News

Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru (photo by Kirsten Koza)


In a land where the Catholic conquistadors conquered and subjugated the native Incas, a small band of Peruvian neo-Nazis have found a way to blame all their troubles on the Jews.

The weirdness started when I ordered the wrong soup in Nazca, Peru. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, except that every two or three years I fly all the way from Toronto to Lima and then rent a 4×4 at the airport to drive to Nazca for a bowl of parihuela at La Encantada. I always tell people that I’m going to Peru for other reasons, for example, this time, the reason was to mountain bike down a 19,872-foot ultra volcano… Click this link to read the full story in Perceptive Travel Magazine.

 

bullfighting buddhists screen shot

TwitterFacebookGoogle+PinteresttumblrRedditEmail
La Reunion Hotel, with a view of the constantly low-active volcano, Fuego.

Volcanoes, orgasmic food, Mayan sacrifices, rum, ruins, urban legends and ghosts, coffee and laughter: we invite you to join us in Guatemala, this March, for an eight-day food and photography adventure that combines exquisite luxury along with the best of going local.

(Scroll down for prices, itinerary, and host bios. Group-size is just 6-10 participants – if you have more questions after reading the itinerary, please contact Kirsten at info@kirstenkoza.com).

Tikal, Guatemala, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (photo by Juliana Skaggs)
Tikal, Guatemala, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (photo by Juliana Skaggs)
The Mayans worshipped the cacao tree. It is said that Guatemala is "the birthplace of chocolate." (photo by our Guatemala photography host, Christopher Campbell)
The Mayans worshipped the cacao tree. It is said that Guatemala is “the birthplace of chocolate.” (photo by our Guatemala photography host, Christopher Campbell)

Santa Catalina, Antigua, GuatemalaDay 1, Sat., March 3, 2018
You will be greeted at the airport in Guatemala City and then driven (about 50 minutes) to our hotel in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Antigua. After we’ve all checked-in and enjoyed a welcome beverage, we’ll stroll the Spanish-Baroque streets, of what was once the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Guatemala.

We’ll dine on the Q’eqchi people’s traditional dish, Kak’ik, its red broth symbolizing the ritual blood in Mayan sacrificial ceremonies.

After dinner, we’ll take a ghostly adventure to the canal where people say they can hear La Llorona (the Weeping Woman) crying at night as she looks for her drowning children.

Antigua, Guatemala, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (photo by Juliana Skaggs)
Antigua, Guatemala, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (photo by Juliana Skaggs)

(welcome drink, Dinner, overnight at Hotel Meson de Maria –  behind the exterior walls is a hidden oasis with Colonial-style rooms and picturesque courtyards and gardens)

Day 2, Sun., March 4

Photo of beans and eggs, by our expedition photography host, Christopher Campbell.
Photo of beans and eggs, by our expedition photography host, Christopher Campbell.

After breakfast we’ll walk the cobbled streets to the colourful fruit and vegetable market. Sunday is the biggest market day in Antigua. Produce from the entire country (from the coast to the highlands, from the warmest regions to the coldest – the bounty from the rich soils of the volcanoes) is sold here.

At the Museo de Santiago we’ll hear how La Tatuana, a beautiful slave, condemned to death, made her escape from prison.

Antigua, Guatemala from Cerro de la Cruz (photo by Juliana Skaggs)
Antigua, Guatemala from Cerro de la Cruz (photo by Juliana Skaggs)

We’ll lunch local, and then it’s time for some liquid inspiration – we’ll sample Zacapa rum, the finest in Guatemala, before we take a short hike up to Cerro de la Cruz for the views of Antigua.

In the evening we’ll dine at the oldest monastery in Antigua, at upscale restaurant Casa Santo Domingo. We haven’t included this meal in the price so you have the freedom to explore their exquisite menu. Then we’ll return to the hotel by a reputedly haunted street where people have recorded the sounds of a horse-drawn carriage that only manifests to announce death. If we happen to hear the horses and carriage, probably the best thing to do would be to go and have more rum.

(Breakfast, Lunch, rum, and overnight at Meson de Maria)

Day 3, Mon., March 5

Poolside luxury at the exclusive five-star resort, La Reunion Hotel, Guatemala.
Poolside luxury at the exclusive five-star resort, La Reunion Hotel, Guatemala.

Breakfast – and then we transfer from our inn in Antigua to luxurious La Reunion, an exclusive five-star resort at the foot of Volcan Fuego (Volcano of Fire), a constantly active (at a low level), 3763-metre-high volcano. Then it’s free time to enjoy whatever activity or non-activity you’d prefer: hike, bike, ride horses, golf on one of the most beautiful courses in the world, have a photo workshop with our photography host, or relax at the pool or spa.

Activities permitting, we’d like to meet at the pool for lunch (optional) before you continue enjoying your day.

La Reunion Hotel, with a view of the constantly low-active volcano, Fuego.
La Reunion Hotel, with a view of the constantly low-active volcano, Fuego.

In the evening we’ll witness the red lava flows on Fuego from the resort’s renowned gourmet restaurant. Fuego is called Chi’gag (where the fire is) in the Mayan language of Cakchiquel. It is said that the volcano erupts every time someone mispronounces its name. A peaceful night awaits us in this glorious place, unless…

Fuego Volcano from La Reunion. (photo by Juliana Skaggs)
Fuego Volcano from La Reunion. (photo by Juliana Skaggs)

(B, overnight at La Reunion)

Day 4, Tues., March 6

You’ll want to eat big this morning (and it’s a fun breakfast menu for you to order from) as today we head to Pacaya Volcano National Park to hike up the active volcano (horses are available for hire, if you’d prefer). We’ll photograph the lava fields and flows from the most recent eruption in 2010. We’ll have a Guatemalan picnic on the volcano (chuchitos, tamalitos de chipilin, black beans, guacamole, and tortillas) and will stay for sunset photos and hot chocolate before we hike back down the mountain.

While on the hardened black lava of Pacaya Volcano I heard an explosion, I thought it was us, but it was Fuego Volcano in the distance. (photo by Kirsten Koza)
While on the hardened black lava of Pacaya Volcano I heard an explosion, I thought it was us, but it was Fuego Volcano in the distance. (photo by Kirsten Koza)

Free time for dinner and the remainder of the night back in Antigua.

(B, L, overnight at El Meson de Maria)

A "chicken bus" in Antigua. We won't be taking the chicken bus, but you'll see them. (photo by Kirsten Koza)
A “chicken bus” in Antigua. We won’t be taking the chicken bus, but you’ll see them. (photo by Kirsten Koza)

 Day 5, Wed., March 7 

With your boxed breakfast in hand, we’ll catch an early flight to Flores for our expedition to some of the most important ancient cities of Mayan times, Tikal and Yaxhá.

Tikal, Mayan ruins, Guatemala. (photo by Juliana Skaggs)
Tikal, Mayan ruins, Guatemala. (photo by Juliana Skaggs)
The ruins of Tikal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), set in a rainforest, date back in range from 4th Century BC to 900 AD. (photo by Juliana Skaggs)
The ruins of Tikal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), set in a rainforest, date back in range from 4th Century BC to 900 AD. (photo by Juliana Skaggs)

A boat will take us to explore Topoxte Island, an infamous Mayan ceremonial site where many sacrifices occurred. Among the Mayans’ favourites were decapitations and heart extractions.

Topoxté Island, Yaxhá, Guatemala (photo by Juliana Skaggs)
Topoxté Island, Yaxhá, Guatemala (photo by Juliana Skaggs)

Once again, by boat, we will head to the lakefront private reserve where we will stay in unique Mayan inspired rooms. Nitun Private Reserve is a small ecolodge, and tonight’s dinner might be the meal that has your eyes rolling back in your head while you emit indecent sounds of pleasure. Just remember, what happens in Guatemala stays in Guatemala.

Tonight we’ll have a bonfire by the lakeshore.

(B, flight, L, D, overnight at Nitun Private Reserve)

Day 6, Thurs., March 8

Coffee lovers will enjoy this morning’s brew in the Maya Biosphere with breakfast. Then it is free time to kayak, or swim, or swing in a hammock.

We’ll have lunch and then will head to the airport to return to Antigua.

Antigua, Guatemala, local man and his dog.
Antigua, Guatemala, local man and his dog.

Free time tonight to dine and wander where you wish.

(B, L, flight, overnight at El Meson de Maria)

Day 7, Fri., March 9

We'll visit a local coffee grower and will have lunch with his family. (photo by our expedition's photography host, Christopher Campbell)
We’ll visit a local coffee grower and will have lunch with his family. (photo by our expedition’s photography host, Christopher Campbell)

Breakfast – and then a Guatemalan campesino will take us to his coffee field in the foothills of Agua Volcano. We’ll taste coffee grown and harvested by his family and will lunch with them at their house, where they will also show us how they dry, roast and prepare coffee.

Similar to tartans, the patterns and colours of a Guatemalan weaving denote a particular community. (photo by Shawn Koza, Kirsten's brother.)
Similar to tartans, the patterns and colours of a Guatemalan weaving denote a particular community. (photo by Shawn Koza, Kirsten’s brother.)

This afternoon you are free to wander and shop for chocolate, coffee, crafts, booze, weavings, art and more.

Farewell dinner with live music.

(B,L, overnight at El Meson de Maria)

Day 8, Sat., March 10

After breakfast, we’ll head to the airport (depending on the time of your departure).

If you’re not leaving today, feel free to linger with our photography host who will be happy to help you work on perfecting your photographs from the trip.

(B)

Host Bios (continue scrolling down for Prices and Inclusions)

Christopher Campbell (professional photographer)Christopher Campbell is your photography host and will be guiding you to take fantastic images throughout the trip (if you’d like to learn), no matter the devices you bring. He will also provide you with digital images he takes of your adventures. Chris hosted our photography and eating expedition across Jordan in 2014, he hosts our annual Dracula Expeditions in Romania, and last year’s Eat Your Way Across Vietnam. Chris is a renowned food photographer. His work can be seen on TV’s Food Network cooking shows and in publications as varied as Chatelaine, Spa Magazine or Harper Collins cookbooks–and most definitely in ads–he’s the one you can blame for making you crave Absolut Vodka, Kahlua, Gordon’s gin, Florida oranges, or even test driving a Mercedes.

Kirsten Koza at "Wake Up and Smell the Shit" book launch at Book Passage, in San FranciscoKirsten Koza is the leader and organizer of Writers’ Expeditions. She designs the adventures with her expert hosts, international tour operators, and local guides and ruthlessly test drives each expedition. She is an author, humorist, journalist, editor, and adventurer. Her articles and photos have been published in newspapers and magazines around the world. She’s a contributor to the “travel publishing giant” Travelers’ Tales (USA): The Best Women’s Travel Writing and humor anthologies, and she is the editor of their recent travel humor book Wake Up and Smell the Shit.  Kirsten is a journalist and writes on topics as varied as cannibalism, tornadoes, volcanoes, disease, politics, bullfighting, dildos, Putin, and gluten, and covered Syrian refugees, when she went to Zaatari, in a three-part series. CBC Radio Canada International declares Kirsten’s book, Lost in Moscow, “the ultimate what-I-did-last-summer essay ever.”

Luisa Zea, expert Guatemalan guideLuisa Zea is an award winning guide who was voted one of the ten best local guides in the world (Guardian newspaper, UK). She’s a passionate, Guatemalan adventure sports woman, with a brilliant sense of humour. Luisa is a college graduate in sustainable tourism and has worked for 15 years promoting sustainable tourism in the whole country as a viable way to increase the economic, social and environmental benefits for local communities and to raise awareness of the importance of responsible use and conservation of natural resources. She is currently teaching two courses at Universidad del Valle; both of them aim to empower local communities to take a leading role in their economic development through sharing with visitors their natural environment and their culture.

Prices, Inclusions and Exclusions

Price per person based upon a double room: $2682 USD.  If you’d like a single room for the trip, the supplement is $438. To reserve your spot, there is a deposit of $400 US (which of course is subtracted from your remaining total). Canadians can make payments in Canadian dollars –  dollar conversion rate based upon the day of the payment.  (Please contact Kirsten with any questions you may have info@kirstenkoza.com or kirstenkoza@gmail.com. You can also message us from the Writers’ Expeditions Facebook Page.) 

INCLUDED in trip price:

  • Airport pick up and drop off
  • All the beautiful lodgings
  • Internal flights while in Guatemala (two)
  • Photography tips and images
  • Transportation while on tours
  • Tour guide fees
  • Museum and park entrance fees
  • Tastings
  • Meals as stated in the itinerary  (see brackets below each day for included meals)
  • For any writers or aspiring writers – Kirsten will be available this entire tour to share knowledge and give feedback

NOT included in trip price:

  • International airfare from home country
  • Drinks and meals not stated in itinerary
TwitterFacebookGoogle+PinteresttumblrRedditEmail
Writers' Expeditions Castle Howard Yorkshire, England

Decency Be Damned: a seven-day roving writing workshop across Yorkshire, England, hosted by Writers’ Expeditions and Exploring York – from May 21-27, 2018.

Hogwarts Express York England

Writers of any genre of fiction and nonfiction: You are invited to leave your safety nets at home and join us for a rollicking week of writing across Yorkshire, where you’ll be encouraged—and enabled!—to go beyond the bounds of decency. You’ll acquire techniques and exercises used by actors on the stage and apply them to the page. With your pen or keyboard, you’ll improvise, method act and perform dangerous feats. Inspiration will be gleaned from the activities we’ve planned and places we’ll stay. We’ll brave a ghost walk in Europe’s most haunted city, devour an orgasm of chocolates, and hunker down in the very hotel where Agatha Christie hid during the national manhunt for her. We’ll plot mayhem at the Guy Fawkes Inn, sample beer made by sixth generation brewers, and feast on the exploits of the Vikings and Romans—of course, all the while, delighting in English countryside, seaside villages, and stately homes.

Writer’s block be damned! Decency be damned! This workshop is a daring adventure of storytelling and writing!

(Scroll down for itinerary, bios of hosts, and prices. This workshop takes a maximum of 10 participants and 8 have already booked.) 

Yorkshire Fat Rascals (Photo by our local guide and expert Matthew Greenwood, Exploring York)
Yorkshire Fat Rascals (Photo by our local guide and expert Matthew Greenwood, Exploring York)

TOUR ITINERARY

Monday, May 21st, 2018

2:00 pm: check-in at the Monkbar Hotel (newly owned by Hilton), overlooking York’s medieval city walls.

Afternoon: meet & greet at our warm-up writing workshop, in the hotel bar, before we indulge in York’s Chocolate Story. Chocolate has resulted in renown and fortune for York for near 300 years, and this afternoon we’ll learn the artform of the chocolatier and how to eat chocolate too – yes, we’ll receive a chocolate eating lesson.

Free time to write, nap, or visit the pub before our nighttime adventure.

Shambles, York, England
Shambles, York, England

8:00 pm - Ghost Tour: York is home to some of the world’s most notorious ghosts. It was named the most haunted city in Europe, and tonight our guide promises to give us the creeps as he reveals York’s spooky secrets around each dark corner of the cobbled streets.

Overnight at Monkbar Hotel, in York

Tuesday, May 22nd

Morning: after enjoying an English breakfast (or something lighter if you prefer) and a writing workshop, we’ll meander the  streets and alleyways of the walled city with our guide. Roman York became the birthplace of Western Christianity, but the Romans’ achievements were brutally exsanguinated when the Vikings transformed Jorvik into an international trading hub centuries ahead of its time, making Medieval York the capital of the North.

Statue of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, York Minster.
Statue of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, York Minster.

Afternoon: guided tour of York Minster, the world’s third largest medieval gothic cathedral and York’s most acclaimed historical site.

Evening: dinner and writing workshop at the Guy Fawkes Inn. This medieval inn is the birthplace of the notorious plotter, Guido Fawkes.

Breakfast (B), Dinner (D), overnight at Monkbar Hotel, in York

Guy Fawkes – painting by Henry Perronet Briggs (c. 1823) – titled Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot (public domain)

Wednesday, May 23rd

Morning: after breakfast we’ll set out on the York City Treasure Hunt – our quest will take us puzzling along the quirky-named streets around the city’s fascinating landmarks.

We’ll spend the afternoon at Castle Howard – tour and lunchtime writing workshop.

Afternoon at Castle Howard: this Yorkshire stately home is one of Britain’s finest. It’s resplendent in world famous art and opulent architecture.

Writing workshop at Castle Howard.

Free time for dinner at your leisure back in York. Our guide will happily make recommendations.

Bettys Cafe Tea Room, and that's not a typo - Bettys has no apostrophe however much you'd like to add one (photo by our guide, Matthew Greenwood, Exploring York)
Bettys Cafe Tea Room, and that’s not a typo – Bettys has no apostrophe however much you’d like to add one (photo by our guide, Matthew Greenwood, Exploring York)

B, overnight at Monkbar Hotel

Thursday, May 24th  (we change hotels today)

Morning: breakfast – and then we’ll take the steam train along the North Yorkshire Moors Railway from Pickering to Goathland (film location for the Hogwarts Express), and of course we’ll discuss the success of J.K. Rowling – the whys and hows – and how this relates to stories going viral on the Internet.

Afternoon: we’ll visit the coastal town of Whitby, the birthplace of Captain Cook. Also, it was while visiting Whitby, after an exhausting theatrical tour, that Bram Stoker got inspiration for Dracula. Then it’s up the 199 steps to Whitby’s gothic abbey, culminating in the reward of award winning fish and chips.

Whitby Abbey, Yorkshire. (photo by the fabulous George Hodan)
Whitby Abbey, Yorkshire. (photo by the fabulous George Hodan)

Evening: check-in at the Old Swan Harrogate which is surrounded by idyllic English gardens and is just a three minute walk from the spa town’s centre. Our hotel “combines Victorian splendour with contemporary luxury.” It was here where Agatha Christie hid in 1926, resulting in an 11-day national manhunt for her.

Dinner: in the glass-ceilinged Wedgwood Restaurant, at the Old Swan – followed by writing workshop

B,L,D – overnight Old Swan

Friday, May 25th

Morning: after enjoying another English breakfast (or something a little less hearty and meaty if you prefer), we’ll explore Fountains Abbey, situated in a secluded valley. Fountains Abbey is one of the biggest and best preserved ruined (which sounds like an oxymoron) Cistercian monasteries in England.

Afternoon: bottoms up at the Black Sheep Brewery in the quaint market town of Masham. Black Sheep has been at this for six generations. They brew cask, keg and bottled beers and have a great reputation for their experimental brews.

Our brewery tour and tasting is followed by going to a pub for lunch, where we’ll have a writing workshop.

Beer tasting. (photo by George Hodan)

Free time for dinner in Harrogate.

B, and beer tasting – overnight Old Swan

Saturday, May 26th

Yorkshire Dales (Photo by George Hodan)

Yorkshire Dales National Park: we’ll spend the day exploring the limestone scenery and the unique valleys known as dales. You’ll see stone-built villages, field barns, drystone walls, and flower-laden meadows, plus the Aysgarth Falls, Swaledale sheep, and the perfect picture postcard village of Grassington—the location for the film Calendar Girls.

Our daytime workshop will be in a secluded spot in the Yorkshire Dales.

Dinner: Wedgwood Restaurant – Old Swan Hotel – and after dinner writing workshop

 B, D – Overnight Old Swan

 Sunday,  May 27th

Morning: after breakfast we’ll have our farewell writing workshop and check-out. (B)

BIOS OF HOSTS – FOLLOWED BY PRICES

Kirsten Koza at "Wake Up and Smell the Shit" book launch at Book Passage, in San FranciscoKirsten Koza (writing workshop host): is the author of Lost in Moscow published by Turnstone and dubbed by CBC radio Canada “the ultimate what-I-did-last-summer essay ever.” Kirsten edited the Travelers’ Tales (USA) humour anthology, Wake Up and Smell the Shit, and read thousands of stories for that book before narrowing it down to the 31 writers she selected for the volume. She’s had over 75 stories published in books, magazines and newspapers around the world and has repeatedly been invited to speak at the American Society of Journalists and Authors annual conference in New York, on the power of social media for writers and making stories go viral.

Kirsten has taught both postgraduate and 3rd year acting at the University of East London and East 15 Acting School (famous for method acting), in England. She did her BA in theatre at Dalhousie University, in Canada, and her postgrad in the UK at E-15. The final production of her postgrad was staged in Yorkshire. Prior to becoming a professional writer, she worked in theatres across Canada and was the Artistic Director of Canada’s oldest professional summer theatre. Her theatre background has had a massive impact on how she writes, and she looks forward to sharing these methods and other tips with you on the Decency be Damned writing workshop, in Yorkshire.

You can read a few of her adventures (published in books and magazines) by following these links, and you’ll probably surmise why the management at Travelers’ Tales publishing house affectionately call Kirsten “the Canadian lunatic”: “Chasing Tornadoes” published in the ninth volume of The Best Women’s Travel Writing books, “The Mountain Men Who Don’t Exist in Kyrgyzstan” and “Hiding the Cannoli in Sicily” both published by Perceptive Travel magazine.

Matthew Greenwood of Exploring YorkMatthew Greenwood (your local guide & expert): created his tour company, Exploring York, in 2004, out of a love for his native county of Yorkshire and his lifelong passion for travel. He has guided a wide variety of groups ranging from policemen from Sudan to venture capitalists from New Mexico and adores showing visitors from around the globe his home city and county.

When Matthew was a child he wanted to be a hotel manager and had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of international hotel chains. His interest in all things travel continued through life. He says the reason we embark on journeys is for the unknown, to make discoveries outside our realm of imagination. His own travels have circled the planet. A chance-meeting with a charity worker led to a lifetime dream-trip to Rwanda where he walked among the mountain gorillas, something he couldn’t have imagined coming true when watching Gorillas in the Mist as a child. That trip also fed Matthew’s appetite for learning about war and atrocities and how humanity can endure and overcome. This passion has led to him taking self-study trips (what he calls holidays) to Bosnia, Serbia, Cambodia and Vietnam, where he and Kirsten met in Hanoi outside Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum.

Matthew has a keen interest and knowledge in all aspects of history, British and American politics and world affairs.

PRICES AND INCLUSIONS:

Prices include hotel accommodations – full breakfasts daily – 3 dinners –  1 lunch – daily tours and transportation while on tours – private guide – tastings – and writing workshops.

The price per person based upon a twin shared room is £1500. If you prefer a single room – there is a £150 single supplement for the entire trip duration.

A deposit of £460 reserves your place. Canadians and Americans can pay the deposit in dollars (CAD and US) – the currency conversion will be calculated on the day you make the payment.

The group size for this trip is just 6-10 participants! Please email Kirsten at info@kirstenkoza.com or kirstenkoza@gmail.com, or message her from the Writers’ Expeditions Facebook Page with any questions you might have.

EXCLUSIONS:

International flights and transportation to and from the first and last hotels

Yorkshire, Fountains Abbey (photo by George Hodan)

(Can’t wait for May 2018 to do something unusual – Writers’ Expeditions is hosting the ultimate seven-day Halloween party in Romania again – Click the link to see full details for: The Dracula Expedition 2017)

TwitterFacebookGoogle+PinteresttumblrRedditEmail
Roma family, Romania (Photo by Kirsten Koza)

I’ve had another adventure travel story published by Perceptive Travel magazine. “The Mud Sucker Curse of Transylvania” (Romania) includes a gypsy curse, an accidental world record, and fleeing a forest fire. I often travel a country by mountain bike before I think about bringing a small group with me in the future for a photography, eating, or writing workshop, so we can avoid the monstrous toilets, gypsy curses, and eat the best food.

screen capture Perceptive MudsuckerThe day this story came out, a doctor in the USA messaged me to say that it was hilarious and he had tears in his eyes. That sort of bravo makes a writer’s day, week, year. You can read the full story on the magazine’s website – click here.

TwitterFacebookGoogle+PinteresttumblrRedditEmail
perceptive scopello fluffy white clouds

My story about that time my husband invited a total stranger (at the luggage carousel in Sicily) to join us on our honeymoon, was published by Perceptive Travel Magazine – “the best stories from authors on the move.” You can read the full story on the magzine’s website by clicking here: Hiding the Cannoli in Sicily.

Perceptive Travel screen shot hiding the cannoli

TwitterFacebookGoogle+PinteresttumblrRedditEmail
TwitterFacebookGoogle+PinteresttumblrRedditEmail