with the bold text in the example below: The Skychi Travel Guide : 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Hosts Nightly Jazz Jams for Whistler Jazz Festival

"Watch this message by Russ Freeman from The Rippingtons who is very much looking forward to playing Whistler Olympic Plaza Sept 3rd @ 6pm."
This Labour Day weekend, the end-of-summer blues sing a happy tune as Canada’s newest jazz festival hits town;Jazz On The Mountain At Whistler.  Nestled in the spectacular mountains of Whistler, this celebration of jazz, culture and entertainment promises to captivate spectators of all ages.  Escape the city commotion for the long weekend and listen to jazz icons such as Stanley Jordan, Kevin Eubanks and The New Gary Burton Quartet.  With over thirty free and ticketed shows from top international and Canadian artists, daily concerts and street entertainment throughout Whistler village, both jazz aficionados and music fans alike will delight in this three-day event. 

"We look forward to Spyro Gyra's performance @ Whistler Olympic Plaza Sunday, Sept 4th. Check out this behind the scenes video of the recording of the band's new CD "A Foreign Affair".

After the events at Whistler Olympic Plaza wrap up each night, sensational jazz continues from 10pm to 1am with The Mallard Lounge Jazz Jams atThe Fairmont Chateau Whistler.  This ultra swank after-party will serve up smoking hot improv jazz each night of the festival.  The world-class Jazz On The Mountain At Whistler House Band will perform nightly joined by some of the Festival's top musicians and headliners.  Sit back and experience once-in-a-lifetime, up-close performances in the Mallard Lounge’s intimate setting.  Be sure to get there early as these free performances are guaranteed to fill up fast.

"What is Stanley Jordan known for? Yes, that's right! His amazing "touch" or "tap" technique on the guitar. Check out this video from one of his part performances on The Late Show with David Letterman. An oldie but a goodie."

As the festival’s leading accommodation partner, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is thrilled to offer a special jazz festival package over September 2-4, 2011, including two nights of luxury Whistler resort accommodations and three-day Jazz On The Mountain passes for two.

"Get your tickets now for our late night series where Kevin Eubanks, Stanley Jordan & Russ Freeman will take to the stage for a solo performance. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see guitar virtuosos in their element."

For more information on Jazz On The Mountain At Whistler and other packages available, please call The Fairmont Chateau Whistler at1-800 606-8244 or visit us online at www.fairmont.com/whistler.  For more details on festival events visit www.whistlerjazzfest.com

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Boobs Saved My Life

Janice  hanging for dear life while White Water Rafting
Janice  hanging for dear life while White Water Rafting 

So, I am standing on a 30 ft. cliff in the hills of West Virginia overlooking the New River wondering how did I get myself into this predicament.  I have been inactive fitness wise for several months that means I am fat and out of shape. However, today I find myself whitewater rafting, swimming in a river, rock climbing and cliff jumping.

At this very moment, I am standing at the top of a thirty-foot cliff in panic mode. I am hyperventilating with fear gripping my body as I look down at the river. It was with boatloads of people calling my name encouraging me to jump. There are about four hundred people in the river below yelling, “Janice jump.” One man counts one, two, three which really sends me more into a panic. I am laughing uncontrollable with nervousness. I was scared shitless. In the back of mind, Janice is asking my alter ego Skychi,  “Why are you here?”

I am watching others jump in front of me one by one they run and jump. It was my turn and what did I do I panicked.  I decided to give my HD Hero Go Pro camera to my boat mate Aaron to record his jump. Then I "high tail" it away from the edge of the cliff. I watch Aaron easily jump into the river.

I try to climb back down the cliff. I don’t get very far. My legs are too short; I am having difficulties trying to stretch my legs to climb up this damn boulder. So I stop and stand on a tree limb and lean my back against my hurdle boulder to take a breath. I am again watching others easily jump off this cliff.  I start giving myself a pep talk, “You can do this. It is just a diving board. You can jump.”

My next move is to get back in line and try to jump again. I can’t climb back down the cliff.  I have no choice but to jump off this damn cliff. Why am I here? I am literally "stuck between a rock and a hard place." I have to JUMP!

This time I am standing at the edge of this cliff and I just fall forward. I don’t run and jump like the others before me. I am still in panic mode so I can’t think or control my body.  I am falling from a cliff without any form or finesse.  My eyes were shut tight and I am screaming for dear life.

Brad our raft master guide called me the “River Princess”. This “River Princess” is now falling without grace from a 30 foot cliff.  The angels show me mercy as they guide my graceless fall into the river. As I hit like a ton of bricks, my left boob broke my fall into the hard as concrete New River. My warrior shaped body was stunned by the clashing impact into the unyielding river.  It feels like the river punched me in the chest. My heart stops breathing. I lay there motionless. The life jacket flips my body over automatically or maybe it was the angels. I am still not breathing while I am lying there motionless.

My eyes open, I am still alive. I hear a man say, “Breathe”. I take a breath; there is a little water in my lungs. I start to move my arms. I am okay. My boob hurts and stings, but I am in one piece. Thank God for all this fat on my chest.

Now I ponder to myself, “Will Janice jump again?” Maybe I will practice jumping from a diving board first!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Those famous white dresses?

Garden view of a Hacienda in Mexico

While on my day tour of Chichen Izta we stopped at  a hacienda for lunch and a show. My bus partner was Mexican. He seemed to be delighted that we were stopping at the hacienda for lunch. He told me there was a hacienda in his native California that had indoor and outdoor seating. This particular hacienda had an indoor  buffet style restaurant. It also had a chapel and a gift shop.

Artwork Souvenirs at Sun Moon Palace Resort

Tip: Buy souvenirs away from the resort, you will spend less for souvenirs on tours. The souvenirs were much cheaper on the tour than at the Sun Moon Palace Resort.  I bought four handkerchiefs for $1. Hat and T- shirts were $5. One of Mexican Tourist from California spent $267 on souvenirs at Chichen Itza alone. He said his wife had given him a list of souvenirs to pick up. I was amazed.

Students dancing at Hacienda Lunch in Mexico

I sat at the front of the restaurant near the stage so that I could film the students dancing. The young women wore those famous white dresses.

Town Square of Valladolid, Mexico

After lunch we stopped at Valladolid, Mexico which is a small town that is known for the famous white dresses that the women wear there. There is also more shopping for inexpensive souvenirs.

Two women proudly wearing those famous white dresses

After I took the photos of the women they wanted a tip. I gave them some Nature's Sunshine Solstice Energy packets because I had spent all my cash on souvenirs. Everybody needs energy right.

My models for the day in those famous white dresses.

They were very nice about it. They just giggled and went on their merry way.

Skychi in front of Famous White Dress Fountain

In the middle of the Valladolid, Mexico town square  park is a fountain of a women wearing one of the famous white dresses.

Women wearing one of the those Valladolid, Mexico "Famous White Dress"

You know those  famous white dresses, don't you?

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to speed through Customs & Immigrations?

Skychi at Sun Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico
Skychi at Sun Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico

At the airport in Cancun I met two American Airlines flight attendants who were also headed back to Chicago. While we were boarding the flight I overhead them talking about Global Entry, so I asked them about it. They told me they were international flight attendants so they cleared customs and immigrations at Chicago O'hare Terminal 5 on a regular basis. They recommended getting Global Entry to save time on the  line to clear customs. Global Entry is $100 for 5 years.

Vendors' children eating in Mexico
Vendors' children eating in Mexico

After we departed the aircraft and went down the escalator towards customs we encountered a line that was at least a mile long in the hallway before we even reached the customs hall. I had never seen the line that long. Now I understand the need for Global Entry. That line was at least a two hour wait. I can only image all the passengers who missed their connecting flights because they were stuck in that line not to mention they had to collect their luggage and recheck to their luggage to its final destination.

Museum of Art Ottawa, Canada
Museum of Art Ottawa, Canada

I just visited the Global Entry website at http://www.globalentry.gov to learn more about it. It seems that the government program is for U.S. citizens who are low-risk. There is a background check, fingerprinting and a interview. You do not need to travel a certain number of trips internationally. Families can apply for Global Entry and schedule their interviews at the same time.

Crew Eats at Sahib's in Montreal, Canada
Crew Eats at Sahib's in Montreal, Canada

Once you are aprroved and receive Global Entry you can enter the U.S. at major airports by using automated kiosks thereby passing the long lines for customs and immigrations. Global Entry users also have free access to other border entry programs such as NEXUS of Canada and SENTRI of Mexico.

Skychi in Chinatown at Victoria Island, Vancouver, Canada
Skychi in Chinatown at Victoria Island, Vancouver, Canada

There is also a FLUX (Fast Low Risk Universal Crossing)  border entry program for the Netherlands which allows Dutch and U.S. citizens to travel through fast lanes internationally. The Privium FLUX is a limited program with  fees of 220 Euros. The Privium Plus membership is an additional 66 Euros. These fees do not include the $100 Global Entry fee. The Privium Plus allows its members to have club lounge access, priority parking, and business class check-in even if you have coach ticket.

Arc de Triomphe Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe Paris, France

My observations of travelers that use the fast lane at the automated kiosks that the process is faster than a flight crew line clearance.

Flight Crew heading to airport from LAX Sheraton
Flight Crew heading to airport from LAX Sheraton

Next time you are waiting in line at Customs and Immigrations watching passengers zip through at the automated kiosks consider the pros and cons for yourself. Is the Global Entry program for you?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Will the gods shine at Chichen Itzas Spring Solstice?

Skychi in front of Observatory

This has been an unusual vacation for me. I am accustomed to planning my own itinerary. Today, I went on a full-day group tour to Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was a completely different experience for me. I had no clue of what to expect for the day, as I had not bothered to ask about the itinerary. So everything was a surprise to me. The bus ride was two hours from Cancun to Chichen Itza. We left the Sun Moon Palace Resort about 8 am and arrived in Chichen Itza about 11 a.m. because of one rest stop along the way.

Tour Guide Sylvia in front of Observatory

There were three motorcoach tour buses from the resort with about 50 people each for about 150 people. Once at Chichen Itza some people went off to explore on their own and others followed the tour guide. I decided to stick with the tour guide so I could enjoy the history of tour.

It seems that is is winter in Mexico but it is still 90 degrees. There are no mosquitos because it is winter. During the tour it started raining. I wondered why there were people carrying umbrellas. At first I thought it was for protection from the sun. Now I understand one should be prepared in case of rain too. Big tip it is spring so, carry an umbrella. It will protect you from the sun or possible rain.

Observatory at Chichen Itza

On March 21st is the Sun Solstice, thousands of people will gather at Chichen Itza to watch the sun pass from the front door to the back door of the Observatory. At the same time the sun will also pass through door of the main monument. The sunworshippers will wait for the snake tail to zig zag its way down to the snake head. That is if the gods are happy the sun will shine. If a cloud passes over or it rains then the Mayans believed that the gods had to be appeased with the blood of human sacrifices. It seems that men were the preferred to be sacrificed over women.

Chichen Itza

Evidently, the gods were not happy the day of our tour because we had a downpour that started at noon and lasted the rest of the day. Happily there were no sacrifices to appease the angry gods.

Will the gods be happy on March 21st for the Spring Solstice and allow the tail of the snake
to meet the snake head?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why are you solo?

Skychi at Sun Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico

At breakfast this morning the waiter asked me "Why are you solo? As a matter of fact I have been asked that question several times by male waiters. I understand the culture of Mexico is one of an emphasis on  "FAMILY". I  guess they cannot understand how I be by myself or eat by myself.

Watermelon Sculpture at Mexican Restaurant

My first day at lunch at the Mexican restaurant, the waitress did not want to seat me because  I was by myself. I thought it was interesting that the single gentleman ahead of me did not have that problem. They seated him immediately.

Chef preparing my Grilled Grouper

Why are you solo?
I answered that I am a flight attendant. I am used to traveling by myself. I don't think that answer was acceptable to him. He still looked puzzled. I am certain that I am not the only woman here traveling solo. However, this does not stop the asking of the question, Why am I alone?

Fruit Station at Buffett

This question has me asking and examining myself, Why am I alone?
Upon further introspection, there are other reasons for why I travel alone. I am divorced with four adult offspring. I have yet to meet my wandering soul mate.

Garnishments for Grilled Meats

Yes, I am "soloito". I am the little alone person.

Grilled Grouper, Cactus Salad and Shredded Beets

Churro with Ice Cream & Petit Fours

This morning, I was in line at the hostess station of the Mexican Restaurant of Sun Moon Palace waiting for a table. I ran into two women that I had met the last night. The hostess rushed to seat the three of us.

Skychi with one of the Chefs of the Mexican Restaurant

That's was my "Ahh! Moment". I realized I was choosing to eat alone and be alone. The question by the waiters of "Why are you alone?" was not due to their lack of understanding. It caused me to reflect upon who I was choosing to "be" which was alone. I had met many people but I had not sought their companionship during meal time. I finally got it. The question is not so much "Why are you alone?" but "Why do you choose to eat alone?". I did not eat all my meals alone. However, I got that I did choose to eat alone several times.

Breakfast in Room

Breakfast with my roommate

Thank you for the awakening moment. Now I can shift to not be "solo". Sometimes Travel can
 help you learn about yourself.

What are your thoughts on solo travel?

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Invest in traveling the world! You will be better!

Kier V.B. Matthews, CTIE

Vice President, Travel Industry Sales

Europe Express & Brian Moore International Tours

Kier Matthews

1. What message do have for students who want to travel?

 – The world is vast! Go explore! Even if you have to do it on a budget. It will make you a better citizen!

2. What are your childhood memories of travel ? 

-Traveling to Buenos Aries to visit my father who was working there. So glamorous!

3. Where did you dream of traveling when you were a child?

- England

4. Did you travel as a child?

 – Travel for me did not start until I was a teenager

5. What did you learn as a child about the expectation for black people to travel? 

– That we could only travel via car. We were not rich enough to fly.

Europe Vacation

6. Did you admire or know of any Black people that traveled when you were a child? 

– My favorite aunt used to travel all the time and I admired her desire to see the world and bring it back to us.

7. Why should Black people travel? 

– Traveling is the great equalizer! You learn more traveling that any college degree. But, get the degree!

8. What was your first trip? 

– NYC on an air plane. It was a Boeing 747 operated by PanAm.

Europe Vacation

9. How did you plan for it?

 – My parents planned it all. I just had to remember how to behave on the plane.

10. What was your experience there? 

– I just recall the vastness of the big apple. I was so excited.

Europe Vacation

11. Was your travel experience what you expected?

 – Yes. It was way more than I ever imagined

12. How is your travel experience as a Black traveler different from what you perceive as a White traveler? 

– I think people are VERY shocked to see me in first class and at luxury hotels. They think I’m a celebrity, rapper or athlete. Not a senior executive.

13. What is your voice as a Black travel blogger?

 – I blog about luxury travel, experiences, and products.

14. Where do you dream of traveling now? Why?

 – Australia and Asia – Because my wife wants to go! I want to take her to the places of her dreams!

Europe Vacation with Family

15. Anything else you would like to add? 

– Invest in traveling the world. You will be better!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

5 Tips for First Time Flyers

View of Wing
View of Wing 

The wanderlust winds have blown me to LA. This is an unexpected trip to help my niece find herself in life. My niece dreams of becoming  an actress so she enrolled herself in acting school. Her mother who is ill had her call me with help for her ticket to Los Angeles, CA. My niece had never flown on an airplane so I looked at this as an opportunity to give back. I believe in encouraging others to travel. This is my chance to teach someone personally how to travel.I flew to Richmond, VA to meet her for her first flight. I called her on the phone several times giving her instructions on what to say to the ticket agent, how to check-in her luggage, what to pack in her backpack, what to pack in her checked luggage, and how to go through security.

These are the five tips that I gave my niece on how to prepare to fly her first flight.

1. What to say to the ticket agent: "I am checking in for a flight to Chicago at 2:10 pm." Then show your identification. (State where you are going and the time the flight leaves, and a flight number is possible)

2. How to check-in her luggage: "I am checking two bags to LA."  I told her the airport code for Los Angeles which is "LAX". I instructed her to look at the bag tags to make sure she sees "LAX" on her bags. (To lookup a city's airport code check out http://www.airportcodes.org/)

3.What to pack in her backpack: I advised her to carry an change of clothes. I also told her that she could not carry liquids through security. (TSA: How to Get Through the Line Faster)

4. What to pack in her checked luggage: I suggested that she pack her toothpaste, deodorant and other large toiletries items in her checked luggage. If she had travel size toiletries item those should be in a plastic bag. (TSA: 3-1-1 on Air Travel)

5. How to go through security: I instructed my niece to take off her coat, shoes and backpack to put in bins. The movie "Up in The Air" shows George Clooney in the security is a funny scene. It is a how to go through the security line lesson for first time flyers.

I land Richmond airport to find no niece at the gate. Then I see her in the security line finishing off a bottle of water which she is not allowed to bring to security. She said I forgot to tell her that she couldn't bring bottled water through security. Oh well, I tried to think of everything.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cruise or All-inclusive?


On a flight from Miami to Indianapolis one of my passengers shared with me her cruise experience. She and her husband had just returned from a seven day cruise on Royal Caribbean to the Bahamas, St. Maarten, and the Labadee, Haiti.

Her favorite part of the cruise was her visit to St. Maarten. She said the people were very friendly and it was also very clean.

She did not enjoy her visit to Labadee, Haiti because the local vendors she felt were too pushy. She said one vendor asked her if she had a child. She said told him a daughter. The vendor asked her for the name of her child. When she told him, he started to make a bracelet with her daughter's name on it. She felt compelled to buy it. When she tried to pay him for it, he did not have change. Then he tried to stuff more merchandise in the bag for her to purchase. She told him she did not want the extra souvenirs. She demanded her change. She said several others on the cruise experienced the same thing with pushy vendors.

I tried to explain to her that they Haitians were probably pushy due to earthquake and their dire economic conditions.  I am sure they are trying to support many family members with the tourist income.

The woman shared with me that onboard the cruise ship only water and juice are complimentary. Soft drinks and alcohol are extra. She said you can purchase a unlimited soft drink package or  charge them individually.

Bahamas' Beer Kalin
Bahamas' Beer Kalin

Now I understand the tip from a travel agent warning about the bar tab at the end of a cruise can be big surprise for cruisers. All those drinks can add up to a hefty bar tab. The travel agent says that all-inclusive are a better deal because drinks are included in the package.

Bahama Mama
Bahama Mama

Sandals Bahamas
Sandals Bahamas

Which has been a better experience for you:  a cruise vacation or an all-inclusive vacation?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy MLK Day! Peace!

Today in honor of Dr. King's Birthday we all reflect on the legacy of Peace. Enjoy the photos from the Dr. King National Historic Site.

Dr. King Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
Dr. King Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Dr. King Preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church
Dr. King Preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church

Dr. King Marching for Jobs & Peace
Dr. King Marching for Jobs & Peace

Martin Luther King Jr. "I Have A Dream" World Peace Rose Garden
Martin Luther King Jr. "I Have A Dream" World Peace Rose Garden

Poems by Children

"We Can Change the World"
"We Can Change the World"

"Peace And Harmony"
"Peace And Harmony"

"Flying Without Wings"
"Flying Without Wings"

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site (US National Park Service)

450 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30312

(404) 331-5190