Thursday, August 17, 2017

Kindness of Strangers: Camino Angels on the Primitivo

While walking along cow pastures and woody stands, I had not seen a soul for the past three hours. But I was accompanied by huge thunderclouds, hanging heavy with the rain that seemed destined to come. The low clouds refused to release, and I silently prayed for the showers that would dampen the oppressing heat and humidity that had been building all afternoon.
I was walking the Camino Primitivo, an ancient pilgrimage path that connects Oviedo in Asturias to Santiago de Compostela via Melide in northern Spain. While trekking, I was also editing and updating a Camino guide book for the route for a London publisher. I was not surprised how much the lists of restaurants and accommodations had changed since the last edition in 2013. 
With the growth of interest in walking the various Caminos that spider web through Europe, there was sure to be many changes and additions. But I was surprised by the amount of construction in the backwoods of northern Spain that was changing the actual route.
Course changes meant that I needed to document those route deviations in the Camino guide book. I needed to stop, make notes and maybe retrace my steps to ensure accuracy. The frustrating search for San Salvador de Soutomerille, a small 9th C church, had me back-tracking through hot, farm fields. I finally decided that the ancient chapel must be on the alternative route that, although I was sure I had taken, I must not have followed. My 23-pound pack seemed twice as heavy as it did that morning when I left O Cadavo. I spent two extra hours and retraced three miles combing the remote countryside.
 That was the reason that by 4 pm I was walking alone. My pilgrim friends would have checked into Albergue Casa da Chanca, the place where we’d agreed to rest for the night, hours ago. I still slugged along under the sweaty heat of the pregnant clouds. I was climbing towards Lugo, which lies on a hill surrounded by three rivers. As I climbed, I got nearer and nearer to the clouds that were turning black. My prayers were about to be answered.

I set my pack down under the sheltering arms of an oak, opened my pack and as I reached to put on my raincoat, the skies opened. Hunching down, I fit my rainfly around my backpack as the rain pelted down. I was getting hammered and as I stood up to survey my situation in the thunderstorm, I knew I’d have to stay in place under the tree on this lonely farm road for a while. I could see a barn at the intersection ahead of me, but it looked deserted and locked. I thought of my friends sheltering in the albergue. I was looking forward to reconnecting with them for dinner; this surely put a kibosh on that.

For some reason, I looked back up the tree-lined road where I’d just come. Maybe I heard something that caused me to look. But there, up the lane, were two Spanish people walking their dog. The country couple huddled under a big umbrella, which maybe seemed so large because they were so short of stature. The man held the umbrella in one hand and his wife’s shoulder in the other. As the rain pelted sideways from the wind, he pointed the umbrella towards the gusts and steered his wife to another oak on my side of the road. Their Golden Retriever crouched at their ankles.

After an afternoon without seeing anyone, they seemed like angels to me. They appeared out of nowhere, and I thought, “They’re old folks, walking their dog. Their home MUST be close by.” I waved a hand of welcome, and the woman waved back. We stood under our prospective trees for what seemed like 20 minutes. I had no idea how far I was from Lugo, but it was already after 5 pm, and I was giving up hope on meeting my fellow pilgrims for dinner. I felt sad that after such a frustrating day, I would miss the compassionate companionship of fellow walkers.

When the storm finally let up, the villagers began walking. I waited, and we trod through the light rain together. We only smiled and laughed since none of us had a handle on the other’s verbal language. After about a mile, and the third country intersection, the wife pointed to the right and said, “Camino.”

I said, “No, yo voy a su casa. You quiero un taxi.” No, I go to your house. I want a taxi.” They both smiled and motioned onward. And we kept walking and walking. So much for my theory that old people take short dog walks. Another twenty minutes, I could see a line of row houses through the twilight drizzle. We must be reaching the outskirts of Lugo. “Esta es la casa de mi amigo,” she smiled. “Llamará un taxi para ti.” This is my friend’s house; she’ll call a taxi for you.

Muchas gracias,” I cried. The door opened, and the wife explained in rapid Spanish as I slid, dripping, into the entryway. I was happy to have the introduction because the friend spoke no English and I couldn’t understand her Spanish. She left me standing on the linoleum at the door to go upstairs to get her millennial son to call a cab.

She came returned to ask me a question, which I couldn’t understand. After repeating it three times, she went back upstairs to retrieve a huge, thick cotton towel. Toalla! Towel! That’s the word I didn’t recognize. Then she asked me if I needed a shirt – I could understand the word camisa. No, the towel would do, I somehow explained. I felt bad about all the water on the floor that was dripping off of me, my raincoat and my pack. But I helped her mop it up. The kindly mother made her son come down to explain that the taxi would be here soon. His English was about as good as my Spanish.
The taxi arrived and whisked me to Albergue Casa da Chanca. The ride was only five minutes long, and I realized how close I was to town when the thunderstorm had broken loose. Rodrigo and Ximena, my pilgrim family from Mexico, welcomed me warmly. They laughed at my stories of misfortune and Camino angels, and I had fifteen minutes to unpack and dry off before we went back out into the rain for a late dinner. There, over octopus and white wine, I repeated my story of the kindness of strangers to Lazlo and Peter, our Hungarian friends.

Stacey “Vagabonding Lulu” Wittig, a travel writer based in Munds Park, has written three books about the Camino de Santiago. Go to Amazon at http://bit.ly/CaminoBook

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Angel Fire Food & Wine Roundup Aug 24-27, 2017

The Angel Fire Food & Wine Roundup is bringing together celebrity chefs, whiskey and wine makers, brewmeisters and musicians to Angel Fire, New Mexico, for your tasting and sipping pleasure. 

Angel Fire Resort courtesy photo
Forage for mushrooms in the surrounding tall-pine forests with culinary masters, listen to music while sipping wine or be part of entertaining cooking demonstrations. It's all happening August 24-27 when foodies, bev enthusiasts and music lovers converge in the southern Rocky Mountains. 

Angel Fire Resort courtesy photo
I'll be there to celebrate this last of summer blast. While I sip and swirl, hubby Dan will be downhill mountain biking at the Angel Fire Resort. What better way to ride the mountains than to get a chairlift ride up? 

We'll both attend the dutch oven cooking demonstration before he heads back to the woods for some zip lining. 
Angel Fire Resort courtesy photo
I'll hang out near the lake and get one of my favorite cookbooks signed by author and foodie radio show host Cheryl Alters Jamison. I'm sure to learn a lot at the whiskey tasting and I can't wait to saddle up to some Northern New Mexican cuisine or southwest BBQ. There's something for every one.
Angel Fire Resort courtesy photo
For the full lineup of events and guest chefs go to: www.angelfirefoodandwine.com
Angel Fire Resort courtesy photo
I'll be changing my flipflops for cowboys boots as I head up to the mountains of New Mexico -- a perfect transition of summer into fall. Why don't you join me?

Purchase tickets here: www.angelfirefoodandwine.com/ 

Stacey "Vagabonding Lulu" Wittig, a travel writer, writes about food, wine and walking from her home near the Grand Canyon.

 Wine tasting. wine festival, foodie event, guest chef

Friday, July 7, 2017

Planning 'Last of Summer' escape? Think 'Angel Fire Food and Wine Roundup'

Next month I’m celebrating the last of summer with an escape to the Rocky Mountains. The end of August can be hot in Northern Arizona, so I’m looking for a cool retreat in Angel Fire, New Mexico. Some of us in the Southwest don’t know that the Rockies extend all the way down to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. With Angel Fire as your destination, you don’t have to drive as far away as Aspen or Vail, Colorado, to get to higher, more temperate resort towns.

Join me in Angel Fire, for the Angel Fire Food and Wine Roundup, a foodie event which offers us the best in: 

  • Western cuisine,
  • Wagyu beef,
  • Fine wines,
  • Craft brews,
  • Artisanal spirits and
  • Western hospitality with famous chefs, winemakers, brewers, and distillers.
I can’t wait to hob-nob with celebrity chefs, take selfies during wine tasting events and snap Instagram photos of the lake and Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s tallest mountain. Dan will be trying something new: downhill mountain biking at Angel Fire Resort while I enjoy the food and wine. It’s not far from his first love, dirt bike riding, me thinks.

Here’s the insider’s scoop: 

As a special bonus, Angel Fire RV Resort, Northern New Mexico’s premier year-round luxury camping destination, is offering a Food and Wine Roundup RV Package. The new package offers RVers a significant savings when they book a minimum 3-night RV Stay, which includes tickets to the first annual food festival. The four-day western-themed food and wine event will take place August 24 – 27, 2017.

“The Angel Fire Food and Wine RV Package is for any RVer who loves to combine their love of travel with their love for food, cooking, wine, and whiskey,” explains Kate Collins, director, Angel Fire Food and Wine Roundup. “This event will offer a little bit of something for everyone. From mushroom hunts to chuck wagon cook-offs, reserve tastings, and private chef in-home dinners. Combining the Food and Wine Roundup event with our luxury RV accommodations and all the outdoor activities we offer, it’s the perfect place to take in the last few days of summer.”

Along with any 3-night RV stay, the Angel Fire Food and Wine Roundup RV Package offers over a $350-dollar savings and tickets to the following events:
  • 2 Tickets to the Thursday afternoon cooking demonstration by guest chefs Wendy and John Hail, from Hail’s Holy Smoked BBQ.
  • 2 Tickets to the Thursday evening wine tasting by Black Mesa Winery.
  • 2 Tickets to the Friday morning Cooking Demonstration with James Beard Foundation award-winner and cookbook author, Cheryl Alters Jamison, and Harry Soo, the head chef from Los Angeles-based Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ.  
  • 2 Tickets to the Saturday Grand Tasting
Located at the foot of Carson National Forest, The Angel Fire RV Resort features sophisticated amenities. These include an upscale clubhouse with outdoor firepits, a hot tub, a spa-like bathhouse, leisure games, free wi-fi and on-site laundry set amongst a serene natural wonderland. Guests can enjoy the crisp, cool air and take in the views of Wheeler Peak.


The four-day festival includes:

  • Guest chef luncheons,
  • Cooking demos by top chefs from around the country,
  • Dutch oven cooking demos,
  • Reserve tasting,
  • A Grand tasting,
  • Wine seminars,
  • Mushroom hunts,
  • Guest chef dinners in private residences,
  • silent auction events and
  • artisanal spirits and craft brew tastings.

In addition to all that, you could opt to take part in a Boot Scootin’ BBQ and Western Dance at the Angel Fire Resort Country Club, a benefit golf tournament, a Bloody Good Bacon Brunch and Chuck Wagon Breakfast event - check prices.

Chicago’s, Meathead Goldwyn; Texan Cowboy Gourmet Chefs, Tom and Lisa Perini; and Harry Soo, Head Chef at LA-based Slap Yo Daddy BBQ are just a few of the attending chefs leading cooking demos.
  • Chef Goldwyn is the founder, barbecue whisperer, and hedonism evangelist behind www.amazingribs.com - one of the world’s most popular outdoor cooking websites, and author of the New York Times Best Seller “Meathead. The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling.”
  • Chef Tom Perini and his wife, Lisa are best known for perfecting traditional cowboy cuisine for the past 40 years at Perini Ranch Steakhouse, a gourmet Cowboy restaurant located on the working ranch in Buffalo Gap, Texas.
  •  Slap Yo Daddy BBQ is the love child of TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters Head Cook Harry Soo. Slap Yo Daddy BBQ, one of the top-ranked Kansas City BBQ Society teams in America, was chosen among over 5,000 professional teams to appear on TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters Season One in 2010.   In the Season Finale, SYD stunned the nation by defeating all the teams in the show including two BBQ World Champions in the winner-take-all Rib Throwdown in Texas.
  • Angel Fire Resort’s head chef from Elements Restaurant Kevin McCaffery will be serving the Boot Scootin’ BBQ and the Bloody Good Bacon Brunch.

A full schedule of the festival, attending chefs, and tickets can be purchased here https://www.angelfirefoodandwine.com   

For more information about the Angel Fire Food and Wine Roundup RV Package and to make a reservation https://angelfirervresort.com/packages/food-wine-roundup-rv-package/

Angel Fire RV Resort https://angelfirervresort.com

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fire on the Mountain at Angel Fire, NM

August Festival includes Western Cuisine, Cooking Demos, Wines, Craft Brews and Artisanal Spirits
Photo compliments of Angel Fire Resort
I’m planning my annual road trip to New Mexico. In August I’m headed to the Angel Fire Food and Wine Roundup where I hope to see some fire on the mountain. Fire on the mountain, Alpen glow or angel fire are all terms that describe the out-of-this-world colors of dancing sunsets on mountain slopes. You know, some people travel to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, but I’m here to tell you that Alpen glow on the mountain is even better. And you don’t have to buy an expensive air ticket.

Angel Fire, New Mexico, was named after the astonishing display of light that can be experienced in the mountains and on the clouds, so that’s the place that’s on my bucket list to view such spectacular light displays. The icing on the cake is that I have planned my trip to coincide with a four-day western-themed food and wine event, sponsored by Texas-based A Bar N Ranch, taking place August 24 – 27, 2017. Famous chefs are coming from all over the country, and winemakers, brewers and distillers will be pouring their best.
 
Photo compliments of Angel Fire Resort
The mountain festival includes guest chef luncheons, cooking demos by top chefs, Dutch oven cooking demos, Reserve tasting, a Grand tasting, wine seminars, mushroom hunts, guest chef dinners in private residences, silent auction events and artisanal spirits and craft brew tastings. Additionally, the event includes a Boot Scootin’ BBQ and Western Dance at the Angel Fire Resort Country Club, a benefit golf tournament, a Bloody Good Bacon Brunch and Chuck Wagon Breakfast event. I can’t wait!
Chicago’s, Meathead Goldwyn; Texan Cowboy Gourmet Chefs, Tom and Lisa Perini; and Harry Soo, Head Chef at LA-based Slap Yo Daddy BBQ are just a few of the attending chefs who will lead cooking demos.
  • Chef Goldwyn is the founder, barbecue whisperer, and hedonism evangelist behind AmazingRibs.com, one of the world's most popular outdoor cooking websites, and author of the New Your Times Best Seller "Meathead. The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling."
  • Chef Tom Perini and his wife, Lisa are best known for perfecting traditional cowboy cuisine for the past 40 years at Perini Ranch Steakhouse, a gourmet Cowboy restaurant located on the working ranch in Buffalo Gap, Texas.
  • Slap Yo Daddy BBQ is the love child of TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters Head Cook Harry Soo. Slap Yo Daddy BBQ, one of the top-ranked Kansas City BBQ Society teams in America, was chosen among over 5,000 professional teams to appear on TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters Season One in 2010.   In the Season Finale, SYD stunned the nation by defeating all the teams in the show including two BBQ World Champions in the winner-take-all Rib Throwdown in Texas.
  • Angel Fire Resort’s head chef from Elements Restaurant Kevin McCaffery will be serving the Boot Scootin’ BBQ and the Bloody Good Bacon Brunch. 
Photo compliments of Angel Fire Resort
Additionally, nationally acclaimed artist, Jennifer Cavan and food writing expert, Cheryl Jamison will be at the four-day event. I have one of Cheryl’s cookbooks in my Arizona kitchen, so I am excited to meet her.
  • Santa Fe-based pastel artist, Jennifer Cavan, has been commissioned to produce an original piece of art for the event which will be auctioned at the Reserve Tasting, with proceeds benefitting Make-A-Wish New Mexico and The National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center of Angel Fire.
  • Four-time James Beard Foundation award-winner, Cheryl Alters Jamison is a cookbook author and food journalist and the host of the weekly food radio show “Heating It Up.” She has written about Southwestern cooking for Saveur, Cooking Light, New Mexico Magazine and Bon Appétit. She will emcee cooking demonstrations and sign copies of her cookbooks, including “Smoke and Spice,” "The Border Cookbook,” "The 50th Anniversary Rancho De Chimayó Cookbook,” "American Home Cooking,” and "Tasting New Mexico: Recipes Celebrating 100 Years of Distinctive Home Cooking.” 
Photo compliments of Angel Fire Resort
“The Angel Fire Food and Wine Roundup showcases our Western hospitality in a beautiful and relaxed mountain environment,” explains Kate Collins, Director, Angel Fire Food and Wine Roundup. “This friendly and social celebration is ideal for anyone who appreciates the best in exceptional cuisine, cooking demonstrations from top chefs and wine tastings hosted by professional sommeliers.”
Photo compliments of Angel Fire Resort
Angel Fire, located in the beautiful Moreno Valley in the Southern Rockies of New Mexico, will host the event, which is expected to draw thousands of visitors, features restaurants and world-class winemakers, breweries and distillers. Take your RV, or stay at the hotel where hubby and I will be camped out. Come along it will be good fun and maybe we’ll experience some Fire on the Mountain for another check off the ol’ Bucket List.

Photo compliments of Angel Fire Resort
For additional information about the Angel Fire Food and Wine Roundup: www.angelfirefoodandwine.com

Stacey “Vagabonding Lulu” Wittig is a travel writer based near Flagstaff, Arizona. Find more free travel tips by subscribing to this blog.

Monday, February 27, 2017

X-treme Canyoneering in Grand Canyon of Jordan

Thrill seekers looking for extreme canyoning experiences are turning to the Mujib Gorge known as the Grand Canyon of Jordan. Located in the Mujib Biosphere Reserve adjacent to the Dead Sea, the Mujib Gorge offers hiking and canyoneering in one of the most extreme environs the world has to offer.

Mujib Gorge AKA Grand Canyon of Jordan. Photo courtesy of Wild Jordan
Called torrentismo by the Italians, kloofing by South Africans or barranquismo by the Spanish, the extreme sport of canyoneering involves hiking, scrambling, swimming and repelling. Depending on seasonal rainfall, the Mujib Gorge may contain pools deep enough for swimming. A 20-meter (67-foot) tall waterfall meets enthusiasts near the mouth of the canyon.

Scrambling the water falls in one of the lowest places on Earth.
Adventurers chose between wet and dry trails at the Mujib Biosphere Reserve formerly known as the Wadi Mujib Reserve before the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the extraordinary place a biosphere reserve in 2011. One of the most popular, the Siq Trail is open April 1 – October 31 for guided or self-guided hikes. The trail starts at the Visitor Center near the Mujib Bridge, where hikers scale a dam by use of a cantilevered walkway and follow the river flanked by towering sandstone cliffs to the base of the large waterfall.

Other hiking trails such as the Ibex Trail, where you can view the famous rock “statue” of Lot’s wife and perhaps glimpse Nubian Ibex, require official guides. The Dead Sea below this highline trail provides a startling backdrop during the whole hike.

Lot's Wife hoodoo. Photo by Stacey Wittig
Near the lowest elevation of the planet, the Mujib Biosphere Reserve is the lowest reserve on earth. The remote desert environ is bisected by the Mujib River that cuts deep through rough geologic formations.

The Mujib Biosphere Reserve is about one and a half hours from Amman, the capitol city of the Middle Eastern nation. The desert area gets an average of 330 days of sunshine per year with less than 100 millimeters (3.9 inches) of rainfall, so bring hats, sunscreen, first aid kits, drinking water and dry bags. Stay on the trails and camp only in official sites. Take only pictures, leave only footprints.

Mujib Gorge and trail ramp. Photo by Stacey Wittig
The Mujib Biosphere Reserve is part of Jordan’s progressive national park system that is administered by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN).
Explore more about the Jordanian Grand Canyon by clicking here.


Travel journalist Stacey Wittig was the guest of Jordan Tourism Board North America (JTBNA). This article first appeared in Grand Canyon Examiner in Spring 2016. #LearnJordan #MyJordanJourney

Monday, February 20, 2017

Spring Spree: Santa Fe Celebrates Spring Break With “Kids Eat Free”

AAA Four Diamond Resort Offers Fun Perks & Experiences For Tourism Santa Fe’s “Kids FreeFest”
Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Resort, the AAA Four Diamond resort located 15 minutes north of downtown Santa Fe, is welcoming the youngest of spring breakers with special perks, freebies and VIP experiences as part of Tourism Santa Fe’s “Spring Break 2017 Kids Free” Promotion.

As part of the city-wide promotion targeting family spring break travelers, Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Resort will offer plenty of fun for the little ones, including:
  • Free goodie bag at check-in
  • Kids 12 and under eat free 
  • Free kids manicure with paid adult manicure
  • Free kids golf lesson with paid adult lesson
  • Free putting and driving range with paid adult
  • Free candy samples at Senor Murphy’s candy shop

Additional family activities and attractions in Santa Fe include "cork art" projects at Estrella De Norte Vineyard, complimentary entry at the Museum of International Folk Art, free kids admission to Wildlife West Nature Park, treasure hunts at Shiprock Santa Fe and much more. Located just 15 minutes from historic downtown Santa Fe, Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder offers an ideal location for families looking to explore Santa Fe.  

The promotion is available February 26 through April 20, 2017. Click here to book this package or visit www.hiltonbuffalothunder.com for additional resort information.

Check out the new daily flight from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport to Santa Fe. Quick and easy!
American Airlines: www.aa.com

Stacey Wittig is a travel writer based in Flagstaff, AZ. This month she was a guest at the Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Resort and is writing about her fabulous stay for upcoming travel articles.