EH Notebook #115     FEB 20, 2003

Welcome to EH Notebook, the e-zine where e-friends who have
attended Elderhostel programs can compare notes.

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To subscribe to the e-mail publication and/or to submit reviews of
programs taken send an e-mail to the editor, Bob McAllester, at

Please keep all correspondence in simple e-mail text format.

     From the Editor's Notebook

As of the morning of Feb 19, I had only two reviews plus one that
I had written to use as filler.  I was planning to wait until Feb
28 and then put out a small issue.  That afternoon I received
three reviews within a twenty minute span, so now I have a full

Grace and I are attending two Elderhostels in March, so I won't be
home much to work on the next issue.  I doubt that I will have
enough materials by March 1st.  Then I'll be home a few days
around Mar 17 - 20.  I doubt that I'll have time then with the
other "at home" duties to catch up on.  The next issue may not
come until early April.

Since assembling this issue, I just received another review, which
I am going to hold for issue 116, whenever that is.  If a few
more of you write some reviews, it could be Feb 28.

Bob McAllester

    Comments and Queries

Anyone who has done a Portugal/Spain EH. Would appreciate your
thoughts and experiences.

Eugene Sanders

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Has anyone ever been to Ring Lake Ranch in Wyoming.  I plan to
enroll in a fall hiking EH and would like to know more.

Jean Crowley

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Oakwood Spiritual Life Center
My husband and I are thinking of registering for the August
Elderhostel at Oakwood in Indiana. However a 1999 review was not
encouraging. Has anyone been there more recently or talked to
someone else who has attended a program at Oakwood Spiritual Life

Joan Martin

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We seek comments on any of the following:

Canada International - Northern Exposure #3785
France (Paris) Russia (St. Petersburg) by Russian Federation #3798
Germany - Bonn, Berlin   America #3802
          Castles, Wines   Gardens #3795
Italy/Monaco - Italian Riviera: Cinque Terre to Monte Carlo  #3733
Greece - Essence of Greek Islands #3533
France - Provence:  The Art of Living  #3729

Fred   Alice Astroth, participants in 17 EH's

    Program Reviews

To use an e-mail address, substitute
the "at symbol" for the 3 characters $A$.

     Brigham Young Univ/Polynesian Cultural Center, Hawaii
     Yucatán Birding and Mayan Ruins, Mexico
     Grand Canyon / Supai, Arizona
     Art   Architecture, Spain-Portugal
     Inside Parliament: London and Brussels
     Stephen Foster Folk Culture State Park, Florida

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Brigham Young Univ/Polynesian Cultural Center

Hawaii: The Land and the People
January 12 to 18, 2003
Sponsored by Brigham Young University, Laie, Oahu
Leaders: Bert and Carla Woodland
University Liaison: Paul Dulan
Site: The Ponds at Punalu'u [an Assisted Living Center]
Group of 16 Elderhostelers

Transfer to the site was $25 per person one-way, which cost us
$100 for the 45 minute trip in a University van. There was a lot
of confusion at the airport as the baggage claim pick-up areas had
been re-lettered. This caused an hour delay in our departure time
for Punalu'u.

Registration was hectic with couples and singles sharing a bath.
At least until I showed them the catalog description. We were then
changed to a room without a key; key showed up the next day. Rooms
were institutional at best - two single beds with sheet and
blanket. Microwave and refrigerator in bedroom. One bath towel and
washcloth each which we managed to launder by ourselves midweek.
Laundry room down the hall was free with soap, etc.

Lectures and meals were held downstairs in the Kahana Room. With
the exception of a lounge we had no access to the rest of the
building. The meals were the low point of the week. Breakfast food
was often cold by the time it was transported to the Kahana Room.
Hot oatmeal was provided every day. We had three dinners there,
all of which were fair. We really appreciated the lunches and
dinners eaten offsite. The only downer was the lack of local
and/or Hawaiian food. With the theme of Hawaii: the Land and the
People we should have been enjoying plate lunch, poke, malasadas
and bento boxes. One day we helped prepare an imu in which we
cooked pork and vegetables, this was one of the best meals. We
enjoyed the luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center even more. Two
lunches were not provided but we were given our six dollars to
purchase our own, one at Waimea Falls and the other aboard the
Battleship Missouri.

Transportation was accomplished with two University vans, Bert
driving one and Carla the other. A minibus with a driver would
have been much better. We visited many sites around the island of
Oahu, some focusing on geology and others on culture. The cultural
stops were the best. Carla did her best to solve problems and keep
the group together and on time. This was really necessary at the
Polynesian Cultural Center where we spent a day and a half.

This was not the favorite of our eleven Elderhostels so far
neither was it the least enjoyable. If the site were changed with
a different food set-up this could rate as terrific.

Thomas and Jean Foran

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Specialty/Birding - Mexico

Yucatán Birding and Mayan Ruins

January 19-29, 2003
U.S. Coordinator: Holbrook Travel, Gainesville, FL 32609
Yucatán Arrangements: Mayan Quest, Cancun
Group Leader and Archeologist: Juan S. Canul Duran
Bird Guides: Alberto Rodriguez Pisté and Diego Antonio Nunez

We stayed at the Radisson Hacienda Hotel in Cancun (1 night), at
the Hotel Mayaland near the Chichen Itza archeological zone (2
nights), at Mision Uxmal near the Uxmal archeological zone (1
night), at the Chicanna Ecovillage Resort near the Calakmul
archeological zone (2 nights), at Villas Kin Ha near the Palenque
archeological zone (2 nights) and the Hotel El Conquistador in
Merida (2 nights).

All the rooms except at Villas Kin Ha were fine.  The hotel in
Merida was luxurious.  The rooms at Villas Kin Ha lacked
adequately bright lighting to allow reading, sufficient space for
storage of luggage and access to contents, and reasonably
comfortable seating.  The beds everywhere except in the hotel in
Merida were EXTRA firm; I guess that is standard for the Yucatán.
Most of the hotels had lovely landscaped grounds; the Mayaland was
outstanding. The rooms at three of the four hotels near the
archeological zones were in detached small buildings rather than
in large central structures. All had good birding habitat on site
or in the immediate vicinity.

It was good to excellent and plentiful. We had all breakfasts and
dinners at our hotel dining rooms.  Most lunches were in
restaurants in towns that we passed through on our bus between
evening stops.  We had two box  lunches on days when there were no
decent restaurants en route at lunchtime.  Breakfasts were all
sumptuous buffets: a variety of fresh fruits and juices that were
all safe to eat, eggs, pancakes, waffles, French toast, bacon,
ham, fried plantains, rolls, pastries etc.  Most dinners were
served to us at tables.  There was usually a choice of entrees.
Fish was often on the menu.  There was frequently a Mexican
cuisine dish e.. enchiladas, molé, available.  There was always a
salad, often with the most delicious avocados I have ever  tasted,
and dessert, almost always flan.  Lunches were a mixed bag but
more often good than not.  One lunch en route from Palenque to
Merida was at a restaurant right on the Gulf of Mexico where we
viewed brown pelicans, frigatebirds and laughing gulls as we
scarfed down fried shrimp that were tasty but much more breading
than shrimp..

Climate and Weather:
At this time of the year (dry season) there were no insects and
the temperatures were comfortable, probably between 75 and 85 in
the day time and down to the high 50s at night.

We were driven around in a comfortable, air-conditioned, new
Mercedes bus.  It was equipped with a toilet.  We made pit stops
mid-morning and mid-afternoon. The group occupied about two-thirds
the seating capacity of the bus so there was lots of room to
spread out.  The roads were generally quite good.  We had three
long days on the bus.  It would have been nice to have had a few
breaks on those days to stretch our legs and do a bit of birding
on foot.  We were fortunate to have had a very good and helpful
driver, Hil.

Mayan Ruins Program:
Juan very knowledgeably guided us around the archeological sites.
There was lots of walking, some on uneven ground, and lots of
stairs of uneven heights.  There was time for participants to
climb up the pyramids if they so desired (about half did) but
almost all the site lectures were delivered on the ground.  There
was rarely seating available for these talks and shade was often
hard to come by.

Birding Program:
We saw  lots of birds; over 170 species although no one person saw
all these species.  Alberto was the expert in identifying the
birds seen.  Diego was leading his first trip in that area and was
not as good as Alberto in identifying the local birds but he was
outstanding in spotting birds.  Each guide carried a spotting
scope and was quite good in putting it on the birds.  They led
before-breakfast bird walks on the hotel grounds most mornings and
afternoon bird walks on many days.  There was also birding going
on during visits at the archeological zones.  I was frequently
torn between listening to Juan talk about the Mayans or wandering
off with Alberto and Diego to look for birds.  Perhaps the most
exciting birding was at the Usumacinta marshes en route from
Calakmul to Palenque.  We needed more time there.  There were also
lots of birds further down the road that day but we didn't stop to
bird.  It was frustrating to try to bird from a bus going 50 mph
in a very productive area.  On the last day we went to the Rio
Celestun nature reserve about 40 miles west of Merida.  There we
went on (several) boats to see a colony of flamingos in the
brightest plumage I have ever seen as well as many other species
that favor an aquatic and mangrove habitat.  Not everyone on the
tour was a birder but there were many of the most adept and
dedicated birders I have ever had the pleasure of learning from.

Evening Activities:
We went to Sound and Light shows at Chichen Itza and Uxmal; the
former was especially good.  We went to a Ballet Folklorico
performance at Merida.  We had lectures three evenings by local
experts: one on the Mayan calendar, number system, etc., a second
on archeological digs and a third on Yucatán biology.  The evening
lectures were not particularly good.

One complaint:
Juan was very stingy with information about schedules and plans.
We had to ask questions to get him to tell us when we would have
dinner, when we would depart for the next destination, etc.

One note of gratitude:
At Palenque the bus let us off near the top of the site.  From
there, after touring the ruins, we had to leave by way of a half
mile of uneven stone steps down to where the bus was parked.  My
wife has  walking limitations, especially severe going down steps.
Our three guides and the bus driver had lent her a hand all during
the trip but went way beyond their calls of duty to assist her
down those steps.  She would still be in Palenque without their

All told, it was an excellent Elderhostel.

Roger Weiss

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Active Outdoor / Walking   Hiking

Grand Canyon / Supai

I did this Elderhostel in 1995, but it was one of my more
memorable adventures.  The description in the current catalog
looks like the same program I attended, so I will describe my

The village of Supai is the home of the Havasupai Indians.  It is
in a beautiful side canyon to the Grand Canyon.  There are no
roads to Supai.  If you drive, and that is the easiest way to get
there, you must leave your car at the hilltop parking lot.  This
is eight miles from the village of Supai.  The trail from the
parking lot, down to the village is a well traveled route with no
real steep inclines.  The program description says there will be a
guide to accompany you, but it would be hard to get lost on that
trail.  Give the right of way to horse traffic.  On Friday when
you are hiking out you will probably see a train of pack mules
carrying out the US Mail from the Supai Post Office.  Supai is the
only US Post Office still served by mule train.

There are two other modes of travel available between the village
and the parking lot: horse or helicopter.  The tribe arranges for
a helicopter to shuttle the tribal members in and out on Sunday
and Friday.  This is conveniently the days that the Elderhostelers
are arriving and leaving.  Tribal members have first priority but
other people can pay an extra fee ($55 in '95) to have a scenic
ride to the village.

I chose to arrive by helicopter, since I didn't know exactly what
I was getting into.  I hiked out.  I liked that combination.

When you arrive at the village, you are still two miles from the
campground where the Elderhostelers camp.  These two miles are a
beautiful walk past a couple of waterfalls.  Particularly Havasu
Falls is one of the more scenic sights in Arizona.

If you arrange in advance to come in by horse, you can ride the
horse from the parking lot all the way to the campground.  You
will still have plenty of chance to walk during the week.

In camp, we were assigned our tents and sleeping bags.  The tents
were supposed to be two person tents but I was very happy to have
one to myself.  (This was one Elderhostel adventure that Grace did
not want to share with me.)  On other camping treks since then, I
have carried my own lightweight camping gear.  I noticed one or
two fellows choosing to sleep on a camp table, rather than two
people sharing a tent.

We were each assigned to work on the cook crew for one day during
the week.  Some were good cooks, the rest of us weren't, but we
all managed and I think we enjoyed our cooking endeavors.  There
were other regular chores like carrying water to the campsite,
wash dishes, etc.

Each day we explored a different part of our environment.  One day
we hiked a path above the "red wall".  That gave us the view of
our campsite and surrounding canyon walls from over a hundred feet

We also spent some time at the village.  We visited the school,
talked to a tribal administrator.  We learned a lot about how they
survive in this remote village, how they coped with the floods
that had occurred in recent years.  And we had a lunch in their
local coffee shop.

Another excursion took us down the face of the cliff at Mooney
Falls.  I understand that these falls were named in memory an
early prospector who tried to descend down the face of the cliff
using a rope.  Unfortunately he didn't make it.  Mooney Falls is a
spectacular drop.  In my mind, I compare it with Multnomah Falls
in the Columbia Gorge or Taughannok Falls near Ithaca, NY.  A
narrow path has been hewn down the cliff.  To negotiate it, you
must crawl through some short tunnels, and then lower your self
down steps notched in the side of the cliff while you are holding
on to a cable.  Some of us had some fear of heights, but there is
always something to hold onto and we all made it.

Another adventure was into an abandoned mine that was up another
canyon.  We had the chance to switch off our flashlights where we
could see nothing and hear nothing.  One could quickly become
disoriented.  There has been an effort to seal off abandoned
mines.  I don't know if this one is still accessible.

This is an Elderhostel program for the able bodied, adventuresome
senior.  Those who have done it will always remember it.

Bob McAllester

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Art   Architecture
Feb-Mar 2002

We can strongly recommend this EH which started in Lisbon,
Portugal and climaxed in Barcelona, Spain.  Our superb
coordinator, Colin of Leeds, England, was fluent in Spanish,
Portuguese and "the King's English."  Our driver throughout was
Jose, Portuguese, who spoke neither English or Spanish but steered
us through the entire EH in a new, Mercedes coach.

Our Lisbon hotel, Metropolitan, was about 20 minutes from the
center of town.  When we were not in class we used public buses to
get into town and explore neighborhoods.   On leaving Lisbon we
visited Coimbria, Braga, Salamanca, and on to Madrid.  Our hotel
was on a main street, Hotel Tryp Washington.  Our local guide took
us to various goverment buildings, ultra-modern train station, and
various squares, plazas, parks and museums.   There was a day trip
to Toledo.  One-half day visit to the Prado Museum before leaving
for Zaragosa for one night en route to Catalonian Barcelona.
Colin also had a good command of Catalonian Spanish.  Our hotel,
Catalonia Corsega, was situated near many of the unique Gaudi
buildings which we could easily walk to and explore on our own.

A day trip to Dali's castle home and then to the Dali Museum.
Another day it was to the Picasso Museum.

Food was good, tapas very special, abundant wine at every lunch
and dinner.

Fred and Alice Astroth

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Inside Parliament: London and Brussels

Another stellar EH to London and Brussels focused on the British
Parliament, European Union and NATO.

Our London hotel was a Jurys Hotel in South Kensington within
walking distance of the Natural History Museum, Victoria   Albert
Museum, Kensington Gardens and Palace, as well as Harrod's.  We
had many pleasant walks through adjacent streets lined with the
"flats" we see on the BBC dramas.  Each day a bus took us to our
classroom about 30 minutes' drive in heavy traffic, passing
Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and all the historic buildings of
London.  To be in London during the Queen's Jubilee year was
exciting.  We often saw the Queen's Horse Guard rehearsing for the
Jubilee events.  David Harris, our program leader, did an
outstanding job as we explored the Parliament Building behind the
scenes of government.  We met privately with one of the Lords in a
special committee room, and attended a session of the House of

Our coordinator, Dr. Hilary Booth graciously prepared the way for
us to explore London and Brussels, along with David Harris on all
excursions.   We had lunch at the House of Lord's Annex hosted by
Lord Wetherill, former Speaker of the House, and attended by an MP
we had met earlier in the week.

Next we boarded EuroStar for our short trip to Brussels.  Hotel
Bedford, near the city, was not one of our best stays, but meals
were good.   We had a lecture by an MEP (member of European
Parliament) who represented the East Midlands in the UK; another
lecture by a member of the Euro Commission.  A day trip to the
medieval city of Bruges was very special.  We returned to London
via EuroStar for a few days before departing for home.

An outstanding EH we can recommend.

Fred   Alice Astroth

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Stephen Foster Folk Culture State Park

at White Springs, Feb 2-7, 2003

This EH is at 650-acre state park within the small town of White
Springs in north central Florida is dedicated to: preserving north
Florida's folk culture; the natural beauty of the upper Suwannee
River Valley; and Stephen Foster, whose 1851 song "Old Folks At
Home" put this rural area on the map and made it a once-popular
spa-resort. Today's EH there focuses on exact same motifs as the
Park's: past and present folk culture, plus Valley geology and
biology that have helped shape this area's folkculture.

EH classes and most activities are at the Park 12 miles NW of Lake
City 25 miles from south Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp, headwaters of
the Suwannee River. EH accommodations are at an isolated but
excellent Days Inn near I-10 just north of Lake City. Bussing from
motel to Park is via 2 state-owned vans, the paid-contracted
drivers providing a steady patter of quality local patter. The EH
program coordinators (Marcia, Martha,   Michelle) are equally
competent, particularly since they were serving this time with a
short notice...the regular EH coordinator folklorist had just
taken a job elsewhere. Days Inn is isolated, but is just a 2-min
drive from Lake City's many stores of all sorts.

EH program content is identical to the State Park's motif. It
focuses on past and present folklife, plus the natural geology and
biology (flora/fauna) that have helped shape this area's unique
folk culture.

Classroom lectures/demo's are given mostly by rural area folks
(non-pro's): Folk history with slides; old time fiddling and
stories by an old timer; an area storyteller born in Jamaica;
Mayhaw (area-unique berry) jelly-making; Stephen Foster's life
(plus 8 exquisitely-sung Foster songs by a classically-trained
soprano); making and throwing fish-casting nets; herbal remedies
from local plants (with Sassafras tea samples); turpentining (from
the area's pine trees); Suwannee River ecology (with a nature-

Besides the River walk, our short walks from classroom were to:
the Park's Stephen Foster Memorial Museum; its Memorial Carillon
(and a live carillon concert); Craft Square demo's by quilters,
tinsmith, blacksmith, bead work, woodcarver, stained glass crafts-
persons. Our class hands-on craft project was one of 3 choices:
pine needle basket-making; cane syrup candy pulling; or flint
knapping (making arrow and spear points from area-plentiful
rocks). We also enjoyed an escorted walk thru historic White
Springs, once a popular resort-spa of the rich and famous...before
Florida's water table lowered and the town's spring dried up. This
small town IS making a small comeback today, via its EH programs
and its Stephen Foster State Park focus on being a major folklore
cultural center.

Our evening activities also focussed on area folk-culture. 3 of
our 5 evening meals were to rural country churches where, after
dish-suppers, a local church member would tell us a bit about his
or her life. At one church, a resident folklorist performed
folksongs on various old time stringed musical instruments. One
evening meal was at White Springs Community Center, followed by a
performance and square dance by a local string band. The 5th
evening meal was at Nellie Bly's in the Park where some of our
lunches were also held...catered by various local cafes for
variety's sake.

Last day's field trip was to a successful longtime farm, replete
with its cattle, family stories, making a quick hat or basket from
a wild palmetto plant, making a quick quail trap out of sticks, a
modern swimming pool next to the barn, and the art of water
witching. And yes, this previously non-believer's twig turned
strongly downward whenever I crossed a known underground water

Breakfasts are continental style at motel (cereal, juice, coffee,
toast, buns). Besides our several lunches at Nellie Bly's in the
Park, we once lunched at White Springs diner where it was hoped
the local muralist would join us to explain his cafe-covered wall
murals. And on our last day we lunched at Sonny's in Lake City, a
popular Florida-wide BBQ chain. And as we EH'ers were vacating, a
dulcimer-making group was moving in. Also, the Park's annual
Folklife Festival was the following weekend, an event that is now
attracting diverse folklore groups from nationwide.

For me, this was a quality and quantity EH. If rural folkculture
past and present, presented mostly by good rural grassroots folks,
interests you...try this EH. If not, don't. For me this EH was:
both thumbs up!

Jim Fleming; Falls Church, VA