Here We Are…In Cali, Colombia

Two days ago we arrived in Cali, Colombia.  Our arrival and processing through Immigration and Customs was smooth, efficient and most orderly.  As we walked through the building to Immigration there were two reps with a  thermometer placing it either near your neck or forehead.  No alarm, we kept it moving. Customs asked questions like purpose of visit, did you have over $5:000, were you coming for surgery, etc. It seems to be the thing here.  After meeting our guide Gabriel out front we were soon en route to the Cali Marriott.  It’s a very beautiful hotel with excellent security and a canine to assist.  By the time we arrived at the hotel it was 10pm and lucky for us staving folks, the restaurant was open til 1am.
The next day our tour started at 2p so we had time to relax a bit   Our guide is a true lover of salsa and he wanted to show us the REAL Cali.  Cali is the salsa Capital of the world but we soon found out it was adapted from the slaves from Cuba and Puerto Rico brought here to work the sugar cane fields because Colombians had no clue  about that industry.

Gabriel took us to Jairo Varela Square and Varela’s museum.  Varela founded the salsa musical group “NICHE” (neech a) in 1979, although he’s passed on,  the group still performs to this day.  In Colombia it means black, blacks, Afro Colombian.  It also defines niche as a salsa dancer or the loving person of the black culture of the Colombian Pacific.
in the square there is a sculpture of horns and trombones that spell out the word NICHE.
Gabriel was happy to take us to the hood to stop in and visit NELLY TEKA. It’s a local hangout for folks to salsa dance and have a beer or two or three.  They get the waitress’s attention and hold up how many beers you want.  Gabriel had Alicia, Penny, Judi and Joyce on the dance floor doing their thing.  No doubt  Gabriel would have stayed into the night but I had to tap him on the shoulder… it was time to go.

A few hours to rest back at the hotel and then on to The Patio for dinner, music and an awesome performance of some amazing salsa dancers.  Again Gabriel was in heaven and said don’t you want to stay for the visiting Mexican mariachi band?  No thank you Gabriel, most of us live in ir near little Mexico as it is

In our hotel here hangs a painting of NIEVES.  Nieves was created by a Colombian woman named Consuelo Lago.  For almost 50 years the readers of Colombian newspapers would read about how this young black woman (character) would analyze Colombia’s public figures, politics, conflicts, passions and misfortunes with her humor.  She has become her country’s social conscience and so loved by most Colombians.  A few of her words of wisdom of long ago are relevant today.  Here are a couple:

  1. If you repeat and repeat, the truths become lies and lies become truths.
  2. This year’s truth is very different from last year’s truth

When I finally got my needed inspiration to begin this blog 12 hours ago, I couldn’t finish it because we were off on a tour.  In a matter of a few hours everything drastically here in this country with everything shutting down and I was instantly thrown into action with Ms McCree in Oakland in attempting to get the group to their respective homes to New York, San Francisco, Raleigh, Los Angeles and Seattle. Prayerfully we will be out of here in the morning and on our way. Please keep us lifted up in prayer.   Much gratitude, Kat

PARIS ANYONE?

Bonjour mes amis!  or should I be saying “Hola amigos” since in a few days our group will be on our way to Medellín,  Cali, Cartagena and Palenque in South America but duty calls.   Most of you know how seriously I take my hotel contracts as I strive to give you the absolute best travel experience.   I’ve had a last minute cancellation for the Stroll Through Black Paris May 7-14, 2020. It’s a share with a lovely, well traveled lady, that if  not filled will seriously impact what I have going on.
You can enjoy the following:  7 nights lovely accommodations in an upscale arrondisement, daily breakfast, 3 dinners:  West African, French West Indian, and Classic French,  a day with Ricki Stevenson’s Black Paris Tours by private bus,  Paris by night in a limo, airport/hotel transfers,  the Louvre Museum, a shopping excursion,  an afternoon with author, Jake LaMar – sharing tales of his life as a black man living in Paris some plus 25 years.  In addition, you will have 3 full days to explore and do your own thing; travel to Amsterdam or the Champagne region.
Price slashed to $2,000 plus your plane ticket –  use your miles or buddy pass.
Let me hear from you sooner than later.

Merci,

Kat StThomas

IT’S ALMOST OVER BUT IT’S BEEN REAL

Our 14 night Antarctica cruise is nearly reaching its end,   It’s been an amazingly educational and relaxing experience.  Seeing the icebergs and mounds of ice was an unbelievable sight even as the results of global warming was seen and felt.  It was warmer there in certain parts than it was in some of our home towns at this time of year.   The activities, entertainment and dining options have been top notch. The Jamaican Executive Chef, friend of another Executive Chef friend of mine  on another Celebrity ship;  even blessed my table mates with some succulent ox tails, rice & peas and plantains one evening.  We celebrated the birthday of Janis Kyle of DC, the anniversary of Phil & Katrina Peoples of Southern California and the 50th wedding anniversary of Howard & Irene Gillis of Baltimore.   A grand time was had by all.

As we headed back to Buenos Aires, we stopped in a place that I’ve been curious about since I was in elementary school.  As a matter of fact,  it was one of the longest words I learned to pronounce in geography; Montevideo (mont tay vi dayo).  It has the flavor of the beaches of Rio  and the broad promenades of the French Riviera.

After having spent several occasions in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the past and never seeing a person of color; it was surprising to learn of the African presence in Montevideo, Uruguay   There is actually a thriving community, “Mundo Afro”.  Angela Davis and Danny Glover have been involved in various projects here in the past.   Currently, Montevideo is well  into their Carnival with nightly celebrations exhibiting drumming, and their Afro rhythmic dance, “candombe” ( can dome bay) not to be confused with the “candomble’ “ religion of Brazil.  I’ve learned the country of Uruguay is ranked first in democracy, peace, low perception of corruption and it is  first in South America when it comes to press freedom, size of the middle class  and prosperity,   It’s the safest country to visit in South America,  It stands out in Latin America for its high per capita income, low level of inequality and poverty.  In 2009 they became the first country in the world to provide a lap top for every primary school student.  In 2013 Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize marijuana.

Would I return?  Absolutely!  As a matter of fact, I cannot wait to return to Montevideo.

NEWSFLASH…Super Kattrax Offer

Greetings Travelers,

I have been known to offer some great surprise deals and discounts. Just call me “Sweeten the Pot, Kat”.    I’ve got a room to sell in the Maldive Islands Dec 2-8, 2020. That land package has already been discounted  from $3300 pp dbl occupancy to $3000pp dbl occupancy.  It was blogged about  few weeks ago.    Now here’s the sweet deal.   Whoever is the first to sign up and deposit for the Maldive Islands Package will be entitled to a free land package for 1 on our NEGRIL GETAWAY at THE TREE HOUSE RESORT – July 23-30, 2020.

Our resort in the Maldives is the ONLY resort on that island, it includes the r/t 15 minute flight & the private speedboat to/from the SUN ISLAND RESORT, your  over the water bungalow, and  breakfast and dinner daily.  Imagine….stepping  out of your bungalow, and down the stairs to the crystal clear, pristine Indian Ocean.  You don’t have to swim, just tip your toes in.  It’s all about rest and relaxation…lots of activities to participate in on your private island such as;  the spa, snorkeling, paddle boating, bicycling, scuba diving, night fishing, etc.

This offer is not valid for those already signed up for the Maldives Dec 2-8, 2020.

Finally, Land…

We sailed 4 days before reaching Ushuaia, Argentina.  Since I missed it last year I was so looking forward to the End of the World Train ride here.   Ushuaia is known as the southernmost city in the world.  We were all prepared for the cold weather with jackets, hats and scarves.  Oh were we surprised. It turned out to be a very warm and sunny day as we boarded the train that took us through the forest of Tierra del Fuego National Park.
Our guide gave us the history. We learned about the tribes of indigenous people living there hundreds of years ago and with the arrival of European settlers as usual, they brought sickness and disease. Between 1850 and 1910 the 6500 indigenous people had been reduced by 90%.  We were told about the prison system of which there is now a museum.  The  prisoners looked forward to spending time outdoors.   It was interesting to know that any small infraction meant their punishment would mean not being allowed to go outside.  No matter how cold it was, they  didn’t care because it gave them a sense of freedom. After arrival in the park we saw the lovely La Macarena Waterfall and as we left Tierra del Fuego, we the most beautiful herd of wild horses running free in their own habitat.
Back on the ship with more days  to enjoy what the Eclipse has to offer.  One of my gifts to the group was a private wine tasting in the Master Cellars  with the head Sommelier.  They all seemed to enjoy the tasting while I sipped on my Seagrams tonic water.
Being the foodie that I am; I must keep it real with you.  The Main Dining room fare has left a lot to be desired. I was the guest of Phil and Katrina in their exclusive Luminae restaurant. The cuisine and service there was over the top and when I felt like it I headed to BLU, the private dining room for those on my deck.

Ushuaia is  750 miles from Antarctica and we were now getting closer as we rounded Cape Horn, Chile which marks the northern boundary of where the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans meet.  Going through the Schollart Channel was amazing.  Seeing floating icebergs and ice covered islands was truly a sight to see.   The captain could not stop mentioning the favor we had with such beautiful weather for perfect viewing considering the last 2 cruises were quite foggy and rainy through the channel.  From here we sail towards the chilly waters of Paradise Bay, an inlet carved out of Antarctica’s mainland.
I may be in Antarctica but my mental is on what I do…arranging tours.  Our 8 day Morocco  May 2021 will be most exciting presenting: Tangier, a train ride,  1 of 2 lunches in Chefchaouen, 6 amazing dinners, Casablanca, ending in Marrakech and tours galore.  Those not already on this long  “interested” list will surely miss this adventure but not to worry, if you haven’t experienced our Dubai/Abu Dhabi tour; you will have another shot – February 2021. Paperwork for both will be available in a couple weeks.
In closing,  a heartfelt thank you to those that helped Donte reach his goal in the short time we had.   He is most thankful and appreciative.
Until next time…

 

Antarctica, Our 7th Continent

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Why would anyone want to visit Antarctica? It’s the coldest, windiest, and driest place on earth. There are no shops, piers, beaches or tourist venues at the Antarctic ports of call.  The crossing from South America, Africa, or Australia can be a rough one. It’s a mysterious continent, people often misunderstand or don’t know much about.  Despite the negatives, it’s on many traveler’s lists of “must see’ destinations,  For most of us in the group it will be our 7th Continent.

We flew to Buenos Aires, South America where we spent one or two nights before boarding the ship, the CELEBRITY ECLIPSE.  It’s been 4 days now since I last saw land  but that doesn’t bother me one bit. This being my 90th cruise (including 4 on the Nile river), it’s all about the rest, relaxation and pampering I get when cruising.  It is my plan to spend as much time in the Persian Garden and the Solarium as possible and to dine in the exclusive BLU RESTAURANT only for those in Aqua class desiring healthy fare.

This is another KATTRAX. reunion, with 20 in the group, only 3 are new travelers.  I’m so happy to see our 2 DELTA DEARS, Dorothy Morrow and Helen Adams of North Carolina who will be turning 88 this years.  Wow! Such a blessing.  Shout out to Silk Screen Savages of Oakland who did the dang thang on our tee shirts.  They truly make my vision come alive.  People literally want to buy the shirts off our back.

Last night I joined Phil and Katrina on one of the most unique dining events in the world.  It’s a 3D dining experience projected onto each expertly placed table setting. Those dining watch as he creates each course of their meal.  When he’s finished the waiters bring out the real thing for the passengers to enjoy.   Our delectable menu consisted  of: Bouillabaisse,  Lobster, Filet Mignon followed by an ice cream sundae.

 

Meet Donté

B0C48790-D275-45EC-ABB4-B234A78E3166A grandson, hard-working and very well-mannered. I’m Mima to so many whether or not biological.  Some of you met him last summer on the Negril trip or in 2012 in Hawaii. He’s one of those raised to say Yes ma’am, No ma’am, Yes sir, No sir.    So many times we hear about the negatives of some of our young folks and rarely positives.  He is one of the positives.   The family just found out about what’s needed and the deadline of 2/7 is quickly approaching,    If you are willing to assist you can PayPal or Zelle to newkattrax@gmail.com

Donté Lindsey Shreveport, La.
I am a senior at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Where I am majoring in  Kinesiology(concentration sports management) with a minor in business.  I am aspiring to be a sports agent for every professional sport. I am VP of FCS(FEED. CLOTHE. SERVE.), a non profit organization . I’m also active in the NAACP, BMLA(Black Male Leaders Association), and University Program Council.
Those are all organizations at UL  As you can tell I’m very active and involved in community service  I graduate Dec 2020. If an internship doesn’t work out, I plan to get my MBA or Masters in sports management and enter the work force.  Community service is something I’m passionate about and no doubt I will continue on that path.

I am aiming to pledge this semester, and am asking for any kind of donation from the kindness of your heart.    The intake fee is $2,050 and ANYTHING will help.

Much gratitude,

Kat St Thomas & Donté Lindsey

The Maldives, Not Only For the Rich & Famous

RETURN TO THE MALDIVES – DECEMBER 2-8, 2020

Last December, I experienced the best relaxation ever in my 36 years of traveling internationally.  I had read many articles about various celebrities enjoying the good life in the Maldive Islands  and  I had arranged packages for some high end travelers plunking down 15 to 20,000 dollars for a 5 night stay for 2.   Just like in 1983 when I desperately wanted to experience The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland with the local jazz station. I couldn’t afford it at $3000 per person for 1 week but in my heart of hearts I believed it could be done for way less.  By the grace of God, we made it happen for  $1500,  19 days, 2 countries;  Switzerland and France and 2 jazz festivals; Montreux and the Nice Jazz Fest on the French Riviera. The next year I returned with 25 of my friends and added The North Sea Jazz Festival.  That, my friends, was the beginning of KATZ SUMMER JAZZ TOUR.

That being said, I’m here to show and tell you  that THE MALDIVE ISLANDS are within reach and quite affordable.  Our resort, SUN ISLAND RESORT AND SPA, located on Nalaguraidhoo island in the South Ari Atoll, 107 km south of the Male’ International airport  is the ONLY resort on our island. It was like having our own private island.

After arriving at Male’  (mah lay) airport, a small aircraft flies  you 20 minutes to the jetty where you board the speed boat for a 7 minute ride to the resort.  It’s best to arrive during daylight hours to take in all the beauty to be seen as you fly in.  The package includes a 6 night stay in an Over the Water Bungalow,  transportation to and from the island from MALE’ AIRPORT  and breakfast and dinner daily.  There are activities galore to experience for a nominal fee, ie, the Spa, fishing trips, snorkeling, scuba diving, bicycling, and  paddle boats just to name a few.

In closing, I must say, I honestly thought my 2  Fiji trips  were  the most relaxing trips I have ever experienced in my life but The Maldives (mall- deeves) wins hands down. If you even think you want this amazing experience; let me hear from you sooner than later.

SURPRISE DISCOUNT, NEED TO SELL MORE ROOMS. LIMITED TIME ONLY – 1 ROOM, $300pp DISCOUNT.   Regular land pkg $3300   Current airfare on Emirates from SFO $1100 r/t

510-499-5909

More Kibbles & Bits

Remember when your grandmother  sent you to get that switch and told you, “You gonna learn today”?  Well, no switch from me but just know if you slept through last week and said, “Well I’ll think about New Years 2021” I’m here to tell you that you missed out on the party.  Shorty Long called it a FUNCTION AT THE JUNCTION, he said people comin’ from everywhere, everybody’s gonna be there.  We got the Bay, LA, Monterey, the UK  – all day, Las Vegas, St Louis, New Orleans, Seattle, Houston, DC and New York.  In less than 10 days after the announcement I knew we had a NEW ORLEANS take over before setting sail to ring in 2021 with almost 40 party people on board and an open bar if you want it for 7 days cruising the Caribbean.    Second thoughts?  We may be able to squeeze you in…just maybe but sorry the cost has increased and available hotel space in NOLA is almost nonexistent the day prior. So much for that.

Coming up:  The Maldives in early December…..we only have 3 rooms left.  This trip is straight relaxation on your own private island, with  breakfast and dinner included daily.  You can get there from SFO r/t on Emirates, or  Singapore,   2 of the most highly acclaimed airlines in the world for $1,000 – $1100 with free stopovers.  Don’t sleep on this one sleepyheads.

DUBAI & ABU DHABI –  Save the date –  mid February 2021 – 5 Star all the way.  Full details coming very soon.  Throw your hat in the ring and get on the “Interested” list

TANGIER, CASABLANCA & MARRAKECH – Take the mystery out of mysterious and see first hand just how fabulously intriguing the country of MOROCCO really is.  We will have trains,  planes, great hotels with authentic Hammams and some of the best dining experiences.  This will be in May 2021, full details coming soon.

Until next time,

Kat’s Kibbles and Bits

Greetings Travelers!  First things first… We are already planning New Years 2021.  We are cruising on a 7 day Caribbean cruise departing from New Orleans.  I’ve come to learn the true meaning of “if you snooze, you lose”. You just can’t wait til later.   I so adore the 5 Star Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter and was hoping to return prior to the cruise but it was showing NOT AVAILABLE everywhere I checked.   After all folks were already making holiday plans for next Christmas and New Years celebrations.   However, our awesome Ticketing Agent, Ms McCree was able to negotiate a contract for us; before and after the cruise.  Lucky us! Those rooms are about gone and I haven’t even announced the very reasonable rate yet.    If you didn’t know; their famous Carousel Bar was filmed in the movie, “Girl’s Trip”. It’s a great hotel.    Another treat is that those booked on the cruise in Oceanview or higher category get 4 perks: Beverage Package, Specialty Dining Package, 250 minutes of Internet and a Shore Excursion credit.   We still have some mini suites available and maybe a couple balconies.  The 30% savings promo ends 1/19 and your deposit is only a mere $50pp. Don’t snooze!

Also in the planning stages are back to Dubai and Abu Dhabi February 2021. Dubai is such a fabulous and fun city. I can’t wait to return.  Memories are meant to be revisited.   The Ritz Carlton Grand Canal in Abu Dhabi was so off the richter, we may add their sister   5 star Ritz Carlton in Dubai which is adjacent to the JBR Walk.  If you are seriously down for this experience, inbox me.  Please note: We only go when the weather is comfortable.  No summer months for us.

The mysterious land of Morocco is back on the KATTRAX WORLD TOUR for 2021.  It will be in May; visiting the cities of CASABLANCA, TANGIER and MARRAKECH.  Casablanca —-Bogey’s legendary movie from the 40’s;  had me looking in ‘92 for the fictional Rick’s Cafe, only to find out much to my chagrin that it was filmed entirely at Warner Bros Studios in Burbank. SMDH.   Well, I will return and we will be in the real life Casablanca, Morocco enjoying all that she has to offer.  Again, hit me up only if you are seriously interested.  

In a couple of weeks, 20 of us will be on our way to Antarctica to get in that 7th Continent. Out of 20, with the exception of 3; all are KATTRAX VIP’s so another reunion for us.   I will be sure to share photos with you.

“I want to make memories all over the world, don’t you”?