All posts by julie

St Lucia…full circle and full sail!

Steve, Juls & Mark, on "Orient Express" 1992

I had already booked our sailing trip to the West Indies for May, when I suddenly realized that it was exactly TWENTY years ago that we filmed the pilot episode of Passport to Adventure, “Sailing the Grenadine Islands” on this very same route. A stroke of serendipity, as our fourth season of programs had just been completed and distributed to the PBS system. This would be an apropos anniversary celebration for me!

And away we go!

I had been to the island twice, once in 1984, and again for our shoot in 1992, so I was curious to see what had changed. Four of our seven-person sailing crew arrived together into Hewanorra airport in the south end of the island, which meant we would get to see half the island in route to Marigot Bay, and the Moorings base, on the west side. Our Moorings-arranged taxi driver welcomed us in style, with cold Piton lagers – we were on vacation!

no spilling our beers on these roads!

I had memories of bumping along winding, one-lane roads on my previous visits, so the first change I noticed was the improved infrastructure. Apparently the caldera we filmed is now a major tourist attraction, there are many new resorts, and more sailors means more stores for provisioning, but the countryside was as lush, mountainous, and scenic as I remembered.

Sunset at Marigot Beach Club

We arrived in Marigot just in time for sunset cocktails and getting to know the rest of our sailing “mates” over dinner at a casual, open-air restaurant.

Marigot Bay, St Lucia

Next day was busy – after a morning briefing at the Moorings offices, and a run to a very well-stocked grocery store for provisions, we sailed off into the

sunset, and our first anchorage, protected by St Lucia’s majestic Pitons.

A perfect evening sail to the Pitons.


Next leg of the journey… St Vincent and the Grenadines!

First stop, Miami!

We have cleared the Mouse Hole! Once thru the tunnel, I leave the “to do” lists behind and enter travel mode. I am in the moment, finally relaxed, even enjoying being up before dawn, mesmerized by the puffs of fog that hover over the road, occasionally enveloping us, then clinging to the hillside as we pass through the mountains and down to Reno.  All focus now is on making our flight.

We park and hop in a taxi for the short drive to the airport. The driver is friendly, asks where we are going, then tells us he has never been out of the country, but he is OK with that, “because people outside the U.S. hate Americans”.  I am sad, and a little surprised, that this myth persists.  Then he tells us that he loves to cook, and shares his insights on Italian culture – that they eat more slowly, enjoying the meal,  instead of wolfing down their food on-the-run like Americans. At least he watches a few travel programs in between the “news”!

South Beach Miami sunset

Arrived just in time for sunset!

To get to the Caribbean from the West Coast, one must either fly a red eye, or over-night somewhere along the way.  Having enjoyed my share of nights on the floors of airports, my dues had been paid. For this trip, I opted to blow a handsome sum on one night out in SoBe – South Beach Miami. Though I will never recommend this sort of travel (one night in a city), the splurge was worth it, this time (to avoid a 6 hour layover in Atlanta).

Ocean Drive is the main drag facing the beach, but dunes obstruct the view of the water from street level. One side is lined with restaurants and sidewalk tables, the other is a walking/bike path between the busy street and the sand.

The “block party” atmosphere goes on all night, so if you like to be right in the thick of things, then stay on Ocean, if not, get a hotel on Collins or Washington.

Mojitos in Miami

A good way to start an evening in SoBe!

Eating is one of the main reasons to go to Miami. Ocean Drive is over-the-top touristy, and not the place to look for great food, but as virgin visitors with only 12 hours, we made the requisite lap through the chaos. Amazingly, we stumbled upon a good Cuban restaurant – Larios. A bit too touristy for me for dinner, but to sit at the bar for a bite, it was perfect – appetizers were very tasty, reasonably priced, and according to the Cuban couple sitting next to us, authentic! They also make great Mojitos, that were fairly priced.

Ocean Drive Miami

CO2 buzz included with drinks!

That is NOT necessarily the case at other restaurants – a note of caution – some Ocean Drive bars like to serve ALL drinks in monster size goblets or hurricane glasses, and charge accordingly. If you want a regular rum and coke, in a normal glass, at a normal price, you better specify, otherwise you’ll get a $20. cocktail that takes 4 people to drink! My favorite thing about Ocean Drive was all of the live music – flamenco & latin jazz, that I’m guessing goes away after midnight when the techno and DJ’s take over?? Oh, and of course, the art deco architecture always gives you something colorful and interesting to admire.

Cool buildings, and cars, everywhere!

Escaping the clamor of Ocean, we wandered into one of those chic, celebrity-chef-owned spots that I typically avoid in favor of more down-to-earth options, but the menu was right up our ally, the staff was welcoming, the ambiance relaxing, and the food was outstanding. AND, major draw, they served Jamon Iberico!!

A little escape from the chaos, Hotel Impala.

For accommodations… The town was pretty booked, so I had to spend quite a bit of time online searching.  The Hotel Impala had availability, I am guessing due to some bad reviews in 2011, but noticing they had just completed a remodeled, I took a chance. The risk paid off – the rooms are beautiful and the location is perfect – near the action, but set back with a quiet courtyard. My favorite feature was the Nespresso machine in every room! Being able to make a yummy latte in the room made the early morning rush to the airport much more pleasant!

Next Leg of the journey: St Lucia!

Cool? Or Creepy?

Marigot Bay, St Lucia

Marigot Bay, St Lucia

So, first morning in St Lucia, I log onto my computer, and have an email from Trip Advisor suggesting best stuff to do in Soufriere St Lucia. Huh? How the heck does Trip Advisor know that I am in Soufriere, St Lucia?

So far, I have not joined the ranks of those worried about our online privacy. I thought it would be a good thing for Google to track our internet searches, I figured every time I search, it’d be like casting a vote for more intelligent media, for products and websites that are a force for good in the world. I still hope that is the case, but I am also seeing the downside more clearly now, and it is getting a little creepy.

Like when I did some research on latex mattresses. We bought one 15 years ago, and we love it, but now apparently they are all the rage and shopping for them is so excruciatingly complex, I just decided to keep the old one!

After a few searches, every website I looked at for the next 2 weeks had the same ads for latex mattresses! It was pretty funny. As sophisticated as they are at Google, once you see what they are doing, it gets a little silly and you tune out the ads.

IMHO, Travel research and booking online is also becoming a major waste of time. There is just too much noise out there. Too many reviews to read. Too many FAKE reviews to weed through. Too many opinions. Too many “experts”. Too many “best of” lists. Too many “must do” lists. I think if we calculated how many hours we spend doing online research to plan our next vacation, we’d be able to take a whole extra week OFF every year if we just called a trusted travel agent or tour operator and let them do their job!

The thing that concerns me the most, is the “bubble” the internet is creating around all of us. Feeding us only what it knows we like, reaffirming what we already know, and insulating us from any differing views. THAT, I think, is a huge problem for our society, and I do not know how we fix it. Maybe it will just play itself out? People will become more savvy, turn away from the internet, and go back to shopping at their corner store, and using a good ol’ travel agent to book their trips?

My NYC journal…

The view from our room at 70 Park Ave Hotel

I fell in love with New York City when I spent 6 weeks there training to be a stock broker in the late 80’s. For many years, David and I would go for my birthday in December, but work has kept us away for the last few years. So, when the opportunity arose to return this year, I was more than ready!

My favorite museum in NYC


My perfect day in NYC: Start with a late morning brunch at a European style bistro (must have excellent coffee). Window shopping, and scoring some cute shoes on sale. Either wine and crostini at a cozy Enoteca, or hit an Indian buffet. More coffee, (or chai). Late afternoon spent in awe of our planet’s many miracles, at the AMNH – “Beyond Planet Earth” for David, followed by an amazing butterfly exhibit and the Asian cultures wing for me. And, back out on the streets to find another latte, or maybe a happy hour…

I want this dish NOW! Boqueria tapas...yum!

Dinner…so many choices…

We try to enjoy as many different types of cuisine as we can in 5 days!

After dinner, and coffee, wander the streets in search of live music. This is one of my favorite things about the Big Apple – all of the small clubs, where you can just happen upon great jazz or blues any night of the week. Finally, walk, or taxi if we must, back to our hotel by 3:00am to get some sleep! And that explains why our day always starts with a late morning brunch, and good coffee!

Thank God Manhattan is so well suited for walking, it enables us to eat our way from uptown to downtown without gaining weight! Strolling the various neighborhoods, scouting for our next meal, and just soaking up that unique NYC energy, is the best way to appreciate the city.

Cafe Lalo & classic upper West side neighborhood


Below is a list of places we enjoyed on this trip. All are worth a visit, but I encourage you to wander the city without a plan and make your own discoveries!


Campbell Apartment at Grand Central, no tourists here on a Wed nite! Martinis in a historic room filled with locals and commuters. Check out the ceiling!

The Modern – Loved this French-American with an Alsatian twist. Great service, stark, contemporary decor, extensive (but expensive) wine list. Dine in the happenin’ bar, or on the other side of the room with lovely views onto the MOMA sculpture garden.

Barcibo Enoteca – upper West side, near Lincoln Center, hence a tad pricey, but loved the menu – grilled squid with spinach – and nice selection of wines and crostinis, for late afternoon break.

Vin et Fleurs – Quaint, tiny SOHO bistro. Have some sparkling with lunch and be transported to France.

Takashi – Beef, beef nothing but the beef. Japanese Korean BBQ where all parts of the cow are gloriously celebrated and consumed. (Chef buys only the highest quality beef)

Cafe Lalo – Get buzzed on coffee and atmosphere at this Upper West side cafe. Great menu using high quality, locally sourced, or organic ingredients.

Boqueria – Great selection of authentic Spanish tapas, including Jamon!

Picking cow parts from teeth. (beef stomach is tasty, but chewy)

Buvette – West Village. Tiny, ultra cute, stop in any time of day for a lite meal, with great coffee & and wine by the glass. Also high quality, locally sourced, or organic ingredients.

Jazz & Blues…

Smalls, Greenwich Village

La Lanterna di Vittorio and The Bar Next Door

Terra Blues, Groove, Cafe Wha?, Arthurs Tavern, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at Lincoln Center

My latest addiction…

Tapas bar in northern Spain.

On our trip to northern Spain last year, our local friend taught us all about Iberian ham. It was love at first bite.  As soon as I got home, I began my research on Jamon Iberico, a.k.a. pata negra, cerdo negro, or black pig. I was planning to buy a whole, cured, leg, like they have on display in tapas bars all over Spain, but, much to my dismay, discovered it has only been available in the U.S. for a few years, and is very expensive (like $1300. DOLLARS for a leg!)

The most delicious, and healthy, of the Spanish ham is the “jamon Iberico de bellota”, which comes from free ranging, black pigs, that eat mainly acorns. I read that because of the pigs diet, this ham has more “good” fat than olive oil, helps increase HDL, and lowers LDL, not to mention the taste is out of this world. Ditch the statin drugs America! Sign me UP for the Jamon diet!

On our recent trip to NYC, I was on a quest to find my new drug of choice, eat as much as possible, and bring some home, hoping it might be more readily available and less expensive in New York, as they are closer to Europe than our home in California. (European wines are always a better buy than California wines in NYC) Mission Accomplished! We scored a 1/4 pound of the deep red, fat streaked, delicacy at Murrays for about $30.

Tonite, while winter rages outside (finally), we broke out a bottle of Tempranillo (from Rioja, via Trader Joes) and I made Pan Tomaca (a.k.a. pan con tomate, pan tumaca, or pan amb tomaquet). It’s similar to Italian Bruschetta (Brus-Ketta, not Bru SHetta!), but the tomatoes are not chopped.

There are many ways to make it, but this is how I was taught in Spain:

Carefully unwrap the delicate sliced ham, which should be separated by wax paper, and rolled, as they did for us at the deli in NYC.

Position a flat cheese grater over a bowl to collect the juice and pulp, rub tomato over the grater until all you have left in your hand is skin, discard skin.

Add a little (Spanish) olive oil and salt to the pulp/juice in bowl.

Toast or grill some good bread until crunchy.

Rub raw garlic over the bread, or not, if you prefer a cleaner, more pure tomato taste.

Add a slice of Jamon Iberico, or Jamon Serrano if you don’t want to splurge on Iberico de Bellota.

Pour a glass of wine, bite into crunchy, salty, dripping toast, enter heaven of the taste buds!

My new retirement plan now includes living in Spain, or raising my own cerdo negro on a farm somewhere!

Great article in the NYTimes on acorn fed pigs – a must read!!







2012…the end of the world as we know it?

Looking forward to more travel in 2012!

I ended 2011 celebrating with friends and my beloved (“husband” is just an inadequate word!), and began the new year with a 9:00am yoga class – perfect preparation for contemplating resolutions.

We’ve all heard the scary “end of the world” predictions for 12/12. I choose to interpret this as a positive thing.  If you believe, as Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher once said,  “we are not human beings seeking a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings immersed in a human experience”, then maybe the “end of the world” is a metaphor for mankind waking up to that “reality”?

I am looking at 2012 as a year of rebirth for myself, for our society, and for world leaders. A time to throw off the shackles of F.E.A.R. – (“false evidence appearing real”, thank Tony Robbins for that one), and embrace compassion instead as our driving force.

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself” (F.D.R.),  and making fear-based decisions can easily become a habit. The media bombards us with messages designed to play on our fears – of losing, of missing out, of someone taking from us, of not having “enough”.  I’d like to suggest we all share one collective New Year’s resolution – to tune out all fear-based messages, whether they come from within or outside sources.

The sunrise of a new era!

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself, and that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of it’s dream”. Paulo Coelho, one of my favorite authors.

My dream is for a world that lives up to it’s full potential, and I don’t think we have even scratched the surface yet!

Live Small, travel BIG, give BIG, fear not, and never let anyone, or anything, take your JOY away, it is only yours to give!



“Sunshine always makes me high”…

When you live in a resort town, everything revolves around the weather. In December, much energy is devoted to rituals encouraging mother nature to provide snow in time for a white (and ‘green’!) Christmas . When she doesn’t respond to our snow dances, well, people get anxious, and cranky. But, what are you gonna do? The weather is still something we cannot control. (Or, wait… do we control anything??)

As I took my lunch break today, I flipped on PBS and they had one of those pledge specials airing, you know, the ones we all love to hate, and would be loathe to admit ever watching… old John Denver concert footage. As I listened to “Sunshine on my Shoulder”, I looked outside at a glorious sunny day, and knew I needed to get outside.

Soaked up some vitamin D here for awhile

Off I went for a little attitude-adjustment hike around the neighborhood. I walked down to the lake and strolled the beach, end to end, stopping to try out every inviting spot to perch myself and enjoy the warm sun.

Nice of them to leave this chair out for me!







Merry Christmas from Lake Tahoe!


So, even though we have very little snow, and it doesn’t really feel like Christmas, I can’t complain. I have plenty to celebrate this holiday season.  And yes, John was a wise man, “sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy”!

The trampoline on a cat makes for a mighty relaxing perch!

New episodes arrive on PBS in 2012!

I am not an “early adopter”, actually more of a luddite, truth be told, but I may have to break down (much to my husband’s delight) and get an HD tv to watch the new season of Passport to Adventure. Once again, our “weather angels” cooperated, and I think we have succeeded in capturing the essence of our new destinations, in all of their stunning glory!

Worth the wait, coming to PBS, and international markets, in 2012…

Wavy, mosaic pavement, left by the Portuguese


MACAU, sans casinos!

An exciting fusion of Chinese and Portuguese cultures merges Buddhist temples with casinos, cod fish with coconut milk, old world architecture with tai chi in the park.  For more on Macau



Become one with the palms, ahhhhhh



With Mark at the helm, exploring the cays, bays and bars of the BVI, is sure to be an adventure! 😉   For more on the BVI , and here.




Another adventure in Aysen!

AYSEN, PATAGONIA squared (2 episodes)

This is what I love to do most – discover up and coming destinations, and share them with y’all! If you love raw nature, biking, kayaking, rafting, hiking, fishing, and interesting, earthy folks, add Aysen to your list pronto!

More on Aysen.




Elizabeth in her element, Columbia Icefield

ALBERTA, Canada, x 2

I had never been to her iconic rocky mountain parks, which fully lived up to their reputation. We also ventured off the primary tourist path, and discovered aboriginal sites, a very cool dinosaur museum, and in addition to finding my sister of a different mother (another story), I have an unusual new bff named Tara. See more Alberta images on our FB page.



My new bff, Tara.


Oh, and who woulda thought…there is a thriving “farm to table” foodie culture in Alberta! (Tara is not on the menu, but her cousin may be)

I never thought I’d be adding a restaurant in Calgary to my all time favorites list!


Full synopsis of Season Four episodes.


Time to head East?

Ah yes, it’s that time of year again – “the holidays”.  I know some, (most?) of you are probably getting excited for the season, and may call me a curmudgeon, but the whole thing makes me cringe and want to leave the country. Oh, I am not immune to warm, fuzzy feelings when I hear certain Christmas songs, and I love a good party as much as anyone, but…

First, there is the unfortunate confluence of holiday “sale” ads with the election season barrage (a great reason to watch nothing but PBS for the next two months!) I mean REALLY, can anyone explain to me what value campaign ads offer society? What do we “learn” about candidates from thirty nauseating seconds of mud slinging? In my humble opinion, our country would be much better off if campaigning via attack ads was not allowed. (I believe there are other countries where that is the case?)

Second, I’ve never been able to figure out how launching the entire country into a two-month-long shopping frenzy honors the birth of Christ, a man who preached compassion and caring for the poor. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the season was all about feeding the hungry? Helping at a local shelter? Or taking a trip to a third world country and volunteering in an orphanage? Just think what a great family bonding experience that would be!

Velvet dress made by mama, with Rex. Aren't knee socks back in style?

I’m not sure how I came to be so annoyed by all of this. My childhood memories are good – I was an only child, and any relatives were across the country or in Europe, but my tiny family of three celebrated Christmas with a meaningful combination of European and American traditions. Mama & I baked German cookies, Papa strung colored lights on the house, I collected toys & food for poor families, friends stopped by for music, a chat and cocktails – it was all very relaxed. When I was 19, my father died of a heart attack while skiing, and Christmas became painful. I moved to Tahoe, and was happy to work the holidays.

As I got older, and watched my friends stressing out over shopping lists, and later my husband running himself ragged in the malls on Christmas Eve, I started wondering what is the point of this craziness? I am still wondering.

So, each year, as the holiday season sets in, I have an overwhelming desire to get on a plane heading East, far east, as in Asia, where Christmas is a foreign affair.

Unfortunately, or fortunately I guess, both David and I are way too busy to escape this year, so I’ll be here, with my fingers in my ears, chanting “la, la, la, la, la, I can’t heeear you” to all of the commercial noise. (I may also be caught singing along to my favorite carol, Adeste Fideles)

What do you think, has the commercialism and frenzy gotten worse over the last 20 years, or am I just a Scrooge?

Bah humbug, next year, we are off to parts unknown! 😉



The Scoop…

I figured I may as well make this a blog post, and update everyone at once!

A lovely, bumpy road in Patagonia, Chile

So, here’s where things stand with Passport to Adventure…

The economic downturn caused us a few difficulties, but we are muddling through. Mark has retired, to sort out his own life challenges, and I have taken responsibility for fulfilling our obligations to clients and PBS viewers. Elizabeth and Aaron remain my dedicated crew. We have all made sacrifices to keep the “show on the road”, (bumpy road that it is!) but we are a passionate team determined to fulfill our mission – to inspire our fans to get out there and see the world – dirt roads and all!

We have six, new, HD programs that will go on the air on PBS in early 2012 – Macau, British Virgin Islands, Chilean Patagonia (2) and Alberta, Canada (2).  I promise they are all spectacular!

Anchored off Anagada, BVI

We know our viewers and PBS stations are anxious to see new episodes from us, and we apologize for making you wait so long!  (Be sure to let your local PBS station know you are looking for Passport to Adventure in their schedule, your feedback is always helpful to keep us on their “radar”!)  The TV industry is really not glamorous, it is brutal, and the PBS funding model is not easy to navigate, that said, we feel very privileged to air on a great network, and to have such loyal fans, so hang in there, the new shows will be worth the wait!

Thanks to all of our fans and PBS programmers for your continued support!!


links: If you are interested in more on the trials and tribulations of producing Travel TV in a recession, click on “bumpy Road” above.

And, if you want to know more about how we fund Passport to Adventure, click here!