Clive Cortis and his Malta Private Guide Company

Irene Shaland and Clive Cortis

My husband Alex and I have been globe-trotting for over four decades, visiting close to 70 countries, feeling at home in most of them. When in Europe, we very seldom hire private guides, but we did so in Malta. As an art and travel writer, focusing on history and Jewish history, I had an extensive “must see” plan or rather a research “curriculum” I intended to follow in that tiny country, which is arguably one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.

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Elephant in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Elephant in amboseli national park

The photo of this elephant is my entry for the 2019 AAWR Members Annual Exhibition. I took this photo during our 2013 Great Migration trip to Kenya and Tanzania in Amboseli National Park in Kenya. The sun was setting down, and dark clouds were rapidly moving in. On the way to the lodge, we passed this majestic animal rapidly walking along the side of the road. The plains, the dark clouds, and the walking giants were too dramatic not to snap a photo.

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Exploring Thailand

Exploring Thailand away from the tourist crowds

Bangkok

Thai Theater

To all theater lovers, I always recommend not to be missed  “real” performance when in Bangkok, and by real I mean those that are shown to non-tourists, outside of buses brining crowds for a mediocre dinner and Thai Dance-“light.” And for that, one should head to the National Theater http://www.finearts.go.th/  (very close to the National Museum) and see, preferably, the Siam Niramit performance, perhaps the most elaborate and “largest stage show in the world.” It is definitely one of the most amazing and intriguing. But any traditional Thai dance shows would do, though I always prefer Khon dancers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OWBs48qUuA.

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Celebrating a Milestone Anniversary inside the Enchanted Fig Tree of Australia

Irene and Alex Shaland at Fig Tree Restaurant, Kangaroo Island, Australia

Alex and I have traveled to nearly 70 countries. We celebrated our birthdays and anniversaries in places like a street corner café on Easter Island, tiny seafood restaurant in Cochi, Kerala,  a second century BC villa –turned Renaissance palace-turned art studio in Rome; opera singers’ favorite tavern in Palermo near the famed Teatro Massimo, just to name a few. But we had the most unique experience this year on March 5th, when our new friend Steve Lane, Kangaroo Island’s Sea Dragon Lodge owner and our exceptional guide, took us to the remote Snellings Beach on the north coast. As a present on our milestone wedding anniversary, Steve invited us for a luncheon inside a… tree.

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Where to Stay on Kangaroo Island, Australia: the Sea Dragon Lodge is an Excellent Choice

Koala looking at visitors

Since childhood, I always wanted to live among the animals of Australia – even if for a few days only. And this was how the Kangaroo Island, a small dot in the Indian Ocean, materialized first in my imagination, and then – in our itinerary for the Spring 2016 trip. Overlooked by most popular guidebooks, this third largest Australian island (after Tasmania and Melville) remains the largest secret of that country for many globe trotters. There are precious few corners left in our 21st century urbanized world where Australian animals could be observed in the wild, and Kangaroo Island is exactly that place.

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Chasing the Elusive Northern Lights in Iceland

northern lights appear over the ocean

All visitors to Iceland fall into two distinctive categories: those who saw the northern lights and those who did not. When Irene set her trip target on Iceland, she was determined to place herself, our daughter, and I squarely in the first category. The problem was that unlike the predictable crowds at JFK on the way to Iceland, the famous northern lights of Iceland are highly unpredictable. However, the best time to see them is from November through December.  So mid-November looked pretty good. Oh, and  it also happens to be one of the coldest months of the year.

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Saarinen House – a Hidden Gem in the Midwest

Cranbrook Art Academy in Detroit Michigan

“Architecture embraces the whole form-world of man’s physical accommodations, from the intimacy of his room to the comprehensive labyrinth of the large metropolis.” Eliel Saarinen.

We found out about the Cranbrook Art Academy and the Saarinen House by pure chance: our architecture-buff friend mentioned it when we talked about my upcoming presentation at the Detroit Public Library.  We immediately decided to schedule a private tour of the House. And what a great discovery it was!

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