other’s gifts.” - Chris Hosbach, Stockertown Beverage
Heading back to Thailand in two Weeks!
So excited to be heading back to Thailand with our group of 19 travelers! Going to blog as I go, something I haven't really done before, but I'm going to start using technology while I'm away instead of just when I return home. I know it will be a challenge to find the time while we're touring palaces and temples, eating amazing food, riding elephants and scuba diving, but I think it will be fun to try. Also excited about using this new app to update my blog from anywhere!! This first one was my test dummy while sitting in my back yard. Success!