Travel is always on my mind. Jumping on an airplane. Carbon footprint. Heading into a place that is unstable. Why do we travel, however uncomfortable? Thing is. We do. Maybe because our tourist dollars are needed just as much as aid.
It’s never an easy choice but travelers are also time travelers. We head back in time. We walk through ancient roads and listen to languages we don’t understand.
We carry back stories and inspire others to go see.
Maybe that is ok. It’s a fine line. What do you think? What encourages you to travel?
Remember those days of money where cash was King? Well, traveling throughout Europe is changing faster than you can put your credit card down.
Scandinavian countries are not in the Euro currency yet. Norway is not even in the EU. The UK disastrously voted out of Europe and never went into the Euro currency. So how to deal with Euros?Pounds? Danish? Norwegian and Swedish Krona?!
How much money should I bring? In Norway, I asked a young person at the hotel where the nearest ATM was! She had no idea what I was talking about. She confessed she had not used cash in two years. She never took her credit card with her. She simply tapped her phone. Apple Pay.
And so I have been experimenting. A bag of potato chips here. A coffee there. No cash. Just tap. I have tried it in France. Same thing. Tap. Subway London Tap. No oyster card. Taxi Tap. And I thought of all the cash that simply doesn’t get circulated anymore. In pubs, cafes and corner stores. The ATM looks lonely. Cash is kind of dirty. Coins are a pain. Our mobile devices have taken on a new life. Travel just became a lot easier!
How do you handle your money when you travel? Comment below.
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.
You must go to Egypt. It’s amazing. Since travel opened, I have been thinking pf this place for a while. Luxor, the Nile, the Pyramids, the museum, and the marketplace. All the memories of a long time ago came flooding back…Nile humor…I remember I bought a mummy and a pyramid when I went to the market, Crossed the Nile several times, didn’t see a crocodile or a Hippo and honestly was in awe at the history of the place. Its insane. The Romans were in love with the Egyptians. Adopted burial practices from them and leave is with clear art from the period of occupation that we have no access to anywhere else in the world. The Romans were so influenced and enamored by Egyptian history and ways that Caius Cestus even had a pyramid specifically made for him that suits developed by the Roman walls. Completed in 12 BC it took just two months to complete. Modest compared to the huge Pyramids of Giza, but no less impressive in this lesser-known spot near the Protestant cemetery.
Egyptian stone pyramids are the oldest. But Mexico and indeed Brazil has its share of ancient sites. The stairways to heaven.
It’s a bit like Cairo. When you get to arrive in the main arrival terminal and need to transfer across to the domestic terminal, it’s a little chaotic. Not entirely clear and yet somehow it all works. I found myself standing in the queue with other passengers and a wedding couple. She was resplendent in her beautiful dress and the heavy train she needed to pick up as she was heading onto the plane. I even had an assist as she absolutely needed help handling the bags. And there we were, in a coach with a newly married bride and groom and I was the only one that looked surprised. Welcome to Egypt!
Crazy traffic, crazy, markets winding through narrow old lanes, and buildings getting pulled down to clear out the slums and move half of the city to a new Capital. The NAC. New Cairo. Th project in Cairo has started. A city of 25 million people. Half of them to be moved to this new place not far from Giza. The Egyptian Museum is moving out there too in what will be the most ambitious project in Museum history. It will be the largest museum of antiquities in the world. With views across the dessert to the Pyramids and the Sphinx. But the Cairo I recalled is still there. Still with the Kan al Khaleli bazaar and the mosque outside the narrow streets. The beautiful old building of the Egyptian museum feeling more like a house that is being packed up. Mummies and boxes side by side and difficult to see what is what. There is of course the main attraction. King Tut. No photos in there but the incredible golden display is still as breathtaking as ever. And it has been around the world a few times. Poor guy! The museum sits close by to Tahrir square. Lots of shops and restaurants and if you look one way you might think you were in a modern European city but look the other way and you see it differently. Bikes and carts and people walking through the middle of the street. They say that not even 10 per cent of cars are insured in Egypt. They all look like they have had some issues. Crossing the road is a sheer act of wonder and maybe madness. My Italian training could not even prepare for the crossing. Cars simply drive around you and somehow you feel that it’s a miracle when you arrive on solid ground once more. That is Cairo. The markets, the sounds the traffic and the chaos. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
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!
So here is the thing about Greek Islands. They are fabulous. Turquoise waters, fun in the evenings, dining around a horseshoe harbor, dancing to the beat of traditional music, grilled fish and octopus and Greek salad, Wow, But when you are traveling, there needs often to be something else. Something beyond the hedonism and sun worshipping. That is why Crete is such an interesting place.
It is the most southern island in the Greek islands and runs parallel to Cyprus and its Italian neighbor Sicily. So, the weather stays warm deep into October. It’s a big Island with vast differences in terrain and full of mountains and gorges and spectacular scenery as you drive around the edges. The interior is high and dramatic and quite green. Mt. Ida is 8,000 feet and full of snow in the winter. You can ski it, but there is no ski infrastructure. For purists only.
The Samaria Gorge is the largest gorge in Europe, 18 kilometers long and more gorges less imposing close by. There are Venetian harbors and Chania and Rethymnon are sensational seaports. The most beautiful beaches in all of Greece are found on the island. And then there is this ancient city of Knossos near Heraklion that sort of blows you away. 4,000 years old. A Minoan civilization operating around the same time as the Pharaohs in Egypt. This is the bronze age. And a reliably restored and ancient collection of temples and stairways and vases juxtaposed alongside the dreadful new town. But here it is. We arrived late. One hour before closing. No crowds. A few guides hanging around looking for tourists to take them around. And we almost had the place to ourselves. The most ancient city in our western civilization. Minoans. Here we have some semblance of their story before a series of calamities befell them and the Myceneans took over, until they too, were wiped out by an earthquake. The palace is preserved and restored and we owe much to Arthur Evans the English Archaeologist whose statue stands in the grounds of the palace. If you have the time and can avoid the crowds , this is a special visit amidst the intense natural spectacle called Crete.
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.
How struck we all were by the display of pageantry and pomp at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Everyone said the same thing. The British do this stuff the best. Precision and color on a sad day. Castles and Palaces and people who look similar, slowly trotting behind the funeral car. People queuing for up to 22 hours to walk past the coffin in Westminster Abbey. Constant coverage on the BBC. Commentators provided background in whispered tones. And then we all were glued. Whether you were a monarchist or a republican. It didn’t matter on that extraordinary day. A peek into royalty, even though the family were a little smudged by drama and scandal, it made it even more fascinating. And then to see a transfer of succession, live on TV. Something we have never witnessed before. The drama of the walk along the Mall from Westminster to Buck House, the procession along the Long walk in Windsor and the absolute precision of every moment. Since 1066, more or less, an uninterrupted monarchy living in a castle and a few stately homes and functioning in what is now a symbolic way, but vital for the people of the UK. Theatre and Royalty. And the most popular icon in the world. The Queen. Now gone. Long live the King.