Category Archives: Travel
For many pet-owners, traveling can be a hassle. It can be particularly daunting for travelers who do not drive a car and want to take their furry children anywhere. While it is relatively easy to fly into any U.S. city with pets, as long as they meet health and travel requirements, moving around from place to place may pose a problem.
The only railway system in the United States, Amtrak, still has a no pets on board policy. The nationwide Greyhound bus lines (ironically their logo is a dog) do not allow pets on board either. And travelers seeking alternatives, would need to rent a car or taxi cab which can be very expensive.
A popular summer destination for Angelinos is San Francisco. With its cool weather and its popular tourist attractions, it is a must. The bay area is also a very friendly pet area. Yet, until recently, Angelinos who wanted to take their pets along, were left with limited and expensive choices.
A bus company called California Shuttle Bus allows you to travel with your furry child. With daily service between Los Angeles and the Bay area, it may be just what many pet-owners have been looking for. With four convenient pickup/drop off locations in Los Angeles and three in the Bay area, including San Jose, California Shuttle is poised for pet lovers’ business.
Keep in mind that travel time is approximately seven hours depending on traffic and your pick-up/drop-off points so make sure your pet is hydrated prior to travelling and has had time to pee before boarding the bus. The driver does stop half-way into the trip for a 30-minute lunch break.
Pets must be transported in a pet cage, either soft-sided or hard-sided, and they are not allowed to take up an extra seat. If you would like them to take up an entire seat, you must purchase an additional ticket for that seat next to you. Prices start at about $29 per person, one way.
So what are you waiting for? Have fun with your furry child this year in San Francisco!
Thinking of visiting the United States? Well, it’s time to head on over to the West Coast portion of the country.
Sights to see include the world famous Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu beaches. The city metro can take you to Universal Studios and the Hollywood walk of fame in no time. Disneyland is not too far away but will take a couple of metro rides and a bus to get you there if you don’t drive. For those seeking a bit more adventure, there’s always Magic Mountain a bit north of Los Angeles.
You can find all types of deliciously yummy food in Los Angeles. Great food such as Korean food and Mexican food, to the one and only original chili burger joint, Tommy’s. In-N-Out was also founded in Los Angeles, in nearby Baldwin Park.
For a real shopping experience, try the Glendale Galleria and the Americana in the city of Glendale. It’s only a bus ride away from the famous Hollywood Boulevard. However, if movie stars is what you’re into, try the world-famous Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive for some sightseeing.
When people think of Los Angeles, most think of Hollywood. That’s why The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a must-see spot for those planning a visit to sunny Southern California. In Hollywood, you will also encounter various movie theaters, including the Mann’s Chinese theater and Disney’s El Capitan theater. The famous San Francisco-owned Ghirardelli’s also has a soda-fountain shop where you can satisfy your sweet tooth before catching a movie. A few blocks east, there is the Hollywood Wax Museum, the Pantages theater for a Broadway-esque feel and the Capitol Records tower where some of the best songs have been recorded.
Some of the biggest movie studios, like Paramount and Warner Brothers, also give the public an opportunity to tour their facilities. But you must reserve these spots in advance and they normally charge a fee.
Because L.A. has such beautiful weather year-round, any time is a great time to visit. However, if Hollywood stars is what you are seeking, the best time to visit would be late February or early March, depending on what date the Academy Awards falls under that year.
A few days leading up to the event, you will see how the event is set-up from a street vantage point. Everything from setting up the bleachers for the fans to the arrangement of the exterior decorations. And if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is in need of volunteers, you may be able to make this event possible! The afternoon of the Academy Awards, you can watch your favorite stars walk down the famous red carpet. And who knows? Maybe take a selfie with them and show your family back home what they’re missing!
Visiting Oaxaca may be a titanic task. Most tourists stick with visiting Oaxaca City and take tourism board sponsored tours around the pyramids, ruins and its local artisans. For others looking for an adventure, they may pick up their backpack and head on over to the second class bus station to seek out smaller and largely undetected indigenous towns.
There are several pueblos (or towns) outside of Oaxaca City. In the Sierra Norte, otherwise known as the Sierra Juarez (named after one of its most renowned Mexican Presidents, Benito Juarez) lies many of these towns. Benito Juarez was born in the small town of Guelatao in the Sierra Norte, only 6 miles from nearby Ixtlan where he was baptized.
Inside the second class bus station head over to the last ticket stall on your right side and look for “Autotransportes de Pasajeros Benito Juárez”. If you take the correct vintage American-made Blue Bird chicken bus, the last bus stop is the town of Zoogocho, five hours away from Oaxaca City.
Every Thursday morning Zoogocho hosts a “plaza” which means it’s market day and various townspeople and their vendors come together to buy and sell their products. Fruits and vegetables are locally grown so you know you’re getting an organic product.
People from neighboring towns, like Tavehua, will also come and sell their handicrafts. Tavehua is known for their red clay pottery. A lady from another town, Yatzachi el Bajo (YEB), comes to sell her homemade corn tortillas made from real corn; none of that commercially produced Maseca-mix that is widely available in the US and the rest of Mexico. People from nearby Solaga and Zoochila also come and sell their delicious bread, ice cream and other nearby townspeople, their homegrown produce.
Another town nearby, Yatzachi el Alto (YEA), is known for their artisanal-made Mezcal. Townspeople here do not produce the elixir commercially so you must wait for your order to be filled as the need arises. Some may sell a bottle or two during Thursday’s “plaza” day in Zoogocho. If not, you may have to make the two-hour trek on foot to YEA and place your order. If you have time, stop by and admire the 17th century old church with its majestic gold-covered altar. On market day, you should be able to find someone who can give you the 10-minute ride it takes to get there for 15 pesos (approximately $1.15 USD) each way if you go early enough.
Other nearby towns like San Miguel Cajonos and San Pedro Cajonos produce silk rebosos. Nearby Guiloxi weaves textile handbags and other goodies by native artisans and the town of Yalalag makes leather Huaraches or sandals.
Every town in the Sierra Juarez has its own charm. Are you ready to explore them?
The Mexican state of Oaxaca is one of the only states in the country of Mexico that does not have animal anti-cruelty laws. State legislators have been mulling over the subject for a few years now but have not passed a basic animal protection bill that has been sitting on their desk since 2013.
Bi’cu’ (beco) means “dog” in Zapotec, an indigenous language commonly spoken in the Sierra Juarez mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Animal cruelty incidents happen every day in Oaxaca. The sad part is that this is seen as a way of life. Recently a farmer killed his horse after it ran away and townspeople were forced to chase it down. The owner was so upset with his horse, that he beat him to death. A senseless act that not only went unpunished but is part of the norm, particularly in rural regions that are governed by traditions and customs.
On the other hand, there are also many people in the region that love their four-legged children but live in extreme poverty. Many furry kids are malnourished with rib cages visible. This is done not out of cruelty but because families do not have enough to feed their animals with. Many dogs suffer from common skin disorders that can be easily treatable, such as flea infestations and sarcoptic mange.
Veterinarians from a nearby town show up every few months, yet drunk. In August 2014, a pair of veterinarians from a nearby town sterilized a female dog while they were drunk. While the female dog did manage to survive the surgery, she was in visible pain for several weeks. People in the Sierra Juarez cannot afford to take their guardians to a reputable veterinarian. Not just because of money but logistics.
Many people in Oaxaca view animals as “dirty” and beings that should not mingle with humans unless absolutely necessary. And because of this, it is scarce to find someone who will take a four-legged being into the city for proper vet care.
This is where the Beco Foundation steps in. They help find proper transportation for pets in need and if possible, help pay some of the vet bills. Their main goal is to educate people who live in the Sierra Juarez region that animals are God’s children too and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity throughout the short time they are with us.
Their mission statement reads:
“Beco Foundation aims to help Furry Kids regardless of breed, sex and species in la Sierra Juarez, Oaxaca. Our goal is to educate the public that those who do not look like us, are God’s children too.”
Despite the recent controversial video, promoting the Guelaguetza that was deemed racist and offensive for displaying a master vs. servant attitude between the affluent light-skinned tourist and the indigenous people of Oaxaca, the festival this year was another huge success in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
Now that La Guelaguetza is over, tourists may be wondering what to do next. The government of the state of Oaxaca has done an outstanding job at promoting tourism in the state and most recently, eco-tourism in the outer regions of the Sierra Juarez.
But what about visiting a small town that has yet to be trampled by tourism? Zoogocho is one of many small rural communities in the Sierra Juarez called pueblos, where you can still see how the original people of the region carry on with their everyday lives.
By taking a five hour bus ride to the town, you will see the magic behind it all as it swirls in and out of the majestic Sierra Juarez which proved too much even for the Spanish conquistadors to dominate at one time. If you take the correct vintage American-made Blue Bird chicken bus, the last bus stop is the town of Zoogocho.
The town boasts of a couple of small mom and pop shops selling necessary items, a small restaurant, a cyber shop to get your internet fix and rooms for rent right above the internet shop. However, don’t count on those rooms being available during the town’s celebrations.
Every year, around the third week of August, the deeply Roman Catholic community celebrates the festivities of their patron saint, San Bartolome. That week, you will find food vendors and small shops selling everything from crafts to foods to common goods.
Music from the town’s regional bands pop in to surprise foodies just as they’re sinking their teeth into that delicious taco, grilled chicken or delicious torta. For those that love to dance, the town’s open square space in front of the church is where all the action takes place.
The festivities end August 24th with a couple of invited artists to liven up the evenings. One of the invited artists this year will be “Los de San Pancho“, formerly known as “Los Caminantes”. The group was wildly popular among the Spanish-speaking Latino community in the U.S. in the 80’s and 90’s. They have promised to play their oldest and best hits like “Supe Perder” and “Amor Sin Palabras” for everyone who attends.
How to get there:
Inside the second class bus station in Oaxaca City head over to the last ticket stall on your right side and look for “Autotransportes de Pasajeros Benito Juárez”. There are only two chicken buses that head to Zoogocho as it is the last stop. Check departure times closely . One leaves at 8am and the other at 3pm during daylight savings time. From Zoogocho to Oaxaca City, there are only two buses departing the town at similar times. Be careful to check departure times carefully and don’t hesitate to ask if you’re confused.
Now that the successful 2014 World Cup event in Brazil has ended, the world’s attention is focused on the tiny nation of Qatar. A nation who miraculously won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup games, despite its excruciating hot temperatures and strict anti-western laws.
In many respects, the nation of Qatar seems like a first-world country. High rise buildings, a thriving city and luxurious hotels, stores and amenities. But for foreign visitors living in Qatar, it is an archaic nation, ruled by Islamic law and still ruled by the nation’s very influential royal family.
Such is the influence of the royal family in Qatar, that a decision to grant a lifetime prison sentence to an American citizen without a proper and legit trial, went unnoticed and unchallenged by the U.S. Government.
John Downs, a U.S. geologists was sentenced to a lifetime sentence in Qatar for attempting to sell trade secrets. A crime he admitted to but would not have earned him a lifetime prison sentence had it not been because he angered the royal family’s uncle. You can find John Downs online diary, managed by family and friends on Twitter @FreeJohnDowns and on his website. #FreeJohnDowns
Family and friends allege that the sentence given went down without a just trial. They have pleaded to the U.S. government for help but to no avail. The former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar at the time of John Downs’ sentencing, Charles Graves “Chase” Untermeyer , is now one of Qatar’s most influential lobbyist as Managing Partner for Qatus Advisors. His new job is to convince U.S. lawmakers to do Qatar’s bidding while earning millions for himself in the process. The royal family of Qatar spares no expense when it comes to “winning”.
Which brings us to the 2022 World Cup.
Many have been calling for the boycott of the 2022 World Cup games to be held in Qatar. The reasons are many but allegations of bribery is at the center of this scandal. According to documents released by London’s The Sunday Times, they write:
“Fresh disclosures from the FIFA files show how Mohamed bin Hammam, the disgraced FIFA vice-president, pulled strings at the top of government and with the country’s royal family to arrange meetings and favours for key voters in the months leading up to the World Cup ballot.”
“Five of the six leading sponsors of the World Cup (Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai, Sony and Visa) have publicly demanded that FIFA expose and remedy any corruption. Only Emirates Airlines (based in nearby Dubai) has not joined the call to investigate how Qatar ended up winning the 2022 World Cup.”
Tourists visiting Qatar and the region may want to be careful too. Drinking and being intoxicated in public can land you in jail for many years. And if a woman is raped, regardless if she is a tourist or national, their law states that it will always be the woman’s fault unless three male witnesses testify in her favor. A woman’s word is never considered valid, according to their laws.
Just last year, a woman who was raped in Dubai, the most populous city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was sentenced to 16 months in prison for what they called “having had sex outside of marriage.” Had it not been for the public outcry of injustice, spearheaded through social media, she would have spent 16-months of her life in a prison cell in Dubai for being raped.
Qatar’s laws are much more stricter than Dubai’s. According to Online Qatar,
“Qatar society, it is said, is not as liberal as the UAE or Bahrain, but is definitely more liberal than Saudi Arabia. Qatar applies Shari’a Law to all aspects of family law, inheritance and certain criminal acts. Being a traditional Muslim community, people will settle disputes based on Sharia court or Islamic court, applicable to Sharia Law or Muslim Law.”
Another reason for the boycott of the 2022 World Cup games in Qatar is the treatment of many Asian immigrants working in that country. Many are working without proper pay and some without pay. Immigrants are being treated like slaves, working in horrible conditions.
An article from Yahoo! Sports states:
“FIFA is under pressure to move the World Cup from Qatar due to the sweltering summer heat, allegations of bribery and suspicions that slaves from Nepal are being used to construct stadiums. Then there’s the fact that at least 44 workers have died during the construction process.”
Advertisements of job offers have lured many immigrants to seemingly rich-laden Qatar with the promise of very good pay. However, once contracted, it is an entirely different story. Many of these projects are for the 2022 World Cup games that Qatar mysteriously won back in 2010.
If Qatar is stripped as the hosting nation of the 2022 World Cup Games, the honor would most likely be given to the runner up, which is the United States.
After an internal investigation is completed next month, FIFA is expected to decide if Qatar is to keep its 2022 World Cup ambitions.
Colonial Oaxaca City is not only one of the safest states in Mexico but one of the most beautiful cities the country has to offer. Known for its excellent and unique indigenous cuisine, the city is lined with colonial-styled buildings and cobbled-stoned sidewalks everywhere you turn. The town’s square, its archaeological sites and its 16th century former monastery, are only a few of the attractions that expatriates can enjoy.
Because of all the beauty and tranquility that Oaxaca has to offer, many foreigners decide to make this state their home. Some people buy homes while others are happy just to rent a place there indefinitely.
Spacious two-story homes with at least 3 bedrooms and two small apartments within the property in the city centre average about $200,000 dollars in value. Property taxes are about $1000 dollars a year. If you’re looking to buy a home there, rest assured that realtors and owners will at least double the price of its original value to those interested.
A fair monthly rental price in the historical center for a one bedroom apartment is about $400 USD, though there are highly unscrupulous owners who will try elevate rental rates to equate US rental prices from $800 USD and above. Prices have been creeping up yearly, specifically targeting unsuspecting foreigners.
If you’re traveling with a pet, one of the most coveted rental spots is Casa Sopetran, one block north of the church of our Lady of Solitude (La Iglesia de la Virgen de la Soledad). Weekly and monthly Rental prices are fair and the hosts are friendly and very helpful.
Another spot is at Oaxaca Apartments on Crespo street. Rates are monthly, reasonable and pets are also allowed.
Foreigners looking to rent are usually not subjected to the strict requirements that Mexican citizens demand of their own nationals (i.e.; deposits, letters of recommendations and such). However, discrimination does exist.
Such is the place of Casa Leon in the Xochimilco district of the city. Located 1/2 a block from the overrated Pochote organic market, the area seems to be exclusively reserved for white tourists. The organic market is largely run by white foreigners for white foreigners. Hardly any of its original people sell there unless they’re on the sidelines, marginalized like most of their indigenous street vendors, selling flowers or candies to passersby.
Casa Leon’s aim is to attract European-looking renters, not olive or dark-skinned foreigners. With headlines reading “Belle chambre a louer” and “Rooms for Rent” the message is clear. Such is the experience of Hispanic tourists who sought out the advertisement on Craigslist and were denied access because of their Latino looking features.
While some foreigners think it is OK for owners to discriminate renters based on their looks and skin color, it is against the law, even in Mexico.
On November 12th, in the city San Cristobal de las Casas, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas,an indigenous student was discriminated against and barred from entering the premises of theFrench bakery, Oh la la! Her name is Rosa Liberta Xiap Riscajche, known as Ali Roxox, and her classmate Monserrat was a witness to this heinous act.
Monserrat immediately posted what happened to her friend on Twitter, which sent a wave of criticism towards the French bakery.
Far from apologizing, the management of Oh La La! Pasteleria Francesa sent out a “press release” via their Facebook page stating that there was a misunderstanding and that they wanted to clear things up. Yet, a public apology never came.
The French bakery blamed the incident on one employee instead of taking full responsibility for the incident which only made things worse. Employees are the “face” of a company and do not act alone. Apparently this company had no code of conduct in place and now the owners wanted no part in the incident that discriminated against an indigenous student.
After weeks of negative publicity, Oh La La Pasteleria Francesa recently deleted the press release from their Facebook page and have closed the public comments section as well. A swift apology would have helped to clear things up much smoother for everyone involved, to say the least.
Yet as critics wait, still no apology in sight.
This has not deterred critics though. They have taken to continue their criticism of the business by posting comments under existing pictures on the company’s facebook page.
The bakery’s Trip Advisor rating had also suffered temporarily because of this. However, Trip Advisor has deleted all the negative comments that had been posted since the incident occurred. Google has not deleted the negative comments and ratings of this bakery.
The management claims that they are not racists because they feed their left over bread to indigenous street children daily. Sure, they give them handouts, but what about respect? A real public apology is still necessary.
Ali Roxox sent out her own press release in which she expressed regret for the incident and condemned the discriminatory actions of those who marginalize the indigenous poor. She hopes that what happened to her stops and expects a public apology from Oh La La! Pasteleria Francesa in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas where she suffered the aggression.
It is said that the french are very proud people and frequently hold their nose and scoff at critics. If this holds true, Mexico’s resentment towards the french and foreigners will only grow.
Mexican citizens are already furious by last year’s release of french national Florence Cassez, a woman accused and convicted of kidnapping and torturing her victims while living in Mexico. The backlash against the french increased and the incident with the french bakery in Chiapas, isn’t helping matters either.
With no public apology in sight from Oh La La! Pasteleria Francesa, towards an indigenous woman who only wanted to consume and buy some french pastries, who knows how long this business will remain open.
Public sentiment seems to be: No public apology, No business.
Want to experience life in the OC? The Hilton Garden Inn is a cozy Spanish-style hotel, encompassed by the Pacific Ocean and hundreds of Californian surfers. It’s very intimate location, nestled by the waterfront, is the perfect place to hold that special event you’ve been planning for.
As you enter its lobby doors, the elegantly crafted “living room” awaits you. Or you can pass time by indulging yourself in the Napa Valley style restaurant adjacent the lobby room. Although quite pricey, the various wine assortments are well worth the taste and experience. Or how about taking a stroll through their enchanted garden? This awesome forest-like patch leads you to the beachfront that is as busy during the summer days as it is solitaire in the evenings for that romantic getaway!
Less than a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles, this hotel is a must on your way to San Diego or Mexico.
Although the Harry Potter books and film have come to an end, it is by no means over for millions of fans around the world. With the steady popularity of the Harry Potter novels and movies, it is no surprise that L.A. has its own Harry Potter store: Whimsic Alley in Los Angeles.
This quaint little shop almost goes unnoticed to passersby – unless you’ve got a groundskeeper giant guiding you with his magic wand as he gently taps and takes a customers into the famous world of Diagon Alley. As you’ve been granted access to the shop via floo powder, everything inside the store amazes you.
Quite cluttered and given an eerie dungeon ambiance, it is filled with everything from the wizarding world imaginable. From hundreds of box-filled wands waiting to chose its true owner, to plush dolls and school supplies to get you ready for your return to Hogwarts after the holidays. And let’s not forget your new wizarding robes that are a must have!
With their expansive relocation from Santa Monica to Los Angeles a few years ago, Whimsic Alley has added several activities for all to enjoy! Tea Time in the Great Hall is a real treat! But you have to book fast because they sell out magically… Poof! Enjoy Real Magic Lessons, Real Divination Lessons, Murder Mystery Dinners and Wizard Rock Concerts.
So, for all Harry Potter fans in Los Angeles…. there is hope! Far beyond the books and films, comes our own Harry Potter superstore for us to immerse ourselves in for years to come. A true gem in the City of Angels!