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Exotic Visitors Anthology: Copyright
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Table of Contents
Exotic Visitors Anthology ................................................. 4 The Wee Ones ......................................................... 5 New England ......................................................... 13 The Little Latitudes .................................................... 23 Europe ............................................................. 46
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Exotic Visitors Anthology
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The Wee Ones
Shocking pain sears its way through the depths of sleep jolting me awake. No time to utter a word of protest before the ear ripping claw turns into the newly familiar gentle slapping against my cheek. A sweeter song than the Red Breasted Thrush outside my window commences in tempo to the face patting, "Da Da" is repeated over and over for me to wake up. I close my eyes pretending to sleep in order to savor the moment that will too soon be a memory. Not to be fooled, my 9 month old little girl resorts to the less than pleasant nose twist. My queue to acknowledge her has been made. Giggles erupt and smiles grow wide as I cover her face and neck with good morning kisses. I imagine that this is the extent of her young plans for the day and she considered them a success. Mine are a little more detailed. I can smell the spring freshness of the grass warming in the sun and know that it is the perfect day to begin my daughter's first adventure. “One more big push!” The doctor encourages. “You did this to me!” My wife yells turning her head towards me. What a cliché. I think to myself. I let her squeeze my hand as hard as she likes. I am torn with guilt. Oh how I wish I were cruising the Florida backwaters catching Snook. Shouldn’t a good father and husband want to be here? Not me. And I feel bad about it. This is not my comfort zone. “Imagine you are out on the boat with the cool breeze blowing.” I say calmingly. “Shut your big mouth! I could care less about your stupid boat!” Yeah….I’m so not in my comfort zone right now. I am trying to help but only making matters worse. Guilt. Shame. I feel like I’m inside an episode of Sesame Street with Cookie Monster singing “One of these things doesn’t belong here. One of these things just doesn’t belong.” I think I am getting a little sea sick. One last other worldly sound escapes my beautiful wife and another person enters the room, a brand new person. It hits me all at once. For nine months this tiny little person seemed like a condition, a symptom of an illness called pregnancy. My God she is beautiful, and real, very very real. My wife is laughing and crying, smiling and blubbering. I thing I am too. “We did it.” She says to me. We? I think. What the hell did I do? Suddenly there is no place on earth I would rather be. No other place on earth at all. My amazing wife and beautiful daughter are the very definition of my comfort zone.
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Photo by Author
Squirming protests make the slathering of SPF 90 sunscreen coat the mahogany changing table spindles in such a fashion that only a father could do. It is not for lack of trying that diaper changing, powdering and dressing is left best in the hands of Mommy, who somehow had been born with a natural ability I would never master. This is daddy daughter adventure day and I will not be deterred. From start to finish, I want the whole package. What I lack in dressing finesse, I make up for with fatherly ingenuity. The sun is warm but the laser beams shooting from Mommy's eye are scorching. I lose count of how many times she asks "Are you sure this is safe?". I assure her repeatedly until her voice transforms into Charlie Brown's teacher. I apply salve to my injured pride with flair as I demonstrate my ingenious skills at rigging a booster seat to the helmsman's chair of the 19' Wellcraft open fisherman. The foot tapping on the dock signals another round of reassurance. "We are only going in the canals. No open sea. No speed over 10 knots." Reluctantly she hands me the baby as if I were King Solomon about to make a judgment. Strapping in the baby I begin the arduous task of loading supplies. I wonder if it were my wife that did the packing for the passengers aboard the S.S. Minnow. Outfitted with enough supplies for a relatively comfortable life on a deserted island we shove off for a three hour tour of the beautiful South West Florida waterways. If I closed my eyes I am pretty sure that I could traverse the waterways with a reasonable amount of accuracy. Seeing the reflection of the rippling wake in my daughter's bright blue eyes I realize that for too long I had been doing just that. Colorful plastic toys, fluffy stuffed animals, and chewy objects found throughout the house had become as familiar to her as the waterway had become to me. This was a new
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and curious experience filled with sights, sounds, and smells that had no reference of comparison. I open my eyes and mind to these senses. I begin to see the deep hues of the water. Mangrove trees with their spidery roots host Great White Herons. I feel myself slipping into the innocence of my daughter's point of view. No metaphors or similes in my mind. I accept what I am seeing as fresh and new; nature in its own splendor, worthy of its own definition. Over the years I have taken the simplest of things for granted hoping for something greater and more impressive. A dolphin blows a misty spray 20 feet off the bow. Quickly I try in vain to divert my daughter's attention to the dolphin. She has no interest in my excited pointing and gesturing. There is plenty of wonder in the pelican feather, spinning like an out of control raft on the Colorado River, drifting in the boats wake. I power back the engine and begin a wide port turn to circle back to the pelican feather. I stretch hard and get a little wetter than I would have liked but it is worth it when I see I have become a hero in my little girl's eyes as I hand her the plume. She looks upon the billowy object with curiosity until it ultimately goes straight in her mouth. I suppose that tasting is as normal as looking, touching, and smelling when it comes to pre-toddler investigation techniques. Who is to say what tastes good or bad when there is nothing to compare it to? Hunger begins to navigate. There is a waterway that is so well hidden from the main channel that even the most curious of kayakers often pass it by. Gaining entrance to this passage takes some tricky maneuvering but well worth the effort. Once through the entrance twists and turns bring me to a land of make believe where I am Ponce De Leon exploring the Florida coast in search of the Fountain of Youth. The water is shallow, 2 or 3 feet at most, enough that I feel comfortable anchoring for lunch. No boats would be through here on a Monday morning. With no sudden wakes to contend with it is a safe place to bring my little girl up to the front of the boat to play while I prepare our picnic brunch. Bite size pasta squares for her, left over conch fritters and fried oysters for me and apple juice for us both. We eat and play. Point and make noises at each other that only the two of us could comprehend. Dropping food over the side opens a whole new world. Black and gold Sergeant Major fish peck at the bits of pasta in a fury. This prompts a level of giggling second only to morning neck kisses. Lunch cleared away I accept my daughter's implied suggestion of fishing. She plays with her hat while I bring the bait bucket and spinning rod to the bow of the boat. She peers into the white plastic bucket at the swimming shrimp while I swirl the water with my hand in pursuit of the fattest fish teaser. Catching a nice one I thread it on the hook and cast smoothly out over the still water. This warrants only the briefest of glances. Her concentration is on the translucent crustaceans jetting about in the bucket. Almost instantly I get a bite. “Daddy got a big one sweetie!” I proclaim. I fight the Mangrove snapper with excitement. Landing the fish warrants another brief glance. The real action is in the bucket. Deflated I release the fish back into the water. Only seconds pass before I realize that today’s adventure is about her. I follow her cue and catch another shrimp. This time it is spared from certain death by Snapper. I place the hopping shrimp on the deck of the boat for her to examine. She touches it and it jumps. She looks at me curiously and I long to know what is in her mind. My imagination could never match the innocent wonder she must be feeling, how the thoughts are forming in her mind. Almost prophetically I notice the time is passing quickly. Soon she would be sleepy and ready for a nap. My promise to Mommy that we would only be gone two hours comes to mind. Sleepy eyes tell me that it is time for rest. I decide on a quick phone call to hold back the fury and inform the nail biting Mommy that we are safe and that I am going to let the sleepy girl nap on a towel for an hour before we head back. This allows me time to reflect on the lessons learned today. I think back on all the adventures I have had
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in my travels. The future is more exciting than ever as the knowledge that I will be able to relive all of them through the eyes of my little girl. Everything seems new and fresh again. I may once again sail the Caribbean, hike through rain forests, or explore the great cathedrals of Europe. I will not take them for granted. We pull into the dock behind the house with Mommy waiting, hands clapping and a big smile. “Did you have a great adventure today? Did you learn lots of new things?” She says in a sing song voice. Yes I did, I think to myself. Yes I did.
Photo By Author
Inspiring Children to Travel
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Inspiring children to travel builds creative minds that strive to learn. The things we take for granted as a part of everyday life can easily spark an interest in seeing the wonders our tiny planet has to offer. Bed time stories about giants and wizards, fairies and gnomes are a glorious trip to a land of fantasy and imagination. True stories about history can be just as exciting. Tales of wonderful places that hold the secrets to great battles, huge castles and almost mystical artists will plant a seed in a child that will grow to a desire to experience all that life has to offer. We outgrow the fantasy lands and thoughts of rescuing princesses high in the castle keep, but standing on the field where the battle of 1066 was fought, breathing the fog that misted the druid robes around Stonehenge or gazing up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. This became apparent when I asked my youngest son what he wanted to do for his birthday. “I want to go see Lisa.” The soon to be seven year old asked nonchalantly. I have to admit I was at a loss. I couldn’t think of anyone we knew named Lisa. Visiting someone that I could not recall seemed an odd request for a birthday present. “Who is Lisa? Is she your girlfriend back in the States?” I asked teasingly. “No silly, Lisa in Paris.” He said with confidence. Lisa…Lisa…Who the heck was Lisa? He acted like I should have easily known to whom he was referring. I was clueless. “Well not just the picture. I wanna see the other stuff too.” He followed up with what sounded like a backup plan. Suddenly it hit me. An odd request to be sure, but one that I was going to make sure happened. Since birth I had told him stories of great works of art in museums around the world. I told him of the almost mythical inventions Leonardo da Vinci had created and how painted the Mona Lisa which hung in the Louvre museum in Paris.
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We were living in Malta at the time so putting an impromptu four day trip to Paris was not out of the question. I saw the wonder in his eyes that must have been in mine on my first trip to the Louvre. Surrounded by living history, experiencing the magic of bed time stories we wandered the halls absorbing all we could. Since then I have been blessed with a little girl. She is 18 months old and already becoming a global citizen. She learns our native English along with Russian and Italian to connect her with far off lands that bed time stories are made of.
Tips For Dad Mom Shouldn’t Know About
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Diaper Changing Toddlers:
Children love water. Give a toddler a cup of water and it's an adventure. This is no ordinary refreshment in the eyes of a two year old. We are talking about a cup of exploration. First is the gaze. Once the contents have been firmly established as an item that only dad supplies (moms provide sippy cups with firmly screwed on covers) the hand goes in. A vigorous stir and it is time for the inevitable chest pour. An over compensated sip attempt dumps the contents down the chest. After a three second look of surprise at dad (like we did not know that was coming) the toddler moves to the slap splash on the floor. Children love water. And the smart dad can use this advantage to counteract the unnatural act of diaper changing. All it takes is some relatively warm weather, a back yard and a garden hose. Thanks to technology, diapers are so absorbent that the weight of them can do most of the work for you. Strip the youngster down to just the diaper (this is the normal dress code when mom is out anyway), turn the hose on low pressure and hand it to the toddler. After a few moments of laughter and excitement the diaper will fall off on its own. It is then easily scooped up with a shovel for a no mess disposal. Feeding:
Getting a toddler to eat can be a challenge. Mom uses all kinds of tricks that dad is simply incapable of. Foremost being the mouth mimic. There has been no scientific reasoning behind the mouth movements moms make when undergoing the feeding process. It cannot be duplicated by dads. Therefore dads must resort to a simpler method. This technique is best done directly after the diaper change before a new diaper is replaced. This calls for a sheet, a large plastic bowl of water, a plastic plate and a large assortment of treats. Spread the sheet out on the kitchen floor (tile floor is the key) and place the child in the center. Put the food on the plate and stand back. Again we have turned a chore into play time. Undoubtedly an ample amount of food will make it to the desired destination with little parental influence. The Wash Up:
When the child has had enough to eat they will attempt to crawl to the edge of the sheet. This is dads cue to remove the plate and replace it with the large bowl of water. The natural affinity toward water will create a new playtime experience called the wash up. Again there is little effort required for this task. If the bowl is large enough the splashing will do most of the cleaning for you. The corners of the sheet can be dipped in the water in order to clean the hard to reach places. Once the child is clean the sheet is then swirled around the floor to absorb any left over water. What to do with the sheet is not as complex a problem as one might think. If put directly in the drier it will be easy to hide the sheet on the bottom of the hamper before mom gets home without the worry of mildew, or discovery. Dressing: Again technology has dad in mind with re-sealable tabs on diapers. Take the diaper and shake it
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vigorously to remove any folds. Apply the tabs so that it creates a pair of short pants. With the toddler facing you firmly grasp their head with your thighs. This will immobilize the child and keep your hands free to thread each of the kicking legs through the holes. Once the diaper is on you can then adjust the tabs to a snug fit. The Praise:
When mom rushes through the door with anticipation of disaster you should be sitting on the couch with the child watching cartoons. The first question she asks will inevitably be "So how did it go?" Your reply should be well thought out and prepared. It is very important to avoid eye contact. Keep your focus on the television and say "It was great. I had a little extra time so I gave him a bath and mopped the kitchen floor."
Photo by anitapatterson
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Maine Bed and Breakfasts
Maine Bed and Breakfasts.
The postcard and picturesque state of Maine has a 3500-mile coastline peppered with rocky ledges, 6000 trout filled lakes and ponds and over 17 million acres of woodland mountains. The most popular New England destination thrills tourists all year round. To get the full Maine experience, many tourists prefer bed and breakfast (B&B) or inns, to the bigger hotels. These inns are scattered throughout the state in every town and village. Several of the B&B lodgings are year round homes where owners rent extra rooms with private baths. They often provide delicious Down East meals. The accommodations range from single rooms, suites or cottages. Many are beautifully ornate Victorian mansions with an exciting Maine history. The experience is totally different from that of a hotel; romance and a step back in time is on the itinerary. For the business traveler, amenities like fax machines and internet service are usually available at most of these lodgings. Accommodations can be on a daily, weekly or longer stay. The rates vary according to type and location. Tariff could be different for weekdays and weekends, and between high season (July-August) and quiet season. Discounts are available for longer stays, off-season. Remember to mention special occasions when booking, as there are often special packages available. Be sure to look over the options before making a reservation.
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Every time of year is great for a Maine Bed and Breakfast. The Saddleback Fall Festival, the Wiscasset Twilight Tours, visits to Acadia National Park or shopping in downtown Bar Harbor; a Maine Bed and Breakfast makes the visit come alive.
Often certain types of pets are permitted at several facilities either free, or for a small fee. Make sure of the house rules like breakfast times(Eastern Standard Time Zone), late night entry, smoking and whether or not credit cards are accepted. Liquor may be available in house or you may be able to bring your own. Winter offers a whole new choice of activities for Maine Tourism. Skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing are an exciting adventure. Fall is the time of year that fairs are active and festivals are many. The foliage season brings a fireworks display that only mother nature could provide. Summer is the most popular Maine Tourism season. Sailing in Maine is among the best in the world. Hiking the many Maine Mountains is a pastime most favored by all. The quaint little villages offer antique shops that rival the best of any big city. And let's not forget the food. The mighty Maine Lobster is king here in Vacationland. But don't pass up the famous Maine Whoopie Pie, found in almost every corner store. No matter what your pleasure, Maine is sure to provide you with a vacation to remember.
Maine Vacation Rentals
For extended stays the best way to go is with a Maine Vacation Home Rental. For much less than staying in a hotel, you can enjoy all the comforts of a fully furnished sea side home. The Maine Coast is full of vacation rentals that work for any budget. If you are looking for an Island home, locations like Peaks Island and Vinalhaven are a good place to start. There are hundreds of Islands in Maine to choose from. Mountain homes on lakes and ponds are also a geat retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. A vacation home rental is easy to reserve with VacationHomeRentals.com Read more about Maine Bed and Breakfasts at http://Maine-Tourism.com
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Boston's Vintage Postcards
Photo Courtesy of Boston Public Library In a recent post titled “Vintage Blogger? Early Twentieth Century Blogging” I discussed how postcards create lasting memories of travel experiences. On my daily trip to Intelligent Travel, National Geographic’s travel blog, I discovered a post about vintage postcards going on display at the Boston Public Library. For those able to visit the display at Copley Square, I strongly recommend it. Postcards are more than simple notes from a far off land. These 6” x 4” works of art are mementos that last the ages. The era of digital communication lacks the subtle nuances of earlier times, when meaningful letters were tucked away and tied with string. Many people save emails that have some personal meaning, but that pales in comparison to postcards stamped with the mark of a distant land. On your next trip brighten someone’s day with a postcard in their mailbox.
Mackworth Island: Horror and Faeries remain.
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When it comes to gathering grist for the literary mill, it is no wonder Stephen King calls Maine home. The city of Derry and small town of Castle Rock may be creations in the mind of America’s most loved horror novelist, but there is no shortage of eerie hamlets and island villages shrouded with mist and terror. The film industry often shows tourists escaping to the rocky shores of Maine to bask in the hallmark like ambience of a bygone era where antique shops line Main Street, the ice cream shops make their own, every town has a white steeple and the distant sound of the light house foghorn plays bass for the chorus of gulls. The movie goer never seems to notice the odd behavior and knowing looks between the local residents until it is too late. The consistent elements of the story always contain a quaint village, outsiders and a not so forgotten historical horror. A stereotype? Perhaps. But isn’t it said that stereotypes come from some element of truth? Off the coast of Portland sits a small island steeped in mystery, wrapped in beauty and cursed with horror. In 1957 Governor Baxter deeded his summer home on Mackworth Island to become the Baxter School for The Deaf, formerly the Maine School for The Deaf. Dr. Robert Kelly ruled the school as headmaster with an iron claw. From the early 1960’s until his resignation in 1981 the 100 acre island was a place of horrific torture and abuse. Kelly was not alone in his evil deeds. Superintendant Joseph Youngs was Kelly’s boss as well as his accomplice. The Attorney General’s report shows that Dr. Kelly would often call children into his old farmhouse at
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night to “teach them about sex for the future”. Countless photographs were taken of these poor deaf children to shame them into submitting to this evil man's will. If a child resisted they would be tied naked to a large tree and left outside the entire night. As a constant reminder of his power over the children, Kelly used a small gesture of sign language as he walked by the classroom windows outside. He would slowly lower is thumb onto his closed fist to indicate that he had them under his thumb. Superintendant Youngs favored beatings. He is reported to have stabbed a small child in the thigh with a pen to get the boy’s attention. Broken bones and bruises were reported to parents as accidents. If there was fear that the child would complain, Youngs and Kelly would tell the parents before-hand that the child was having difficulty adjusting and making up wild stories for attention. For more than 20 years this reign of terror continued on this isolated island. No patrolling police cars or the safety of outside help kept the children quiet until the evidence piled up so high that it could no longer be ignored. People were outraged and demanded justice. Then the Attorney General made his announcement. "Because many of the incidents uncovered by the State investigators were beyond the statute of limitations, and other incidents were not clearly criminal violations under the current language of the Maine Criminal Code, and because of considerations for the emotional well-being of the victims, no criminal indictments will be sought by the State as a result of evidence compiled to date by this office." Attorney General James E. Tierney Justice would not be found. Following the typical horror story plot, the area was purged of evil, but evil escapes and lives on in another unsuspecting town. Dr. Kelly is said to live in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The tree of terror was cut down, unknown persons burned down Kelly’s farmhouse and the locals give hushed and knowing looks about a terrible history. Visitors come and hike the paths along the rocky shore. Lovers hold hands and watch the misty grey surf,and children build faerie houses for the faeries who are believed to live in the woods.
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Captain Keiff on Cliff Island Maine
Like an heirloom quilt the fog covered Casco Bay, heavy and sated with reminiscent smells. Salt, fish and iodine sat steady in the air. Sound seemed to be tethered to its source. No echoes lingering. The normal sea sounds were there, but finite. Like a decision made with no room for question, every noise ended in a dull thud the instant it happened. Perhaps this is the reason fog seems so mysterious. It takes the normal environment and attacks the senses in an unfamiliar way. For a young boy on a newly built dory, alone on an adventure, fog is the bone in a mystery soup.
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I couldn’t see much past the end of the boat, and the top of the little mast was barely visible. But I knew where I was. The white and green lobster buoys bumping the hull as I slowly drifted pass told me that I was no more than 50 yards from the shore of Cliff Island. I knew those buoys well, I painted many of them for Walter over the winter to help pay for the lumber of the dory I was now sailing. I couldn’t see Cliff Island but I knew the 60 year round residents were all huddled up in their homes, sitting by kitchen woodstoves playing cribbage or talking about going to the mainland to see the new movie, Bad News Bears. Cliff Island is one of the smallest year round islands in Maine. Though no one will admit it, the fear of Captain Kieff will keep it that way. While I may have been bursting with childhood imagination, I believe I saw the swinging lantern traversing the shoreline as I got within rock throwing distance of the craggy waterline. Captain Keiff was not your typical pirate. More of a murderous hermit, Captain Keiff was a salvager of no moral character. On foggy and stormy nights the greedy old man would tie a lantern around the neck of his horse and ride the trail along the coast of this little island. Sailors seeking safe harbor would mistake the light as guidance and wreck on the rocks. Captain Keiff paddled his skiff quickly to the wreck and steal anything worth taking. Survivors would be captured and murdered in cold blood. Captain Keiff buried the bodies in a grassy meadow known as Keiff’s Garden. To this very day Keiff’s Garden sits tended on this rocky little Island in Casco Bay Maine. Also buried on the island is much of the treasure the old captain horded. Visitors may find gold and silver on the island. A better treasure is found in the mystique of this small village. Foggy days on the coast with glimpses of a lantern swinging from the neck a slope backed horse is the mother lode. If you are interested in old style wooden boats, there is a free 250 Page eBook of wooden boats at http://newboatplans.com
Haven: A Television Show That Calls Me Home.
Perhaps it’s the heat. I’m almost embarrassed to say I have never really been a big fan of summer in the South. Whether it was living in Florida or the Caribbean, summer just drains me to a useless puddle of lazy soup. I lose all desire to get out and do the
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things I love to do the rest of the year. I end up watching a lot of television, which I have always been opposed to. It is mind numbing and the commercials insult my intelligence. But then I suppose being opposed to something has never really prevented me from doing it. If that were the case I probably would not be carrying those extra 20 pounds right now. There is, however, one thing that television has always done for me better than any other method; motivation to travel. When I see some unique destination on tv I instantly start Googling as much info as I can on it. Many a trip has been planned by the television muse. I am not the only one motivated by the boob tube it would seem. The Lost series increased travel to Hawaii dramatically. Travel trends increase whenever a show becomes a hit. Even if the destination is a Hollywood backlot, the implied locale sees an increase in tourism. Hollywood romanticizes these locations to a great extent of course, but that never seems to matter much. A new television series based on Stephen King’s Colorado Kid named Haven paints a picturesque version of Down East Maine. Lobster boats and red shingles are the backdrop of this little town that seems to be caught somewhere between the Twilight Zone and a never ending case of the X Files. I have always enjoyed Stephen King’s writing because of the realistic portrayal of life in small town Maine; excluding the flesh eating clowns and self aware fog banks of course. Haven is no different; life in Down East Maine is very much like that which is portrayed on screen. Except for the fact that the filming takes place a couple hundred miles away in a little town called Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, the portrayal is quite accurate. Growing up in Maine I never understood just how different it was from anywhere else on the planet. The people look forward to the summer crowds coming second only to them leaving. Being known as someone “new in town” goes away after 15 years or so. A new shop is considered new until it burns down and another one is replaced. A foreigner is automatically “from” Massachusetts unless they speak French; then of course they are Canadian. Yes Tennessee is part of Massachusetts, so don’t bother trying to enlighten the locals. While I am sure that everyone knows there is a difference between the two states, the subject is moot. Down East Maine is a place that every traveler should experience. I have been in many European cities where it felt more like the US than a small coastal town in Maine has. The smells, the sounds, the textures and certainly the food will instantly transport you into a foreign land unlike any you have visited before. This quirky little television show, Haven, has inspired me to travel home to visit family and bath in the senses of my youth. Most importantly I relish the thought of escaping this bloody heat. Watch Full Episodes Right Here at The Haven Show [dot]Com http://TheHavenShow.com
This is a short video that you will most likely recognize from the show. After the video head over to Maine-Tourism.com Information about Portland, Bar
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Harbor, Camden and more there is actually much more to see and do in Maine [Link to embedded object]
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The Little Latitudes
Costa Rica– Drinking Guaro.
Costa Rica Travel
Costa Rica– Introducing Guaro.
Like a flag, every country waves the bottle of their own unique liquor high for all to see. In Costa Rica, the libation of choice is Guaro. There is pride that goes along with claiming an alcoholic beverage as your nations own. Mexico and tequila goes hand in hand. In Russia Vodka is a way of life. Breaking plates is fun after a few shots of Ouzo in Greece. Aquavit in Sweden is a mystery. Costa Rica is party central when the Guaro comes out. Depending on which bartender you speak to, Guaro is either a mind bending alcoholic drink or an energy drink on steroids. Guaro is the national beverage of Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Travel would not be complete without a heavy dose of Guaro.
Several of us were hanging out in the beach town of Carrillo just enjoying the peacful evening after another day in the sun. Carrillo is a fishing town with plenty of great surf spots close by. Not much
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different than Tamarindo, but without the overbearing ex-pat influence. Carrillo is perfect for relaxation...In other words NOTHING much to do at night. extremely tame at night. As always happens when a group of travelers congregate, we sat in the quiet cafe swapping tales of waves that had doubled in size over the course of the previous ten days. The bartender could tell we were getting restless and a bit bored. He approached with a tray of shots. "On me." He said as he passed the shots around. "Guaro. You have before?" Only one of the group nodded and smiled. The rest of us were happy for something new. A bowl of limes was placed in the center of the table. The veteran Guaro drinker picked a lime and a shot like he was preparing for the traditional Tequila ritual. There were a few sniffs and gimaces....a silent count of three and the shots slid down without a toast. Squinted eyes and pursed lips sucked on limes all around the table. Not too bad... The familiar warm feeling of alcohol took over. Why not another? That was the beginning. The beginning of what we may never know. The volume of voices rose, the travelers became more animated. The party had begun. The quiet town of Carillo, Costa Rica got loud that night. The music echoed through the quiet streets and the party went where we went. There were new faces in our little group that must have joined along the way. With all of the extra energy Guaro seems to give, a release was needed. In hindsight it was foolish but never the less we went night surfing. The party raged on at the beach and we had the time of our lives. The 1929 stock market had nothing on the crash just before dawn. With the energy spent and the remnents of alcohol demons left in the brain, the hangover was miserable. All plans for the day were cancelled. Only the sound of the rattling fan in the hotel airconditioner was a signal I was still alive. And perhaps the thought that even hell could not be this bad. The sun rose and fell, tracked by the sliver of waning light between the drapes. The maid had given up after three angry shouts of "GO AWAY" 10 PM rolled around and hunger took over. I made my way down to the hotel poolside bar and grill. Most of the others seemed to have had the same afliction. Gray faces sat quietly around the plastic table. I joined them for a late night snack of fried fish. With similar stories of misery we all began to feel a bit better. Some were even having a beer. By midnight it happened. "Guaro?" asked one of the masochists. A few shrugs, a few stares and one verbalized "Why not?" was all it took.
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Matlacha: The Old Florida Hemingway Style
Beyond the plasticity of manufactured entertainment, hidden behind the planned neighborhoods, and endless miles of manicured fairways exists a Florida that breeds the spirit of Hemingway. On the South West coast, a few short miles from Fort Myers is small fishing village named Matlacha. This tiny strip of land, forgotten by developers, ignored by the traffic masses headed south to the Keys, is the manifestation of “Old Florida” that inspired countless tomes of literature by authors such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. Matlacha has been immortalized by author Richard Powell in his novel Pioneer Go Home, which was made into the Elvis Presley movie "Follow that Dream". Matlacha has been considered an “Old Florida” retreat for more than 50 years. During World War II, soldiers from Page Field in Fort Myers would use their weekend passes to experience the “Fishingest Bridge in Florida”. Today people still flock to this bridge to catch the much sought after game fish teeming the sound and shallows of Matlacha Pass. World records have been broken on this bridge. The main strip, Pine Island Road, is lined with fishing shacks, colorfully converted into art galleries that boast magnificent examples of creativity and world class talent. These examples of converted history are not to be mistaken as the tacky t-shirt shops found in the heavily populated tourist destinations scattered
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throughout the state. Matlacha offers the real deal in Florida Cracker ambience.
Recently I had the privilege of staying in a vacation rental home provided by Cape Coral Real Estate and Property Management. The moment I stepped through the wooden gate into the palm strewn garden I felt a physical transformation take place. The hat of a fast paced digital nomad blew away and was replaced with a straw hat of a taciturn gentleman of leisure. As a writer I am usually plagued with a head full of cliché adjectives and loquacious ramblings. Of the entire visual stimulus associated with a new place, one word stuck out above the rest, “Real”.
For once I was not brought through doors of pseudo-reality into a fabricated version of the old south created by developers. This wonderful little cottage laid out amongst the tropical flora, protrudes over the still water of Matlacha Pass. As if on cue a pair of dolphins breached a few yards beyond the old wooden dock emitting a misty welcome. A great blue heron stood like royalty amongst it’s serf like egrets scattered along the worn planks. It became instantly apparent that while a certain attention to historical detail for the sake of charm had been maintained, there would be no omission of comfort and amenity. The crystal swimming pool, tempting and secluded by over hanging palms, offered a vision of moonlight swimming. Many satisfying hours of pail and shovel construction would be had on the raised sandy beach by my anxious little girl, while my wife would while away the hours under the warm winter Florida sun. The hammock informed me that little work would be accomplished during my stay.
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Through the polished French doors a tastefully decorated home away from home was filled with all of the creature comforts. Two spacious bedrooms with private baths reminded me of the difference between the dull hotel vacations versus the significantly more comfortable option of a vacation rental home. We spent the first night settling in and shedding everyday life away easily. The following morning I served eggs benedict with fresh Florida orange juice on the deck. Prepared in a well equipped kitchen and enjoyed under a cloudless sky painted with a gentle sun. The afternoon was spent with a vigorous paddle in the provided kayak which carried me across the open sound and through some quiet and twisting mangrove lined passages. Wildlife everywhere - above and below. After a swim and a shower we walked the short distance to the fish market to purchase a fresh catch of grouper and oysters. Both were later cooked on the gas grill and enjoyed under a starry sky accompanied by several bottles of Pinot Grigio. The night grew chilly and we retired inside for a night of games. There is something about a vacation rental, no matter if it is a winter ski trip, a summer on the lake or a tropical getaway, that entices a gathering of family for board games. A victorious ending in Monopoly capped off the ending to a perfect day.
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Staying in hotels becomes routine and mundane. More often than not a vacation rental home provides so much more at a considerable savings. The ability to enjoy the privacy of well prepared meal at the fraction of the cost of eating in a restaurant is only one of the many benefits of staying in a vacation home. Comfort and the room to relax cannot be discounted. Overall the vacation rental experience shines far above the hotel stay option.
Dominican Republic Holidays And Festivals
The holidays and festivals in the Dominican Republic are some of the most important and festive celebrations in the whole world. The pageantry, lively music, garish costumes, and the pleased disposition of its locals all help with the ebullience of the festivities. Tourists internationally come regularly to the beautiful island to join in on the fun and excitement.
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Most of other holidays being celebrated in the Dominican Republic pay homage to the tenets of Christianity. This is no surprise because the Dominican culture is of Hispanic origin. In point of fact, there seems to be a celebration everyday from somewhere in the land as all municipalities and towns have their own patron saints to commemorate on a particular day of the year. VIRGEN DE ALTAGRACIA The most significant religious celebration in the Dominican culture is the La Dia de la Virgen de Altagracia, which is celebrated on January 21. The Virgen de Altagracia, referred to as Our Lady of the Highest Grace, is the patron virgin of the Dominican Republic. In this holiday, thousands of Dominicans set out on a several day pilgrimage to the magnificent basilica of the Higuey. LA CARNIVAL Held every Sunday throughout the whole month of February, the La Carnival is the most anticipated and exciting festival in the Dominican Republic. It is a time for partying, with the locals donning their [traditional conventional] demon costumes and dancing incessantly to the lively tempo of the band's music. The Carnival is concluded by a huge parade to the Malecón on February 27 to herald the advent of Independence Day. LA DIA DE INDEPENDENCIA The La Carnival is simply a prelude to a party that is so much bigger. Held on February 27, the La Dia De Independencia (Independence Day) marks the day of the Dominican Republic's independence from Haiti. Same with the La Carnival, this specific day involves a lot of dancing, parades, eating, and drinking. It's the apex of the celebrations that began during the carnival. In a way of speaking, the La Dia De Independencia is the party to stop all parties! LA NAVIDAD La Navidad is celebrated on December 25, that is actually Christmas, identical to in the US and many parts of the world. The normal serving of food among families and exchanging of gifts is done to enjoy the day. The only difference is that local people attend a midnight mass before proceeding with the actual celebrations. THE MERENGUE FESTIVAL The Merengue is the most popular music and dance in the Dominican Republic. Every year in July, the Dominicans stage a 10-day celebration overflowing with parties, music, dancing, and concerts. The festival starts with a parade, complete with bands, dancers, and men in costume. Even hotels and clubs organize their own events and concerts in lieu of this specific holiday. And of course, they all dance to the tune of the exotic and upbeat rhythm of the merengue. The Dominicans, except for being a religious bunch, are a festive crowd, which is quite telling when you consider the manner in which they celebrate their holidays. Truth to tell, they like to party and have a good time regularly even in ordinary days. So if you want a really unique and fun holiday, the Dominican Republic is the perfect place to go to.
Camping in the Caribbean: Cinnamon Bay St. John USVI
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Photo by Robbers
“Let’s go camping.” “I want a resort.” “But I need nature.” “The beach is nature.” “Cinnamon Bay?” “Cinnamon Bay!” Miniscule waves, clear as the Caribbean sky, lick the pearlescent grains of sand, drawing the sugary beach into the tide like a child eating a snow cone. The unspoiled, condo free Cinnamon Bay on St. John inspires enough sickly sweet metaphors to rival the first chapter of a Robert Ludlum novel. I fell in love with Cinnamon Bay the first time I stepped into the eco-friendly camping resort. Not the “oh this is pretty” love; I’m talking about make a mixed tape, write cheesy poetry, try a new hairstyle kind of love.
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Photo by Prettykatemachine
The Caribbean is packed with pseudo-tropical resorts begging to fulfill our every desire. Fruity drinks, seemingly ready for inclement weather with paper umbrellas, are served poolside by sarong clad waitresses. Egyptian cotton clouds to rest our heads at night and hot mango croissants at the buffet in the morning have become synonymous with little latitude islands. For a completely different approach to the Caribbean, Cinnamon Bay St John USVI rates 5 Conch Shells on the purely fictional, made only for this review, 1 to 5 Conch Shell rating scale. Cinnamon Bay Campground is a no-frills, back to nature camping experience infused into the longest beach on the island. The accommodations may be back to basics but the activities and amenities are plentiful and typically Caribbean. The Beach Shop lives up to its name, equipped with sun worshipping paraphernalia such as bathing suits, t-shirts and the emblematic sundries visitors would expect to find in a shop with such a descriptive if not original title. The obligatory water sports shack rents snorkeling gear, sailboats, sea kayaks and windsurfing boards. But what really stands out about Cinnamon Bay is the ability to camp under the Virgin Island sky and gaze out at the star speckled sea. The deluxe beachfront accommodations are 15 by 15 foot cottages with an outside terrace. The front and rear of the cottages are screen walls and are equipped with four twin beds, electric lights, electrical outlets, fan, picnic table, charcoal grill, propane gas stove, ice chest, water container and cooking and eating utensils.
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Photo by Prettykatemachine
Slightly off the beach, privately tucked away tents, 10 by 14 feet with a solid floor and mosquito netting, provide a secluded tropical experience reminiscent of Robinson Crusoe. Cots, picnic table, charcoal grill, propane gas stove and gas lantern, ice chest, water container, storage bin, and cooking and eating utensils are provided allowing visitors a real camping experience without the hassle of carrying in gear.
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Photo by Jay Collier
For a more traditional camping approach, bare sites are large enough for one large or two small tents and include a picnic table. You won’t have to worry about bears invading your camp, however, alcoholic donkeys love to steal bottles of rum left out overnight. Wild donkeys can be seen grazing roadsides, strolling the beach and doing their best raccoon impersonations in campsites.
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Photo by Prettykatemachine
A hike along the Cinnamon Bay loop literally unearths St John history. The trail was a road in the days of the Danish settlement where hikers can see teams of archeologists digging up artifacts for the museum at the end of the trail. The ancient sugar mill and rum factory ruins are fascinating sites to explore for a day off the beach.
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Photo by Jay Collier
Cinnamon Bay Campgrounds is an eco-friendly, budget minded alternative Caribbean vacation that is perfect for children and adults. More information available at the Cinnamon Bay Campground website http://www.cinnamonbay.com/home.html
Dinner in the Jungle
The waterlogged skiff seemed to be held together with barnacles and hope. With each chop the transom bent under the weight of the coverless outboard motor. I have sailed through hurricanes, fallen overboard, rode 30 foot waves, had masts snap in two and come crashing down around me in a tangle of ropes and cables; the 25-minute boat ride to Almirante was as white knuckled a passage as I ever care to endure. The wind plastered Lisa’s hair back from her face. Oblivious to the impending doom, she forged ahead through the waves at full throttle.
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Her real name wasn’t Lisa; I overheard her friends refer to her as something else which I could not quite pick up on. When we met that morning in Bocas Del Toro, she was bringing me coffee and Carimanola (fried yucca stuffed with beef and boiled eggs). “I love this coffee.” I said to break the ice. “What kind is it?” It worked. She immediately sat down and taught me a lesson in Panamanian coffee. The way her tone separated the classes intrigued me; her reference to the “Indians” that picked the coffee had an inflection on the word Indians as if she were saying something dirty. I was admittedly confused by this young woman of indeterminate age. She was a beautiful girl of Hispanic decent with an obvious dose of indigenous DNA in her genetic makeup. Compelled to ask her if she were part Ngobi, I thought better of it and held my tongue. Luckily I was the only customer in the four table restaurant, which gave me the opportunity to listen to her fascinating account of life in the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro, Panama. She asked me about my reason for being there and I explained that I had sailed down from the Bay Islands of Honduras by way of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. She jumped at the opening to inform me she also had a boat. “Poor people take water taxi back to Almirante. I have my own.” She boasted. Hanging around for another hour, I picked at a coconut pastry and thumbed through a week old copy of
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La Prensa while she finished work after accepting the offer to visit her home and family via her “own boat.” The rotten little skiff slowed and pointed towards an overhanging patch of bushes. We tied off on a branch next to a mud road. A half hairless dog crawled out from under the bushes and followed behind us. Head low to the ground, an animal that may have been a rat at one time hung from the despicable canine’s maw. I almost asked if it were her dog but decided I would prefer not to know. If the beast were not diseased I am pretty sure its prey was. I wondered if any vehicles travelled the road. It was pocked with holes several feet deep; puddles so old that tadpoles with leg buds swam in them. We passed one section where more than half the road had been swallowed by the cove like a giant sea creature had taken a crescent bite before slipping back into the abyss. We trekked on with the mangy beast in tow and 10 minutes later she announced that we had arrived. Red letters, two feet wide, spelled out “bruja” on the unpainted concrete blocks and across the front door. The tiny cinder block home supported a rust ridden patchwork metal roof. A chicken darted out of the way with chasing chicks as the dog found a cool spot under an Angel Trumpet bush. A young Ngobi-Hispanic boy scrubbed at the letters with a brush, sloshing soapy water from a child’s pink beach pail onto the dirt entrance. “It say witch. They call my mother witch. She no witch. They jealous at my family.” Lisa told me as we approached her home. She introduced the little boy as her brother, Clari. Greeting me with a big toothy smile, he happily went back to work removing the graffiti. Entering the house, the floor felt strange beneath my wet sandals. Looking down at the heavily stained indoor/outdoor carpet, I noticed the bulges similar to the floor inside a tent. The carpet was apparently supported by a bare earth. Lisa pulled a hard backed chair from the wall, facing it toward a 12-inch black and white TV that wore a tin foil sculpture that posed as an antenna, and gestured for me to sit. My eyes scanned the unpainted concrete block walls, covered from top to bottom with photographs, drawings, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbons, Popsicle stick figures and an uncountable number of postcards from Spain. The 12-foot by 12-foot room was separated by a dark blue sheet hand embroidered with white frilly vertical stripes that acted as a door to whatever was hidden beyond. I was impressed with the decorating attempts with such limited resources. Although it seemed condescending to think of the décor as childlike, I couldn’t help but to perceive it that way. Garbled voices in rapid Spanish leaked through, obviously announcing my visit. Lisa returned with a beautiful woman with long raven hair and eyes as green as the neighboring rain forest. -a rarity in that part of Panama. Recognizing her from one of the photographs on the wall in which she stood next to a man of Native Central American decent, I accepted her outstretched hand as she introduced herself, in remarkably good English with a hint of a Castilian accent, as Graciela. She invited me to dinner and
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asked if I would mind walking to the market with Lucilia to pick up a few things. “Lisa!” the girl corrected her mother with a bit of color rising in her cheeks. The market was a 10-minute walk through trash strewn streets. Mangy dogs and half naked children stood staring as we passed. The conversation was light but with an air of her superiority over the other local residents. Amused with her sense of keeping up with the Jones of the Jungle attitude, I took her attempt at impressing me as a compliment. I wanted to let her know that there was no need to try to impress me. I loved where I was. Looking at other cultures like animals in a zoo for amusement just wasn’t me. I put myself in other cultures to learn and live as a global citizen. Different did not mean uncomfortable or a rung on some mythical social ladder. I couldn’t think of a way to do it without offending her, so I let her continue.
A handful of Ngobe children stood outside the bodega; the boys in short pants and the girls in colorful Pollera dresses. Lisa picked out vegetables that her mother requested while I grabbed a bottle of Seco (a rum type liquor) and enough orange sodas for the children outside, Lisa and myself. After paying for the lot, we walked
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outside and took a seat on the steps with the children. I passed out the drinks and was generously repaid with laughs and smiles all around. One little girl climbed into my lap as if she were my own child. We laughed for a common language, they spoke no Spanish or English and I knew no Ngobe. The interaction with the children seemed to ease Lisa’s need to impress upon me that she was not an Indian. Obviously, I did not share the regional prejudices. Entering the little house once again was a remarkably cool relief from the hot Panama sun. I presented the bottle of Seco to Graciela. She thanked me, opened the bottle and began to pour it on the floor. “Oh damn. I screwed up.” I whispered to Lisa. Shaking her head, she laughed. “No. She make a blessing.” Graciela mumbled a few words incoherently to the spirits and took a good long pull straight from the bottle. Unfamiliar with this ritual, I wondered if it had something to do with the reference to bruja painted across the door. I relaxed and thought that these were definitely my kind of people. I offered to help with dinner and was graciously led through the second room containing a beautifully ornate dining table, antique hutch and extravagant china, to the kitchen, which was an un-walled area covered by a pieced together metal roof, behind the house. Dumbfounded, I noticed that the ceiling was made up of corrugated tin and road signs. It was the sign that read “Caution: Bridge Ices Before Road” that left me speechless. This place was an enigma. A makeshift worktable acted as a food prep area. I felt a sense of belonging while chopping, washing and peeling. We feasted on colorful dishes; tender polpo (octopus), corvina fish with a variety of spicy and sweet sauces, steamed vegetables and cold fruits. Graciela explained that she had moved to Panama as a teenager from Spain because her father was an engineer with the Panama Canal when the US gave back control in 1977. Against her families better judgment she fell in love with a Ngobe man. She had moved to Bocas Del Toro with the clothes on her back and the dining room furniture that had belonged to her grandmother in Spain. He ran off when she was pregnant the second time with Clari, leaving them to their own devises. The reference to the witch was gnawing at me. The pouring of the Seco on the floor – little multicolored worry dolls scattered around the house. The diminishing glass of Seco loosened my inhibitions enough to ask when I was distracted by a palmetto bug, big enough for a saddle, scurried across the table. No one seemed to notice or care. I decided to forget about questions and let the conversation continue on its natural course. I learned about the simple life on Bocas Del Toro and they listened to exaggerated tales of my adventures at sea. Hunger for food and companionship satiated, I slipped into a state of euphoric relaxation. The empty Seco bottle, lying on its side, played no small part I am sure. Lisa suggested, with a look of regret, that since it was getting dark we should start back to Bocas Del Toro. Visions of clinging to rotted planks in shark infested waters with nothing but stars to navigate by, jolted me back to reality.
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If I left soon I could make the last water taxi. I would sleep in the jungle with the howler monkeys and poison arrow frogs before I stepped back in that dinghy of death. Lisa wrapped some leftover food in newspaper insisting I take it with me. Polite pleas from Clari that I take him sailing the next day sounded wonderful; I extended the offer to everyone. Excitedly, they agreed to meet me at the marina in the morning. With hugs and both cheek kisses all around I left the modest but loving jungle home for my reliably lonely sailboat.
First Impressions: Bimini, Bahamas
First Impressions at Bimini Harbor Two types of sailors voyage the seas, those who run aground and those who lie about it. A mere 53 miles east of Miami, the small island of Bimini is the first port of call entering the Bahamas. In Bimini customs are cleared, cruising permits purchased, and first impressions made. It is inevitable that fellow cruisers met here will be seen again and again amongst the 700 + islands that make up the archipelago of the Bahamas. The humiliating feeling of being stuck on a sandbar, as margarita fueled deck loungers sail past waving, tends to linger for the remainder of the trip.
Photo by Bill available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license
Read More---> Approaching Bimini The Bahama Islands are a perfect place to cut teeth as a new cruiser. A smooth sail into Bimini harbor will set the tone for the entire trip. A narrow channel divides Bimini into two separate islands, North Bimini and South Bimini. Unfortunately, entering Bimini harbor is much trickier than it looks. The apparent straight shot into the channel is illusionary at best. Time to toss instinct overboard and follow the path of those who have the approach down to a science.= Getting The bearing
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Instead of heading toward the channel, head for South Bimini. Impossible to see in the dark, look for two diamond shaped signs on the south end of the beach. Line the bow of the boat up so that only one diamond is visible. One sign behind the other means a perfect heading has been established. Inevitably instinct is climbing back from the depths and over the gunwales, whispering to head hard to port toward the channel. Ignore the beast and run straight toward the beach until everyone aboard gasps at the apparent foolishness. Thirty feet offshore is the deepest part of the channel and can manage any draft, no matter how much water it draws. Hard to port! Almost a 90 degree turn will line the boat up for an easy sail into the harbor.
"Photo by Bill available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license"
Anchoring Strutting around on deck sporting your best Capt Ron impression it is time to wrap up everything with the perfect anchor set. Besides a safe anchorage, Bimini harbor serves as a runway for sea plane services on the island. Anchoring in the middle of the harbor is frowned upon as the ultimate earmark of a green sailor. The majority of boats will be anchored off to the north side. Here is a chance to outshine everyone. Sail past Bimini Big Game Resort and find a quiet spot out of the way. The aforementioned seaplanes will surely drench drying towels hanging on lifelines, dampen lovingly prepared deck picnics and worst of all, water down the well deserved glass of rum, for those that anchor at more convenient spots. Now that a first impression as a sailing guru to the many onlookers has been made, you will be welcomed amongst the seasoned sailors with open arms and invited for a frosty Bahama Mama at the End of the World Bar.
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Photo by Bill available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license."
It’s that smell. The same aroma that is associated with every Caribbean bar in the morning. Like a coke gone flat, the flavor is merely reminiscent. A bar in the morning is a bubble-less party. Sun tan oil, perfume, vacation only cigar smoke, sweat and liquor hang in the atmosphere like the hundreds of dusty bras displaying Spring Break 2000 and Love From Michigan - in the standard black Sharpie of course. The sign outside reads the customary incongruous name, The Purple Penguin, Drunken Dolphin or some supplementary attempt at wit; or dare I say uniqueness. ICE. That is the only sign I needed to see. To me this bar represents arrival and ice. Nine days at sea translates to an empty ice bin and any tropical port that will have me. Many years ago when the horizon turned into an irregular grey line it represented an adventure. The sense of accomplishment received by crossing a large body of water sent shivers of pride through my entire being. My battle with Mother Nature won, I stood tall at the helm as I sailed into harbor. That same grey irregularity is now an ice cube. I no longer shiver from accomplishment. No waves of excitement at the thought of white sandy beaches with steel drum bands. Absent are the thoughts of bikini clad co-eds with the “what happens on the island stays on the island” mantra. Ice. Popping and crackling ice. The splash of the anchor and rattling chain is a song sung by a beautiful ebony faced bartender dropping glacial cubes into the tallest glass in the house.
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The physical bodies in the bar add up to ten. The essence of hundreds linger from the night before. If I closed my eyes I could see the crowd. Foot-tall neon plastic cocktail trumpets tied around the sunburned necks of gyrating summer blondes. Cuban cigars held awkwardly by 21 year old identity challenged studs. There’s a place near the back that looks dark and cool. Excitement and love are two very different things. When I say the excitement has waned it is not to say that I no longer love sailing the Blue Jungle. I have a very happy marriage with the sea. The honeymoon is over, but the love is strong. We understand each other. There is a predictability that is both comforting and nurturing. She knows the sacrifices I make for her so she treats me well. Ice. My biggest sacrifice is those glassy little squares that bring me so much happiness. Moderately cool beer instead of icy cold heaven. I could easily run the generator all the time to keep my ice-bin stocked. But a happy marriage requires sacrifice and I love the sea too much to pollute her unnecessarily with coughing diesel fumes. The wind will carry me where I need to go. “Yuh wan sum ting fee drink mon?” The bartender’s words rang out like a choir of angels. I pull out the bar stool savoring the moment, Wooden legs scratch across the floor with a dry grating sound matching my reply. “The largest glass you have packed with ice and filled half way with Goslings Black Rum.” My words ring out with the same enthusiasm as the time my mother took me to see Santa at the mall when I asked for a Penn fishing reel, which I never got. “Ice makah din work. Beer, it nice an cool.”
Ain't Land a Bitch
Like the last kernel to pop in the pot, I bounced around the co-pilot seat repeating “Yeah that’s gonna leave a mark.” rubbing my hips from the brutal seatbelt attack. I like rough plane rides; especially in small aircraft like the Cessna 302 making its approach into Key West. I drew the lucky straw for the co-pilot seat in Miami on the short flight to Key West. Answering an ad on Craigslist, a 1947 Nivens 34-foot wooden sailboat was waiting my arrival. This rare find was a stroke of luck. If the boat checked out as described, I would make the eight hour sail back to Fort Lauderdale that afternoon. One, two, three hops and an armrest breaking grip, the Cessna rolled down the runway. Several “phews” escaped the passengers sitting behind me. The pilot wiped a few beads of sweat from his face that did not look old enough to grace a driver’s license. I couldn’t resist a quip. “So Cap’n - we land or get shot down?” “Strong crosswind over the runway.” He explained embarrassedly. Unable to resist the urge, I followed up with. “That’s a little like the whale blaming the beach, ain’t it?” I laughed good naturedly to assure him I was
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joking, though I was relieved to have only suffered a few bruises from the digging seat belt. A five minute cab ride from the airport and I was standing in front of a beautiful antique sailboat at Stock Island Marina. The owner, a proclaimed cabinetmaker, had spent a great deal of time restoring the woodwork to a condition that rivaled the day the boat was built. I surmised that any boat that had been so reverently restored was seaworthy. Not a full hour had passed since the questionable landing, before papers were signed, supplies from the marina store (consisting of four sandwiches and a case of water) were stowed and a teary wave from the previous owner and I was headed out to sea. She sailed like a dream. With a beam of only seven feet, she sliced through the water like a canoe. Under full sail, I quickly made it past the reef and into Gulf Stream for the 3.5 knot current that would carry me home. The low lying islands that make up the Florida Keys quickly faded into a blue irregularity on the western horizon. The eastern horizon had a much more ominous look. Purple and black raced toward me and my little boat. Flashes of white from Poseidon’s trident streaked the sky closer than I would have preferred. Summer storms pop up and disappear quickly in the Florida Straights. The first gust was under reefed sail, but at 50 miles an hour it packed a punch. In the course of seconds, the world changed around me. A thunderous crack overhead led me to believe I had been struck by lightning. Quickly I gazed skyward in time to see the mast coming down like a spear from heaven. I dove out of the way into the cabin head first to avoid the deadly wood and cables. I tried to raise myself up on hands and knees but my left arm would not cooperate. It had an odd angle to it that I realized could put me in a pretty bad position. I managed to get myself up only to find that the mast had pierced the cockpit floor into the engine compartment and caused severe damage. I needed to make it back into the cockpit and secure the tiller to stay on a steady course into the wind. Securing my arm with a torn shirt I climbed the three steps to the cockpit to see a tangle of wires and splintered wood. Anger rose in my chest when I noticed that the spot where the mast broke had been patched with caulking and paint; which is not unlike wearing black socks to fix the hole in your boots. There would be time to cuss the previous owner later. I desperately needed to get the boat under control. Things went from perilous to deadly. The fallen mast had broken the tiller. There was no way to steer, power or control the boat. The waves were high peaked and no longer rolling. The boat was falling off the tops of waves with bone jarring crashes. Back in the cabin I looked for anything that could help. With the antenna destroyed I was left to my own ingenuity. Opening drawers I found a box of birthday candles and a half full bottle of Goslings dark rum. I threw them both in a five gallon bucket and made my way back to the cockpit. A long pull on the rum for courage and a handful of birthday candles to bite on for a makeshift mouth guard. Unprotected, the waves would have the same effect on my teeth as Jerry smashing Tom in the face with a frying pan.
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I tied the five gallon bucket to a line and threw it astern acting as a stabilizer to keep the boat in a single direction. There was nothing more I could do in this storm. I returned to the cabin with the rum and a handheld GPS. My speed had decreased and I was making way to the North West in the direction of Marathon Key. I concluded that I had about a 20 percent chance of making it to the safety of land. There was a monumental chance that I would hit the reef, which meant certain death. Nothing left to do but sit on the floor of the cabin alternating rum and glances at the GPS. I awoke to the unmistakable sound of waves crashing on sand. The boat was at an awkward angle but unmoving. With rum in hand I crawled out of the cabin to the sight of cars speeding by on Route One. Making my way up the incline to the shoulder of the road I began walking when I was promptly arrested for open container and public intoxication.
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What's the Oldest Bar in Paris?
What's the oldest bar in Paris?
The French adore drinking and dining out. Paris is bursting with bars, wine bars, cafés, bistros and dining establishments. Plenty of enjoyment. But which and exactly where could be the most ancient one? Let's start by roaming along rue Mazarine from the Odéon square. We pretty much instantly come upon Le Procope, the place where a plaque affirms it truly is "the oldest café in the world". It opened in 1686, primarily to provide coffee. This beverage's fashion obtained recently from Austria - the Viennese got their caffeinated drinks through the Turks during a lull within the Ottoman siege of their city ca. 1623. The Café Procope was a first favourite rendez-vous of personalities
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from the Comédie Française - the national theatrical company, then located nearby- and eventually, throughout the tumultuous pre-Revolutionary mid-18th century, of Encylopaedists (such as Diderot and D'Alembert) along with other non-conformist thinkers, who experienced the rule of Louis XV - being cautious in what they spouted in public places. Voltaire recounts that one evening, he and a number of like-minded philosophers wished to talk about an extremely thorny concern around a cup of coffee at Le Procope: does God exist? They coded "God" as Monsieur Néant ("Mister Nothing) and the wrangling continued for many hours. At a nearby table sat a man who had time to examine his newspaper repeatedly. Then, out of endurance, he stood up and came up to the philosophers. "Excuse me, Messieurs, you've been speaking about Monsieur Néant. Might you please alleviate my curiosity and inform me as to who he could be?" As outlined by Voltaire, the answer was shot back without delay: "Indeed, of course! He is a police spy - DO YOU KNOW HIM?" There exists an issue with the Le Procope's claim, however. The proprietor, Mr. Procope, born in Palermo as Procoppio dei Cotelli, had previously worked as a waiter at another Parisian café before launching his own! The "very first in the world"? Sorry... Unless of course we're referring to the earliest still in existence. But there are also other prospects.
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The Paris Islands
An additional site to check out is Ile St-Louis, an island on the river Seine, which was constructed in essence, between 1613 and 1700. Our initial discovery is Les Anysetiers du Roy (The King's aniseed liqueur manufacturers), a restaurant situated at No. 61 rue StLouis-en-l'Isle. Our subsequent discovery is Le Franc-Pinot, a wellrecognized jazz club situated at No. 1 Quai de Bourbon. Both of them are certainly Procope contemporaries, and have been offering food and drink ever since they were launched in the 17th century. A thought nags the tavern investigator, however: none prior to the 17th century??? Out of the question!! Fifteenth century poet François Villon did in fact dedicate "tout aux tavernes et aux filles" ("everything to taverns and girls."). And all of the taverners dating from 1457 A.D. number some 200 full-time professionals and another hundred or so occasionals. A well-known tavern of that time period was the Pomme de Pin (Pinecone), on Ile de la Cité (the second island in the center of Paris). It lived through mid-1800s when Paris Prefect Haussmann razed it to create more space for the Hôtel Dieu hospital next to Notre Dame Cathedral Ancient Ile de la Cité appears a great spot for additional fieldwork.
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Methodical investigation discloses that today's taverns close to Notre Dame all date from the 19th century period of Haussmann's downtown clean-up. Oh, but wait. Let's take a peek down an authentically stylish sidestreet on Ile de la Cité, rue de la Colombe (The Dove street). We arrive at No. 4 upon the Réserve de Quasimodo, a wineshopcum-eatery found in the ancient building. The Réserve de Quasimodo virtually disregards (although not scorning) the holiday hordes around nearby Notre Dame Cathedral. Noon and night it serves delightful and reasonably priced classic French fares, coupled with vintner- supplied wines. It provides regular evening dinner shows enlivened by oral culture ("Old Paris Stories", "Tales from Brittany"), magicians, a "pocket theater" group, etc. Prior to that, in 1950, it was purchased, by Austro-American illustrator Ludwig Bemelmens, most commonly known for his cartoons in The New Yorker and his Madeline children's album series. A photograph from 1869 demonstrates the place was then a wine-bar and wineshop.
A Foiled Suicide
Skipping back a century-and-a-half from then, around 1719, we visit a story about Cartouche, whose hangout here was the
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St Nicolas Tavern, a precursor of today's Réserve de Quasimodo. Cartouche was the ring-leader of a pickpocket gang that's recorded, since he was executed in 1721. The tale: Cartouche and gang were "working" the favored and packed Pont-Neuf bridge one day in 1719, when out of the blue a well-dressed man leapt up onto the Bridge's parapet. "Hang on, there, Sir," Cartouche has been said to have yelled, yanking the fellow down again from an obvious suicide attempt. "What's this all about?" The gentleman's reply: "I'm an honest man, indeed an honorable man, and I owe several people much money that I'll never be able to pay...The only honorable way out is to leap into the Seine." Cartouche: "Now, now, you just give me a list of your creditors and the sums due." The "gentleman bandit" asked mentioned creditors to the St Nicholas Tavern at No. 4 rue de la Colombe, wined and dined them generously, repaid the suicide candidate's financial obligations (obtaining receipts, obviously) and purchased a lot more wine. He then brought out his pocket watch, stated "Sorry, gentlemen, I've got an appointment", and vanished. Much more librations ensued among the lenders, only too pleased to enjoy their unforeseen windfall. Once they staggered out onto rue de la Colombe, imagine who had been waiting for them. Yes, indeed: Cartouche's gang, who rapidly divested them from the debt repayments.
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And The Winner Is....
The St. Nicholas Tavern alone pre-dates Le Procope with a broad margin. The tavern obtained its name from the patron saint to whom local clergymen had constructed a statue in replacement of an earlier pagan sculpture nicknamed (The Man with Doves). The statue of St. Nicholas was torn down in 1792 during the French revolution. It was once attached over the doorway of No. 4 rue de la Colombe. The tavern itself is attested here in... 1240. We have our winner.
The Belarus Brothers
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It wasn’t until the second day of my multi day taxi hire that the transplanted Belarusian driver graduated from the “email exchange- never to be followed up on” status, to new friend. Yuri knew his way around the Ukraine countryside exclusively at oh shit handle speeds. While I found his stories fascinating, I had to interject at the last second in order to stop anywhere. “Bad laws in Belarus now. No one can be president.” “I thought Belarus has a president.” “Just one, no more.” “How many does it need? Up there on the left, sign says ?????????. A deli is good enough for me, I’m starved.” “That is president of country. No president of club, no president of company.” “I’m not following you, Yuri.” “President is word for only president. Everyone else change to chairman.” “Why? What’s the reason for that?” “Belarus.” “Here. Turn here.” Without a thought or the slightest touch of the brakes, Yuri cut across the thin icy gravel median into the parking lot. The faded and scarred Zaporozhets slid to a sideways stop, peppering the shiny new Lada less than an open door away. We shared an American cigarette, a developing tradition at every stop, before going inside for an overpriced meal that couldn’t decide if it wanted to stay in the land of disgusting or cross the border into putrid. Yuri didn’t seem to notice. I was glad for the airing out break from the cab. Yuri wore the same pit stained shirt as the previous day and I would bet my passport that it was more than day two for the cheap Lacostte knockoff. It was my last day in Ukraine so I didn’t care too much about the added smell of Yuri’s choice of shuba for lunch to the already eye watering cab. I had one more property to look at before heading back to Kiev. “I forget where you said you live.” “Pennsylvania.” “That close to Philadelphia?”
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“Yeah, pretty much.” I was too tired to explain the difference between states and cities. “I live a few miles north of Philly.” “Maybe you know my brother Sasha. He lives in Philadelphia.” “Possibly.” Sasha is short for Alexander. Next to Ivan and Boris, Alexander is the most popular name in North Philadelphia. I felt like asking if he ever heard of a man named John from the US. “How will you get home from the airport in Pennsylvania?’ “Train.” “I will call Sasha. He pick you up no problem.” “No. Thanks anyway. The train is easy enough and it’s cheaper than a taxi.” I was new and temporary in Philly but I knew my way around. I certainly didn’t need someone in the Ukraine to schedule a cab ahead of time. “Sasha is not taxi driver. He drive you up no charge.” Ignoring my protests, one hand on the wheel the other on his cell, one eye on the road the other on a phone card tacked to the torn visor, he called Sasha and began a banter of various Russian curses in a playful tone. “What is number for plane?” Can you say awkward? With no idea how to protest, I gave him my flight information. The smells only found on long international flights and an endless line at customs behind me, I was happy to be in baggage claim downstairs at PHL. The bubble light began to turn, baggage carousel jolted forward and the buzzer rang simultaneously as a catcher’s mitt sized hand clamped down on my shoulder. Startled I turned around to face a giant of a man. The head the size of a basketball and a smile that could not be hidden by a full slice of watermelon stared down at me from at least one atmosphere above. “What the hell are you doing here Alex? Wait…No…You’re not…” A roaring laugh attracted looks from everyone within twenty yards. “Yeah, I’m Yuri’s brother. He called me the other night and told me about the man he was driving around. I knew you were there, not that many ugly Irishman running around looking at property in Ukraine so I knew it was you. We decided to have a little joke with you.” I laughed and shook my head at the odds. My first friend in Philadelphia turned out to be the brother of my first friend in Ukraine. “Home?” he asked as we pulled out of the parking garage in a blur. The new Mercedes smell was a world away from his brother’s taxi.
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“I should have known it was your brother. The driving must be genetic. And no, not home, take me to that restaurant of yours. I haven’t had a decent Russian meal since I left Philly.”
Turin: A City of Contrasts
High in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, nestled at the base of the silent Alps, a city alive with commerce and cosmopolitan lifestyle proudly calls itself the first capital of Italy. Torino (Turin) was home to the 2006 Winter Olympics and arguably the automobile Mecca of the world.
Torino is a city of contrasts. The surrounding rural areas are picturesque and quiet as one would expect the Italian Alps to be. Within the sprawling urban area the ambiance drastically changes as visitors find themselves in a bustling metropolis comparable to any of the great cities of the world. Cosmopolitan Torino is widely known for restaurants like Ristorante Arcadia and Ristorante Del Cambio 1757, fine art galleries like Galleria Sabauda and Galleria D'Arte Martano Di Dematteis Liliana, cathedrals, palaces, opera houses, lush gardens and busy piazzas. The contrasts continue as the old mingles with the new. Torino is built of a plethora of architectural magnificence in the style of baroque, rococo, neo-classical, and art nouveau. Museo Dell Automobile ,Carlo Biscaretti Di Ruffia, Museo della Marionetta Fondazione, Torino Musei are but a few of the many museums throughout the city which hold national treasures one would expect to find in the major museums of the world. Far from Rome, the feel of Torino is more towards the French than the Italian. Much of the city’s beauty is fashioned after the city of Versailles designed by the Sicilian architect Filippo Juvarra. Within the city limits great castles such as Camino Castle, Castello di Razzano, Castello di Santa Vittoria and palazzi like Royal Palace of Turin or Palazzo Reale speckle the region as to suggest Torino is a city built for many kings. Romance and royalty topped with mystery and intrigue is the very foundation of Torino. Here is the home of the famous Shroud of Turin and the Italian royal family, House of Savoy.
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One feels the electricity in the air when walking the city streets. For here is where great industry has produced some of the best automobiles in Italy and much of the International Space Station. The contrasts of Torino can be seen at every turn. Students learn modern science in ancient universities, modern public transportation carry visitors and residents alike to the medieval gardens, tended much in the same manner they have for more than 500 years. Torino exists in the midst of many centuries, abandoning none, instead embracing the best of eras past, present and welcoming the future.
Oktoberfest in Munich
photo by Arkitect
It is almost that time of year when lovely young ladies must be admired for their ability to carry their own weight in beer steins. There is something about Oktoberfest that always brings a smile to my face. Perhaps it is the flowing sudsy goodness that cools the throat and warms the blood. Perhaps it is the…no it’s the beer. One thing for sure is that while Oktoberfest can be enjoyed anywhere in the world, Munich Germany is undeniably a place where even the most seasoned traveler will do a double-take and find the unexpected happening before their eyes. Englischer Garten (English Garden) is one of Europe’s largest urban parks. Stretching from the city center to the northern city limits, this sprawling green oasis is more than just a park. The Chinese Pagoda Tower is a landmark for the beer garden that seats an amazing 7000 people. Ladies in traditional dress defy the laws of physics with outstretched arms of overflowing beer steins that must match their own weight. Plates of sausages covered with sauerkraut steaming an aroma of pickling
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spices fill the air. The oom pah pah music that would melt car speakers any other time of year is an enjoyable background music for the party of the year. If one can drag themselves away from the deliciousness, English Garden has a few other sights that seem all the more odd after a few liters of Weiss Brau, even more so when it is unexpected. My first trip to Munich was an impromptu event with no planning and virtually no idea what the local sights entailed. After asking directions to the closest beer garden there was little else I was interested in seeing at the moment. Two hours later, sated from beer and brats, my traveling companion and I decided to walk off the effects. Overall the park was well above average for its beauty but after all it was still a park and I had a good buzz going. I was not in the mood to dwell on the mundane. Walking along one of the miles of pathways a woman pushing a stroller matched our pace 20 feet in front of us. To her left a man wearing a leather baseball cap and silver sunglasses stood statuesque gazing skyward. She offered him only the briefest of glances. My friend and I, on the other hand, practically bolted for the tree line. As I said, the man wore a cap and glasses; an odd looking hat and glasses. The rest of his attire consisted solely of approximately 10 pounds of steel piercings. In retrospect it may have been the barbell hanging from his appendage that made him look so intimidating at first glance. Ok..so in my defense, I was partaking in a good amount of brew and I am an American, but I laughed out loud. I laughed hard. The man looked at the pair of us as if we were rude and a couple of freaks. Hey, look buddy, where I come from that is not self expression. You’re a perv. So keep your dirty looks. Laughing like a couple of high school kids we made our way back in the direction of the beer garden. Not before noticing another guy carrying a surfboard and wearing a wetsuit. Again with the double take. “We ARE in Germany right?” I asked my friend. “Hell, I think so.” He said. “Munich is landlocked right?” “Follow him?” “Follow him.” Now as a man who has never lived far enough away from the ocean to not be able to hear the waves, I was dying to see where this was going to lead. Grab a beer and enjoy the video below to see what we saw. Then book your flight to Munich for an Oktoberfest to remember. [Link to embedded object]
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Flying Blind in Italy
There was a physical weight on my eyes. Whether gravity or sensory overload was the cause, my weary ocular orbs were retreating back into my skull to escape. How many miles had my feet carried me through the endless halls of the Vatican, viewing the gaudy color murals and frescoes? The first few visits to Rome were filled with the wonder and amazement that goes along with such a mystical place steeped in the richest history of the world. Living in Orlando must be similar; instead of Disney World, visiting friends want to see the Vatican and gaze at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I was glad for the break from the demanding city and visiting friends. Italy still held all of the charm and allure as always, but it was time for a much needed escape to the quiet Tuscan hills. Away from the speeding Vespas and psychotic taxis, I sat on the grassy embankment which surrounds the medieval village of Lucca, with eyes shut. I didn’t want to see a thing. I needed to balance the senses. As I relaxed into the damp grass, another side of Italy began to fill me. A smell of blossoms hanging from trees, I had never noticed before, engulfed me like an over-zealous perfumery clerk. This new sensation sparked an idea. Since I had arrived in Italy eight months prior I had been exposed by so many awe inspiring sites that I began to lose my other senses. Lucca was my retreat from the city yet it was difficult not to be amazed by the beautiful architecture and ancient cobbled streets. I wanted to treat my senses to something new. Stopping in a shop at the Piazza degli Scalpellini I purchased the darkest glasses I could find. Next door was my favorite gelato stand. I ordered a double cioccolato al peperoncino (chocolate with chili pepper) and quickly walked to the Piazza Anfiteatro, an ancient Roman amphitheater, before the gelato melted.
The amphitheater was now used as a place for children to play soccer on the cobbles, old ladies to argue over the freshness of overpriced herbs and a cut through to the bocce pit for pensioners.
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I sat on the cool stones with my back against the wall, eyes closed, listening to the rapid conversations echoing through the open windows. A lover’s playful quarrel was the backup singers for the lead, a women yelling at her good for nothing son that couldn’t find work on a horseless farm. Not quite sure what that meant but she said it in earnest. The chocolate was richer, the pepper spicier than ever before: the cold colder and the richness richer. Aromas never before considered wafted around like tornadoes in slow motion. The oval amphitheater was perhaps 50 meters wide, 75 across and bordered by converted flats. The sounds and smells were trapped in a jar for my amusement. I could smell clothes drying in the sun on limp cords strung from window to window. But more... I could hear them flapping. The familiar dropping of pasta into a pot of boiling water echoed down from the window above me with a sizzle carrying the smell of yeast and semolina. Only when my rear end could take the hard stones no longer did I give myself ten more minutes of blissful blindness. I fell in love with Italy all over again that day.
Tea Time Around the World
My grandmother used to say that nothing in life was so bad that a good cup of tea couldn’t help. Sure she probably plagiarized it from a book or Irish proverb, but she lived by it. No matter what the situation her response was always, “Oh no, I’ll put a pot on for tea.” Really, we lost Uncle Walter overboard and she is going to fix it with a bloody cup of tea? As I got older I learned to understand her thinking. When there is nothing you can do, making tea is doing something. Then of course the actual act of drinking the tea is a break, psychologically anyway, from the situation; the hot beverage equivalent of counting to 10 to calm the nerves. Perhaps there is something to be said for this matriarchal wisdom because tea is right up there with wine as a global libation to the gods of every day troubles. In fact, tea is second only to water as the most widely consumed beverage in the world, according to Alan McFarlane’s book “The Empire of Tea”. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am talking about real Tea, not that herby flowery stuff you buy in the bean sprout and granola section of the super market. Tea is made from the leaves and leaf buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant. From this glorious plant there are six types of tea: White, Green, Yellow, Black, Oolong and Post-fermented. Each type is a little different but equally delicious in my opinion. I must admit however, I have never actually stepped up to the counter at Starbucks and ordered a Post-fermented tea. [/caption] Post-fermented tea is green tea that has been allowed to ferment by composting. Here it gets a bit confusing. Post-fermented tea is green tea that turns dark and called black tea in Asian countries, which is not black tea because black tea is called red tea in Asian countries. In western countries black tea is just black tea because we don’t have red tea. With that out of the way we simply call post-fermented tea Pu-erh. This remarkable product is aged for many months to many years to achieve a very smooth
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mellow flavor. It is purchased in small cubes or disks and is extremely expensive. A typical 350gram disk aged for 50 years can sell for up to $2,000. It is said to be a great weight loss aid. I suppose I would lose my appetite after a $150 cup of tea as well. The Fujian province of China is known for the highest quality white tea. The leaves are wilted before picked to lose the grassy taste that can accompany the tea. An article in Science Daily describes several studies that have shown a wide range of health benefits attributed to white tea. Results show high levels of anti-oxidants that help prevent cancer and heart disease. White tea has also been shown to reduce the enzyme activity that breaks down the elastin and collagen; the two agents that keep our skin looking young and healthy. High ant- viral and anti-bacterial qualities have been attributed to white tea as well. Second only to white tea for these health benefits is bladderwrack. You just can’t find a decent cup of bladderwrack any more though. Green tea is all the rage for the past few years in the west. In Japan however, green tea is so common that it is simply referred to as tea. China produces and exports more than 80 percent of the worlds green tea supply compared to Japan at only 9.5 percent. Green tea is very much a part of the Japanese culture, which is evident in the care that goes into cultivating and grading the tea. There are 16 types of green tea produced in Japan that vary greatly in price. Yale University published a paper that calls the low cardiovascular and cancer rates the Asian Paradox because of the high number of smokers. Theory suggests it is directly related to the amount of green tea consumed. This theory is also backed and published by the Journal of the American College of Surgeons 202: 813-825 (May 2006) It makes a tasty iced tea as well. Sri Lanka Tea Farmers
It is safe to assume that tea does the body good. This one simple plant has travelled the world and made such an impact that countries formed and wars fought over it.
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It is safe to assume that tea does the body good. This one simple plant has travelled the world and made such an impact that countries formed and wars fought over it. The United States got its start with a huge tea party in Boston. My personal love for tea started with my first trip to the UK. After the first three days, I decided that I was looking in vain for a decent cup of coffee. Reluctantly I gave in and had my first cup of Earl Grey with breakfast. Since that time I make it a point to always have tea when travelling. I have found that every place I visit has a certain twist to the way tea is prepared and served. Some places are more different than others when it comes to the typical western cup of tea. In Tibet and Central Asia Pu-reh is mixed with yak butter to make a thick creamy tea called Bo Ja. The tea and butter is shaken in a wooden cylinder called a dogmo and shaken until thick and frothy. It resembles more of a soup than tea and is quite tasty and filling.
Taking a Break in Tibet
In Central Europe a grog like drink is made with rum and black tea called Jagertee. In German it means hunter tea. The rum and tea mixture has long been enjoyed in the winter months and recently become chic in the ski resorts of the Swiss Alps. In Morocco green tea is served with flair. The Moroccan tea ceremony is unlike any I have encountered. It starts with water and orange flower to wash your hands. A small amount of boiling water is added to the pot and swirled to warm it. Gunpowder green tea and mint is added to the pot and shaken to rinse the ingredients. The water is then poured off and discarded. With a little copper hammer a loaf of sugar is broken into pieces and added to the tea and mint leaves. The pot is then filled with boiling water and left to steep for four minutes. The tea is then poured from a full arms length to aerate the tea and create a frothy head. In Malaysia Teh Tarik is a beverage made with black tea and condensed milk. This is often served by street vendors and kiosks in which a show of making it attracts customers like a street performer. The creation of this drink looks as though the preparer is pulling the tea from one glass to the other in long, well timed movements. This act is as entertaining as it is tasty.
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For every rule there is an exception. The health benefits of tea are thrown out the window in the Russian Prison system with the popular beverage Chafir. My travels allowed me to experience this drink once and only once. I had heard the name in a song about Russian gulags on a train from Novosibirsk to Barnaul. I struck up a conversation with a man that led to the topic of Chafir. He claimed that it was tea consumed mostly by prisoners because of the drug like effects. He assured me that it contained nothing more than black tea, water and sugar. He went further on to say that he could make it for me on the train if I were interested in trying it. He left the car I was in to an unknown location and came back with a paper cup filled with a very black liquid about 10 minutes later. He had gone through all the trouble of getting this for me so I felt obligated to drink it. I remember three distinct memories from the experience. 1.) This tastes horrible. 2.) I am never going to sleep again. 3.) Why are the lavatories on Russian trains always out of order? Chafir is made by mixing 25 grams of black tea to eight ounces of boiling water and a few spoons of sugar to make it less disgusting. The normal cup of tea is 2.5 ounces of tea to six ounces of water.
Russian Tea Time
Tea ceremonies in Japan, United Kingdom’s afternoon break (tea time), Americans with milk and sugar or Inuit Indians drinking it black, tea ties the people of the world together with a common bond. Tell me one of your tea travel stories in the comments section below.
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