Fun on Trains

Lots of retail

Do you like striking up a conversation with a total stranger? Maybe you like people watching. In either case, you should consider a trip on America’s trains. It’s a great way to meet and observe fascinating people while seeing a lot of scenery.

America’s trains are not as fast as Japan’s and not as luxurious as the Orient Express, but they offer a unique charm. They usually have quiet cars where people aren’t supposed to talk loudly, so work or sleep comes easier. There are snack bars and some have white tablecloth dining rooms with white-gloved waiters. Amtrak could be extended to go more places, but there is no way you could ride the entire system as it is today.

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Secrets of Getting the Best Airfare

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Getting the window seat may be important if you want to take photos

Some people won’t accept anything less than white-glove service. Some just want to get to a destination at the lowest cost. Either way, no one wants to get ripped off spending more than necessary. Generally, you get what you pay for, but not always. Sometimes the person sitting next to you on the airplane paid a quarter of what you did. So how can we learn what the bottom line is?

The first thing to know is that flying round trip is usually cheaper, but not always. So always check one-way pricing too. Also, if traveling with other people, it may be best to book each reservation separately. I have found that I can get one ticket for less than two sometimes when there is only one low-priced seat left.

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$100/lb. Coffee!

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 In international competitions, the best coffee isn’t a brand you know because these best coffees are grown and roasted in small quantities and do not sell to the mass market.

I wanted to understand what makes an award-winning coffee, so I visited a high-quality coffee farm in the highlands of western Panama, close to Costa Rica. Usually black coffee has a slightly bitter taste to me. Not so for the coffee made at Finca La Milagrosa (Miracle Farm) run by proprietor Tito Vargas, in Boquete, a town favored by ex-patriates for its cool climate despite being in the tropics and close to the equator.

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National Parks of New York City

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National parks in New York City? Yes, there are 10. You probably already know one of them — the Statute of Liberty National Monument and nearby Ellis Island form a park. All are fascinating. On this centennial of the national park system, I thought we’d look at national parks in the Big Apple. Wherever I go the national parks never cease to live up to their great reputation. While many national parks attract a large number of visitors, the national parks of New York City aren’t super busy.

Only one national park in the New York City is suitable for camping out. The Gateway National Recreation Area is spread over multiple New York City boroughs and New Jersey. It consists of many refuges for local wildlife, mainly native birds and small animals. Its 27,000 acres are hard to summarize, so check it out online. There is no entrance fee but there are parking fees. Campsites for people who would rather sleep outdoors during their New York City visit are available.

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Tricks for the Timid Eater Who Eschews Travel

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Exploring the foreign foods is part of the fun of travel. But some timid eaters won’t travel because they are afraid of eating strange foods. Admittedly, it’s hard enough to go out to a Thai restaurant in the US and order from a menu that is totally in the Thai language. You cannot make out anything from the strange symbolic letters.

In Moscow, the Cyrillic letters on the menu imposed an impossible challenge to convert to anything approaching understandable. My friend there got so frustrated he bounded from the table, headed to some nearby diners and literally starting pointing at what he wanted for the waiter to take his order.

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Living American History

Part of a stripe of a flag         All hands needed to roll out a single stripe of the Stars and Stripes

For all the negative publicity Baltimore has received in the past few years, it is still a very interesting place to visit if you love American history, or if you love baseball, as Baltimore has one of the nicest stadiums.

The main tourist area of Baltimore is built around what is known as the Inner Harbor. It’s filled with nice restaurants, shops, and other attractions. There are usually old sailboats in the harbor that are interesting to see. From the harbor you can catch a free water taxi that can take you to almost all of the city’s attractions.

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2 Sizzling Hot Spots

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       Havana versus Panama City skyline

Sometimes I think it’s interesting to compare travel destinations. Today, I thought I’d compare Cuba and Panama. Traveling to either in a package will cost about the same, except that it may be cheaper to fly to Panama from Dallas since you currently have to fly to Cuba through Miami.

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You Won’t “Belize” It

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Had a great time with my new “pal” the Honorary Consul of Belize in Dallas. Belize offers wonderful travel, investment, and retirement opportunities. Its currency is not the dollar, but it is based on the dollar, 2 local Belize dollars for 1 US dollar, so your money goes at least twice as far!

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Walking, Sleeping and Living on Water

Daily life

I’d never seen anything like it. Teeming with wall-to-wall people packed so tightly it is hard to move around. The section of Iquitos, Peru, known as Belén, is amazingly built on water.

Belén is the poorest section of Iquitos, a bustling port on the Amazon River. Estimates are that 60,000 people live in Belén, attracted by its low property taxes. They farm the rich soil of the Amazon basin here during the dry season. During the wet season — from November to June each year — the river routinely floods this area. So people have come up with two solutions. One is to build homes on floating rafts made of balsa wood, held in place by a tether to a high pier. The other is to build their homes high on piers, above the height to which the water rises.

Church steps                                                        Even the church is on water

When I visited in May, the flood waters were starting to subside. You could see the water line on the wooden walls of the homes above the actual water level. During the wet season, Belén is a city entirely built over water. Schools, churches, taverns and gas stations all exist on piers. Surprisingly parts of the city even have street lights on the waterways that form its streets. In the morning, you can see the school boat (as opposed to bus) taking children to school. Evidence is visible at the church that the waters are sometimes higher. Its front steps start about 6 feet above the water. When the water goes down, parishioners enter by a fire escape stairway in the back that goes straight into the water. (more…)

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Interesting TEDx Talk about Traveling Free

I don’t do it this way, but some do. In any event, it makes a strong statement about why traveling is important.

http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/How-to-travel-the-world-with-al

 

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