Archive for the ‘North America’ Category


Thomas Jefferson was a scientist, philosopher, statesman, architect, naturalist, musician, naturalist, zoologist, botanist, farmer, bibliophile, inventor, wine connoisseur, mathematician and and……

Maira Kalman illustrates a visit to Monticello in The New York Times and we think it’s perfect. Happy Independence Day.

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Chahlstun,” you’d say if you were speaking like a native. We’re heading down to this languorous antique of South Carolina on our cruise of America’s Historic Atlantic Shores, in late September of this year, and in May and October of 2010, and just in the nick of time Forbes.com has a delightful piece on the changes and continuity seen in the city where the Civil War began.

“Come Hell or High Water” – that’s the title of a great book on Charleston my dad (born in Georgetown, halfway up the coast between Charleston and Pawley’s Island) had on his bookshelf; and that’s the way it goes when you live in Hurricane Alley. 1989’s Hurricane Hugo blasted through the town, leaving in its wake “a degree of devastation unprecedented in anybody’s living memory,” according to Charleston’s once and present mayor, Joseph P. Riley, Jr. But, as Forbes reports,

“…what came in Hugo’s aftermath was a surge of investment and prosperity that has washed over Charleston and left it sparkling in the Low Country sun.

The city that once liked to say it was “too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash” has reclaimed its magnificent downtown; inaugurated a nearly year-round slate of tours, exhibitions, and festivals (including the 17-day culture party, the Spoleto Festival); spawned a culinary awakening; and erected a new signature structure, the sail-like Arthur Ravenel, Jr., Bridge. Oh, and ponied up for the paint–lots and lots of paint. Charleston is more fun now than it has been since the predawn fireworks show of April 12, 1861, when P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter. You might even say the city has been transformed. Sort of.

“That’s true!” she answered. “But, well…not true. For instance, I can look at the bird’s-eye map of Charleston from 1850 on my office wall and still recognize every street. I could use it today to get around town.”

That’s Charleston for you: The place, to put it mildly, is not afflicted with the amnesia effects of American Progress. Around here, the new must always accommodate itself to the stubborn tenacity of what came before. It was Charleston where Oscar Wilde claimed he had complimented the moonrise over the harbor only to be told, “You should have seen it before the war!”

This is a city famously marinating in self-regard. The old wheeze about Charleston being located “where the Ashley and Cooper rivers join up to form the Atlantic Ocean”–you will not leave town without hearing it–is meant to be taken as self-deprecating: See, we can joke about thinking we are the center of the universe. The subtext: Actually, that is exactly what we think.

Here are a few of the American “firsts” claimed by Charlestonians during my visit: first historic district, municipal college, country club, golf course, water buffalo, fireproof building. Charlestonians have convinced themselves that they invented the cocktail party, too. Perhaps it’s just that parties elsewhere didn’t count.

Read more of this really entertaining article that definitely captures the spirit of Charleston, SC.

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RoyalOntarioMuseumIf you’re heading to Toronto this summer, The Washington Post has thoughtfully written up a number of good restaurants in the Yorkville neighborhood, around the Royal Ontario Museum – designed by Daniel Libeskind. Libeskind’s tetrahedric design works perfectly for the museum’s restaurant, C5.

“Chef Ted Corrado, who has the boyish looks of a teen pop star, sources local products at C5 to produce a limited yet sublime menu on which the ethnic flavors of Toronto shine through his studied technique. Offerings change with the seasons, but recent choices included porcini papardelle with white anchovy and paquillo peppers, and rack of wild boar with eggplant cream, baby leeks and litchi. On a budget? Order a cocktail and an appetizer, and savor the city view through the enormous tilted windows.”

Read more from The Washington Post.

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This is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Off Mackinaw City, in a particularly cold winter, the water in Lake Huron below the surface ice supercooled. It expanded to break through the surface ice and froze into this incredible wave (courtesy codgy.com).




We sail to the Great Lakes during the summertime, so no frozen waves for us (thankfully!). Normally, to see anything remotely like this, you have to go to Antarctica.

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It sounds like a prehistoric epic, made into a Hollywood movie. Nearly 10,000 years ago, the bottom of Lake Huron was dry land. Stone-Age hunters stalked herds of caribou here.

How do we know this? NewScientist.com tells us:

Scientists sonar-imaged the floor of Lake Huron and found snaking human-built structures. John O’Shea and Guy Meadows of the University of Michigan say that when the huge Laurentide ice sheet melted and flooded the basin, it potentially preserved intact Native American sites – which are rare in the Great Lakes region.

The sonar images reveal a rocky topography with cliffs and dead-ends that would have been ideal for posting lookouts and ambushing migrating caribou.

The scans also show some structures which the two scientists believe are human-made. A line of large rocks, sometimes arranged one upon the other, form a long parapet. At the end of the parapet are boulders, seemingly pushed together into several piles.

Now, these rock arrangements – they look remarkably similar to the hunting drives and blinds that Inuits currently use – and have used – in the Canadian Arctic for hundreds of years. The parapet, or “drive”, helps guide the animals towards archers hiding behind the groups of boulders, or “hunting blinds”. It’s an amazing find of native North American cultural continuity. There’s more here.

This is the sort of discovery we at Travel Dynamics International really like. That’s why we’ve invited Scott Demel, a Great Lakes archaeologist with Chicago’s Field Museum, to join us on our Great Lakes cruise from July 18-25. He’s extensively researched the Archaic prehistory of the Great Lakes region (9,000-2,500 years ago), a really fascinating epoch: the Laurentide ice sheet melted about 8,000 years ago, creating the Great Lakes.

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Taberna del Alabardero's skin-on, pan-seared monkfish

On the August 22-29, 2009 edition of our classic Great Lakes cruise, we’ve got a real treat in store for you: Dani Arana, Executive Chef of the Taberna del Alabardero, will be your personal guest chef, offering special meals, wine tastings and master classes.

When the Taberna del Alabardero opened its doors in 1989, The New York Times lauded the restaurant for “…finally bringing a sophisticated Spanish kitchen to the nation’s capital.” Designated as “The Best Spanish Restaurant Outside of Spain” by the Spanish Government, the Taberna del Alabardero was recently described by The Washingtonian as one of the “100 Very Best Restaurants”:

Alabardero's paella for purists

Alabardero's paella for purists

“The food, drawn from or inspired by Spain’s regional cuisines, is so vibrant and robust you’ll think you were sitting down to lunch in the Spanish countryside.

Flavors run deep in a plate of squid steeped in a thick black squid-ink sauce, in zurrukutuna, a garlicky Basque soup, and in pork belly with its fat seared wonderfully crisp. Paella purists will stick with the classic seafood version, but two other combos worth trying are the rusticky chicken-and-chorizo and the unusual baby-back-rib-and-scallion. Other notable choices are veal sweetbreads with spinach and pine nuts and a caramel cream custard with caramel ice cream.”

A native of Huelva, Spain, Chef Arana began cooking for his family while still a boy, receiving his formal

Chef Dani Arana

Chef Dani Arana

training at the Escuela de Hosteleria de Sevilla. While at school he completed an externship at Mugaritz, consistently rated one of the top restaurants in the world. After school he began as the sous chef at the Michelin starred Café de Oriente in Madrid, then moved up to the position of chef.

Chef Arana moved to the United States in 2008 and became executive chef at Taberna del Alabardero.

Travel Dynamics International’s classic Great Lakes cruise between Toronto, Canada and Duluth, Minnesota features the Ojibwe Native American community of Manitoulin Island, Michigan’s historic Mackinac Island, and the rugged Keweenaw Peninsula – and transits the seven locks of the Welland Canal which links Lake Ontario to Lake Erie.

The cruises, which operate throughout the summer (though you can enjoy Chef Arana’s splendid Spanish  cuisine only on the August 22-29 departure), are aboard Clelia II, which recently completed a million-dollar refurbishment. It’s a luxurious all-suite cruise ship for just 100 guests. Renowned for its spaciousness, beautiful design, and impeccable service, Clelia II offers travelers an intimate ambiance akin to a private club.

For more information about the Great Lakes cruise with Chef Dani Arana or to make a reservation, please call Amalia Ciprijan toll-free at 1-800-257-5767, extension 511.

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PBS’s fantastic series “Antiques Roadshow” is all about learning about the hidden treasures in your attic, and valuing them to their fullest. Travel Dynamics International and “Antiques Roadshow” have something in common. Our attic is the world, and we like to rediscover lost places of special worth. Join us on two special “Antiques Roadshow” cruises: The Great Lakes, from August 29-September 5, 2009; or the Classical World, October 7-17, 2009. Enjoy seeing, and participating in, something of great pleasure and worth.

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Now at Travel Dynamics International, for remarkably discounted rates, you can:

Voyage into the classical world with antiquities experts from Antiques Roadshow. Enjoy an epic cruise down the entire Pacific coast of South America, from the Panama Canal to Ushuaia. Explore the lives of famous women of antiquity. Take a once-in-a-lifetime repositioning cruise from Morocco to Patagonia, following the route of Magellan. Continue in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton with Peter Hillary, son of the first man to ascend Everest. Cruise the Falklands and South Georgia in the far southern Atlantic en route to Cape Town, South Africa. Discover South America from the Amazon to Uruguay. Take an astounding voyage along the entire Atlantic coast of Africa. Sail from coastal Brazil into the depths of the Peruvian Amazon. Or perhaps the Orinoco and Amazon, with the beaches of Trinidad? Delve into the rich cultures of the Western Mediterranean from Seville to Venice. Circumnavigate Newfoundland. Or cruise up the entire Atlantic coast of North America, from Palm Beach to the Canadian maritimes? Listen to exquisite music, and enjoy top-chef Mediterranean cuisine, from Seville to Naples.

The epic journeys you’ve been waiting for, available now for less.

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In addition to everything else, the Great Lakes are also home to some of the most interesting little critters on the planet.

You may have heard of extremophiles. They’re the microscopic organisms living in places that, by rights, should be off-limits to any living thing: volcanic vents, super-cold environments, whacked-out reaches in the upper atmosphere where O2 is at a premium, but you can get crazy-deadly cosmic rays by the wholesale.

Turns out, the Great Lakes has ’em by the bucketload. 60 feet down, in these FRESHWATER LAKES, researchers have discovered sinkholes – over 300 feet across – filled with BRINY WATER. This, you might think, is slightly odd. Turns out, groundwater is rising through the bedrock into the lake, dissolving minerals in the bedrock. The bedrock is actually an ancient seabed more than 400 million years old. And in these briny holes, microscopic bacterial colonies are thriving.

These bacterial colonies – brilliant purple cyanobacteria – are close relatives to other colonies found living among the “black smokers” in the deep ocean, as well as bacterial colonies found in submerged Antarctic glacial lakes.

Read more here.

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mackinawislandWe’ve just had two days of early Spring here in New York, and that gets me thinking about summer. It’s been a tricky winter, right? But it’s all for the good – I think we’re all taking stock, figuring out the best way to live our lives, rather than the most. Spend time with family, make friends, and try to have interesting experiences.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty positive. I’m looking at this country with different eyes: I’m proud of us, of what we’ve done, and what we have yet to do. I’ve traveled around a lot, and spent a long time in Europe – I’ve seen a lot of the world, not even considering that I’ve neglected, that we’ve neglected, America itself. “I’ve come to look for America,” Simon & Garfunkel sang, but if you’re like me you’d like a little more comfort than the backpack-and-Greyhound way of doing things.

This summer, we’re going to start running a wonderful small ship, the Clelia II, through the Great Lakes. Now, normally I like my trips a bit more exotic. But when I saw the rocky coasts of Lake Superior, the wave-washed lighthouses and the wooded forests along the coasts, I kept thinking: wouldn’t this be nice? One time, I spent July 4th on a sailboat anchored in Lake Michigan. The scent of the fresh water made me feel alert and alive. My fiancée reminisces about childhood summers spent at a beach-house on the Upper Peninsula. It was really idyllic, and so traditionally American, in the best sense, that I wanted to discover more.

Once upon a time, we used to spend our summers this way, cruising the Great Lakes. Fifty years later, we get to do it again. I hope you enjoy this song, below, by way of introduction. I think it sets the scene nicely.

So welcome aboard. Make yourself at home. You’ll have friends here, and we’ll take it easy, while discovering a place we’ve never known before – our own back yard.

PS – TDI Radio’s got some great new tracks from the Great Lakes. Listen in.

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