As a travel agent, Gary Loupassakis has inspired his clients to travel the globe. And in his new book, Go Dat Way and Go Dere: Around the World in 50 Years, he details some of his many experiences and stories.
After offering some travel tips, Gary tells of his favorite flight, on the supersonic Concorde.
He and Lea talk of culture, traditions and tourist attractions in countries including Australia, Switzerland, South Africa, Greece, Romania, Turkey, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
They share funny/scary stories of a trip into the Peruvian Amazon on a basic old boat. And remembering trips to Russia, China, Myanmar and Ukraine, they remind us to not wait too long to visit countries, until it’s unsafe to go.
Gary ends with a list of countries he's still like to visit!
Gary Loupassakis has been a travel agent since 1967, and has extensively traveled to sixty-five countries on six continents over the past 50 years. Go Dat Way and Go Dere: Around the World in Fifty Years is his first book. For more information, please visit https//:godatwayandgodere.com.
Podcast host Lea Lane blogs at forbes.com, has traveled to over 100 countries, and has written nine books, including the award-winning Places I Remember (Kirkus Reviews star rating, and 'one of the top 100 Indie books' of the year). She has contributed to many guidebooks and has written thousands of travel articles.
Contact Lea- she loves hearing from you! @lealane on Twitter; PlacesIRememberLeaLane on Insta; Places I Remember with Lea Lane on Facebook; Website: placesirememberlealane.com.
New episodes drop every other Tuesday, wherever you listen. Please consider sharing, following, rating and reviewing this award-winning travel podcast.
Lea Lane 0:06
Hi, I'm Lea Lane an award-winning travel writer and author of Places I Remember: Tales, Truths, Delights from 100 countries. On this podcast we share conversations with travelers about fascinating destinations and memorable experiences around the world. As a travel agent, Gary Loupassakis has inspired his clients to travel the globe. And in his new book, Go Dat Way and Go Dere: Around the World in 50 Years, readers are invited on a global journey through his long career in the travel industry. We'll be sharing some of those experiences and destinations on this episode. Welcome, Gary to Places I Remember. (Thank you.) First tell us a bit about the title of the book.
Gary Loupassakis 0:51
The title came from a young Jamaican man, whom we asked for directions. We were driving from outside of Montego Bay, it's in Negril, and we got lost in the middle of Montego Bay. And we stopped this young man and he just he kind of pointed like, no particular direction and said go that way and go there.
Lea Lane 1:11
You went there. (We went down. We found Negril.) I have a story. Similar. When I was in Tanzania once, I was in a car, someone was driving the car, we didn't know where we were. And we passed a village and the person says "Turn left at the liver hanging in the window." So we we got there. You have to be resourceful when you're traveling. What are tips you would give to a traveler as a travel agent.
Gary Loupassakis 1:39
Don't drink the water. Take your pocketbook and strap it over your shoulder. So it's in the front of you, not dangling off for your shoulder. An agent of mine years ago, she and her husband were driving and she had her pocketbook on her lap. And the window was open and they stopped at a traffic light. And somebody reached in grabbed her pocketbook off off her lap and took off and had had her passport and all her money and everything in it. So yeah.
Lea Lane 2:10
That happened. Really? But mine was strapped across my chest. But someone on the street on a motorcycle came by real fast and ripped it off. (I'm surprised he didn't take your neck off.) Yeah, I was happy he didn't. I do want to say about street food. If there's a long line, lots of people, and your eyes and your nose tell you it's pretty good, I would say depending on who you are, you might take a chance on that because some of the best food in many areas are on the street, but always be aware right. Now, travel agents get travel perks, and my favorite one in your book is your flight on the supersonic Concorde aircraft.
Gary Loupassakis 2:53
Back in the 70s.
Lea Lane 2:54
Okay, what was that, like?
Gary Loupassakis 2:55
We flew from Dulles Airport in Washington to London on British Airways. Back in the day, it took six hours, which is still does now. But on the Concorde only took like three and a half when you take off with it, it doesn't take off gradually, like a 747 does, it takes up, really straight up. If you've ever saw pictures of it, it's got a nose that pops up and down and you actually feel it actually pushes you back into the seat because of the speed. And then when it finally gets to the altitude, which is about 60,000 feet, which is maybe twice the altitude of a normal aircraft, you can actually see the curvature of the earth. The sky isn't blue anymore, it takes on a purplish tint. When the astronauts are up in the space, this The sky is black. Well, it goes from light blue to darker blue to at 60,000 feet, it's almost purple. And it flies at Mach two and a half which is two and a half times the speed of sound. And they have a little counter digital clock up on the wall. You could watch it tick off until we got to Mach two and we were only at that speed for about an hour. Sounds
Lea Lane 4:10
Sounds fascinating. I know they stopped flying a while back but I read that they're going to return at some point. So when they do I hope I can go and do this because it sounds like not only fast way to get somewhere but an experience.
Gary Loupassakis 4:26
Back in those days the course was really expensive. It's expensive now to fly first class I mean it's 5,6,7 thousand dollars.
Lea Lane 4:34
You had an extra three hours in wherever you were going.
Gary Loupassakis 4:41
You can go inside one in New York Harbor, they have a World War Two (the Intrepid) right and they have one of the planes there you can actually walk inside.
Lea Lane 4:50
Interesting. Let's talk some about the cultures, traditions and tourist attractions of a few of the countries you describe in your book. We have different takes on some. But them so we'll both share info and lots of memories. Let's start with Australia.
Gary Loupassakis 5:06
As one of the places I'd like to get back to. I'm kind of not into repeating things. I found Sydney to be a delightful city and in Cairnes it was beautiful, and the Great Barrier Reef was fascinating.
Lea Lane 5:18
Well, at that time, it was gorgeous. I know today a lot of it unfortunately is awfully sad.
Gary Loupassakis 5:25
It's unfortunate that global warming is ruining it. But what I did find the people were very friendly. They liked Americans, so it's kind of unusual in certain parks around the world.
Lea Lane 5:37
They're friendly people in general. I was in Melbourne there that's the foodie city was very impressed by the beauty of it and it's sort of the second city you think of Sydney first and then Melbourne but it's a cultural hub. And that also was very nice, and we went to the Blue Mountains I know you did as well.
Gary Loupassakis 5:54
Yes, we did. Very pretty gorgeous scenery. There was gorgeous.
Lea Lane 5:59
And the wine area around Australia. I have to say I was looking at the vineyards and all of a sudden kangaroos were hopping around the vineyards. You can't see that anywhere else. Right.
Gary Loupassakis 6:11
You don't see them along the street too often but (They like wine.)
They like the grapes. Yeah. As I said in the book if you want to see a kangaroo, go to a zoo.
Lea Lane 6:23
I liked him hopping around the vineyard, but I thought I was seeing things. Maybe I had too much wine. They look good. Okay, now one of your favorite places is Switzerland. What specially do you love about Switzerland.
Gary Loupassakis 6:35
It's the scenery, the mountains with the snow on top, even in the summer. It's just breathtaking. I mean, Southern Germany and northern Austria is the same way, it's in the Bavarian area. But Switzerland's got it all over. I mean, you don't have an industrial town like, like Northern Germany or something like that. I mean, all the villages are so quaint and so beautiful. If it wasn't for the cold winters I could move there.
Lea Lane 7:03
Really? Well, global warming might make it easy, right.
Gary Loupassakis 7:08
But I I I've been there maybe half a dozen times been to Bern and Zurich and Lucerne. I love Lucerne. Sit at a little cafe along the lake there and have a glass of wine or a cappuccino. Just watch the people. That was just a lovely village, lovely town.
Lea Lane 7:26
Speaking of sitting and eating, I have a story. in Zurich, there's a restaurant that is called Blinde Kuh. Blind cow. Do you know about that restaurant? In the dark, it's pitch black dark, it's very hard thing to get a reservation there and we managed to get a reservation, there were two of us. And you go in there, and you cannot see anything. You eat with your hands or you try to get a fork and get it up to your mouth. And it's very interesting because you taste the food in a different way. And you feel connected to the food. And the thing about it is all the servers are blind. You walk in there and you become blind, so to speak, you cannot see anything. And the thing about it that's so memorable to me is I walked out of there, and I could see, so not only did I have an interesting experience, I had a grateful experience, because I realized what it was like to some degree (How do you read the menu?) You don't, they tell you. Oh, there's no reading anything. It's pitch black. There's no exit signs or anything.
Gary Loupassakis 8:28
So you only get to taste it and smell it.
Lea Lane 8:32
But it's interesting. When you don't see it. Sometimes it takes away some. Lots of things tasted like pudding. You know, I couldn't see them. It was a very interesting experience. But again, you realize how lucky you were to walk out of there and be able to see. So that's what I think of, one of my memories of Switzerland.
Gary Loupassakis 8:48
Never want to go to a restaurant like that and Russia.
Lea Lane 8:53
Well, we'll talk about that later. We're gonna talk about some of the places that we've been to that have changed. How about South Africa?
Gary Loupassakis 9:02
I was there for a golf tournament. I was invited by South African Airways back in the day with travel agents were treated like kings, but by the airlines. That was in Durban. So we stayed, right along the beach, that beautiful beach area, went to the market, the Indian market. Yes, yes.
Lea Lane 9:20
I would add that that's the Zulu culture in Durban and they have wonderful shows and wonderful exhibits.
Gary Loupassakis 9:26
While I was playing golf, they took my wife sightseeing every day, and she brought back to show me the pictures. And I said, Damn, I said I wish I was sightseeing instead!
Lea Lane 9:37
Gary Loupassakis 9:39
You know, and then we went to a game preserve called Pinda. They had 16 rooms that were all glass. And so you could see the animals from anywhere except for the toilet area. Even even the shower from the chest up.
Lea Lane 9:54
Do you see an animal while you were in the shower? (Lots of times. Yeah, lots of times. Giraffes, wildebeests.)
Gary Loupassakis 9:54
Then we went to Cape Town, and I fell in love with Cape Town. It's one of my favorite towns. It's just a gorgeous, gorgeous, beautiful town. I told you in my book, we ran across to Desmond Tutu there in the parking lot. We were there in November, which was their spring. So all the trees and flowers were blooming. And this park behind the cathedral was just breathtaking.
Lea Lane 10:27
I would mention that there's a great new museum on the waterfront area there. And one of the great ones in the world they pull together, borrowed from all over Africa, South Africa and the whole continent. And also Robben Island is where you can go right from the harbor there to see where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. So there's a lot of history as well as beauty. And I would recommend the Wine Country, it's only an hour or so away, and it is one of the most beautiful wine countries I've ever been to because the mountains frame it. And it's absolutely lovely. I think we both agree South Africa is a winner.
Gary Loupassakis 11:02
Did you take the coast road down to the Cape (yes ) one of the most beautiful roads? Is ranks up there with the Almalfi coast. And then the California coast is just a beautiful road.
Lea Lane 11:14
Yes. And anyone who saw My Octopus Teacher, that great movie, that's where the octopus lived, right in the area there at the tip of South Africa. How about Greece? I know your name says that you're perhaps of that heritage, right?
Gary Loupassakis 11:28
Yeah, my my father's parents came from Greece at the at the turn of the 20th century. Obviously, it has a special meaning. I've been there three times; the latest was back in the 80s. But I'm going there this summer, I'm taking my whole family there. There's 12 of us going. We're not going to do the islands, we're going to do parts that I haven't been to, since grandpa's paying for it. We're going to go see Corinth, and Delphi.
Lea Lane 12:00
it's all wonderful. Yes, Crete is one of my favorite islands. Because it's one of the oldest cultures in all of Europe, the Minoans. And they were there from 2700 to 1420 BC, I happen to know that. And so you have something there that you don't have anywhere else in Europe, because it's a culture that was very great for a long time. And also, there's great hiking there. But I wrote about the islands for Fodors. I did three editions for Fodor's, the Greek islands, so I know them well. And I would say if you're gonna go to the islands, one of the ways to save money is to take the ferry just like the locals do. And they travel from island to island. And if you have an idea of where you want to go, and I would concentrate on one group of islands or about six groups, and you don't want to go too far, because there's plenty of islands in each group. But just take the ferry and if you like an island, that way you can stay as long as you want. And it's very inexpensive compared to a cruise ship. And I do love the Greek islands, so much
Gary Loupassakis 13:01
Crete's where my grandparents came. Oh, that's wondering when we go back there after our main trip, we're going to spend three days at a resort. And I've hired a guy to take us to the village where my grandparents came.
Lea Lane 13:13
Oh how wonderful. I love the town of Chania. It's a beautiful town.
Gary Loupassakis 13:20
I spent one day there. I was on a cruise. And we stopped in Heraklian. And we went to Knossis Palace, right. And that's the only thing I did. So I want to explore it a lot more.
Lea Lane 13:32
One Island a little bit out of the way in the Northwest is Corfu. That's another of my favorites. It's greener than most of the other Greek islands and it has a wonderful UNESCO Heritage site downtown and Old Town has two Venetian fortresses. It has medieval lanes and French style arcades and grand palaces. It's fabulous Island. If you have been to the main ones, you know, Mykonos and Santorini. Corfu, is a little out of the way but it's extremely beautiful. Well, how about its neighbor, Turkey.
Gary Loupassakis 14:08
I've only been to Istanbul which I found is a fascinating city with the culture and and the palaces in the mosques. The Blue Mosque was breathtaking. I've been there and then I went to Ephesus for a day on the cruise of course. We got to Istanbul by the cruise too. I could go back to Istanbul tomorrow. Turkey. I liked it. Agents that work for me who have gone to the resort areas of Turkey said they were beautiful. That's another one on my bucket list.
Lea Lane 14:40
Bodrum is one town that has magnificent resorts. And also there are two areas I love very much a little inland: one is Cappadocia in central Turkey. It's the one with distinctive, tall, cone-shaped rock formations they call fairy chimneys, and you take a balloon over the area that's very popularr That was fascinating. And people you can actually live in the caves or B and B's or hotels that are built right into the rock. So it's something to behold. And another town I love Pamukkale is in western Turkey, and it has these really mineral- rich thermal waters, they flow down terraces on a hillside. I've seen that a lot on Instagram lately. I went maybe 20 years ago before that was shown so much. But I think now it's pretty popular because it's exceptionally beautiful -- just cascades of these white beautiful, spa, rich waters, and there's ruins there, Roman ruins, cool, which has submerge Roman columns, because there was an earthquake, the water, it's unbelievable. So there's a lot there.
Gary Loupassakis 15:47
I have a degree in history. And I just love anything historical.
Lea Lane 15:50
Right? Well, how about Romania? That's a place that not many have yet gone to. And you mentioned that in your book. I also have been there and what was your opinion?
Gary Loupassakis 15:59
Well, I was there in the early 90s. And it was like a year and a half after Ceausescu was deposed. The only reason I went and I explained it in my book is because we met a young lady on a train from Zagreb, to Venice, who spoke English. It's that was her first trip outside of Romania. And she had never met an American. She learned English by somebody who learned English by from somebody else. And we kind of fell in love with her. And eventually we brought her here. So we had trouble getting her a visa and a weak moment. I said, Well, if you can't get a visa here, we'll come to visit you in Romania. I understand now 35 years later, it's a really beautiful country. And they've got spent superduper hotels. Yeah.
Lea Lane 16:50
Yeah, a lot of changes such as food for sure. And the place he lived offices he lived in is the largest building outside of the Pentagon. He liked Paris. So he built the Champs Elysees, a replica going toward his palace, so when you there is in that area, you feel like you are in Paris, I have a story in Romania, I went off a cruise ship and was walking around with a friend and we walked outside of the city that we were supposed to stay in. And we walked in the countryside and all of a sudden, we saw a pack of wild dogs coming toward us and we didn't know what to do. We were like, Oh my gosh, so we saw a car and we jumped on it. We just jumped on the hood. And she jumped in some other part and there was a person in the car and I don't know what he thought but the dogs passed by. But that's one of my memories and you know this name of the podcast is Places I Remember that was a place I sometimes remember now that it's over.
Gary Loupassakis 17:55
Similar situation in Belize. We were walking along the beach and a pack of dogs came.
Lea Lane 18:02
To use your head you have to sort of you know what do you do. Anything you can get up I guess you try for that.
Gary Loupassakis 18:08
The branch and that happened to be laying on the ground and I started moving it back and forth and then somebody came out of one of the resorts and started throwing rocks at them. Okay,
Lea Lane 18:19
well that's that's good but luckily that man was parked there. I don't know he could have been a bad guy or something but we don't care.
Gary Loupassakis 18:26
He was better than the dogs. We thought so. (The lesser of two evils.)
Lea Lane 18:33
I don't know if you've been to Bulgaria, but I want to mention it if you haven't, I think it is one of the countries that has just about everything and you don't realize it. It was in the Soviet Union for many years. So those of us who were not didn't know much about it, but it is a wonderful country in terms of Roman ruins and Thracian gold. They have great food, great wine, lovely people, and I hope we can get to it eventually. I think they have no direct flights there. And that's why a lot of people still haven't discovered Bulgaria, but keep it in your mind.
Gary Loupassakis 19:02
Bulgaria, Albania, the only two countries in Europe I haven't been Yeah.
Lea Lane 19:06
Well, you've been to the Baltics -- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. What do you think of those?
Gary Loupassakis 19:11
Ah, fascinating. They were beautiful. We went to Tallinn. When we went to Riga, I always forget how to pronounce the capital. (Vilnius.) Yes, Vilnius. We had guides that were super. They took us to Talinn. we saw in Estonia. We saw the President's Palace, which was originally built by Peter the Great for his daughter. And we took a road trip between the countries. So in other words, after we were done in Estonia, we went to Latvia. After we were done in Latvia, we went to Lithuania -- palaces and gardens and the food was terrific. in Tallinn. There's a marketplace where the old Mayor's office, Town Hall, and they have restaurants all around the market. Each one's better than the next. That's great. because they've got a pharmacy there that's been in a pharmacy for 700 years.
Lea Lane 20:05
Oh, my I hope they change the prescriptions. Maybe not, I don't know. But you can get to Tallinn from Finland. I came from Finland on a hydrofoil. And so if you are going to Finland, you might want to think about that at some time to get over to that Baltic area. Yeah, like fairy tales. I'd go back there tomorrow. Yeah. So it's a hidden secret. Not so hidden are the pleasures of South America. There are the basic ones everybody knows about -- Galapagos, Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu. But we have two things here that are from your book that both of us have been to -- one is the Peruvian Amazon. Tell us about that.
Gary Loupassakis 20:47
That was a trip that didn't start out well, but it ended up to be probably in my top five of wonderful vacations. What happened? Well, as a travel agent, I used to get discounts here and there. So I took advantage of a package that was a cruise down the Amazon. So my wife and I and my wife's sister Jane, the three of us spent a couple of days in Lima. And then we flew to Iquitos. That's where we picked up the ship. My wife saw the ship, and she says, I'm not getting on that boat.
Lea Lane 21:23
I'd been on that one. I know which one you mean, a real Amazonas? Yes.
Gary Loupassakis 21:27
Oh my gosh. I tell people if you remember the fairy, the fairy tale Rubba dub dub three men in the tub. The tub was a better vessel than that ship. But it turned out to be one of the most fascinating trips, we met up with three women from Florida and two women from California. And we had a blast with them. And the ecosystem and the way that people live and how they live off the the jungle and whatnot. It's just fascinating. I'd go back again, but I get a better ship.
Lea Lane 22:07
I think they've made it a little better. I went about 30 years ago, it was on a press trip. And we went deep into the Amazon jungle to visit this tribe that was known as being kind of unfriendly. The word was that a lady from Connecticut was hit by a blow dart because she wasn't polite to the chief. So we were frightened about six of us. So we said whatever this chief says just do it. So the chief must have figured this out because he gave us this animal sort of a big rodent. I forgot the name of it. And he gave the rodent to one of us, luckily not me. And the man had a run around a pole. And then he said all of you run around the pole. So we ran around a pole holding a rodent because we were afraid of the chief. But then happily, he was pleased with us because we all brought gifts like T shirts, sunglasses, things we thought they might like. One man brought his wife's girdle. And the chief thought it was a slingshot. He was very happy. And you know, it worked out. But that was a wonderful memory again afterwards.
Gary Loupassakis 23:15
Right afterwards. You were scared to death. How did the wife, did she appreciate losing her girdle.
Lea Lane 23:21
She wasn't on the trip. He grabbed it. Yeah. Anyway, that was a story. Again, some of the worst things that happen to you turn out to be the best memories, the best stories once they're over. Now, we've been to both of us to many places at this point we can't go to like Russia. When I went it was just after it was the Soviet Union.
When I was too. It the was before the wall came down.
Yeah, it was a tough place in 1995 when I was there, and obviously right now nobody's going, but at least I went when I could. And I got to see the Hermitage. And like you many of the great buildings is a beautiful city. Yeah, as long as it's safe, and the government, our government say so. I would say try to go to those places while you can. For example, I was in the Ukraine in 2011. And it was gorgeous. It was beautiful. And the people were lovely. And I feel absolutely devastated. And I know that for years and years it will be difficult to go to visit there. You just take advantage when you can I think we were both in China early on. I think I was there first in 1982. And you were there I think around the same time. And at that time, everyone was walking or taking bikes and they were looking at you very carefully because you look different.
Gary Loupassakis 24:44
Right. We were the sightseeing for them. And they encouraged us the guides told us if somebody comes up and tries to speak English with us, please, you know, converse with them. And it happened a few times but more so as I said in the book, you know they would stare at us. Yeah, never seen Westerners before.
Lea Lane 25:03
Right? Yeah. But now I went three times and most recently, maybe 10 years ago, and there were Maglev trains that go 433 kilometers an hour. It had moved so far, it was astounding.
Gary Loupassakis 25:17
I can't imagine what it's like today. I mean, I went 1980. And again in 1996. And the difference was night and day. And as I say, in the book, it was like when Dorothy landed in Oz and opened the door, great hotels and nice restaurants. And I can't imagine what it's like today. Yeah, how much better it is today
Lea Lane 25:38
They used to call them blue sky days because they were rare because there was so much pollution. Yeah, but I went there were blue sky days, most of the days, I was there over two or three weeks, which is because they have very stringent rules now in terms of pollution, so they're moving in that direction, too. I don't know if you've been to me and Myanmar,, Burma. That's another place. I was there 10 years ago, perhaps. And it was a great place to visit. And of course, now they have this terrible situation going there. So the message I guess from both of us is if you're in doubt, and it's safe, and you're comfortable with it, go when you can. Any other message, Gary.
I mean, I have some things on my bucket list. I haven't been to Southeast Asia very much, Japan. I'd like to go to South Korea, Thailand. I'm ready to get on an airplane tomorrow.
That's the best thing to just keep going. Keep moving.
Gary Loupassakis 26:32
Back during the pandemic. Nobody went anywhere for two and a half years. And then last year, it exploded. And I'm a prime example of one of the people who had cabin fever. Last year, I went to London twice. I went to Toronto, I went to Tanzania. And I went to Florida It was kind of like overkill. I only have Greece planned this year.
Lea Lane 26:54
That's all okay. I'm the same I went. First trip I took after being housebound for about two and a half years was Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas.
Gary Loupassakis 27:04
Yeah, that's right. i That's another thing on my bucket list. I would love to see that. You know, I'm getting on in years. I want to see places you know, that I've sent a lot of clients to, that clients were impressed with over the years.
Lea Lane 27:21
Well, thank you, Gary, Loupassakis, author of Go That Way and Go Dere: Around the World in 50 years, for your insights that only a travel agent could share. And I know you've sent people as you said all over the world. I'm glad you're traveling along with them.
Gary Loupassakis 27:36
Thank you very much.
Lea Lane 27:40
My book Places I Remember: Tales, Truths, Delight from 100 Countries, is available in print Kindle, and I read the audio version. You can follow me on forbes.com where I write five travel posts a month. Please subscribe to this podcast and consider giving us a review. And I'd love to hear from you on any of my links in the episodes show notes are on my website placesIrememberLealane.com Until next time, make some travel memories.