Zachary Moses is Man About World’s Newest Correspondent

Zacahry Moses

Zachary Moses, our Director of Marketing & Adventure Tour Development was recently invited to become the newest Global Correspondent for the online “Man About World” magazine. You can read more about it by clicking here!

Previously Zachary was recognized by Travel Agent Magazine as one of the top 30 young travel professionals in the country, and currently works as a Travel Writer, Marketing Director and Tour Developer for HE Travel, the world’s largest and most prestigious land-based gay tour operator that brings together the heritage of Hanns Ebensten Travel and Alyson Adventures.

Zachary has also been recognized by the NTA (National Tour Association) for his fresh marketing ideas, and was selected to serve on a panel of young professionals who are working together to further the success of this important travel industry association. Zachary also writes a column called “Man About Town” in Q Magazine about inbound gay travel to Key West, Florida. He thrives on reaching out to a diverse audience to offer insights about gay travel, gay lifestyles and gay adventures, both close to home and around the world.

Need help figuring out your next gay travel destination? Going on a gay honeymoon, and looking for the best gay vacation package? Traveling solo and looking for a congenial group? Give HE Travel a call at 800.825.9766 and tell them Zach sent you!

“Man About World” magazine is a new digital gay travel magazine published for the iPad. iPad users can download “Man About World” magazine from the Apple App Store.

Posted in Alyson Adventures, Essays, Florida Keys & Key West, HE Travel, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Writings, Zachary Moses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amazon Woman: Creation of a New Adventure in the Jungle of Peru (Part 3)

This is Part 3 in a series. Click to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Day 4: Birding, Fishing, Hiking, and Daring each other to eat things we found in the Amazon Rainforest

We met at 4am and went down to the dock for a birding expedition. The morning was misty and cool and the river was eerie.

4-misty boat blog

We left behind the lights of the lodge and saw the long drooping nests of Oropendola birds and heard their beautiful calls, which sound something like electronic water droplets. I couldn’t get good audio on my camera, but I found a video on youtube, on which the bird calls are pretty close to the kind we heard. We saw a sloth high in a tree (photo courtesy of Myron’s zoom lens). No matter how long we watched, it never went very far.

4-dawn collage blog

We came back to the lodge for breakfast. Here are two of my favorite regional foods: Juanes (chicken and rice wrapped in bijau leaves) and Granadilla, a type of passionfruit.

4-typical breakfast blog

Michael shot this photo of a cute (in a bedraggled sort of way), little love-dog who lives near the lodge. His name is Soco Troco, which someone told us means Underbite. He sat snuggled up to my knee while folks booted up for today’s jungle hike. I loved the friendly little dogs of Peru!

4-soco troco blog

After a leisurely boat ride, we came to our hiking destination, where we all hopped off the boat:

4-fishing excursion blog

And were greeted by another (arguably) ADORABLE dog, a Peruvian hairless that I wanted to keep! My friends will recognize me in this photo, even though they can’t see my face, because I can always be found talking into dogs’ faces exactly like this.

4-hairless dog blog

This area of the jungle was hilly, with some different vegetation from what we saw yesterday.

4-hike sara roots blog

And frogs disguised as leaves.

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Michael dared me to hold a spider carcass (which I didn’t), so I dared him to eat it (which he didn’t, because he’s a chicken).

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Our guide cut a vine for us to drink the clear liquid inside. Most of us were brave enough for that. It tasted like coconut water and was very refreshing! We came across a huge rope swing, and took turns getting pushed out over the hillside and giggling like children.

4-rope swing blog

After the hike, we went piranha fishing, which, like all fishing everywhere, turned into this:

4-fishing blog

In the afternoon, we took another muddy hike, closer to the lodge, to visit a healer who distills medicines from local plants. Here our guide Nixon shows us a few species. We sampled an aphrodisiac liquor, and Scott tried to steal the whole bottle, but the medicine man was too savvy.

4-medicine plants-photo by MV blog

Michael got a picture of the local boys playing soccer.

4-soccer blog

At dusk, the lodge owner turned on the waterslide, and we had dangerous fun. Like going down backwards, upside down, and as a train, even after the sun went down. This was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time.

We were tired tonight, but nobody quite wanted to go to bed after dinner, so we spent our last night in Peru playing Sapo, a national pastime!

4-sapo blog

Day 5: Seeing the Mighty Amazon River (and a pink dolphin!)

After breakfast we turned in our boots:

5-hike boots blog

And embarked upon our boat ride out of La Selva. During our time in Iquitos and deeper in the rainforest, we saw so much boat traffic on the river (some carrying barrels, produce, and families; taxis; little kids; and even boats that seemed impossibly small).

4-boats collage blog

We motored out to the point where Rio Momon joins the Huge Amazon (you can see the color difference here). We were thrilled to spot a pink river dolphin (which are rare in this area of heavy boat traffic), but I didn’t manage to get a picture.

5-amazon blog

What an amazing trip. HE Travel is putting together a tour through the Amazon Rainforest and will invite you next time we go!! Here’s a picture of our fun and funny group, on the beach at the zoo near Iquitos. Thanks for a wonderful trip everyone!

5-group blog

Back (L-R): Scott (HE Travel’s Director of Client Services), Myron, Sara (author), Carlos, Michael, and Eldon. Seated: Estela, Kuniko, Betty, and Sara. In front: Jovana, Claudio, and Fiorella

A note for those bringing back a blowgun from Peru…Put it in Michael’s checked bag. Make him explain it to the Customs Agent. He’ll need a good excuse as to why a single guy is carrying a wooden weapon, carefully wrapped in a white sundress.

 

-Sara Moses

HE Travel Media Assistant

You can also read Sara’s account of her 2012 adventure in the Grand Canyon HERE.

Posted in All Welcome Tour, All Welcome Tour, Alyson Adventures, Amazon, Essays, Fam Trips, FIT, Group Tour, HE Travel, Men's Tour, Multi-Sport, Sara Moses, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Women's Tour, Writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amazon Woman: Creation of a New Adventure in the Jungle of Peru (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a three-part series. Click HERE to read Part 1.

Day 3: Entering the Rainforest

This morning we gathered our belongings and set out for the port, where we had a bit of time to kill before our boat arrived. We saw more grilled and roasted meats for sale, and a few things I wasn’t nervy enough to try. Like these grubs.

3-grubs blog

When our tiny boat arrived, we hoisted our camera bags and purses and clambered aboard single file, so as not to capsize the whole thing! There’s my colleague Scott at the back, because he isn’t getting out at our first stop…

3-tiny boat blog

On the way to our rainforest lodge, we visited a wildlife rehabilitation center commonly called the Snake House. I’ve told you how Scott feels about snakes, and there were several others who simply were NOT entering this place, no matter what! So they missed holding the sloth! (This is an optical illusion, Kuniko didn’t actually kiss it!)

3-snake house sloth kiss blog

And they didn’t get to see this little bitty monkey catching and eating wasps!

3-snake house monkey blog

And the folks on the boat didn’t get to see this juvenile anaconda wrap itself around my neck! I don’t have a photo of the first snake I held, a boa constrictor, which tried to bite my face (unsuccessfully, as I had a good grip on its head). Even after that, though, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to hold this gorgeous river dweller. The sight of this photo makes poor Scott gag.

3-snake house anaconda blog

The Snake House fellow held the head while Michael and I stretched the snake out to admire its length. Our coordinator, Claudio, took a deep breath and dared to touch the anaconda’s tippy tail. Then he shuddered and giggled and ran away. I was really proud of him, especially after I failed to hold that rhino beetle on the Day 2.

3-snake house group blog

We cruised along and all stopped to visit the Bora Tribe, a family group that lives upriver, but comes daily to perform for visitors and educate travelers about their culture. Here is the chief, in their glorious gathering hut.

3-bora hut blog

The kids were adorable, and my traveling companion, Fiorella, won their favor by showing them the pictures she took of them with her iPhone. The Bora women all wore these hand-beaded tops, made entirely from seeds and fibers found in the jungle, and colored with plant-based dyes. I bought one for myself, and Scott joked that I was likely the only tourist who had ever purchased one who could just wear it around town (Key West sees ALL kinds of everyday costumes).

3-bora women blog

We arrived at our gorgeous lodge, with bright, airy (fully screened-in) private cabins for each of us. The big dining room featured an observation tower and great views of the grounds, forest, and river.

3-observation tower blog

There were so many beautiful types of flowers and mushrooms on the property. This photo is a collage, and is not to scale.

3-flower collage blog

We put away our things and geared up for a Rainforest hike. The lodge loaned rubber boots to those who didn’t bring any, because the ground is soggy. Carlos thinks Scott looks dashing!

3-hike scott boots blog

I have a fascia injury, so have to wear my own special shoes. So I just taped my foot tight, and braved the mud. Eldon and Myron were sweet and escorted me across a big puddle.

3-eldon carry sara blog

Then Eldon went above and beyond and carried Luis across!

3-hike luis and eldon blog

We walked to the village where the Jibaro Tribe lives. Myron shared this photo of the chief’s hut.

3-jibaro hut blog

The chief showed us his handmade blowdart gun. The darts were made of palm frond spines with a bit of cotton fluff wrapped around the ends. For hunting, they would be dipped in a toxic plant extraction, or frog secretion. The chief demonstrated the shooting technique by hitting the small wooden dummy squarely in the gut (looking closely, you’ll see his name is Chulla Chaqui, the demon shape-shifter).

3-jibaro dummy

They offered us a chance to try, and I hit the mark with both darts! So after much debate about airport security, I decided to buy one for Zach. I bought the nicest one they had for sale, decorated with anaconda skin and puma fur, with a hand-beaded strap. I felt very tough traipsing through the Amazon Rainforest, face painting courtesy of the little girls of the Jibaros.

3-hike blowgun sara blog

After a delicious dinner, several of us went out on a night cruise, away from any habitation. We turned off our motor and had 5 minutes of silence in the moonlight, though I wished for an hour. I’ll never forget the sounds of the frogs calling to each other high in the trees, and the insects clicking and squeaking across the wide river. Michael took this photo of the impenetrably dark  forest at the water’s edge.

3-night cruise blog

Then it was off to bed to get plenty of sleep before our 4 am bird-watching boat ride the next morning!

To be continued…

 

-Sara Moses

HE Travel Media Assistant

You can also read Sara’s account of her 2012 adventure in the Grand Canyon HERE.

 

 

 

 

Posted in All Welcome Tour, All Welcome Tour, Alyson Adventures, Amazon, Essays, Fam Trips, FIT, Group Tour, HE Travel, Hiking, Men's Tour, Men's Tour, Multi-Sport, Sara Moses, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Women's Tour, Writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Amazon Woman: Creation of a New Adventure in the Jungle of Peru (Part 1)

Back in April, my colleague Scott and I were sent to Peru to work on developing two new tours in the Amazon Rainforest. I was chosen for this expedition in order to create our new Amazon Woman tour for lesbians, and Scott was sent to get perspective on a new Amazon cruise for our gay male groups. We would be traveling with other travel professionals, all interested in exploring this special part of the planet and finding great spots that our clients will love.

A week or so before the trip, Scott and I drove 100 miles to the Upper Keys in order to get our yellow fever vaccinations. This was nerve-wracking, because neither of us likes needles, and we were really working each other up over the big bad shot! Scott called me a big baby so I said “ladies first” and giggled. The nurse didn’t get my joke and pricked me first, before I could introduce Scott as Bonita Bitch, one of the legendary Key West Bitch Sisters! (She’s the pretty one).

Key West Bitch Sisters

Later in the week we made the gorgeous drive up the Keys again, this time all the way to the Miami Airport (MIA). I love this rainbow window at MIA. We stayed the night at the airport hotel to take an early morning flight out.

Sara and Scott at MIA

 

Day 1: Miami to Iquitos

Scott and I met our coordinator, Claudio, and several members of our group and boarded our COPA flight to Panama  City, Panama, where all the men in the airport were handsome and sharply dressed and the women had on their tallest heels. At the Panama City airport we met the rest of our group and continued on together to Iquitos, Peru in the early afternoon.

Flying over the Amazon as we approached Iquitos was breathtaking. Serpentine rivers wind through lush greenery that extends as far as the eye can see. It appeared that the jungle had no end.

Winding River in the Amazon Rainforest

Our hotel had arranged a group transfer from the airport; our other option would have been the mototaxi, the main method of transportation in Iquitos. Many families have scooters; we saw very few private cars but thousands of mototaxis.

1a-mototaxi

We checked into our hotel on the town square, and an afternoon storm rolled in and right back out.

Iquitos town square

Two of our traveling companions, Eldon and Myron, went exploring local shops. They stopped at the esplanade overlooking the Itaya River:

1b-malecon

They came upon a parade:

iquitos parade

And many beautiful birds:

birds-composite

Everyone returned to our hotel in time to enjoy traditional Peruvian cocktails, Pisco Sour and Pisco Cocona. We unanimously agreed that the drink, remarkably, did not taste like coconut. It took three whole days of hilarious discussion to finalize our understanding that COCONA is not COCONUT. You’ll have to imagine a chorus of ten people revisiting the popular argument (cocona? coconut? cocona! no coconut?). Thoroughly warmed up from three rounds of Pisco, we walked together along the esplanade overlooking Belen (the Floating City), where kids were playing soccer in the fading light.

1e-belen-night

Dinner was at a restaurant that uses filtered water for all cooking and washing purposes, features triple-washed greens and freshly caught fish, and takes pride in serving no illegal or endangered species. The waiters were all good-looking young men who promised to meet us later at the disco! Several members of our group walked to the disco and secured the curtained private room at the top of the stairs, with a direct view on the front door. Scott and I were breathlessly looking for our waiters to arrive, but alas, we ran out of steam before the club really got hopping, and our group went back to our hotel for the night.

 

Day 2: Military Men, Manatees, Monkeys, and a Mermaconda!

Every Sunday in Iquitos there is a display of military presence, where all branches are present for a flag ceremony, the singing of the national anthem, and stirring speeches. The roads surrounding the town square are closed to vehicles, so our tour van was delayed. This gave Scott the full opportunity to collect photos of his favorite troops.

2-military-collage

And a double-take zoom shot of the gentleman on the left!

2-military-closeup

We met our van around the block and headed to the outskirts of town to the manatee rescue and rehabilitation center. This was our first introduction to La Selva (“the jungle” – how locals refer to the Amazon Rainforest). Just before hopping over a giant tree root, I realized that it appeared to be moving, and I stopped and stepped back. Two lines of leaf-cutter ants were determinedly harvesting the huge tree, taking leaves to their home 20 ft away. I took this video after our group moved on, so that the sounds of La Selva could be heard.

The staff at the manatee center are committed to educating local people about the plight of the manatees, which are endangered because they are delicious, apparently. Our local guide explained to us that all edible animals in populous areas here are slaughtered and eaten, and this is resulting in lowered populations of manatee, sloth, monkey, and pink dolphin. We took turns feeding the manatees, which are bristly and gentle, with suction cups for mouths. I was the only one who pet the loveable and lump-covered puppy who wandered around the reserve.

2-manati-puppy 2

We headed next to the zoo, where we saw several varieties of monkeys, some parrots, a few wild cats, and even the gift shop’s pet rhino beetle. I tried to hold him, I really did. Really. But I just COULDN’T. Eldon and Michael were more courageous.

2-zoo-rhino-eldon2-zoo-rhino beetle

We caught glimpses of the captive Paiche, gigantic river fish that patrol the moat of the monkey enclosure, rippling through the murky water like sea-monsters and avoiding the camera. We also did not see a real Chullachaqui, though a few guests said later that they had nightmares of this shape-shifting goblin who sneaks into villages and steals people’s mates.

2-zoo-chullachaqui

Carlos and I enjoyed lunch at the Zoo’s beach. I couldn’t resist helping Michael eat that haunch of roasted alligator!

2-zoo-alligator lunch

It was delicious, as are most meats roasted this way, I imagine.

2-zoo-restaurant

We then switched to a hotel across town with a great pool area. My suite was bigger than my Key West apartment! Dinner tonight was at a kitschy restaurant that featured Peruvian takes on American cuisine (or maybe vice-versa?). I had pancakes for dinner and Scott had a beer in a wooden box.

2-scott beer

I mocked Scott because he is afraid of snakes and wouldn’t even sit near this painting of the mermaconda.

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Upstairs at this restaurant was the Iquitos version of Margaritaville, complete with a Bourbon Street sign and a McCain/Palin campaign poster.

2-iquitos-margaritaville

When we returned to our hotel for the night, we all checked our email and finished up any business, because we really didn’t know what level of technology to expect once we left Iquitos to enter the Rainforest the next day!

…to be continued.

Sara Moses

HE Travel Media Assistant

You can also read Sara’s account of her 2012 adventure in the Grand Canyon HERE.

 

 

Posted in All Welcome Tour, All Welcome Tour, Alyson Adventures, Amazon, Fam Trips, FIT, Group Tour, HE Travel, Men's Tour, Men's Tour, Sara Moses, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Women's Tour, Writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Contrasts of the Canyon

R. Darin Hollingsworth

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The Grand Canyon experience is difficult to grasp, particularly without the perspective of having been there. When you try to communicate in words or pictures, neither can really capture the spirit of the place. Since planting my feet back on solid ground I have told so many people that my heart and mind easily drift back to the sights, sounds, smells, memories and friendships of that adventure.

I have said to many that the Canyon is a study in contrasts. The river is powerful and gentle, loud and quiet – rapids and flat-water. There are “white knuckles and three buckles” and on the same raft a few minutes later, a temptation to fall asleep on a side pontoon or in the “tea room” in the middle of the raft. There is the blistering heat of the desert and the cold splash of a rapid or the cool relief in the shadow of the Canyon walls. The rock walls are beautiful with layers and shapes and colors, yet harsh and at times frightening as you traverse them. Side canyons are secluded bu

t wide open, and breath-taking attractions are hidden in the openness. Darkness blankets the interior of the Canyon as night falls but looking up at the rim of the Canyon, the narrow strip of stars or perhaps the moon are brighter than you may ever see anywhere else.

When you experience the trip with a group of strangers there are the contrasts among them as well. There are: singles and couples; familiar and unfamiliar. There is time for aloneness and for wonderful revelry of the collective. There is the contrast from our normal reality of frequently being identified by “what you do,” as opposed to being identified simply by where you like sit in the raft or how adventurous you are on a hike. There is also the replacement of “where do you live” or “who inspires your interior design” with questions about whether you want your bed roll in proximity to the “groover” or the “kitchen” or near the water for the magnificent sound of a rapid and the touch of a cool breeze.

The river guides are another source of distinction. In simplest terms you have the contrast of the Boatman (the professional river guide) and the Swamper (assistant, selected by the Boatman). Another obvious contrast is between the jobs and lifestyle of the passengers and the guides’ spirit for their outdoor work and the life of the Canyon.

Among the things that present less contrast are the friendships inspired by the SHARED experience. Watching raftmates face new challenges and provide affirmation to one another with laughter and lightheartedness creates such an amazing common understanding and familiarity. Having guides who share their hopes and dreams and favorite passages from Canyon-inspired literature fills you with something that you feel both compelled to share and to hold on to tightly, at times almost selfishly.

As you journey down the River, even in the presence of all of these contrasts, you quickly attain commonality with these heart warming guides and your new friends, and any contrasts that may have existed now only serve to punctuate a new kindred spirit that has developed among you.

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Posted in All Welcome Tour, Alyson Adventures, Arizona, Grand Canyon, Guest Blog, HE Travel, Men's Tour, Men's Tour, Multi-Sport, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, USA, Women's Tour, Writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loire Vacation

A bike was the perfect way to see France’s romantic Loire Valley.

When I told my friends I was going on a five-day bicycling tour of the Loire Valley in France, they laughed. They knew what kind of shape I was in: ten pounds overweight and not a toned muscle in my body. I was determined to prove them wrong. Did I?

Yes, more or less. The brochure assured me the route was “flat and gently rolling.” It was, and anyone with just a little training prior to departure can travel France’s beautiful backroads with relative ease. But I soon learned I hadn’t trained enough. No matter: after the first day I found my bike legs. If I and the 72-year old gentleman who pedaled with us can do it, anyone can.

Alyson Adventures has put together several unique tours of Europe and the United States. Designed specifically for gay men, lesbians, and their friends, this year’s schedule includes six bike trips in France, a hiking trip in the Swiss Alps, and a mountaineering experience up Wyoming’s Grand Teton. Two are for gay or lesbian singles only. Next year, for starters, they’re planning a lavish trip to Australia for Mardi Gras.

France is never lovelier than in May and June. Some of its most pleasant scenery is southwest of Paris in the Beauce, France’s breadbasket. I felt at times as if I’d entered a Cezanne. Dotted with hilltop chateaux, country homes, ancient churches and quaint villages barely touched by the 20th century, it’s the perfect retreat from Paris’ hectic pace and high prices. Add rich cuisine, a variety of cheeses and desserts, and fine wines — most of it covered by the cost of the tour — as well as the warm camaraderie that our group developed, and you have the perfect vacation experience.

Our route took us from Orleans to Chateaudun, Vendome, the hill country to the west, and Blois. The area is filled with castles and country homes both large and small. Most of them are open to the public.

One of the more forbidding is at Chateaudun. Begun in the Middle Ages, it’s currently in a state of disrepair, but about to get a facelift. Its most unusual feature is the dungeon, located next to the main kitchen. What torment prisoners must have experienced chowing down on moldy bread while sumptuous meals were being prepared just inches from their noses: one of history’s more delicious tortures!

The prisoners at Meung’s chateau would have envied them: they were thrown into wells (called “oubliettes,” or forgotten places) and tossed scraps. More prisoners would be added from time to time, but the daily portions kept the same, giving new meaning to the term “survival of the fittest.” Oddly enough, the castle grounds are among the most beautiful in the area.

Of course, Chambord is a must. Reputedly designed, in whole or in part, by one of our own, Leonardo da Vinci, it’s perhaps the most magnificent French castle of all. You don’t have to go inside to appreciate its beauty: a well manicured lawn and an impossible roofline of turrets are wonders in themselves. Unlike many castles, it’s filled with antique furnishings — much of it original. Don’t be turned off by the thousands of American and Japanese tourists traipsing about: there really is a good reason for them to be there.

The picturesque chateau at Blois, on the western edge of the city, is also a must see. It comes complete with its own historic murder: the 1588 assassination of the Duke of Guise by associates of gay King Henry III. It’s also well-furnished and boasts a nice line of gargoyles — actually downspouts — on the exterior.

Ironically, the high point of the trip, for me, wasn’t a castle but the small town of Vendome, which must be one of the loveliest towns in France. Sitting astride the winding “little” Loir, it’s clean, well-scrubbed, and beautifully landscaped with picturesque streets and languorous squares. The walk along the river is relaxing. Vendome boasts a fine chateau above the town and a lovely cathedral, but the town itself is the main attraction: the nicest surprise the tour had to offer.

It was at our hotel — the Hotel Vendome, what else? — that we experienced one of the most exquisite meals I’ve had in some time. The main course was tender cod layered with finely minced tomatoes and mushrooms and topped with a lightly-baked cheese crust. It literally melted in my mouth. My only regret was the last bite: I wanted more. A selection of local cheeses and a marvelous apple tart splashed with a light caramel sauce made the meal one to remember. One hopes that the chef isn’t tempted to move to the big city: Vendome would be much the poorer.

Some of Alyson’s bike trips are more strenuous than others, but physical preparation is recommended for even the flattest. Besides hotel accommodations and the services of guides, the price includes most meals. The rooms are comfortable, if not quite up to current tastes in wallpaper.

There’s plenty of time for sightseeing. In case you get lost, or your bike chain breaks — as mine did one day — Alyson provides ample backup. You needn’t fear becoming a stranger in a strange land as long as you stick to their suggestions for emergencies. (I didn’t, but that’s another story!)

The company strives to have not more than fifteen or so people on any one tour. We had eight, which was very comfortable. A printed itinerary is provided; cyclists may easily follow it at their own pace. Although it proved to be way too detailed and could have been streamlined, it didn’t detract from my overall satisfaction.

Do you need to learn French? It helps. The French — like Americans, actually — will open up if you make an attempt to speak their language. Our arrogance towards the French — inherited from our British ancestors — is easily returned. Fortunately, non-Parisians are in general much friendlier. But for the French-deficient, as I was, both of our guides — Ed, an American who runs an Italian restaurant on the Isle St. Louis in Paris, and Veronique, a tres charmante artiste — were, thankfully, bilingual and steered us around the culture’s more intricate corners with ease.

The author wrote the above account of his Loire Valley bicycle trip for a local newspaper in 2002. We are reprinting it here with his kind permission.

Posted in France, Guest Blog, HE Travel, The Gay Travel Blog, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

NTA Conference & Ethiopian Tourism

By Zachary Moses

Recently I was asked to serve with the Young Professionals Advisory Group of the NTA (formerly called the National Tour Association), and HE Travel CEO Phil Sheldon was appointed to the Small Business Advisory Task Force. Our company is currently the only gay tour operator that is a member of the NTA. Earlier this month we met with the other members of our groups near Washington DC.

The mission of the Young Professionals advisory group is to bring fresh new ideas to the NTA, to help the organization to grow larger and to expand its influence on the international travel scene. It was an honor to be asked to serve in such a prestigious position.

When we attend national conferences, we are often invited to visit nearby attractions so that local tourism organizations can show us what the region offers our clients. Below is a photo of Phil (on the right) and me at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate .

Zach and Phil at mount vernon

Later during the conference, our NTA group was invited to attend a special dinner at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC. (Here we are outside the Embassy).

Ethiopian Embassy

We met Ambassador Girma Biru, who showed us wonderful hospitality and introduced us to the many wonders of Ethiopian Tourism, a land often written off as being a troubled region where everyone is poor and starving. During a delicious traditional meal, the Ambassador put to rest some outdated stereotypes that cause harm to the Ethiopian image.

We were served stewed and curried meats and vegetables with a sourdough flatbread called injera, made from teff, the smallest grain in the world. The gravies and meats are customarily eaten with torn pieces of flavorful injera instead of utensils.

food

The people we met at the Embassy were warm and friendly. Some of them had flown in from Ethiopia just to meet our NTA group, and the images they showed us were amazing. Did you know that the oldest known human ancestor was found in Ethiopia? Or that Ethiopia is the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant? It is also home to the largest monolithic obelisks in the world.

church_lalibela

In Lalibela, there are 11 temples hewn in the reddish-pink volcanic scoria rock. Each is unique in style, and they are among the largest monolithic structures in the world! In another part of the country they even have active volcanoes that look like the gates of hell, surrounded by boiling salty seas.

Ethiopian Coffee

We have a wonderful evening enjoying the hospitality of the Ethiopian Embassy, which included sipping Ethiopian coffee that had been roasted right in front of us over coals (a fire hazard?), and speaking with their several professional tour operators. I now have my newest idea for an HE Travel adventure tour: Return to Ethiopia: the Birthplace of Humanity.

After the conference, I met my brother who lives in DC and took him to an Ethiopian restaurant so that he could experience this wonderfully different cuisine. He loved it and vowed to introduce it to everyone he knows.

cherry blossom

We then made our way to the Jefferson Memorial, where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom and said to be at their peak … and inside we found one of the greatest minds of all time.

carbonite

Thomas Jefferson … Frozen in Carbonite.

Posted in Airline Flights, Alyson Adventures, Ethiopia, HE Travel, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Writings, Zachary Moses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment