• Arctic Ice

    Late on Saturday evening, Ortelius had entered the fringes of the pack ice; I stayed up in anticipation of this moment. Around 1 am, a patchwork blanket of ice covering the ocean started to appear. We were moving at a steady able continuously northward. By 6 am we had reached 82° 23’2 N, which was much further North than the trip was planned to reach. The ice was 400 miles more north this year than in previous years.

    It was cold but all guests seemed to stay on deck as long as possible to enjoy the spectacular views before warming up in the lounge area with hot coffee and warm hot chocolate. This is a vista uniquely arctic and one that is sadly in decline. It is a pleasure to enjoy the expanse of such a landscape and be in the moment.

  • Karl XI Part 2

    The visit to Karl XI was a little heart-wrenching. The bears on the island had clearly missed their ride on the Arctic ice and were stranded on the island until the freeze would come back. The bears had limited food supply and most likely they would all not make it through the long summer until the ice returns. One of the bears was injured and we also witnessed the saddest scene of a mother carrying her dead cub around. The cub had died at least a month before based on reports and she was still grieving.

    The week before our visit there was a large controversy after a polar bear was shot by a crew on a German tourist ship after one member was attacked on land. This brought up the debate on whether this type of tourist excursion to the area where there is the risk of human interaction with the vulnerable status bears should be continued.

    This particular German expedition did not participate in information sharing about bear locations as part of the treaty in the Svalbard area with 99% of boats in the area. This could have likely resulted in preventing this incident where this bear was known to be on land for several weeks. The crew has strict guidelines and share information daily on the locations of all bears in the area to avoid these types of interactions.

    My personal opinion is that the more people see and learn first hand about the effects global warming and the retraction of polar ice caps have on the environment maybe they will do something to prevent further climate change issues. My eyes were opened on this trip to the realities of the shrinking of the Arctic ice by seeing first hand the impact on these amazing animals.


  • Karl XI Part 1

    On Day 4 of our Arctic adventure, we headed straight into the clear skies towards the green mystical mountain kingdom of Polar bears and wily walrus called Karl XI. As we headed toward the island in the zodiacs it looked like we were heading straight into a missing scene from the TV show Lost.

    We saw six polar bears on the island as we cruised around that showed off their personalities as we came by in the boats circling the small island. Polar Bears are listed as Vulnerable Status by the World Wildlife Fund due to the shrinking amount of animals that are left on the planet. In the Svalbard archipelago, the 3000 polar bears actually outnumber humans according to the Norwegian government.

  • Ny London – Svalbard

    We woke to our first morning on Ortelius entering Kongsfjorden under blue skies and sunshine. The relatively calm waters overnight had made for a restful sleep and we were all eager to head off for our first excursion in the Svalbard archipelago. Onshore there was one guesthouse where visitors were having a holiday far from the comforts of city life.

    During the course of the day, we learned a little about the history of Arctic exploration and the attempts to reach the North Pole from Ny Ålesund. One amazing thing about this trip was that the expedition leaders are trained in safety for our tour but also in history and science. They conduct lectures daily on a variety of topics on wildlife and arctic expeditions.

  • Oceanwide Expeditions – Norway   

    On August 1, 2018, I started my journey to one of the most remote places on Earth to visit the Arctic Circle and photograph the vast landscapes and wildlife found only in the Arctic regions.

    I took 4 flights over 30 hours to reach Longyearbyen, Norway, a small city named after American John Munro Longyear. John Munro was one of the first pioneers in mining industries and expedition cruises in Spitsbergen. He founded a coal mining settlement in 1906 in Adventfjord called Longyear City.

    We boarded the Ortelius for our 10-day journey and once onboard met our expedition team led by Captain Mikka Appel and Ali our expedition leader. I quickly realized this was not one of my normal cruises when we attended mandatory safety training, which included topics on Polar Bear safety. It was clear the goal was to not meet up with a polar bear on land. All of the expedition leaders carry weapons in case of emergency but there are heavy fines for killing any wildlife in Norway. Their goal is to protect the environment with responsible tourism.

    The crew on the Ortelius provided a regimented schedule each day with excursions by zodiac boat and hikes on foot throughout our 10-day journey. This schedule helped me cope with the fact that there is no nighttime because the sun does not set this time of year in the Arctic. We had fantastic service and meals on board with an amazing staff and I cannot say enough positive things about Oceanwide Expeditions. If you are planning a trip to any of the Polar Regions, I highly recommend this company for a safe once in a lifetime experience.


  • Interview: Chef Aarón Sánchez

    Chef Aarón Sánchez has always represented his Mexican heritage to the fullest. He is a current judge on Master Chef and has built his food empire with restaurants, television shows and cookbooks over two decades. The Travel Addict caught up with him at the Bourbon & Beyond music, food and drink festival in Louisville, Kentucky, which took place from September 22-23. Sanchez could be seen all day having a blast all around the festival enjoying the music and interacting with fans. Before taking the stage for his cooking demo with his good friend Ed Lee on the culinary stage, Sanchez talked about his Mexican roots, his love of Lenny Kravitz and life in New Orleans.

    This week Sanchez hosted a Feast Under the Stars at Voodoo Festival in New Orleans for VIP patrons to experience a five-course meal expertly prepared by Sanchez and four other culinary powerhouses including, Justin Devillier, Kelly Fields, Nina Compton, and Todd Pulsinelli. Each course was paired with the perfect wine and fans got to preview the site of the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans.

    Check out The Travel Addict’s interview with chef Aarón Sánchez:

    What are your favorite New Orleans places to eat?

    We love all the restaurants in our group obviously. That goes without saying. The ones that my lovely girlfriend and I like to go to are 1000 Figs and Echo’s Pizza, which has some really great stuff. We go to Lilette. We like Napoleon House for some traditional stuff. We go there quite a bit. We take people from out of town to Napoleon House if they want great jam or a Muffuletta. We are also fans of Turkey and the Wolf.

    When people I know visit New Orleans, I tell them to go to your restaurant Johnny Sanchez.

    What is interesting, when you think of coming to New Orleans you don’t think of Mexican food, but the similarities and parallels are that people come to New Orleans to get great seasoned food, well-prepared deliciousness. Not the subtle stuff. They want something in their face and delicious. That is why we have been so successful. We like to have a good time provide wonderful food for guests.

    When tourists visit what activities do you recommend in NOLA?

    I tell everyone to take a walk and go have lunch at St. Roch Market. I tell people to take a moment and go to the Audubon Park Sculpture garden for sure. Jackson Square is also an obvious choice. I think the more exciting stuff if you want the more real experience, go to the Marigny, up at the Bywater and check out those restaurants. That’s where I tell people to go. I think there will be more interesting stuff is happening in Mid-City. I think Lakeview will get a lot more attention in the coming days.

    I wanted to talk to you about your Cocina website. What inspired you to create that? The food images just pop.

    What we are doing is introducing that taste made love with a Latin medium. We are celebrating all things Latin culture and bringing those recipes to life, showing the full breadth and diversity of Latin cuisine. We are trying to shake the misconception of just being Mexican. We wanted to bring recipes from all over, from the Caribbean, Central and South America, obviously Mexico, and making those recipes present, giving people access to those in a very user-friendly way. We do everything with a cinematic lens. It is food porn. We wanted everyone to have access, inspired by the Taste Mates of the world, inspired by Chef’s Table. It is really about that.

    What is your version of the perfect taco?

    I am a sucker for the traditional stuff. I love a good Carne Asada, a little bit of avocado and guacamole, beautiful salsa.

    You always talk about your mother’s cooking, on Chopped and other shows. Aside from your mother’s cooking, what travel locations have inspired you the most?

    So many. Peru, for sure. You think of 300 ways to make potatoes, the Japanese influence in the food, the indigenous influence. I think it is the birthplace of ceviche’. There is so much food. It is so rich and diverse. We just got back from Italy. We were in the South in Calabria, loved the food down there. It is one of the few regions of Italy that uses a lot of chilies and spice. We were stoked about there and we love Italy.

    What is your funniest Chopped moment?

    I have had a lot. Chopped is so fun. When people see stuff like chicken in a can and duck testicles, I am marveled at how quick thinking people are. It is very telling about a cook. Chopped is not an exercise into what kind of chef you are, but how resourceful you are, how you can mix things together.

    We are at Bourbon and Beyond. What is your favorite bourbon?

    I have so many it is hard to choose. We just had Copper and Rye (Look it Up). It’s one of my favorites. For me, being from the South and loving bourbon, yes there is Buffalo Trace and Pappy Van Winkle, but I like the more utilitarian kind of bourbons, the single batch, that are compatible with putting it on ice. I love how much fun the distillers are having using wine barrels to age their stuff.

    Any favorite bourbon and food pairing?

    Oh my God, there are so many. If you think of bourbon and food, you obviously think Bar-B-Que. I think there is other stuff like duck, I think mole would be interesting.

    What is one dish nobody would expect you to love?

    Tofu, a really beautifully cooked tofu, I love mapo tofu which is kind of like an Asian style ground pork mixed with tons of chilies and tomato mixed with pieces of tofu.

    Who are you most excited to see here?

    Lenny Kravitz, he is just amazing. He brings a sexuality to the music that only he can do. His music is constantly evolving. He is on like his 12th album or something crazy like that. He’s been doing it 30 years.

    Robert Plant is here. We saw him in L.A. He is still sexy and still into it, and still loves it. Where do you think Lenny got it from? His idols are Prince and Bowie, and if you throw Robert Plant in there, it is Lenny Kravitz. This festival has so much great music.

    I saw you at Bottle Rock as well. It is becoming more popular to combine these food and music festivals and events. What would be your dream cooking music collaboration?

    I want to cook with musicians who love food. I think musicians are always so svelte, in skinny jeans, cute little fingers, I am always wondering if they really eat. I am good friends with Kings of Leon. I just did a fun cooking demo in Nashville with Caleb, the lead singer is a buddy of mine. Somebody I have never done one with who I truly love, I would love to cook with Rihanna.

    If you had a dream vacation destination, where would it be? Where have you not gone yet?

    I want to say something unattainable. I haven’t been to Copenhagen; I really want to go there. I am fascinated with Vikings. I want to go up in the mountains in Norway and meet the indigenous Sami people.

    What has been your response to your Aaron Sanchez scholarship? Do you think it is increasing aspiring chefs in the Latin community?

    Absolutely. The whole purpose of my scholarship is to create Latino leaders in the kitchen. A lot of times there has been issues with advancement and executive positions. I think everything starts with education. I think everything starts with foundation. We get kids with Latin descent, preferably bi-lingual, and then be able to get that bi-cultural narrative and support that with great education and mentoring.

    We are creating leaders single-handedly by doing that. That is the motivation behind the scholarship. This year we have given two scholarships, one to a young kid from New Orleans named Alejandro, and given one to a woman, a young lady from Puerto Rico named Jan, because I wanted to give love to the one-year anniversary of the hurricane there, so I chose a young lady from Puerto Rico, and she’s going to be awesome.

  • SkyStar Wheel

    The SkyStar wheel is the nation’s largest portable observation wheel and it is in Cincinnati September 1- December 2, 2018. I finally was able to head downtown this weekend to see the wheel light up the Cincinnati skyline on Saturday night. It was a super windy fall evening but we were able to capture some photos of the Ferris wheel by the world famous Roebling Bridge that connects Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky.

    The SkyStar has become a local highlight for photographers across the area as it provides a unique view of the beautiful skyline from the Newport, KY side of the river. When we arrived Saturday evening there were several local photo groups out capturing the sunset. It comes to Cincinnati after successful visits to Louisville, KY and Norfolk, VA.

    The SkyStar wheel is equipped with 36 climate-controlled gondolas. Each gondola can hold up to six people. Guests are treated to fantastic views of the city as the ride takes you 15-stories above the banks of the Ohio River at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Park. The wheel is open daily and costs $12.50 and all ages are welcome to ride.

  • Interview: Chef Damaris Phillips

    Bourbon & Beyond Festival takes place in Louisville, Kentucky and is a celebration of food, music and really good alcohol. Unfortunately, the second day of the festival may have been canceled due to heavy rain and flooding at Champion’s Park. But chef Damaris Phillips was gracious enough to re-schedule our interview and photos so that we could chat and discuss her hometown of Louisville, bourbon, cats and Dolly Parton.

    Since I have a natural aversion to cooking at home even though I binge watch Food Network, we discussed some easy go-to meals to cook at home which you can find on here on her official site. We also discussed some favorite travel destinations, which include India and an interest in hitting the high seas, on a Carnival cruise. All around she is just as nice as she is on TV and I understand why America has fallen in love with this Food Network Star.

    You live in Louisville and have always represented Kentucky so well on all of your television appearances. What do you tell people to do around town when they come to visit you?

    I definitely tell people to try to get to at least one distillery, either in the downtown area or drive a little bit and hit one of the rural distilleries. Ideally, people should go to two so they can see the difference between the ones in town and what places like Woodford looks like. It is different but very, very fun.

    What is your favorite bourbon?

    That is like asking somebody who their favorite child is for different reasons. I can never pick one. Honestly, any bourbon someone gives me is a good bourbon. I try not to discriminate against a bourbon.

    Do you have any favorite bourbon food pairings?

    I use bourbon in all of my cooking. The truth is it goes great with any of the things you think of as Southern comfort food. It even goes great with casseroles. I think of drinking it like more of a cocktail, or think of it as you would think of wine. It goes great with literally everything. A little glass of bourbon with soup, unbelievable.

    I just watched you last night Beat Bobby Flay at midnight last night with tuna casserole.

    Well, I love tuna casserole. It tastes great with bourbon.

    How does your work as a culinary instructor prepare you to judge for the top Food Network shows?

    I learned to understand food a lot more, what was happening, why things were crispy, why some sauces were smoother than others, why one cake had a crumbly crumb compared to too chewy. I learned all that through teaching.

    When you are judging, you want to point out what is going on, “You’re crisp is too soft”, and you also want people at home to get takeaways, to understand why the crust is too soft. You say, “You put it on the pan, and it was warm, and condensation happened, so now it is a little soggy.” That will happen, the science and fundamentals of cooking, you learn it in schools and in restaurants, but I really understood it and it became second nature because of teaching.

    So you can give tips and critiques?

    Yes, you can critique but “it’s not just soggy” here is how you can do it better next time.

    What dish is your guilty pleasure?

    I cannot resist macaroni and cheese. I cannot resist banana bread. It is impossible not to eat. Any kind of potato. I never feel guilty about them. I only feel happy. You know what I really love, cinnamon toast. I would eat cinnamon toast every single day if it was a diet food.

    More and more festivals are starting to combine food and music, and it is awesome. If you could have a dream music cooking duet who would it be?

    Got it, Dolly Parton. Done. As a woman from Kentucky, I can tell you she is the goal. She is just so elegant and a real entertainer, a true class act and kind. She is also still kicking ass with the music.

    Are there any international destinations that have been an influence on your cooking?

    I love international cooking and I love bringing all the spices to Southern food. It is one of my favorite things to take my Grandmother’s Mashed Potato recipe and then throw in harissa or berbere because I am obsessed with Ethiopian food. That is my go-to for updating what we consider a traditional Southern food. But my biggest influence is India. My husband and I just got back, and we are getting ready to go again. I spend time when I am there cooking with a group of women. We make everything literally from scratch, if we want paneer cheese, they go milk the cow. If you want a vegetable you go pick it from the garden. Learning that you can make a unleavened bread and Tirupati and do it every day, it changes how I cook at home. Now, I am never like, “Oh, I have to make biscuits. That seems hard.” It helps you get it together a little bit. There is a real joy to scratch cooking.

    I have traveled extensively in India as well. It puts things in perspective here a little bit too, things aren’t really a big deal.

    It really isn’t. People need to calm down about life. I think that we get so used to things being so convenient based here. Put us up against non-convenience and we see it as a bad thing instead of a very natural thing.

    What is your favorite Food Network show to judge or participate in?

    The one that makes me feel something special and takes me back a little is when I get to do Food Network Star. It’s when I get to come on and be a judge and offer advice and I am seen as successful at this seems full circle to me. The one moment that shows how much I’ve grown and changed. That is the one that gives the moments that you can feel the success.

    I am obsessed with, not Bobby Flay, but Nacho Flay, his cat.

    That cat gives you every reason to be obsessed with it. He is a cat but he is a superstar cat. He is beautiful. I follow him on Instagram. The sweetest thing about that is Bobby how much he loves that cat. My husband and I were visiting him in the Hamptons recently just hanging out and we asked Bobby if he was ever going to get another cat. He said he was his best friend. His cat is his best friend. It is his most endearing quality to Bobby. He loves that cat so much.

    I can relate. My cat Tiger is 19 and I love him. If anything happens to him, I am not sure if I could get another one either.

    We have three cats. With every cat, I thought I could only love that one. With every single one, you love them. Their personalities are so different. There is something so sweet and special about each one of them. That is how people feel about their kids.

    Let’s talk Bourbon and Beyond, did you get to attend at all this year? You were scheduled to present on Sunday, which was rained out, unfortunately.

    I only got to go for it a little bit this time on Saturday, for a short visit, we had friends in from out of town so we went over with them.

    What was your favorite part about Saturday?

    They do a wonderful job of making it feel cool. There are lots of places to discover, all the different bars, the way they set it up so you congregate in the big center and have all these places to discover. I think it just feels cool. I think they do a great job of having things to do. I think the different courses they do for you to learn about bourbon, for me, was the most exciting.

    Did you see any music that was good?

    Damaris: Of course. I wanted to see my best friend John Mayer, but I didn’t get a chance to. (If anyone follows @chefdphillips on IG you know about her feelings for John Mayer songs.)

    Your show Southern and Hungry takes you all across the South. Are there any standout destinations for travelers?

    I think everybody should take a road trip through the South. Every location is different based on whatever you are into. I love New Orleans. I love all of Louisiana. It is a really cool state to ramble around in. Whenever you start driving, you realize everywhere is like that. If you go to Knoxville, what a little surprise, but the drive from Asheville to Knoxville also just remarkably beautiful being in the mountains. You have to slow it down.

    Everywhere is going to offer the chance to eat great food and meet people. It is not just about eating but the experience of eating. Whenever you are in Savannah, you are going to go eat but walking under live oaks, and for the first time feel like, understanding the draw of the Southern Gothic look, and understand it for the first time when you are under those trees.

    The #MeToo movement has come to the food industry and outside Hollywood. Do you think it has changed the way the restaurant business works or will change it in the future?

    I hope that as we are able to talk and as we are able to feel safe, the more everybody is able to share their experiences, it makes every work environment safer and healthier, a place people can be their best and feel more secure. I hope everything is changing. It is heartbreaking to think people were hurt for so long.

    I think you don’t even realize until you start talking about it, you don’t realize what is normal. The greatest thing about talking is we are now able to see what is not appropriate at work, what is not an appropriate way to feel at work. You don’t know. The greatest thing about talking is we are able to, as a community of restaurants, come up with what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. It is never a bad thing to set up healthy boundaries for people.

  • Ohana Festival 2018

    I recently took an amazing writing workshop with Pamela Des Barres. Miss Pamela is one of the most famous rock and roll groupies who has chronicled her adventures in four novels. She now travels around the country teaching writing workshops to her dolls. I have wanted to check out the workshop for four years since first learning about it and I finally got the opportunity when the workshop came within three hours of my house in Fairmont, Indiana at the James Dean Gallery.

    During the workshop participants have 12 minutes to write a story on various topics and then share the writing out loud in front of the group.  It’s amazing how much you can write in 12-minute increments. The first assignment of the evening was to write a story that ended with …and then I needed a nap.

    My story reflected on my weekend at Ohana Festival in California below:

    I flew across the country and I fought LA rush hour traffic to be near the music. As I walked along the beach watching the surfers catch the waves I thought about how nice it would be to just stop and take a break and listen to the ocean for a few minutes but I had to continue on because the music was calling me.

    I spent the day anxiously waiting to see two of my all-time favorite artists, Johnny Marr and Eddie Vedder. I almost cried when they took the stage together in the middle of the afternoon.

    I could barely stand up by 8 PM as jetlag set in after being in the California sunshine all day long but I made myself stay until the night’s end because I needed to hear Eddie sing just a little bit longer. Tears welled up in my eyes as I sang along to “Better Man” surrounded by people who loved him as much as I do.

    When a Tom Petty tribute of “Wildflowers” sang I had my perfect moment under the stars and the palm trees to the finish the perfect day. The music always wins and I will travel anywhere anytime to hear those familiar songs.

    As waves crashed on my walk home I was so happy I made the choice to show up for the music even though I was in desperate need of a nap.

  • Banksy Paris

    I decided to stay in Paris for one day after a work week in France on a search to find the new Banksy art that was created at the end of June when the artist visited the city. It is always important to find his pieces as soon as possible because they are always outside in the elements and also often vandalized because of the political undertones. There are eight new graffiti art pieces that highlight issues ranging from France’s tough immigration laws to the tragedy at the Bataclan Theater.

    The Maison Albar Paris Celine Hotel concierge Fabrice helped me plan the most efficient route and hire a driver named Nolan to start my scavenger hunt around the city for all the Banksy artwork. We had the perfect weather with 75 degrees and sunshine to track down the pieces, which were located in alleyways, under bridges, on signage in tourist hotspots and on the side of homeless shelters across the city.

    Banksy always makes political statements and these particular art pieces have ties to French politics in the past and present.  Several of them are believed to be a tribute to the May 1968 uprising like the piece where Banksy sprayed a rat wearing a Minnie Mouse bow under the caption “May 1968” near the Sorbonne University over the weekend, one of the centers of the uprising, which some say implies the decline of French revolutionary spirit.

    Another of the new works touches on the sensitive subject of the ban on the niqab in France. It’s a take on the famous painting of Napoleon on the back of his rearing horse as he crosses the Alps to invade Italy in 1800. Except in Banksy’s version the figure on the horse is wearing a full red Islamic headscarf. This piece has now been covered with clear plexiglass to protect it from vandalism.

    The one Banksy painting that hit the closest to home for me personally was the image of girl huddled in mourning in a fire exit next to the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 people were massacred by jihadist gunmen in November 2015. I know the Eagles of Death Metal and spend so many of my evenings photographing rock shows that this one felt personal while remembering this tragedy.

    The only painting that was completely destroyed was in a north Paris neighborhood next to a refugee shelter that was controversially closed in March. It was of a young black girl spraying a pink wallpaper pattern over a swastika on a wall next to her sleeping bag and a teddy bear. This was a rough neighborhood in Paris and I had issues when I got out of the car to photograph the art. The people outside had put up a barricade and when I attempted to take pictures I was yelled at to leave immediately. Nolan drove me past while I was in the backseat with tinted windows so that I could at least take a few photos of the scene and the remnants of the painting.

    Some of the pieces are more festive like the one on the city’s famous Montmartre staircases in the 18th arrondissement, Banksy has painted a rat being catapulted like a cork out of a bottle of champagne.

    On my last stop and the hardest location to pinpoint, there is also a faded picture of a rat couple admiring the Eiffel tower in the city of love under a bridge.

    If you are interested in finding the artwork this article gives the approximate locations with descriptions of all the remaining pieces.