Tag Archives: world travel

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!

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

world travel to spain

World Travel with Events & Adventures

The only way to sum it up our visit to Spain is to say that Events & Adventures really does world travel well.  This wasn’t a trip where we were on a clock throughout the experience; there was a great mixture of planned tours and free time.  We started our adventure at JFK in New York, getting some quick introductions to the over 40 people who were taking part in the trip.  And believe it or not, someone was sweet enough to bring everyone homemade cookies!

world travel to spain

Events & Adventures members from around the US and Canada visited Spain!

After landing in Madrid, we got to stretch our legs with a quick tour of some of the city’s most famous sights, before taking a break to enjoy a welcome lunch that offered a staggering amount of delicious traditional Spanish cuisine.  Our first full day started with a tour for the presidential palace, which was spectacular.  We then journeyed to the ancient city of Toledo, which is thousands of years old, and got the chance to get lost in the labyrinth of tiny streets that wind around the historic town.  Dinner was a casual five-course party with several small plates (tapas) before our entrees. We learned the hard way we would have to pace ourselves with the food here because they just keep bringing it out!

We headed to towns ancient towns of Avila and Segovia. The Roman aqueducts are still soaring over the town.  How can the residents just go on about their day when they have such spectacular history all around them?!   After we returned to Madrid we refreshed ourselves and headed out to a popular bar area for a Tapas crawl.  The bars here are more like pubs, not clubs—because those open way later.  Each bar we tried different luscious small dishes, and we loved how everyone shares!

We packed up from Madrid and headed to Bunol, where the residents were preparing for the Tomatina Festival the very next day.  It was such a cute little town. We spent our afternoon and evening touring and eating in this historical city by the sea.  The next morning was the beginning of the adventure that is the world famous Tomatina Festival—probably the world’s largest annual food fight.  Security was tight.  To make sure no one got hit with anything other than tomatoes we couldn’t bring anything in.  Twenty thousand people packed the long narrow streets before the dump trucks just started unloading as they drove down the street, and at the starting pistol—it was pure madness.  Goggles were the best idea ever—as long as you kept them on!  It was so exciting, and everyone was there for the fun of it, not to kill other with these little red bombs.  As much as we laughed, it was best to keep your mouth closed though!  After the ending pistol the fire department and locals brought out hoses to wash everyone off.  There is nothing like experiencing world travel by being involved in the local culture.  Getting smashed tomatoes out of hair proved to be the most challenging part of the whole trip.  Even playing in the warm and relaxing Mediterranean Sea didn’t get it out.

world travel to spain

Barcelona was the final hotel location for our world travel to Spain.

We took a tour of what is probably one of the biggest promenades you’ll ever see, and thousands of people were out for an evening stroll.  The shopping, food, bars, and views of the Gothic neighborhood were everything you’d expect it to be.  Small lanes that are no wider than one car have little bars and restaurants around each turn, with people spilling out into the lanes.

It wasn’t long before we got to witness La Sagrada Familia, one of the most incredible cathedrals in the world—and they are still building it!  Every tiny detail has a meaning, and the colors the stained glass creates and projects into the building are breathtaking.  Designed by several architects, the most influential being Gaudi, it has different styles in throughout the construction.  Afterwards, we had an amazing tour of Park Guell.  It was the original planned neighborhood.  At the time it was too far out of town and too expensive but for a handful of the super elite. Gaudi’s influence could be felt everywhere we went, and he managed to translate beauty even in the unusual, as everything he produced appeared to be curved and wavy.  His mosaics were everywhere and they were beautiful, even the monochromatic ones.  World travel can expose you to so many wonderful things you might have otherwise never seen.

Monserrat Benedictine monastery is a historical and religious jewel. Hidden up, up, way up in the mountains, disguised by the hills, how’d they build this gorgeous place?  There are still monks there and a school for boys!  So after our tram trip to the ‘top’ of the mountain (there’s a small chapel and alter up even higher if your legs can get you there), we went to the coolest place ever for another never-ending lunch—a traditional hacienda (ranch house) that was turned into a restaurant.  We learned the traditional Spanish way to drink wine and had never ending courses of family-style food (again).  People were stuffed before they brought out the chicken, traditional sausage (which tasted like Texas BBQ!), and meats.  We HAD to get to the winery so dessert was taken to go—Biscotti-like biscuits and fresh fruit!

Speaking of wine….  We had a tour of the most amazing winery I’ve ever seen, and I live in Northern California.  This was not a regular winery; it was a huge commercial business that makes great wine.  It was simply amazing.  The tram we rode had headset options for six languages, though we didn’t use them since it was a private tour.  Stories of the wineries founding and growth were projected on walls that lifted up so we could see the barrel storage.  We got to walk down the original storage cellars below ground. They told and showed us how they produce spectacular “healthy” wines that don’t harm the environment.  Using solar power the facility is almost entirely self-sustained!  Everyone was impressed before we even started the tasting and got to try four different delicious wines.  I imagine the wine drinkers were ready to move in.

Our last day of this world travel tour was spent visiting the ancient cities of Figueras and Girona.  Girona is a medieval city with narrow streets, castles and ramparts.  Figueras is another historical city that is such for a different reason—Salvador Dali.  The museum made of his birthplace was a trip in the madness of a truly brilliant artist.  The amount of art in so many different mediums was staggering.  Our farewell dinner was a little different since it was in the Catalonian style.  Less meat, meat, meat, more little flourishes on the dishes, but still way too much food.

The trip and tours were truly awesome, but getting to see people from the other E&A Clubs was like gathering of old friends while making new ones.  There were so many people I wanted to spend more time with but the time slipped away so fast. We’ll stay friends through social media until we meet again on our next world travel trip, maybe even on an in-between trip to visit friends!  We talked about the Amazon trip next month and Cuba and China trips already scheduled for next year.  I can’t wait to join my Events & Adventures world travel friends in our next exotic destination.

world travel to spain