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Travel can be tough.

 

Just ask that 80-year old guy going down the ramp at the Montreux train station in Switzerland last week. But, more on that in a moment.

 

The cliché goes that getting there is half the fun. Yeah, that may be the case, but getting there might also be twice the hardship. I am not sure my math makes sense, but nevertheless, it’s a given.

 

Take our recent three-week trip to Europe (no, my lack of blog posts for that period was NOT due to me being stuck under my desk in a drunken stupor…this time).

 

Our destinations included Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland—including the spectacular Lucerne area.

 

 wrong turn to Lucerne

 

The trip started poorly as soon as we left the house, and I made a slightly wrong turn. And, by slightly, I mean I thought I could drive there.

 

My first clue should have been when Google Maps said I could drive to Lucerne in 1 hour and 58 minutes.

 

  map to wrong Lucerne

 

After the wife-person applied the appropriate dope-slap to her clueless husband, we got on the Delta flight that was closer to 10 hours and 58 minutes.

 

Hey, I was only off by a zero; give me a break.

 

And, eventually, we made it to the “correct” Lucerne.

 

 the right Luzern

 

As to a few trip highlights, I stood in a public plaza in Belgium with thousands of World Cup fans and watched the home team  beat Korea.

 

 Belgium football

 

Down the road—or more accurately, down the river, the Rhine River—I got to stand in an outdoor viewing venue in Germany and watched the home team beat France.

 

 German French football

 

As might be expected, there were also dozens of, what one local guide actually called, ABC’s (Another Bloody Church). Yes, many were brilliantly beautiful, but, well, we did see a lot of them.

 

 Luzern ABC

 

Also, there is no lack of really old shit over there, including interestingly painted buildings, and…some other stuff.

 

 Luzern building art

 

As to really memorable moments, there were gallons of great local beers, but that will have to flow into another blog post.

 

So, to conclude today’s sermon, let us remember that our life’s travels often include at least some scintilla of travails, which seems all the more appropriate, as that is the root of the word describing such treks.

 

Or, more plainer said, travel can be tough.

 

Extended transits through Europe often encompasses trips by train. In and of itself, that is typically a positive experience, as the rail system “over there” is well planned, well run, and well laid out.

 

But, it often requires swift transitions between track platforms, which are sometimes on multiple levels. If you are lucky, you might find an escalator or elevator at the bigger stations.

 

 Antwerp train station

 

In others, you get to run up and down multiple stairways, while hoisting your roller luggage. In those stations, you are grateful if you happen to find ramps to run while pulling your bag behind you, as it bounces against your ankle and spins around, twisting your wrist.

 

It was in one of our transfer stations near Lake Geneva where we had but minutes to race down one ramp, then up another to make our connection.

 

It was there that I decided that “you kids” texting and checking what Facebook posts you missed in the previous 15-seconds while you were getting off the train, and 80-year old guys who insist on strolling smack down the middle of the ramp…well… I am an American and I have already put up with your strange languages and weird currency…I’m coming through!

 

Sorry, 80-year old guy.

 

I have got to get to the next really old place, with narrow, bumpy streets and old churches to visit.  And, some other stuff.

 

sleeping lion rock

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This is about the inflammatory topic of airline carry-on luggage, which is possibly (because I am making the next part up) a leading cause of inflammatory bowels.

 

In other words, this incendiary subject pisses the shit out of us.

(I know, I have my bodily elimination plumbing crossed.)

 

Let’s recap.

 

The airline industry wanted more money.

 

The airline industry starting charging for check-in bags.

 

Then, the airline industry has tried charging for food, drinks, making a reservation, window seats, aisle seats, exit row seats, pillows, blankets, using the loo, and the list goes on and on.

 

The airline industry profits have soared, just like the cost of flying and our tempers, from being treated like chattel.

 

Along the way, most passengers (my wonderful sister, not included) have switched to more carry-on luggage, and by more, I mean bigger bags and lots of them. Much bigger and many more.

 

  big carry on

 

This has lead to a whole litany of issues, none of which has made flying any more enjoyable, and many of which are due to the airline industry simply—and blatantly—ignoring passengers who are getting away with schlepping a cavalcade of bulging bags in tow, right past them and onto the plane.

 

The scrum at the terminal gate looks like the cluster of World Cup soccer players attempting to kick the ball into the back of the net, with elbows flying, jerseys being tugged, and people being knocked to the ground.

 

Except, in the airport terminal, there is no referee blowing a whistle at obvious fouls.

 

Then, once on the plane, the poor flight attendants have to deal with the apparently clueless passengers clogging the aisle, trying to put their multiple, over-sized bags into the overhead storage area intended for use by two or three people, and not just them.

 

Finally, the flight attendants get to be the “bad guy” by telling the trampled, last boarders, who are just now picking themselves up off the terminal floor, that they must gate check the bags they packed with their valuables and breakable stuff, which they thought would be in the plane with them, and will now—sometimes by getting dropped twenty feet down onto the pavement—be flung into the belly of the plane at the last moment.

 

The inhumanity of it all created a bad (l)atitude by Spud Hilton, the senior travel editor of the respected San Francisco Chronicle, to create a tidal wave of affirmations (but, also subsequent renunciations—more on that in a moment), as well as identifying a Twitter topic, hashtagged, #CarryOnShame.

“The passengers at the gate dragging roller luggage that is more the size of a clown car than a carry-on.

…we’re asking travelers at the airport (past security) to look for examples of “carry-on shame,” to take pictures or videos of the obviously oversized “carry-on” luggage and post them…”

 

 

This movement was quickly picked up by numerous national media, which tended—and trended—to find the topic to be a sore subject for many a traveler.

 

But, it was not just the issue, itself, that picked at a few scabs, but the method of drawing attention to it that also caused a little consternation among others, including a successful travel writer, Matt Villano, who, along with many others, felt that,

“This whole #CarryOnShame campaign to “out” airline carry-on policy offenders publicly is an embarrassment. It’s passive-aggressive. It’s rude. And, at its core, it is bullying. Do I think people brazenly violate these policies? Yes. Do I think surreptitiously photographing the offenders and posting the “evidence” on social media is the right way to handle the situation? HELL NO. If you have a problem with someone’s carry-on abuse, report it to a flight attendant or a gate agent. Nobody is going to change the system by prancing around this issue like a high-school prankster. If you want change, set an example, practice kindness, take a stand, and advocate constructively.”

 

 

I can’t say whether the “movement” will, or will not, lead to positive changes, so I’d rather not wade any deeper into the public pool of social media, especially since I respect the opinion and experience of both Villano and Hilton.

 

In the meantime, to make matters even more interesting, the luggage labyrinth has just become an even more challenging conundrum, now that the airlines have recently reduced the size of carry-on luggage.

 

Of course, the first question is whether they will continue to ignore what is  being rolled right past them and onto the airplane.

 

If…and when…the carry-on luggage cops start actually enforcing what size—and how many—bags they let you take on the plane, I am assuming that enforcement will be part of the TSA screening process.

 

That got me thinking that I might make a little money by facilitating carry-on baggage hoarders.

 

will carry on your bag

 

So, look for me at the ticket counter as you first enter the airport, and for a mere $20, I will offer to carry on that extra bag that you insist you must have on the plane with you.

 

I initially thought my scheme to be foolproof (just as a fool would think)…only until Number One Daughter pointed out a…ah…small hurdle that I would have to negotiate.

 

      TSA bag check

 

 

Hey, what’s the worst that could happen from accepting luggage from strangers at an airport?

 

 

     TSA arrest

 

 

Oh, yeah. And, there’s that other thing…

 

 

    TSA cavity check

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Breakfast with Bardem; the beer was mine.It was on my recent flight to San Salvador, El Salvador, with Javier Bardem, while enjoying a clearly healthy breakfast, I was reading this month’s Outside magazine.

 

Sure, Lindsey Vonn posed near-naked for the magazine cover, but, I’m happily married; so just like I used to tell the wife-person when I “read” Playboy, I was only looking at the articles.

 

And, just like those “professional models” in Playboy, we guys tend to lust over things that are out of our reach.

 

For me, that includes my longtime burning desire to take in all the sensory pleasures of Cuba. As I mentioned in our last visit, that would include the,

“…fine cigars, aged rum, magical music, and classic cars…”

 

Notice, I did not mention the incredibly hot, sexy Latinas that inhabit those dimly lit cantinas of Havana, since as I just mentioned, I am happily married and those voluptuous women wearing threadbare half-shirts and skintight shorts that barely cover their…well, I hardly think about them at all.

 

A while back, I reported that during a scuba trip to the popular destination island of Cozumel, given a similarly simple connecting flight to Cuba, I supposedly skipped the temptation to visit my mysterious mistress of desire.

 

In other words, I would like to say that I did not go to Cuba when I had the opportunity on that occasion. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

 

After my recent week of incredible diving in Cuba Roatan, I needed to avoid any underwater forays the last day, which all divers must do for 24-hours before flying home.

 

That is either to allow my body to purge any remaining excess nitrogen in the bloodstream—which could go to my brain and possibly kill me—or to make sure I have time to polish off that large bottle of Flor de Caña rum that I purchased when I got there—which could go to my brain and possibly kill me.

 

Such are the risks that a global adventure humor writer takes, all for your amusement and reading enjoyment.

 

So, it was that last day of the trip that I decided a kayak paddle would be a good way to while away the time; unfortunately, I forgot my place.

 

Things were going peachy, just until I noticed I had garnered the attention of the locals and obtained a navel escort of sorts. Needless to say, I began to paddle towards shore with just a little bit more urgency.

 

   What do you mean, turn around?

 

It was then that I remembered that I had left my passport in the room; the passport that would have made it clear that I had strayed a little off-course.

 

Could I claim that I really thought this was Honduras? After all, it was only a few nautical miles to the southwest.

 

The actual distance was just under 900 kilometers, which we Americans do not really understand, but when converted to nautical miles, given the prevailing wind and current directions, it was only just mostly an inconceivable distance to paddle in a morning jaunt.

 

I could plead cluelessness; that sometimes works with the wife-person (actually, almost never).

 

As I approached the malecón, I could not help but notice that I might have a problem claiming that I thought this was the Honduran city of Coxen Hole (which would be a great name for a porn star).

 

    Sorry, no habla Español.

 

But, then it came to me.

 

It is not this government that minds me visiting and spending copious amount of American greenbacks…it’s OUR government that minds, as if somehow my purchase of a few cigars and bottle of rum might help prop up the régime of some ancient revolutionary on his deathbed. 

 

But, mind they still do, and that might explain the noise I heard coming from just over my head.

 

When I looked up, there was this strange skeleton of a flying object that was…HEY, it was one of those small drones that I had read about in the latest Outside Magazine—once I got past the pictures of the near-naked Lindsey Vonn.

 

    What's that noise?

 

Cool, I thought. Must be some guy out playing with his new toy. Basically, these new personal drones are kind of like those old radio-controlled airplanes. And, as the Outside article pointed out, these things are easily obtained; you can even buy one from Amazon, which you can control from you iPhone.

 

That was just until I saw the long, narrow object with the trailing smoking plume, apparently headed my way.

 

   They never see it coming.

 

WTF? I thought. Who would be firing upon me, an American citizen in mostly good standing, just because I was paddling in the wrong neighborhood?

 

That was until I made it closer to shore and caught two guys red-handed—and by “red” I am not talking about their political affiliation.  Check out their matching government issue, logo shirts (although I never did see their stinking badges).

 

   Great disguise, guys.

 

And, while this was nowhere near the Bay of Pigs, after a week of sans showers or shaving, I was beginning to look pretty sloven.

 

Maybe this scuba diver I met on the shore won’t mind the smell.

 

               scuba dog

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map and compassEven though Oprah didn’t invite me on her show to bare my soul, I will take Lance’s lead and just confess.

 

I am about ready to walk out the door, headed for Roatan, which is an island off the right coast of Honduras.

 

Maybe I will bump into Hugo Chavez.

 

Oh, wait. Chavez—who’s quite possibly still alive—is in Cuba, a different island entirely, but also off the right coast of Central America.

 

But, getting there, contrary to the cliché, is not half the fun.

 

The travail of the trek entails a drive in rush-hour urban traffic, hours spent at an airport, then finally boarding for a sure-to-be long, cramped flight, followed—after waiting at a different airport—by a somewhat shorter flight, more airport time playing luggage carousel roulette, and then we’re headed for the high seas for a boat ride on hopefully calm water, and finally a bus or shuttle to…where is it I am going? I already forgot.

 

BTW – My Editor-in-Chief once questioned my use of the word “travail,” where she thought maybe I meant “travel.” Given the tedious task of the trip, travail is exactly the proper word; furthermore, I once read that the word travel actually originated a long time ago from the word travail, and represents the difficulties that early travel bloggers had centuries ago, before airport bars stocked a decent brand of vodka for their pre-flight Bloody Marys.

 

        You want to put my meal tray where?!?

 

Speaking of forgetting…the promised confession is that I may sometimes be guilty of overusing performance-numbing beverages…no, no, that’s the wrong confession.

 

I just wanted to admit that I am the type of traveler that begins weeks (months?) before a trip by making long, long lists.

 

Lists of things to pack. Lists of things to do before I go. Lists of my lists to make sure I list everything.

 

Then, when it finally comes time to pack, I tend to lay everything out, which is partially OCD and partially to allow the wife-person to tell me I am nuts, and proceeds to remove at least half the stuff I have carefully laid out.

 

There are two truisms as to my travel packing.

 

First, I will continue to futz with how I packed everything until I finally get dragged out to the car, and second, I will continue to add items, given the theory that nature abhors a vacuum, and where there still is some room, there must be something more I can stuff in there.

 

All right, I gotta go shave and shower before I leave in a couple of hours.

 

And, certainly there must be a few more items I can tuck in the side pockets of the luggage (when you-know-who is not looking).

 

Roatan…here I come.  Or is it Cuba?

 

          I may, or may not, be one of these guys.

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Typically, I travel armed with adequate digital devices to create wildly entertaining, multimedia content to this internet-based global humor travel tales website; only that I was capable of such a Herculean feat.

 

As this was going to be a quick, one-night trek to Portland to offer my mere modicum of fan appreciation to the highly successful U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, while they were touring the country on their Fan Tribute Tour, I opted to leave at home my usual conglomeration of laptop computer, netbook, and iPad, with their appurtenant cables, chargers, mice, etc .

 

     Brandi Chastain, I'm on my way.

 

I knew that would preclude my ability to provide my anxiously anticipated (mostly by me) insightful, witty blog posts to the world wide web.

 

Not willing to go 100% cold turkey (exactly where does that expression even come from?) I did take my Blackberry; otherwise known as my Grandpaberry, according to Number One Daughter.

 

While posting to this site using this somewhat antiquated piece of mobile electronics is technically feasible, it is kind of like doing in-depth fantasy football statistical projections on an abacus.

 

On the other hand, some people have no such difficulties, like the guy who was stranded in deep blowing snow on Mount Hood. While I was working my way around Portland from coffee shop to microbrewery to food truck, this guy was stuck in the deep snow, up on nearby Mount Hood.

 

     Mount Hood helicopter

 

Armed with only his smart phone (not likely a Blackberry), after he made a phone call to place a rescue request, he began posting Facebook updates, admitting to family and friends as to his precarious predicament, figuring he would be outed anyway, as soon as the search and rescue event hit the evening news.

"Got stuck in a storm on the summit of Mt. Hood. Stuck on cliffs over 10,000′ in a white out. Called 911 after several hours of trying to self rescue. Search and rescue has been notified. Wish me luck!"

He also posted his location as,

"right on the edge of some gnarly cliff.

     facebook on smart phone

        

You think that was terrifying? Try being a travel humor blogger.

 

I’m right on the edge every time the wife-person asks me why in the hell am I wasting my time doing this in the first place?

 

Did the guy stuck on Mount Hood post wildly entertaining, multimedia content to an internet-based global humor travel tales website?

 

See, not so easy, eh?

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If you answered Dublin, Ireland, you obviously have not been drinking as much Guinness stout ale and fine Irish whiskey as I have for the last two days.

To tell the truth, I am not sure where in the hell I am. The view looking up at the bottom of the bar is kind of dark (and sticky, for some reason).

We landed yesterday morning and took the Dublin Airlink double-decker bus – otherwise known as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – from the airport to town.

It was one hand on the bus seat, one hand on your luggage as the bus careened around the corners on two wheels, and one hand invoking whatever diety seemed appropriate for this part of the world.

20120929-235321.jpg

I’m a little out of order, at least in reporting on our Emerald Isle tour of breweries and whiskey distilleries, but here is part of my first report that I thought I lost all of but here is the part that I did not lose but am posting above the second report that should have been the first report but I thought I lost.

I told you I was touring the breweries and distilleries.

Slainte.

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Still messing with using WordPress off the iPad without the benefit of Windows Live Writer.

If that doesn’t make any sense…well, it apparently doesn’t to me either.

In the meantime, as we walk out the door en route to Kinsale, here is a sign we saw walking near Temple Bar. You tell me what it means.

20120930-083318.jpg

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Yet another boring sunset in paradise.

By definition, when I travel—as they say in those Southwest Airlines commercials—I wanna get away®.

 

In my mind, the more exotic the locale, the less “here” it seems, which is exactly why I travel in the first place.

 

The last thing I want to do is to hang out with a bunch of people “just like me”—albeit, likely not as good looking or as smart as me—in a setting that looks, for all purposes, just like a city near me, complete with American chain hotels and familiar looking corporate restaurants.

(Unfortunately, I think we are stuck with the Starbucks situated in just about every corner of the planet.)

 

If my goal was to just avoid mowing the lawn and dealing with other typical honey-do list items suggested by the wife person—and by suggested I mean, they better get done by the end of the day if I have any chance of eating dinner or sleeping in my own bed—well, I can drive a few miles over to Sacramento and check into the local Best Western, and dine at the downtown Denny’s.

 

If all I am looking for is a swimming pool, late night bar, and midnight snack, they’ve got it covered.

 

It is with that personal bias in my travel philosophy that, when trekking south of the border, I eschew booking trips to places such as Cabo or Cancun, Mexico.

 

Both of those places are mega tourist magnets with miles of cookie-cutter high-rise beachfront hotels, occupied by platoons of sunburned, chaise lounge occupying vacationists, clutching over-priced, alcohol-light umbrella drinks.

 

And, those locations have at least one other key similarity: the Mexican government officially sponsored both of these massive tourist traps through FONATUR, which is Mexico’s state agency in charge of planning and developing large-scale tourist projects.

 

My only reason to fly to Cancun is to rent a car and head south into the Yucatan as quickly as possible, to places off the beaten path and visitation by cruise ships, such as Akumal, which still maintains a modicum of Mexican charm.

 

If you happen to catch me at the airport in Cabo, expect to see me quickly exiting the airport, getting past the armies of aggressive timeshare condo troops, and drive—not south towards the high octane area of Cabo San Lucas—but rather north, along the southern end of Baja’s East Cape, which skirts the stark shoreline, yet vibrant marine life of the Sea of Cortez, where my destination will likely be the rustic town of Los Barriles.

 

        Baja Sur map

 

While the Los Barriles area offers plenty of laid back housing, amazing local cuisine, miles of kite boarding and windsurfing beaches, nearby secret canyons with crystal clear cold water and cascading waterfalls, it is the nearby Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park that beckons me to don my scuba gear and immerse myself into the magical marine world that thrives just below the surface.

 

This area is home to the only coral reef in existence in the Sea of Cortez, and at an estimated 20,000 years old, said to be one of the oldest in this part of the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

    Rays jumping for joy?

 

 

I have experienced numerous encounters with massive humpback whales with their clinging calves, frolicking schools of dolphins racing alongside and riding angled bow waves, squadrons of airborne manta rays splashing down in the shimmering sea and onto our dive boat, and stupendous schools of slivery jacks that darken the water by their sheer numbers.

 

 

        That's my dive buddy, Amada.

 

 

Thus, I had read with great dismay some time ago that the Mexican government had issued provisional permits for an enormous planned resort area, which involved almost 30,000 rooms on about 10,000 acres, in this unique area of Baja.

 

 

         Please, please don't happen.

 

 

Assuming, with the official backing of the government and deep pocketed developers, this would be yet one more corner of the world’s dwindling special wild places to be lost forever, I pleasured myself by recently reading that the proposed project was dead.

(Ah…maybe I should clarify by saying I became pleasured. Hmmm, not much better sounding.)

 

While environmental issues were mentioned, interestingly, it is the financial crisis in Europe that may have had more to do with the collapse of the mega project than concerns about sea critters.

Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon said,

“The permits were being withdrawn because the developer ran into financial problems during Europe’s financial crisis.”

 

Maybe not so surprisingly, Fox News Latino seems to “credit” environmentalists from blocking this massive development project, which would have surely generated millions of pesos for Hansa Baja Investments, a big time money interest, apparently not even based in Mexico. (According to another website, the company is a joint venture of HANSA URBANA, of Spain, and Goodman Real Estate, of the United States.)

Fox’s slant on the story read,

“The Cabo Cortes tourist development…sparked concerns among the local communities, academics and environmental groups.”

 

Adding intrigue to these environmental/financial dealings, National Geographic reported on what they called, “Pulmo Gate,” which has

“Revealed on TV that emails were exchanged between Mexican federal authorities and the developers of Cabo Cortes, which question that authorities granted the permits in this case either because they wanted outside investment or because they were afraid of the consequences if they didn’t approve them (under trade pacts like those signed by Mexico’s officials).”

 

Whew. Nasty business.

 

For many years, the once vibrant marine life of Cabo Pulmo suffered assaults from industrial scale fish mining, sometimes by foreign-based trawlers. In all good conscience, I cannot call those activities “fishing,” as they consisted of dragging huge nets along the sea floor, from which they cherry picked what they wanted, and discarded the rest to float away and die.

 

It was thanks to Herculean efforts to protect the area that lead to tremendous strides towards not only recovery, but also now a return to a thriving marine environment.

 

How much do I love this place? Check out the banner picture which has always sat atop of every travel story I have authored on this blogsite.

 

That picture is looking out from a laid back beachside cantina in Cabo Pulmo where weathered, well-worn pangas take divers out to enjoy a magical part of the world that John Steinbeck and Jacques Cousteau recognized as one of a kind.

 

Finally, I also found this picture on the web of what the area still looks like, along with a caution what might come.

 

 

     The preverbial "before" picture.

 

My Español is muy mal, but I am pretty sure the text does not read,

“We only have the best interest of the fish in mind.”

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Who knew I would someday be riding the rails with James Brown?

 

Over the years, as I have traveled here and there—with a lot of there—I have been lucky enough to have encountered a number of magical musical moments, albeit on a much smaller scale than depicted in this next video.

 

If you don’t read a word of this blog post past this point, I suggest you take a few minutes to watch this wonderful video of how a simple street musician morphs into a major musical flash mob on the streets of Sabadell, Spain.

 

 

 

For me, as I think back to a few years ago, while I was on a month-long sail up the west coast of the Mexican mainland, I recall how lucky I was to have happened upon a couple of quite unexpected, yet marvelous musical moments.

 

The first was while walking the streets of Barra de Navidad, a charming town along the Pacific Ocean, which offers a real feel of old Mexico, but is a striking contrast to the Grand Bay Hotel, just across the lagoon, with multi-million dollar mega-yachts docked just feet away from split-level swimming pools, complete with water slides camouflaged as waterfalls.

 

It was there where I happened to cross paths with a small group of musicians, who were wandering the town playing Mariachi music. They “let me” reward them for my listening pleasure with a six-pack, or two, of cerveza.

 

     Play it again, señor.

 

Unbelievably, a second chance encounter of a musical nature found me at the same port of call, while I was riding on a locals’ bus from the Barra up to the quaint city of Melaque, when a guy got on and started playing his guitar, while singing and whistling tunes I only wish I new the words to.

 

It seemed that the majority of what appeared as the locals were mostly indifferent, which just may have been to avoid feeling any obligation to offer the requisite tip.

 

Here is a regrettably poorly shot video that I took during that bus ride. Please excuse the awful wind noises as I panned the camera out the open window, and then back to the musician.

 

 

 

Paris underground performance

But, maybe my favorite impromptu performance occurred on a crowded Paris metro train. As I sat studying my Rick Steves’ guidebook, from the back of the underground subway car I heard, of all people, James Brown belting out, “I feel good.”

 

As I spun around, a young man had placed a blanket between two vertical handholds, whipped out two puppets and had them performing to the voice of The Godfather of Soul, which was emanating from his boombox. 

 

Again, it seemed that the majority of what appeared as the locals were mostly indifferent, which just may have been to avoid feeling any obligation to offer the requisite tip.

 

Or, maybe in both cases, these were just a bunch of wannabe music critics.

 

With my lifelong love of music—as I sit here listening to RadioParadise.com—but a complete inability to carry a musical note any further than I can lug a grand piano, I am naturally drawn to drum circles, street music, and wherever else I can pick up someone else’s tune.

 

When I stumble onto one of these wondrous musical interludes…or maybe even better, when one finds me…well, it makes my day, and often becomes one of my travel’s special moments, which forever links me to that time and place.

 

So, do tell, where have you gotten your groove on unexpectedly?

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The places we take in, the food we eat, and even the words we consume are all subject to the inexorable onslaught of time.

 

It’s the Forth Law of Thermodynamics you didn’t learn about in school, which postulates, “here today, gone tomorrow.”

 

Like the plethora of people Rick Steves convinced to visit Vernazza—to my mind the crown jewel of the spectacular series of towns perched between the Ligurian Sea and the steep hillsides of Cinque Terre—last year we mourned upon hearing the news that upwards of 12-feet of storm-generated mud and silt accumulated along the narrow path which winds down from the grapevines and olive tree covered hills to the clear blue sea.

 

    Cinque Terre mudslide

 

The fact that second story windows were suddenly at street level only hinted at the clean-up job at hand, which is still on going, according to a recent update by Rick Steves in HuffPo.

 

I have oft repeated that Vernazza may be my favorite place on earth. Eating fresh pasta with freshly caught anchovies and locally produced pesto while sipping on their wonderful local white wine was one of my most memorable travel meals.

 

Hopefully, with my needs in mind, “those people” can get going and put it back the way it was. For me.

 

     Cinque Terre

 

While most of the mom-made home meals I grew up on were more of a German origin—which was not surprising as both my parents were born there—I got an early inkling for quality Italian cooking, as we frequently dined at a San Francisco east bay dining institution named Banchero’s Italian Dinners, in Hayward.

 

My sister sent me a note that, after 63-years in business, this fine family restaurant will shutter its doors. I have to wonder, if they even considered the impact to me and how I would get by without their amazing minestrone soup, chicken and pasta dishes, followed by colorful spumoni ice cream. To me.

 

Finally, in some late breaking, first alert news, the one guy who is probably the person “most to blame” for prodding me to produce all these, oh so many, insufferable blatherings, has decided to pull the plug on his own postings.

 

I would describe his writing style as if Hunter S. Thompson had a fly fishing blog, but often wandered afar from the fish.

 

As I often would follow his storyline leads for my own plagiarism inspiration, I have to say that he never discussed this with me and I certainly don’t think he had my writing needs in mind when he made his decision. With me.

 

Hopefully, there is no truth to the rumor that he was so embarrassed to have had even the smallest connection to my verbal wonderings, that he felt he had to fall on his own sword, as a form of literary reparation.

 

    Singlebarbed header

 

Regarding those planned travels, as my running “friends” would always yell at me as we approached a busy road intersection,

“Go now!”

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