Two Thousand Thanks


When I launched Travel Itineraries blog-website eight months ago, I had no idea, experience, or understanding of what it would take to maintain it.  It is like a child that needs constant attention, love and care.  Good thing I know the adage that says, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.”  That’s where my followers come in.  Their interest, attention, comments and likes have engendered the growth of the site into the viable entity it is today.

200 followers are not a large number, the actual number as of today is 226, but it is not a meager stat by any means.  In fact, my 200+ followers are the bedrock of the site and just the community I need to ensure that TI‘s growth continues progressively.  They are the crucial link to the site’s existence.  They are the ones who got in on the ground level and are helping to shape the dynamics of what TI is all about and the contributions she makes.  So, followers, this is all about you.

 

TI Award

Travel Itineraries landed on the world’s stage with a bang in July 2017.  She received 177 views in one day mainly from USA, Canada and Barbados.  Friends oohed, ahhed and said how beautiful she was.  Some sent messages to their social media communities echoing her existence.  Over time, she has gained global interest and to date 83 countries are included in her fan base.  She has grown to a level where she receives adoring fans on a weekly basis.  Every newborn needs support.  Lots of it.  My brainchild is no different.  She demands attention and constant care, which at times can be all-consuming, but those are just aspects of her nature.  Despite her demanding attributes and challenges, she also brings incredible joy and happiness to my daily life.

I want to thank my community peeps from the depths of my heart for their support, comments and likes from inception to now. WordPress Happy Engineers for their patience and wealth of knowledge.  Family and friends who continue to encourage and care for TI by occasionally checking in on her and giving their suggestions for her progress.

Two thousand thanks are more apropos of my heartfelt appreciation for the time you take to read the blogs, peruse the website pages, purchase a travel itinerary, view videos and photo gallery and the like.  Your time and interest in Travel Itineraries’ growth, content and contribution are valuable to me.

As always, fellow bloggers on the WordPress, LinkedIn, Google+ platforms, please drop a note in the comment box, follow or like to let me know your solidarity.  I look forward to hearing from you.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

 

 

Par Excellence


Flying can be an ordeal at times, especially when you have a hectic itinerary to fulfill as I have on my Ecuador and Peru travels. I chose to fly with Avianca, and I am glad I did. Here are some reasons why.

Their service is world-class. As far as I have witnessed, they approach their jobs with a level of professionalism that is commendable. They handle customers respectfully and patiently. So far on each leg of my travel itinerary, I received patient attention, answers to my questions and helpful directions to where I wanted to go. What happened next is a testimony of an airline crew par excellence.

img_0880I recently celebrated a special day, you know, the kind of date that rolls around once a year, and what we call a birthday.  I boarded Avianca flight 807 bound for Cusco from Lima, Peru. Little did I know that my day would go in an unexpected direction. Captain Luis Palacin, First Officer Christian Crosby, Cabin Pursers Ursula Zegarra, James Ysimura and Claudia Gonzales all played a part in changing the course my day would take.

Captain Palacin directed his crew to invite me and my traveling companion to sit in row 1 of first class. I practically jumped out of my seat and ran up front. As soon as we sat down we were given our drinks (that’s a sure sign that you are in first class). I am sure other passengers may have wondered why we were taken to first class, but they would find out a little later in the flight.

img_0879The flight to Cusco from Lima is just a mere 55 minutes flying time. In less than an hour Cabin Pursers Zegarra, Ysimura and Gonzales, respectively, showered me with attention. Captain Palacin and First Officer Crosby may not have known this but I was already flying on cloud nine even while they were navigating the aircraft high over mountains that made up a part of the Andes Mountain range.

It is not often you will hear your name announced on the aircraft’s intercom by the captain wishing you a happy birthday on behalf of himself and his crew members. It is also not on every flight you will receive a cupcake with your birthdate and a note saying “Happy Birthday” from AV Crew 807. These sentiments were not lost on me. This team went above and beyond what I could ever have imagined for myself that day. It was not a part of my plan or theirs, I am sure, as we certainly did not know each other before then. However, upon learning that it was my birthday, they all jumped into action to ensure the little time I had in their presence would be memorable and lasting. Even fellow passengers joined in offering their wishes of a happy birthday to me as they exited the aircraft.

I am not shy about birthdays and have welcomed them each year since I do not relish the alternative. I want to thank God for blessing me in such a wonderful way and allowing my travels to cross the flight path of Avianca 807 crew members. May God bless, keep and watch over them on all their journeys.  I say thanks to them from the depths of my heart for making my day extra special. I want them to know, it will never be forgotten.

Blog followers and viewers, if you have had a similar experience on this airline or any other, please share in the comment section below. I like to read your comments, receive your likes or thumbs up, or you may select the follow button to be the first to know what I’m up to.  More of my travel experiences throughout Ecuador and Peru will be posted this month. Thanks for reading my blog.

Stay tuned.

Itinerary Planner

Ecuador and Peru Pre-travel Checklist


The countdown is on!

On my projected vacation page ‘coming to a place near you’, I have selected Ecuador and Peru as the destinations to close out my travels for 2017.  I am now 43 days away from fulfilling that plan.  I have chosen Ecuador specifically to visit the Galápagos Islands, and Peru to visit Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley.   I can barely wait to see nature’s wonders in this part of the hemisphere.

I can feel the pressure building as I start to compile a checklist and gather all my must-haves to take with me.  So, to help me manage my anxiety and excitement I will follow a simple plan.  I’ll prioritize what I need to focus on each week as the departure date draws nearer.  Here is my checklist of all that I must complete prior to leaving.

Week 1

  1. Purchase round-trip airline tickets
  2. Plan budget for travel expenses, namely:  food, tours, entrance fees, etc.
  3. Research mandatory medical requirements, if any i.e immunizations
  4. Pre-purchase entry tickets for Galápagos Islands and Machu Pichu

Week 2

  1. Plan detailed daily itineraries for each country
  2. Research local transportation – bus, train, plane, donkey (Lol)
  3. Choose tour operators in both cities
  4. Book lodging (AirBnB/hotel)

Week 3

  1. Arrange for a house sitter
  2. Pay all bills coming due in my absence
  3. Shop for items (raincoat, bug spray, hat, light jacket/sweater, etc.)
  4. Gather maps, guide/reference books

Week 4

  1. Pack travel bag
  2. Confirm flights
  3. Check weather conditions
  4. Give copies of itineraries to family members
  5. Print boarding passes

Did I leave anything out that may be important to this trip?  Tell me if I did in the comment section, and I’ll let you know if it has been added to the list.

 

 

 

Captive Audience


Southwest Airlines Flight 5427 from Houston to New York.

Cabin stewards Anthony, Clarence and Frank took away the blues everyone may have been feeling that evening.

It had been raining all day.  The weather was showing some solidarity with my mood.  I had flown from San Antonio to connect in Houston bound for New York.  I was leaving family members behind and heading Northeast, not knowing when I would see my loved ones again.  I was sad.

Due to a boarding  irregularity (the lights along the jet bridge not working) we were delayed with the hope that the matter would be resolved quickly.  With an hour to spare, I wandered aimlessly into the nearby shops browsing the shelves and began to wonder what would make people pay high prices for tchotchkes.  That is another blog posting for another time.

While waiting to board, airport personnel found a viable solution to the unexpected anomaly.  We were switched from gate 33 to gate 32.  In no time the boarding process began, everyone was seated and ready for take off.

Then the show began.

Our all male cast (stewards) made everyone on board forget about the delay.  They managed to deliver their safety monologue, a serious message, in a humorous way.  I believe they used their class act and humor to charm their captive audience.  It worked.  From the chatter and occasional laugh I could tell  there was a sense of ease the entire trip.

We were told that steward Frank was in training and that he was on the job just a mere four days.  If that was really true, he had found his calling.  His jokes caused outburst of laughter and many times received an applause (we were certainly off, off, way off Broadway).  Frank and his cohorts served the passengers with such flair that we forgot we were flying at an altitude of more than 35000ft.  I don’t recall experiencing any turbulence on that flight as I did on the earlier flight from San Antonio to Houston, but maybe I was to busy laughing that I may have missed it.

Even though we arrived at our destination one hour later than scheduled, no one was rushing to get off the aircraft.  People were still chatting with their neighbors and helping others with their bags from the overhead bins.  This particular Southwest flight crew deserve special mention and a huge thanks for making the journey a memorable and lighthearted experience.  Obviously they love what they do and that evening they took flight attending to another level.  Thank you guys.

Venezuela In Retrospect


Today starts my ‘retrospection blogs’ series of countries I have visited many years ago and possibly won’t get a second chance to revisit.  The first country I will reflect on is Venezuela.

Apropos, this embattled South American nation has been in the news for some time.  Information of inner turmoil, food shortages, educational neglect, anti-government demonstrations and political fallout have been reported.  The most recent diatribe is that they have been added to the list of banned nations whose citizens will not be allowed entry into the USA.  My recollections should not to be considered a political gambit or posturing.

My introduction to the Latin culture began when I studied Spanish as a second language.  The curriculum presented opportunities for interactions with the Venezuelan Cultural Center and its teachers which prompted my visit.  So off I went on a fact finding mission to Venezuela.

CARACAS

I arrived at the Simón Bolívar International Airport eager to find out more about Venezuelans, practice my Spanish and learn more about their culture.  En route to the hotel from the airport I could not help seeing the shanties.  Not the welcoming sight I expected, but that image would soon give way to beautiful boulevards, tree-lined streets, plazas, and pedestrian only avenues.   Even though my understanding of Spanish was good, not fluent, I wasn’t quite prepared for the onrush of the language.  I couldn’t understand a thing.  It took me a day or two to adjust to the accent and delivery speed.  After a while and for obvious reasons, I realized speaking with children was a lot easier than talking with adults.

I rode the metro train to popular places like Chacaito and Sabana Grande (pedestrian only avenues geared for fashionista shopping), Plaza Venezuela (a public square for relaxation) and Parque del Este (an oasis in the heart of the city) just to name a few.  I recall the very first time I exchanged US dollars at the cambio for Bolivars (local currency).  I received so much money I felt like I had become an instant millionaire.

CULTURE AND CUISINE

Outside a building I noticed a large group of people.  Curiosity got the better of me, so I inquired on what was going on.  I was invited to go inside and to my surprise I discovered it was a cinema.  We sat down to watch the film and every time I laughed the audience laughed a few seconds later.  I then realized while I laughed at the jokes in real-time, it took them a few seconds to read the Spanish subtitles.  Back then only English films were shown.

Venezuela paellaThe food was another interesting revelation.  Three major cuisine staples that were prevalent in most restaurants, or at least it seemed so to me, was Paella (rice dish flavored with mussels, seafood and peppers); Arroz con pollo (rice and chicken); and Arepas (a maize flour dough made into little cakes) eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Even McDonalds offered Arepas as a side-order.

I would often stop to watch young and old couples salsa dance in the plazas.  There I learned to perfect my salsa moves because of my willingness as a volunteer partner.

IN THE CLOUDS

Venezuela boasted a gondola lift (Teleférico de Cararas) which transported small groups of people to El Ávila Mountain.  It took about 15 minutes to reach the top.  The cable Venezuela Telefericooperator stopped the car I rode in half way up and allowed us to feel the gentle bounce on the cables for a few seconds.  The feel of the gravitational pull evoked an un-rehearsed unanimous gasp.  Scary?  Undoubtedly.  I must say we  we were given a heads-up, as well as, an adrenaline rush.  At the top of El Ávila the views of the city of Caracas and the surrounding valley below were breathtakingly spectacular.  Occasionally, clouds would descend and block the view below.  Telescopes along the perimeter allowed for a better view of the city and its neighboring communities like Galipán – known for its exotic flower industry, and Macuto.

My trip to Venezuela was short, sweet and unforgettable.  Indeed, recounting this particular travel has brought back fond memories.  Back then, I didn’t have an itinerary plan, cell phone, iPad, laptop or even a simple map, but only a Kodak camera.  Google and the internet were not a part of my travel experience.  I simply relied on communicating with the people around me.  I am sure many things may have changed since my initial visit many years ago, but for now, I will continue to keep alive the memories of the Venezuela I once knew.