Hot Salsa in Cali — Zaperoco Salsa Bar

Our last night in CALI could not have been better.  The performers brought it! The salsa was so hot it blew the roof off the mother. The  ZAPEROCO SALSA BAR happens to be one of the best places to dance and watch salsa in this town.

We saw the difference between street salsa and professional salsa dancing.  One thing to know about CALI is that it is not a tourist town per se and because of this for the most part a tourist in this town is just another regular person.  Shortly after we arrived at the club, the local dancers arrived and immediately hit the dance floor, glady welcoming our group,and were eager to offer personal instruction to those with a desire to participate.

As the young professional dancers (at least 25) from the academy began to file in, you could feel the excitement in the air of this nondescript but famous local bar and once the show began, we all felt the high energy.  The fast fancy footwork, the flips and somersaults were mind-blowing and head-spinning — just downright “unfreakinbelivable “.  They say the prettiest women in Colombia are here in CALI.  Yes! But the men are equally as handsome and they got that defined CALI “swag” especially on the dance floor.

This night was one we shall not soon forget.  This was a perfect ending to a perfect tour.  Will KATTRAX back track and return? Probably so but next time adding  beautiful Medellin and Santa Marta where you find the beach and the contrast of the snow-capped mountains high above.

What’s next? A fun-filled week of relaxing on the 7 mile stretch of beach in Negril, Jamaica at The NEGRIL TREE HOUSE RESORT  JULY 14-21. We have a few rooms left–   The 2 bdrm suite K has become available as well as a 1 bdrm garden view suite.  There is also 2 slots available for the optional cooking class/lunch in the cool Jamaican mountains.   Inbox me for details.

Vacation Protection: We offer it for all KATTRAX packages.  Protect your investment against the unforeseen.  Our TravelGuard “Gold Package” offers a coverage for “cancel for work related issues” with proper, acceptable documentation from your employer when your claim is filed .

PERU/MACHU PICHU is in effect June 2017 and we have enough interest even if no one else joins in.  WHAT’S OUT:  Australia March 2017 And Italy July 2017 —-THE COUNT ME INS were not serious enough.  Smh

There is still space for the BARCELONA cruise, FIJI ISLANDS, SOUTH AFRICA LUXURY SAFARI, HOLIDAY CARIBBEAN cruise,  BLAME IT ON RIO, STROLL THROUGH BLACK PARIS,  CANARY ISLANDS cruise and ANTARCTICA cruise.  SERIOUS?  Please inbox me at rivoli98@yahoo.com

Until next time…..

 

 

Kat’s Kibbles and Bits

Good morning from beautiful CALI, COLOMBIA!  This has been one awesome trip but now we are winding down and we must  say adios to a beautiful country filled with beautiful people.

Here is an update on upcoming tours:  Many of you expressed an interest in Australia March 2017.    Deposits were due late April and to date no one has come thru. So therefore there is a strong possibility that AUSTRALIA may not happen.   When  you say, “Count me in” that’s when I go to work in planning and arranging for you.  I only move on planning  if I have at least 10 passengers to start.  When those fall off, then that’s that.

Definites for 2017:  PARIS APRIL 20-27, ASIA MAY 11th, CANARY ISLANDS OCT 8-18, CUBA DEC  (dates TBA).

FYI: ITALY  may not materialize if those that said “Count me in” do not follow thru.

PERU- MACHU PICHU  2017 :

Lima-Sacred Valley-Aguas Calientes- Cusco

Land rates are set based on at least 10 passengers joining and will be June or July.  $3750pp dbl occ.  International Air TBA.      One should be physically fit to hike the 26 mile Inca Trail but if not, can stay behind in Cusco and wait.  The altitude is quite high and one must acclimatize.  Thesd are things to be considered.   Some of us felt those effects on MONSERRATE last week.  If you are in, let me hear from you asap.

Until next time,

 

A KAT KIND OF DAY IN CALI, COLOMBIA

Today was absolutely amazing!  En route to the Cultural Centro we stopped off at the church — La Merced de Cali where some went inside and took photos.   Once at the Center, No doubt the private presentation just for the KATTRAX GROUPO far exceeded all of our expectations.  There were professional dancers in their  elaborate and colorful costumes that demonstrated dances from several regions of Colombia as well as gave us the reasons for the specific dances.  There was a dance for working the fields, for party time, which I choose to call the drunken dance, and a dance whereby a woman decides if she loves the man by the way he moves his feet.  Either she does or she doesn’t.

We were treated to a snack of chontaduro aka palm peach, which is said to be an aphrodisiac.  I saw a few back up off of it when that word was mentioned but it was delicious with a little salt. Some drizzle honey over it but Robbie and I agreed it had the taste of an artichoke and all we needed was salt and some Best Foods mayo. More dancing, then we were served marranito (round plantain fried and filled with chicharron or pork rinds),  a fried banana stuffed with cheese and an empanada filled with beef, with 3 sauces on the side. OMG! You cannot begin to imagine the taste. So good it made my mouth and tummy quite happy.  The local drink served was LULADA which is made from the Lulo fruit, mixed with lime juice, water and sugar.  At the conclusion, we couldn’t thank them all  enough for such a wonderful presentation and in parting they gave us each a gift bag.  Now that’s First Class!

Once back at the hotel, most were going where I do not go. Yes, shopping.  I bid them farewell and retired to my suite.  I needed to enjoy the warm Cali weather from the privacy of my front and rear balconies.  The front was purr-fect for me to watch the Cali world go by.  One thing I agree with is that the people of Colombia are some of the happiest people on the planet inspite  of their plight. They are said to be quick to laugh, slow to cry and eager to please.  Casso??

At a point, I removed my jewelry and set out for Parque del Gato. It was only 3 blocks up and across the river.  Cellphone in 1 upper pocket and some pesos and room card key in the other, armed with my trusty mini IPad ( gracias Lucille) and off I went, of course “walking with a sense of purpose “.  In other words like I had a specific place to be and not just walking aimlessly. At the entrance is EL GATO TEJADA who weighs 3 tons, was sculpted by Hernando Tejada in Bogota and transported here to Cali. The big cat was later joined by 16 smaller cats –girlfriends of EL GATO.   All I can say is Wow! What an enjoyable day for this Kat.

Salsa Sunday in Cali

We said Adios to Bogota this morning and in less than an hour we were in Cali (Cah Lee).  We were hoping our Cartagena guide, Sandra would be able to work it in order to be with us in Cali.  When we landed it was refreshing to see a familiar face , Sandra greeting us.  She was accompanied by Vivian the historian that would be with us the remaining time in this country.  Before we deplaned we could feel the very warm  Cali weather and as we walked thru the airport being greeted by old and young alike that were apparently physically of African descent ; it was like we were home.  What a contrast this was just a mere 45 min flight away from Bogota.    After check-in to the INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL we were driven to SIMON PARRILLA, a traditional cocina for lunch.    There were ribs, chicken, steak, fish, salad, plantain, and the beans and rice were seasoned to perfection. What a spread!

After lunch, it was off to VIEJOTECA PARDO LLADA, (senior disco) for an afternoon of salsa.  This venue is upstairs at the Senior Citizen Association.  Don’t be fooled , as this is not a sedentary senior affair by any means.  Oh some of the handsome cool papas were a sight to behold as they smoothly moved across the dance floor.   It’s here where you will find some of the best salsa in the whole city.  Even if you don’t want to dance, its a great place to head to grab a nice cold beer or some of that white lightnin looking alcohol and watch those happy dancers make their salsa moves.  This place is only open on Sunday afternoon/evening.  The way they all change partners from song to song is something to see even down to extending  their warm hospitality to our group and  even getting yours truly on the dance floor.

Whatever is in store for tomorrow’s events is bound to be surprisingly exciting.   Stay tuned….  Dance photos courtesy of Juanita Pree McVey.

 

Art, Gold and Food for the Soul

It was a beautiful day in the La Candalaria neighborhood.  La Candalaria is the birthplace of Bogota, right at the square of Chorro de Quevedo.    It is home to top museums, government palaces and beautiful old colonial buildings along narrow cobblestone streets.  It is filled with graffiti; some very good and some not so good but it all seems to add to the local flavor of this bohemian area.. We paid a visit to El Gato Gris ( the gray cat).  It’s a very quaint restaurant and bar of which our guide said she loves to visit when she’s happy and also when she’s sad.  The owner is a lover of Salvador Dali, which is quite evident with his works hanging all over.

We made our way to the BOTERO MUSEUM.  Fernando Botero born in 1932 in Medellin and is Colombia’s most famous artist with works housed all over the world.  His paintings are known for the exaggerated subjects, not fat he says but voluminous. He paints in time (time is movement) and memory (as is his replica of Mona Lisa shows).   I was excited to see his private collections of Picasso of which I was photographed between 2 of his paintings.  He also has Chagall, Renoir and Monet.

Next was the GOLD MUSEUM  which houses over 39,000 pieces of gold.  It was a sight to behold. Some made purchases which came certified in the gift shop.  Others wandered across the street to barter for their souvenirs.

Last stop was MOUNT MONSERRATE.  We took the cable car up over 3100 meters. This mount dominates the city and the view is spectacular.  You must take it slow after you exit the cable car.  You must take deep slow breaths and don’t talk. After I took a few photos, my body said,”Kat, take a seat”.   This was our chance  to test out the claims of the calming effects of the “cocoa tea”.  Our guide brought me a cup and I must say, it gets my vote that it truly does its thing.

It was now 3:30 and I had not eaten all day. Four of us decided to do a repeat with Robbie to one of her favorites, “HARRY SASSON’S”.  We strolled in and the hostess said, “Oh you’re back”. Robbie said, “Yes, and I brought my friends”.   Three of us had the seafood soup of huge prawns, mussels and chunks of fish all served in Orange colored pots.  Ron had prime rib of pork,  what????  Let me tell you it was a beautiful piece of meat.  Dessie had the fish of the day which was Grouper; thick and nicely grilled.  We all shared calamari, crab salad, and grilled asparagus.  The restaurant is absolutely beautiful, the service great and Harry’s has thee most beautiful bathroom I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen hundreds and in some of the most beautiful hotels worldwide. The mirrors give a most impressive illusion.   The photos I took do not do it justice but I would return to Bogota in a heartbeat just for Harry’s .

It was a lovely, balmy evening and 3 of us leisurely strolled 2 blocks to our JW MARIOTT as we watched fireworks go off in the evening sky.

Tomorrow we fly to Cali, South America —- the salsa capital of the world.  Stay tuned…..

 

BOGOTA

The flight from Cartagena to Bogota was a short   1.5 hr and again Avianca  was impressive.  Our hotel is the JW MARIOTT and it far exceeded my expectations. Bogota is 8500 ft above sea level  and some could be subject to mountain sickness which has symptoms  of headaches and or shortness of breath.  The local remedy that happens to be sold at the hotel is cocoa tea, made from cocoa leaves.  Interesting….

Today was full of fun and laughter.  We had a date at the Dance Academy and what a treat.  We learned about the 4 regions of music and dance here in Colombia – Atlantic (Caribbean coast), Pacific, Andean (100% African) and Eastern plains.  We interacted with professional drummers and dancers.  Part way thru, a table was set for us  to enjoy some snacks then back to an enjoyable class which culminated with a lovely lunch and a fast and rhythmic dance presentation by 2 dance couples.

I invited Donnie and Michelle to join me in the hotel’s CIRCO lounge that evening. Unbeknownst to them I had set up a private reception with Japanese appetizers , wine, balloons , a cake and our entire group was on hand to celebrate.    CIRCO is the hotel’s newest lounge on the outdoor terrace, complete with overhead heaters, fire pits and nightly jazz.

This day was truly one to be remembered. Tomorrow is the city tour.  Stay tuned….

 

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

My friends, last night the Social Club won over “Do I stay in or do I go”?  I’m glad I went to hang out.   As badly as I wanted to stay in and rest; I forced myself to go with the others.  Our local guide, Sandra accompanied us to the upstairs club.  I must tell you that Robbie Bell salsa-ed her azz off.  She was poetry in motion and her moves were tantalizing as her dance partners whirled and swirled her around the dance floor.  Dance partners??? Heck yeah! She wore out the youngster who was proudly wearing his dance shoes and then an older cat took over but Robbie continued to hold her own.  She says when  we get to CALI, the salsa capital of the world, she will be on the search for the perfect pair of salsa dance shoes to take home..

The next morning, our driver, guide Sandra and historian Raphael  met us at 915am for our city tour.  We went  to the top of the city to La Popa for a most magnificent view of the city. We could clearly see the walled city where our legendary hotel is located and the contrasting spectacular skyline of the new town, Bocagrande which reminds me of the Miami skyline.   We passed the statue Catalina, heard  about why the poet One eyed Lopez compared Cartagena to “comfortable shoes”, and finally ended up at the Emerald museum and workshop. Colombia produces 60% of the world’s emeralds and you can believe our shoppers got their share.

Returning to the hotel, nearby vendors were waiting to complete promised orders for this or that.  Even though an enemy of the U.S. and Colombian governments; bad guy Pablo Escobar,  aka El Patron , said to be the wealthiest criminal in history also was a help to the poor people in his Medellin community.  Yes, I’m guilty. I did purchase several of the controversial tee shirts.

Kat’s Kibbles and Bits:  Two tours were birthed while here. No worries if you cannot squeeze them in for 2017  I understand as my “dance card” is pretty darn full as well. 1.Peru/Machu Pichu  2.  Do you remember that extraordinary tour you missed when we Kat tracked through Italy by private motor coach; from Rome through Tuscany and ending in Bellagio and Milan? We wine tasted, enjoyed cooking classes, saw the famed Last Supper,  and had leathers custom made in Florence?  Well, it’s about to be on and crackalackin JULY 2017.  If you think you can join us, please inbox me.

In middle school I dreamt of being International but now with the recent additions of Antarctica, Australia/New Zealand, Canary Islands, Cuba, Vietnam, and Peru….NEW KATTRAX TOURS HAS GONE GLOBAL. We are Kat Trackin’ All Over The World!

Thursday morning we fly to Bogota. We’ve got several top restaurants to try and the foodies are excited.  Stay tuned……

COLOMBIA, WE HAVE ARRIVED!

Our flight from Miami was a cool 2.5 hrs to Cartagena on Avianca Airlines.  I was most impressed with their service and the nice aircraft.  I like the fact that they are part of Star Alliance and can build up my mileage plus account.

After landing we were met by our lovely guide, Sandra Gonzalez and in minutes we were at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara. When I say it’s beyond FABULOUS,  that’s definitely  an understatement. This is by far thee best hotel in Cartagena. No doubt it’s the place to stay. You know I only pick the best for my guests.  Our Cape Town hotel is where President Obama, Mary J., Michael Jackson have stayed and now here in Colombia is where the attractive actress, Sofia Vegara stays.

The group was set for a horse drawn carriage ride thru the old town before dinner.  4 carriages  lined up for us in front of the hotel and just like in Paris with the stretch limos, and in Sydney at the Opera Kitchen with those 3 tier gourmet platters lined up in the dining room;  all eyes were on us.  Dinner was great and the red and white wines flowed freely.  Surprisingly, our lovely hotel was less than a 2 minute walk from the restaurant

Tuesday  was a full day and it  was a most humbling experience.  Our private bus took us to Palenque (pah link Kay).  This is where the slaves ran off to hundreds of years ago and today it continues to thrive.  It’s about 1 hr drive from Cartagena  The people of Palenque have their own language and in  their own world.  It was a very educational, interactive afternoon.  We learned about all their natural health remedies that are planted all over the place for eye, skin and digestive ailments.  Upon our return to downtown Cartagena, we were treated to a wonderful 3 course meal.  We started with a delicious fish soup followed by roast beef, steamed rice/gravy, and the sweetest red plantain I have ever tasted.  By dessert, most of us were too stuffed to even consider..

Tonight it’s happening at the Social Club —- music, salsa and drinks.  I tell you, I don’t want to miss the experience but my body is tellin me to stay in and enjoy the comforts of my legendary room. We shall see who wins…..

 

Livin’ La Vida Loca

 

I landed safely in Miami, checked into the PULLMAN HOTEL, regrouped  and was picked up by my long time friend, Road Dawg, fellow foodie, Urrban Lifestyle Specialist and Real Estate Broker, the delightful Ms Robbie Bell.   I had no idea where we were going but I knew good food definitely would be in order.  Everything was a total surprise. First surprise was a stop at the lovely home of Ms Renee, beautiful sister of Gail Jackson, owner of Tree House Resort in Negril.  I had not seen her since Gail’s wedding in New Orleans.  This was truly a surprise. A lovely table spread was set up with tasty chicken salad, goat cheese Brie, crackers, and  Veuve Cliquot. Since I am now a tee toteler, Renee mixed up my new drink of choice– a cran-orange combo on the rocks.  We had a good time  laughing, chatting and catching up.  It was here that Robbie leaked the next surprise. She and I would be meeting  her son Michael for Mothers Day dinner in South Beach.  Fellow traveler, Dessie was to join us but somehow unfortunately we mis-connected.

After leaving Renee’s , I enjoyed the wild ride and cool sights of the city as we made our way to South Beach.  We passed one of the hottest clubs which is open 24/7, “E11even”.  It’s a multi-level, upscale nightclub, restaurant and strip club.  Double D and Tiffy I want a full report when you hit the town

This is the place to people watch which is definitely one of my favorite things to do. After parking  and walking to the restaurant, we passed  the police harassing 2 handsome brothas in a Lamborghini.  Smh, aww man, not today!

Dinner was at “A FISH CALLED AVALON” on Ocean Drive.  Seeing Mike was another surprise as I had not seen him in quite awhile.  He was joined by his younger brother, Alex –a Dolphin.  Of course, Robbie is on a first name basis with the highly acclaimed Chef Kal who prepared a special appetizer platter for the table– crab cakes,  caviar, oysters on the half in a ceviche marinade, tuna tartare wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber garnished with a dollop of wasabi.  I had the crab crusted grouper and a Caesar salad.  In a word everything was AWESOME, perfectly seasoned and presented. As mothers on this day, we were treated to their signature Key Lime Pie followed by their bread pudding soaked in Grand Marnier, both tasty treats. Afterwards cool, Chef Kal stopped by the table to chat it up with Robbie and Mike.  What  a meal and what an evening !

This, my friends, was the perfect kick off for our AFRO HERITAGE TOUR to South America stopping in Cartagena, Palenque, Bogota, and The salsa capital of the world—Cali. Our flight departs Miami Monday afternoon.   Stay tuned…..

 

A PARISIAN KIND OF DAY

Bonjour Paris! Very early this morning found me grabbing a taxi to Breakfast in America.  My veggie omlette was the bomb. Dedie B had something similar to the kitchen sink.  Yes, it had everything but….the kitchen sink and she loved it. We had plenty of time to leisurely stroll back to the hotel as Madame Stevenson (Dedie’s maman) would be meeting the group in the lobby for her orientation prior to the start of her Black Paris Tour.   We even had time to browse the Marche’ we stumbled upon.

Once Ricki got started, everyone was all eyes and ears as they learned some  very fascinating historical facts about blacks in Paris that were never taught in school.

My plan was to meet up with them for a very late lunch in Little Africa and that I did.   Afterwards there was plenty of time to rest before being picked up in 3 stretch limos (2 white, 1 black)  wuth our usual drivers —- all so very handsome and professional. Once we took off, bottles popped and champagne poured.  The First stop was at the Eiffel Tower for great photo opp while she lit up and sparkled for several minutes.   We drove to the Place de la Concorde where the Ferris wheel is located, down the most famous boulevard in the world, ” Champs Élysées ” in all her glory and then over to the Opera where more photos were taken. As we made our way back to our hotel, several expressed how much fun they had this evening. It was a splendid combination: beautiful people on a lovely night enjoying the Parisian night sights.

Tomorrow is a leisure day but quite a few will be escorted by Dedie B to the Foire de Paris which is an annual event and billed as ” The entire world under 1 roof”.

Thank you for joining me on this trip and  if you’ve been putting off coming this way with me for whatever excuse you’ve been using;  you are about to miss out again because 11 spaces are already confirmed for 2017 since yesterday with only 9 left.

Next week I will be coming to you from Cartagena, Palenque, Bogota and Cali so stay tuned!