Category Archives: San Francisco

trip to china

My Trip to China, by Events & Adventures Member Gustavo

Many people asked me, “Why do you want to take a trip to China?” Everyone knows the food is horrible, it’s crowded, and it has a lot of pollution. Regardless, my answer has always been the same—because I had never been there and I wanted to experience for myself how China is different from the countries that I have visited. And I can tell you, I do not regret it at all; China has been one of the most amazing trips that I have ever taken. It was different, it was magnificent, it was…simply amazing!

Let’s start with the language barrier. When you are trying to order food and you have no idea what you are ordering, basically you just go by the pictures or how it looks on the table. You just try it, because at the end of the day this is all about experiencing the unknown. When do you really get to eat something crazy, anyway? It was always good food; sometimes it was better than others but overall it was healthy.

We visited three different cities, and when I say different, I mean it. Beijing is a combination of an ancient city mixed with modern construction; the contrast between the styles of architecture was really clear. Xi’an is a smaller city but with a lot of people. It’s very crowded and there’s a lot of traffic, and despite it seeming more polluted than Beijing it still felt like an ancient city. Shanghai was just magnificent. It looks like a modern metropolis and has an amazing skyline with big, colorful buildings. It looks like what it represents–a cosmopolitan and important global center.

As far as sightseeing during my trip to China, the Great Wall just blew my mind!

This should come as no surprise, but what a hike. Obviously, there are no elevators or any easy ways up the wall. There are only stairs and all of them are different heights, sometimes narrow and sometimes very wide. We hiked through 12 separate forts built into the wall to make it to what we think was the top of the wall. Going up was challenging but going down was downright scary, you always want to make sure that you watch your every step.

We visited the Ming Tombs, the Sacred Way, the Temple Of Heaven, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Last Government Protected Historical Hutong District—all of in Beijing. In Xi’an we had the chance to visit the Terracotta Army, a Buddhist Temple, the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, and the Xi’an City Wall. Finally, in Shanghai, with its spectacular skyline and impressive new architecture, we still got to enjoy the city’s old gardens and a town market where you can buy almost anything and bargain for everything.

I do not have a bucket list of the places that I want to visit—I just want to go everywhere. But before the trip, it was clear to me that China was one of those countries where I would go only with a group, and once again Events & Adventures did not disappoint. The trip was very well-organized from the beginning, the tour guides were terrific, and the staff was always trying to make sure everyone had a great time. I had the chance to make new friends that I had so much in common with and I am sure we will share more awesome adventures in the future. That was my trip to China!

shanghai adventure

A Shanghai Adventure Ends Our Amazing Trip to China

On Day 5 was the first day of our Shanghai adventure, but we were finally able to have a bit of a downtime before our afternoon flight there. The tour days are long and packed so it was nice to be able to relax at the hotel and visit a few local spots. It wasn’t too long before we arrived in Shanghai and met our local tour guide Allen, who was extremely knowledgeable about the city and gave us so much information on the way to our hotel.

The first evening in Shanghai was like a dream. Our tour guides offered a cruise on the Huangpu River, where we were situated in the boat’s VIP section. Being in the VIP meant we wouldn’t have to fight for good photos of the Shanghai skyline! The Huangpu River is considered a symbol of Shanghai, originating at Dianshan Lake and emptying into the Yangtze River at Wusongkou. It is 71 miles long and 437 yards wide and is ice-free year round. The river basically divides Shanghai into east and west. One spectacular sight is that the two suspension bridges, the Nanpu Bridge and the Yangpu Bridge, appear to arch over the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, and is said to resemble “two dragons playing with a ball”.

The west bank of the Huangpu River is the cultural, residential and entertainment center of Shanghai. The Bund, Monument to the People’s Heroes, Waibaidu Bridge, and the oldest park in Shanghai, Huangpu Park, are located on the west bank. In addition, many historical buildings left over from Shanghai’s colonial days have been preserved. The east bank of the river (Pudong) is the newer district of Shanghai and is its financial and commercial hub. Steel and glass structures are abundant here. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jin Mao Tower, skyscraper hotels, offices, and malls of the Lujiazui Financial Zone are located on this side of the river.

Cruising on the Huangpu River has become a must for most visitors to Shanghai. The busy wharfs and the “three-layer waters (or three-color waters)” at Wusongkou are within sight while on the boat. The ‘three-layer waters’ are formed by the convergence of the Huangpu River (gray white), the Yangtze River (yellow), and the East Sea (green) during high tide. When the sun sets, the river is veiled in the glittery neon lights. The nighttime skyline of the city was definitely one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen.

Day 6 was our last full tour day of the trip as Day 7 was a free day. Our Shanghai adventure continued with a tour of the silk factory. China, and specifically Shanghai, is known for its silk and Suzhou is most famous place for silk producing. We learned about the entire lifespan of the silkworm followed by watching them make silk products.

After the silk factory we arrived at The Jin Mao Tower which is 420.5 m high, with altogether 88 stories and total construction area of 290,000 square meters. It is a perfect combination between the Chinese Traditional Architecture Style and the advanced building technologies of the modern world. Some of our members decided to try the Sky Walk—walking around the outside of the tower on the 88th floor attached to just a bungee rope. Don’t look down!

After exploring the views at The Jin Mao Tower we arrived at The Bund, which we had seen on the boat tour the evening before. It was a beautiful day for walking, exploring, and seeing that it is a boulevard lined with impressive neo-classical buildings. The Bund is the classic image of Shanghai and the city’s main attraction. Sweeping along the western side of the Huangpu River, the majestic building dates back to Shanghai’s grandest days. Many banks and financial companies built impressive offices here in the early 20th century when Shanghai was the financial capital of Asia.

After The Bund we decided to head to what they call the “Shanghai Bazaar”, the Yu Yuan Markets. It was packed as it just so happens it was a National Holiday in China called “Labour Day”. Here we were able to purchase a mish-mash of items including traditional Chinese arts and crafts and souvenirs, ornate chopsticks, Chinese medicine, walking sticks, fans, silk umbrellas, bamboo and rattan furniture, goldfish, pottery, and much more. We all did some shopping, had lunch on our own and then met up with everyone to go check out the Yu Yuan Gardens which was a stunning layout of beautiful pavilions, miniature lakes, bridges and rock formations.

After exploring the Yu Yuan Gardens we had time left over so our tour guide’s brought us to what is called The Shanghai French Concession. The French Concession is the area of Shanghai once designated for the French, consisting of today’s Luwan and Xuhui Districts. Luwan’s Huaihai Road is a busy shopping street and is also home to both Xintiandi and Tian Zi Fang, extremely popular shopping and dining spots for tourists. Xuhui is also ever popular for tourists and is home to Shanghai Stadium. The tree-lined avenues and their many Tudor mansions in the area still retain an air of the “Paris of the East”. This place was a little bit of home to us as it had classic western food, draft beer and many people spoke English.

It was bitter sweet arriving at dinner that night knowing it was the last dinner together as the little family we had created on our travels! The friendships created, the memories made, and the laughter would be something that would last a lifetime. To travel with 42 strangers who would become like family was the most surreal experience of the trip. I had expectations going into this trip and this experience had exceeded them all.

The last day of our Shanghai adventure we had to ourselves to be able to explore whatever our hearts desired. Our tour guide Allen put together a tour of his home village of Suzhou, which they call the “Venice of China”. The city’s canals, stone bridges, pagodas, and meticulously designed gardens have contributed to its status as one of the top tourist attractions in China. Some of our members visited The Classical Gardens of Suzhou that were added to the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997 and 2000.

Other members visited Shanghai Disney which was only opened last June and is the biggest Disney in the world. They went on rides, ate food, bought souvenirs and had a blast seeing the differences between Disney US and Disney China. Some members went on food tours and ate things such as Szechwan tofu, lamb kebabs, crawfish and wok fired snake. Others checked out markets and museums.

Upon arrival back to the hotel we decided to go out as a group for one last dinner to close out our Shanghai adventure. We went to a French restaurant called Va Bene located in the French Concession that we had seen the day before. We ate the most delicious French cuisine, drank some wine, and reminisced over the past week of our China adventure. Shanghai adventure

Although there are some things I won’t miss, such as Squatty Potties, the smog, language barriers, and having to pay for water everywhere I go (just some of the luxuries we have living in the US and Canada), it will be very difficult to say goodbye to this amazing group of people that I did not know a week ago. Watching the dynamics of everyone come out of their shell from Day 1 to Day 7 was really great to see. The best thing about Events & Adventures is the lasting friendships created, the love connections that have flourished, and that we are all here for one purpose—to have an adventure of a lifetime. Until next time, whether it’s a Shanghai adventure or another amazing place across the world!

exploring china

Exploring China with Events & Adventures Members!

We started Day 3 of exploring China with a trip to the Beijing Zoo…and we got to see the pandas (amazing!), among many other animals, such as hyenas, monkeys, wolves, and many more. After the zoo we took an hour rickshaw tour to a 250-acre village of the Shichahai area, which is the most renowned historical and cultural quarter in Beijing. The ancient imperial mansions, celebrities’ residences, and the trendy boutiques and bars along the narrow alleys showcased both ancient and modern glamour of Beijing.

We experienced the local resident’s daily life by tracing the age-old hutongs (alleys) and courtyards. When we got there we went to visit a local family. While in their home we soon found out that the man of the house was actually an artist who has travelled to 35 countries showcasing his art. They told us about the village, told us some family history, and showcased some of the art work. We were also able to purchase signed artwork from the home studio itself.

After the rickshaw tour, we had to quickly go to the airport as we had an afternoon flight to our next destination—Xian! Upon arriving in Xian we met our local tour guide, Francis, who led us on a very informative tour of Xian on our way to dinner and the hotel. (Did I mention it was all you can eat & drink?) It was a short day for us as it was a travel day and a free night to recuperate. We would need the energy for our Day 4 trip to see another great Wonder of the World!

Day 4 of exploring China was our first full day in Xian. We had a jam-packed agenda as we leave tomorrow for Shanghai. We started our day at the Terracotta Workshop where they actually create the world-famous warriors. They use clay to mold the statues; they then put them in a kiln and bake them. The craftsmen let them bake for up to a few days depending on the size of the statue. Next they let them cool before painting them by hand. We also got to see the statues in the different steps of creation. After the workshop we were able to purchase our own warrior statues.

Once we had finished at the workshops, we ventured to the Terracotta Warriors Museum which is considered an “Eighth World Wonder”. The museum was founded in 1974 when villagers happened upon one of the world’s most astonishing archaeological findings—an 8,000 man army in battle ready formation, each warrior a life-size figure made over 2,200 years ago. When the warriors were found, people in the community thought it was a bad omen from the earth god and that a curse was coming. We explored three different pits, each showcasing a different size, style, and form of statue before grabbing lunch at a local restaurant nearby.

After lunch, we arrived at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda which was built in 652 AD and is filled with many Buddha shrines, gardens, and courtyards. At the Pagoda there were many shops, filled with items for sale such as like Buddha statues, books, jewelry, incense, and much more. The whole courtyard smelled of incense with a huge pot containing all the incense sticks in the middle. We quickly went to explore the Xian city wall while we still had about a half-hour to kill before our show and dinner. The Xian wall runs 12 kilometers in length and features some very imposing guard towers. It also features a lamp post with a red drapery and a small dragon that outlines the city wall. You will find a mixture of old and new Chinese architecture along the wall, as you will exploring China in general.

We arrived at our nightly show, which this night was the Tang Dynasty show. The Tang Dynasty is distinguished as the most progressive and prosperous era in the history of China. The dances were traditional Chinese dances that gave thanks to prosperous seasons and weather. The costumes and the performances were simply stunning. After the show we were treated to a Dumpling Ceremony right in the theatre. Chinese dumplings are among one of the most famous dishes in Xian. Each dumpling is hand-wrapped and stuffed with a freshly prepared filling. Sweet, savory, vegetarian, meat-filled, fruit-filled, and many other flavours were available, each with its own unique design.

We continue exploring China tomorrow in the vast country’s largest metropolis—Shanghai! I, and all the members of Events & Adventures, can’t wait to see what’s in store for us there!

china trip

Events & Adventures China Trip Day 2

We started off the second day of our China trip by heading to the Temple of Heaven, which is ranked among the most famous structures in China. The temple was used several times annually when the emperor, bearing the hopes and sins of the Chinese people, humbled himself before heaven and performed rituals believed to ensure good harvests. It is a very popular place for retired Chinese folk to hang out, exercise, and play games such as hacky sack or cards.

From there we went to The Pearl Exhibition Centre were we learned a pearl’s life, how to tell the difference between a fake and a real pearl, and the different colours and sizes of pearls. We had lunch at a local restaurant and then went to Tiananmen Square, which covers 44 hectares and is the largest public square in the world. In the centre of the square are the Monument to the People’s Heroes and the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, where Mao Tse Tung’s embalmed body lies in state. The most recognizable feature of the Rostrum is Mao’s portrait–an almost required backdrop for any photo visitors may take of themselves. Often people go here to protest by lighting themselves on fire (true story) and you will find guards here standing near fire extinguishers.

Crossing Changan Avenue and directly behind the Rostrum is the entry to the Forbidden City, so called because it was off limits to commoners throughout the history of Imperial China. Commoners caught in the palace during this period were executed. The current construction was originally built between 1406 and 1420 by 100,000 artisans and a million labourers as a palace for the Ming and Qing Emperors; it lies on more than 178 acres and has more than 9,999 rooms (9 is a lucky number in China).

After the Forbidden City, the next stop for our China trip was the Academy of Chinese Medicine to get reflexology massages–which was much needed after the hike up The Great Wall yesterday! Both form Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper and President Obama have been treated at this academy. We finished our evening at a kung fu show with acrobats, kung fu masters and a story of a boy who grew up to be a kung fu master. We can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for Events & Adventures!

visit china

Events & Adventures Members Visit China!

The chance for Events & Adventures members to visit China is finally here! Day 1 here in Beijing is winding down and it was nothing short of incredible! It was a jam-packed day full of adventure, laughter, and a lot of great new memories.

Our first stop of the day was The Sacred Way—referring to the road travelled to heaven—of the Ming Tombs. Our tour guide Frank was well-informed of the area’s history as he shared the meaning and significance of the many things we would see and experience. The pathway starts with a huge stone memorial archway lying near the entrance. It was constructed in 1540, during the Ming Dynasty, and is archway is the earliest and biggest stone archway in China.

The pathway is lined with stone statues which are considered crucial decorations to the mausoleum. These statues include 12 human figures, including a general, civil officials, and meritorious officials, and 24 animals, including lions, camels, elephants, xiezhis (a mythological unicorn), horses, and qilin, which is one of the four “divine animals”. The other three divine animals are the dragon, phoenix, and tortoise. There are four of each of the animals, two standing and two squatting, each implying a different meaning.

We learned that the lion symbolizes awesome solemnity because of their ferocity. The camels and elephants suggest the vastness of the territory controlled by the court because of their dependability in places like the desert and tropics. Xiezhi was placed there to keep evil spirits away because it was believed to possess the sixth sense to tell right and wrong. The horse, as the emperor’s mount, is absolutely indispensable. It is said that these animals are supposed to change guard at midnight.

We knew if we were going to visit China, we had to see how jade was made!

After exploring The Sacred Way, our next stop was The Jade Factory. This factory was actual produced the 2008 Olympic Medals that featured white jades. We learned about the different textures and colors of jade and how each figure has its own meaning. For example, the Psu statue made from jade is believed to bring more money into the household. The male statue represents bringing the money and the female represents keeping the money.

After The Jade Factory we stopped for lunch before heading onto The Great Wall of China, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (obviously). It was a dream come true. I can honestly say I never thought I would have ever made it to one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We hiked up to the top of the wall, which was beautiful and provided spectacular views (and was also really windy).

We closed out the day with a visit to a Chinese Tea Factory, where they brew the most delicious loose leaf teas, and followed that with dinner and an acrobatic show. It feels as if we have been here for a week instead of just a day. We cannot wait to see what the rest of the week will bring. Only Events & Adventures can play host to a once-in-a-lifetime experience like this, it’s definitely the only way to visit China!

Weekend getaway

Weekend Getaway with Events & Adventures

I know I’m not alone when I say traveling and experiencing new worlds is always a blast. Sure, getting to your destination can be tedious, but if you plan your trip right, it’s always worth it.  And Events & Adventures always does it right!  This time it was a weekend getaway out to Tahoe for some skiing and relaxing.  I arrived in South Lake Tahoe late Friday night at the house Events & Adventures rented for the weekend.  Even though it was almost pitch black, I could tell how beautiful it was, perhaps even more so with all the powder surrounding it!  I was greeted by super-friendly members from Events & Adventures clubs in other cities, and the hosts still managed to make me feel welcome and help me get settled even though it was two in the morning.

Both Saturday and Sunday mornings, we were served a full breakfast that was prepared by other members that signed up to help out.  We only had to help out with cooking or cleaning once throughout the entire weekend.  While cooking for a group of 35 might be daunting, the members were outstanding in getting the food well prepared and in a timely manner. It was no small task, but they did a great job and it was the perfect way to get charged up for the day.

Why choose between snowsports or relaxing on a weekend getaway when you can do both?

During the day, we had the option to go to Heavenly Ski Resort or a few others that were not as close by.  Heavenly offers skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and a gondola.  The views are stunning, and on our excursion the snow just kept coming down.  But if adventuring into the heavy powder isn’t quite your speed, the rental house was perfect alternative for just chilling and relaxing.  Several members did just that, including me on Saturday.  The house was equipped with two hot tubs, an indoor swimming pool, a movie theater, and a game room that had pool, shuffle board, ping pong, and foosball.  There were some members who also brought some board and card games from home, as well.  Needless to say, there was plenty to keep the whole squad entertained!

Different members took turns cooking delicious dinners on Saturday and Sunday evenings. It was really nice to see so many people teaming up, helping each other, and enjoying themselves while doing so.  Though we were back at the house relaxing, a couple of serious Jenga games broke out that actually resulted in way more laughs than I ever thought possible from balancing wooden blocks.  On Sunday morning, we had a grab and go breakfast with more pastry, muffin, and bagel options than the continental breakfasts you get at most hotels, which was a nice way to kick off the morning.

The hosts from Events & Adventures did a great job at making everyone feel welcome, making sure there was plenty of food, and catering to those with special dietary needs.  They were also really helpful in making sure anyone had a ride to and from Heavenly Ski Resort as needed.  This was my first time to South Lake Tahoe and it was definitely a trip to remember. I am already looking forward to the next weekend getaway to South Lake Tahoe to be posted so I can go again!

~ Erica P, Events & Adventures Member

 

New Year’s Eve Bay Area

A Night to Remember for Bay Area Members

This New Year’s Eve Bay Area Events & Adventures members truly experienced a night to remember. As San Francisco’s and Santa Clara’s newest Event Managers, we didn’t know what to expect from our first New Year’s Eve with Events & Adventures, but we can honestly say that it was one of the greatest parties we’ve ever had the pleasure to coordinate and attend!

The theme this year was Wicked Winter Masquerade. Picture a room filled with black lace, elegant frost-bitten centerpieces and a little chill in the air (mainly because dancing got HOT…crank up the AC, baby!). As people started to arrive, the ballroom was filled with beautifully ornate masks and even more beautiful faces behind them. Red lipstick left lasting impressions against champagne glasses and as the night went on, you’d find those same impressions left upon unmasked cheeks.

The closer it got to midnight, the more energy seemed to fill the air. The lines between celebration and relief began to blur as 2016 came to a close. All of us had different stories to tell, lessons learned, and hopes for what the new year would bring. But what truly unified us all was the fact that we were going to live this night to the fullest. This was our time.

This New Year’s Eve Bay Area Members were Simply Wicked

11:59pm. Here we are, counting down the last few seconds of 2016, trying to imagine what happens after the clock strikes midnight. The build-up to both a beginning and an erupts as the halls echo with “three..two..one…!”

And there it was. The most perfect moment frozen in time. Everyone is cheering, hugging, kissing and celebrating with each other. Not a single thing could take this moment away from us.  Events & Adventures is all about fun and great experiences, but we’re not above a little sentimentality once a year!  We danced our way well into 2017 and demanded that it knew that this was our year.  We look forward to reporting back on even more upcoming events!

~ Alex & Brittany, Events & Adventures Event Managers for the Bay Area

New Year's Eve Party

New Year’s Eve Party How-to Guide

The Experts at Events & Adventures Share How to Throw a New Year’s Eve Party

  • Location. Where you choose to throw your party is almost as important as what you do at your New Year’s Eve party!  Are you going for a destination event, like hosting it at the beautiful and historic Hotel Galvez?  If your guests are going to travel you want to make sure you make it an all-day or two-day affair.  Planning meals and cocktail hours in the area makes for a complete experience your friends will enjoy.  If you want to stay in the city, look and feel is important.  A good planner can transform any space, but why spend the extra time if you don’t have to?  Book early if you can, but if you have to book late then make sure to negotiate.  Banquet/event coordinators will be willing to negotiate because an additional, unexpected end-of-the-year sale will bump their paycheck and year-to-date totals. So we recommend going private if you can.  Separating yourself from the party people who have a carefree spirit on New Year’s is a way for your guests to relax and get into the event.  If you book a room in a restaurant or bar hire security to keep out unwelcome guests and under-age explorers.
  • Theme?  Putting pressure on your guests to dress up or do work for your event must be taken seriously.  Am I really going to have more fun if I make a mask for a masquerade ball or a western theme?  If the answer is yes, make sure your guests know exactly what to expect.  To put it bluntly—don’t half-ass it.  Expect to put in some money to make it come to life in the space you are using.  Simple color scheme themes make it easy for people to participate without having to put in a lot of effort.
  • Food?  Start later and go lighter.  If you start around 9pm, most of your guests will have eaten dinner beforehand allowing you to have more fun with your food budget.  Finger foods only with light or no sauce—you don’t want there to literally be stain on your evening! Food is important if you plan on a night of drinking so think about serving lite bites that will soak up at least a couple Manhattans.
  • Drinks.  We’re talking booze for a New Year’s Eve party, so this is where you want to focus your budget.  Don’t cheap out.  Open bar at most venues will run you about $15-25 per hour per person depending on your options.  The perfect time to host a bar is from 9:30 pm to 12:30 am.  If you are running the bar yourself, try to focus on one or two signature cocktails, two wine choices, and a mix of quality beer and domestics.  If you are hosting the party you shouldn’t feel obligated to stock an entire bar.  Choose one or two of your favorites and stock up.  A fun bourbon drink and vodka will cover most of your bases. You can still serve bourbon on the rocks and shake up a martini for those guests who just have to have it their way.
  • Entertainment.  Friends and tasty cocktails should be all you need for a fun-filled evening.  If you must add on, keep it simple.  A photo booth and casino are easy.  You don’t want your guests to separate themselves from the party vibe or have to sit and think about anything else other than socializing.  If you must spend more money, consider upgrading your drinks or investing in drivers to take guests home at the end of the evening.
  • Champagne Toast.  This is a must have, but even though it’s a New Year’s Eve party, don’t overspend on champagne.  Get the cheap stuff and rip the label off or keep it in the kitchen, then pour and serve to your guests.  You’ve already given them drinks and no one needs more than a sip of champagne after their liquor or they will regret it the next day.  If you are hosting a house party, only people trying to look cool will splurge on fancy champagne glasses they will only use once, so use the plastic.  When half of your guests drop their glass they won’t have to feel bad for breaking your stemware.

Hopefully, these tips that we’ve learned over the years at Events & Adventures will help you throw some awesome New Year’s parties of your own.  And if you’re ever in doubt, or want to skip the work, joining Events & Adventures is a great way to take part in legendary bashes and meet new people without having to buy all the booze and handle all the planning!

Amazon tour with Events & Adventures

Amazon Tour with Events & Adventures

Amazing Amazon Tour with members of Events & Adventures

An Amazon tour is not something the average American gets to experience firsthand, but visiting the rainforest is something that has always been beyond my bucket list.  How awesome would it be to visit one of the most remote and spectacular places in the world?  But to actually do it…um, no thank you.  I wouldn’t say I’m a girly girl, but I really don’t like bugs.  I mean I really Don’t. Like. Bugs.  But as event manager with Events & Adventures, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel across the country and around the world with the club and its members, and I can tell you Events & Adventures does travel right.  So when I saw an Amazon tour was being planned my curiosity was immediately piqued.  We reserved the entire Amazon Clipper Premium boat, and Erik’s Adventures customized an eight day Amazon river trip just for us.  I had to ask myself, “When was I going to get this opportunity again?”

When I told my family and friends I was going on a trip to the Amazon River they either laughed or looked at me dumbfounded—but I am so glad I did it!  The Amazon Clipper was lovely. Our cabins were super clean and even had air conditioning, and the staffed visited two or three times a day to make the bed and tidy the room.  Even though I brought PB&J in case the food was weird (don’t judge), the food was amazing.  While we enjoyed all kinds of meat, fish, veggies and fruit from the area, the chefs prepared the meals with Western tastes in mind.  Sufficed to say, I never opened the peanut butter or jelly, and I ended up giving them to the head chef before we left.  I swear I’d not eaten that much the entire month before.  I definitely packed on a few pounds from the yummy and seemingly never-ending food we were so graciously served during our trip.

So now that I felt assured my creature comforts were not going to be uncomfortable, I felt safe enough to check out my surroundings. That’s when it really occurred to me—I was actually on a boat in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, and it was spectacular!  Did you know that every 100 km there is a different ecosystem?  That means there are different species of trees and plant life, as well as different inhabitants and cultures, throughout the rainforest.  We traversed the Amazon River and then explored one of its main tributaries, the Rio Negro.  We took ‘canoes’ (a 16-seat long boat with an engine) every dawn and after sunset from the boat to tour smaller tributaries and explore the shorelines.  We saw variety of birds, snakes, and reptiles (like gator relative the caiman) on every ride. We even had flying fish land in our canoes—usually after ricocheting off someone’s leg or chest!

I was thrilled that all my insect repellent purchases were rarely needed.  A little bug spray and we were fine.  Back home in Texas seemed to have more mosquitos than we encountered on our Amazon tour.  During the trip, we drank bottled water and showered in filtered river water.  We were advised to get some vaccines prior to the trip.  The hepatitis A vaccine was a good idea, but I’d probably skip the malaria, typhoid and yellow fever vaccines if I did it again.  We walked through the rainforest with a guide that carried a machete to clear the path that is covered with overgrowth in days.  The naturalists showed us how the trees release rubber, milk and sap and how the native people remove the cyanide from the plant to use the fibrous root.  They even showed us how to protect ourselves from a jaguar and how to build a fire in an area that is always wet.

One day we planned to visit the ‘ruins’.  I was very excited because I love ancient history and super old stuff in general.  Well, these ruins were from the rubber baron era of the early 1900s, so they were not quite ancient as it turns out.  But the way the jungle has consumed them you’d think these ruins were at least 500 years old.  Besides the ruins, there are national parks that are world heritage sites.  These sites have the highest level of environmental protection in the world and are rarely visited except by scientists.  Visitors on an Amazon tour must leave anything that could be hunting or fishing gear with the park rangers upon entering (which is by boat).  These rangers work a month at a time since it takes eight to nine hours by speedboat just to get there.  We kept these hard working rangers entertained by trying to make conversation, but they spoke no English and we spoke almost no Portuguese.  So we just gave them candy!

We visited areas that are almost never encountered by humans.  We couldn’t even leave our canoes in the park, it was that pristine.  The sunsets over the Rio Negro (so named because the slow moving water contained so much decomposing vegetation it is almost black) were astounding.  And the stars?  WOW. I had no idea the southern hemisphere has different constellations. They were so bright; I wish they would have come out better in our photos.  Even the occasional downpour in the rainforest was impressive.  On our first night, I watched one for a few minutes from the comfort of the partially enclosed bar.  It was just me and Mother Nature at four in the morning.  One surprising highlight was when we met the most elusive and probably ugliest water mammal ever, the fresh water pink dolphin. There is a spot they are known to frequent because they are fed fish they don’t have to hunt.  But belly rubs were out of the question—a quick touch is all they would accept. Even the amount of food and how often they are fed by humans is strictly controlled to ensure preservation.

Our Amazon tour brought us as close to a truly native people as you will ever be.  Meeting a tribe and watching some of their ceremonial dances was incredible.  They were a very private people, but they like to have visitors so they can share their heritage and customs.  If they are accepting visitors, two white flags are hung by the river bank. If not, they hang black ones. The truly live in large huts made of the trees in the area. All the furniture is handmade too; their pots and cooking tools are made of metal.  No plastic, no glass.  Our naturalists translated for us and we even got to participate in one of the dances.  We bought crafts and jewelry they hand make; the blow dart guns were a huge favorite.  They were so friendly and the kids amazed by our clothes…and our height.

For our last travel day on the Amazon tour we had one final dawn canoe ride.  We took a small tributary from the Amazon to the Rio Negro. The trees were moving—and not moving because of wind.  As we got closer we could hear a chirping, squeaking sound.  Suddenly, we saw lots of little faces!  The canoe drivers and guides opened their sacks and started pulling out dozens of overripe bananas.  A few spider monkeys make a bee line for their treats.  Once the others figure out that there really is a snack and it’s safe, they make their way onto the boats, too; over, under, across, however they can get to the fingers that are offering a sweet treat.  We were inundated with 30 or 40 friendly little monkeys sitting on our shoulders, laps, even heads where they were enjoying the snacks we had to offer.  Naturally, when the bananas were gone the spider monkeys made their way back to the trees.

I still can’t believe I went on this trip.  Going as a member instead of staff was the best decision I could’ve made!  It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, one everyone should try and I’m so glad I left my comfort zone (or at least thought I was going to) to take the chance to do something this amazing, astounding, spectacular…words really can’t do it justice.  If anyone ever has this opportunity, take it—with both hands!  I hope Events & Adventures offers this Amazon tour again so you can take advantage of it too!  The staff and members of all the clubs from around the country will make sure it’s an experience you will never forget.

~ Jacque C., Events & Adventures Dallas

Events & Adventures members at sporting events like the San Jose Earthquakes!

Sporting Events with Events & Adventures

Sporting Events are uber-popular with our members!

Sporting events are a hot commodity with Events &Adventures in the Bay Area.  Whether it’s football, baseball, hockey, or soccer, we love to attend them all!  Last weekend, the Santa Clara and the San Francisco clubs attended a soccer game at the new Avaya Stadium in San Jose.  This new sporting arena is home to the largest outdoor stadium bar in the country, and is also known for its “edible garden”, which carries an assortment of apricot, plum, and cherry trees.

This evening’s weather was perfect and the conversation was plentiful.  We all enjoyed the first half of the game from the bar which was located about ten yards from the field.  Once we had our fill of food and drinks, we ventured over to our seats to watch the second half of the game.  The crowd’s energy was contagious and we all joined in to cheer on the San Jose Earthquakes.  After the game came to an end, many of us decided to keep the party going and ventured off to downtown San Jose for some drinks and dancing.

Like most weekend events, it was a night to remember.  Many members wrote a great review about the experience and shared their desire to return to the stadium to watch another soccer game.  No matter what the occasion, Events & Adventures does its best to cultivate an environment that’s light-hearted and fun for everyone in attendance.  You don’t want to miss out on our other upcoming sporting events!