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Oh, Airport Where Art Thou?

Oh Airport, where art thou?

The Automated Airport

As a frequent traveler I spend a lot of time passing through airports. I’ve noticed a trend and it’s alarming. The humans are disappearing!  In an airport there is increasingly no human contact.  Foreshadowed by the disappearance of the inbound customer service reps, airports are starting to do away with humans. Most of the time now it’s just you, the machine, a credit card or a passport; and those automatic check-in kiosks are for people who couldn’t or didn’t bother to check-in online. And forget the boarding pass. Printed boarding passes are passé.  Every airline (even budget carriers like Southwest) have a mobile boarding pass.  I still print out my boarding pass, by the way. Call me old-fashioned.

The check-in counters almost seem nostalgic now; an oasis for infrequent travelers to get reassurance that there are actual human beings running the show.  The only real reason to check-in with an actual human being is if you’re checking bags.

Baggage, we don’t need no stinkin’ baggage

Airlines seem to discourage it.  JetBlue has finally fallen and as of this month will now be charging fees to check bags.  Notably, only Southwest is remaining true to their “Bags Fly Free” mantra. Might make it worth not having assigned seat. Airfare watchdog is a great place to check to see how much it will cost you if you plan on doing something outlandish, like changing outfits during your travels.

So your first real human contact usually takes place at security. For some that means an actual pat down. Getting frisked in fluorescent lighting is never fun, so note to everybody, get TSA pre-approved.  This is like a VIP list for travelers and those on it get the luxury of keeping their shoes and belts on. Imagine that.

Once you’re through there, there’s no need for human interaction until you get on the plane, unless there’s a problem: you’re on stand-by, you’re late or you’re trying to move your seat or waiting for an upgrade. You now have to deal with…the Gate Keepers.

The Keepers of the Gate

These guys are important – they’re your only hope in most cases, and they know it. So it’s in your best interest to treat them kindly. A great article about gate attendants in WSJ really struck a chord with me the other day. It’s worth a read because it shows the behind-the-scenes of how gate agents juggle passenger requests.

People complain that the gatekeepers are hard, impersonal and tough to communicate with, but it’s not an easy gig. I have always found 100% of the time that the nicer you are, the better things turn out. These are the guys that control everything except the plane itself: the closing of the plane’s doors – you better hope you’re on the right side of it when they do! They can upgrade you, keep you where you are or frankly bump you off if the flight is oversold. Like Santa’s elves, they know who you are and they know how much you paid for your ticket.  Trying to negotiate a free upgrade on a ticket you got on Priceline is probably not going to happen. And copping an attitude with a cheap ticket and you could be left behind. In fact, you deserve to be left behind!  As we tell our kids all the time, attitude is everything.


Bidding Farewell To My Briggs and Riley

Dear Briggs and Riley,

We have been together for a long time. I love the extra space you gave me and we have been all over the world together. Shared some special moments and frankly I have even lost you for short periods. You always found me again and it was all going ever so swimmingly.

The trouble has been that you have gained weight. Or rather maybe my tastes have changed, You and I don’t fit anymore. And, you are not a cheap date. I need a cheaper date and more importantly, I needed to trade you in  for a spinner. A 4 wheel drive. You cost over $500 and I can find a Samsonite spinner for $100.

I like small. 20 inches tall and 14 inches wide. To fit everywhere. I just cant drag you around anymore. And the 4 wheel options are just a heck of a lot less expensive than when we first started out. Nad frankly, the other options look a lot nicer too. So, I am , we are moving apart. I am sorry. Wish you could have kepy up.

Barbarians at the Gate – Museums and Madness in Berlin

The thing about football fans is that they travel long distances to see a game that lasts an hour and a half, get to visit incredibly diverse cities all over the world, but really never get to see the cities themselves. At least that was my observation when our Italian friend who doesn’t like football insisted that we spend a cultural day in between the superficiality of a football game to visit Berlin’s three museums.


My Italian friend rented a car because he gambled that on a soccer infused weekend no one would rent a car and parking spaces would be abundant. Well, he was right! Although frankly, in the years I’ve known him, there was a not a city he had not conquered by instrument of illegal parking. He is an Italian expert. I think and fear that sometime in the not too distant future somebody will approach him with a $200K fine in unpaid parking tickets. But that’s another story.


We had to get to these museums to be educated and to offset the barbarian activity that we were here for and that would happen later that day. And lo and behold, in probably one of the most incredible museum cities in the world, where they have barriers erected with signs that tell you 1 hour to get to the entrance, 2 hours to get to the entrance, there was nobody. Yep. Those footie fans were not coming down for the education.  So I got to have a quiet moment with Nefertiti – wow, she is hot.

And furthermore I have a semi-complaint about the Greeks who constantly call for the return of the Parthenon marbles, aka the Elgin Marbles. What is the problem? I just walked into the Pergamon museum and they didn’t just lift a little piece of the Acropolis and take it back to the British museum, they lifted an entire city and put it in the Pergamon and it’s mind-blowing. How did they do it? This was a bigger heist than the great train robbery! These Germans had their act together. And I don’t hear anything from any country saying give me this stuff back. I mean, really, this is an entire city! So next time I go through a walk in the Acropolis museum, guess what? I’m not going to feel bad. We only took a little little bit. The Acropolis itself is still there, in Athens. If we had been Germans….it would’ve been in Berlin by now.


National Anthems

I was watching a soccer match the other evening in the Copa America. I started to listen to the national anthems. They were so bad. Maybe they were deep in pre-game mental preparation, but the players didn’t seem to know the words, the music was awful and I wondered why someone hadn’t come to the rescue of this dreadful collection of patriotic songs.

I get the patriotism, and everyone likes a sing-song. But really, in this day and age of Apple and Spotify and incredible lyricists and composers, we can’t get something that sounds vaguely like you would want to sing along to and maybe even live in the country! Yep, I know most of these footballers who play for their national teams, especially in the case of the Copa America, play in other countries. They drift with the money. Who can blame them? But, how about a song that’s actually pleasant to sing, even for these guys.

Case in point:  Italy, land of Opera. Their national anthem has got to be updated. It’s ridiculous! Go find the English translation:

We have been for centuries

stamped on, and laughed at,

because we are not one people,

because we are divided.

Let’s unite under

one flag, one dream;

To melt together

Already the time has come. –

Yikes. How about a Debbie Downer before the game even gets going?!


And the USA chose the wrong anthem. America, the beautiful, would have been better. As for the Germans? Well they had to remove the first two verses of theirs, as it sort of sounds like they might be heading to war again! And as for the rest of them – they are all so hopelessly dreadful that I realized that my country, England, had a simple anthem semi-ideal for football games in that God Save the Queen can be quickly converted to God Save the Team. Faith and Football. All in three words!  South Africa changed its anthem to celebrate a new beginning and…. it is a great song. The Welsh anthem is beautiful. Or is it just that Welsh people like singing and it sounds better. Maybe it was just South America? After all, there hasn’t been much to celebrate there for a while – and it shows!  So, someone help the national anthem problem. Most scores for Hollywood blockbusters sound better than what we hear on the pitch. Refresh the songs, the lyrics, and at the very least, make them appropriate.

Champions League Village – Can’t Buy Me Love (T-Shirts)

Dear UEFA,

Now I know that it’s been a tough few weeks for football.  FIFA is embroiled in a scandal fit for cable television – turns out every single World Cup for the last God knows how many years, was bought. No really? It surprised me that the micro bodies that run the regional competitions like UEFA aren’t joining in the corruption. But you have absolutely nothing to do with any of that corruption stuff – so thank goodness I come to you with an idea to make money – lest you too go down the path of no return.


Every year I attend the Champions League Final and every year I ask myself how anybody could conceive of something so pitiful as the Champions League Village, a place where devout fans hang out (usually in the boiling sun) looking for something to do or buy and usually coming up empty-handed? I actually did want to buy a souvenir shirt and I was prepared to pay $50 for it. It’s what I call noblesse oblige marketing – holier than thou branding. The players make millions and millions, the people pay silly money to watch this amazing game – and yet they take us for granted. We’re greeted by cops with guns. We’re not allowed to drink alcohol in the stadium. There is no food in the stadium. God forbid your team wins and you stay to watch the ceremony which lasts for an hour and a half.  Then you are definitely in bad shape because by the time you get back into town, you guessed it – the crowds are everywhere and all the restaurants have closed.


So here’s my thing. Football is the fastest growing sport – more money moves and changes hands in this sport than in any other sport in the world. The governing body of the world sport, FIFA seems to orient itself around the religion of money and bribes, and yet I can’t buy a bloody hat or t-shirt in your showcase village that only takes place once a year? The Champions League Village is supposed to be a showcase for UEFA – the grand finale of European soccer. The two best clubs (basically in the world) compete at this event. And here I am wandering under the gate into the Champions Village, planning my souvenir shopping list, only to find that the t-shirt shop had sold out of t-shirts by mid-day. No t-shirts. No merchandise. Practically no food at all. If you’re a VIP member of UEFA, I imagine you get your prawn sandwich and your glass of champagne and a free t-shirt.


So is it that there’s just not enough money in selling a t-shirt? You only deal in the 100s of millions? Or is it just at the merchandising level, when it comes to this match that only happens once a year, you guys go to sleep? We are desperate to spend money, but you don’t take mastercard..oops, they are a sponsor! And we truly want to buy something with the name of the event and the teams: bags, hats, shirts, wristbands, etc… By my estimate there are about 50,000 fans who probably want to spend around $5M in merchandising and food. Now I know that $5M is not a lot. Especially when FIFA hands out $10M checks willy-nilly to regional confederations. But this is a Premier event and you guys are better than FIFA. In the end it was a smart enterprising guy outside the village that was hawking illegal shirts for 20 Euros that got my money!


So hey, Michel Platini, how about a thought for the people who pay your wages, spent a fortune on a ticket, and truly think, even in the most cynical moment, that this is a beautiful game? Throw us a bone! UEFA, get your act together! While you guys are all sipping champagne at your pre-event parties and eating fancy hors d’oeuvres and chatting “real football,” maybe you could give some consideration to the normal guys – aka money-paying fans. Ah, the life of a working class football fanatic.


Champions League Final 2015 – Berlin


I’ve been to Berlin three times. Once when it was a divided city, and the last two times over the space of 2 or 3 years. This time it was football (aka soccer) that drove me back; my annual visit to the Champions League Final, between the great Barcelona and the black and white of Juventus.

The city had changed again – not just that there were 70,000 people milling around with football jerseys. This place is actually one of the most cutting-edge cities in the world. It’s youthful, there are clubs and restaurants on every corner. New buildings are popping up, especially in the Eastern sector and the bicycle paths are on par with most Danish and Dutch cities. If you’re feeling athletic, check out for some cool ride suggestions.


So here I am, standing in what’s called the Champions League Village, a hastily erected mockup of the event itself, except the Germans had figured out how to put an AstroTurf soccer pitch underneath the Brandenburg Gate. Yes, the same gate that Napoleon did a victory march through in the 1800s. Man these guys are good. In spite of the vast marauds of Spanish and Italian fans wondering around the city with Heinekens held in their hand – yep Heineken is a sponsor – everything worked perfectly. Transportation didn’t skip a beat. You could grab an Uber when you wanted to. Yeah. And the bars stayed open late. If I could think of a better venue for a champions league event, I would probably have to say Copenhagen or Amsterdam. But in the end I actually think the Germans have it. Berlin is an awesome city that has pretty much everything – except, oh yah, they don’t have a soccer team!

Risi e Bici

Risi e Bici

Out in Western Mass, the pea shoots are just popping out and it’s time for peas in a pod. The season lasts about three weeks and it evokes memories of my childhood sitting on the steps of the caravan, shucking peas so that mum could overcook them for dinner!

There is a delicacy in Italy at this time of year called “Risi e Bic,i” a speciality of the Veneto region but cooked all over Italy. It’s a celebration of the peas (world peas! Peas to the world!) and it is a totally fantastic dish, dead easy to prepare. But you have to follow a slightly alternative road from the risotto.

First the broth – you have to use every part of the pea growing process – the pea shoots, the pea pods, add some fresh early spring garlic and a little onion which will form the broth that make the risotto. Prepare the risotto as you would any risotto: finely chopped onion, coat the rice with olive oil, add a dash of white wine and then begin the process of moving the rice around for about 20 minutes, constantly adding the delicious stock. At about 5 minutes to go throw in the peas, working them around the rice; chop in a few more pea shoots and throw those in and keep adding the stock.

Here’s the difference between a typical risotto and the risi e bici. You want it slightly soupier, when the rice feels good and there’s enough liquid to literally spoon a little bit out, that’s when you chop some fresh early mint, sprinkle that across the dish and finish it with some freshly grated reggiano parmegiano, shouting “Peas on Earth.” for the added effect.  I ‘m not saying this is good. It’s beyond good. And it takes 20 minutes, and costs next to nothing. Frozen peas can be substituted but this is the time of the year when you have to use the real deal. It’s easy peasy.

Customer Service

Customer Service

Dear TripCase,

I’ve always been so enthusiastic and eager to share you with others.  I even introduced you to my mom. You sit on both my phones and you provide me with boarding passes, up-to-date information on my hotels and flights, and you even alert me when things start to go wrong.  But there’s something I must tell you – you’re oversensitive. I mean I don’t really need to know that the flight departure time has shifted by 4 minutes, but hey in an open relationship like this, it’s important that we trust each other. So I get it.

But when things get rocky, the relationship can suffer. You’ve been so erratic recently, notably during the latest strike in France. I know that none of us like changes like this, cancellations, being stood up by the airlines, but it’s important to stay calm. I depend on your accuracy and the other day at Terminal 3 at Charles de Gaulle, you let me down. You had wild mood swings. One moment the plane was leaving at 8:15pm, one moment at midnight then again at 9pm. You were all over the place. And then when you assured me that the flight would be delayed by at least 6 hours with no hope of recovery and I had sat down to enjoy a cup of tea, you went behind my back and cheated on me.  The flight was boarding, people were queuing up and I had been left standing at the altar.

Can I trust you?

I’m not sure what happened that day –maybe I don’t really want to know. Maybe you just weren’t yourself, maybe you felt like doing something different. Was it something I said? But you nearly screwed me over badly – and I just wanted you to know that. I hope you’ll think about what you’ve done – and if I seem a little distant lately, now you know why.


Peter Jones

Visiting Versailles in a Virtual World

We’ve been struggling lately with the whole notion of communicating art history to students as they walk through museums or historical places. Let’s rewind to the good old days. Upon entering any historical site you were handed a printed walking tour. Then you would wander at your own pace, reading what you need to help get through the art work.

Fast forward, people walk through museums now with headsets or handsets provided by the museum. For the most part technology adjusts and evolves at the right pace so that the people are comfortable with new devices inside these great treasures.  The challenge for us as educators is to provide the students with a means to go through these museums without being bogged down inside their smartphone device. They could do that from home.

Our main challenge is to get kids to look up and so we’re experimenting with different ways to have them look down, to look up, to look down, to look up – getting a full experience – and then use technology to enhance that experience, not take away from it.

We’ve tried MP3s, tablets and are now moving through the smartphone vortex. But it’s complicated. The other day I went to Versailles with a new idea.  Armed with my tablet I attempted to navigate the museum, take in the extraordinary sites and rooms (including the spectacular Hall of Mirrors) while at the same time trying to answer a time-sensitive quiz.  As this was all happening, I was squashed at the front by a tour group and at the back by another tour group, as we all funneled our way through the various rooms that make up the palace.

And you know what I found myself doing?  Looking down.  I missed some extraordinary paintings as I was desperate to get the questions answered correctly and also to stay in sync with the others doing the quiz. Would I have been better off to just have walked through, keeping my eyes and ears open, taking everything in and then reflecting afterwards? Would it have been helpful to have a guide drone on, not tied to my age-sensitive brain? I think that I’m not sure what the answer is.

For now, my advice is to look up, stay in the moment and let the moment take you like a time machine into another age – simply not possible if you’re looking down.

If you’re planning a trip to Paris – Versailles should not be missed. You can get tickets on their website.

Ipads killed the Newsstand Star

It might be hard to believe, but before the digital newsstand that you click on through venues like the Apple Itunes store, there existed actual physical newsstands.  You don’t see them as much now when you’re traveling. In England they’ve practically died out, and in the US, even though I pass one at South Station every day in Boston, they’re more novelty than practicality. Even at airports they are combined with so many other things that it’s sometimes difficult to separate the news from the junk.

So what a wonder it is to wander through Paris, or Rome or Madrid and still see these delightful, wooden mini-houses full of newspapers, magazines, and lottery tickets.  Anytime I see one, I buy something from them.  I’m fascinated by the people that run these, these hand-me -downs from previous generations when news to spread on Twitter before it had a chance to get into print.

It must be a labor of love. Or is it possible that there is a cadre of like-minded travelers, bent on nostalgia that keep these guys in business? There are those of us still, who like the touch and feel of a newspaper. It’s tangible. It goes well with a cappuccino in a café, sitting under the shadow of the Pantheon in the Piazza de la Rotunda. It’s the simple pleasures.  I like to read the news from home, to check the baseball scores, and even though it would be faster on a device, faster isn’t always better. I prefer the navigation in print, the way your eye can dart across the page to different stories – even the layout is part of the news reading experience that an iPad just can’t duplicate.

Eiffel Tower of Problems

Take a perfectly big monument designed by engineers Maurice Koechlin, Emile Nouguier and architect Stephen Sauvestre before the patented design was bought by Gustave Eiffel, whose company than constructed the tower and imagine that there are more and more tourists that want to visit this thing because it is so perfectly placed in the middle of this beautiful city called Paris.  It has views for miles – two restaurants (58 Tour Eiffel and Le Jules Verne) and is the most visited paid monument in the world, and certainly the most recognizable. If they could charge people to look at it, they would. They can’t so they do the next most obvious thing, make everyone who’s trying to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower, truly hate the experience. Well, the French have done it.

Now you have to book reservations online with a specific time slot.  That sounds OK, no problem. Except there are hardly any time slots available! You can only book 3 months out – and at 3 months out, until zero days in, there are precisely zero time slots of available. So with no time slots available, I wonder who they’re going to. You have to resort to standing online for 2-3 hours, if you’re lucky. And this new system, if they have put in place, is called progress or avancé.  Well there is absolutely nothing avancé about this ridiculous state of affairs. If you do manage to get tickets it’s 15.5 Euros ($17) for adults, 13.5 Euros ($14.50) for ages 12 – 23, and 11Euros ($12) for ages 4-11 as well as for handicapped and those assisting them.

We’ve written to the people who run the Eiffel tower and they agree with us (which is even more frustrating and simply incredulous). Here we have yet another government agency trying to deter tourism of an iconic site that people have saved up all their lives to see. Right now all I’m looking at is a long line of kids desperate to see the world from way up on high and romance in this marvelous story of Paris, waiting and waiting and waiting. It can’t help but be anti-climactic and frustrating.  Guess what, we’ve got one in Vegas – you can’t scale it, but at this rate you can’t scale the one in Paris either. At least in Vegas, the canals of Venice are just a short walk away!  So here goes, in case you’re listening.

Dear Gustave,

You’ve no idea what they are doing to your tower. I know you just built it for the World’s Fair and thought it would be torn down. And lots of people at the time said it’s horrid. But it turns out it’s become the most iconic site in the world. More than the pyramids, even. And I know you probably can’t hear this, but if there is any way you could bring sanity to the bureaucracy that prevents us from seeing your beautiful piece of art, than I would appreciate it.

Faithfully yours,

Peter Jones


Michelin Star Dining – I prefer their tires

Michelin Star Dining. That a tire manufacturer would define THE rating system for fine dining is suspect – until you hear the definition of the ratings.  1-star means that it’s a very good restaurant.  2-stars means the restaurant is worth a detour and 3-stars means it’s worth a special trip.

Out of 690 restaurants listed – there are only 2 Michelin 3-starred restaurants in all of Greater London! I’ve eaten at 1-star, 2-star, but never 3-star restaurants over the course of my travel career. I’ve always found these places to be uptight and the dining experience to be about as relaxing as sleeping on a bed of nails (if you don’t happen to be a trained yogi).  But of course, never able to resist the temptation of an almost impossible to obtain reservation, I found myself trying once more.

I got lured in with a friend to a 2-star restaurant in the English countryside. He had heard that it was difficult to get into, and that always drags me in. So my two cents on 2-star places – it’s a lot of fluffing around. It’s all about foam and froth and portions that are so complicated that you hate to put them in your mouth. It’s not that I like a starter and a main course and a dessert; I actually enjoy several appetizers and sometimes skip the main course. And I like presentation but it almost feels that I’m intruding on somebody else’s domain.  They call it “plating” and it’s not so much about eating as it is about art. Much like the haute couture that makes its way down Parisian runways, this food is inedible by the commoners.  It’s about savoring tiny tastes, complementing wines to courses, and I realize that I’m just not up for that kind of eating. I get that the chef took a lot of time to prepare this stuff. And most of it was delicious. But all the pomp, it just seemed to get in the way of the circumstance, if you know what I mean!


Food in the end should be inviting – it should be enjoyed. I guess the whole Michelin star experience is too formal for me, too much about the chemical, and not so much about the chemistry of a restaurant. The ambience and the waiters are too uptight, the sommelier is too disapproving. Yah I’m glad I returned to the high class star experience just one more time to remind myself that it’s just too good for me. I’m just too much of a common guy to truly appreciate the complexity of the stuff that’s placed in front of me. I would’ve been just as happy with a pork pie or a bacon sandwich.  Or a very lovely piece of Dover Sole.  Oh well, I know my place.

If you can’t resist the idea of Michelin Star dining – here are Ten Michelin Star Restaurants an Hour from London. 


English Champagne

I used to mock the English for their wine. What kind of person could ever choose a bottle of white wine or sparkling white wine over the iconic French houses of the Loire or Champagne regions? Even the Spanish cava or the Italian Asti Spumante gets higher sparkling ratings than an English equivalent…surely? Well no, it’s not like that anymore.

The Brits have discovered the bubbles and even though it’s taken them over a hundred years to figure this out, they’ve also discovered that the soil in Southern England is pretty similar to the soil in Northern France. And why shouldn’t it be, it’s only 25 miles away! Well better late than never, that’s what I say.

I was in a bar at a posh hotel ordering a dull white wine when the bartender (as he should) rescued me with a suggestion that would forever change me – English champagne. Champagne’s not my favorite drink, but every now and again, why not?  I thought what the heck, let’s have a go. He deftly poured a glass out of a bottle labeled Nyetimber. Lumberjacks immediately came to mind. But there is nary a lumberjack in the Nyetimber story.

Cherie Spriggs is the winemaker behind Nyetimber, a perfectionist who in 2012 didn’t bottle a vintage because the grapes were not up to par. She only uses grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) from Nyetimber’s own 152 hectare vineyard in West Sussex.  For her crafting the perfect champagne is an obsession – the result was absolutely delicious.  And you don’t have to trust my sophomoric palate; Nyetimber has won significant awards for its quality, even beating out its neighbor across the channel.  The annual International Wine Challenge  – picture those in the know drinking and judging the finest wines that grapes has to offer and picking the best – awarded the 2009 Nyetimber Classic Cuvee the Gold Medal.

Of course they’re not allowed to call it champagne, but champagne is indeed what it is. And frankly it was as good as any champagne, in my limited experience, I have tasted. So hang on to your horses there and remember what Napa Valley did to Burgundy and Bordeaux! Well, the Brits are coming and winning awards and producing some of the finest sparkling white wine in the business.

For now Nyetimber is only available at retailers in the UK or abroad in Japan and Denmark.

Jeans By any other Name: Nudie

Jeans By any other Name Nudie

So I don’t buy jeans very often, but I landed on some jeans a couple of years ago that actually fit my frame.  Jeans have their brand beat now – the days of just Levi’s and Lees are long gone. Jeans have grown up – they’re not work pants anymore. They’re generation pants – and their price tag has gone up with the buying power of those who like to wear them.  Designer brands have multiplied by the bucket load – bringing in denim from Japan and Italy to further inflate the prices.

So I had landed on a company that I’m embarrassed to say, calls itself “Nudie,” which would indicate jeans as taut and tight as skin itself. So tight in fact, that you would imagine that you weren’t wearing jeans at all, except for a modicum of cover; the skin tight look that frankly belongs with the under 20s.

But these jeans, these Nudies, are a misnomer. There’s nothing skintight about the ones I wear so I unabashedly ordered them online using their normal website. When they arrived they came in a black plastic bag labeled “NUDIE WEBSHOP” and had been sent COD from a Swedish address, looking suspiciously like I had been shopping at an Adult bookstore. That would’ve been fine, but of course I wasn’t the one that received them. I was out of town. And the fact that it was COD required the UPS delivery guy to announce my delivery from NUDIE WEBSHOP to the unsuspecting 20-year old temp receptionist. Then my assistant told her, “Mr. Jones can’t travel without that package.” The receptionist probably wondered what kind of person gets paraphernalia from Nudie Webshop in Sweden. We’re expecting a call from the temp agency any day with a complaint about the strange goings on at our office. So here’s the deal, I’m never going to buy from Nudie again until they change their name and COD policy. COD in this day and age??? Please….


Wandering under the Skylight

Wandering under the Skylight

Serendipity in travel is what I always find provides the moments, the surprises. I was down in Soho strolling around, wandering through the village. I’d walked from 5th Avenue down through Washington Square along Bleecker into Soho and was thinking, wow, I used to come down here all the time in 70s. I ended up on Spring Street and grabbed coffee at some bar and needed to get uptown. The traffic was looking bad and it was raining – thank goodness I had my 2 dollar umbrella with me.  A lovely lady, because I think I looked lost, asked if I needed help and like a lost schoolboy in the rain, I told her, “Mam, I need to get uptown.”  She pointed me all the way down Bleecker Street and off I went.  Who says New Yorkers aren’t nice?

So here’s what I don’t get about the subway in New York. It’s not intuitive; it’s not an Apple product- it’s more like a Microsoft product. It’s not stylish and it’s not simple and it’s almost barely functional. Getting a ticket is a hassle, scanning isn’t brilliant – it cost me $9 for one ticket because the scan didn’t work on the previous two and there was nobody around to help me. And then I went looking for signs that are everywhere in the London Underground and the Paris metro, and guess what, they don’t exist! You have to ask somebody.  Times Square?

And then you jump on the wrong train, not the express train and you realize it’s going to take an hour to get up town, so you jump off and get on the right train, and then you have to peer out of the window to see what station you’re at. There are no maps in the carriages except a tiny one at the very end that you can’t see. So I got off at Grand Central and walked about 5 miles to get across town on another train that takes you to 42nd Street and I have to say that the whole experience was awful. I mean everybody complains about Boston and how it’s a little toy town train, but the subway in NY, honestly, sucks. It’s grimy and overcrowded and hot and unclear. But I made it.

And this is why I love travel. As I came out of the subway, it was still raining and then I was guided by the lights.  When you walk in New York you zigzag with the lights and there I came across the most remarkable sight, a show I had been dying to see in London called Skylight was in previews on Broadway with Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan and I landed a ticket. Pure and fabulous coincidence that made my day. So thank you subway for delivering me to the not quite right place, and thank you chaotic New York for zigzagging me past a theater I would not have passed if the lights had led me elsewhere.