Marie Affonso

Active Traveller

Oakland, USA

Summer of love, friendly Tigers and Jazz in New Orleans

Who is "you"?
Like most young women of my generation, who were raised in a working class family, I graduated from high school, went to work and married young. I had no vision for myself and thought that things like higher education and travel where out of my reach. My focus was making a living. At about the age of 30, I started to attend college at night, partially because I was bored and partially because I really needed to put myself in a position that I could make more money. I was surprised to find out that I enjoyed being a student. I eventually was able to get myself promoted and spent the last 18 years of my career doing conservatorship investigations for the Superior Court. I enjoyed this work for a number of reasons, I have always been interested in the legal process, I enjoy doing research and I was able to help protect and assist a very vulnerable segment of the population. At the age of 50, I got a divorce, ending a very long term marriage. This was an extremely difficult time for me; but the correct decision. Since that time, I have built a very different life for myself as a mature, single woman. It has been a discovery. Approximately 8 years ago, after working 42 years full time, I retired. I now have the luxury of spending my time doing what I enjoy. This includes ushering at concerts and plays, taking dance classes, going to the gym and walking, reading, listening to music, exploring interesting cities and, of course, traveling.

Wich is the thing you love the most in your city?
The Bay Area has always been very political, and it's no surprise that the Black Panther Party was born in Oakland and the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley.  The house that I grew up in was only a few blocks from the Hell's Angels Club House and Bruce Lee had a martial arts studio not far from where we lived.  It was an interesting place and time.  And, like most people, I can't imagine growing up anyplace else.

What makes you travel?
I really enjoy traveling and find it very exciting.  I am adventurous and like to see new places and meet new people.  I think it's important to see that there are many different way to to do things and many different cultures to explore.  Go with a sense of adventure and an open mind,  and you will probably enjoy yourself. No, it won't be like home, but that's the point of going. Yes, at times it can be exhausting; when you feel like your on overload, sit down for an hour, have a glass of wine and chill out. Do a little research before you go and avoid cultural mistakes; respect the fact that your a visitor.

Places you´ve been in the world?
I have been to Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, England, Portugal, Spain, Luxembourg, Panama, Colombia, Turkey, Thailand, The Netherlands and Belgium.  I have also visited numerous cities in the US. If I had to pick the three most important, I would chose New Orleans, Louisiana, Thailand, Bangkok and Chang Mai and Istanbul.  New Orleans was so important because it was the first ""old"" city that I visited in my own country.  It is an amazing city and so different than California.  Thailand and Istanbul were important because they were the most different from home.

Tell us a smell, a taste, a color, or a sense you remember from a place you´ve been?
One feeling that has always stayed with me is how calm it felt in Thailand.  It's a Buddhist Country and the philosophy seems to really permeate the culture. I remember being stuck in traffic that would make San Francisco, Lisboa or Paris feel like a suburb.  No one was swearing, honking their  horns or getting nasty. They appeared to be relaxed and accepting of the situation.  It was very Zen.

What is the silliest thing you ever bought in your trips?
I don't shop much, at home or on vacation, and can honestly say I can't remember ever buying anything silly while on vacation.

If Lisbon was a person, who does it remind you of?
Since I seem to think of cities and cars as being female, I will call Lisboa her.  I made my first trip to Portugal in 2005, and promptly fell in love with this city and the country.  Since three of my grandparents were Portuguese, I was definitely checking out my roots. The first trip was very emotional for me and I felt very connected.  I remember changing planes in Heathrow to TAP, and my friend saying, ""look around, these are your people."" I can wonder the streets of Lisboa forever!  I love the hills, the alleyways, the food, coffee, wine and music.  The views over the roofs and the full moon reflecting on the Tejo River is to die for.  People are friendly, helpful and welcoming.  This is the only foreign city that I have made repeated visits to, and I have no intention of stopping. If I could afford a second home, it would be in Lisboa.

We hate tourism tours?
I became familiar with WHTT in 2010; I was planning my third trip to Portugal and was looking for some new things to do. When I travel, I want to see the major attractions of the city, but I also want to experience the ""real"" city.  I sent an e-mail to book a couple of tours and received a return e-mail from Bruno. We exchanged several e-mails and actually became friends before we even met.  I'll never forget him pulling up in his jeep the first time we met to go on our tour.  We went out for drinks later that evening and it was like locating a relative who lived in ""the old country.""  I have taken numerous tours with WHTT on subsequent visits and still keep  in touch with several people that I meet on these tours.  We share special memories of our time in Portugal and like to keep in touch with one another.

Have you ever fell in love with someone when you travel?
Well, no I have never fallen in love while traveling.  But, on my last trip, a much younger man did became very infatuated with me.

The most embarrassing/funny moment you had while travelling?
Probably my most embarrassing moments traveling were getting sick in Istanbul and over drinking in New Orleans.  New Orleans is a party city and I got carrier away.  My most OMG moment was going into an enclosed area with two grown tigers in Thailand. At times I have thought, what in the hell were you thinking!

Next stop?
My next trip is in April for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  This is an annual trip for me.  Roots American music is one of my passions, and this is a good place to hear it.  People come from all over the world to experience this world class musical festival and to explore this unique American city.

Find me here