Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Travels

I’ve written a couple of travel posts before. I thought I’d write this one that mostly just reviews summarily the travels in my life.  I’ve been pretty lucky, getting to go to many places, enough to satisfy me anyway. Some people have gone on many more trips than I have, of course, and I’m not trying to compare myself to others. I have friends who don’t like to travel at all, those who want to but are afraid or think they don’t have the money, those who prefer cruises, those who don’t want to be on the water, those who prefer to go back to the same place year after year, those who go different places but many times to one place, some who love to plan trips and some who only go when others plan them, those who like touristy places and those who are less interested in them. And so on. Everyone does it differently and I couldn’t tell you who gets the most out of it, because some people go but seem to hate it, some people revel in it, some brag about them and some barely mention or remember where they've been.

I frequently ask people where they’ve gone. Not too many people ask me, even when I've asked them, so I guess it is more my interest than other people’s, but I have found that when people have asked me where I’ve been, I just say I’ve been lucky but it seems too hard to name the places. Once I tried, but got interrupted so fast, it just didn’t seem like a good idea to continue.

There was a time that travel was extremely important to me, sometime into my forties. After living in a rural community for a while, with years to kayak and hike, I found that though I still love to travel, and will again, I had lost my burning desire. That had already happened to me with things like skiing and chasing girls, so, it’s not much of a surprise. I think it is because I was able to spend so many years in a row at relative leisure, but who knows? Maybe I’m just older and don’t want to make so much of an effort to do anything anymore. Now, frankly, going to my favorite beach on the north shore of Long Island seems a lot easier and as much fun for me as going to one at a distant location. But, that’s where I am now and I don’t expect others to agree. And I’m sure I will have other trips, money and health permitting.

My bucket list is very small at this point.  New Zealand, probably with stops in the south Pacific there and back, is the big one, and I think I’d like to spend some few days by myself in Rome and Venice, mostly for the art. Anyway, here’s my list of where I’ve been. I know that many people include places they’ve driven through on the way to somewhere else or were at the airport or dock without getting to explore, but I do not. E.g., I have driven through Delaware many times more than I’ve been almost anywhere else, always on the interstate and rarely stopping except at one of those stops for gas, McDonald’s, etc. I don't count Delaware. Nor the night I spent in Memphis, where we were warned not to leave our hotel at night. I attach a few pictures, but am keeping that aspect light, mostly because it would have made this post too big. I think the pictures are clickable though.

U.S.

NY. Not including where I live on Long Island, because I’ve been to most of it over the years, obviously a lot of time in Manhattan, which I still think is the greatest city in the world. I’ve visited the estates in Westchester on a few occasions. The Washington Irving Estate (Sunnyside) and Rockefeller Estate (Kykuit) both come to mind. One major trip up to Niagara Falls, the Finger Lakes area and some spots in between, including Corning (glass factory) and Cooperstown for the baseball Hall of Fame, with which I was not impressed. Many trips kayaking, but I’ll put that under Pa. Went to summer camp in the Adirondacks for two years when I was a kid at Racquette Lake, have visited Lake George a few times (I hate the touristy part) and stayed in nearby Lake Lucerne for quite a while. Also stayed up in Schroon Lake one day when picking my daughter up from camp. Mohonk Mountain and its fantastic lodge is one of my favorite places in the world.


Mohonk Mountain House.                                       Mineola, NY, Court House.                                      

NJ. Up to the mountain country for skiing a number of times, visits with a relative and also my daughter’s family on small lakes a few times and lovely, lovely Newark (visitors there will recognize the sarcasm) and some other small cities.

Connecticut. I’ve only really spent time in Hartford on business for a couple of days and also a few days at my Uncle’s house in Greenwich. But it adds up over time.  I’ve also driven through it many times, but, only count the former occasions as having been there.

Rhode Island. Went to Providence for a weekend. Lots of mansions mostly.

Massachusetts. I’ve been to Boston and environs three times. This time added Lexington and Concord, including a walk around Thoreau’s Walden Pond. Like Connecticut, I've driven through it many times on my way to Vermont, through little towns.

Vermont. Many ski trips in the mountains, particularly at Killington, but also at least once to each of Pico, Okemo and Mount Snow, the latter a few times. There’s a beautiful little town called Woodstock I’ve spent many days in not far from skiing, but usually in bad weather. And I have visited a few college towns, like Middlebury.

Killington Ski Resort, Vermont.

New Hampshire. Two ski trips. Also climbed Mt. Washington in our car once. Scared the bejeesus out of my evalovin’ gf. She made me stop at a resting point and insisted we go back down. I wasn’t about to do that. And up we went.

Maine. A week exploring some lakes. Maybe I’ll go back to Bar Harbor someday. That is real pretty and I only had a couple of hours there. There’s a national park there that seems like it should be explored too.

Pennsylvania. Four trips to Gettysburg, which is really sublime. Please go and stay there two days if you haven’t. Spent many days, probably adding up to a couple of weeks at this point, kayaking on the Delaware River, which is actually the border of NY and Pa., but I’ll include it here. Philadelphia once to see all the touristy things, like Convention Hall.

Maryland. I’ve been to Baltimore many times under the guidance of the estimable Bear, who is a pretty good tour guide. I was not expecting much the first time we went, somewhere between 10-15 years ago, but they’ve done an amazing job gentrifying the city and it is beautiful and fun. I’ve also spent enough time driving in rural areas around Maryland that I would include this state anyway. A night in Fredericks on our way back from Gettysburg once too. Almost forgot, a weekend in Colonial Beach on the Potomac River (the river looks like the ocean there, being so wide at that spot), which was once a rip roaring place and now a quiet and less inhabited beach town, and where I stayed at the old home of Alexander Graham Bell, now a bed and breakfast.

Washington, D.C.  I have probably been there five or six times, enough to lose count, anyway. Restaurants and museums mostly, The Newseum and the Spy Museum being my favorites, visited the presidential monuments (Lincoln's choked me up), saw the cherry blossoms but not the Vietnam Memorial. Places where they list the dead make me sad. Love Georgetown. I once spent a weekend there trying not to think about a broken heart. Worked okay, actually.

Virginia. I lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains and James River Valley for four and a half years. I did too much there to state in a paragraph, but I’m sure more there than anywhere else I’ve gone in my life, particularly around Buchanan, a tiny town on the James River, where I lived. As for other places, I saw Richmond and Jefferson’s, Madison’s, Washington’s homes and Robert E. Lee’s childhood home in Charlottesville, Montpelier, Mount Vernon and Stratford, respectively. Been to Lexington, Va., many times. It is the town that led me to live in the area (Buchanan is a half hour south of Lexington). I spent countless hours on the Washington & Lee campus, at the cemetery (Stonewall Jackson and other Civil War figures buried there), the Jackson House, the Lee Chapel and on the Maury River. And, spent many days in Roanoke, a city of roughly 90,000, about a half hours south of my home there, and Smith Mountain Lake, an incredibly beautiful lake another 45 minutes from Roanoke, surrounded by spectacular and surprisingly cheap homes right on the water.


Peaks of Otter, Virginia.

North Carolina. I’ve been to Charlotte, where I have friends. It’s a nice city, but the suburbs are too much like Long Island to suit me. Lake Norman to the north is pretty and my evalovin’ gf says she’d like to live there some day. Also visited my brother when he lived in Raleigh. NC is not my favorite place, really, but many people I’ve met want to move there and every place has its charms.

Florida. I’ve driven through S. Carolina (or do I count the amusement park I went to once right on the NC border?) and Georgia, but never really did anything or stopped long, so I don’t count them. But I’ve been to Florida more than any other place I haven’t lived. The irony is, I’m not a fan. Too hot, too flat, too many sharks and alligators. I was two the first time I went and then the next year too. Been to Orlando, of course, and Disney, Miami, Boca Raton, Sarasota, and just recently, the very beautiful Marco Island and Key West. Boynton Beach on the east coast too. I realize that eventually many of my friends will move there, though I really would rather not. Still, much of it wonderful and The Magic Kingdom - speaks for itself.



Marco Island, Florida.

Louisiana. I was helping my friend, Peter, move from Florida to Iowa and I insisted we stop in New Orleans, where we spent one day. But, it was one heck of a day. I even had two drinks (could barely stay awake). I had one in a bar at 11 a.m., before we left - what I call a cookie drink - and then a guy had a drink sent over to me in a bar, and there is a rumor we went to some strip clubs, which I cannot confirm or deny. Want to go back and stay longer. Not for Mardi Gras though. Too crowded and noisy for this old man.

Iowa. Yes, then Peter and I drove to Iowa. It was a really pretty state, mostly farmland, of course, but lots of rolling hills and different colors. And Des Moines was a lot of fun. My best memory - there was this pizzeria where the owner would walk around with a boxing glove on the end of a trombone slide and squirt water at everyone, some who came with umbrellas, from a selzer bottle.

Montana. Been out there twice with Don, who sometimes adds a comment here. He has a small house on a river in the middle of nowhere. Lots of stars and mountains though. Beautiful state. But everywhere I've been in the Rocky Mountains are beautiful. Almost froze to death there once, but that’s for another day. Skied a few times. Almost slid to my death doing so, but, you know, same old, same old.


Flathead Lake, Montana.

Washington. I spent a week there with my daughter’s mother once about 29 years ago. We stayed near the Puget Sound where her sister lived, but also drove to Mt. Rainer. Some of the prettiest woods I’ve ever seen, and I have been to a few woods in my life. And Paradise, the snowiest spot on earth, was quite memorable. Walls of snow along the side of the road, much higher than the car – and it was well into Spring.

California. I’ve been twice. The first time I went by myself to south of L.A. (never been to L.A.), drove down to San Diego, then all the way up the coast to San Francisco and spent four days hiking in the Redwood Forest with a friend and his buddies. A little time in Carmel and the surrounding area. The last time, two years ago was part of a longer trip through the west. But, we stayed a few days in Huntington Beach, also south of L.A., and then up the coast again to San Francisco, where I spent four days. Some of it is so beautiful, it’s hard to believe, like this little park on the coast which we almost didn’t stop at.


Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California.

Nevada. Been to Vegas twice. Everyone should see it once, but I have very little interest in it. The first time I went was to visit my father, who, though he lived a few minutes from the strip, had never been there. I took him to it for a while, but then said, "Dad, let's get out of here," and drove out into the desert, which, once you got past the houses, was quite pretty. The last time my gf, daughter and her boyfriend were with me and I wanted the kids to see the hotels, which are a lot of fun to walk around. After dinner I went to my room and watched football while they went out. Once was enough. I know, I’m boring to most people, but Thursday Night Football was on.

Arizona. Been there twice too and drove through the whole state a third time. The first time we drove all over, from Phoenix, up to Sedona (prettiest place I never heard of until I got there), to the Grand Canyon (pic - if you can go only one place in America, that’s where I am recommending), then east across the state towards Utah and New Mexico. The second time my evalovin’ gf and I went camping in the beautiful red-rocked Canyon de Chelly (remember the canyon edge Jodie Foster was sitting on at the end of Contact) and Sedona. It was incredibly beautiful, but we are too old to camp. Never again, I hope.



Grand Canyon, Arizona.

New Mexico. Spent about a week there in Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque and all that space between (it's a really big state). It may be the prettiest state I’ve been too, in general, even if other states have more beautiful attractions. Not a lot of water though. I once stepped over the Santa Fe River. That's not an exaggeration - right over it. About a decade ago an environmental group named it America’s most endangered river. I thought about moving there, but realized there’d be no work for me and I might get thirsty.



Distant rain storm, New Mexico.

Utah. Monument Valley (pic) is also one of the great places to see. I stayed there two days and over night in the only hotel with a view. Just magnificent.  I was also in Salt Lake City for a half day, and though the view of the mountains is beautiful, the city was too boring for words. Then, on my last trip out west, we stayed at Bryce and Zion canyons. Like the Grand Canyon, the beauty there cannot be described. Even just driving from one place to another is incredible.














Monument Valley, Utah.



Bryce Canyon, Utah.

Colorado. I’ve been to Denver twice. It is just a city to me, though I had fun. Went to Boulder, where a sister lives on the border of the Rockies (skied once at Arapahoe Basin on July 2d), went white water rafting on the Arkansas River with a group of school kids (I was in my mid-20s), before which we camped out in a canyon and I saw one of the great star displays in my life. Recently I spent three days in the mountains at a wedding. As with Utah, just driving through the mountains is an awesome experience. Those Rockies just rear out of the ground in spots like a wall. And the continental divide is really cool.

The U.S. Virgin Islands. Been to St. Thomas twice with my evalovin’ gf. I recommend Sapphire Bay for its beautiful view and Magen’s Bay, which, however, looks even better from the air. On one of those trips we went to St. John’s Island, which I find even more beautiful. I actually have an imaginary home on St. John’s run by a wise middle-aged Japanese widow named Mrs. Livingston. You should see it. Incredible sunsets from the deck.



Magens Bay, St. Thomas.

Near the U.S.

Mexico.

Isla Mujeres (Island of Women). Spent a few days there. It can be quite dodgy in spots, but not where we stayed on a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides or at the beaches or restaurants.

Cozumel. Also went to Cozumel (where Montezuma’s revenge took revenge on me) on the same trip. We stayed at a condo right on the water, where you could dive into the sea or slowly go down on a rope ladder. The limestone formed a shelf there, and when you entered the water, it was like being in an aquarium. An eel lived under the ladder, but didn't bite people (apparently). Also went snorkeling to a spot where the movie Splash was filmed and too say it was spectacular doesn't do it justice. If you've snorkeled or dived a reef, you understand. Somehow, surrounded by water and no land, I still managed to smack my head on the boat and probably got a concussion. It was not a pleasant ride back.  

Cancun. We went to Cancun, but it is not for me, relatively speaking. Too touristy, too many kids. Not that it is not wonderful in its own way and if you told me that I could go tomorrow for free or really cheap - I'll pack a bag. Also took a day tour to Chichen Itza with its incredible pyramid (last year they let you climb it) and other archaeological sites.



Chichen Itza, Mexico.

Bahamas. I spent I believe four days down there by myself. I was on the same island, Nassau, with that famous resort owned by Merv Griffin – is it Paradise Island? But, I did not want to go there. Guess why? Too many people, too many kids. So, I called a travel agent and asked if she could find me a resort where no one went. She laughed, but she pretty much did. I think it was called Divi Divi. Had the place almost to myself. Loved it. Walked 100 yards down the beach around a curve and might has well been on a desert island. Remember reading a lot. A book about Australia’s founding, a biography of Bismarck and two others I just can’t remember. It was about 29 years ago, so, can’t blame me.

Canada

Montreal. I went to Montreal once about 28 years ago. It was okay, but the old part of town was very small. The subways are what they mostly brag about, and they were very nice, but I’ve seen just as good elsewhere.

Quebec City. I much preferred Quebec City. Old, European, more natural surroundings in the city. Would like to go again someday.



Quebec City monument, Canada.

Europe

Britain. I’ve been three times. The first was my first trip to Europe and I was there about 5 days. The next time was just for a day, giving my friend a whirlwind tour, on our way back from Greece. The other time was four days by myself to finish up the outdoor sights of London. Believe it or not, with some exceptions, I did not go inside many places in all the times I've been there, other than most of the great churches, Winchester Castle and Hampton Court. Oxford was my one out of London trip. I seem to recall that Kew Gardens, Hampton Courts, the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, a myriad of churches and Oxford were my favorite places.

Ireland. I had a fierce cold here for two weeks and yet still had a wonderful time. It’s green, mountainous, lake filled and . . . mostly empty.


Ireland.

Denmark. Mostly just in wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen but also Kronborg (Hamlet’s) Castle. I thought Tivoli Park in Copenhagen was one of the best places I’d ever been. Not sure how I’d feel now some 30 plus years later.

Sweden. Really just spent time in one town, Helsingborg, celebrating its 900th birthday when I was there, for four days. Nice town though. Enough pretty girls for me to remember it with great fondness.

Netherlands. Amsterdam for four days and Haarlem for a day trip. Remember the canals, the canal houses, the Rijksmuseum and Rembrandt’s Night Watch best.

France. I really have not been to France proper except to fly in and out of Nice and Paris. But, I include it because I spent two weeks in Corsica (pic), which was a great experience. It's a very mountainous island. Unless you are a careful and a reasonably relaxed driver (more curves than you can count and big, big drops off ledges if you are not careful) I don’t recommend it. Yet, it rates as one of my favorite trips. Napoleon was from there, but, it's really about the beaches and mountains. The cities, other than one day in Bonifacio on the southern tip, not that special. But on one memorable day outside of Bonifacio we walked about a half mile or so across a shallow straight to an island. 



Corsica, France. This was a waterfall for which we walked down a mountain about an hour to see. Some rock climbers were there before us.




Grotte di Bonifacio, Corsica, France.

Monaco. Tiny principality between France and Italy. Nice, if rocky, coast. Big casino there which my friends visited while I waited in the car. But driving along the roads thinking about Grace Kelly was fun. Maybe creepy too.

Germany. I spent a week there in the south, Ulm, Regensburg, Munich, some walled towns on the Romantic Road like Rothenberg ob der Tauber, the Black Forest, Heidelberg, Baden Baden, etc.



Life sized wooden Last Supper carving by Tilman Riemenscheider, St. Jakob's Church, Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Germany. Circa 1500.




Heidlberg, Germany.

Austria. A couple of days in Innsbruck and Salzburg and about four days in glorious Vienna, one of my favorite cities.




Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna.

Serbia.  I crossed over the Yugoslavian border (that’s the name for this entry and the next two in ’89 when I went and still communist at that time) which was a scary experience itself. Were they going to give me my passport back? It didn't seem like it until an older and more experienced traveler advised me to go ask for it. He said they would want money to return it, but just play dumb. It worked. Scary at the time, but exciting in memory.  Belgrade is the capital and though a semi-modern big city and I only spent a day, I enjoyed it, except for the severe sunburn I got walking around. There's a Tesla museum, or, there was. I presume it's still there.

Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is the only country that I just passed through by train that I will count, because it was most of the day and the view was spectacular - you looked out the whole time. At one point you travel on a rail suspended near the top of mountains on giant columns. The description I had read of it was "heart pounding" – and it was. I also met a Swedish couple on the train with whom I spent a few days traveling. Lost touch with them a few years later. My fault and a shame. Wonder what happened with them.

Croatia.  The incredible city of Dubrovnik. All limestone. There is not really a lot to do there other than walk around, go to the beach and see the Napoleonic fort, but, I was there four days and could go back for a week. You almost feel like you have stepped back in time.



Dubrovnik, Croatia - those are my long lost Swedish friends on bottom right.

Italy. I’ve spent somewhere around 5-6 weeks there on three different trips. No room to talk about it here, but just to list the places serially: Florence, Siena, many little Tuscan towns (Gimignano and Montepulciano stand out in my mind), Verona, Sirmione (basically a castle on Lake Garda,) Milan, Rimini, Genoa, Cinque Terra, San Remo, Lucca, Pisa, Sicily (Syracuse, Taormina, Gela, Agrigento, Erisa, Palermo, Cefalu [pic]) and Sardinia (mostly the southeast coastal area). And, of course, many miles of driving past ruins and through vineyards.



Cefalu, Sicily, Italy - like an old post card.




Portofino, Italy.

San Marino. Do I even count this? It’s basically an itsy bitsy republic in the middle of Italy that relies heavily on Italy for many things that are normally part of a sovereign’s normal affairs (like money, foreign policy). The entire country is basically Mt. Titano. You drive up and around and around until you get to one of the three castle filled peaks, to be faced with touristy t-shirts and kitschy items for sale. Incredible views though.

Portugal. Probably my least favorite country in Europe that I visited, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t wonderful too. Lisbon, its big city, then Sintra, filled with castles (pic) and finally the Algarve, it's southern beachy coast. Most memorable were two beach towns, the castle town, Castelo (no surprise there), and a little beach town, whose name is lost in the fog of time and which I cannot even find on a map. Maybe I imagined it.



Sintra, Portugal.

Spain. Southern Spain – Seville, Granada, Cordoba, Toledo (lots of knives for sale and an embarrassment of riches of art from one of my favorites painters, El Greco, than I could absorb in a day) and finally, Madrid, where, of course, the Prado, one of the world’s great museums, was closed the day we were there. Miles of olive trees and gorgeous hill towns. Most memorable moment – looking off my balcony into the gorge at Ronda and the mosque/cathedral in Cordoba.


Mosque-Cathedral, Cordoba, Spain.



From my hotel balcony in Ronda, Spain.

Greece. Three times, for about five weeks. I’ve been to Athens, but other to see the Parthenon and maybe a few other things, get out and go to the islands or the other parts of Greece. Islands: Santorini (pic) twice, Crete, particularly Matala twice, Mykynos and Kos. Nafplio, which is Greece’s old capital (much nicer than Athens and near many ancient sites and great beaches) and Delphi, on the mainland. Unforgettable. I could live on any island there I've been to.


Santorini, Greece.

Turkey. Spent about ten days going down the coast. Four days in Istanbul, Izmir (formerly Smyrna), Bodrum (formerly Halicarnassus). Best memories are in Istanbul (Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern - featured in From Russia With Love) and Ephesus, which has some of the most memorable ruins in the world.




Library in Ephesus, Turkey.

All of these were wonderful trips. Again, I’ve been very fortunate. Reading it over, it makes me want to go back to Europe. But, New Zealand first.

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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .