Tag Archives: Travel Blog

Visiting Germany’s Baden Baden

All I knew about the German city of Baden Baden was that it was a famous spa town.  But I also recall the English football team had boot camped there with their WAGS one infamous tournament of which there have been so many.  So I equated it with failure, inevitability, and the hopelessness of England to ever be successful at soccer again after one great and surreal moment in 1966.  Off I went to visit Baden Baden and try to heal the memories and expunge the dreadfulness of overpaid footie players.

Baden Baden is really quite a short drive from Strasbourg.  The border between the two
countries, France and Germany, is evident and comes upon you quickly.  It’s dull and ironically is marked by a mosque at what was the checkpoint. One brief autobahn ride and within an hour we found ourselves in this very beautiful and well-manicured town.  There were tons of fancy hotels with spa facilities advertised everywhere.  There is an elegant long ascent up a wide series of well-kept gardens.  There was a delightful clay court tennis club that looked like it had been there for years, it had a turn of the 19th century fell about it and its doors were open to whoever fancied a game.  A rushing river cut through the center of the gardens and people were strolling along its banks as if they were in a French impressionist painting.  It was so damn civilized.

There were lots of Range Rovers and Audis but nothing too flashy.  It was very much a Sunday place.  In fact, every day, I imagine, seems like Sunday here.  Women with hats and couples arm in arm.  We grabbed a good lunch at a belle époque restaurant.  The food was a welcome relief from the heavy meat meal of its neighbor over the border.  All I could think about was how this region had been tossed around like a tennis ball in that clay court for 50 years.  I didn’t get to go to a spa.  It seemed complicated and difficult to figure out how to gain entrance. You knew the spas were somewhere but it just didn’t seem that if you wanted to go for a spa holiday, you would
choose this place.  Maybe it wasn’t sexy enough or accessible enough.  Or maybe I just missed it!  Baden Baden is absolutely worth a visit.  It’s beautiful and it even had a couple of Sequoia trees towering in the gardens.  How strange that at the top end of the town, beyond the hotels, something that seemed so terribly northern Californian was front and center.  Redwoods.  California, Germany.  Go figure.

 

What Do You Love About Telluride?

I had a credit from the Hotel Madeline in Telluride, CO.  They were kind enough to roll the credit from a canceled reservation a year ago over to a new reservation this year.  So my son and I hit Telluride.  I had never been before although I had heard lots about it.  We both love to ski so this seemed like a perfect storm.

Getting to Telluride is not easy.  It’s more or less impossible to drive from Denver (6 hours) so a flight to Montrose Airport is the usual way in and that’s what we did.  Montrose is a strange place.  One hour and a half drive from Telluride, it couldn’t be farther.  There is a great diner there, Starvin Arvins, where the eggs and corn beef hash are exceptional.  The waitresses all wear pumps and the clientele can look very different to us folks from the eastern territories.  Not more than 20 minutes from Montrose is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  The canyon is as deep as the Grand Canyon but not as wide.  It was spectacular in the early morning mist to see this giant chasm in a national park right next door to a very bland, modern town like Montrose.

An hour and a half later we arrived in Telluride. The town is really two towns. Mountain Village is essentially the new town.  It’s built along the lines of all American ski resorts with plenty of large fire pits, bars, and fake old new buildings.  However, it was functional and had great access to the lifts.  The Hotel Madeleine was right there – literally just a hop to the lifts.  We were taking advantage of my credit.  Actually, the hotel itself was a bit of a standout.  It had a nice pool, although not big enough to do lengths in, fabulous twin outside jacuzzis, a great steam room, and a slightly overpriced breakfast buffet.

There is a gondola that serves the new town and the old town.  It runs from early in the morning to midnight.  You can ski off at the midpoint or simply use it as public transportation between the two towns.  I loved this facility.  It’s also free and paid for by the state of Colorado as a form of public transportation.  I always think of great moments in travel like the Venice motor launch in from the airport.  This was one of those moments.  At the end of the day just before sunset, we would ride the gondola down to the old town.  Telluride is high up at 13,000 feet so these trips were spectacular and the ride down was thrilling every night.

I really loved this place.  Loved the old clipper mining town and the restaurants down there.  We ate well every night and the tacos at Taco Del Gnar are cheap and amazing.  There was an Italian restaurant close to the gondola that was good but not standout.  But everything was amazing every night especially Rustico and 221 South Oak.  At the top of Telluride, there is a fabulous place to break up the day called Alpino Vino.  It’s the highest restaurant in North America at 13,000 feet.  On a sunny day in the right place and a great table, you can see forever.  Telluride has a population of 2,000 people, seven dispensaries, and some of the best skiing in the Rocky Mountains with great restaurants.  Something for everyone.

 

Where oh Where is Strasbourg?

The territory of Alsace-Lorraine is not quite France but very much a part of it.  We were headed to Strasbourg, the capital of the territory, to see this beautiful city that sits on the Rhine and its tributaries.  It has fabulous wines and is the center of power for the European Parliament.  Who knows, this would potentially be for me a last look at what it was like to see a Union Jack outside the Parliament building after Brexit.

Strasbourg is foremost a beautiful town – it’s very German in feel and therefore very organized.  There are great restaurants and the pedestrian zone around the massive cathedral is worth the visit.  It has this very Euro feeling to it and houses the second largest university in France.  The constantly circulating river boats do sightseeing tours and allow you to see the beautiful old buildings adorning the river.  There is lots of sightseeing activity on the river boats and at night, a walk to the main square to see the cathedral is an absolutely spectacular stroll.  We ate in a couple of good Alsace restaurants and likely had way too much meat but greatly enjoyed the Rieslings and Pinot Blancs.  It’s one of the few times that I allow myself to indulge in sautéed foie gras.

What is cool about this city is that it’s a base to visit two other spectacular nearby places – Baden Baden and Colmar.  For a French teacher, Colmar is a must and Baden Baden is a fabulous add-on across the border.  We even got to see a baseball game outside the EU parliament.  How strange, especially since baseball, so they say, is on the decline and soccer is on the rise.  It seems here in the heart of Europe a flicker of faith was keeping the old ball game alive.  Meanwhile, the Union Jack was flying high; a last flutter of the flag to denote that the great European experiment, alive and well everywhere, and created after the disaster of the second world war, was getting red carded in the U.K.  Go on Scotland, declare independence and leave Auntie Britain and go live with your less superior relatives, The Euros.  Ireland seems much happier living with its European neighbors since its divorce in 1922!

 

Positano Pietro Place Peter Jones

Positano and the Island of Capri

So if you had to choose a place in all of Italy to hang out for a few days in super-luxury, relatively car-free, and using a boat to access restaurants and islands nearby, where would you choose?

I would choose Positano in late September.

Positano is one of those rare places that you find that has just about everything with some gorgeous hotels (Le Sirenuse and Hotel Covo dei Saraceni) and some very cool restaurants that you either have to walk along the cliffs to or rent a private boat to access.  Positano has a constant flow of ferry traffic as it serves all the way through the end of September as a main jumping off point for tourists from Sorrento and a jumping on point for tourists to get to the island of Capri.  The beach is typical of this area – stony with plenty of stabilimenti. The water is clear although it is good to stay inside of the swimming lanes because of the boat traffic.

I had not been to Capri for more than 30 years so we rented a boat and sailed clear around the island.  We landed at the Marina Grande and went to the Marina Piccola for a swim.

Capri is good for a day; no more, and maybe a bit less.

It was good to go but it was crowded and the wait on the funicular was not worth it.  The cab drivers all seemed to be satiated for business.  To make it worse, the water was choppy so the famous Blue Grotto was not available.  One thing’s for sure, Capri is beautiful but no Greek island.

Positano is spectacular and has almost the enchantment of a Greek island.

The colorful houses as they sit along the horseshoe cliff face are like no other in the world.  The smell of lemons in the lemon groves pervade this place.  The fact that you can buy fresh mozzarella di bufala makes this one of the great wonderlands of Italian cuisine.  It’s expensive, it’s trendy, it’s glitzy, and it’s a bit of a hassle to get to, but honestly, for three or four days at least once in your life, you should give yourself up to Positano.  Tom Brady did while he was sitting out his four games for Deflategate.  My only regret was that I didn’t bump into Gisele while taking my morning cappuccino.  We were there at the same time!

Capri Positano Pietro Place Peter JonesCapri Positano Pietro Place Peter Jones Capri Positano Pietro Place Peter Jones

 

Flying over London Pietro Place Peter Jones

Flying High Over London

I’m originally from London so I know the city pretty much back to front.

Nowadays though I tend to see it more as a tourist and probably enjoy a lot more of the sights than I ever would if I lived there.  Usually when I fly transatlantic to London, the flight pattern follows the western parts of the city and picks up the Thames just around the airport area close to Windsor, Eton, and Runnymede where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215.  Sometimes, if you sit in a holding pattern low enough, you get a wonderful tour of the city center before making final landing.

But the other day the flight pattern coming from another European city was decidedly different.

This time, flying over London took us full along the Thames from the eastern stretches of outer London all the way through the center.

It was a sight to behold.  We passed over the mouth of the Thames where Dover sole fish farms ply their trade and eels are caught for the English delicacy of…horror upon horrors, jellied eels.

Literally we seemed to trace the old docklands which had been replaced by brand new developments around Canary Wharf, past The O2, and over the Emirates gondola before we started to get into the new city development – the skyscrapers with funky names like the Gherkin, the Shard, and the Walkie Talkie.  This was the new London and we were flying above it at around 20,000 feet.  The pilot seemed to be enjoying the view as much as we did and he made a couple of announcements pointing to the developments on the river below.

It was strange to see old London squeezed in between the skyscrapers and the ancient river below.  There was the tiny-looking Tower of London and the omnipresent Tower Bridge, London’s iconic and still used drawbridge.  Everybody in the plane, whatever side you were looking at, had a treat to behold.  St. Paul’s Cathedral was on the right, the Tate Modern on the left, and the London Eye straight ahead…did I miss 12th century Southwark Cathedral in the middle of it all?  We passed Westminster, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Lambeth Palace, just a stone’s throw from where I grew up, and still we kept on following the Thames.

As we started to run out of sights, the plane banked slightly and we caught a glimpse of Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace.

I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a better or more impressive city to fly into than London.  I don’t think so.

 

Corsica Pietro Place Peter Jones

Getting Lost in Corsica

It’s tough to find a place in the Mediterranean that is not overrun by tourists, especially the hordes from the north who populate and destroy the character of places in Spain and Portugal.

But there are times to visit the Mediterranean and there are places during those times that remain relatively untouched by the scourge of modern tourism.

Corsica is one of them.

One hour from Paris by plane or a slow boat from Marseilles will get you to this magical island that sits just off of the coast of southern France, west of the Italian peninsula, and north of the island of Sardinia.  I made the most delightful wrong turn upon arrival in the airport and what should have been a 35-minute drive to the picturesque town of Saint-Florent, turned out with my GPS to be a two-and-a-half-hour journey through the hinterland, climbing mountain tops, and going through several weather changes, on my way back to, as it turns out, the airport!

As I discovered, Google Maps has bouts of unreliability nevermore than when you need it most.

But we covered mountain passes, pig farms, delightful stone villages, and oodles of bougainvillea that acted as hedge rose.

Driving was a little dicey but with my stick shift knowledge I was able to navigate some treacherous climbs and take a few stops to grab some time to take in the scenery.  The scenery in this mountainous island was spectacular.  Even in June there were 8,500 foot peaks of snowcapped mountains peering down across the turquoise Mediterranean Sea.

I had been to Sardinia some 30 years ago but this landscape was altogether different.

Eventually we picked up the road that we had ought to have picked up on the drive from the airport and started all over again.  As it turns out, the confusion was because the sign for Saint-Florent had been crossed out by some angry Corsican separatists which left only the sign in Corsican that looked completely different.

A combination of Corsican separatists and Google Maps had conspired to give me an incredible introduction to this magical island!

Corsica Pietro Place Peter Jones Corsica Pietro Place Peter Jones Corsica Pietro Place Peter Jones

Renting a Car in Europe

Things to Beware of When Renting a Car in Europe

Renting a car in Europe can be not quite as easy as you think.

First of all – the insurance.  Call your credit card company and make sure what you think is insured is insured.  The cost of a rental car can literally double per day if you take the rental car’s suggested insurance options.  Your credit card should cover you for all of the insurance that you need.  But there is a catch – the credit card company is simply going to back up your own insurance if there is a problem.  Thus, if you have an accident overseas, the credit card company will first go to your USA auto insurance policy and look for the coverage there.  If they cannot find it, then they will back you up.  But it’s not certain, it’s complicated, it’s time consuming, and as always, it is simply designed as a way for insurance companies to avoid the risk of something happening.  It’s sort of like the ad, they cover for zombie invasion but an accident in a car may not be covered by your insurance!  So when travelling overseas, just make sure that that is sealed tight.

Second, it also goes without saying that you should fill the tank before you drop the car off.

It’s another way for rental car companies to screw the living daylights out of you.

Lastly, and through no fault of the rental agencies, Europe is a lot hipper and sneakier than the USA in terms of speeding tickets or general fines.

To begin with, do not be fooled because you never see a cop parked in a hidden driveway or somebody staring at you with the speed gun.  In Europe it is all done with cameras and as soon as the camera catches you speeding and flashes, you’re done.  What that means is that there is no 10 mph forgiveness zone that most of the time is granted in the USA.  If you are traveling at 66 km/h in a 60 km/h limit, the speed camera will go off.  You’ve been caught on camera.  Eventually that fine will make its way to the rental company and the rental company eventually will hit you with that ticket with extra surcharges because obviously it’s late in payment.  Fines can be high and rental car companies do not provide information about this.  Europeans are very aware of the cameras and in France, the UK, and Italy there are cameras everywhere.

Good news is that the speed cameras have lowered the average speed of drivers and have saved thousands of lives.  The bad news is that it is a source of revenue for the local authorities.  Same with parking tickets.  What used to be easy with a rental car is not so easy anymore.  The fine will eventually get back to you with late surcharges and you could end up with a bill on your credit card from the rental agencies up to one year later (which they are allowed to do).  Just because the Europeans have a higher speed limit than the USA, it doesn’t mean you can speed like the old days.  You will pay for it one way or another.

Image courtesy of http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/overseas/.

Day Flight

The BA Day Flight

How I love that day flight.

You can work through the day on the plane, arrive looking roughly the same as when you left, and get to enjoy a great meal in London before you begin your journey.  Or better still, grab a hotel night at the incredibly convenient Sofitel that is situated at Terminal 5 at Heathrow.  This hotel is a dream especially if your onward connection the following day is on British Airways and therefore in Terminal 5.

British Airways operates day flights from New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Boston.

The flight time from Boston is 5 hours and 50 minutes and while it is not recommendable for people who are trying to save a hotel night by sleeping on an airplane seat, the difference in a healthy travel experience and a somewhat acceptable looking human being emerging from the plane is well worth it.  The great news is that during the summer months you can connect all the way through to Paris (if you are a BA fan) or to more exotic places like Palma in Mallorca (I’m a big fan).

Imagine – you depart Boston at 8:10 am, do some work, watch a movie, connect through to Paris, and by midnight you can be sitting down in a restaurant on the Boulevard Saint Germain, as I did in the Café Louise.

At that point it is still only 7pm in the evening on Boston time.  True confession: I am a secret addict of the day flight.

Soccer

The Barbarian Invasion – The Dark Side of Soccer

It’s the start of soccer mania.

The greatest game in the world is everywhere this summer. There is the Copa America in the USA, the European Nations Cup in France, and not to mention soccer at the Olympics in Brazil.  This is definitely a summer for los fanáticos.  Carried live on TV in the USA, there is not a day that goes by when some important game is not catching the eye of the devotees.

But there is a dark side to soccer as demonstrated recently in the beautiful port city of southern France, Marseille.

The ugly side of ultra-nationalist thugs fighting against an opposing teams’ army of thugs or tearing apart local restaurants and bars and fighting with the police.  It should not be this way but soccer quite often has a dark side.  This summer it has again reared its ugly head.

When we choose to travel, we travel to open our minds, embrace different cultures, take a chance on speaking a language that we are unfamiliar with, and get close to the sights and sounds of a place that is unfamiliar.

In brief, learn and enrich yourself with the tools of the trade – tolerance, openness, and kindness.  With this, and a guide book or willingness to get lost, one can take a chance with a phrase or two, and get to meet people from different places with different languages, different religions, and different perspectives.  When I see the dark side of soccer, I see such a misconnect between the beautiful game and what this ultra-minority of racist hooligans take from the sport.

Here’s the deal – it’s not their sport, it’s our sport.  Prejudice in any form is a terrible waste of life.

I will sit back, watch the games, marvel at the moves, enjoy the backdrop of beautiful cities, and know that there is nothing wrong with supporting your nation. But that has nothing to do with being an ultra-nationalist.  No wonder they banned alcohol in the cities where the hooligans are heading.  What right do these guys have to paint the Russian or English fan on their drunken bodies?  Shout out against all forms of racism and fanaticism.  You never know, it could be happening at a place near you!  See you out there somewhere.

Soccer

Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani

A Tale of Two Museums – Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani

What to do on a beautiful spring morning in Milan?

In light of the fact that we had a long day ahead of us with a soccer game that would stretch until midnight, what better compliment to il calcio than a bit of culture and fashion.

I had never seen The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci.  We had figured out a way to jump onto a sightseeing tour without doing the sightseeing (always handy to avoid mediocre guides) and thus gain entrance to the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.  In an airtight salon, with strict procedures by group, I got to see something that had been on my to-do list for years.  The room that The Last Supper is in is austere and simple.  At the far end of the chapel is a crucifixion scene by Giovanni Donato. It faces Leonardo’s Last Supper where Jesus announces his betrayer.  Someone always lets the team down!  This is one of his greatest works, badly deteriorated and suffering the ravages of time and vandalism, but it still provides an experience unique and spiritual.

What better way to compliment a 15th century mural by one of the world’s greatest ever painters than a visit to the ultra-chic Giorgio Armani’s Armani/Silos that was opened in 2015?

Housed in what was a granary, Armani captures his passion for fashion in a place whose central force was all about the beginnings of food.  There are more than 600 outfits and around 200 handbags and accessories from 1980 to the present.  There is a fabulous little café outside with great sandwiches and incredible olive oil for dipping.  The whole experience capped with an espresso and an Armani sugar cube.  Made me want to rush out, grab an Armani jacket somewhere, and wear it for a day.

If only to know that Armani’s designs are as timeless as the painting that preceded it in the morning.

Artists are artists.  Lucky to get a glimpse into a Renaissance mind in the year 2016.

Leonardo Da Vinci and ArmaniLeonardo Da Vinci and ArmaniLeonardo Da Vinci and Armani Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani

Peter Jones Pietro Place Milan's Canals

The Revitalization of Milan’s Canals

When most people think of Milan, they think of the Duomo, La Scala, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and The Last Supper.

These are the “iconic” parts of Milan that are on every sightseeing tour if you happen to be passing this way.  Let’s face it; Rome compared to Milan is pretty much a non-issue.  Rome has the lot – the history, the museums, the beautiful evening light, and of course the weather.  But Milan is a city of the north; closer to its German neighbors and a stone’s throw to France.  Milan has a certain atmosphere about it.  It’s a young city, a city famous for its fashion houses and beautiful people, and a nighttime scene that can rival Spain.  Furthermore, with the advent of the high-speed train network, notably the Frecciarossa, Milan to Rome is a cool 3.5 hours.  Two cities that were so diametrically opposed have been brought closer together through modern transportation. And who would have thought that Milan has a touch of Venice to it as well!

Milan boasts a neighborhood of canals that had been forgotten about and then resurrected to create a vibrant restaurant and bar scene that for most people is one of the best kept secrets in Europe.

The Navigli is situated southwest of the historic center.  In its heyday, the canals formed a 150 km network that connected the city with the main rivers and the large lakes to the north.  They were used for irrigation and more importantly transportation.  The earliest known construction was in the 12th century.  Because of this ingenious way to transport goods and irrigate farm lands, Milan became the country’s largest inland port despite the absence of a main river.  This “little Venice” thrived but then with the advent of roads, it fell into decline.  What consisted of five canals has now been reduced down to three.  But a renaissance of sorts took place around the main canal, the Naviglio Grande.  It is a trendy locale with high house prices but it is a cool urban neighborhood that represents an edgy Milan.  This is really where everything happens with cruise boats, restaurants, bars, and a fabulous antique market.  I got to eat in one of the great restaurants called Fiaschetteria Il Montalcino on the Via Valenza #17.  We took a couple of beers in one of the bars, walked over a beautiful iron bridge, and gazed in wonder at the shimmering lights on an ancient canal.  I could not believe this was my first time here.  I could not believe this was Milan.  Travel is a wonder.

Navigli canal Peter Jones Pietro Place Milan's Canals

River Tour of London’s History

A River Tour of London’s History

A remarkable aspect of London is the way they have adapted their new skyline to an old river.

When I was growing up, the Thames and the embankment areas were barely used.  There was one boat that would take you from Westminster to Kew Gardens and Henry VIII’s palace of Hampton Court and another boat that would travel as far as the tower and Tower Bridge.  It was as if the river ought to be ignored and certainly to all intents and purposes stopped at the Tower.  The French have long made fabulous use of the Seine.  It was inevitable that the Brits would someday catch up and would start to develop a world-class waterfront to showcase London.

And so it goes that pretty much everything starts around Westminster and heads east towards the new developments down at Canary Wharf.  The east of London, once a wasteland full of warehouses and disused wharfs, is now a principal point of traffic with its own airport, super high-speed trains, and new buildings that pop up it seems every six months or so.

For me, one of the greatest joys in London is to take a river tour of London’s history.

These are essentially boat rides that encompasse the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the London Eye, Shakespeare’s recreated Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern at the old Bankside Power Station, and the fabulous new London City Hall, the Shard, the Walkie Talkie, the Gherkin, and the Millennium Bridge, otherwise known as the wonky bridge.  Not to mention the fabulous Tower Bridge and its neighbor, the ancient Tower of London.

So a bunch of us decided to do this journey using the Thames RIB Experience boats.  Essentially, it’s a high-speed boat ride eastward down the river with different possibilities for location – Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, or the Thames Barrier.  It is a great ride.  You embark at Embankment Pier and the journey can take anywhere from 30 to 75 minutes depending upon how far you want to go.

The boat twists and turns in spectacular fashion as you get into open water after Tower Bridge. It’s powered by 740 horse power, in other words it moves very fast.  It rained a bit but nobody got wet because the boat was moving at jet speed!  It was one of the fun ways to see the river and count the changes that have graced this skyline.

One shout out to London in the midst of the Brexit catastrophe – Congratulations!  You have a Muslim mayor, the son of a Pakistani postal worker, in this most cosmopolitan city.  So proud to be a Londoner!
River Tour of London’s History

River Tour of London's History

Brexit: The Days After

Brexit: The Days After

As a Brit living in the USA and holding a UK passport and a USA passport, I felt that I had this unique opportunity to work and travel in 29 countries.

That changed. The United Kingdom has just experienced a political nightmare.  What most thought would be a very passable referendum to remain inside of the European Union sparked such fierce political divisions that the vote went into the night and became a cataclysmic defeat for those that wished to remain in the EU.

The political fallout from this is still happening.  The Labor Party, Britain’s main opposition party, has been splintered and almost certainly sidelined for many years to come.  The Conservative Party has lost its leader and the Prime Minister.  As two populist conservatives, Boris Johnson, the disheveled and outspoken ex-Mayor of London, and Nigel Farange, a leader of the generously named but highly racist Independent Party, became the outspoken leaders for the “leave” camp.  Neither of these two villains will see power but they did enough damage to offset the gains made by being a member of the European Union for the last 45 years.

It was a campaign fueled by fears of immigration laced with racist terms.  Bringing “England back to England” banded around with frightening repetition.  At the end of the day, England is out.  The ramifications of this will be most obvious in the years to come.  In a global society, in a global economy, England has chosen to be isolationists fueling the immigrant polemic and walking confidently backwards into a “we once were great” illusion.  If that is not enough, English hooligans were on display everywhere during the European Championships of soccer.  To let you know what you really will be getting if you cut off the supply of bright, young Europeans who come to England to study our language, our culture, and more importantly, to work.

What does all of this mean for the traveler?

On a positive note, it means that your dollar will go further because the pound is tumbling and the euro has taken a hit as well.  It will probably mean more border checks and as England is not in the EU, the lines will be a little longer on the Eurostar and at the airports.  The fact that the United Kingdom is not in the Schengen Agreement which entitles free mobility between 19 countries will make it less of a problem.  For the United Kingdom passport holder traveling to Europe, it will mean longer lines and no freedom of movement.  It will mean that people will not be able to work freely with a British passport in any of the 27 member states and of course vice versa.  It means that in five to six years’ time, London will probably seem a little bit more English and that is not a good thing!  I love hearing the sound of foreign languages on the streets of London.  It makes me feel that I am in a cosmopolitan city, it encourages languages to be studied, and cultures to be learned.

Europe just lost one of its stars.  The United Kingdom is also the second largest economic country in the 28 countries with Germany still as number one.  But critically, Europe will still be a trading block of over 450 million people and therefore the second largest trading block in the world behind China and ahead of the USA.  The United Kingdom, in addition, may also become somewhat disunited within itself.  Scotland, who fiercely voted to remain in Europe, will probably elect to have a referendum and leave the UK.  Northern Ireland may do the same.  That would leave a very strange United Kingdom.  But for us tourists it would mean that we would have to go through border control to get to Edinburgh and the drive from Dublin to Belfast would also have a new border constructed.  Maybe we will have a united Ireland!

Of course none of this will take place right away.  Article 50 of the EU is the thing that has to be invoked.  That will set a two-year timetable for the unprecedented departure of one of the member states.  Thank goodness my grandmother is Irish!  I am applying for my Irish passport now!

 

Pietro Place Peter Jones Raden

A New Kid on the Block – Raden A22

So, there’s a new kid on the block now.

I just purchased a Raden carry-on. Check out the website! They have a really cool color palette for each of its suitcases of varying sizes. As an entry-level bag, they have introduced an incredibly affordable 22” roller with state-of-the-art Japanese spinning wheels, a fabulous polycarbonate shell, and a polyurethane overlay that creates a waterproof seal. It’s light at only 7.5 pounds and it’s four spinning Japanese wheel bases are as good as it gets.

Here’s the great stuff though – the technology within it is exceptional.

There is a pouch that contains a USB cable, sleep blindfold, orange earplugs, and the ergonomic handle is a scale. It has an app that you download on your phone, it has GPS capability through the app, and a charger in the bag itself. It’s an inexpensive $295 that should be compared to the Tumi’s of this world and the Zero Halliburton’s which retail for much, much more. My Briggs and Riley bag just doesn’t feel cool enough anymore. Check it out.

Bags of the Future (Are They Four Wheel Bags?)

I have a confession to make.

I switched from my Briggs and Riley two wheel 20-inch carry-on bag to one of the four wheel bags: the Samsonite spinner.  I made this move because I didn’t want to pull my bag around the airport when I could have it ride by my side in the four-wheel mode.  The four-wheel mode changed my life from zipping through airports to walking to train stations.  Everything became easier unless there was carpet.  Agghh.  Carpet is your enemy with the four-wheel bag.

Frankly, four wheel bags have a few issues.

On a trip from Tel Aviv to London, I was waiting in the jet way that has a little tilt to it, and somebody behind me asked a question.  I took my hand off of my bag, which also had my Tumi backpack perched on top, and as my hand left the bag, the bag took off.  I looked around in horror as a poor woman was attacked by my bag.  The heavy four-wheeler knocked her completely over.  I tried to hold her up but if that was not enough, her glasses flew off, her hands were flailing, her passport dropped on the floor, and my backpack finished the job as it landed straight on top of her head.  If I had been driving in traffic, I would have been arrested for failing to be in control of my vehicle.  As it was, I helped her back to a standing position feeling really embarrassed and told her that it was all my bag’s fault.  I felt a sense of shared responsibility.

These bags do roll around.  If you are in a train, they roll away from you, if you’re in the bus connecting around the airport, they are unreliable.  I figured to myself that there must be a bag that has brakes.  In the meantime, I had dusted off my Briggs and Riley bag and much to my bags surprise I gave it a second chance.  Yeah my arm is hurting me a little more but the danger of uncontrolled roll with the four-wheeler is not there.

So I did some research. The only bag that I could find that had the potential to not move in its standing position with spinner wheels is the unbelievably overpriced Rimowa luggage.  When I say overpriced, I mean the 21-inch multi-wheel bag is a cool $850.  Yes, I know that this provides “a sublime fusion of fashion and lightweight durability” plus apparently it has “intelligent interior design to make it an indispensable travel companion.” But the key feature here is that it has protective feet to guarantee that the suitcase will stay in place when you prop it up right.  No hit and run problems!

My only question is that when I buy a car with four-wheel drive, frankly it has brakes just like the two-wheel models.

Usually there is not an extra surcharge for brakes; it’s just part of the deal.

So why is it that for the added brakes and to look maybe like a movie star, I have to spend $850 on a piece of baggage that really has little interest for me beyond storage capability and ease of movement through an airport?  Just a question desperately looking for answers and remembering with horror the incident in the Tel Aviv airport when my four-wheel vehicle went out of control on the jet way.