Some may be wondering…Now what? Well, yes a second week was added yesterday and guess what? If your hat wasn’t thrown into the ring or in this case on the “Interested “ list; it’s too late. Both tours are closed and waitlisted only at this point. As I go through photos from years past, it makes me wish I was there right now; experiencing the sights, sounds & tastes of Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, the beaches of Da Nang, Hoi An, cruising Halong Bay, Red Bridge Cooking School, Saigon Cooking School, the famous Blue Elephant Cooking School in Bangkok and I know Mr. Peoples and Mr. Nicholson are itching to get back to those tailor shops in Hoi An to get those custom made suits and hand made leather shoes. It was 6 years ago when I realized the beneficial wellness of spa treatments and began adding them to our Vietnam packages so that all are treated at each hotel as we make our way through the country. The waitlist is open but I doubt if any regulars will be canceling.
Greetings Travelers, back from Afro Colombia and back to work, tying up loose ends. Let’s take it from the top of 2024. VIETNAM & BANGKOK. Yes, such an overwhelming number on the waitlist I said, why not add an additional week. Week 1 – March 16-28. Week 2 – March 25- April 4.
FIJI – April 22 for 8 nights at RADISSON BLU on trendy DENERAU island – lovely beach, awesome eateries & bistros, zip lining, jet skiing, and yachting. We will pass on Coral Coast because the real action is on Denerau.
ICELAND – 5 star hotel in Reykjavik on the wharf, “The EDITION” the Blue Lagoon, lunch at Lava Restaurant, and night chases for the Northern Lights. Just like the Great Migration; if we see it we will be blessed, if not we will still have an incredible time. It will be late October. There would be a greater chance for Northern Lights in January but we would be gambling with Horrible inclement weather out of New York. Well, that’s it for now. Don’t delay on any of the above because the space won’t last long.
It was our last day. The day to do whatcha want, whatcha like. For me, it was one more visit to the So Spa Sofitel. So so similar to their brand in Fiji. Also a special time for me to vibe with friends over lunch at Carmen’s. The shoppers had to get in their last bit of shopping. Then there were the few that visited one of 27 tiny islands of Islas Rosario with Carlos as their private guide. Rosario Islands are located south of the Bay of Cartagena, about one hour away by boat. Isla Baru is accessible by land for those that don’t want to brave the rough sea as there is now a bridge.
As we prepared to leave some were presented gifts by their housekeepers; monogrammed towels. Ms Pat and Ms Joyce were delighted with their tan leather passport holders. We all hated to say goodbye to Carlos Sarmiento, the best tour guide in the world. I know I’m the authority on that, having visited over 70 countries and all 7 continents. If you want the best getaway that’s only 3 hrs from Miami and you won’t break the bank; call me for the Carlos experience.
A day in the life in Palenque (pah link Kay) is an unforgettable experience. It’s a little over an hour from Cartagena but in reality; worlds apart. I had not been since before the pandemic but it was a wonderful homecoming for me. Danillo, the unofficial mayor of the village welcomed me with open arms. He speaks no English but Palenquero which is a Spanish-based Creole with traces back to Bantu and people from the Congo. Danillo has always referred to me as his sister. Little did he nor I know that my DNA is 24% Bantu. His son, Victor was a teenager when I met him struggling with English. Now he translates for his father and has an excellent command of the English language. He and a charming young lady, Sophia tag teamed in translating. They both are self taught by watching television, the internet and music. Our guide, Carlos gave us a wealth of information on the history as we were en route on the bus. He is touring there at least 8 times a month so he too is like family to Danillo.
Danillo gave a moving speech as he welcomed us. Victor and Sophia translated but we all felt it. It was riveting, it was moving and as fiery as the sugar cane rum we toasted to the ancestors that suffered for us. Danillo referred to me as an Ambassador. I am truly humbled.
We walked through the village and visited Ruberta’s place and learned about the candy she makes as well as the preparing of food.She traveled to Beijing where she won a competition over hundreds from many countries.
Another stop was at the boxing gym, They’ve had champions from Palenque. We were given an interactive demonstration. Next was the much anticipated lunch. I tell you, you’ve never had fish so good. The ladies served everyone in record time on a leaf which is similar to a banana leaf. Accompanying the fish was coconut rice & avocado salad. I’m talking about finger licking good.
Upon my return to the hotel, a bellman presented me with the most beautiful arrangement of red roses. I guess I will leave it with Carlos to give to his wife.
Dinner tonight was at the highly acclaimed CARMEN’S as the guest of Van & Harold. It was quite a culinary delight. My work is over. Another spa treatment tomorrow and then it’s home run on Monday. It’s been an extraordinary trip. I will return to Cartagena very soon and to those of you looking for a quick getaway or someplace to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, a breakup, any milestone; Cartagena is the place. I can hook it up reasonably with Carlos as your guide. Go off the beaten path to Palenque, an experience you will forever cherish. Cartagena… a mere 3 hrs from Miami.
Today the group was treated to an historical tour with Carlos and Cesar. I understand that after the tour some worked Carlos for the best places to shop for linens, cigars and authentic emeralds.
Meanwhile back at the Legend I was enjoying the Caribbean Sea view from my terrace and my VIP status calling upon my Butler for whatever my heart desired. Today is Van’s birthday so a few of us celebrated with him for dinner at Cande’ a Caribbean style restaurant. Its interior has changed considerably since my last visit in 2019 but the food and level of service is still a 10 out of 10.
In 1621 the Clarisa nuns built this monastery that over the years has been renovated and transformed into this remarkable 5 star hotel. They still hold onto some traditions. One in particular is every night at 6p the waiters don these hooded garments and walk throughout the hotel ringing bells and carrying lanterns. In the early times this ritual was done by the nuns, lighting candles in an effort to conserve electricity. I must admit this spooky sight can easily catch one off guard.
Hola from my favorite South American city, Cartagena. (kar ta hay na). My mother, Virginia (May she rip) always taught me in this travel biz to save the best for last and that I have done on this tour. We have arrived! My long time guide, Carlos, met us at the airport with an assistant, Cesar and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.
The 5 star Sofitel Santa Clara, The Legend is truly all that. This being my 3rd stay at this lovely property; I knew what the group was in for. I was delighted to have a suite on the top floor overlooking the ocean and the pool. My butler, Gustavo escorted sister in law Jackie and myself to our suite which had a terrace on the front and the back which overlooked a beautiful garden. After check in, it was time for me to chill poolside with the pool attendants at our beck and call. Dinner last night was at Montesacro, also located within the walled city. The ambiance, the food and the service was on point.
This morning’s half day tour with Carlos & Cesar will be without yours truly. I have a 90 mins relaxing aroma massage appointment that I will not miss. Karen had her treatment yesterday as soon as she arrived. She said it was absolutely ONE- DER- FULL. Insider tip: I always make my appointments before leaving the states. To start my day, I had my morning tea overlooking the ocean, meditating and being thankful for God’s goodness and mercy. I’m expecting nothing less than a glorious 4 night stay at this legendary hotel which dates back to 1621. She is truly a legend.
We hated to say adios to Cali but excited to move on to the next stop of Medellin, once the most dangerous city in the world with the drug cartels and Pablo Escobar but that has all been cleaned up. We arrived at the airport and met our 2 guides, Sam & Daniel. This group is so large it had to be split between 2 buses and 2 guides. Dubai in October is another biggie but after that I’m back to my magic number of 20-30.
Our first day of touring was to Guatape. It’s a resort town east of Medellin about a 1hr 45 mins drive. It’s known for its houses decorated with colorful bas reliefs. It sits by the Peñol-Guatape Reservoir, a busy water sports center and “The Rock” – 740 steps to reach the top. There were quite a few in the 740 club, a few in the 125 club and then a couple like myself in the Zero club because that was not for the faint of heart. Ain’t no shame in my game. I own that!
Its been a little rainy off and on but still warm. However We had great weather at the Rock. We are celebrating birthdays and having fun – Happy Birthday Valie, Rosie and Darlene. After the Rock, then a fabulous lunch by the water; they took a boat ride and partied down. Tomorrow we head to my favorite CARTAGENA,
WordPress still acting up. Not publishing pictures. Will try later.
We are a group of 41 with 31 being regular Kat trackers. So once again, it was a “family reunion”. This my first time being back since we barely escaped before borders were closed March 16, 2020. The spirit said “Move” and I obeyed after being here in Cali 3 days. They remained shut until May 30th. Can you imagine ? Others that returned to get a taste of this Caribbean flavored South American country where our African roots run deep, are: Valie Jones, Joyce Smith and Briana Moore. We miss you Joyce & Elvin but your baby girl, Na’Imah is carrying on the Crum positive vibes. Getting into the country was not as seamless as it once was. Immigration and Covid protocols have made a difference.
The focus here is salsa. The people eat, sleep and breathe it. It’s a way of life and we are here to experience all of it, from the history, to art and various styles of salsa dancing. 3 days here and 2 restaurants down, we will eat our way through this country at the best places. All of my tours to Colombia are centered around being in Cali on a Sunday afternoon in order to visit Viejoteca Pardo Llada. It’s only on Sunday and where the OG’s step out to show their fancy salsa moves, drink rum and dance, dance, dance and welcome us foreigners with open arms.
Tomorrow we fly to Medellin (med a jeen or med a yeen) depending upon which coast you’re from. This platform is acting up so please forgive any typos, duplicate pics or unfinished sentences.