Posts Tagged ‘tourism’

Coffee in El Salvador: From Bean to Brewed at the El Carmen Estate

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Starre Vartan raking the drying beans (it’s harder than it looks!).

El Salvador is one of the premium coffee-growing countries in the world, situated in an ideal location for growing java. And if you are visiting the country, spending some time checking out where your java gets made is a must-do. EcoExperiencias, who organizes eco-focused tours in El Salvador, got us an insider tour of the beautiful El Carmen Estate, which grows, dries, processes, packages and ships (and roasts, for the local markets) Ataco Coffee that’s sold to Starbucks and Illy.

You can also stay at the Estate, in beautifully-decorated, homey rooms with some seriously gorgeous surrounding gardens (I would definitely recommend it; so romantic, and – Coffee!)

Here’s how the coffee gets made (forgive me if I geeked out a bit)!

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Picked beans are first washed and soaked in large vats; detritus, bad beans and other impurities float to the top and get skimmed off and composted.

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Controls for the coffee washing and transit around the facility.

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Then beans are sent through tunnels and funnels made of concrete, their flow controlled by wheels like this one (the factory is over 50 years old and four generations of the family have been growing and processing coffee); simple and effective.

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Next, beans are laid out to dry naturally in the sun. El Salvador’s climate and many days of sunshine make this an ideal climate to dry beans out in.
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Mexico City: A Young, Modern, Colorful Metropolis

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Starre Vartan in Mexico City.

This story was originally featured on MNN.com

Over the years, I've heard my fair share about Mexico City, mostly negatives—crime, terrible air pollution and, well, crime topped the list. But upon a recent visit to the capital, I non only felt totally safe (a vibe which is backed up by plenty of news reports that have called the city a 'refuge' from crime in the country), but that I was wandering in the midst of a European city, not one south of the border. In addition to the city's much-reduced crime rate, it has been seriously (and successfully) fighting its pollution problem (like Los Angeles, its once-noticable smog wasn't in evidence when I visited), and even boasts some air-cleaning giant green walls

I spent four days enjoying this capital city; here are some of my favorite sights and experiences, as captured by my camera (there is plenty more to see, so I'm planning a return voyage sometime next year!)

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Street cafes and al fresco dining were ubuiquitous in some neighborhoods; the exterior of this restaurant was a gorgeous example, with potted plants shading the sidewalk (and pedestrians walking through the dining area, which would make for some ideal people-watching!) 

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Decorative ironwork is popular in most places with a warm climate; Mexico City's Roma neighborhood has plenty of examples that catch the sunshine and give beautiful attention to light and shadow. 

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I had such a blast in Mexico City: I can’t wait to go back! (more…)

Geotourism: About More Than Just the Environment, Includes Culture, Aesthetics, Heritage

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A woman cooks traditional Mexican food in the mountain town of Cuetzalan. Photo by Starre Vartan.

Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard of Eco-Tourism, but what on Earth is “Geo-Tourism?
– Sally Kardaman, Sumter, SC

“Geotourism” describes tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a given place, including its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of local residents. The idea is that tourism can be a positive force that benefits both travelers and local environments and economies.

National Geographic Senior Editor Jonathan Tourtellot coined the term in 1997 to distinguish it from “ecotourism” or “sustainable tourism,” both which more narrowly focus on travel’s ecological impacts. In addition to a “do-no-harm” ethic, geotourism seeks to enhance prospects for sustainable development based on the specific character of a given place rather than on standardized international branding, generic architecture and food, etc. In other words, a geotourism tour won’t involve sending you to an exotic locale only to put you up at a Hilton or Marriot and give you discount coupons to Taco Bell and McDonald’s.

“Today the world’s great destinations are under assault as visitor numbers rise exponentially every year,” reports the non-profit National Geographic Society, publisher of National Geographic. “The result is damage to the sites, overcrowding and erosion of the local culture and environment.” The Society hopes to reverse these trends with geotourism. Its Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD) helps local communities, governments, tourism bureaus and private businesses enhance and sustain their distinct character while harnessing the power of tourism for positive impact: “Residents discover their own heritage by learning that things they take for granted may be interesting to outsiders,” reports CSD. “As local people develop pride and skill in showing off their locale, tourists get more out of their visit.”
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