Train to Perdition

   The first to pass us in our carriage was a potentially fractious pair of toddlers, Beanie and Cecil (not their real names). Even were we to plan future excursions not to overlap with national school breaks, I realized there'd still be no guarantee to avoiding the likes of a pair of screaming two-year-olds who believe trains were made for running up and down the aisles, depositing candy floss to armrests along the way.

Read More

Carol and Reid walk on water

   Marazion is a ten-minute bus ride south of Penzance that would be a nondescript fishing village were it not for the Mont St. Michel lookalike about a half-mile out in the tidal bay fronting the town. St. Michael's Mount is smaller, compared to it's more renowned cousin on the coast of France, but no less impressively salient in its lonely outpost even from as far away as Penzance. These are the kinds of sights I like to see just where they lay, perched on a horizon from a spot on a distant highway devoid of tourists. There would be nothing inside this fortress monastery that would induce me to enter its tourist-clogged arteries, carried along at the shoulders by the suffocating crowds as I was at France's Mont St. Michel several years ago. I caught some breaks this time.

Read More

The wheels on the bus

Carol and I purchased international driver's licenses in the ill-advised expectation that would be the only way to see the British countryside up close and personal. But after careful observation of driving on the wrong side of roads that were essentially bike paths pressed into service as two-way highways, and roundabouts that were clockwise running circles of death, we decided we'd not be seeing the English countryside quite that up close and personal (as in automobile grille to grille up close and personal).

Read More

"But I don't want to be a pirate"

   My only reason for wanting to go from London to Penzance was for the straight five-hour train ride without changing trains. Just kick back in a first-class carriage, maybe a bottle of wine along the way, and hours of pleasant English countryside on into Cornwall. But add two squally kids and an overbearing, helicoptering mum, and it is a true…

   ...nightmare.

Read More

A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an Enigma

   There's something about code breaking that has always fascinated me. I've never solved Rubik's cube or enjoyed puzzles of any kind. But I've always enjoyed reading about espionage and secret codes.

   So it was an easy decision to make a day trip out to the pleasant village of Milton Keynes, a short train trip out of London, and to the museum and exhibits known as Bletchley Park.

Read More

Brexit Amexit

On the very day Boris Trump announced he had scored a Brexit deal with the European Union, Carol scored a pair of tickets to the London production of Hamilton. There was irony, of course, in seeing a play on stage partially about America saying goodbye to Great Britain, while Great Britain, on the newspapers' front pages, was saying (or trying to) goodbye to the EU. I wondered, as Carol and I sat in actor spit shower distance from that stage, whether the largely English audience caught that sense of irony, as the character of King George III sang:

You'll be back

Time will tell

You'll remember that I served you well.

Read More

Nostalgical mystery tour

   As a travel blogger, I try to avoid dealing in advice, tips, things to see and do and especially revealing hidden gems of any kind. Given my low wattage expectations for travel and adventure (is the train high-speed with a first-class car and a full service bistro?), I can't imagine any advice or tips I could offer that you wouldn't have already thought of yourself, such as do I need a ticket for the plane or train and should I pack a suitcase? (To both I would venture to suggest: perhaps.) As far as things to see and do, I try to do as little of both as possible. And for hidden gems, my belief is that they're that way for a reason and should be respected as such.

Read More

Steel Shamrocks

   The organizers of Sacred Heart High School's 50th Class Reunion had cleverly provided, in place of name tags, yearbook photos. As one remarked, it was a 60s version of the aging app. I will not comment on the relative kindness of time delivered upon those yearbook faces I observed that night, but I will say with certainty that the promise, hope, determination and fortitude shown in those class photos had not been dimmed by time. At least not over the course of this evening.

Read More

Three Day Blow

   You can't beat getting yourself acclimated to the potential of the fall rainsweep of England, Scotland and Wales than by settling in to an old fashioned New England nor'easter. Since Carol took charge of the accommodations for this trip, we were confirmed in an upscale Atlantic beach inn outside Boston, complete with gas fireplace and a picture window view of the ocean delivering the three day blow.

Read More

End of Innocence

  Although I have a colonoscopy every, er, ten years as recommended (in case my doctor may be reading this) the sense of dread that decennial event conjures is a most familiar one. It matches exactly, for instance, the same dread I feel about going to a museum. In fact, the prep for a colonoscopy may actually be somewhat less dreadful, in that there is considerably more sitting done than you get to do at a typical museum.

Read More

Be-udiful

Next Saturday, Carol and I will be attending her 50th high school reunion in Yonkers, N.Y. My role will be her dutiful arm ornament. As jewelry, I'm closer to the kind left unclaimed in a pawn shop, rather than glittering off the wrist of a NY socialite. Plus Carol was the head cheerleader for her high school (Carol insists she was never the head cheerleader, but she's not telling this story, I am). Which means expectations could be high for someone like a Johnny Depp or a Michael Douglas to be draped around her. I can do Randy Quaid, or with dim-lighting, maybe a Paul Giamatti in a stretch of credulity, but my guess is some form of "looks were never important to me," will find its way into introductory conversations.

Read More

Napa Valley Tours, Jill White (guest contributor)

Top 6 Napa Valley Wine Tour

Are you searching for an incredible way to treat your wine lover friend in Napa Valley?  Do you personally enjoy visiting the wineries?  If so, it is going to be very hard to choose from the numerous wineries from Napa Valley. While most of the wineries at Napa Valley close at 5 pm, some are open even after 5 pm. When almost all the wineries need prior appointments, some are open for tasting without a booking. There are even wineries that specialize in red wines only and some others have white wines as well.

Just to make it easier for you, here are our picks of the Napa Valley wine tour.

Read More

Over a barrel

   I like wine. I like to drink it; I don't need to understand why I like to drink it, but I've learned in the past few years that a lot of livelihoods depend on me wanting to know why. So when I travel to California's wine country, which has become an annual event to visit friends, I include a winery tour, not so much for the sake of those livelihoods,  but for the same reason people who travel to New York and Paris visit MOMA and the Louvre: to advance their knowledge of art and culture sufficient to become annoying at parties.

Read More

They might be giants

   The giant Sequoia known as General Sherman that stands in California's Sequoia National Park is more than 2000 years old. It is 1000 years younger than the oldest known Sequoia. Interestingly, these forest giants require wildfires in order to germinate their seeds and grow new trees. In other words, these living trees have been around for at least 3000 years, and have survived through the life giving natural occurrence of forest fires. Today, thanks to the human encroachment of creeping suburbia, forest fires are suddenly  now a scourge that have to be dealt with - to read between the lines of the lumber industry  - by clearcutting, of course.

Read More

In praise of decrepitude

 

   I was reading a travel narrative, and the writer used a word that struck me in an epiphanal way. Theroux was describing his coastal tour of Britain (The Kingdom by the Sea) as "long coastal stretches of decrepitude."

   That I wanted Carol and I to see what he was writing about on our own upcoming trip ("...what had been villages well served by railway lines had become curiously anorexic-looking and tumble down, somehow deserving the epitaph from 'Ozymandias.'") struck me as very odd: I wanted to sightsee. As I read on ("defunct viaducts, abandoned cuttings, former railway stations, ruined railway bridges) it occurred to me Theroux was describing what 1500 years from now would be the ancient ruins of a then former world empire. The funny thing is the current existing sites of 1500 year-old ruins hold no interest for me. In fact little is more boring than a well-preserved and properly docented or audiophoned historic pile of slave-constructed rocks, except for maybe the section of medieval religious paintings in a typical European art museum.

Read More