Traveling, For the Love of…

I find myself at the airport again. I like the drive in, turning off the highway onto the airport parkways, passing the industrial parks and freight carriers. I know that once I am close to the hotels and car rental places, I am almost there. Today the airport was a ghost town. I arrived two hours and twenty minutes before my flight so that I could beat the crowds and make it through security in a reasonable time. This trip, not only were my belongings scanned and my carry on rummaged through like someone who receives the newspaper only for the coupons, however I had my body scanned. I placed my arms up in the air, elbows bent at 90 degrees, hands facing the machine, and shoulders raised. I suddenly realized I forgot to remove my watch. I take great pride to remove my belt and have it in the gray plastic tub without having to be reminded. Today I forgot to remove the watch. I wondered what the agents could see about me on their scanner. Could they see my bones? My scars? My soul? Just how much did they know about me? How much exposure to radiation was I receiving? The staff was friendly and paid little to no attention to my forgetting the watch. They scanned it and all was well.

I made my way through security and into the halls of fresh brewed coffee wafting through the air, business magazines and newspapers, bookstores and delis with televisions showing the Australia tennis open. I was the first to make it through and felt like they were opening up just for me. I found my gate, checked the time and in my usual fashion, found a row of empty padded chairs away from my gate. I like to observe, know my surroundings. Bagels were being shelved, energy drinks straightened in the display case, smiling people were portering white disposable cups with lids that told me, coffee would soon be theirs. Some strolled along pulling their rolling luggage like when you’re a kid and pulling your wagon. Limited conversations were exchanged along the walkway and in other sitting areas. Light laughter could be heard. Some swiped badges and tapped in numbers on a keypad. It felt that everyone was in a good mood and pleasant.

I was reminded overhead that smoking was not permitted and not to accept baggage from strangers in English and Spanish.

I opened my book and enjoyed the early morning read. After many pages, my eyes grew heavy and I was soon to sleep.

A Day in Wales

Where is Wales? Well, I generally knew where it was but I looked it up to get a better idea of its boundaries.

We took a bus from Bristol this morning, waving goodbye to Gromit. We were off to see a new county and headed to Cardiff. Many farms and livestock dotted the hills on our journey and then we found ourselves just outside of Cardiff Castle.

We strolled along the streets until it was time. Time to see The Doctor. Doctor Who that is. The BBC has studios where they film the television series along with others to include Torchwood.

We started with a stroll through Cardiff where many locations around the town were revealed to us that were in the television shows.

Next, we were guided into the studio set where The TARDIS was located. The TARDIS is a police telephone call box that is able to travel through time and space and is an acronym for Time And Relative Dimension In Space.

Finally, there was an interactive journey that concluded with a walk through the lineage and history of making Doctor Who.

It was a lovely day in a rustic bayside town. Cardiff is a comfortable city that is easy to get around by foot, bus, or rail. It had an old town charm to it that made me feel welcome.

Make It Fun!
God Bless.

Bristol Is…

Bristol Is…

Now one of my most favorite cities! We landed two nights ago, stayed at Brooks Guesthouse which is an inexpensive, upscale, classy hostel. I highly recommend it. One of the best stays I’ve had anywhere in the world. The service from the night bellman to the chef, breakfast servers, and staff on checkout were absolutely polite, accommodating, friendly and without a doubt, professional.

I wish we could have stayed longer however the Balloonfest was upon us and the place was full-up.

After a full English breakfast with extra breakfast, we stepped out into a welcoming cool breeze that felt like fall time in the Midwest US. We followed the trail to find Gromit. Gromit is a lovable cartoon character from the series Wallace and Gromit by Nick Park. The kids were excited as we dashed from Gromit to Gromit, exploring the town, the cafes, the harbour, the university, the rail lines, business districts and neighborhoods. Many of them were in the city center and I think my wife and I were equally, if not more, excited as the kids.

Down by the harbour are new, trendy apartments and an installment of eateries that double as night clubs and pubs as the sun sets and atmosphere changes.

Older parts of town that survived the shelling and bombing by the Axis during World War II, revealed some of the history. The town was effected by German shelling and bombing due to aircraft and ship manufactoring here so there is a mix of old and new architecture. The old buildings demonstrate intense character, architecture that has eye catching shapes, and the cold gray stone contrasts while complimenting the bright vibrant new structures.

We stopped during lunch right in the heart of the city, plopped down centered before the large screen television in the plaza where episodes of Wallace and Gromit entertained hundreds in the plaza, and enjoyed oversized ice cream cones. The smiles all around the plaza suggested that the crowd enjoyed the innocence and gentle humor that is portrayed in Wallace and Gromit.

We continued on using the Detect-O-Gromit app. Purchasing the app to find Gromit around town goes to a children’s hospital. At the end of the month, they will auction off the 80 different statues to raise money for the hospital. Plus, it is awesome geocashing, a great way to see the city, tremendous exercise and good for business to get publicity. Everyone was super friendly and I even felt safe walking around at night with the kids.

Bristol enjoys a healthy nightlife

Yesterday was also the Balloonfest in which the sky was covered with hot air balloons.

Today, we slept in, had a huge breakfast at Beefeaters and I set out to do laundry. I stumbled upon a cute, quaint, nostalgic cafe/launderette/internet business named @TheWell in the Stokes Croft area. I met one of the owners and read how the three sisters set up the business. It was a great experience. A broad selection of breakfast and lunch as well as coffees and teas bring together those needing or wanting to use laundromats with those who enjoy cafes. One would typically spend time doing something while waiting for the clothes to finish so this brings people together in a social environment and provides internet and an array of foods prepared in house.

One of my kids sat on a couch @TheWell, played Minecraft and with some blocks in the store as the clothes tumbled. Books can be found neatly arranged everywhere. Once used sewing machines and typewriters had me perusing around the shop. The owner mentioned that another American had carefully planned this location as a stop in his journey prior to leaving home earlier this week. I can see why. What a great concept.

Bristol is absolutely a wonderful city. One of my favorites. If ever in UK, you must add it to you list.

Tomorrow is a new day.
Make It Fun!
God Bless.
































Five Days in Italy

Overall, I enjoyed my time in Italy. In the north, I had a positive experience with our friend hosting us and neighbor teaching my wife to cook authentic Italian cuisine. Venice was neat to see however like Rome, I was happy to leave. Too many people crowded around overpriced traps.

In Rome, I saw many ancient remnants that affirmed that Romans once dominated the world with many feats and talents. What I was met with at this period were many immigrants working in the service industry, trying to scratch out a living, many chauvinistic men and tremendous vanity. Chivalry is nearly dead in Rome. It truly saddened me. Men would look up at elderly women as the women stood on the train or young men would ignore their surroundings by tuning out with ear buds jammed in ears and staring at phones or other electronic devices. A young man stood before me, looking me up and down then turned his back to me to primp his hair in the train window for nearly five minutes. I was warned about pick pocketers by the police so I was continually on guard. I watched as people stared at others’ belongings and areas where wallets would be kept. Often times, I made it clear with eye contact I had noticed what they were doing. Rome was trashy. Graffiti and litter were rampant. There appeared to be a lack of pride in the city. Possibly the residents were clinging to the past that Rome once was a great city while hoping the immigrants would do all the work? I don’t know. I was disappointed with Rome.

Oh, restrooms. Never mind toilet paper. Apparently it is not required here and toilets cost € 0.50 – €1 just for a hole to pee into. Soap and toilet paper were not to be found outside of restaurants or the hostel. I began to carry a roll of TP with us everywhere we went along with hand sanitizer.

I do however, recommend getting the Roma Pass as it did help with the transportation and allowed us into two free museums. Plus, Rome allows children free entry to many events and on many of the buses and trains.

Speaking of transport, the buses and trains were easy to use; often tardy.

Our hostel provided a great place to meet people, cook our own food which saved tremendous money and the owner did deliver with the air conditioning as he promised each of the guests. This cooled the rooms and helped cut down on mosquitos in the room. He was hard working and his staff helped with any questions we had.

Overall, it was a good learning opportunity though I doubt I will ever intentionally return to Rome.

Fired Up

I have never been treated so rudely in my life in an eatery as I was today. The non-hostess tossed the menus on the table, quickly turned her back, went to a far table and tinkered with the phone in her hand Everywhere I go, I try to speak the local language as much as possible. I was in Italy so I did my best at speaking Italian. This was a Chinese restaurant in Mestre, Italy. I stood and approached her to place an order. She looked as though I somehow inconvenienced her. I placed our order and asked for tap water. She went to the see-through kitchen window pointing back at us over her shoulder with her left thumb to tell the cooks something,sounding sarcastic-they all laughed. She resumed her spot at the table with her phone. It should have tipped me off when I saw that we were the only people in the place. There was food on the walls at every table. Not once after the elder woman of the place brought out the food did the younger woman make eye contact, even look in our direction. Not once did she ask if we wanted anything or any deserts or anything else. I once again stood to ask for the check. I paid the bill in full then I inquired to the extra €6 on the bill. She said it was for the tap water. I explained this was a bit high and she turned her head as she shrugged her shoulders indicating she didn’t care. As we began to leave, I turned to head to the restroom. She stood guard in front of the bathroom as if to block me from using it. I smiled and politely asked for the toilet. It was a small victory that I secured for our family.

I can understand expecting immigrants to a new country to learn another language to be proficient where they would work and live. However, I would never expect someone visiting the US to be an English professor upon arrival for a week long visit. Part of the joy of traveling is to learn the language as you go, make mistakes and learn from the locals. Maybe she was having the worst day of her life and decided to take it out on us (and coincidentally rip us off at the same time). Maybe she was going to be deported out of Italy or could not make ends meet. I know not the reason. It’s no excuse for the crappy service or blatant rudeness. I shall pray for her. I shall also warn you incase you should step out into Mestre, Italy.