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Beach chairs in Cancun. Photo by Max Hartshorne
Beach chairs in Cancun. Photo by Max Hartshorne

GoNOMAD Contributors: Where We Went in 2010

Editor Max Hartshorne:

In 2010, I scaled back my traveling to build an addition and tend to my businesses in South Deerfield. Still I managed to get out to Cancun, Mexico, for my first trip. This was an exciting short time, a chance to pick up an award for First Place in the Internet category of the Cancun Tourism board's International Journalism Awards. I won for a story I wrote about ecotourism near that city.

In March I visited the Azores, nine islands about 1000 km from Portugal. They're volcanic in nature and full of hot spings, mineral baths and bubbling cauldrons. We visited a tiny village on the island of Santa Maria and found that nearly every single resident was from Massachusetts, our home state.

It turns out that this island, which has lost much of its population over the years, has strong ties to Somerville Mass. We visited a beach town that was pretty boarded up but that in the summer is full of people talking with Boston accents looking at the raging waves. We also spent time in the largest of the Azores, Sao Miguel, riding horses up a mountainside and seeing the tops of volcanoes in the countryside.

I had two stops in California in May... My first was to the capital city, Sacramento, where my first day's excursion was panning gold in Coloma, in the American River where Sutter's Mill is located. We visited the actual site of the first nuggets and tried to find some of our own.

Old Sacramento is a story we learned, about how the city was raised up by as much as 20 feet to avoid the damaging floods that came so many springs. The city has preserved some of the land at the lower level, and they have a replica of the old town complete with wooden covered portico sidewalks and other memories.

The gigantic California Railroad Museum as well as the city's leafy "Fabulous Forties" residential neighborhood rounded out our tour, which included seeing Governor Schwarzenegger's office (with a life-size black bear made of metal) and his weekday residence, a suite at a nearby Hyatt. We had lunch in his favorite lunch hangout too.

The Skunk Railroad engine car in Fort Bragg
The Skunk Railroad engine car in Fort Bragg

On the second half of my California trip, I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to Fort Bragg and then to Mendocino. I had heard so much about the hippy-dippy lifestyle and the fact that marijuana has been practically legalized, so I wanted to see for myself what that was all about.

I enjoyed meeting Cherie Stoia, a chef who does all raw food cooking, and kayaked in Fort Bragg. Then I met an old friend who like many of the denizens of Mendocino, enjoys his medical marijuana and says life in that famous little burg is pretty laid back

In May I took my first 'man-cation,' and traveled to Spokane, Washington. Here we mixed up a series of enjoyable man thrills, beginning with a flight over the Prosser Butte, a high mesa in Eastern Washington with farm fields all around. It was dusk, and our flight in the ultralight aircraft piloted by Denny Reed was like flying on a motorcycle. Beautiful!

Later on we drove four-wheel ATVs and fished in a trout stream. Another highlight was the Dry Fly Distilling Company, where they've discovered that people love gin and vodka but REALLY love whisky. They make it small batches and we sampled their various elixirs in the laboratory.

The York Minster
The York Minster

Then in July I took one of the inaugural flights from New York City to Manchester, England, on American Airlines. Touring the touristy yet fascinating city of York was a treat, with its walkable Roman walls, and the immense Minster cathedral in the center.

We also got to see Newcastle, which is undergoing a great renaissance of arts and life sciences, and Leeds. Manchester City showed signs of vibrant life, and was the perfect place to watch the final match of the 2010 World Cup... in a city that's famous for two outstanding Premier League Teams, and was for a while in the hunt to host the World Cup itself.

In August, I joined several other journalists to visit one of America's legendary parks, Yellowstone. But to get there we'd go through Montana, and stay in the charming small town of Red Lodge. The trip over the nearly 11,000-foot-high mountains was taken on the Bear Tooth Highway, which was built in the 1930s to take visitors into Yellowstone's northern entrance. During the winter, though, the road stops about 15 miles short, and people travel to the town of Carson City by snowmobile. There were two deaths from bear attacks in 2010 near here, one in town and another just outside of the park in Gardner.

Read Max's blog, Read Up On It.

A monk at Aseyan Maryam in Ethiopia. Photo by kent St. John.
Senior Travel Editor Kent St. John:

The year 2010 spins rapidly towards the end and it is that time to recap the places visited. I thought 2009 was stellar year but 2010 stands ground. It was a year with some very new and unique destinations as well as a return to some of my favorite countries. The year started out as the year of Chile and the mythical Cape Horn. The chance to round the Cape aboard the small but wonderful Mare Australis was a long time travel wish of mine.

Technically because of that voyage I am entitled to put a gold hoop through my left ear, a longtime tradition for sailors who 'round the Horn.' Last year took me to the far out reaches of Papua New Guinea and I thought that would be tough to top as an off-beat destination, I never thought that Northern Ethiopia would come my way.

The sacred town of Lalibela was the center piece of a journey that took me through ancient ruins stretching back thousands of years and a Christianity that has kept its own rites and traditions unfettered or changed. Monks appearing almost as ghosts amidst churches carved into sandstone canyons. To walk streets that the Queen of Sheba paraded in Axum was one of the most fascinating feelings I could imagine. Gondar and its palaces are a must if your path leads you to Ethiopia.

Another new to me destination reached this year was Samoa, on the very first press trip they had. These islands are how I like to think of the South Pacific, low key and not filled with high-rise hotels or crowds. They have kept a very traditional life style and chiefs still rule. Colonial style hotels and fales top the log lodging choices and waves from villagers fill the days. The blow holes of Alofaaga, one of nature’s rushes, and plenty of waterfalls to stake claim to. Samoa is a natural wonderland, sun and fun for company.

The Calmos Café in Grand Case, St. Martin
The Calmos Café in Grand Case, St. Martin

I first cruised the streets of Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1986, a place where British troops still patrolled the streets and violence not hard to find. I returned this year to find the only completely walled city in the UK a different place. Culture tops the activities and the music scene vibrant. Belfast is bursting open with growth and the Giant’s Causeway picture perfect. The food sense has risen dramatically and young chefs rule the roost using local products.

Speaking of food, the chance to dine on one of the Caribbean’s best streets for cuisine could only mean a visit to St. Martin, the French side. Grand Case is a small town with huge tastes, the mix of French and Caribbean influences add up to one amazing ride for the mouth. Better yet do it barefoot with the water lapping your toes. Of course a sailing trip around the island is a must. Marigot might just be my favorite island town in the Western hemisphere.

I ended the year’s travels back in Beijing, a fast-growing player on the world stage. While staying in two of the Ritz Carlton’s showpieces, I spent my days exploring the old Beijing through its remaining hutongs.

Painting by Sam Watts-Scott at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, part of Cherokee Entertainment Inc.
Painting by Sam Watts-Scott at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, part of Cherokee Entertainment Inc.

These glimpses of old Beijing are fast disappearing but I discovered that efforts are now in the works to halt their demise, a welcome relief. The rest of the time I hit Beijing’s famed shopping scene. From cheap knockoffs to luxury items, capitalism makes a bold stand in Beijing.

Read Kent's blog, Be Our Guest.

Associate Editor Stephen Hartshorne:

I spent most of the year traveling to funerals and reunions, all rather grim, but in October I took a railway tour of Canada with stops in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, staying in some of the grand hotels built by the railroad barons to boost ridership at the turn of the century.

In November I happily accepted an invitation to visit the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, where we toured historic sites, met Principal Chief Chad Corntassel Smith, and got a whole new perspective on American history. I also got to attend Will Rogers' 131st birthday party at his birthplace, the Dog Iron Ranch in Oolagah.

Read Stephen's blog, Armchair Travel.

Sony Stark, GoNOMAD Blogger and Owner of Pilot Girl Productions:

2010 was a profitable year to travel for PilotGirl Productions. My business hit the road with assignments throughout several states including dozens of tv gigs in New York City. From as far north as Ontario, Canada to as far south as Nassau, Bahamas I couldn't be more thankful that the recession skipped the production industry.

Horsemen at the Festival of the Sahara. Photo by Sony Stark.
Horsemen at the Festival of the Sahara. Photo by Sony Stark.

In early January I returned from a second trip to Tunisia. We traveled during the Christmas holidays visiting Tozeur and Douz, two desert cities that engage in festivals to honor their nomadic Bedouin life. Among a crowd of 10,000 spectators we watched an arid landscape of sand and dust turn into a parade of galloping horses, wrinkled musicians, rabbit chases and wrestling camels.

In November, I celebrated a wild 40th birthday shooting a 'rockumentary' with musician heartthrob Rick Springfield. Aboard the Carnival cruise ship Destiny, I sailed from Miami to Nassau, Half Moon Cay and Grand Turk in the company of hundreds of screaming 40-something year-old fans.

Melanie and Sylvia, producers of the "Affair of the Heart" documentary became instant friends along with Billy, John, Doug, JoAnn, Sue, Laurie, Jill and the list of talent goes on. There was no time to explore while dressed in camera gear and shadowing Springfield but the footage of the islands was stunning.

In August, GoNomad invited me to the happy island of Aruba. The Dutch territory off the coast of Venezuela is indeed paradise. There were plenty of fancy resorts, shiny casinos and retail therapy, but, I found wild adventures too. De Palm Tours took us north riding on the back of a bumpy jeep to an empty moonscape of limestone cliffs, sedimentary rock and secluded tidal pools.

Preparing the canoes at a rest stop on the Yukon River Quest.
Preparing the canoes as they come in for a mandatory rest stop in Carmacks

We swam, snorkeled and visited history at the Bushiribana Gold Mill ruins. The next day, Red Sail Sports offered me scuba diving with moray eels, octopus and turtles. I splashed into the warm emerald green seas to explore sea life and ship wrecks.

Before that, I bathed topless at one of the Marriott Renaissance Marina Hotel's private beaches, the first but not last time for PilotGirl. The trip concluded with a staple chicken and cheese dish called Keshi Yena at L.G. Smith's Steak and Chop House.

An article I wrote about the Yukon River Quest prompted me to compete in a 90-mile canoe race in the Adirondacks. It was a grueling experience rife with perils and pressures. My partner and I completed the course but not without pains in places one should never get soars. Amen I'm still alive.

2011 is scheduled to be just as eventful with journeys planned to the Holy Lands of Israel, the Czech. Republic, Poland and Turkey. May your new year be just as inspired!

Read Sony's blog, PilotGirl Travel Blog.

Ladies near the balloon after the landing in Kanota Village. Photo by Mridula Dwivedi.
Ladies near the balloon after the landing in Kanota Village. Photo by Mridula Dwivedi.

Mridula Dwivedi, GoNOMAD Blogger:

Not too many trips happened this year but I ones that happened were super. I went to Bhimtal, Uttrakhand, India in February and had a good time trekking to the nearest hillock and enjoying the hospitality of the Fisherman's Lodge.

In July I went to Nalhdhera, Himachal Pradesh which had India's one of the highest golf courses. The Chalet's is a great property and the walks around it truly mesmerizing.

Then in October I did something for the first time in my life, I took a hot air balloon ride at Jaipur. Needless to say, it was an adventure that I am not going to forget in a hurry.

In December I was associated with Skoda India's launch of their Vehicle Yeti and visited the Gir forests in Guajart. This is the only place where you can see Asiatic Lions, and Gir is the place where I got the sightings of the big cats for the first time.

Read Mridula's blog, Travel Tales From India.

The Speedwell Forge Wolf Sanctuary. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty.
The Speedwell Forge Wolf Sanctuary

Esha Samajpati, GoNOMAD's Newest Blogger:

Esha Samajpati and her husband Pinaki Chakraborty began the year with a trip to Lititz, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country where they toured the country's oldest pretzel factory and visited the Speedwell Forge Wolf Sanctuary.

In June they did a feature story on Portsmouth, New Hampshire's only seaport, and visited the famous diner where Hilary Clinton got teary. In July it was off to New York's Finger Lakes where they visited Cornell University and Ithaca's famous farmers' market.

In October they teamed up on another feature about the sights and sounds of Providence, Rhode Island, where they attended the WaterFire Festival, and followed up with an article about the quirky cuisine in Rhode Island's creative capital.

In November they were off to Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, where they enjoyed the scenic views from the top of Mount Pisgah. Then Esha flew to Glacier Country, Montana, where she got a chance to go horseback riding and enjoy the scenic splendor of Glacier National Park.

Read Esha's blog Miles to Go.

Young ladies at Las Fallas with Valencia's Mayor Rita Barbará Nolla. Photo by Jean Spoljaric.

Jean Miller Spoljaric, GoNOMAD Contributor:

I started my 2010 travel year out in Valencia, Spain with the loudest BANG ever as I attended and celebrated Las Fallas, the CRAZIEST festival known to man.

While in Valencia, I enjoyed the Calatrava architecture, the Paella, and the blend of old and new, but I can’t say the same about my experience at the bullfights of the Corrida de Toros. The animal lover in me just didn’t understand the culture of the barbaric blood sport known as bullfighting. I cheered the loudest for the bull when ‘Pretty Boy’ Matador, Cayetano was gored during a fight.

I had a very busy June. I was fortunate to travel to not one great destination, but two. I visited the Magical Land of Ireland where I drank Guinness and visited many beautiful castles. The highlight was an evening spent at the Broc House in Sligo, Ireland, listening to the poetry of William Butler Yates.

The Enshi Valley
The Enshi Valley

Then it was back home to upstate New York for five days to re-group; then I was off to China. I was invited to The 2010 Shanghai World Expo where I spent time enjoying one of the most futuristic cities I’ve ever visited. I loved my boat tour on The Hungpu River; the view of the Bund at night is one of a kind.

While it was great to be in the big city of Shanghai, it was my time spent in Enshi China that will forever stay with me as a special lifetime moment. I hiked the magnificent Enshi Grand Canyon and I hope the opportunity presents itself to you some day. The beautiful people of Enshi are hardworking, and the lines on their faces tell the true story of hard work and hard living. I am lucky indeed, because I learned that sometimes less can be more.

I ended up my 2010 travel year in November with a soul-searching trip to the incredible Red Rocks area of Southern Utah. I hiked and biked and climbed some of the most beautiful trails and mountains in the U.S. My time was spent in Snow Canyon and The Red Mountain Resort and Spa where I became one with myself and learned about the connection between human life and the universe during my Shaman Life Path Reading. It was Nirvana!

I look forward to a great and exciting 2011! I can’t wait to see what great places I will get to share with you.

Visit our Jean Miller Spoljaric Page with links to all her stories on GoNOMAD.

 

Read about GoNOMAD staff travels in 2009.

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