Thursday, July 2, 2015

Euro Trip 2015

After what seems like forever, The Tales of the Traveling Teacher Blog is back! This summer I am bringing you one pretty incredible adventure. My boyfriend Joe and I will be traveling to Europe from July 6, 2015- August 1, 2015. Yes, I know what you're thinking...27 days in Europe?! How can they do that? My response to you is... TEACHERS ROCK! ;) We got this crazy idea one Sunday Funday back in January and have been planning ever since. As this is Joes very first time to Europe, I knew this trip had to be something spectacular. And let me tell you, it is. 

Here's our itinerary:
July 6- Fly to Berlin
July 7-10 Berlin, Germany
July 11-12 Prague, Czech Republic
July 13-16 Venice, Italy
July 17-19 Florence, Italy
July 20-22 Tuscany
July 23-25 Rome, Italy
July 26-30 Sorrento and the Almafi Coast
July 31- Back to Berlin
August 1- Fly to NYC

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @thetravelteach for photo updates.

Here's to a summer of new memories and adventures...I hope you'll come along for the ride. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Turibus..El Bus de Lima!

On our second day in Lima the fam and I decided we needed to do some touristy things and what’s more touristy then riding a city sightseeing bus? The company we chose is called Turibus and is a double-decker yellow tour bus that provides six tour options all leaving from the Larcomar Mall area in Miraflores.

We selected the four-hour “City Tour Turibus”, which is marketed in the pamphlet as follows:  “Discover the best of Lima with style! Through an exciting tour four meters high of the bohemian district of Barranco. We will also visit the most important attractions of Lima’s Historic Centre: the San Martin Square (Plaza San Martin), the Main Square (Plaza Mayor), and the Convent of San Francisco and its Catacombs.”

Our tour began at 2:15 and the first stop was the old fishing district of Barranco located just south of Miraflores, right along the Pacific Ocean. We saw two main attractions there. La Iglesia la Ermita and Puente de los Suspiros. Legend has it that Peruvian fishermen who were lost at sea saw an illuminating cross through Lima’s thick, dense winter fog one night. It is believed this cross helped them find their way back to shore, and a church (Iglesia la Ermita) was built at the location the fisherman saw the cross. Unfortunately during a war in 1881, Chilean troops nearly burnt down the church leaving it’s roof shattered to this day.
Iglesia la Ermita

Just a short walk away from the church is the Barranco landmark, Puente de los Suspiros, or the “Bridge of Sighs”.  This is a very special bridge to the inhabitants of Barranco as it withstood a war and several earthquakes. It is said that young couples used to meet at this bridge and it is tradition that anyone crossing the bridge for the first time does so while making a wish and without taking a breath. If you can manage to make it across the bridge without breathing, your wish will come true. Well, we all tried this, and let’s just say that Dad is the only one who will have his wish come true. Click here to watch a video of Peruvian musician Chabuca Granda performing her song “El Puente de los Suspiros”, inspired by this bridge for lovers.  

The familia after walking across the Bridge of Sighs 

Puente de los Suspiros
After hoping back on the bus we headed toward Lima’s historic city center. Plaza San Martin was our first drive by. This square is one of the largest in all of Lima and represents Peru’s independence. It is dedicated to General Jose de San Martin who was one of the leaders of independence and declared Peru to be an independent nation on July 28, 1821.

Plaza San Martin

Driving a little further we headed to Plaza Mayor, where the President of Peru resides. Think of it as our White House. Prior to our little bus excursion, my parents and I actually strolled over this way and were able to watch the changing of the guards. There was more pomp and circumstance then I’ve ever seen. The entire process lasted well over an hour, and Big Ron definitely has some footage that captures the moment. Our tour guide gave us the low down on the plaza, which is not only surrounded by the Government Palace, but also the Cathedral of Lima, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Municipal Palace as well as the Palace of the Union. This was a both a fancy and very historical location to say the least.
center of the Plaza

Government Palace

Changing of the Guard

Our final stop on the Turibus was a visit to the Convent of San Francisco and it’s Catacombs. The church had beautiful architecture, and was filled with ancient paintings, gold furniture and a vast amount of mosaic tile. The highlight of this visit was a walk down to the Catacombs, which were discovered in 1943. This part of the tour was the most cryptic with over 25,000 bodies laid to rest there; the walk through is definitely not for the claustrophobic. Needless to say I think we were all happy when we saw the exit sign in front of us. 

Convent of San Francisco 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

El Sarcay

After arriving in Lima, we were greeted by our transfer to the hotel, Antonio Espinoza. Antonio only spoke Spanish, however he was kind enough to bring along his wife Nora who is an English teacher in a Peruvian private school. After some chitchat, we informed Nora that we would be interested in having Antonio take us around the city for a day trip and he happily obliged.
Antonio planned a day trip to a little town about two hours south of Lima called Azpitia. In Azpitia he organized a private tour and tasting of piscos at a pisco winery and distillery called El Sarcay de Azpitia. 

El Sarcay first came about in 2004 when seven friends from Lima moved to Azpitia with an idea. After acquiring 18 acres of various types of grape varieties, they decided to create pisco.  The story goes that the Spanish conquistadors brought over grape vines and began making wine, and pisco was birthed from grapes that were not well suited for the production of wine. Pisco is a brandy-like liquor made from distilling fermented grape juice.

Now, I am no expert on pisco, but in short these are the steps taken to make this very strong alcohol. The distillation of pisco begins with the selection of certain leftover grapes that didn’t get selected for the wine process. These grapes are then put through wooden presses so the juice can be squeezed out of them. The liquid is then placed into pisqueras (a container) so that the fermentation process can begin. 

That liquid is then placed into a copper container called an alambique. This liquid is then heated by fire, which in turn produces a more flavorful pisco.

The distillation process happens after evaporating the liquid and then reducing it by contact with cold. This happens as the liquid steams and travels through a tube, moving through a cold vat of water.

It is through this process that little droplets are created through condensation and pisco is formed. In the final steps, the pisco exits the tube and enters a vat where it is aged for at least six months.

After we learned about the distillation and fermentation process, we walked over to a bar area to sample different types of pisco. Pisco puro or pure pisco is a well-known and loved type. Similar to wine, the type of grape used to make a pisco will determine the type of flavor it has. Pisco is a little too strong for me, but if you are a brandy lover, this is the South American liquor for you.

After the pisco tour we had a beautiful lunch with a view at Balcon del Cielo.  Balcon del Cielo translates into English as the balcony of heaven. This is most likely due to the fact that this restaurant delivers delicious maritime cuisine as well as a heavenly view of a Peruvian river valley.

It was awesome to be able to experience Peru this way. In such a short amount of time, Nora and Antonio became a part of our family that day, and from day one treated us as if we were also a part of their family. If you’re ever in Lima be sure to contact Antonio for transfers to and from the airport and be sure to like his travel and tour page on facebook. You'll be happy you did.

Our new friends Antonio and Nora!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013



After a 7-hour non-stop flight on United Airlines, Big Ron, Virginia and I landed in the Callao district of Lima, Peru ready to start our adventure. Unfortunately for us, we arrived late at night and after a day of traveling we were only looking to sample Peru’s famous drink, the Pisco Sour, grab a quick bite to eat and head to bed.

The Pisco Sour is an iconic Peruvian cocktail. Pisco is a liquor that is created by the distillation and fermentation of grape juice, and the sour part of the cocktail is a combination of egg, lemon, sugar and ice. Though I tend to not discriminate against cocktails, I have to admit that the Pisco Sour did not make it to the top of my adult beverage list. Dad however, happened to be a fan.

July 2nd was our first real day in Lima and we traveled to the district my brother Ronnie had been living, Miraflores.

A little history on Peru… First off, I did not realize what an enormous country Peru is! It is the third largest country in South America (Brazil is numero uno), and the twentieth largest country in the world. It is larger than the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Spain and France (to name a few). For all of my European lovers, you can definitely relate to the fact that this is clearly not a country that can be seen in just one short visit. We sectioned our trip off to two areas of Peru, the Capital City Lima and Cusco. 

The Peruvian currency is called the Nuevo sol (new sun) and is represented by the symbol: (s/. ) As of today, $1 = s/. 2.78, so for all you shoppers, the exchange rate is in our favor. During our stay, we would either divide or multiply by 3 to figure out (about) the difference with the exchange rate. The sol was a lot easier to manage (and save money with) than the Euro was during my travels through Europe. (Now, one Euro is equal to 1.33 U.S. dollar…)

The official language of Peru is Spanish, and there are other dialects such as Quechua, which is spoken by the Andean people in the mountains. Being that it was winter while we were there, it was surprisingly chilly! We needed to buy one of the popular Peruvian exports, Alpaca wool, in order to help us keep warm at night.

La familia

Parque Kennedy

Miraflores is the top tourist district in Lima. It is a beautiful place that sits right alongside the Pacific Ocean. Peru has three main ecosystems: coastal, mountain and jungle that all run longitudinally from west to east.

We met up with Ronnie in an outdoor mall called Larcomar that has many stores, and restaurants that overlook the Pacific, and gnarly surfers on the beach. While eating lunch at La Bonbonniere Ronnie informed us that during the winter months, it is typically cloudy and humid every day, but we were lucky and the sun was shining for us and all of our photo ops . 

The rest of the day we hung out, walked around Kennedy Park, and heard what my brother had been up to during his five-week stay prior to our arrival. Later that evening we headed for diner at one of the most beautiful restaurants in Lima, La Rosa Nautica. Since Miraflores is part of the coastal ecosystem, fish plays a large role in the diet there, and if you want to eat fish or are willing to try, La Rosa Nautica is a must. This beautiful upscale restaurant sits literally right over the Pacific Ocean. So much so, you can hear the waves crashing beneath you while you dine. The ambiance was romantic, the service was impeccable and the food was heavenly. La Rosa Nautica is a foodie's paradise and a must go to for any tourist visiting Lima. 

View of La Rosa Nautica from Larcomar

muy bonita

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Do Believe it's Time for Another Adventure

Ahhhh yes. In fact, it is officially time. If you have been following my blog, you are probably familiar with the fact that I’m a teacher with a passion for travel. Last summer I did not leave the country on an exciting escapade, but instead stayed in Manhattan trying to travel around and see as much of the city as possible. Though my travels through this amazing city were exciting, nothing compares to that butterflies in your stomach feeling you get when you board an airplane to a far off destination.

I am very excited to announce that I will be traveling to PERU on July 1st! My brother Ronnie has been in Lima, Peru for the past five weeks taking Spanish classes and teaching ESL at a school in Miraflores. He’s currently in a Masters program at Hunter College specializing in teaching English as a second language. His trip to Lima was a great way to help further his education as well as give my family and I an excuse to visit him. (Thanks Ron!)

This will be my first time traveling to South America and I am excited to learn about Peru and immerse myself in Peruvian culture in a short amount of time. We’ll be staying in Lima, as well as the ancient Inca capital of the world, Cuzco. A trip to Peru would not be complete without a trek on the historic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
(Check back in a week or so for updates about my experience in Peru.)

“Traveling, it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
 –Ibn Battuta

I can’t wait to continue to tell you my story…

>>Tales of the Traveling Teacher Summer 2013<<

Monday, October 29, 2012

Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club

While the island of Manhattan awaits the expected wrath that Hurricane Sandy is sure to bring, here I sit listening to the rainfall, dreaming of a sunnier time, sans natural disaster. In continuation of my very belated blog posts, I’ve been meaning to tell you about an awesome discovery made this summer, Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club at South Street Seaport.

My friend Erika was still visiting on August 22nd, and my Dad had tickets to the 3rd Annual Nolafunk Summer Jazzfest featuring Little Feat with Papa Grows Funk and Stooges Brass Band. Visiting the beer garden was #18 on my summer bucket list, and I was happy to check it off.

Now if you’ve been following my blog, at the Umbria Jazz Fest last summer I was first introduced to Nola Jazz Zydeco music. The love has not faded, and this show was just as awesome. The brass band music is so powerful and exciting, the musicians always put on an excellent performance.

What I do want to tell you about is how cool this venue is. After you walk in and pass a long bar on your right, stroll through a tent, you are greeted with the most unbelievable view of the Brooklyn Bridge. While you’re walking to take in these panoramic views you can literally sink your feet into real sand on the ground. As I said, we were there for a concert so the set up was different, but I have heard from friends that on a normal day you can play ping pong and other various games, enjoy some food, cocktails, and of course, sample some beer. I look forward to being able to enjoy this cool spot again as soon as Sandy heads back out to sea...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cloud City

I love art. Call it what you will, aficionado, admirer, enthusiast, I like to look at interesting, inspiring, beautiful things. The first time I stepped foot in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) was exactly three years ago yesterday, (the day I started writing this post). I went there after walking home from marching in the Columbus Day Parade with my job, put on my iPod and just walked, observed, and reflected. It was beautiful.

Continuing our exploration of beauty on August 21st, my friend Erika and I walked from the Conservatory Garden to the MET at 82nd and 5th to take in some Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso before we went to dinner later that evening.

Now, if you’ve never had the chance to step foot inside the MET I’ll be the first one to tell you it’s huge, and even with my fantastic sense of direction I manage to get lost every time. Admission into the MET is free, however they recommend a $25 donation for adults…I usually never give more than $5 (sorry MET!)

The actual building itself is massive, two-million-square-foot massive. And today there are over tens of thousands of objects and art on view everyday. The exhibits can be found on the first floor, second floor, third floor, rooftop and mezzanines. The first floor and mezzanines house: The American Wing; Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; Arms and Armor; Egyptian Art; European Sculpture and Decorative Arts; Greek and Roman Art; Medieval Art; Modern and Contemporary Art; and the Robert Lehman Collection. The second and third floors house: The American Wing; Ancient Near Eastern Art; Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran; Central Asia, and Later South Asia; Asian Art; Drawings and Prints; European Paintings; Greek and Roman Art; Modern and Contemporary Art, Musical Instruments, 19th and Early 20th Century European Paintings and Sculpture; Photographs.

My favorite spots are the Arms and Armor Gallery, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Nineteenth Century European Art. After asking a few kind souls, we found the gallery we were looking for and we met up with Mr. Claude Monet, Mr. Vincent Van Gogh and Mr. Pablo Picasso.

Claude Monet (French, Paris 1840–1926 Giverny)
Date: 1899

Claude Monet (French, Paris 1840–1926 Giverny)

Claude Monet (French, Paris 1840–1926 Giverny)

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)
Date: 1889

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)
Date: 1887

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)
Date: 1889

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)
Date: 1890

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, Malaga 1881–1973 Mougins, France)
Date: 1939

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, Malaga 1881–1973 Mougins, France)
Date: 1967

We also went up to the special exhibit on the rooftop called Cloud City. Argentinean artist Tom├ís Saraceno created an environment on the rooftop that, according to the MET website, is an “investigation of expanding the ways in which we inhabit and experience our environment.” Visitors are allowed to walk into, and around the exhibit, which is a mixture of architecture and art. We were not able to get tickets to climb inside the actual structure, but had a great time walking around looking at ourselves from above in the mirrored glass. You can also see the structure from below when walking by the museum in Central Park, however I recommend taking the trip up to visit it. 

It’s amazing the things you can accomplish in one day when you have some free time. I know I’m not the only one who wishes I used my time like this more frequently… they do say our city never sleeps…right? Better start moving. 

**All pictures taken on my iPhone. I do not own any rights to anything.