Blogger Stephen Greenwood

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Stephen Greenwood

Where was your photo taken? This photo was taken on the way up Kilimanjaro. I had the chance to hike it last November at the end of my stay in Tanzania. It was a great challenge, and a good introduction to trekking above 5,000m.

Where do you live now?. SAR Hong Kong. I’ll be here through the summer, editing a documentary about a failed orphanage in Tanzania.

Scariest airline ever flown? Ethiopian. Not particularly because it felt unsafe, but because I never knew if my bags would make it with me or if my next route would get cancelled without notice.

Favorite city / country / place? I think Stonetown in Zanzibar is pretty high on my list. Its culture, history and location make it a beautiful and complex place.

Most remote corner of the globe visited? I’m hoping it will soon be somewhere in Southeast Asia. As of now: spending a few nights in a Masai village for a rite of passage ceremony, several hours from any major town.

Favorite guidebook series? Sorry to be cliché, but Lonely Planet has led me to some great places.

The ideal vacation is… a small backpack, no electronics, a good travel partner, and a sense of adventure.

Favorite trip? Beside the family trips I took as a kid…When I was 18, I bought a 3-week Greyhound ticket with unlimited stops. I started from San Diego and worked my way as far Northeast as Boston and back through the South. I spent hours talking to some of the most interesting people in the country…people with stories that you just wouldn’t find using any other mode of transportation. It was great.

Other jobs? I work as a freelance designer & videojournalist. I’m also just starting to work with nonprofits to provide them with fundraising videos.

Celebrity you’d most like to sit next to in first class? Steve Jobs.

Bowermaster’s Adventures — Zanzibar

After the Perfume River in Hoi An and the souks of Marrakech, Zanzibar rounds out the trio of ‘most-exotic’ places on the globe that I’ve long wanted to spend not days, but weeks. While these are very real places – crowded, often hot, occasionally dirty – they have each set themselves up in my mind, mostly through books, as mysterious, romantic. Now I’ve officially spent time in each.

Walking the tight streets of Stone Town, the centuries-old market on Unguja, the main island of Zanzibar, the place lives up to the reputation built in my mind. The earliest visitors here were Arab traders who are said to have arrived in the 8th century; pirates swarmed its coastline beginning five to six hundred years ago. I walk into its earliest building, the mosque at Kizimkazi, which dates back to 1107. Hints of its human influences – Assyrians, Sumerians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Indians, Chinese, Persians, Portuguese, Omani Arabs, Dutch and English – are visible everywhere. Some, particularly the Shirazi Persians and Omani Arabs, stayed to settle and rule. With this influence, Zanzibar has become predominantly Islamic (97%) – the remaining 3% is made up of Christians, Hindus and Sikhs.

For centuries the Arabs sailed with the Monsoon winds from Oman to trade primarily in ivory, slaves and spices. The two main islands, Unguja and Pemba, provided an ideal base for the Omani Arabs, being relatively small, and therefore fairly easy to defend. From here it was possible for them to control 1,000 miles of the mainland coast from present day Mozambique to Somalia. Most of the wealth lay in the hands of the Arab community, who were the main landowners, kept themselves to themselves, and generally did not intermarry with the Africans.

This was not true of the Shirazi Persians who came from the Middle East to settle on the East African coast. The story goes that in AD 975, Abi Ben Sultan Hasan of Shiraz in Persia (now Iran) had a terrible nightmare in which a rat devoured the foundations of his house. He took this as an omen that his community was to be devastated. Others in the Shiraz Court ridiculed the notion, but Sultan Hasan, his family and some followers obviously took it very seriously because they decided to migrate. They set out in seven dhows into the Indian Ocean but were caught in a huge storm and separated. Thus, landfalls were made at seven different places along the East African coast, one of which was Zanzibar, and settlements began.

Widespread intermarriage between Shirazis and Africans gave rise to a coastal community with distinctive features, and a language derived in part from Arabic, which became known as Swahili. The name Swahili comes from the Arab word sawahil, which means ‘coast’. The Zanzibar descendants of this group were not greatly involved in the lucrative slave, spice and ivory trades. Instead, they immersed themselves mainly in agriculture and fishing. Those Shirazis that did not intermarry retained their identity as a separate group.

This day we get lost in the narrow market streets, modern-day stores selling much of the same factory-made “antiques” to a booming tourist crowd, and emerge in the real Zanzibar, a sprawling open-air market. Even in the late afternoon as the sun begins to disappear on a hot, hot day it is packed with people weighing fruits and vegetables, eyeing shell fish and giant jack’s, for the home table.

It’s a beautiful end to a first day on the so-called spice island; from here, its north, into the heart of what is increasingly becoming “the pirate’s sea.” So … stay tuned!

Read more from Jon at Bowermaster’s Adventures.

A&K and Fairmont Earth Hour ideas will have tangible results

Earth Hour is on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 PM. The hospitality and travel industry seems to have embraced this commitment to environmentalism. There are plenty of noteworthy initiatives out there intended to show support for a planet that could probably use our help. Of course, some are more interesting than others. I’m pretty interested in what’s going on at Abercrombie & Kent and Fairmont.

Upscale travel firm A&K is taking action at each of its 62 offices around the world. Outdoor signs will be turned off, and only emergency lighting will be used indoors. This will save 620 light-hours of electricity. And, they’re going to shut off the air conditioning for 90 minutes before the end of the work day, lowering power consumption for this period by 18 percent.

The company is also turning its corporate social responsibility gaze outward. Sanctuary Camps & Lodges are going to host stargazing parties, thanks to the dark skies. They are also planning to turn off generators and cut power consumption by 50 percent for Earth Hour (at 13 properties in Africa).

A&K’s Sun Boat III and Sun Boat IV will turn off their generators, as well, operating only with emergency lighting. Guests will be able to enjoy the bright stars – because of the desert air – in Upper Egypt. Eclipse in the Galapagos will host a presentation on the Sun Deck and reduce the use of power by 30 percent.And, the company hopes that Earth Hour goodwill is contagious. Employees have pledged to save 2,960 light-hours, and A&K’s suppliers, including restaurants and hotels, have been encouraged to support Earth Hour, with hundreds agreeing to do so.

I’m also pretty impressed with what Fairmont is doing for Earth Hour (which you can track via Twitter). This company’s made it a habit to stay out in front of the market when it comes to corporate social responsibility, and it’s ready to play from Dallas to Dubai – at all 56 properties. In addition to its usual environmentally sound initiatives, some Fairmont properties are taking specific, unique action.

At the Fairmont St. Andrews, guests can choose at check-in the power they want to use: nuclear, solar or wind. They’ll also receive compact fluorescent light bulbs. But, this is just the beginning. If you decide to sweat it out in the gym’s spin class, the energy you create will be converted to kilowatt hours to show just how much power you produce. The class is sponsored to provide a cash donation to the World Wildlife Fund. Kids will be able to plant their own saplings. The initiatives at the St. Andrews property are designed to have lasting results.

In Alberta, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise will light up its side of the lake with ice luminaries. Guests will be invited to gather around a fire and enjoy some old-fashioned storytelling under the stars. This hotel is committed to Earth Hour year-round, with 50 percent of its power coming from a mix of wind and run-of-river electricity generation.

Over in Kenya, at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, the lantern-lit Boma will be a place for guests to gather and listen to a local naturalist discuss conservation and the environment – the “Maasai” way. It won’t be just lectures, though, as Maasai dancers will provide entertainment.

The Fairmont Zanzibar, Tanzania will celebrate Earth Hour for the entire day. Guests will be invited to sail on historical dhows on clear Indian Ocean waters. Chef Ric and his team will use charcoal grills to prepare seafood on the beach, delighting palates without disrupting the environment.

Are you doing anything for Earth Hour? Let me know at tom.johansmeyer [at] or

Talking travel with Patricia Schultz, author of “1000 Places to See” (part 2, plus book giveaway)

Patricia Schultz is a well-traveled woman. She single-handedly launched the mini-industry of travel list books with her 2003 #1 New York Times bestseller, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List (Workman), which has sold more than 2.8 million copies and translated into 28 languages. Since then, she’s written a sequel, 1,000 Places to see in the USA and Canada Before You Die, produced a Travel Channel show based on the concept, and was named (as of this week) by Forbes as one of the 25 most influential women in travel.

She was recently a panel member for ABC’s Good Morning America, a judge in selecting the 7 New Wonders of America, and a seasoned writer for Frommer’s, BusinessWeek, “O”prah, Islands and Real Simple. Her next book of the series is in the works.

Read part 1 here.


Her publisher, Workman, has kindly offered to give away five book copies and two calendars of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die to Gadling readers (shipping included). See part 1 of the interview for details on how you can win.

Do you book your trips in advance? Wing it?

Serendipity is a wonderful tour guide, and there should always be lots of hours or afternoons left open to wander and explore and let the trip happen to you. But before leaving I generally have a good idea of what’s worth seeing and gage my time accordingly. I always have a hotel booked in advance, even if it is off season. It’s too easy to do these days with the internet possibilities – there’s nothing worse than arriving and blindly picking a hotel out of the blue (and usually over-paying) because you didn’t do your homework in advance. Why run the risk of being disappointed by an uniformed choice of hotel?
What are five overlooked destinations?

Almost all of South America – Europeans go there in far greater numbers than Americans; our wonderful neighbor Canada to the north, from Newfoundland off the east coast to the hinterlands of Vancouver Island off the west coast; incredibly gorgeous islands in the Indian Ocean (the Maldives, Seychelles, Madagascar, Zanzibar) that can seem like light-years away for American travelers; the Balkan countries like Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, etc. where it often feels like the Mediterranean of a hundred years ago; any of the Greek islands beyond the predictable Grand Tour of Mykonos, Santorini, or Crete.

What are your top three favorite cities? (I know you have an Italian bias!)

I have the inordinate good fortune to say I live in one of them – NYC. I know, I know, I am hardly neutral, but I do maintain that there is nothing like it anywhere on this earth. I love Rome because where else can you find a city whose 25 centuries of history are ubiquitous, with an ancient Roman archway imbedded in the façade of a chic Fendi boutique? Or whose wide open squares such as the opera-set Piazza Navona have acted as the market place and meeting grounds of choice for millennia? “Rome, a lifetime is not enough” they say.

And Rio de Janeiro! Not only one of the most beautifully-sited cities anywhere (up there, perhaps, with Cape Town and San Francisco), but one with an infectious Carneval-like spirit year round, and populated by the very spirited cariocas – some of the nicest people I’ve ever met anywhere.

Jet-setting across the world must get expensive. Do you have any cost-saving tips?

I have been writing travel guides for decades, with deadlines that always had me traveling off season. It didn’t take long to understand that not only does one enjoy discounted hotel and air rates in the off months, but I found the local people to be less harried and more welcoming as a result, and there were fewer disadvantages such as long lines at the museums or crowded restaurants to contend with. On the other hand, you don’t want to spend precious time and money and find yourself in Thailand during monsoon season, or at a coastal destination like France’s Juan-les-Pins where half the town is depressingly shut down in the cold-weather months.

If your lifestyle is such that you can leave with just 1-3 weeks notice, there are remarkable deals to be found online that specialize in last-minute travel. I can’t tell you how many times the irresistibility of a deal determined the destination of my next trip.

And I have always been intrigued by the possibility of home exchange. My serenity-seeking friend recently traded her small Sex-and-the-City condo in Manhattan for a 2-bedroom farmhouse outside of Vence in the south of France to a couple seeking some urban (and urbane) excitement abroad. My friend now swears she’ll never stay in a hotel again (as I imagine the French couple does as well).

What was the experience of writing 1000 Places like? How much on-the-grounds research did you do? How’d you hear about some of the more obscure places and sights?

It took me 8 years to write the first book – and I could have kept going! Many of the experiences were pulled from trips prior to that period, but I researched them to make sure they were still as special as I remembered them to be. And about 20% of the places I have not visited – but I just knew (and was assured by a network of friends who work in the travel world, or by careful research research research) that they belonged in the book.

I purposefully sought out lesser known and more obscure places – whether by physically traipsing there myself, or picking the brains of others. It was important to me to create a real mixed bag of destinations, from the world-known places to the off-the-charts gem, and everything in between. This is the way I travel, mixing it up – enjoying the obvious and accessible while always searching out the various layers and facets and secrets a destination reveals.

Not everyone will agree with my choice of these one thousand possibilities, but one would be hard pressed not to find a few hundred places to keep you busy for some time to come. For travelers who are rusty, or who are too comfortable in their armchairs, this book is the perfect tool to understand the countless possibilities the world offers…and how to get there. Just close your eyes and pick!

What’s your all-time favorite restaurant?

My friends harass me because I rarely go back to the same restaurant twice. It is said NYC has some 20,000 possibilities – why would you deprive yourself of sampling that kind of diversity by returning to the same one, regardless of how wonderful it is?

Multiply that times a few
bazillion to imagine the riches the world’s restaurants promise! (I’m sure there’s some kind of connection, but I’ve never been able to sit through the same movie twice, either.) Memorable eating has nothing to do with the money spent. A stop for chicken jerky in Montego Bay, roasted oysters alfresco in Pt. Reyes outside of San Francisco, the “food circuses” of Singapore where you can stall-hop for a song – all these can promise a meal every bit as memorable as The French Laundry in the Napa Valley or Taillevent in Paris.

And sometimes it’s just because the tavern owner came over and sat down to talk and offered a glass of his homemade liquer that he saves for special quests. Or because you somehow got swept up in a local wedding celebration and made to feel like family.

One for the Road: Where Flavor Was Born

The photo on the cover of this travelogue cookbook has my mouth watering! And from what I can tell, the pages in between offer up much more eye candy for hungry travelers who like to cook. Where Flavor Was Born: Recipes and Culinary Travels Along the Indian Ocean Spice Route is a delicious journey that explores the origins of spices from Bali to Zanzibar.

The colorful book is loaded with glossy photos and almost 100 recipes, like this one for Indian Pepper Chicken. Need more tempting? Here are three more freebies that use curry from India, tamarind sauce from Thailand and cloves from Zanzibar. Food writer and TV chef Andreas Viestad (known for his New Scandinavian Cooking show), is the tour guide for this adventure of taste. The book is organized by spice, and includes a glossary for easy reference, which should be helpful when you’re up to your eyeballs in cardamom and coriander in the kitchen!