In May 2010 I made a short three-day visit to Mexico City. I spent a Friday night in Distrito Federal with my artist friends Sandra and Pedro, who lived in the historic core of the capital, just a few blocks from the Zócalo.
They took me out on a night tour of peso-for-dance halls, cabaret-style spots which were once, in the 1950s, the pinnacle of decadence and fun.
These clubs are known as ficheras – ficha means token – since the dancers used to collect tokens for the dance with the men who frequented these places; these were later cashed in for money.
Tokens have all but disappeared from these clubs, where payment is now in hard cash. Just like the tokens, the ficheras are slowly disappearing with the advent of strip clubs that started mushrooming in the 1990s. Now almost a relic, only a few remain in Mexico City.
Posted in Mexico
In February 2011, I visited Curaçao, an island-state in the southern Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Venezuela. Among the highlights was a tour of Dinah’s Botanic & Historic Garden, a short drive from the capital of Willemstad.
The dynamic Dinah is a treasure trove of ancient stories, healing tips and songs, passed down orally over many generations. I loved the guided walk through Den Paradera, her peaceful botanic garden with over 300 wild curative plants.
Respected islandwide as a healer, Dinah said: “These plants tell the story of our culture. My mission is to elevate the knowledge of herbal remedies. I want people to know and understand that the knowledge of our slave elders was important — they knew a lot.”
Posted in Curacao
This was taken in Nicaragua, on a boat ride through Las Isletas, the 365 miniature islands next to Granada, formed 20,000 years ago by an eruption of Volcano Mombacho which still looms over them. In November 2010, I spent a few days on one of these islets in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.
Today, these tiny subtropical landmasses pockmark the lake with their abundance of colorful flowers, native trees and rare birds. I have rarely seen a place as beautiful – and as strange. Luxurious villas perch on private islands owned by some of Nicaragua’s richest families. Next to them sit islets with some of the country’s poorest shacks, homes to families who survive on fishing and agriculture – sustenance living at its purest.
Posted in Nicaragua
It had been my dream to visit South America for years before I finally made it in 2001. It was a three-week jaunt around Peru with a friend. Two days before our flight from Lima back to New York, en route from Aguas Calientes near Machu Picchu to Cusco, our train broke down. So we decamped and waited for hours… and hours…and hours…
The photo above captured the scene. Almost idyllic, if it weren’t for the fact we were stuck. But there was romance in those moments of waiting. It’s the unexpected, sometimes unwanted lingering that makes travel such a beautiful challenge.
It’s no secret I love Portugal. I’ve traveled all around the country from north to south and offshore to the Azores. And I love countless things about it. Among my favorites is the southwest coast of Alentejo and western Algarve, also known as Vicentine coast.
I spent a couple of days there in October 2011, and snapped the picture above just outside the coastal town of Zambujeira do Mar. I wished I was the figure in the distance, sitting on those rocks that edge the Atlantic and pondering the meaning of life and travel.