Archive for April, 2009

Lilly’s French Onion Soup

Written by admin on April 13th, 2009. Posted in Uncategorized

I love to cook so one of my favorite things to do while traveling is cook along with and learn traditional recipes. This recipe was passed on to me by a friend I met sailing in the Caribbean. Lilly was French and showed me that authentic French Onion Soup, doesn’t use any chicken or beef stock – just onions. Like many traditional recipes, measurements are less precise, since the technique is usually passed down from generation to generation.

In a large soup pot melt @ 1/4 to 1/2 lb of butter then tan 3 huge softball-sized diced yellow onions

Meanwhile, half-fill a small saucepan with white wine and some cognac and heat but don’t boil.

When the onions have tanned, cover well with flour.

Flame the cognac/wine mix and add to the onions.

Add water and generous amount of salt, pepper and tamari

Float butter-pad sized sides of Gruyere or Swiss cheese and homemade toasted French bread croutons.

Dee-lish!

Organic goodness in the Grenadines

Written by leehart on April 8th, 2009. Posted in Geotourism

This past fall I got to spend three weeks on one of the teensier of the constellation of teensy islands that comprise St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A person of average fitness can bike the hilly island in a day with time to spare before the sun sets. There’s a certain distinctive yet casual rhythm to the day, and the days of the week, that’s easily habit forming; a completely laid-back chill vibe and not much of any tourist hustle. The water was so warm that even a cold-averse wimp like me could just plunge right in. Locals would go to the beach and just bob around in the blissfully warm waves and catch up on the day’s gossip. It was just what I was looking for! No decision bigger than whether to snorkel, swim, walk the beach, trundle over to a different beach, or mix it up and hop a local cooperative van into town.

We stayed in Marie Kingston’s sweet little cottage right at the end of idyllic Lower Bay beach. There aren’t any chain hotels here and I hope there never will be. One of the biggest hotels on the island – at least as of this fall – had little more than a dozen rooms. Lodging prices weren’t too bad, especially since we arrived just before tourism season kicked into swing, but stocking our little cottage with food was a pricey proposition due to the high cost of food transport, since little is grown locally. The sea still supplies sustenance from subsistence fishing. Whaling continues as it has for centuries, the islanders are limited by international covenant to just four per season, still chased and caught by a few brave men in traditional whaling dorys.

So I was psyched when about midway through our visit, Jacqueline’s Nature Zone opened. She had just harvested the first of the season’s veggies and herbs on what must be the prettiest garden plot on the planet, right across the skinny two-lane road from the most delectable beach on the island. Jackie’s business is mostly seasonal, dependent on the annual influx of tourists and yachties. Compared to the Carribbean and Bahamas farther north, this is a sleepy part of the western Atlantic so business is rarely described as brisk. A patient woman, Jackie persists, convinced that demand for her locally grown food will steadily increase. She likes knowing where her food is grown, how the plants are nurtured and that they are free of pesticides. Jackie explained that most of the produce in the grocery stores comes from nearby St. Vincent, where she said farmers still drench their crops with powerful pesticides.

Oddly, the locals don’t think much of Jackie’s garden goodness. One exception is Fernando, whose namesake restaurant has a well-deserved reputation as one of the very best on the island. Fernando at his Hideaway

Usually though, when Jackie offers native-born neighbors a sample, they spit it out.

Nature Zone

With a diet dominated by canned goods, rice and beans, Jackie’s greens and veggies taste too strange to most locals’ palates. On the contrary, I adored everything she grew. Intriguingly, something in the soil added a hot zing to some of the veggies. Not to miss: Jackie’s crazy good ginger basil pesto! I love to cook, and did so aboard charter sailboats for a couple seasons. As most cooks and chefs agree, nothing beats fully ripened, fresh-picked organic produce, so you can trust me when I say Jackie’s produce is worth seeking out.

Once upon a time, the islanders used to grow more of their own food, though it was no easy task on the freshwater scarce island. A local lady told me that when she was a little girl in the ’60’s, folks used to grow, harvest and process cassava. She described to me the ways they used to cook and process the plant using every bit of it for food, starch and more. She also told me how locals used to grow more corn then, and on Guy Fawkes Day they’d put big giant cassava rendering pots in the middle of town, cove the bottoms with sand, place the the pots over a hot fire and have a giant popcorn celebration.

Cassava and corn and small gardens are rare here today. As more and more modern conveniences arrived on the island, local food productions and traditions withered away. Jackie said the locals think she’s crazy for growing her own food. I think she’s brilliant and I hope she’s there next time I go back.

Obama administration presses charges against DeChristopher

Written by admin on April 5th, 2009. Posted in Advocacy

Whoa! Did NOT see this coming.

Wall Street Journal reports Tim DeChristoper, aka Bidder 70, the university student who thwarted an oil and gas lease on lands near National Parks in Utah could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Costa Maya: new frontier or antithesis of geotourism?

Written by admin on April 5th, 2009. Posted in Geotourism

A recent USA Today article extolled the delights of the “New Maya Frontier.”

Puerto Costa Maya photo by Roger Theriault

Puerto Costa Maya photo by Roger Theriault

Much of the story focuses on Mahahual, a once sleepy fishing village, pop. 80. That was before the Mexican government hatched its plan to transform the area into what has become Mexico’s second busiest cruise ship port. Puerto Costa Maya was designed to accommodate six cruise ships at once. In 2006 it deposited more than a half million tourists, most of whom were directed straight to Puerto Costa Maya, a shopping, cultural and recreation complex for cruise ship passengers only.

In 2007, only a Cat 5 hurricane named Dean, stopped Puerto Costa Maya from hitting the million cruise ship visitor mark. The article is clearly intended to convey the news that after a frenetic year of rebuilding, Puerto Costa Maya is back in business.

I stumbled upon a blog from one cruise ship couple who had visited the port and described their surprise at discovering the real Mahahual. Their cruise ship hosts apparently forgot to mention that there was life beyond the confines of the staged authenticity of the port complex.

I imagine it goes without saying that the cruise ship passengers also weren’t told of the damage to the reef and the pollution left in the wake of the cruise ships or the vital mangrove swamps destroyed to pave the way for mass tourism and vacation time share real estate developments.

On the upside, I can always hope that maybe now that the cruise ships actually stop in the area perhaps they don’t jettison their trash as they pass offshore where currents deposit it directly on the beaches of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve just to the north of Mahahual. Or at least that was the case when I visited the Reserve in 2000 for a cross-cultural writers workshop and was appalled by the unconscionable amounts of cruise ship pollution littering what should have been a pristine beach.

A few years ago a report by the The International Ecotourism Society, clearly largely ignored by the Mexican government, described possible impacts from the planned Cancun-style development in Mahahual. TIES warned that the hotels and timeshares financed largely by, and designed to attract, giant piles of foreign investment dollars, will at a minimum, raise the cost of living for the locals and at worst, force them to move elsewhere. News reports hint that the widening economic gap is already showing signs of creating social tension.

The population has grown from 80 dependent on subsistence fishing BC (before cruises) to 3,500 mostly dependent on tourism.  Earlier projections estimated population could skyrocket to 25,000 as early as next year, and reach nearly 100,000 in 15 – 20 years AC (after the arrival of cruise ships).

You know, it’s bad enough that, as the USA Today story notes, many tourists to the area already are under the gross misimpression that the Maya disappeared from the area long ago. If plans like this by the tourism ministers of the Maya’s elected leaders in far away Mexico City go unchecked, sadly, the tourists may well prove to be prophets.

I picked a winner! Congrats Willie Gordon!

Written by admin on April 2nd, 2009. Posted in Biz Buzz, Geotourism

Guurrbi Tours' Willie Gordon

Guurrbi Tours' Willie Gordon

Nugal-warra story-keeper Willie Gordon who keeps his ancestral rock art alive by sharing its stories with guests near Cooktown, Queensland was the jury award winner for the 2009 Indigenous Tourism and Biodiversity Website Award. Willie’s Guurrbi Tours was my vote for top pick in the annual competition hosted by Planeta.

The competition was stiff among the 15 website nominees all of which represent compelling authentic travel experiences around the globe.

To see all the worthy nominees and winners, click here.