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Ready, Set, Go to Havana

Over almost twenty years, I visited Havana three times, accompanying my wife along with a delegation of her colleagues from the Sundance Institute. Since the 1980s, Robert Redford, founder of the Sundance Institute and Sundance Film Festival, has reached across the ninety miles from the continental U.S. to the island nation of Cuba, extending a hand of friendship, one artist to other artists.

Much has changed since that first visit in 1999. In that year, Cuba was still suffering a kind of emotional withdrawal, a result of the Soviet Union's collapse which denied Cuba the economic and cultural support it had enjoyed since the early 1960s.

Sixteen years later in 2015, there were dramatic changes. Colonial buildings were being renovated into luxury hotels and retail spaces. Cruise ships docked in the harbor and U.S. airlines announced nonstop service from many American cities. Encouraging those efforts, the Obama administration signaled a desire to move away from the isolationist polic…
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An Island Shrine, a Special Meal and a Unique Museum in Japan's Aichi Prefecture

In pursuit of a week-long adventure in Japan’s heartlandShoryudo Region, I sped west from Tokyo on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen. The train’s path followed the Old Tōkaidō Road (the 'eastern sea' road), used for centuries to travel between the governmental capital in Edo (modern Tokyo) and the Imperial capital in Kyoto. I was on my way to Aichi Prefecture which hugs the Pacific coast and offers a rich experience with culture, history, nature and culinary deliciousness.

I settled into my seat on the train, happy to be in Japan where public transportation makes it easy to explore all parts of the island nation. For intercity visits under three hours, I'll always take  the 200+ mph Shinkansen. 
Called the "bullet train" for good reason. Stand near railroad tracks as a Shinkansen passes and it feels like a jet on wheels is streaking by. Inside, when I'm sitting in a comfortable seat, reading a book or snacking on a bento box, I forget how fast we're traveling.  

I woul…