In the relatively tiny town of beautiful Stavanger in Norway, I woke up this morning and looked out of my window and thought I would be peering across the gorgeous harbor I recalled from the evening before.
So, imagine my surprise and shock when I thought a building had gone up overnight about 20 yards away from the hotel. But wait. The building had boats on the side. And every apartment had a little Balcony.
And of course , I knew that Nightmare on Crooze street had arrived! They come in all sorts of sizes. This one was 6000 passengers. They descend like a fog on the town and 200 guides get to work with their flags and numbers as the inhabitants wonder off onto dry land to seek out a sight.
I’m not against them. They serve a purpose. They keep people traveling when otherwise it would be difficult. They are for an older generation. And travel is always better than not. But why 6000? Food is included, so local restaurants gain little. Museums are blocked from the normal traveler. Imagine 6 cruise ships arriving in a major port of Rome. 36000 people trying to get into the Vatican and the Colosseum. 1200 guides. Capacity reached before the month begins.
Just a thought. My rather nice view was blocked by a nightmare on Crooze street! Count me out!!
I am more of a sardine person. I admire the herring culture but have rarely succumbed to it. Starting with weather. Usually always less than optimal but with more warnings about sun damage and not withstanding lack of opportunities for solar development it might have possibilities. But, it’s basically crap. Quality of life index. Very strong. Infrastructure? Top marks.
Taxes high but everything is included. Health care and education are best. Possibility of strikes? Zero. Apathy zero. Road conditions. Perfect. Train schedules – on time. Queues orderly. Humor – borderline Politicians. Honest Herrings. Plentiful. Sardines.
The other story. Plenty of sun. Wildfires and volcanoes. Plentiful. Strikes. Plentiful. Healthcare and education. Sub optimal. Trains. Variable. Roads. Not maintained. Service and apathy. Bad and high. Queues. Shambles. Guides. Rambling. Humor. Plentiful. Politicians. Corrupt. Mafia plentiful.
But here we go, into the heart of the Herring land, Norway. Land of Vikings and the midnight sun.
It’s a technique I have come to admire. Spending some time in both China and Japan, I find myself eating slower and enjoying the food more. So, what is the deal with chopsticks. They date back 7000 years. Originated in China and the English word derives from Kuaizi meaning quick and bamboo. My dad always used the expression chop chop which meant get a move on! Ironic as they define literally to slow down. Confucius forbade knives on the table and chopsticks were perfect as a compliment to precutting. Knives in the kitchen. Not in the hands of the customers. After all they might have found other ways to show their dislike of the dish.
I travel a lot. Always Friday night. It’s strange because when I was a kid, every Friday we had dinner from the fish and chip shop down the road. The sign outside read Frying Tonight! It was a weekly thing. Wrapped in newspaper, greasy and delicious with lots of salt and malt vinegar. The tradition of fish and chips stretches back to the 19th century. Origins are cloudy but it looks secure that it was both a Lancashire dish and an East London staple. Sephardic Jews brought the dish to London, and poverty and the sea brought the dish to the north. Oldham they say! Chips were cheap. Hence the saying. Cheap as chips! And deep fried was tasty and transformed boring potatoes into golden delicious hot salty delicacies. Cheap fish was used. Haddock or Rock Salmon. Nothing to do with Salmon.
During the second world war, food shortage was challenging, and everything was rationed. Except fish and chips. And so, it became a staple of the diet in Britain. Nobody really loved fish, but coat with batter and deep fry it with chips thrown in and cut the grease with vinegar and then pour salt over the lot. Now you’re talking! Is it any wonder that the Brits got a bad rap on food. Nowadays, its trendy. In cool and chic restaurants fish and chips with mushy peas is a staple! Considered still to be the consummate dish of the British Isles. Voted each year the most famous institution in England after the monarchy! Long may it reign!
There is believe it or not, a World Cup Tiramisu tournament in Treviso each year. Now in its 6th year it has two categories. Original and creative. So, I guess gold medals for two which seems fair. They say Treviso is the birthplace of the dish. Invented by Alba Campeol in the early 1960’s from her restaurant Le Beccherie. Inspired by a breakfast recipe of egg yolks and sugar (zabaglione) with espresso it was a sort of energizer to start the day. It literally means “pick me up from down” and I often wonder why people prefer to have it as a dessert that is guaranteed to keep you up all night. It’s probably because it’s so simply delicious and in restaurants it’s easy to prepare and store. So…Best Tiramisu. Better with with alcohol but not mandatory! Egg yolks and sugar folded into whites with marscapone. Savoiardi or lady fingers then soaked with espresso and rum and decorated with grated chocolate.
It’s one of two desserts I always choose. The other is crème Brûlée. But I would say it prefer the Italian to the French!
I have been to many places in Greece. The Peloponnesus , many of the beautiful islands and of course Athens. We had stayed on Corfu for a few days. As is the case in so many Greek islands, the influence of the Venetians is everywhere. But we had a ferry to catch and I had never been to Meteora. We drove from Igounamitza. To the hill town of Metzgo. We arrived in Meteora at sunset. It was a beautiful crisp September evening. I couldn’t believe the apparition in the distance. Huge mountains arising from the plains below. Lights on the top. Monasteries. We stayed at a great hotel, ate at a fabulous restaurant with a train whizzing by everything 15 minutes about 10 yards from the table. We woke up to a great day and drove to the principal mountain and climbed for an hour. Reveled in the history, in awe of how they built these monasteries up here, how they maintained this tradition for so long. We continued to Thessaloniki at the end of the day. Tomorrow sightseeing of this second largest city in Greece. Another day in magical Greece.
I have never been to the museum at the Invalides. I missed it on my travels. Never took the time. A mistake. It was hot yesterday in Paris and I headed off to Napoleon’s tomb but was meeting up with someone at the museum. And then a travel moment. In the heat of the day, in the main courtyard, it became clear that there were dignitaries arriving. A band had assembled. The inner courtyard had been closed. And we raced up to the next level to catch the parade. And what a parade. A presentation of medals. The band played the Marseillaise. And then it was done. I walked back to Napoleons tomb. It was air conditioned so i stayed a while longer. What an indulgent guy. Big place for after life. Pyramid stuff. Beautiful tourist place. Another incredible Paris sight. So many of them. Never tires. Travel Changes lives!
Last person in…. Arrived late into Athens. There was a transportation strike so traffic was unbearable. I got to the hotel late, but it was still light and I strolled through the Plaka and decided that as I was here for one night only, I would fast walk to the Acropolis. It was a good climb through the streets of the Plaka and I could see the imposing hill outside of the Acropolis on my left as I kept walking. I eventually arrived by the entrance and then the guy broke the news, We are closed! I pleaded. I just wanted to see the top. I wouldn’t take long. Eventually he caved. If you can buy a ticket, I will let you in. OK. So, I went down to the ticket office just behind the entrance. The ticket office woman was unhelpful. We are closed. Its 6:30. Sorry!
Then I had the brainwave. I NEED A TICKET FOR TOMORROW I SAID. Tomorrow. Oh, fine. She gave me the ticket and I popped back to my guy at the gate. Handed him the tomorrows entrance ticket, he looked at me, smiled and waved me through. The last person in! The Acropolis looked stunning that night. I was lucky to have had a “travel moment.” I watched the soldiers take the flag down during the nightly ritual and climbed back down. Last in. Last out. What a trip!
Its tucked away in a modern enclave off Mercer Street in Covent Garden. It once was headquartered on Long Acre but moved just before Covid to its new quarters. It is without a doubt, the most amazing travel bookstore in the world. Opened by Edward Stanford in 1853, it was primarily a mapmaker’s shop. It opened at the height of colonial exploration and cartography was in great demand. It has the largest collection of maps, globes and maritime charts in the world. It is an amazing place. Adapted to modern times, it survived the onslaught of internet commerce, became a truly international shopping place for all its wares and I have to say, if I had to spend 2 hours in a bookstore every day, this would be the place I would stay.
As a traveler, surrounded by globes, maps, books and guides and knowledgeable people who work there. It’s my favorite place to hang out. Nearest tube is Covent Garden. And one thing is for sure. Guidebooks remain more useful in print than online. They work perfectly. And if you only need a piece of a thick guidebook and can’t carry the whole book with you, tear out the bits you need, peacefully…and save them as a segment for someone else.
Just a snippet of important info if you are renting a car anywhere in Europe. Learn stick shift. The price differentials are staggering. On a recent trip to Crete, the price per day of a regular rental car was 30 Euros. For a stick shift. For automatic. $200.
Bottom line. If you don’t know how, learn or take insurance for full coverage and learn on the fly. After all, when riding stick, once the car takes speed, you are basically in automatic mode and when you come to a traffic light, you can always knock the car into neutral! Just a thought. It will save you 700 Euros a week.
Maybe I am in the minority. The beach thing. I love what Italians call the stabilimenti. The organized beach structures that are scattered along the Italian coastline. Complete with chairs, changing cabins, showers and umbrellas. Originating in Tuscany in the early 19th century, they were conceived as a health retreat that protected privacy and became a fad along the coast lines. Rimini, Lido Venezia, all would be scooped up by the summer stabilimenti. Once the bikini was invented in 1946 and Italy shook off its fascist past, they became almost iconic as part of the furniture of the Italian coast line.
Spiaggia libera or stabilimento? Nowadays the price per month of an umbrella and two beds on a beach in Italy is around $1000. And you own them temporarily.
You are allocated a spot, and no matter what, if you have paid, that spot is yours until the lease runs out! Recently a bill in parliament was debated concerning the seizure of prime spots in the stabilimento. The early towel placers seizing prime location and disappearing until later in the day. Talk of a stabilimeto policing was discussed. Now, in a world where we have a good share of complications in general, it seems absolutely wonderful to imagine that this is being discussed in Italy while the country is perilously close to a return to Mussolini politics! Although in the end, it doesn’t matter. Its Italy. Nothing will really change. Except the government. 20 different prime ministers over 75 years! Ah. Italia!
“Ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball…” The Who
I love Brighton. I went to university there. I used to go on day trips when I was young, and even walked to Brighton with a few of my mates when I guess we had nothing better to do. 50 miles. Through the night. Stopped at every pub until they closed on us. Ah. The folies of youth. So, here I was on the London Brighton train for a college reunion of sorts. The train journey from Victoria takes 1 hour. Memories of youth as we sped across the English countryside enroute to the sea. I took a cab to the Hotel du Vin. Recommended as it’s in the “Lanes” and central to everything you need. We took the train out to Falmer, wandered around the university campus, rekindled memories of what I could barely remember and then headed back to the fun of Brighton proper.
Brighton became famous in the late 18 century as a vacation spot for the Prince regent, later George IV. Architect John Nash built the famous Brighton Pavilion in in the early 19th century just for him…decadent to say the least. Towards the end of the 19th century, the two famous Victorian piers were erected. Although the west Pier was “wiped out” in a storm. It has a metal skeletal frame and is preserved out in the sea for a potential future project. The Palace Pier, with its iconic fun, fair, roller coaster and slide still remains. I think the Santa Monica pier is modeled on it.
Brighton is famous for its labyrinthian lanes with shops and restaurants inside the tiny world of narrow alleyways that spill onto the seafront. Brighton is often called London by the sea. It has the buzz of a cool neighborhood in London, but with the super advantage of a sea front and a mix of traditional and modern scattered by the boat houses along the lower front. Sushi and jellied eels! Beyond Brighton, much to see. Lewes and Rottingdean stand out. I love the buzz of the place. If I lived in England, I think I would consider living in Brighton. But that’s another story. Another day!
I have been coming to Rome for nearly half a century. Following the same route into town. Turn left onto the Aventine, drive along the perimeter of the Palatine, Circus Maximus below, right past the Bocca de Verita, past the Teatro Marcello on the left, slow down by the stairs of the Cordonata and the majestic entrance to the Campidoglio where Castor and Pollux stand guard, around to the Grand whiteness of the Vittorio Emanuel building and the Piazza Venezia and you have covered 2000 years of history. And I always smile at the thought on my mind. It never gets old. The days are too hot, for sure. Blistering sun attacking the faithful tourists who struggle over those ancient cobbled stones. Trailing behind their guides and translators. Armed with headsets and hats to ward of the suns venomous rays. Desperate for that water fountain, the grateful residual remains of roman ingenuity and baroque decoration or the shade of a statue that has been providing cover for 5 hundred years. And it all seems so hot and impossible and then the sun breaks and evening time settles in, and the colors start their magical transformation. And then you realize that the show has just begun.
It has to be strange to have the most beautiful city in the world accolade. Unquestionably Paris. And yet the most dreadful welcome hubs. Charles de Gaulle airport and Gare du Nord. Planes and trains. Why do they do it to us. Not a city in the European stratosphere has such bad opening acts. And that’s important. I would love to feel blown away at the beginning. The station or airport. I think of Heathrow and St. Pancras. Fabulous and cities unto themselves. The city of Paris is the goal scorer. Incredible and breathtaking. At evening light or in the harsh light of the day. Its stunning! But it would be lovely to jump off the train at the Gare du Nord and feel…. wow. Instead of Help! To try to feel positive about Charles de Gaulle instead of wondering where the gate is and why am I in the wrong bit of the terminal. Come on Paris. Let’s be as sensational at the beginning as you are once the game kicks in!
With the melting pot of a new administration, Trump travel paranoia, anticipated holdups in immigration entering the USA, and a strong dollar, international travel inbound to the USA has decreased. Add to that there is an increased likelihood of the laptop ban in the Middle East countries being expanded into other countries and the USA as a destination starts to feel the pinch in terms of dollars.
The fares for international travel have also dropped as airlines are trying to lure Americans outside the country with great deals in land and air. Domestic airfares, on the other hand, have increased as more Americans are staying at home. It is going to be an interesting period for travel this summer. The discounted European airlines are disrupting the regular stakeholders and consumers are benefiting across the international skies. There are phenomenal deals on Turkish Airlines at the moment if you are willing to go that route. Turkish is one of the largest airlines in the world with feeder flights across the European landscape. Good news for Europeans is that in spite of the recent terrorist incidents, London reports strong traffic and Athens, perceived safe, is up by a whopping 41%. So the Americans are on the move but the Euros are staying put. In the Caribbean and Central America, Zika is still a massive negative for young families. Bottom line is that there are deals to be had, places to go, and people to see. It’s time to leave the house and go through the garden gate.