Tag Archives: travel

Alumna Abroad

Author: Lisa Ellen Niver, C’89

During my years at Penn, I meandered the liberal arts curriculum. I took classes in all different disciplines. My dad, who went to Penn Dental, told me, “There is always time to specialize. Learn about a lot of different things. If you are a biochem major and then go to Medical School your world will be narrower. Use this time to expand your world.” He did not realize at the time how many continents my travels would include.

My husband, George and I, left July 2012 for our second year journey in South East Asia. In 2008, we left for a year, unsure about what would happen. Over the next eleven months, we visited twelve countries. I came home sixty pounds lighter and engaged!

In June 2010, I started our blog, WeSaidGoTravel, on our way to a summer in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Well-intentioned friends cautioned, “If you only post once a week, you will never get anywhere.” I said, “I am nowhere now,” and started the blog anyway. At the end of July 2012, our site was listed in the TOP 25 Travel Blogs on Technorati.com! In early August, we joined Empire Ave. We were a top 15 Fledgling and are now a top 15 Greenhorn. Are you on the AVE? Send me your ticker! http://www.empireavenue.com/WESAIDGOTRAV
Our site is growing, by leaps and bounds with over 175,000 views since mid June 2012.

So far, our trip this year has been great. We are busy in Gili Meno, Lombok, Indonesia snorkeling with turtles, and watching dolphins jump and spin at sunset. The Penn motto, “We will find a way or we will make one,” has become our call to arms.


Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Lisa Ellen Niver, Travel

Travels in a Celtic Land

Author: Janell Wiseley

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to host my second Penn Alumni Travel trip, this one to the Celtic Lands with special guest speaker David Eisenhower,  Director, Institute for Public Service, Annenberg School-University of Pennsylvania.  This trip was memorable in so many ways. I was given the chance to visit so many fantastic out of the way places, I was able to meet Celia Sandys (Winston Churchill’s granddaughter), I listened to David give an impromptu lecture while standing on Omaha Beach, and, best of all, I shared this trip with an amazing group of Penn Alumni (thank you for the scarf Connie)! Check out the photos from some of the places we visited.

Below is just a sampling of the photos taken.

You can also view photos from past Penn trips on Flickr.

1 Comment

Filed under Janell W., Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

Hurrah, Hurrah, A-Antarctica

Author: Nicole C. Maloy, W’95

As Philadelphia finds itself at the beginning of yet another heat wave, and as much of the nation has experienced record heat this summer, I thought I’d take you on a little trip with me through time and space to someplace just a bit cooler. In February 2008, I was fortunate enough to host a Penn Alumni Travel trip to Antarctica. Coolest moment (no pun intended, but it stays): being out on our Zodiac raft when three humpback whales decided to hang out with us. I casually asked the Naturalist driving us if there was any history of whales overturning a Zodiac raft. He shrugged. I tightened my life vest. A few of my video clips of those whales are below. I will never forget this trip, and my temperature has dropped a few degrees just looking at these photos again. May they have the same effect on you.

I love that the coats they gave us match our flag! If they’d been certain other colors, I think some alumni might have braved the cold for this photo.

One of my favorite shots of the trip. This Gentoo penguin chick walked up, stopped and looked at me before moving on.

Molting Adelie penguin chick teaches me a new dance.

This penguin chick walked right up to this guy and stopped. I tried to tell him, but he was too focused on taking photos of the penguins in front of him to hear me. So I started taking photos. Then his wife, approaching with that group on the left, starts pointing down at his feet. Then he looked down…

Oh, hello.

Three humpback whales befriend our raft. The woman sitting next to me is really, really excited about it.

Humpback whales are identified by the patterns on the underside of their tails. One of the Naturalists asked for this video because she didn’t think they’d seen this one before. And here I was thinking it was cool enough just to see it dive!

The ice. I still can’t believe I saw this with my own eyes.

Bottom of the world, Ma!

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Nicole M., Penn Alumni Travel, Photos, Travel

Marvelous Macchu Pichu and Mythic Toga Parties

Author: Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, Associate Professor of American Art at Penn

Few places on earth can beat the view from the top of the ancient ruins at Macchu Pichu in the Peruvian Andes!  And few journeys are more demanding than the one that is required of the traveler who wishes to partake of this marvelous vista.  Luckily, the Penn alumni that I travelled with this past spring were able to get there in comfort and luxury, opting for the speed of a first-class Perurail train car and the soft, earth-friendly beds at the Inkaterra eco-resort at the base of the magical mountain citadel.  Back in 1911, when Hiram Bingham and his fellow Yalies made the first recorded trip by white men to the lost city in the clouds, they had a month-long hike on narrow pathways like the one that is known today as the Inka Trail.  Poor Bingham!  He had to sleep on the ground and swat at mosquitoes all day!  True, the insect life there is still plentiful, but today most of the visitors to this magnificent jungle-wrapped ruin opt for the comfy route we took to get there rather than the notoriously rugged back-packing adventure that Bingham first made famous.

Speaking of Bingham, we were astoundingly lucky to have with us a family of Penn alums who were direct descendants of one of the original adventurers who accompanied Bingham on that important trip into the unknown!  Beginning on the first day we were treated to an impromptu viewing of personal family photographs from that fabled trip and stories of expatriate American family life in early twentieth-century Peru to boot!  One day as we drove from the hotel to the city center we got to see the family’s ancestral home in the beautiful Miraflores district – still standing since the 1920s with its grandly walled garden courtyard facing the street. Que Linda!

“Treasures of Peru” was the third Penn Alumni Travel trip that I have accompanied since 2008.  A big part of why I keep accepting invitations to host these PAT trips is that there are always interesting travelers along, something that helps to make each trip all that more memorable.  For example, on the luxurious, six-star, Silversea cruise to the Lesser Antilles in 2011, our Penn group was joined by another alumni group from Dartmouth that happened to include Alpha Delta Phi brothers from the Class of 1963.  These guys and their wives had been writer Chris Miller’s inspiration for the 1978 cult film “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”  You would not believe the things I heard as we cruised from St. Barts to Antigua!  After a few bottles of the MS Silver Whisper’s all-inclusive libations these folks were a serious laugh riot, telling almost unbelievable stories of road trips and epic parties.  I honestly did not think that those crazy stories of Greek life at the pre-coed Dartmouth of the early 1960s could have ever been topped!  That is, not until that night in Peru when I sat glued to my seat, marveling at the stories that my new travel companions were telling me about their blood connection to one of the most famous archaeological expeditions of all time!

I say this sincerely and from a point of experience: on a Penn Alumni Travel trip you can always count on visiting fantastically awe-inspiring places and having unusually interesting people to share your story with at the end of the day.

On the Peru trip, our tour director Marco, a native of Cuzco and a resident of Lima, was really first-rate and made his top priority our safety and comfort.  Over the ten days we spent together, Marco proved himself to be not only an endless font of information about the modern country and the historic sites, but also a man with baffling energy reserves and answers to all of the small and large questions that our group posed to him.  Another reason that I love hosting these trips is that the tour directors are always incredibly well-trained, thoroughly pleasant, and professional.  Marco’s wife worked in the Presidential Palace, and he was well acquainted with the country’s leaders, instantly recognizing the past president Alejandro Toledo when we were all waiting for a plane at the airport in Lima!  Marco deserves the credit for this great picture of me with El Presidente!

One of the first places that Marco took us in Lima was the incredibly beautiful Museo Larco Herrera where we were dazzled by the beautiful setting and the stunning ancient artifacts.  From hand-beaten gold jewelry to astoundingly life-like portrait jugs, these remarkable objects all testified to the highly developed cultures that dominated the western half of the South American continent during the pre-Columbian period.  Located in the heart of Lima, the Larco is actually built a top an ancient pyramid.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site,  Lima is characterized by the ruins that seem to crop up around every corner as well as its stunning historic city center, a colonial marvel of Spanish baroque architecture that is marked by its Moorish flavor (a subtle reminder that the fifteenth-century conquistador Francisco Pizarro and his Extremadureño fellow conquistadors were not all that far culturally removed from having been imperial subjects themselves).

While at the Larco we had a truly elegant epicurean experience.  Gastro-tourists take note: Lima is a city blessed with a cosmopolitan appreciation for fine food and fondness for innovative presentation.  Internationally renowned Peruvian chefs such as Gastón Acurio, whose culinary empire oversees the café at the Larco, have made it their mission to not only bring the flavors of Peru to the rest of the world but also to elevate the gustatory options available to their countrymen.  After eating Acurio’s food at the museum, some of the group also dined at his restaurant Chicha in Cuzco.  Muy bueno!

In addition to being home to awesome cuisine (something that I personally find very important for a good trip), Cuzco is also the gateway for the journey to Macchu Pichu.  While coming and going from the famed archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley, we spent several nights in this very welcoming, quaint, colonial city.

Located 11,000 feet above sea level, it takes a little work for a body to adjust to being in Cuzco, and we did well to follow our tour director Marco’s advice in order to avoid debilitating altitude sickness.  This included some of us taking various prescribed medications (ones that we had either brought with us or obtained there), getting lots of rest, and drinking numerous cups of mate de coca, or coca tea.  This lightly flavored (and completely legal – even in the USA) infusion is made from the leaves of the infamous coca plant.  But unlike the plant’s chemically produced derivative cocaine, the natural leaves provide only a mildly uplifting feeling to the imbiber.  Since one would have to drink gallons and gallons of it get any kind of “high”, the main point of consuming the tea while in Cuzco is that it offers considerable diuretic benefits that help to balance the body’s fluid levels and aid in  acclimation to the extreme altitude.  Due to the precautions we took, only a small number of our group felt any ill-effects of being up so high and thankfully everyone was able to participate in the subsequent trip to Macchu Pichu.

Atop the warren of ruins, it was wonderful to sit on the grass, lean against the rock walls, and stare out at Ainu Pichu on the adjacent, steeply rising Andean mountaintop.  I could hardly believe that I was looking at the same remarkable view that Hiram Bingham and his fellow adventurers had seen almost exactly a century before.  The only thing that was more remarkable was the great group I was seeing it with!  It was at that moment that I began to look forward to my next Penn Alumni Travel trip to Pizarro’s homeland of Spain in October 2012 –  Viva España!


Filed under Academics, Faculty perspective, Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

Time to Pack My Binoculars

Author:  Emilie Kretschmar

Penn Alumni Travel is going on safari, and I invite you all to join us! On Facebook and Twitter, that is…

On July 11, I’ll be heading off on my first Penn Alumni Travel trip as a staff host. Although I’m no stranger to travel, I have never been to Africa, and I must admit that thinking about the trip has consumed most of my thoughts these past few weeks. There is so much more to prepare for when you’re going on safari in Tanzania! You have to get vaccinated against scary-sounding diseases like typhoid, yellow fever, and polio; you have to pick-up special malaria drugs; you have to figure out which clothes to take so as not to upset the wildlife…At the same time, there is also so much to look forward to.

During my stay in Tanzania, I plan to live tweet and post to Facebook on the Penn Alumni Travel social media pages. However, when asked about Wi-Fi and Internet connections, the travel company responded with this:

Phone and Internet access will be available at most of the accommodations, but if you need to stay in touch with family or friends back home, there are other options.

So live tweeting shouldn’t be a problem, right? I’m staying optimistic, and I hope you do too. It may not be “live-tweeting,” but perhaps we’ll get up a daily feed. Go to Facebook and Twitter before July 11 and “like” Penn Alumni Travel. With a little luck, you’ll be able to follow us as we do the following (and more):

Stand on the edge of Olduvai Gorge where Louis and Mary Leakey uncovered one of our earliest ancestors. 

View the Great Migration from the western side of the Serengeti.

Meet local people and learn more about their different cultures during village and school visits.

And if this trip has sparked your interest in Penn Alumni Travel, there is a whole calendar of new trips for 2013. Perhaps you’ll join us for the next Great Migration safari!

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Programming, Emilie, Social Networking, Travel

Travel as a Currency of Freedom

Author: Lisa Ellen Niver, CAS’89

Today, George and I depart for our second “big trip.” Four years ago, we left in July 2008 for an eleven-month journey with very limited plans. I was so nervous. We leave this time with so much more experience in our relationship, our travel styles and our knowledge of each other’s dreams.

“Traveling is one way of lengthening life,” according to Benjamin Franklin. When I was at Penn, I always marveled at Benjamin Franklin’s life. He did so many different things from politics to inventing and was also a traveler. I would like to chase as many of my dreams and inventions as Benjamin Franklin did and I know while we are traveling I will have time to explore many new places and cultures.

Our adventure begins in Bali, Indonesia the largest archipelago on the planet. We plan to visit the Toggian Islands of Sulawesi and the Banda Islands. I cannot wait to go snorkeling in the clear blue waters and relax on the gorgeous beaches. We promise to send photos and videos if there is Internet and electricity! Sign up for our newsletter and get an email from us twice a month with our latest news! You can always check our website for our latest posts.

As Andrew Evans says in Ben Franklin, Traveler:  Benjamin Franklin’s example [to us all]: a patriot is someone who travels and broadens their minds through travel.

I wish you a Happy Independence Day and I hope to follow his example and use these travels as a tool for learning, to enhance my teaching and to share it all with you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Travel

Time to eat the Doughnuts!

by Kiera Reilly, C’93  @KieraReilly

This week I traveled to Seattle and Portland to visit our Penn Alumni Clubs in each city. While there, I was able to visit and taste some of the best doughnuts in the country – as so deemed by Travel + Leisure. It turns out, T+L thinks many of the country’s best donuts (doughnuts) are on the West Coast. I’ll do my best to report back in the coming months as I’m able to sample them!

On Monday, while in town to meet with the Penn Club of Seattle board, I first took a morning walk to Top Pot Doughnuts and sampled the old fashioned. Top Pot has several locations around Seattle, but I wanted to visit the original storefront. While I enjoyed the doughnut, there was a little too much glaze for my taste. Click here to see what T+L liked.

Seattle’s Top Pot Doughnuts

The Old Fashioned and a cappuccino at Top Pot.

For lunch, after an obligatory stop at Starbucks, I met with Kristine Tan Wright ’94, Belinda Bentzen Buscher ’92 and David Blum. We discussed the club’s upcoming incoming student send-off , plans for bringing a faculty member to the club in the coming year, and of course, the dreary weather (it is Seattle!).

Meeting with the Penn Club of Seattle – David Blum, Kristine Wright and Belinda Buscher.

Before driving to Portland, I made a super quick stop at another Seattle “best of” doughnut location – Mighty-O Donuts. North of downtown, also in a residential neighborhood, Mighty-Os are organic and vegan, but oh they are good. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, and a delicious not too sweet cake on the inside, I have to say, these are some of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had. Here is why T+L liked Mighty-O.

Seattle’s Mighty-O Doughnuts

Some of the unique doughnuts at Mighty-Os.

In Portland on Tuesday morning, it was time again for stretching my legs…and stopping by Voodoo Doughnuts, where they say, “the magic is in the hole.” I had visited Voodoo before and loved their maple bacon doughnut (2 whole pieces of bacon on each one). This time I tried a Portland Cream and chocolate. Mmmmmmmm…. Click here to see what T+L had to say.

Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts – the Magic is in the Hole.

Inside Voodoo Doughnuts

The menu at Voodoo.

Display case showing the interesting toppings at Voodoo.

At lunch, the Penn Club of Portland welcomed Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor Jonathan Moreno for a presentation and interactive discussion with alumni, parents and local friends. Everyone enjoyed his talk and is looking forward to the club’s annual Summer Lawn Party where new students and their families are welcomed to the Penn family.

Penn Professor Jonathan Moreno speaks to the Penn Club of Portland.

I always enjoy visiting our alumni clubs in the Pacific Northwest, but when I’m able to have a few free minutes to sample some local goodies, it makes the trip extra special! I encourage alumni in Portland and Seattle to grab some doughnuts and then call or email the local alumni clubs and stay engaged with Penn! Do you have a favorite doughnut spot? I hope to visit more best donuts soon – and report back!


Filed under Clubs, GAN, Kiera R., Penn Clubs, Photos, West Coast Regional Office

Penn Alumni Travel: Dispatches from Abroad

Author: Emilie Kretschmar on behalf of Art Caplan, Emmanuel and Robert Hart Director of the Center for Bioethics

This is a busy month for Penn Alumni Travel. We have Penn alumni and friends traveling to the National Parks, the Italian Lake District, the Baltic Sea countries, the British Isles, and the Adriatic coast. June is certainly a popular time to travel! Director of the Center for Bioethics Art Caplan is traveling as our faculty host on our alumni trip to the Baltic Sea and, thanks to WiFi on today’s cruising ships, is sending us reports from sea. Here is his latest dispatch to our office:

Having a great time. Sixteen alums and spouses on the trip through the Baltics. Heard a very insightful talk by [Mikhail] Gorbachev to lead off the cruise. He counseled patience in dealing with Putin, crony capitalism and corruption issues in Russia today. St. Petersburg is the most beautiful of the Russian cities. The buildings of Peter the Great and his Tsarist successors are stunning. We needed more time at the Hermitage. The Bolsheviks hated this example of exploitation of the serfs and the poor but now, open to the public, they seem more gifts than places that would trigger revolution. On we have gone to Helsinki, Talinn, and the quiet surprise of the trip so far–Riga, Latvia. The Penn contingent agreed to a person that this city is amazing in terms of parks, architecture, and churches. Much of the city escaped destruction in WWII and the Soviets did not succeed in ruining its appearance either.

St. Petersburg

Riga, Latvia

We have had marvelous weather. Calm seas. Had a Penn dinner last night that went into the wee hours. Things may take a turn for the worse tomorrow–I speak to those on the cruise before we see Gdansk, Poland!

I think I can confidently say that Professor Caplan will only enhance the experience with his lecture before Gdansk, Poland. Traveling with your fellow Penn alumni and a Penn faculty host is one of the most rewarding ways to experience the world. If this dispatch has sparked your interest in Penn Alumni Travel, visit us on our website and check out the schedule for what remains of 2012 as well as the newly released trips for 2013. We hope to see you on a future Penn Alumni Travel trip!

1 Comment

Filed under Alumni Programming, Emilie, Travel

Travel Photo Contest Winners

Author: Emilie Kretschmar

Penn Alumni Travel is a great way to see the world, make new friends, and learn about fascinating new peoples and cultures. But traveling on a Penn trip is also the perfect chance to hone in on your photography skills and bring a landscape, a culture, or a monument to life. We recently hosted our second annual travel photo contest and, with all the amazing entries, it was difficult to pick a winner. In the end, we named Robert Chewning, WG’76, the grand prize winner for his photograph of hippos in the Serengeti.

Other prizes were awarded to Robert Bartholomew, C’63, GAR’65 for his picture of school children in Peru.

Alice Freed, CW’68, GR’76 for her picture of a Maasai village in Tanzania.

Jack Swope, ME’56 for his image of an impala in the Maasai Mara.

And Julia Moore Converse for her fish sculpture picture in Peru.

A great travel photograph is both beautiful and inspirational and, if these photographs inspire you to travel, check out Penn Alumni Travel’s website (link to: ) for more information about upcoming trips. You can also like us on Facebook and share your own beautiful travel shots!

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Programming, Penn Alumni Travel, Photos, Travel

Remembering Travels to Egypt

Author: Kiera Reilly, C’93

Penn Alumni Travel visited Egypt in January 2010. Given the Penn Museum’s strong collection in Egyptian antiquities, coupled with leading researchers and professors, we wanted to include Penn professors on our program. We were lucky to have the husband-wife team of Penn Egyptologists Jennifer Houser Wegner , Ph.D., C’91, and Joe Wegner, Ph.D., G’89, and their son Alexander join us. Joe is Associate Curator, Egyptian Section, Penn Museum and Associate Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Jen is Associate Curator, Egyptian Section, Penn Museum and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. They gave lectures during the trip and provided additional insight as we visited the ancient sites.

Our group had a wonderful time exploring the ancient antiquities of Egypt, and we were fortunate to also have a local alumna meet us in Karnak when we toured the temple there. She showed us some closed to the public areas and explained how they are trying to preserve and put the temple back together (large portions of it are just piles of rocks).

At the end of our trip, when we were back in Cairo, we met with Dr. Zahi Hawass, Ph.D., G’93, GR’87. Dr. Hawass at the time was the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council on Antiquities.

When the revolution happened in Egypt earlier this year, our group was very concerned about our guide and her family. I remember during the trip when she was asked about politics and government she would tell us that no one really pays attention because “nothing will change.” Mubarak’s son was being groomed to take over for him and things would continue as they are. What a difference a year makes! As the news developed, we all sent her messages, worried about her and her family living in Cairo. Her first message to us sounded desperate and fearful about what was happening. Then a few weeks later when Mubarak had stepped down, her tone was much more jubilant and hopeful.

Hopefully, we will be able to return to Egypt one day and explore once again its many wonders, but this time with a democratic government.

Cairo Mosque – the group at a mosque in Cairo

Travelers in front of the tombs at Abu Simbel

At Karnak, legend has it that you walk around the scarab several times (I think 8) for good luck

The Karnak temple is only partially preserved. We were taken back to this section where everything is just in pieces. Archaeologists are trying to figure out how to put it back together.

Close to Karnak is Luxor temple – we finished our tour there at dusk.

The famous Pyramids at Giza, and also the Sphinx.

We were not allowed to take a group photo with our Penn banner in front of the pyramids, so we took individual shots.

At the end of our trip, fellow alumnus Zahi Hawass came to speak to our group and autograph one of his books.

Our group at the traditional galabia party (that’s the outfit we’re wearing) on our ship on the Nile.

The Karnak temple – this shot was taken mainly to capture the woman with a burqa walking by


Filed under Alumni Perspective, Kiera R., Penn Alumni Travel, Photos, Travel