John’s Articles

Tongjing Hot Springs Resort – a Three Gorges diversion on the Yangtze River in China

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo.

Travelers to China often tour to Beijing (one of the oldest cities in the world; the Great Wall), Xi’an (Terracotta warriors), Chongqing (Three Gorge Yangtze Cruise) and Shanghai (The Bund), but they usually miss the hidden beauty of a rest-stop resort located just outside Chongqing city. Well known to locals for centuries in the Ba-Yu region as Wuling Wonderland, Tongjing Hot Springs Resort is an award winning hot springs spa resort. Located about a half hour drive (30km/19 miles ) from the Chongqing Jiangbei International airport (CKG) near the confluence of the Yangtze and Yulin rivers, the natural hot springs and mountainous landscape of the “Small Three Gorges” are a treat for the senses and especially the tired-traveler-body. My wife and I stopped there for a little overnight restorative jetlag R&R after the long flight from the US West Coast (13 hrs.) and before a Three Gorges Yangtze River tour.

 

Yucatán immersion cruise: culture, history, archeology and cuisine.

Yucatán immersion cruise: culture, history, archeology and cuisine,Tulum Castillo, Yucatan immersion cruise, Tulum, Quintanaroo, MexicoStory and Photos by John Sundsmo.

Taking a page from Anthony Bourdain: “Travel is not reward for working, it’s education for living.” For me, who had never visited the Yucatán, my notions of luxury beach resorts or dense jungles filled with vine-encrusted Mayan pyramids and relics of lost civilizations needed some travel-education. As I found out, neither notion was completely correct and there is a lot more than just archeology and beaches in the Yucatán. My wife and I opted for a wide-ranging Yucatán immersion cruise-safari offered by Victory cruise line. Our Yucatán outreach safari took us from the Caribbean in the east across the full width of the Yucatán peninsula to the Gulf of Mexico in the west.

 

Road to Machu Picchu: Ollantaytambo to Aquas Calientes

The Andes, Ollantaytambo, Peru, The Road to Machu Picchu, Cusco region, Peru
The Andes, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo.

This is the third article in a series entitled “Road to Machu Picchu.” My wife and I thought our visit to Peru was a once in a lifetime experience but the experience may have changed our minds. We began our visit to the Inca Sacred Valley in Cusco. While there, we went to the COSITUC main office  and obtained tourist tickets to all 16 archaeologic sites and museums including the ticket needed to gain entrance to Machu Picchu. In the first article (Cusco to Pisac – Part One) we talked about our drive from Cusco through Chincero and Urubamba, to reach our destination for the night in Pisac. In Part Two we experienced the high Andes culture in Pisac’s Sunday market and explored the Inca Intihuatana and gateway to the Amazon at Kantas Ray. In this final article I cover our journey by car to Ollantaytambo and from there by train to Aquas Calientes which lies in the river valley directly below Machu Picchu. It is the departure point for buses to Machu Picchu.

 

Road to Machu Picchu: Pisac in Highlands Peru

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo.

Our journey into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, on the road to Machu Picchu, began in Cusco and, with our driver, my wife and I stopped to experience the Thursday market in Chincero and the Ceramica Seminario in Urubamba before finally reaching our destination for the night in Pisac (Cusco to Pisac – Part One.)  As we approached Pisac, we thought it was late in the afternoon, but after checking into the hotel we discovered that the long days in the Southern latitudes had fooled us: instead of 5 PM it was close to 8:30 PM. Hurrying, we found the hotel restaurant still open, but with the ovens already extinguished the choices from the grill were limited.

Croatia Island Cruise in the Adriatic Sea

Katerina Lines Futura, Dalmatian Island cruise, Croatia, Aegean Sea
Katerina Lines Futura

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo.

There are more than a thousand Croatian islands in the Adriatic sea” our Katarina Line cruise director told us, “but we only have time to visit Korčula, Hvar and Brac. For more, you have to come back.” By the end of our short four night cruise, that is exactly what my wife and I hope to do – and hopefully soon. Spectacular white clouds filled the sky. Tranquil turquoise ocean water welcomed swimmers. Sparkling sandy beaches lured sun-bathers. Ancient Venetian forts and old cities with narrow cobblestone lanes beckoned walkers. Fine dining, fresh seafood and wonderful Plavac Mali; (Croatian pronunciation- [plǎːʋat͡s mǎli]), red, and Pošip, white, wines tickled and warmed the palate – what’s not to like?

 

Croatian Wine Tasting in the Dalmatian Islands

Croatian Wine, Croatian Wine, Croatian Wine Tasting in the Dalmatian Islands, Venetian fort, Hvar town, Hvar Island, Croatia
Venetian fort, Hvar

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo.

On a recent Katarina Line cruise of Croatian discovery, we learned that wine makers in the Dalmatian Islands have left an indelible mark on the fine wines produced in California, Australia, New Zealand and Chile. Remarkably, throughout wars, conquest and droughts, the islands of the Adriatic Sea, (East of Italy and South of the Alps), have produced fine wines for 2,500 years. Galleys and sailing ships transported that wine up and down the Mediterranean throughout Greek (500BC) and Roman times well into the 14th century. Greek writer Athenaeus wrote 18 centuries ago about the high quality of Croatian wine especially those coming from the islands of Hvar and Korčula.

 

Cusco to Pisac in the Sacred Valley of the Incas

Sacred Valley of the Inca, Chincero, Peru
Sacred Valley of the Inca

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo

In Cusco, Peru (elevation 11,152 ft.): As we walked into the hotel lobby, Javier, the manager, greeted us in excellent English, “how was your flight from Lima?” I answered, “Fine, just a few bumps and an amazing view as we landed.” “Yes, the valley is beautiful this time of year but a month ago everything was very green. The view from our rooftop garden is very good. Will you have some tea? We recommend a special tea to help with the altitude.” My wife asked, “what’s in it” thinking it might be caffeinated. “Just coca leaves to help with the altitude sickness.” My scientist brain was quickly thinking, how much cocaine might be in coca leaves and how it might affect me. “Sure, I’ll try it.”…..

 

Icelandic Viking Democracy – “Althings” (AlϷings) at Ϸingvellir

Lake Ϸingvallavatn, Ϸingvellir, Iceland

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo

As an American I never really investigated my Swedish/Norwegian/UK heritage. That all changed after a spur of the moment decision to fly to Iceland for a week. My pre-trip research told me that Iceland was colonized about 870 AD by Ingólfr Arnason, a Viking from Norway. Why I wondered, would a family uproot itself from a stable comfortable home and set out on a 900 mile voyage in an open boat to a land of ice and snow. As a child of the nuclear-holocaust-be-prepared-60s, I always wondered what tools it would take to survive in a hostile world.

 

Old Harbor Reykjavik and its Maritime Heritage

maritime heritage, Old Harbor Reykjavik, Iceland, wooden fishing boat, harbor

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo

As our plane came in for a landing at Reykjavik Keflavik International Airport on Iceland I looked out over the rocky volcanic landscape onto the unforgiving North Atlantic Ocean. From my reading of Iceland’s maritime heritage, I knew Icelanders fished year round. As a sailor I knew that a man overboard in winter had about ten minutes before losing consciousness. Having taken a fair number of risks on the water myself, I wondered what it would take to get me out in January or February aboard a frail wood Icelandic boat. Sitting comfortably in my warm airline seat, I realized only one thing – survival.

 

Greek Wines from Sonoma

Georgos greek wine captures the spirit of wines produced on the island of Santorini, Greece

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo

A memorable few years ago my wife and I visited the Greek islands of Santorini and Paros. There we encountered some unique and equally memorable ancient varieties of Greek wines.

 

 

 

Willits Whistlestop Weekend

Willits The Heart of Mendocino County California; sign given to the city by Reno, NV

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo

You’re moving where? – Willits – where’s that?,” my museum guide, Dirk, told me his personal story as he shuffled me around the County Museum and Roots of Motive Power exhibits and gave me a thumbnail history. It seems Dirk’s friends in Santa Rosa didn’t understand his decision to up and move to Willits more than 25 years ago, nor did they, or I, really appreciate what that quiet, friendly little Mendocino County town has to offer.  I learned from Dirk that Willits, in the early 1900s, was a whistle stop on the Northwestern Pacific railroad line. The trains started with a railroad ferry from the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco and steamed north to Sausalito to join with rails that ended hundreds of miles away in the booming lumber town of Eureka.

 

Road to Death Valley Meditation

Panamint Valley on the road to Death Valley Meditation

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo

Symbolic of new beginnings and new life, wild flowers are just beginning to be seen in the deserts of California. While experts don’t expect another super-bloom like 2016, the heavy winter rains will undoubtedly bring abundance of color late into April. No place is more emblematic of life resurrected than Death Valley where blooms are already showing in the southern regions of the national park. To dodge the wild flower traffic, my wife and I visited the park in December and collected some tips.

 

 

Find Your Happy in Mendocino County

Find Your Happy in Mendocino County, sssh, the wine is talking in Mendocino County, California, Taste of Mendocino County

By John Sundsmo.

The catchy logo of Mendocino County, “Find Your Happy,” was on display at the recent Taste of Mendocino  held at San Francisco’s Fort Mason. With vintners, fresh press olive oils, craft whiskey, goat cheeses, gourmet appetizers, coffee and luxurious resorts all competing for my attention, I soon found myself feeling quite happy. The venue provided a good opportunity to review some fine Mendocino County wines and upcoming events. In the interest of sharing the Mendocino “Happy” vibe, what follows is a list of some Taste of Mendocino participants (with links), along with wine tasting destinations and a short calendar of upcoming events in Mendocino County.  Hopefully, with the following tips, you too will “Find your Happy in Mendocino County.”

 

Exploring the Cheshire Ring Canals

Cheshire Ring Canals, Exploring the Cheshire Ring Canals, Cruising the Cheshire Ring Canals, Cheshire, UK

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo

Exploring the Cheshire Ring Canals: “Wheer yo’ fro’?” said the man in tweed as he and his spaniel blocked my canal path.  Quickly twisting the words in my mind, I deduced he either properly identified me as a foreigner or he thought I was a local and wondered where I was walking from.  Taking the last first, I answered “Bugsworth Basin.”  Now he had me, my California through-the-nose accent was a dead giveaway.  “American are you?”  now in proper English.  “And you are from Lancashire,?”  I said.Aw’r (I were) but now I live here near Disley.”…

 

Caribbean Cruising

Caribbean cruise, Holland America Lines Half Moon Cay island in the Bahamas, Caribbean visited from the ship ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo

“Welcome to Half Moon Cay population 45, five miles long and 2.5 wide” our Bahamian nature guide said. As she led our small group off the sandy road into the island’s dense shady vegetation, we had periodic glimpses of white sand beaches, lagoons and our cruise ship lying offshore. Walking in the balmy warm weather, we knew we’d made the right decision….

 

Napa Valley’s Liana Estates Opens

Napa Liana

Story by Lee Daley with Photos by John Sundsmo and Lee Daley

Napa Valley’s Carneros AVA adds another winery to its map with the opening of Liana Estates. The winery fulfils a long cherished dream of its founders, Lisa and Ariana Peju of the Peju Province Winery family. Liana Estates is an experience-focused winery providing visitors with immersive experiences that embrace each of the five senses. The focus will be on offering an ever-changing selection of high-quality wines and bubbly while connecting visitors to the breathtaking scenery of Napa Valley and San Pablo Bay. This fall, several immersive experiences will include wellness activities like yoga, culinary classes and chef-centric vineyard dinners paired with wine selections. While these experiences are growing in popularity in Wine Country, Liana is eager to offer guests unique all-inclusive experiences that both stimulate and soothe the senses.

 

Cuba Libre? Documentary on Cuba Travel History

Che Guevara Mural, Revolution Square, Havana, Cuba, fifties cars

Story by John Sundsmo with Photos by Lee Daley

In Cuba Libre? filmmaker Dick Jordan uses archival film footage and interviews with five travel journalists to re-introduce Cuba travel to American audiences.  Presented at local venues in the San Francisco Bay Area, the film is also currently posted on You Tube and Vimeo.  See links in the article.

 

 

 

 

 

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