Check out Native Traveler's full-length Sicily show!

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Today's feature contributor, award-winning writer and food educator Renée Restivo, shares the story of reclaiming her Sicilian roots and reveals food as a window to myriad layers of Sicilian heritage.  Then, Chris Mark of slow-travel masters, Butterfield & Robinson, shares how to pedal and walk the best of Sicily's storied parched landscapes.  Listen in...

(Feature: Hunger for Sicily 00:49; Interview: Soul of Sicily's Renée Restivo 11:40; Interview: Butterfield &  Robinson's Chris Mark 32:25)

 

Award-winning writer, food entrepreneur, Renée Restivo on food, family roots and Sicilian culture

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Renée Restivo is an award-winning writer, culinary educator, and founder and director of the Soul of Sicily culinary programs. She has over fifteen years of experience in culinary education in Italy. Renée got her start in New York, where she managed cooking classes and tested recipes for La Cucina Italiana magazine.

Her life in Italy began when she moved to Tuscany to work at cooking school and to become fluent in Italian before starting her own business. While living in Northern Italy, she traveled to Sicily whenever possible and continued her search for her roots through food. She fell in love with the island of her ancestors and worked in exclusive villas in Palermo and on vineyards in the middle of the island before beginning her own programs in the Southeastern Sicily.

Soul of Sicily programs are located in Noto, Sicily, a baroque town surrounded by ancient olive groves and known for its almonds, pastries and culinary traditions. As the late Marcella Hazan said of Renée's culinary programs in Noto, Sicily: “Noto alone is worth the flight to Sicily. What Renée has dreamed up is irresistible and should be as eye-opening as palate-awakening. No one who is able to go and loves food should miss it."

 

Chris Mark — Butterfield & Robinson's director of trip planning for Italy and central Europe talks biking and walking in Sicily

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After biking 10,000 km across Europe, then working his way up to the head of Butterfield & Robinson’s planning and operations department, Chris Mark is now the go-to resource for all aspects of B&R’s European operation, especially in Italy and central Europe. From route questions to restaurant recommendations, no one else can match the breadth or depth of his trip knowledge.  Chris kindly gives Native Traveler the benefit of his remarkable insight on the best of biking and walking in Sicily.

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Check out Native Traveler's full-length CODY WYOMING and YELLOWSTONE show

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A place like Cody, Wyoming and surrounding Yellowstone country feels like the beating heart of what people around the world once dreamed America to be.  Irrepressibly authentic, the bellybutton of a frontier that’s inspired a thousand spaghetti westerns.   It seems America is still its best self here, but for a lot of reasons that may be harder to pin down than one may first think.   Listen in...

(Welcome to Cody feature :52,  all about Cody, Buffalo Bill and Cody Nite Rodeo 14:17,  all about Yellowstone National Park and its historic lodges 34:47)

Learn More About Cody and Yellowstone Country

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Learn More About Historic Yellowstone National Park Lodges and Experiences in the Park

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Scenes of Cody and Yellowstone Country

 

Rodeo, Buffalo Bill and Japanese Americans in Cody, Wyoming

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Vermont-based writer, Bart Beason, wrote this great overview of Cody and Yellowstone for Everett Potter.  Click here to read his story...

Taste of the Old West in Cody, Wyoming

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My friend Sue Reddel, AKA Foodtravelist.com has another great take on the Cody/Yellowstone experience!  Click here to read...

Check out Native Traveler's full-length CUBA show!

SPECIAL OFFER FROM BABBEL FOR NATIVE TRAVELER LISTENERS! 

The World's Leading Language Learning App is offering NT listeners a Buy Three Months, Get Three Months Free special offer. Click below and enter the coupon code "TheNativeTraveler".

 
 

“I recall the busy atmospheric streets. The snapshots of lives lived out in the open, and the unmistakable aromas: Tropical Papaya mixed with Tobacco leaf, petrol and musty carpets….” writes Lonely Planet author on Cuba, Brendan Sainsbury. His latest guide coming out in October is an evocative, info-packed read. Brendan spends some time talking with us. Writer Allison Yates transports us into the optimistic resilient heart of the Cuban people in her feature, "me resolvi." And chef Gabriel Gonzalez of Toronto's Mojito Cubano gives us an authentic taste of his homeland. Dig in.

(Allison Yates//me resolvi: 1:07; Brendan Sainsbury//Lonely Planet: 14:37; Mojito Cubano live: 31:26)

 

Allison Yates

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Allison is a writer and traveler who has done everything from selling pumpkin donuts to working as a cleaner at a uranium mine to fund her life abroad. She's a Latin American enthusiast who loves Cumbia, coconut water, and the Spanish language.

 

Brendan Sainsbury // Lonely Planet Cuba Writer

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Born and raised in the UK in a town that never merits a mention in any guidebook (Andover, Hampshire), Brendan spent the holidays of his youth caravanning in the English Lake District and didn’t leave Blighty until he was nineteen. Making up for lost time, he’s since squeezed 70 countries into a sometimes precarious existence as a writer and professional vagabond. His rocking chair memories will probably include staging a performance of ‘A Comedy of Errors’ at a school in war-torn Angola, running 150 miles across the Sahara Desert in the Marathon des Sables, and hitchhiking from Cape Town to Kilimanjaro with an early, dog-eared copy of LP’s Africa on a Shoestring. In the last eleven years, he has written over 40 books for Lonely Planet from Castro’s Cuba to the canyons of Peru. When not scribbling research notes, Brendan likes partaking in ridiculous ‘endurance’ races, strumming old Clash songs on the guitar, and experiencing the pain and occasional pleasures of following Southampton Football Club.

- (Bio from lonelyplanet.com)

 

Mojito Cubano

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Mojito Cubano, located at 1510 Queen Street West in Toronto, is run by Cuban chef Gabriel Gonzalez. It's the real deal in authentic Cuban cuisine and casual warm atmosphere.

me resolvi

me resolvi

I open my eyes to a dim room and feel the all-too-familiar sting in my throat. I can’t swallow. My muscles tense as I shift in bed and I close my eyes, hoping I might be able to fall back asleep and will it away. I can’t.

Across the room, my window opens to the courtyard of this building in Old Havana, and I hear the neighborhood waking up.

I went out dancing last night, but it’s not a hangover that’s debilitated me. It’s probably tonsillitis. I ask my friend to tell the lady downstairs that I’m unwell and ask which hospital I should go to.

Turns out, the lady downstairs has a different idea, and it appears I am in her hands. Cubans have their own way of "resolving" problems and getting things done in a country so short on resources for so long. These are the surprises of everyday life post-Fidel-Castro that go on behind the vibrant Instagram shots. And I’ve come to know firsthand these unexpected ways from the moment I arrived just over two weeks ago.

Check out Native Traveler's full-length EASY RIDER show!

 

Special Offer From BABBEL for Native Traveler Listeners! 

The World's Leading Language Learning App is offering NT listeners a Buy Three Months, Get Three Months Free special offer. Click below and enter the coupon code "TheNativeTraveler".

 
 

The Road to Kalamazoo

Our senior producer Cara Ferguson proves that there's a little easy rider in all of us, and hitting the open road on two wheels may be easier than you think.  With getting there half the fun, you might also be surprised at the hidden gems you'll find along the way.  Hop on and listen in.

 

Mike Ball // Snow City Cycle Marine

Mike Ball from Snow City Cycle Marine gives expert technical advice on getting the right bike and the right gear ready for your next road trip. Those living outside the Toronto area can look to their local colleges and motorcycle shops for courses on motorcycle maintenance.

Mike Ball from Snow City Cycle Marine gives expert technical advice on getting the right bike and the right gear ready for your next road trip. Those living outside the Toronto area can look to their local colleges and motorcycle shops for courses on motorcycle maintenance.

It all began in 1971 in a 450 square foot garage owned and operated by George and Vira. Today Snow City Cycle Marine is the largest Powersports Dealer in the G.T.A. operating out of 12,500 square foot building on Kennedy Road in Scarborough. They successfully sell and service Yamaha, BRP, Kawasaki, and Suzuki product.
 

Heritage Guitar Inc.

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Kalamazoo’s history with the guitar dates back to the late 1800’s when a man by the name of Orville Gibson arrived in town and began designing his own innovative mandolins. By the early 1900’s, his company was also producing guitars and other stringed instruments and, throughout most of the next century, the Gibson Guitar Corporation grew to become the world’s premier guitar manufacturer. From 1917, that growth occurred at the historic 225 Parsons Street location, until 1984 when the company left Kalamazoo for good, closing the doors on the iconic factory.
Not long after, a few former senior employees had decided they wanted to continue the tradition of handcrafting beautiful, high quality electric guitars in Kalamazoo. By the spring of 1985, those individuals had acquired space at the former factory, purchased a lot of the old guitar-making equipment, and were ready to roll.
The first guitar Heritage introduced was the H-140 solid body single cutaway electric guitar, which premiered at the 1985 NAMM show in New Orleans. Over the years, Heritage has built a small array of various instruments, including banjos, mandolins, flat tops, and basses. However, with the demand for the guitars increasing, the company decided to focus exclusively on making the world’s greatest hollow, semi-hollow, and solid body electric guitars.
 

Renée Newman // Discover Kalamazoo

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Cara and Geoff found Kalamazoo is more than a great name.  Located in Southwest Michigan, about two hours from Chicago, Kalamazoo is one of those mid-sized urban gems, with an vital, eclectic downtown, but never far from lakes and outdoor recreation, homey festivals, and more.
Kalamazoo claims to have a big city mindset with a small town heart. Cara and Geoff agree.
 

Cara & Geoff Hit the Road

 

Geoff and Cara's tips on where to stay

After a long day on a bike, Geoff and Cara insist on comfort — all the necessities, a king suite, upscale linens and comforters, a jetted tub, an in-suite kitchen is a nice touch.  They said they also look for a heated indoor pool, a spa and onsite dining options (in case they're too tired to hit the town)

In Kalamazoo, the Radisson Plaza Hotel delivered on all, and Cara and Geoff were able to explore much of the city on foot from their downtown location.

Loews Chicago Hotel was equally impressive and (much to Cara's delight) had a Starbucks in the lobby. Located on the famed Magnificent Mile, it's close to big attractions like Millennium Park and the John Hancock Center.

The Ambassador Hotel's vintage marble floors, stylized polished nickel sconces, bronze elevator doors, and ornate plasterwork deliver one into authentic 1920’s grandeur, but with 21st century comforts.  Geoff and Cara gushed about this one.

269 Cool Things to Do in Area Code 269™

Want to know where to make your own wine, visit an alligator sanctuary, catch an independent film made by teenagers, or get the best, juiciest burger? 

269 Cool Things to Do in Area Code 269™ is a compilation of submissions from Kalamazoo residents and visitors as they share their favorite gems in (269)™

Since 2010, 269 Cool Things to Do in Area Code 269™ has been a yearly, curated bucket list of places to go, restaurants to try, and things to do for residents and visitors alike.
— discoverkalamazoo.com

Check out Native Traveler's full-length COLOMBIA show!

 
 

This week, Colombia's dramatic grassroots renaissance and language as a window to culture. Listen in...

(1.13 - Feature//Jodi Cash;  15:00 - kimkim//Tara Davis//Expedition Colombia;  34:00 - Puran Parsani//Babbel)

 

Puran Parsani // Babbel


Puran Parsani tells us about the world's first and best language-learning app.  Founded in 2007 and with more than a million active subscribers, Babbel is ranked the world’s #1 innovative company in education. Their courses are designed to deliver language skills you can use right away. Almost three quarters of users say they’d be able to have a short, simple conversation in their new language within five hours of using Babbel. We tried it—absolutely true.


THE ROMANIAN CHALLENGE

The premise is simple: four polyglots, armed with a handful of starter sentences and impressive backgrounds in linguistic achievement, try to learn Romanian in an hour. The results are pretty mind-boggling. Take a look!

7 MISTAKES ENGLISH SPEAKERS MAKE IN SPANISH

Making mistakes is part of the language learning process, but some mistakes are decidedly more embarrassing than others! Read on to learn how to avoid these seven common (and blush-worthy) errors the next time you try to impress someone with your Spanish skills.

3 WAYS YOU MISS OUT WHILE TRAVELING WHEN YOU DON'T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE

Not only can traveling in a country without speaking the language be ocassionally lonely and difficult, but you might be missing out on actual prizes by doing so! Watch the video attached to this article to see what we're talking about.

 

Jodi Cash

Our feature contributor is writer, editor, and photojournalist Jodi Cash. Jodi has worked for Tales of the Cocktail, Flagpole, Mother Nature Network, and Kinfolk. When she's not writing, she relishes life in Atlanta, Georgia and traveling elsewhere with her husband, Oak House frontman and guitarist Gresham Cash.

 

Tara Davis // Expedition Colombia

Expedition Colombia owners Tara Davis and her husband Jule Domine share a passion for rivers and wild places. Prior to teaching ESL in Medellín, Tara (a British Columbia native) had gone to university in Colorado and studied political science and environmental issues before going on to work for The Wilderness Society. Her focus was on strengthening the wild and scenic designation of Colorado’s rivers. Her connection to Colombia reaches back to stories told by her father who worked there with the National Geographic Society.

Prior to starting Expedition Colombia, Jules studied hydrology and has traveled to over 15 countries as a hydrologist and professional athlete in the sport of whitewater kayaking.
Throughout his travels, he realized he couldn’t go from one pristine river to the next before it was polluted or dammed. He decided to stay in Colombia and work to protect its rivers. Here remain some of the world’s last wild clean rivers and ecosystems, but more importantly, a community of resilient, resourceful, and warm people brave enough to stand up to protect them. As fate would have it, Jules and Tara fell in love with Colombia and each other.

Together, they now run Expedition Colombia, which they describe as "adventure with a purpose." More than a tourism company, they are a network of entrepreneurs and conservationists who know, care, celebrate, and protect Colombia’s ecosystems and cultures. In partnership with local communities, sustained by these natural environments, they welcome curious and conscious travelers to play an active role in Colombia’s positive and peaceful transformation.

 

kimkim

Huge thanks to kimkim for connecting us to Tara, Jules, and Expedition Colombia.

The founders of kimkim built some of the world's leading travel apps, including TripAdvisor, EveryTrail, and TrekkingPartners. They came together to use all this travel know-how to find a better way to plan and book travel using the help of a local expert.

I agree with them, travel planning is sometimes a painful experience—copious hours researching, too many choices. I love the notion of connecting directly to a local travel expert, someone who knows the destination well and offers curated travel advice according to my interests. And then, how delightfully old and new school, to have the entire trip put together and booked in one place?

The kimkim experts call this the future of travel—bringing the local expert back into trip planning. Apparently, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lonely Planet (and now Native Traveler) see some truth in this.

The Medellín You Won't See On Netflix

The Medellín You Won't See On Netflix

When I told my family that my husband and I were departing for a month in Medellín, Colombia, they were skeptical, to say the least. Like many North Americans, what they knew of the city was based on a blurry image of drug lords, guerrilla wars, and images of Pablo Escobar on magazines and television screens. The amorphous threat of danger in what was once the murder capital of the world still loomed large. 

But in the time since Don Pablo was finally killed on a Medellín rooftop as he tried to flee the authorities, things have been changing in the City of Eternal Spring. The heavy influence of cartels persisted for many years afterwards, to be sure, but after significant government intervention and, even more so, the will of the citizens to reclaim their beloved city, Medellín has begun to thrive.

Colombia’s Lost City

What is the lost city? 

The Lost City (Spanish: Ciudad Perdida) is an ancient city and sacred site of the Tayrona Civilization, which once carpeted the Caribbean coastal plain of Colombia and extended to the highest coastal mountain range on earth, the Sierra Nevadas of Santa Marta. Today, the Lost City remains one of the largest pre-Colombian towns discovered in all of the Americas.

 

Where is it?

Some 100 kilometres away from Santa Marta, Colombia—about a 3-hour drive or a 4-day trek from Santa Marta, the second oldest city in South America and the capital city of the department of Magdalena. To reach the lost city, you need to commit to a minimum 4-day trek on ancient trails that are carved into the mountain and jungles, crossing over rivers and waterfalls.

 

Who populated the ancient city?

The city dates back to 14th century, when it was populated by some 2,000 to 4,000 native Tayrona people and served as their biggest urban and commercial hub, spread over an area of 2 square kilometres.

The conquest of Colombia in the 16th century was delayed, but when it broke out it was particularly violent, and the indigenous Kogi (descendants of the Tayrona) fled up to the lush jungle of the Sierra Nevada mountains. They were miraculously left out of sight, out of mind, so they continued to follow their ritual practices. (Other indigenous peoples in the same general area include the Arhuaco and Wiwa people, but it is not thought that they lived in the Lost City.)

In 1970, a local man stumbled upon the city during his grave-robbing expedition. For about a decade, the Lost City, which at the time was referred to as Infierno Verde ("Green Hell"), was a site of fighting between the grave-robbers (Spanish: quaqueros) until the government finally allocated resources to protect and excavate the site.

 

Did indigenous traditions and values vanish with the disappearance of the Tayrona civilization and the Lost City?

No. Descendants of the Tayrona, Arhuaco, and Kogi people are still ruled by ritual priesthood. They believe the ecological well-being of the planet is in their hands and that their prayers maintain the cosmic balance of the universe.

Arhuaco and Kogis consider themselves to be the elder brothers—they have a moral and ethical responsibility to educate us, “the younger brother,” and they want to do so. They speak fluently in Spanish and in their own languages to articulate with elegance how the rest of the world needs to get our act together and care for the planet.

In Colombia, they’ve emerged as a symbol of continuity and hope. The last five Colombian presidents have visited the Arhuaco communities via helicopter to get their blessing. The point is not going to the Lost City—it is to connect to its surrounding indigenous cultures.

In 1974, my father did research alongside indigenous people in these communities, so our home was often the unofficial embassy in D.C. for the Arhuacos. Working with indigenous groups is delicate because their villages aren’t a theme park or zoo—you want to make sure the people driving and controlling tourism into these communities are the communities themselves, and that decisions are being made by leaders in these communities.

Now we are in the process of working closely with such communities—we have been in key consultations with leaders and we are developing these relationships within the context of tourism.

Based on my father’s long-term relationships with these communities and his book One River, an autobiographical botanical exploration of Colombia, Expedition Colombia is uniquely positioned and uniquely sensitive to the needs of indigenous communities.

We also have had the honor of befriending a very wonderful family who started the aquarium in Santa Marta and have close ties with Arhuaco communities there. My band had the chance to sing songs for an Arhuaco community on the coast, so they nicknamed me Agua Dulce ("sweet water").

 

How do you actually get to the Lost City?

The trail to and from the Lost City runs along the same path, weaving through the thick jungle of the Sierra Nevada mountains and covering a total distance of just over 45 kilometres as the crow flies, or over 75 kilometres if you account for all of the ups and downs. The distance is usually covered in four days, but there are officially three options for the trek.

The 4-Day Trek option includes two and a half days of trekking to get to the Lost City and one and a half days to get back. There is also a 5-Day Trek option, which breaks up the return journey by splitting up the fourth day of hiking into two shorter days. There is also a 6-Day Trek option, which breaks up the second day (the longest and most exhausting) into two days.

 

When is the best time to visit?

The dry season runs from December through to early March and the rainy season from March to November. Treks to the Lost City are offered year round, but if you have a chance to choose when to trek, go in the dry season.