July 25, 2009


I am very lucky to be able to scribble blog posts for Intelligent Travel, the blog wing of National Geographic Traveler. Yesterday, they published a bit that I wrote about one of my favorite villages in Quebec: L'Anse-Saint-Jean (you can read it here). I was there at the end of last summer and was touched by what a sleepy, little place it was. The things I remember the most are the architecture--traditional, Quebecois houses showing strong Breton influence--as well as the food--all of it so fresh and local: trout, blueberries, and lots of local cheese. I spent most of my time there walking in the fields, staring out at the Saguenay fjord and enjoying the town, meeting many of the fascinating people who live there. I always love having a moment in a small town--perhaps because I grew up in a small town. Anyway, I don't know if I'll ever make it back to L'Anse-Saint-Jean but I'm glad that I was there for at least two days of my life.

July 21, 2009

The Future of Travel Writing

So I've caved in and entered this online contest for a blogging gig to Antarctica. The continent is kind of an obsession for me and thus far, all other attempts have failed. I'm fully aware that this time it's just a big online marketing campaign. I accept that I racking up HUGE Spam Karma by campaigning online, alas here's my first stab at viral video. Watch it and spread it like swine flu.

July 17, 2009

Andrew's BEST OF 2009

July is that month when all the travel mags start unrolling their red carpets and donning out prizes. Perhaps summer is a slow news month, perhaps people are in the midst of making plans and payments for vacations present and future. Whatever the case, and despite my repulsion of rating travel and making lists, I am compiling my own--for my own sake and for any out there who may be curious. Contrary to real magazines that claim to have surveyed thousands of customers and applied reliable quantitative methods, my list is 100% personal and subjective. I've compiled my judgments based on my own experiences of the past 12 months; "NEW" denotes new for me. So here's my list (Links included where applicable):

  • Best New Country: MALDIVES
  • Best New City: Valparaiso, CHILE
  • Best Small Town: L'Anse St. Jean, QC, CANADA
  • Best Island: Grimsey, ICELAND
  • Best Shopping: Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA
  • Best Suntan: Kalahari Desert, BOTSWANA
  • Best New Art Museum: Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, USA
  • Best Guided Tour: Cardiff Castle, Cardiff, WALES
  • Best Nightlife: Reykjavik, ICELAND
  • Best-looking natives: INDIA & ARGENTINA (impossible tie)
  • Best telephone customer service: ZipCar, USA
  • Best Hotel Staff: &Beyond, worldwide
  • Best Waitstaff: CityZen, Washington, DC, USA
  • Best Wi-Fi: anywhere in DENMARK
  • Best Border Guards: Canadian Immigration, Trudeau International Airport, Montreal, QC, CANADA
  • Longest nonstop flight: Johannesburg, South Africa to Washington, DC, USA (18 hours)
  • Most expensive manicure: $60
  • Longest wait for baggage claim: London Heathrow Terminal 4 (1 hour 20 minutes).
  • Longest layover: Dubai, UAE (8 hours)
  • Most lost luggage: American Airlines, USA
  • Closest near death experience: zip-lining, Argentine Military Base, Igauzu, ARGENTINA

July 14, 2009

Antarctica or BUST!

I could write a book about all my failed attempts at getting to Antarctica. Let's just say that I've made more attempts than Shackleton. After grant applications, trying to talk myself onto science boats, applying for odd jobs on remote US bases and the like, I'm making an eager attempt to be sent as an official blogger for Quark Expeditions.

The contest is simple: he who gets the most online votes wins. Vote for me here:


You must register first, which takes a minute. Also, due to the viral nature of this marketing ploy, I invite you to send out and/or repost my entry far and wide. I'm gonna need thousands of votes to win this thing.

Thanks to all of you who helped me kick off this first day of voting. I look forward to making this dream come true in the next two months.

July 8, 2009

Place of Birth

I'm from Texas. It's where I was born and where half of my family lives today. I also spent most of my life elsewhere--in Ohio, in Utah, Washington, DC and nearly a decade in Europe. American identities are generally so fluid but something about Texas is different. Perhaps it seems I spend all my time traveling outside America and focusing on the exotic elsewhere, but for me, Texas is always an adventure. This past week I've been home, catching up with family from Houston to Tyler and trying to stay alive in the 103 degree heat. I had some darn good Tex-Mex, counted about 50 barns painted with the Texas flag and enjoyed the still beauty of the green pin oaks. I even saw a longhorn steer in a scrubby suburban field and on the plane home, I sat next to two card-carrying members of the DaRT (Daughters of the Republic of Texas) who invited me to come help them paint the Alamo next month.

Having just finished a big project on Wales and my Welsh heritage, it was nice to go back to the land of my birth certificate and reconnect with a different side of the self. I don't know how qualified I am to be counted as a Texan--being born there, having a driver's license and voting there off and on is probably not enough--but regardless, I do wave the Texas flag alongside all the others that I love and claim it as one of my homes. I like the kind people there, the open space, the mighty sense of frontier in the midst of frightful post-modern sprawl and that cocksure superiority complex thing they have going on. Could I ever live there again? It's too big to say. I've been snowbound in Amarillo and sunburned in Corpus Christi in the same month of the year--I think that's my answer. Still, no matter where I roam, every border guard and hotel receptionist should see those two great letters--TX--and know what it means. Don't mess . . .