The World’s Best Fried Chicken

Karaage Shops

The small town of Nakatsu is home to about 50 “karaage” shops. It ranks for the world’s best fried chicken. Karaage is a delicate, fried chicken version that is Japan’s national favorite. Thousands of people vote each year in a nationwide competition to determine the best karaage shop.

Metropolitan shops in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka should dominate any large-scale contest. Yet, shops from Nakatsu City on the southern island Kyushu receive the most awards. One thousand shops compete in the Karaage Grand Prix, an annual competition. The winner is able to boast they have the best fried chicken in Japan. This contest is based entirely on popularity. In 2023, the rules changed. Judges taste test the entries now, and the winner of the best karaage wins the award.

Karaage is a Japanese cooking technique where a protein or vegetable is marinated, dredged in flour, then deep-fried. The batter uses potato starch to cover pieces of chicken breasts, necks, and wings. These pieces marinate in a variety of soy, ginger, salt, and garlic sauces. This gives a delicious taste explosion that drips down your cheeks every time you eat. People line up for their favorite fried chicken cuts. The Japan Karaage Association created a movie describing karaage as the ultimate national food.

A Long History of Fried Chicken

Karaage is the result of a multi-generational history. It spans continents, cultures, the age of exploration, and cross-cultural pollination. It is a unique fried chicken and is Nakatsu’s soul food. Portuguese missionaries arrived in Japan in the 16th century. They brought with them their fried cooking techniques. The Japanese then began to incorporate Western techniques into their tempura.

At that time, the Japanese diet was fish-based. Until tragedy struck the island nation, chicken was not an option. The Kyoho era (1716-1736) saw a massive famine. It destroyed the rice crop on Kyushu, killing tens of thousands. The government encouraged farmers to increase their poultry production to sell more eggs.

In 1868, the Japanese experienced a major dietary shift. The new Emperor of Japan began a radical reformation. This included adopting Western ideas in industrialization, military technology, and even food. Emperor Meiji opened Japan’s borders, allowing more Western influences to penetrate the culture. This meant more meat. After World War II, karaage and fried chicken became the standard.

The War devastated Japan and food shortages became a major problem. The Japanese diet changed when there was no rice. To replace the rice, the United States sent broiler chickens and wheat. This resulted in more noodles (like ramen). These chickens, raised for their meat, are easier to raise than cows and pigs. Kyushu was already a major poultry center using innovative cooking methods. This city helped feed a hungry country.

The Origin of Karaage Shops

Karaage shops trace to Rairaiken, a Chinese restaurant in Nakatsu. In the 1950s, the restaurant began offering deep-fried chicken as part of a set menu. Later, it moved across the street to Shosuke (a small bar). This bar had learned from Rairaiken the techniques for frying chicken karaage. Shosuke’s original owner was a farmer who bought chickens and sold them to butchers. His wife served sake and karaage to his customers. This was a problem for him. Since his karaage customers were farmers, they could only pay for their food and drink when they came in. This meant that he struggled to make ends meet and survive as a businessman. His chicken-peddling business lost its profitability as larger farms began industrializing broiler chickens.

Shosuke left the bar to open the first restaurant that only served karaage. He also changed his target to housewives who pay cash up front. Their husbands drank too much sake and were late payers. The decision to serve karaage was a huge success. Residents of the United States embraced karaage, They found it cheap, delicious, and a quick source of protein. The USA has more than 40 karaage shops today and is a hub for this delicious fried delight.

Nakatsu’s Reputation

Back in Japan, Arata Hosokawa, a chef, and his friend Shoji Moriyama, a cook, were both passionate about karaage. They believed they could make fried food more flavorful. Each man started his own karaage shop at Nakatsu in 1970. They added apple pieces to the brine and kept the chicken in the brine for longer periods. This brought out the flavor. These shops became instant successes and inspired many copycats. They helped to establish Nakatsu as the heart of karaage.

Moriyama was first to win the Karaage Grand Prix. The chefs from Nakatsu inspired fifty other shops. These karaage shops experimented with everything from batters to cooking times. They tried different soy- or salt-based marinades. Nakatsu shops have a secret ingredient that they refuse to reveal. This separates them from the other Japanese shops. Shinichi Sumi is a five-time Grand Gold Award Winner at the Karaage Grand Prix. He spent fifteen years perfecting his karaage recipes. He cooks each part of the chicken separately today, and his karaage has been consistently rated as the best in Nakatsu. 

Takae Tateishi is one of the few female karaage shop proprietors. She makes everything from scratch. Her salt-rice-malt marinade makes Kokko-ya a most special spot in the city. “I can confidently say that I remove all excess fat from chicken.” Tateishi said she is confident in the way she prepares the chicken. Tateishi’s chicken has a soft texture and a spicy flavor that ignites your taste buds.

Kouji Moriyama is another, whose shop Moriyama, won the Karaage Grand Prix for the first time. He is also the nephew of Shoji Moriyama, Nakatsu karaage founder. His salt-based crispy Karaage is bursting with juices every time you take a bite. He also uses a mixture of unidentified fruits. These infuse his chicken with extraordinary flavors.  

Karaage is a Way of Life

Karaage is more than just a meal in Nakatsu—it’s a way of life. Every autumn, the karaage festival Karafes attracts over 50,000 people. They come from all around the globe. Most of the shops take part to help the city gain popularity. Everybody in Nakatsu has a personal favorite of the 50+ shops. It brings back memories of their childhood. It is a food that emerged from poverty and fed a starving island. Today, karaage is part of Christmas, weddings, birthdays, and major holiday celebrations. On these occasions, Japanese eat chicken fried rice.

The Karaage Grand Prix shows their city is the heartbeat of Japanese fried chicken. Tokyo established the Karaage Grand Prix in 2010 to promote fried chicken. The prize also ranks the karaage shops. Voting was completely online up until 2022, and the top karaage shops won most of the awards.

Now, judges will consider the frying color, flavor, batter and its harmony with the meat. Also, the judging will include cost effectiveness (what you get for your money). Temperature (too much heat can cause burns) also will count. Shop owners in Nakatsu are almost dismissive about past competitions. You could see that they were all feeling this year was different.

Shinichi Sumi from Torishin stated, “The next one’s real. I want to take on the challenge, and I will do my best to win it.” Masahiko Inoue, CEO of the Nakatsu Karaage Association, sees the 2023 Grand Prix in an existential manner. “People will be able to tell which shop is number one by the next competition.” With the new competition rules, judges will taste the chicken and decide who the winner is.

Yet, the most important thing is that everyone knows Nakatsu karaage is unique. It is like a stamp of approval that the Nakatsu has given it. Karaage is a symbol of perseverance and ingenuity. It’s also a reminder that Japan has overcome adversity. For residents of Nakatsu, it is the heart food that makes them feel at home. Nakatsu has earned the reputation for the best fried chicken in Japan. This stems from its cultural traditions and long history.

Fact: Karaage is often served alone or with rice and shredded cabbage
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National Park Alternatives

Would you like to visit a national park this summer, but you don’t have a reservation? Would you prefer not to have to ride the crowded busses? Fortunately, there are national park alternatives which have remained under the radar of many travelers. They are there for you to explore without a reservation or the crowds.

Wallace Stegner, an American environmentalist and writer, declared national parks to be the greatest idea ever devised. Like so many other great inventions, the park system became enormously popular over time.

In 2022, more than 300 million people visited US National Parks – that’s 75% more than in 1970! While its primary purpose was to introduce people to nature’s splendors, these are also its drawbacks. The crowds have overwhelmed these parks. Consider national park alternatives.

State parks safeguard America’s iconic sights, such as redwood trees and wild ponies, the Big Sur coast, Lake Tahoe, and Niagara Falls. Even so,  some national park alternatives face similar resource constraints and overcrowding issues as the most popular parks. Yet there are plenty of others that offer nature lovers a chance to get away from it all.

These alternatives are operated by four different administrations:

Bureau opf Land Management / US Forest Serevice / State Parks / National Wildlife Refuges

Here are ten of the best alternatives but least visited alternatives.

    Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

    Utah’s BLM park is visited by a mere 500,000 people annually. Most of them stay within the boundaries of State Highway12 at the monument’s northern border or US Highway 89 to the south.

    Grosvenor Arch –

    This monument is named after the Grand Staircase plateaus which descend like giant stone steps in Southern Utah. The other half of the name refers to the Escalante Canyons that were carved by streams into the Colorado River watershed

    The park is best known for its mountain biking, hiking, and canyoneering. It also has hundreds of Native American archaeological sites and copious dinosaur digs. Additionally, there are 660 wild bee species.

    For a quick visit, you can book an Airstream trailer, cabin, or RV hookup at the hipster hangout Yonder Escalante. A nice day trip could be a visit to Devil’s Garden and Calf Creek Trail, or Peek-a Boo Slot Canyon, all easily accessible by road. With more time, consider a 6-day guided mountain biking trip across the monument with Moab’s Western Spirit Cycling Adventures. The best time to visit Autumn when it is cooler and the canyons are showing their fall colors.

    California’s Lost Coast

    The Lost Coast is one of the most under-developed coastlines in the country. It stretches 25 miles from Mattole Beach (230 miles north San Francisco) to Shelter Cove (235 miles). Imagine Big Sur as it would look if Highway 1 never existed. The coast and its beautiful backcountry are now protected by Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and the BLM’s King Range National Conservation Area.

    Taylen Lundequam – Pexels

    The area is home to many wildlife, including elephant seals, other marine mammals, bald eagles, and black bears. It also contains some of California’s last wild salmon streams. You might stop at the upscale Castle Inn or mid-range Inn of the Lost Coast Shelter Cove to surf, fish, or just for fun.

    If your schedule allows, you can hike the Lost Coast Trail for a three-day backpack camping adventure along the coast and cliffs. Summer is the best time to visit as it has the warmest temperatures and the least amount of rain.

    St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

    This park covers 43 miles along Florida’s Gulf Coast. It revolves around bays, bayous, and coastal grasslands.

    St. Marks was established in 1931 as a federal wildlife refuge. It is one of the oldest federal wildlife refuges in the country. It houses a wide range of wild animals, including alligators and manatees, white-tailed and black deer, bobcats, and black bears. Also thriving in the Refuge are hundreds of bird species, such as the bald eagle, and whooping crane.

    The Refuge may be best known for its vibrant monarch butterfly migration and the historic St. Marks Lighthouse that was built in 1831.

    Visit the Sweet Magnolia Inn. This bed and breakfast is located in an old building that was previously used as a general shop, brothel, and church.

    St. Mark’s offers 45 miles of hiking along the Florida National Scenic Trail. For those long hikes, the Refuge offers seven campsites.

    Don’t miss the Monarch Butterfly Festival held each October.

    Baxter State Park and Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Maine

    The sparsely populated North Woods of Maine offers a wilderness escape for over 25 million New Englanders and Canadians. It covers approximately 3.5 million acres, more land and woods than Yellowstone or Yosemite.

    Baxter State Park is the most popular park in the region.  The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is another great national park alternative. The two state reserves receive only 65,000 visitors per year, most of them in the summer months.

    Baxter State Park contains Maine’s highest peak, , at 5,269 feet. Allagash Wilderness, on the other hand, provides a 92-mile corridor of wild rivers and lakes. Henry David Thoreau praised this wilderness in his 1864 travel tale about his journey through The Maine Woods.

    If you’re just passing through, book a room in the rustic Big Moose Cabins, Mount Katahdin or any other lodgings in Millinocket. Then drive to Baxter State Park for a day of hiking. For a longer visit, join a weeklong guided paddling trip along the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, with Maine Trails Guide Service. Your best time to visit is June to October.

    Wood-Tikchik State Park, Alaska

    Wood-Tikchik would likely be a national park if it were in another state.

    Wood-Tikchik State Park, Alaska

    Here in Alaska, it is a state park with towering snowcapped peaks, a dozen large glacial lakes and pristine forest. Grizzly bears as well as moose, caribou, and other Alaskan wildlife inhabit the park.

    This western Alaska reserve covers 1.6 million acres and is the largest and most remote of all state parks in the country. This vast landscape is difficult to access by road. The only options for exploring it are water, air, or a long hike overland.

    Wood-Tikchik is a wilderness area that has only two ranger stations, five remote fishing lodges, and five other stations. Anyone who ventures into the park on their own must be able to survive in the wilderness.

    The only drive in the park is a 32-mile road from Dillingham leading to boating and fishing. Enjoy these sports in the summer and early fall.

    Vermilion Cliffs National Memorial, Arizona

    These chromatic cliffs were named for their purple hue. This color is due to iron oxide and magnesium in the red sandstone. They are the focal point of this large BLM park located in Northern Arizona.

    Tom Fisk –

    Visitation to the swirling “Wave” rock formation is restricted. There is also a lottery system for this site. The rest of the monument is mostly devoid of Instagram influencers or selfie-takers.

    Hidden amongst the cliffs is Paria Canyon. Other amazing rock formations are White Pocket, Toadstool Hoodoos, and the Alcove. On a day’s hike, you can view Navajo culture when you stay at the Shash and Dine at Eco Retreat in Page, Arizona.

    A longer three- to five-day backpacking trip down the length of Paria Canyon starts from trailheads in Southern Utah. Viewing the Vermilion Cliffs is not recommended in the summer due to very high temperatures.

    Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington

    Mount St. Helens was a typical snowcapped peak until May 18, 1980, when it erupted in a catastrophic eruption releasing 24 megatons of thermal energy. This Forest Service national monument is highlighted by a large crater, extensive debris fields, and a blanket of dead trees around Spirit Lake.

    The park’s primary activities include hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. To reach Mount St. Helens, take Highway 504 to Johnston Ridge Observatory and follow the Eruption Trail through lava terrain. Or take Highway 99 to Windy Ridge for views of the crater or Spirit Lake.

    You can drive around the volcano in two to three days using the Loowit Trail for a 30-mile journey. Plan your journey for either summer of early fall.

    Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, Colorado

    The country’s newest national monument, created by presidential decree on Oct 12, 2022, features an impressive expanse of Colorado’s High Country. This monument combines outdoor recreation with military history and stunning Rocky Mountain scenery.

    Camp Hale – Thomas Peipert AP

    The Forest Service manages the park, including 20 miles of the Continental Divide Trail.  Camp Hale housed troops from the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division where they trained during World War II. Some of these soldiers helped to fuel American snow sports, resulting in the creation of more than 60 winter-time resorts after the war. This park offers plenty of opportunities for snowmobiling and backcountry skiing in winter. During the summer, visitors can participate in backpacking and climbing.

    Leadville is a great base from which to explore the park’s military history, and shorter hikes. Take a multi-day ski tour or summer hike with overnight stays at the park’s 10th Mountain Division Huts.

    Na Pali Coast, Hawaii

    The opening scene of the original movie “Jurassic Park” was shot on the Na Pali Coast. It is a primeval area that looks and feels like Kauai Island.

    Roberto Nickson –

    Na Pali’s rusty-colored cliffs are surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. They rise behind isolated Pacific beaches. Just beyond the coast lies Waimea Canyon. This gorge is 3,000 feet deep and is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. The only way to explore this largely undeveloped region is by foot or boat.

    Na Pali Canyon and Waimea Canyon are home to many rare birds and plants. These are protected by natural areas and forest reserves within a 10-mile radius. Contrary to the movie, no dinosaurs live here.

    During the summer, when it’s warmer and has less rain, you can backpack any or part of the Kalalau Trail (up to 5 days).

    Salmon-Challis National Forest, Idaho

    Idaho’s Salmon River, Sawtooth Mountains, and other areas are worthy of national park status. They are some of the most impressive ranges in the Rocky Mountains. The remote area and its wild rivers are protected by many national forests, including.

    Some areas can be accessed by road. Others require you to bring a backpack and some good hiking boots. The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is the largest federal wilderness area in Idaho. It covers 2.3 million acres of wooded, water, and snowcapped peaks.

    Take the 25-mile Custer Motorway Adventure Road to historic sites in 19th- Salmon-Challis century Yankee Fork Mining District. Join Holiday River Expeditions for a six-day whitewater trip down the River of No Return, also known as the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Summer in the best time to explore this forest.


    You can enjoy these national park alternatives without fighting the crowds, viewing from a bus, or paying fees. Find a bit of heaven or enjoy the peace and quiet. Take the road less travelled and experience the beauty that others are missing.

    Fact: Buckle up for an awesome road trip and an unforgettable experience
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    How Moving Abroad Can Save You Money

    Retirement should be a time to kick back and enjoy the rewards of your hard work. Unfortunately, for many retirees in America, the high cost of living can put a damper on your plans for an enjoyable retirement. Fortunately, there is a solution: how moving abroad can save you money.

    Moving abroad during retirement can be a great way to save money, from lower living costs to tax breaks and incentives. Here are some of the primary ways you can benefit financially by moving abroad:

    Lower Cost of Living

    One major advantage to moving abroad during retirement is the lower cost of living. Many countries provide lower living expenses than the United States, especially when it comes to housing, food and healthcare services. This makes moving abroad an attractive option for many retirees.

    Nataliya Vaitkevich –

    For instance: today I went shopping at a mercado and a bakery. I purchased a large head of lettuce, a hunk of soft cheese, 2 green peppers, an onion, a carrot, 3 bananas, 1 avocado, and 2 pastries. These cost me $4.64.USD.

    Some countries will offer you lower apartment rental or home purchase, reduced utility costs, entertainment and restaurant charges, hotel expenses, professional and technical charges, as well as bank and mortgage charges. These vary from country to country, so will need to do your due diligence.

    Numbeo, a website that compares the cost of living between countries, indicates that Ecuador offers residents an affordable living alternative at 57% lower cost than in the United States. Thailand and Portugal both boast lower cost-of-living estimates at 43% and 31% respectively.

    By retiring to a country with lower costs of living, you can maximize your retirement funds and enjoy an enhanced quality of life.

    Healthcare Cost Savings

    Healthcare costs for retirees can be a major concern, but many countries provide healthcare systems that are both cost-effective and high quality. Retirees who move to countries with good healthcare systems tend to save money on medical bills. I recently spend 3 days in the hospital. The charge, along with prescriptions, came to $1,800 USD for a simple procedure.

    International Living states that retirees moving to Costa Rica can expect to pay around $50 per month for healthcare coverage. Likewise, Mexican retirees pay as little as $300 annually for healthcare coverage. These are two of the lowest healthcare charges. Other countries charge more but they are still lower than most first-world countries. My monthly health care charge is $129.00 USD. There are cheaper sources of coverage, but I chose one where I could select my own doctor.

    You may have lower costs on prescription medicines, doctor consultations and exams, dental work, eyeglasses and exams, and hospitalizations.

    In addition to lower healthcare costs, some countries also provide high-quality services. For instance, International Living recently conducted a study which revealed France as having the best healthcare system worldwide.

    Tax Savings

    Depending on where you retire, you may be eligible for tax breaks and incentives tailored toward retirees. For instance, some countries provide exemptions to foreign retirees who bring in a certain amount of income.

    Portugal is one country offering tax breaks to retirees. According to International Living, those who move there and meet certain criteria can take advantage of a 10-year tax holiday on foreign income – including pension income – beginning after they retire.

    I would recommend double checking on Portugal. The country has received so many expats that it is beginning to put up road blocks to stem this immigration.

    In Malaysia, retirees who earn a certain amount of income can take advantage of a tax rate reduction of 10% on the first RM100,000 [$22,708.00] earned. Other countries have adopted a territorial tax system where you are taxed only for income earned outside the country. In the Western Hemisphere, these include Canada, Panamá, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas. Many more European countries also will not charge you for income earned outside their country. Many countries also impose no tax on income earned up to a certain amount. You will not face double taxation.

    Cheaper Travel

    Retirees may find that living abroad makes your travel more affordable, with increased opportunities to visit nearby countries or explore your new region at lower costs than you have experienced in your home country. You may be offered reductions on all transportation within your adopted country, and you may receive reduced ticket prices for airline travel to other countries. Panamá offers a 25% reduction on all transportation costs, while Ecuador offers a 50% savings. Travelling back to visit family and friends becomes more affordable with these benefits.

    Spencer Davis –

    For instance, retirees living in Europe can easily travel to nearby countries by train or bus at much cheaper costs than air travel from the United States. Likewise, retirees living in Southeast Asia can take advantage of low-cost airlines to explore their region.

    Depending on where you reside, activities within a region may be cheaper than those found within the United States.

    Cost of Services

    As a retiree, you may discover that home cleaning, cooking, and landscaping are more affordable in your new country. This could be especially advantageous for retirees who want to live a comfortable lifestyle without having to do all the work themselves.

    In many countries in Southeast Asia, retirees often hire a maid or cleaning service to keep their home tidy and spotless. Likewise, Latin Americans frequently employ gardeners or landscapers for yard upkeep. I employ a cleaning lady for $15.00 USD once a month (her usual rate is $12.50 per half-day).


    Overall, moving abroad during retirement can be a wise financial choice if you wish to maximize your retirement funds. However, it’s essential that you research and comprehend all costs and requirements associated with moving before making your final decision. This could be the best decision you ever made.

    Fact:  To save money, avoid shipping large items like furniture or vehicles; you’re not likely to need either one
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    UNESCO Honors the French Baguette

    The United Nations has a heritage organization known as UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, honors the French baguette. This organization promotes peace and security by promoting knowledge sharing and the free flow of ideas to accelerate mutual understanding and a more perfect knowledge of each other’s lives.

    On November 30, 2022, UNESCO voted to add the French baguette to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list. It stated that the baguette is a symbol of French culture. Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, said that this achievement “celebrates France’s way of living: The baguette is a daily routine, a structuring part of the meal, synonymous of sharing and conviviality.”

    This heritage list includes 600 traditions from more than 130 countries. The aim is to preserve the skills and social customs of these countries. The list includes such notables as beekeeping in Slovenia, tea making in China, the Thai Massage, and pottery making in Vietnam.

    Origin of the Baguette

    Unlike store-bought bread, the French baguette is known for its crisp crust and long length. The word baguette means wand or baton. Its origin in unclear. One theory is that Napoleon created a bread that was easy for his soldiers to carry. Another speculation is that the French Metro system wanted a bread that was easily torn apart. This was to encourage its workers from carrying knives, as they often got into fights.

    Another pronouncement is that a law passed in France in 1919 resulted in the baguette. This law forbid bakers from working between 10:00 pm and  4:00 am. Thus, the bakers did not have enough time to make the more traditional round bread. They had to come up with an alternative.

    In actuality, the baguette was likely first created by August Zang in Vienna in 1839. He used France’s steam oven which produced the flaky crust with a fluffy interior.

    Shape of the Baguette

    The baguette does not always take the usual shape. Sometimes it is made as a short, ball-shaped or bâtard loaf or in English as a torpedo loaf. Another variation is tube shaped (flûte) or called parisiennethe English. This loaf is about twice the size as the familiar baguette. For a pictorial representation see here.

    By French law, the traditional baguette must consist of wheat flour, water, salt, and wild and/or baker’s yeast.  The shape is not dictated. However, using different flours produce different tastes. These may be rice, whole wheat, multigrain, or sourdough. Also, a quick or slow rising of the dough produces a different texture and taste. For full details on making a classic French baguette, see this document.  

    Popularity of the Baguette

    How popular is the baguette? Consumption figures vary as there is no way to track public and private sales and usage. Estimates in France run from 16 to 30 million per day (half a baguette per person), while French Algeria may rival France by  consuming 49 baguettes per day (

    Markus Spiske –

    The price of a French baguette varies widely around the world. According to 2017 figures in US dollars, it will cost in

    • Algeria $.09
    • Colombia $.82
    • Spain 41.12
    • France $1.12
    • Malaysia $1.12
    • Chile $1.42
    • Australia $1.87
    • China $3.75
    • as reported here. In my US-style grocery store in Ecuador, I pay $1.05.

    Does man live by bread alone? The French would probably say–Maybe!

    Fact: There are 35,000 artisanal bakeries in France
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    Explore San Francisco’s Magic Year of Festivals

    During 2023, you can explore San Francisco’s magic year of festivals. There are more anniversaries this year than you can shake a stick at. Perhaps throw a piece of Ghirardelli chocolate at would make it more local. This year is a prelude to the 175th Anniversary of the California Gold Rush. This began what is now a whole series of creative landmarks.

    Today, it is easy to explore San Francisco’s magic year of festivals as getting around The City (local spelling) is a breeze. Enjoy that breeze by walking The City streets to more than a dozen anniversary sites.  Public transportation incudes the Muni Metro underground, the BART subway system, busses, taxies, and the ferries crisscrossing the bay. Über and Lyft began here, and Cruise, with its self-driving all-electric fleet of taxies, was the first to offer commercial service in a major US city.

    San Francisco’s Famed Cable Cars

    Amogh Manjunath –

    Moving people about is nothing new to San Francisco. The grandaddy of all movers is, of course, the cable cars. These began clanging up and down The City’s hills 150 years ago. They are, in fact, the only moving national historic landmark in the country. You may get a daily, weekly, or monthly pass to ride these and the other ancient street cars. You can see the oldest of the cable cars— #8—at the free cable car museum in the Washington-Mason Streets Powerhouse.

    Golden Gate and Bay Bridges

    Moving outside The City, you have two choices for iconic structures—the Golden Gate Bridge heading north and south or the Bay Bridge heading east and west. It was 90 years ago that construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began. Wearing its international orange color, it is one of the world’s most photographed bridges. More than 10 million people walk, bike, or drive across this bridge yearly. Take a festive trip across the bridge and return to view the stunning city scape.

    Maarten van den Huevel –

    One of the longest bridges in the US is the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. This double decker bridge transports about 260,000 users daily. The idea for this bridge originated at the time of the Gold Rush, predating the Golden Gate Bridge. Construction did not begin until 1933 and took until 1937. This results in the same 90th Anniversary as the Golden Gate Bridge. Part of the upper deck collapsed onto the lower deck in  the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The bridge closed for a month to complete reconstruction.

    On a ferry, you can ride out to the infamous Alcatraz prison. Known as “the rock,” this is a popular tourist site. This year marks the 60th anniversary of its closing and the 50th year of its opening as a national park of 22 acres. The prison is most notable for two reasons. First, it once housed the notorious Al Capone, and secondly, it is also known for the misguided attempts to swim off the island. Overtime, 36 men attempted to swim away 14 times. They were either caught or didn’t survive the cold waters. Three men mysteriously escaped and are unknown today.

    Coit Tower

    Back on land, two architectural landmarks jutting into view are the Coit Tower and the Ferry Building. Lillie Hitchcock Coit was an eccentric supporter of the San Francisco Fire Department. When she died in 1929, she left a large bequest to The City for beautifying its landscape. The result was a concrete tower (a fire hose?) atop Telegraph Hill, affording a view of The City and the San Francisco Bay. Ninety years later, this monument and the surrounding Pioneer Park attest to her generosity.

    Anthony Bautista –

    Even older, at 125 years, is the Ferry Building, the nexus of ferries traversing the Bay. This beaux-arts building has stood strong all these years, famous for surviving the famous 1906 and 1989 earthquakes. With the advent of bridges, its use declined, though ferry rides are still available. Today, the building has become a “culinary cathedral,” home to vendors and famers offering their merchandise and food products. Surrounding the building is the Embarcadero, an esplanade linking the San Francisco Giants’ home and the popular Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf.

    San Fracisco Arts

    The arts have always played a part in San Francisco’s history. The San Francisco Opera has offered its song for 100 years, making it the third longest-surviving opera company in the US. A mega performance showcasing its musical history takes place in June.

    Right behind the Opera is the San Francisco Ballet. It is celebrating its 90th Anniversary with nine world premieres by nine outstanding world choreographers. This ballet company is proud to be the nation’s oldest ballet company.

    Celebrating 70 years of progressive literature is the founding of City Lights Bookstore. The poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti brought anti-authoritarian and alternative culture into The City. The result was the ”beatnik” era of free love. This literary landmark has grown over the years. It now houses three floors of books with expanded offerings still advocating for the freedom of thought.

    City Lights Books –

    From food to music to clothing, The City also celebrates the venues which have contributed to its fame. John’s Grill turns 115 years old this year. You may have heard of this eatery as it was Sam Spade’s haunt in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. It was the first restaurant to open after the 1906 earthquake. It was and still is the place to see and be seen by San Francisco’s elite.

    The music scene in San Francisco celebrates the 40th anniversary of SFJAZZ, as well as the 10th birthday of its new Center. This Center is the  first stand-alone structure in the country built for jazz. The goal was to establish a two-day festival. Now this festival is one of the top jazz festivals in the world.

    Levi Jeans

    Last but not least, how could we overlook the proliferation of Levi jeans. Levi Strauss opened a dry good store with the advent of the Gold Rush. He catered not only to the gold rush miners but also to workers in general. They needed something tough for their work. He chose denim and secured the pieces with metal rivets. This riveting process resulted in blue jeans known the world over.

    From the rough-and-tumble days of the California Gold Rush to the days of mega computers, San Francisco has been on the forefront of new developments. These have taken the form of iconic bridges and buildings, as well as the creativity in the arts. It would be a worthwhile venture to explore San Francisco’s magic year of festivals. It would also serve as the kickoff for the next century of epic events in The City.

    Fact: The Beatles gave their last full concert at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966
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    Are You Ready for Summer Camping?

    Selecting the ideal camp site is an important part of camping. It will makeall the difference to your enjoyment and comfort.  Let’s look at some tips for selecting the ideal camping spot. Consider the gear you will need, eating while camping, and backpacking.

    Define Your Needs

    Before you begin searching, consider the qualities and amenities you want. These could include proximity to attractions and amenities such as a shower or fire pit. Search for quiet locations with no noise pollution. Maybe you would like to socialize among other campers. Make a list of essential requirements and preferences which will guide your decision-making.

    Once you know what type of campsite you want, research the areas which interest you. Use the Internet sites and books listed here for possibilities:

    When planning a camping trip, you need to consider the time of year. This will determine the types of campsites available, weather conditions, and crowd levels. Popular campgrounds tend to fill up quickly during peak seasons. So be sure to make a reservation in advance (if your choice campground takes reservations).

    Clem Onojeghuo –

    Once you’ve narrowed down your choices of, take a closer look at the amenities they offer. These could include fire pits, picnic tables, and available water. You may also want electrical hookups, showers, and bathrooms. Make sure the campground you select offers everything necessary for your success.

    Before making a final decision, read reviews from other campers. This may  give you an accurate assessment of its quality and potential issues which might arise. Search YouTube videos to view the most appealing campsites. Don’t forget to use Google maps or other map programs, also. If you can, use GPS settings to get to the campground.

    Special Considerations

    Most campsites are open all year, unless otherwise stated. Some may be accessible only when weather permits. Do not count on amenities being available in the off season. Some amenities may be available in a central location and not at the actual site. Many campsites are free, but they may request a donation. Other campsites will be free only at certain times of the year, usually off season. Follow these tips to find your enjoyable next adventure.

    The Gear You Will Need

    Daniel Joseph Petty –

    There are essential items to take on a camping trip. The first item is a tent. A tent is the most essential piece of camping gear and provides protection from elements. When selecting a tent, factor in how many people will be joining you and the climate in which you plan to camp.

    Choose an appropriate spot for your tent and clear away any rocks or sticks in its path. Attach the tent onto either a tarp or ground cloth to keep it dry and protected from moisture damage. Fasten the tent securely to avoid collapsing.

    Use a sleeping pad to provide insulation and cushioning between you and the ground. This will improve your sleep quality significantly. Various types of pads are available: self-inflating, air-filled, and closed cell foam. A good sleeping bag is also essential for staying warm and comfortable. Check its temperature rating as well as its type of insulation (synthetic, down, or other).

    Bring a backpack with your gear, food, and clothing. Select a backpack, for  its length, how much each item will weigh, and the type of trip you’ll be taking.

    Select a backpack which is comfortable to wear and has enough capacity to hold your gear. Consider factors like body type, trip duration, and planned activities. Pack everything you will need and weigh it. Can you carry it?

    A cooler is essential for keeping food and drinks cold during a camping trip. The size of the cooler depends on the length of your trip and amount of items you plan on carrying. Camping stoves allow you to prepare meals while camping. Various types of camping stoves are canister, liquid fuel, and wood-burning models. Choose a model for the fuel type available, and for the number people eating.

    Selecting the ideal campsite is an important part of camping. It will make

    all the difference to your enjoyment and comfort.  Let’s look at some tips for selecting the ideal camping spot. Consider the gear you will need, eating while camping, and backpacking.

    1 – Bring the water to a rolling boil on your camp stove; only a few minutes is necessary. Let the water cool and store it in a safe container.

    2 – Use iodine tablets. Drop 1 tablet into a gallon (or approximately four liters) of water; close the lid and wait five minutes. Shake the container vigorously and let the water sit for 30-35 minutes. Finally, the water will be safe to drink.

    3 – Allow ultraviolet rays to do the trick. Use either a battery-powered or hand-powered device. Let the UV rays shine onto the container for the prescribed time the device recommends. You can drink the water after about one minute.

    4 – The cheapest method is to let the sun purify the water. Fill tall narrow containers with the water. Leaving about an inch at the top, as the sun’s rays will only penetrate about four inches. Shake vigorously, place the bottles into direct sunlight. Leave for four to eight hours, depending on how much sun hits the bottles. Let the bottles sit in the sunlight a second day if there wasn’t enough sunlight the first day.

    5 – Buy distilled water before you arrive at your campsite.

    Packing a first-aid kit is essential for treating minor injuries while camping. Consider the type of camping you’ll be doing, the duration of your trip, and the number of people who will be camping.

    Eating while Camping

    Grilling is an excellent way to create flavorful meals over an open flame. Here are some ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes you can grill:


    Enjoy grilled breakfast sandwiches with scrambled eggs, cheese, and meat or vegetable.
    Grilled sweet potatoes topped with butter and cinnamon are delicious, too.
    Serve skewered fruit such as pineapple or peaches drizzled in honey alongside yogurt.


    Grilled sandwiches such as tuna fish, cheese, chicken salad. Also avocado with bacon, ham and cheese or pimento cheese and bacon .

    Grilled chicken or shrimp tacos with a variety of toppings. These might be cheese, avocado, salsa or sour cream.
    Grilled vegetable skewers featuring bell peppers, onions, zucchini and mushrooms.
    Grilled portobello mushrooms stuffed with cheese, spinach, or sun-dried tomatoes.


    Grilled steak topped with herb butter and side of grilled vegetables.

    Grilled salmon marinated in lemon and herbs served alongside grilled asparagus.
    Grilled pork chops with a fruit glaze and side of grilled corn on the cob.
    Grilled hamburgers, hotdogs, or fish which you may have caught.

    Store all food, trash, and scented items in bear-proof containers. Hang the container at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet away from tree trunks. Or might store your gear in the trunk of your car or roof-mounted carrier. This will keep it out of sight and out of harm’s way.


    Lalu Fatoni –

    Research what wildlife is prevalent in your camping area. Be prepared for the unexpected. What should you do if you encounter any wildlife? Never approach a bear or any wild animal and give them plenty of room to escape. Keep at least 100 yards away from bears and 25 yards away from other wildlife.

    While hiking or camping, make noise to alert animals of your presence and give them a chance to avoid you. They are usually more afraid of you than you are of them.

    Select a trail according to its length, your physical ability and desired scenery. Determine what equipment and supplies you’ll need.

    Pack lightweight non-perishable food items high in calories, protein, and healthy fats. Dried fruit, nuts, peanut butter, jerky, or energy bars are good choices. Don’t forget to also bring along a container to boil water.

    Plan for unexpected weather conditions. Be prepared by packing appropriate clothing and equipment which can withstand changing temperatures. Consider bringing a water or windproof jacket, warm hat, gloves, and a rain cover for your backpack.

    It is always wise to bring a first-aid kit, map and compass, fire starter and signaling device such as a whistle. Also ensure your communication device has access to charging. Make sure ahead of time someone knows your itinerary and expected return date.

    What makes an ideal campsite?

    A perfect campsite can vary depending on your individual tastes and needs. Here are some common elements to make for an enjoyable camping experience.

    An ideal campsite will offer scenic and tranquil surroundings. It will be near hiking trails, lakes, rivers or other natural attractions. Look for an open and level area to set up your tent. Consider the distance from your car for safety measures. Be aware of any regulations or restrictions for camping in the area. Look for a location with ample shade, privacy. and wind protection.

    You may prefer a quiet and private campsite, or value socializing with other camper. Make sure you chose a campground with your desired level of seclusion.

    The best campsites may provide amenities like fire pits, picnic tables, toilets, showers, and running water. Other sites may have electrical hookups to power your appliances and devices. Choose campsites which are easily accessible by car, with well-maintained roads and ample parking.

    Having a secure campsite, with clear rules and regulations in place, will offer you peace of mind. It may be worth paying more for a well-equipped campsite. Yet it’s essential you select one which fits your budget.


    Selecting the ideal campsite can be either exhilarating or overwhelming. You may need to decide among many options. If you want to go camping in the summer, make your plans in January. In the winter, most people are not thinking about camping outdoors. Also, consider camping in the off seasons when campgrounds will be less crowded.

    Be a responsible camper. Leave no trace, respect wildlife and their habitats, and do not damage vegetation. Dispose of waste properly and leave the campsite in better condition than you found it.

    Choosing the perfect campground will give you a wonderful experience. You will dream of this until you go camping next year. For this year, have fun camping!

    Fact: Since 2014, the number of US campers has increased by 22 percent
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    Spanning Two Continents

    Istanbul, Turkey lies on two continents: Europe and Asia.  Spanning two continents has its advantages and disadvantages. Getting from one to the other requires crossing the Bosphorus Strait by bridge, ferry, or tunnel.

    Turkey, officially known as Türkiye since 2022, is not a member of the European Union nor a Schengen zone member. The Schengen area is made up of 27 European countries which allow for visa-free border crossings. If you do not hold a European passport, you may remain in a Schengen country for 90 days and then you must leave for another 90 days before re-entering any Schengen country.  Türkiye is one country you can escape to in order to meet this requirement.

    Ceylan Zere

    The Bosphorus, with its gently sloping banks lined with luxurious private mansions, palace parks and centuries-old groves, is the epitome of Istanbul.This 19-mile (30 kilometers) strait connects the Black Sea in the north to the Sea of Marmara in the south. Istanbul, with its urban sprawl encompassing Europe to the west and Asia to the east, has often been described as a city spanning two continents.

    As of 2021, under 16 million people reside here; many work on one side and live on the other; thus a large proportion of its population is always moving around the city and often having to wait in cars, buses, trains, or ferries before crossing from one side to the other.

    Navigating the city’s complex road map can be daunting at any time of day, and yet people manage to get places by using bridge, ferry, and tunnel which connect the two continents. On October 29th, 1973 – Türkiye’s 50th birthday – the only way to travel from Europe to Asia was via ferry. Prior to this date, ferries plied the waters of the Bosphorus beginning in 1837. Today, there are four bridges, 38 ferries, and a tunnel.

    The Bosphorus Bridge

    In 1973, the Bogazici Koprusu – or Bosphorus Bridge – was completed, making it the the fourth-longest suspension bridge span in the world, and the longest outside the United States. Today, it is the 40th longest suspension bridge in the world. It was renamed Martyrs Bridge after a failed 2016 coup attempt, though locals still refer to it affectionately as Bogazici Koprusu or The First Bridge.

    The breathtaking 1,560-meter (5,118 feet) long steel suspension bridge provides drivers with a rare perspective over the swift-running waters of the Bosphorus, offering stunning views to Topkapi Palace and beyond to the Sea of Marmara in the distance.

    At its inception, the bridge attracted walkers who sought a picturesque vantage point to admire the majestic white of 19th century Buyuk Mecediye Mosque located directly by the water’s edge in Ortakoy.

    The Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge

    On July 3, 1988, the second bridge spanning both continents opened its gates in honor of Fatih Sultan Mehmet, better known as Mehmet the Conqueror. He is remembered for riding into Constantinople in 1453 and establishing Ottoman rule over what had previously been Byzantine Empire territory.

    This second bridge, commonly referred to as FSM Koprusu, is a gravity-anchored steel suspension bridge is 1,090 meters (3,576 feet) in length. This bridge spans the narrowest point of the Bosphorus strait, where Persian King Darius I is said to have constructed a floating bridge in 512 B.C.E.

    The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge

    In 2016, a third suspension bridge across the Bosphorus opened near the Black Sea, named for Yavuz Sultan Selim – grandson of Mehmet the Conqueror who was known for his passion for transport. During his 16th century reign, Sultan Selim personally rebuilt both Ottoman fleet and Halic Tershanesi – Golden Horn shipyards – with his own hands.

    On completion, the bridge set a number of records: it is the world’s widest suspension bridge at 58.8 meters (121.20 feet) wide, capable of supporting eight lanes of traffic and a double-track railway line; furthermore, it stands as fifth tallest bridge worldwide at over 322 meters (1056 feet) in height.

    On clear days, this bridge built for trucks and long-distance traffic heading to central Anatolia (the Asian portion of Istanbul) offers drivers an unforgettable view of the Black Sea.

    Canakkale 1915 Bridge

    The 1915 Canakkale Bridge, short of 3.1 miles, holds the world record for being the world’s longest suspension bridge. This structure crosses the Bosphorus replacing a one-hour ferry crossing (which in reality can take up to five hours with waiting time) with a six-minute drive at 50 miles per hour limit. This road is less popular with locals due to its focus on speed instead of scenic beauty.

    Ceylan Zere

    On March 18, 2022, Turkey commemorated their victory over the Allies in a fierce battle to gain control of this key waterway during World War I. The bridge opened its gates to belatedly mark this momentous occasion.

    The Ferries

    Despite the use of bridges to cross the Bosphorus, the ferries remain the most popular way to get from one side to the other. There are four ferry terminals on the European side of the river and three on the Asian side. The ferries also traverse up and down the strait for commuting. If you wish to cruise the strait for pleasure, select a tour ferry instead of the commuting ferry to avoid large crowds.

    A popular activity of the locals is to purchase a simit—a round bread covered with sesame seeds—and feed the gulls as they travel. Ottoman sultans built their palaces alongside the strait and today, the best way to see these neoclassical-baroque facades is to take a ferry which cruises closely by. Other mansions, called Yali, which hug the shoreline have been turned into boutique hotels. Another visual point which you can see from the ferries is the Maidens’ Tower, a tiny bit of rock where two girls once lived.

    Carolyn Macuga

    In 1844, City Lines’ Ferries were established during the Ottoman Empire to traverse the Bosphorus. Today, there are 38 ferries which carry from 600 to 2100 passengers as well as cars. Depending on the size of the ferry, they take 20 to 95 minutes to cross the strait. If you haven’t taken a ferry from the European to the Asian side of the Bosphorus, you haven’t seen Istanbul.

    The Tunnels

    It is also possible to cross to the other side by going under the Bosphorus. First conceived in 1860, this idea failed, was tried again in 1892, but again never came to fruition. Once more, the idea was proposed in 1997 and construction began in 2004 with a Turkish-Japanese consortium. The tunnel was completed in 2008, and a double set of railway tracks were laid in 2008.

    However, the tunnel could not be used as archaeological artifacts from 8,000 years earlier were discovered. This caused a delay until 2013, but the tunnel  became operational at that point. This tunnel, named Marmaray, allows for train travel every five to fifteen minutes, with 328 trips a day.  The tunnel descends at its lowest point to 200 feet below sea level, making it the world’s deepest immersed tunnel.

    A road tunnel was first proposed in 1891 but was never constructed. Again, a tunnel for cars was conceived in 1997 with the idea of spacing it away from the bridges to control the traffic. The proposed plan was for a double-decker roadway with two lanes on each deck. Special construction was determined with seismic considerations in mind.

    This second tunnel, named the Eurasia Tunnel, opened in 2016. It is 3.4 miles long, allowing upwards of 120,000 cars and light vehicles per day to travel at 43 mph. This crossing should take 15 minutes under normal conditions.

    If you are a traveler who needs to escape from a Schengen country, head to European Türkiye to wait out your time to return to a European Schengen country. But, if you are in European Türkiye, you should not miss the opportunity to travel to Asian Türkiye.

    Whether you travel above, on, or below the Bospherous strait, you can today make a relatively quick trip spanning two continents. The bridges and tunnels were some of the hardest to construct, but their completion allows the joining of two worlds and two cultures no longer kept separate.

    Fact: Istanbul is the only transcontinental city in the entire world
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    Black Pearls from Tahiti

    Black pearls from Tahiti are among the world’s most valuable and sought-after pearls due to their rarity and deep, lustrous black color – unique among pearls. Black pearls can be found in warm waters surrounding French Polynesia islands, with most coming from Tahiti itself.

    However, the Tahitian pearl is not actually grown in Tahiti. Instead, most are grown in the Tuamotu Archipelago and the Gambier Islands, all a part of French Polynesia. This Tahitian-named pearl is produced by an overly large oyster, up to 10 pounds. This allows for a larger sized pearl. As 55% of Polynesia’s exports, the black pearl brings in about 12 million US dollars yearly.

    Jewelry designers and collectors around the world prize them for their  unique aesthetic appeal. Tahitian black pearls often feature in high-end jewelry designs which can command hefty prices due to their scarcity. There are types of pearls, but the Tahitian pearl is considered the ultimate pearl. They come in various sizes and shapes; less than 10% are round. The Baroque pearl is highly prized as its jagged shape refracts light similar to an oil splash.

    Tahitian Black Pearls

    Black pearls are produced by the black-lipped oyster. This species of oyster is much larger than other varieties and produces pearls which tend to be larger and darker in hue. Tahitian pearls come in an array of colors, from black to gray, green, blue and purple, with overtones of pink, blue, silver, green and yellow. The most valuable pearls have a deep dark hue with subtle iridescence.

    Cultivating black pearls is a highly specialized and laborious process involving implanting a small bead or piece of tissue into an oyster to stimulate its growth. After this initial stimulation has taken place, careful monitoring must continue for up to two years while the pearl develops within.

    Pearl Diving

    Pearl diving has been a longstanding tradition in Tahiti for centuries. The art of pearl diving has been passed down from generation to generation, with the island’s most experienced divers passing on their knowledge to future divers. Successful pearl diving requires both skill and bravery—divers must be able to hold their breath for extended periods while navigating tricky currents and depths.

    Aria, the Pearl Diver

    Aria was one of Tahiti’s most accomplished pearl divers. Born and raised on the island, Aria inherited her father’s passion for diving. With an eye for finding rare and stunning pearls, Aria dedicated herself to finding one black pearl – her life’s work!

    Aria had spent years searching for the coveted black pearl, believed to be the most beautiful and valuable of all pearls. However, her search had proven fruitless as she had yet to uncover one.

    Jonathan, a wealthy businessman arrived on Tahiti in the early 2000s. A pearl collector himself, Jonathan had heard stories of Tahiti’s legendary black pearls and offered generous rewards to anyone who could find one. Soon, there was an upsurge in excitement around the island as people raced to find their prize.


    Aria saw this as her chance to finally find the black pearl she had been searching for. Each day, she dove deep into the ocean and held her breath as long as possible. However, there were many obstacles in her way, such as hazardous currents and fierce competition from other pearl divers.

    Aria would not give up. Day after day, she searched for the black pearl in hopes one day it would be hers. Finally, after weeks of searching, Aria held in her hand a pearl the size of a small bird’s egg which shone with deep, lustrous black. As Aria held it with pride and joy, she felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

    Aria’s victory was short lived, however. As she made her way back to shore, Jonathan and his men ambushed her and took away her black pearl. Jonathan turned out to be part of an organized crime syndicate. Left stranded on an isolated island with only Kai, a local fisherman who had been helping her, Aria and Kai were left for dead on an unknown shore.


    Aria and Kai refused to give up, however. They knew they needed to find a way to survive and make their way back home. Working together, they used their skills and knowledge to construct shelter and gather food while searching the island for any sign of rescue, hoping someone would come along and bring them back home to Tahiti.

    After months of being separated from home, Aria and Kai eventually discovered a cave. Inside it, they found a boat left by fishermen. They used the boat to make their way back home to Tahiti, where they were reunited with their families and friends.

    Aria’s story has become legendary in Tahiti. Her skill and bravery in searching for the black pearl, combined with her resilience in the face of adversity, inspired others on the island to greatness. Today, Aria is remembered as one of Tahiti’s greatest pearl divers in its long and illustrious past.

    Fact: Pearl divers can stay under water for about seven minutes
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    Hawai’i Beyond the Beach

    Why can’t travelers to Hawai’i think beyond the beach? The United States’ 50th state is so much more than blue skies, palm trees, and ocean views. If you venture beyond the beach, you may be surprised to see what else Hawai’i offers.

    The Onomea Valley

    In 1977, if you had approached the Onomea Valley close to Hilo, you would have found an overgrown, infested-looking 17-acre briar patch you could hardly navigate into. Not so for Dan and Pauline Lukenhouse who only saw possibilities.

    Dan had sold his trucking business in California and he and Pauline thought Hawai’i would be fertile ground for retirement. Little did they realize how fertile this jungle-looking tract was until they cleaned it out and started becoming gardeners.

    This seemingly impenetrable tract of land was the Onomea Valley, created by two rivers many years ago cutting into the lava cliffs and meeting the waves and winds of the Pacific Ocean. The bay at the ocean front had been an Hawaiian fishing village, followed by a sugar mill, and eventually land for growing passion fruit and grazing cattle. By the 1900s, the land had been left deserted and quickly overgrew with invasive plants and shrubs.

    Cleaning Out a Jungle

    Dan and Pauline bought the land and determined it would make a perfect green space and began clearing it, making it into a natural greenhouse supporting 2,000 native species. It took 7 years to clean out this jungle, working only by hand so as to not disturb the terrain and the natural plants already there. This included carving  paths through lava rock to allow access through the valley.

    Tearing apart this jungle exposed a three-tiered waterfall,  now considered one of the most beautiful in Hawai’i. A steep boardwalk takes you down into the valley which is filled with a full spectrum of exotic flowers, surrounded by tall trees and lush foliage. You will wander down a mile-and-a-half path through the valley, viewing and smelling this myriad of flowers, over streams and past waterfalls until you reach the bay with its spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.

    Over the next 17 years, Dan kept developing the Valley, filling it with tropical and subtropical plants from around the world. These include exotic palms and bamboo, heliconia and orchids. Visitors can also enjoy a wide variety of fruit trees such as mangos, papayas and avocados.

    Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden

    The Bioreserve & Garden’s scenic hiking trails are a highlight. You can enjoy a relaxing stroll through the lush vegetation while taking in the sights and sounds of nature. The gardens offer stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding mountains as well as lush vegetation.

    View of Onomea Bay from the lower Gardens

    This is the ideal destination for anyone who loves nature, gardening, or simply wants to spend a day relaxing. The Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden is a must for all those who love botany and nature. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the garden’s diverse collection of trees and tropical plants, as well as scenic hiking trails and a tranquil atmosphere. 

    Following the deaths of Dan and Pauline in 2007 and 2017 respectively, their children took over the operation, working with a board of directors to continue their parents’ dream.

    The Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden also serves as a research and education center. Visitors of all ages can enjoy a range of educational programs and workshops at the garden, which includes guided tours, bird-watching excursions and horticulture classes. The garden also serves as a research center for botanists and horticulturists who are interested in tropical plants and the ecosystems surrounding them.

    Tour a Salt Farm

    The Island of Hawai’i (generally called The Big Island) has two volcanoes reaching into space—Kilauea and Mauna Loa. On the western side of the island in the Kona District, going below the surface is the source for one of the highest-quality salts.

    The Kona Salt Farm pulls salt from a depth of 2,200 feet through a 40-inch pipe to evaporation beds on the surface. This flavorful salt, rich in minerals, has been pulled from the ocean current originating in Greenland, where ice forms, leaving salt on the surface. As this surface water gets heavier from the accumulation of salt, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean. This spot off the island is one of the few places in the world where deep water salt can be farmed.

    This salt farm uses traditional methods which have been handed down over the generations to produce high-quality salt. The end product is unrefined, high-quality salt with a distinctive flavor. The salt is well-known for its delicate taste, bright white color, fine crystal structure, and it is prized by both chefs and home cooks.

    The uniqueness of Kona Salt Farm’s salt is due to the place it is made. The distinctive flavor and color of Kona Salt Farm’s salt is due to the combination of the warm Hawaiian sun, mineral-rich seawater, and the rich volcanic soil. 

    Kona Salt Farm salt is not only good for cooking, but also has many health benefits. It is high in minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium, which are vital for a healthy body. Unrefined salt means it has not been stripped of its natural minerals. It is healthier than refined table salt which has been stripped from its minerals and often contains additives.

    Kona Salt Farm is much more than a salt-making plant. It’s a place which represents Hawaii and the people who call Hawaii home. The farm strives to preserve traditional salt-making methods and provide a high-quality product reflecting the traditions and values of the Hawaiian people. The farm is committed to sustainability and environmental responsibility and makes use of renewable energy to power its operations.

    A visit to the Tropical Biosphere and Garden as well as the Kona Salt Farm will add to the pleasure of any vacation on Hawaii’s big island.

    Fact: Hawai’i has the highest life expectancy in the United States
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    Ecuador’s Recent Earthquake

    Ecuador’s recent earthquake struck last Saturday about 12:15 pm. It measured 6.7 on the Richter Scale affecting both Ecuador and Peru. The latest report, as of this writing, is that 15 people were killed (14 in Ecuador and 1 in Peru), 126 injured, and significant buildings destroyed or damaged. At least 20 schools and 30 health centers showed damage. For the absolute latest information, see (World).

    Let me first apologize for duplicate material I have posted on Internet sites. I want to assure you that I am fine. This is my latest report.

    Cuenca –

    At about 12:15 pm Saturday, I was preparing some lunch when it happened. So I hung onto my kitchen counter for what seemed like two minutes while we rocked. I had no damage, only the loss of some electricity for a few hours. Here in Cuenca, a building toppled onto a car, killing the occupant. Another person was killed in an outlying area.

    I’m an old hand with earthquakes. I survived the 1969 7.1 quake in San Francisco. That one left me and the city in quarantine for 2-3 weeks. I only had a crack in a wall. Later, when I moved north, I lived on a mountain with geysers below me. This was a major geothermal site. These geysers often let off some steam which shook the mountain. We were glad for the little shakes, as we felt that delayed any buildup for a large quake.

    Cuenca –

    The only new experience I had with this latest quake came from a change in the  atmospheric pressure. It suddenly gave me a mild headache and partially plugged ears. I have read that there have been two aftershocks; I may have felt a mild one that night.  I trust we are now in the clear.

    I don’t know what it will take to knock this old guy off his feet, but it seems it’s going to take more than an earthquake!

    Fact: In 2016, Ecuador suffered a 7.8 earthquake with at least 676 people killed and 16,600 people injured
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