TRAVEL QUIZ: What is your adventure style?

12 01 2008

Choose the answer(s) that best fit your response to each question.

1. You’ve just arrived in a strange new city. You head straight for:
A. The “Sights”
B. Nowhere in particular, you like to wander around for a while first
C. A nearby park or garden
D. An art museum

2. When packing for a trip, you ALWAYS take:
A. Toiletry kit
B. Corkscrew
C. Hiking boots
D. Guidebook(s)

3. Your idea of the perfect meal experience:
A. Five courses and five stars
B. A candlelight dinner overlooking a beautiful sunset or twilight cityscape
C. A picnic meal on the side of a mountain
D. Authentic regional cuisine of the country you’re visiting

4. Your favorite mode of transportation is:
A. Plane
B. Train
C. Feet
D. Local transportation- whatever that might be!

5. Your ideal honeymoon would be a trip to:
A. Somewhere warm and sunny with umbrellas on the beach and in the drinks
B. Paris
C. Peru, hiking the Inca Trail- who cares if there are no showers?
D. China, focusing on monasteries, cuisine, and small villages

7. On any given flight, you can be found:
A. Watching the in-flight movie
B. Snuggling with your seatmate and sipping something warm
C. Sleeping
D. Reading up on your destination

8. You’ve just sat down at a café in Budapest. You order:
A. Coffee- it’s a café.
B. Red wine
C. Bottled water- gotta keep hydrated
D. The local brew

9. You have a week to spend in India. You can be found:
A. in New Delhi, Rajasthan, and at the Taj Mahal
B. Staying in the former palaces of Maharajas
C. Trekking in the northern mountains
D. Mingling in the markets and trying out your Hindi

10. If you were a continent, you would be:
A. North America
B. Europe
C. South America
D. Asia

11. You just returned from your last vacation and you can’t stop talking about:
A. Those amazing temples/cathedrals/museums
B. How much fun you had with your travel partner
C. The mountains! The oceans!
D. The wonderful people you met

12. Close your eyes and picture “someday”. You see:
A. Yourself wrapped up in fine bed linens eating from a silver room service tray
B. Turquoise water, white sand, twenty toes
C. A vast mountain range stretching out before you
D. Living in a far away village or city


Mostly A’s: You’re a CLASSIC ADVENTURER: You enjoy new experiences as long as you don’t have to sacrifice comfort (or hotel star rating), and you like travel for travel’s sake- a true adventurer of style. You like to see the important sights, eat the delicious cuisine, and get back to where you came from in one piece. In your travel destiny: A grand tour of Europe OR a small group adventure to China with deluxe digs.

af014901.jpg The Louvre, Paris
Mostly B’s: You’re a ROMANTIC ADVENTURER: You like to travel in 2’s and drink in the aesthetic beauty of a place while appreciating it’s art, cuisine, and culture. You travel to escape the mundane world and to intoxicate your senses with new and exciting adventures. In your travel future: an over water bungalow in Tahiti for a week, an adventure through the deserts and vibrant cities of Morocco, or the lovers’ favorite: Paris.
2006-french-polynesia-tahiti-and-moorea-135.jpg Moorea, French Polynesia

Mostly C’s: You’re a PHYSICAL ADVENTURER: You love to travel to spectacular locations and prove yourself while you’re there. You never shy away from a challenge, whether it’s fermented yak’s milk in Mongolia or sky-diving in Switzerland. You enjoy meeting new people on your travels and secretly harbor a desire to climb Mount Everest. Your next trip: to Kilimanjaro, to hike the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, to New Zealand to explore the incredible scenery, or to the seventh continent: Antarctica

.2004-marahau-2-to-milford-sound-1-205.jpg Lake Matheson, New Zealand

Mostly D’s: You’re a CULTURAL ADVENTURER: You see travel as an opportunity for growth and education and a chance to get to know a place and a people that are far outside your own world view. You are an independent and confident traveler; you always read up on your destination before you go and try to learn a few words of the local language. In your travel destiny: a visit with the tribes of Papua New Guinea, a six month trans-Africa expedition, or a trip to Japan to explore the nuances of Shinto and sushi

.af013001.jpg Saqqara, Egypt

“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days on trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” Jack London

So what are you waiting for? Your next life?

Call the Adventure Travel Company at (800) 467-4595 for expert travel advice and budget international airfare

Posted by: Shilo Urban



9 01 2008

Zorbing is yet another New Zealand invention, in the same crazy gang as the bungee, the jetboat, and the tranquilizer gun. What is a Zorb, you ask? There is only one TRUE way to find out:

1. Grab some friends and buy plane tickets to New Zealand. Call The Adventure Travel Company at 1(800) 467-4595.

2. Take a bus ( or rent a car ( and drive to Rotorua, one of four major geothermal hotspots in the world.

3. Have a pint of ale at the Pig And Whistle pub, a converted police station. Have another.

4. Catch a ride to the Agrodome, about 10 kilometers outside of Rotorua. Get there early and you can also experience bungee, agrojet, helipro, swoop, freefall xtreme, tours of the night sky, and hands-on sheep farming. You think I’m making this up? Go to:

5. Arrive at the Zorbing Base, and change into your provided Zorbonaut Gear. Go to the bathroom (NOT optional).

6. Decide the nature of your Zorbing experience: Solo or with friends? Wet or dry? Straight or zigzag? You choose: Wet and with friends, of course, straight down the 2oo meter hill for the thrill of speed.

7. Ride the wicked 4WD to the top of the Zorbing hill. Try not to fall out of the bouncing vehicle as the driver laughs like a maniac.

8. While the Zorbing assistant holds the Zorb steady, back up and take a running dive into a 2′ hole in the gigantic plastic ball filled with about 10 gallons of water. Try not to dive head-first into your friend already in the giant bouncy sphere, and get out of the way so that your other friend doesn’t dive head-first into you.

9. Take a deep breath, and…

10. ZORB!!! The big ball you are in is zipped closed and pushed off the side of the hill. It is like being in a giant washing machine, and you and your friends are the dirty socks. Dirty socks who laugh the whole way down, that is, all the way to the bottom until they are dumped out the zippered hole with the water, to much applause and clicking cameras.

11. Run back around and do it all again! And again! And again!

12. Now go experience the rest of New Zealand, Zorbonaut!

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Shilo Urban

Top Ten Paris Photo Ops

9 01 2008

1. The Bell Towers of Notre Dame Cathedral: Be in line by 9AM if you don’t want your elbows bumped by big crowds as you catch gargoyles contemplating the city’s skyline and devouring each other. ($)

2. Cour de Commerce Saint-Andre: This little side street off Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Pres is home to Paris’ first cafe Le Procope where Ben Franklin had lunch, Voltaire drank 40 cups of coffee a day, and a young Napoleon had to leave his hat in lieu of payment for a meal. The cobblestone pathway is also where Dr. Guillotin practiced his “humanitarian killing machine” on sheep, an invention made famous in its feminine name, la guillotine. Facing the old wooden toy store, turn around, and there is a door that opens onto the Cour Rohan, three of the most beautiful courtyards in Paris. Imagine the nobles and queens looking down from the ivy-covered windows to the cobblestones below, trying to ignore the screams of the sheep around the corner. Click away! (free)

3. Top of the Arc de Triomphe: Sunset over western Paris, La Grande Arche de la Defense, and the birthplace of the Sun King, Louis XIV. ($)

4. Musee Carnavalet: Paris’ history museum, located in the Marais and of great interest to French history nerds like me. The draw for photographers however is the inner courtyard of this centuries-old mansion whose neoclassical architecture is almost completely covered in red and green ivies. Take a seat by the giant rosebushes, and take some pics! (free)

5. Les Marches (The markets): Every neighborhood in Paris has a market which usually runs three days a week (ask around for the one near you). Parisians buy many of their produce and grocery items at these street markets which seem to burst at the seems with stinky cheeses, flowers from the south of France, ripe olives in their oil, fresh baguettes, wines to taste, courgettes from the countryside, gooseberries, blackberries, raspberries- let your camera tell the rest of the story. (free)

6. The Catacombs: Got a gothic side? A creepy leaning? An eerie inkling? Go down to the catacombs where the bones of over seven million humans are arranged by type, not owner, and often artistically. You will find hearts, crosses, and other designs which photograph well and make exceptionally nice Valentine’s Day cards. While you are waiting for your flash to recharge in the dark deep below the city, think about the wild parties thrown here during the French Revolution or the Resistance fighters who held secret meetings during the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II. Snap! ($)

7. Pere Lachaise Cemetery: More sculpture garden than graveyard, Pere Lachaise has heaps of crumbling tombs, sad-eyed statues, winding paths into the darkness and fallen tombs. (free)

8. Pont Neuf: This bridge whose name means “new bridge” is actually the oldest in the city, the first to be built without any houses on it. It is studded with mascarons, or ghoulish faces, and its’ gothic arches stretch across the Ile de la Cite and the river Seine. Take the steps down below to get great shots of the bridge with Paris peeking through its arches. Students like to congregate here at night for picnics and it a great place to make friends, meet people, and share some wine. (free)

9. Pont de la Concorde: From this bridge you can see most of the major monuments of Paris: the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, La Madeleine, the National Assembly, the Louvre, the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. Built from the ruined stones of the infamous Bastille prison (so that free men and women can forever trample on the vestiges of tyranny), this bridge is the perfect place to get oriented with the layout of the city. Go at sunset, when the falling light turns Paris pink and the lights along the river Seine slowly start to sparkle. (free)

10. Tour Montparnasse: This ugly, modern skyscraper in the middle of Montparnasse is disliked by Parisians so much that they have banned any other skyscrapers in the city. But the elevator (the fastest one in Europe) flings you up to the top of Tower. ($)

af000601.jpg af015101.jpg af009401.jpg

Shilo Urban

Need more information on Paris? Email me at

San Francisco Roadtrip Poem

7 01 2008

I went to San Francisco with no flowers in my hair

With all the beats inside my head I really didn’t care

For miles and miles my car did drive

Thirteen hours on Highway 5

You might ask why oh why did I

Take a trip for just one night?

‘Cause life’s a blink and I might die

Before I get another try

To dance and jam and rock and such

With the Glitch Mob, baby,

Pass that Dutch!

Shilo Urban

Shilo’s Cities: Paris’ Mountain of the Muses

7 01 2008

To many of it’s artist habitues, the Parisian neighborhood of Montparnasse was known simply as ‘The Quarter’. Here the cancan and the polka were introduced to the city, new philosophies were born at shaky sidewalk tables, and crazy poets walked pet lobsters on leashes. In Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, written in part at the café La Closerie des Lilas (see restaurant list below), the character Jake explains that one doesn’t have to live in the neighborhood to belong to it : “Perfectly good Quarterites live outside the actual boundaries of Montparnasse. They can live anywhere, as long as they come to the Quarter to think.”

The mount been an area for wild-haired revelers ever since the Middle Ages when students from the nearby Latin Quarter climbed this hill outside the city walls to escape their professors’ watchful eyes, cut loose on the tax-free pleasures, and party like it was 1599. The students dubbed the hill ‘Mont Parnasse’, after the Greek mountain sacred to the Apollo and the muses, Mount Parnassus, a divine space devoted to art and poetry.

By the end of the 19th century, the growing city of Paris had completely enveloped Montparnasse, and in the next generation the neighborhood became the international center of the bohemian lifestyle and the very heart of the modern art world. Avant garde artists (Picasso, Modigliani, Marc Chagall, Miro, Zadkine, and Braque) writers and poets (Ezra Pound, William Faulkner, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Apollinaire, Jean Cocteau, and Henry Miller), philosophers (Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus), musicians (Stravinsky, Gershwin, and Satie) and Russian exiles (Lenin and Trotsky) flocked to the area, a ‘lost generation’ trying to make sense of life in the post-World War I world.

Many of these disillusioned wanderers came from America, enchanted by the easy living and straight talk; Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein joined the others above and created the so-called ‘Paris School’ of art and thought which spawned such movements as existentialism and expressionism and dominated intellectual life until the 1960’s.

The Spanish Civil War and World War II brought much of this artistic era to an end as writers and artists left Montparnasse and dispersed throughout the world. But for a brief flash in time it was the capital of modern bohemia, a blazing epicenter of artistic expression where the freak flags flew high. Parisians still climb the hill today to pay their respects to the gods of music and poetry at the many theaters, cabarets, dance halls, restaurants, and cafes. Nightlife crackles in Montparnasse, and the same art-deco brasseries and cafés still serve patrons sitting in chairs used by Picasso, next to columns painted by Chagall, on a table with Hemingway’s name carved into it, in a cafe where Lenin served lattes. The spirit of the Lost Generation lingers in Montparnasse, and you should too-bring a saxophone, read some disturbing poetry, or discuss the nuances of existence over a heaping of fresh seafood from a Breton brasserie. The muses are waiting.


1) Le Ciel de Paris – located at the top of the Tour Montparnasse, this restaurant is renowned for it’s Franco-European cuisine and unrivaled view of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower. It is best for lunch but also open for breakfast (8 :30-11), teatime (2 :45-5 :45) and dinner. Closed Sunday, call to reserve a window seat. Reach restaurant elevator via main entrance, and afterwards ride to the 59th floor for an open air panorama of the city.

2) Creperie Le Petit Josselin – 59 blvd du Montparnasse, this Breton restaurant was founded like many others by families arriving in Paris from Brittany at the Gare Montparnasse. The pancakes, or galettes, are prepared in front of you and the decor is welcoming- carved wood sculptures and porcelain from Quimper.

3) Le Maxence – 9 bis blvd du Montparnasse, Chef David Van Laer’s new restaurant, opened in 1999, serves French and Belgian specialties daily, including a great pigeon dish.

4) Le Bistro de la Gare – 59 blvd Montparnasse, this national historic monument is open daily until 1 a.m. and was originally part of the famous Chartier chain of bouillons. Sit in the extraordinary art nouveau interior and enjoy a quick meal of simple, hearty, fare : roast chicken with frites, grilled meats and fish dishes.

5) La Coupole – 102 blvd Montparnasse, this is one of Paris’ most famous brasseries, in fact, it practically defines the term! Originally a wood and coal depot, it opened as a basement dance hall in 1927 and has entertained customers like Hemingway, Faulkner, Sartre, and Beauvoir. The art deco interior including a mosaic floor and original furniture has recently been restored and is home to 33 decorated columns, some of which were painted by artists Chagall and Brancusi.

6) La Rotonde – 7 place de 25 aout, opened in 1903 and was a second home to artists and political exiles in the 20’s and 30’s. Lenin was a waiter here, serving espresso to his friends Picasso and Matisse, and the mad French poet Nerval walked his pet lobster on a leash by the corner. Don’t miss Rodin’s sculpture of Balzac nearby, and take notice which famous client’s name is inscribed on your table!

7) Le Select – 99 blvd Montparnasse, an American favorite since it’s opening in 1924, it remains a literary café par excellence, the best food out of all the famous cafés around. It is quiet and intimate, open daily and a favorite of Hemingway’s.

8) La Closerie des Lilas – 171 blvd du Montparnasse, classy with a pianist in the evening, and perhaps the most famous of the cafés, the “home” of Hemingway and a watering hole for many others : Baudelaire, Verlaine, Picasso, Balzac, Ingres, and Sartre. During the French Revolution it was an inn for stagecoach travelers, and today it offers a great seat for sipping coffee and people-watching.

9) Vin et Marée – 108 ave du Maine, this restaurant has a great wine list and specializes in fresh seafood, changing the menu daily depending on the catch at the market.

10) Dominique – 19 rue Bréa, opened in 1928 this warm Russian restaurant serves delicacies like herring, smoked eel, and roast lamb, all in a rich red interior set to Russian music. The outstanding vodka bar is not to be missed, closed Sun and Mon.

Shilo Urban

Mace and the Maple Leaf

4 01 2008

“Do you have any weeds in the car?” the Canadian border patrol officer asked. I shook my head no and tried not to smile as the two Quebecois patrolmen rifled through my car seats, my bags, and my underwear. It was a chilly morning at the tiny customs outpost at the Vermont-Quebec border, and a “random search” (aka two very bored officers) had led to the discovery of my intention to smuggle a dangerous weapon into Maple Leaf Land: pepper spray. It had been a gift to me from my father, a cop, for protection in big cities and big forests, and I had tossed it in without much forethought. Unbeknownst to me, however, chemical mace was on the hot list of things NOT allowed to enter Canada- and now so was I. After finding such proof of my delinquency, the officers were convinced that this young couple and their wiener dog headed to Montreal for the weekend had something else to hide- namely, weeds.

“No dandelions here, sir” my boyfriend Joe replied, seemingly enjoying all of this a little too much. After an hour or so of futile searching, the cops decided that the pepper spray was enough to bring me in. I wasn’t worried at all until they began to read me my rights and informed me that my car was now the property of Canada. “Am I in trouble too, or is it just her?” Joe asked with what I knew to be a hidden smile. “Well, it is her car, her bag, and her pepper spray, so only she is in trouble. But we are going to search both of you.”

We were led into the small backwoods office, separated, and taken into different rooms. I was made to remove my shoes and socks, which seemed a thorough enough search for the officers who were hastily talking back and forth in French. “What about her purse? She has not let go of it yet! I bet the drugs are there. Look how she is holding it close to her!” and on and on. They knew I had to be hiding something- but didn’t know that I was fluent in French, disguised with my polite southern drawl. I had grabbed my purse by habit when we first got out of the car, and now the two men were just certain that it contained the pounds of illegal substances that they had been unable to locate in my vehicle. For a good twenty minutes they continued the debate about my purse, and whether or not they could search it without further assistance.

Finally I could take no more, I wanted to get this whole ordeal over with and get on with the weekend in Montreal. I stood up, with bare feet, and dumped the entire contents of my purse onto the interrogation table and handed the empty bag to the officer. “Est-ce qu’on peut partir maintenant?” (Can we leave now?) I asked, in perfect Parisian French. “Uh…ouay” they replied, shrugging, and I was led back into the front office. Minutes later we were ordered to pay a $120 fine to retrieve my car from Canadian impoundment and were released and allowed to enter the country. The two polite officers thanked me and warned that I would now be red-flagged as a weapons smuggler for five years at all border crossings and would have to explain myself anytime I wanted to enter Canada.

“Pas d’probleme,” I replied, “I’m moving to France next week.” Everyone smiled and we were on our way.

Shilo Urban