Friday, January 2, 2015

Welcome to 2015

The Huffington Post writer, Suzy Strutner recently offered 21 Travel Resolutions To Make For 2015 which all make very good sense (despite the fact that there were only 19 suggestions in the article), but then, who's counting?

Well, actually, I was. Anyway, among her suggestions I particularly liked:
  • Get lost
  • Start a conversation with a local
  • Read something on the history of your destination before you get there
  • Be spontaneous and open to straying from your itinerary
Get Lost
Of course, there is 'lost' and there is lost. While I have never been completely lost, and therefore at risk of personal danger, I have found myself wandering through some of the far corners of major cities well away from the usual tourist haunts. The key to this type of getting lost is to make sure you are doing it during daylight hours, and not after dark - which may well result in the risk of personal danger. During the day, it is much easier to pick out landmarks that help orientate and guide you through unfamiliar neighbourhoods. If you do find yourself running out of daylight, head to the nearest major road or avenue. These tend to be well patronized and well lit. If you can't find access to public transport like a subway station to get you back to familiar ground, you should at least have a better chance of finding a taxi along a major thoroughfare to get you safely back to your hotel or accommodations.

Start a Conversation
To be honest, I'm not great at starting conversations with complete strangers, but I am more than happy to respond to complete strangers if they start conversations with me. In this way, I have met a number of people during my extended travels, and those meetings have all helped to make my trips more memorable and enjoyable. With the advent of social networking online, it is much easier to maintain contact with people you meet on the road, and I have added several contacts to my Facebook page after having met friendly locals during my travels. Of course, the other benefit of getting to the know the locals is that you also get to know something about the country you are visiting and what makes it, and its citizens tick.

Read Some History
I am a great believer in this suggestion. I have always been a voracious reader, and now that I am travelling again, I make a point of reading as many non-fiction books with subject matter that matches the country or city I am planning to visit. This is made so much easier to do with tablet devices like iPads, Kindle's, and other any number of other eReaders now available at very reasonable prices.

My iPad has hundreds of books stored on it, and while most of these are fictional novels, I also have a large selection of historical non-fiction books as well. I great source for free eBooks, one I have written about on numerous occasions, is Gutenberg dot Org. It is a rare day when I can't find a good book on that site on almost any topic or country you care to name.

Be Spontaneous
I know some people who are not happy travellers unless they have preplanned and booked every aspect of their journey. The problem with this is that there is no room to manoeuvre if schedules get changed, delays occur, or if they want to make even minor changes to their itinerary during the course of their travels. I must admit that I have tendency to go to the other extreme on this question. I like to leave my itinerary as flexible as possible.

For example, after spending almost four weeks in New York City during my 2012 trip to America, I took in Lancaster and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (seven nights); Washington, DC (five nights); Savannah, Georgia (ten nights); New Orleans, Louisiana (five nights); and Tucson and Flagstaff, Arizona (fifteen nights). The trip was bookended with four or five nights in Los Angeles. While my arrival and departure dates were fixed, and my accommodations in New York City were also pre-booked and confirmed, pretty much everything else I eventually did was worked out as I went along.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of spending three months in the USA, or the freedom to indulge their whims as I did, but the principle remains the same: Build some flexibility into your vacation, no matter how long to give the unexpected a chance to surprise you and enhance your trip in ways you had not planned on.

Since Suzy Strutner's article was a couple shy of the promised 21 suggestions I thought I'd offer a few more of my own:
  • Break out of your comfort zone and try something different (a new location, food, activity)
  • Travel Solo (if you normally travel with others, or travel with others if you normally go alone )
  • Book and organise your own vacation, don't leave it to a travel agent
  • It's never too early to start planning your next holiday, so start now!
I will cover these suggestions in a future post. For now, I hope you are looking forward to a New Year filled with health, happiness, much love and lots of travel.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mannum, South Australia

I recently spent a day in Mannum, a picturesque country town nestled along the banks of the River Murray in South Australia. This three minute video uses photographs, video footage and sound to 'paint a picture' of this delightful town, which is less than 90 minutes from the centre of Adelaide.

In the video can be seen two ferries used to transport vehicles and pedestrians across the Murray 24-hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year. House boats are available for hire in Mannum and other towns along the river, and are very popular with city dwellers and visitors to the region. The area is a bird watchers delight with all manner of native birds calling the river or its environs home. 

Most of the bird sounds on the video belong to the native, Major Mitchell Cockatoo, large white birds that nest along the river in their thousands. Also seen in the video are several pelicans, and the numerous seagulls which, despite being many miles from the ocean, seem to have also made the area home.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Greek Island Cooking

A month ago, in a post called A Picture Worth a Thousand Words, I wrote about working through my collection of 35,000+ images and videos in an effort to cull them down to a more useable number. Thankfully, that process is now done (more or less), and having reduced the number of files down to a manageable(?) 21,000 or so, I am now looking at ways to use some of those photographs and video clips.

Photographic eBooks
In an attempt to make use of a thousand or so photographs, I have started working on a series of ten eBooks utilising images from ten cities or countries. These include New York City, Paris, London, Tucson, and Savannah. The Greek island, Ikaria, and the South-East Asian country, Cambodia. In addition, I am planning photographic eBooks for the Australian cities; Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. 

Whew! I have got my work cut out for me, I know, but it is either that, or stop taking photographs completely. The eBooks will eventually become available via iTunes for a very nominal fee. 

Cooking Videos
I have been making short videos and posting them to my YouTube Channel for a number of years. In the past couple of days I have made two more videos for my Irene’s Kitchen series. Irene Gevezes, my sister, has been living on the Aegean Island of Ikaria since the mid-1970s, and over the years she has become a formidable cook (among her many other talents and skills). The island has gained a reputation over the past ten years or so as one of just five of the world’s Blue Zones, areas of the world where people live measurably longer lives than most of the world’s population. 

In the two videos, Irene prepares Mayirio and Soufiko, two traditional Greek island dishes that should especially please all vegetarians. Check them out and give them a try.

The first dish is for Mayirio

Mayirio is a mixed vegetable stew containing pretty much any vegetables you care to include. As Irene says in the video, traditionally the main ingredient is string beans, but she also added carrots, zucchini, egg plants/aubergine, spring onions and green peppers.

Irene prefers to use fresh tomatoes in her cooking rather than tomato purée, but had to use purée since she only had one tomato to add to this recipe. Irene also prefers to use coarse salt in her cooking, as she does here, but regular cooking salt can be substituted.

As always, Irene never measures the quantity of her ingredients precisely. Years of cooking for a large family has given her the experience to know the quantity to include in any particular meal she prepares. Having said that, as prepared by Irene in this video, there was more than enough Mayirio to feed four people. Coupled with other side dishes, the quantity prepared would have also been enough for up to six people.

3 Carrots
1 Large Zucchini
3 Aubergine/Egg Plant
6 Green Peppers
1 kg String Beans
Spring Onions
2 tomatoes or tomato purée

3-4 Cloves Garlic
1 cup of water
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
tomato paste/purée

Please watch the video to see Irene demonstrate and discuss the cooking process.


In this second video Irene prepares Soufiko.

3-4 Cloves Garlic (or to taste)
2-3 Onions
3-4 Green Peppers/Capsicums
2 Aubergine/Egg Plant
1 Zucchini
2-3 Potatoes
Tomatoes or Tomato Puree
Condiments to taste
Olive Oil (for frying)
1/2 cup water 

Please watch the video to see Irene demonstrate and discuss the cooking process.

NOTE: Irene cooks on an electric stove. If you are cooking with gas, adjust your heat settings to suit. At the very least, heed Irene’s warning when she says that the dish is prone to sticking and burning if the heat is too high. Hence her warning to keep a close eye on the pot during the cooking process.
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