Tag Archives: Travel

À la marché

Header photo by jatdoll via Creative Commons

Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale. 

The four of us (my sister and her son, Husband and moi) were on our own for five days in Paris.

We learned a lot about food and eating the Parisian way – picked up baguettes from the boulangeries (bread bakeries), croissants and other delicacies for our petit dejuener (breakfast) from patisseries (dessert bakeries), meats from boucheries, crepes and quiches from crèperies.

On our first day, however, we were lucky enough to come upon the neighborhood marché (market), which had on display all the spring (and other) vegetables you can imagine, plus sausages, fish, cheese, and our dinner – kabobs. Why I didn’t take more photos at the marché I don’t remember, but here is one.

Photo 1


And here’s how some of the bounty looked back at “our” flat (air.bnb, but that’s another story).

It was delicious, especially because it represented the success I had in asking the price.

Combien, s’il vous plait? (How much, please?)

Of course, the answer was spoken so quickly I couldn’t catch it, so I did what I had seen other tourists do – laid out my palm full of coins (there are 1- and 2- euro coins) and let him take what he needed. Then said “Merci.”

What’s your favorite outdoor market?

Feelin’ Groovy in Portland, OR (littlejailbird’s trip, part 2)

Today’s post is from littlejailbird.

Feelin’ Groovy in Portland, Oregon (littlejailbird’s trip, part 20

Dear Steve and Molly,

Thank you both for the wonderful day in Portland (March 26). It was a golden day from start to finish. Near the end of our time together, when the ice cream server asked how my day was going, I realized with a shock that there wasn’t a single thing I would have changed from the time I woke up until that moment in the ice cream shop (and it held true until I went to bed that night).

After three days and three nights on the train, it was blissful to be outdoors and to be able to walk around. I started my day with a walk to a breakfast place, then another walk to Mt. Tabor Park. Then it was time to be chauffeured around by you.

Steve had told me earlier that the day was going to be all about me and what I wanted to do. I am still in shock from someone telling me that – and then actually doing it. From visiting the world’s largest bookstore (Powell’s) to a buffet lunch at an Indian restaurant to visiting a park and walking around the waterfront to going out for ice cream, there is nothing I would have changed. I know that you thought the food at the restaurant wasn’t as good at it usually is, but you hadn’t been eating train food and snack food like almonds and protein bars for 3 days. It tasted good to me!

Of course, the weather cooperated in giving us such an amazing, sunshiny day, cool at the beginning and end and warm in between; and wherever I looked I saw green, growing things – a far cry from the dead browns I had left in Minnesota. It would have been difficult for me to feel grumpy with a day like that, but I suspect that I would have had a fine time even if it had been cold and drizzly, because you two were very satisfactory companions. I hope you had half as good time as I did. I told the ice cream server, “I’m having a good day!” but I fear that I communicated it better to her than I did to you. So, I’m telling you now: I had a good day – a magical day, a golden day, a day full of simple pleasures from start to finish. Thank you.

Your friend,

What are your simple pleasures?

Tiramisu & You

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

I’m lucky enough to have a job with a very nice perk – travel. I’ve been to some fabulous places: Hawaii, New Zealand, South Africa, Paris, the Caribbean, Mexico. The dark side of this perk is that I never get to choose to where I’m traveling; I go where the client program sends me. This means that every now and then I end up traveling to a place that I’ve always wanted to visit but never been assigned to. So when a client chose Rome for their group destination, I was ecstatic.


The site was exhaustive; we were on the go from morning until night. All the usual sites were visited, the Forum, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica…. everywhere! If I had a bucket list, I would have been able to cross out two of the items on the day we went to Florence: Michelangelo’s David and the Uffizi Gallery.

But an outstanding time was the day we spent at Santa Benedetta winery, southeast of Rome. It was just four of us that day but the owners were as gracious as if we had been a group of 50. We walked the vineyard, tasted wine, learned about the wine-making process and then proceeded to lunch. Even with our group’s small size, they rolled out the red carpet, food wise. There were about 30 different vegetable dishes on the buffet tables (asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) as well as bruschetta and various cheeses. This was just the appetizer part of the meal. Homemade pasta with pesto and fresh parmesan cheese was the main course. It was mouth-wateringly good – it was amazing.

And then there was the dessert.

Now I’ve had tiramisu many times in my life. Alcohol soaked lady finger cookies, with mascarpone cheese, whipping cream and sometimes chocolate – how can you go wrong? When this tiramisu came out of the kitchen it didn’t even look like tiramisu. It looked a little like cinnamon-sprinkled glop on the plate – not the neat layers that I’m used to seeing. But after experiencing the other phenomenal food, there was no way I wasn’t going to at least try it. Oh my. My oh my. It was like eating good art – sweet, creamy, rich – all at the same time. It was so amazing that I don’t even have enough words to describe how amazing it was. I asked to meet the chef; she was a teeny little Italian woman with no English but a huge smile. I had my guide tell her that I would never be able to eat anyone else’s tiramisu ever again.

Of course, I have had tiramisu since that trip – when it’s been offered, I usually try it. But I was right when I was sitting at the table off the vineyard; I’m sure I’ll never have tiramisu that good again!

Describe an unforgettable meal.

Taking a Walk

An unusually large portion of today’s press coverage appears to be stuck on predictions and opinions about Lance Armstrong and what he might have said to Oprah regarding his powerful, tireless legs and how they got that way. So I thought it would be an appropriately contrarian move to head in the other direction entirely – towards a guy who is drawing attention by using his ordinary legs to move very slowly and deliberately.

Journalist Paul Salopek is taking a very long walk. He’s following the path of human migration out of the cradle of civilization in Africa, across Asia to the Bering Straight, and then down the western edge of the Americas to the last place on Earth to be settled by humans, Tierra del Fuego. The path is displayed on a website that will follow his journey, which is expected to take seven years.

Aside from the bunions and blisters, the sunburn, the frostbite, the aching joints and the pebbles in his shoe, Salopek will have to navigate past at least 30 man-made borders, which he expects to be the toughest obstacles of his journey. He should know – as a globetrotting journalist he has had some serious problems with suspicious governments, most prominently in Sudan in 2006.

Seven years! Considering how far he plans to go, it really doesn’t seem like enough time. But Salopek is 50 years old, so I suppose it’s now or never for a massive undertaking like this. Not that a fit 70 year old man couldn’t do it also, but at that age I would want to do it in a golf cart.

Seven years is the same as about 15,330 rounds of golf at the pace I play, a speed which allows for a lot of fruitless lunging and a considerable amount of fishing around in the weeds. I won’t come close to spending seven years walking around a golf course in my lifetime, but if I could reclaim some of those steps it would be more satisfying to put them towards a higher purpose, like this Out of Eden project.

Here’s a walking tune to wish Paul Salopek well. There’s about a minute spent on tuning at the beginning of this, but what’s your hurry?

What would you put in your backpack for a 7 year walk?

Earth at Night

Today’s post comes from Captain Billy of the Muskellunge.


Me an me boys is mighty pleased t’ see that them scientists at NASA is finally startin’ t’ look at th’ planet Earth through pirate eyes! They has just released brand new detailed pictures of our world after dark, wi’ the sparlklin’ lights of th’ cities glowin’ fer all t’ see!

There’s lots of bright spots, an that gives us hope!

Dividin’ th’ light from th’ dark is th’ same method me an’ me boys uses t’ tell the th’ planet’s booty-rich zones from them what don’t have much booty at all. When we’s sailin’ down th’ coast, deliberatin’ about where t’ go scavengin’ next, we always heads t’ th’ light. Just like yer sposed to do in them dreams about dyin’.

An when we arrives at th’ next happy, well-lit place wi’ our daggers drawn, th’ people is always surprised on account of they didn’t notice us comin’ – they was blinded by their own glare. That there’s somethin’ t’ keep in mind on a planet-wide level.

Our Earth is mighty special-lookin’ from afar – quite attractive t’ interstellar swashbucklers.

I ain’t sayin’ there’s space pirates. But I ain’t sayin’ there ain’t. Th’ sort of person what goes into space used t’ be th’ unselfish, disciplined kind. But the standards has been lowered by quite a bit.

That’s all I wanted t’ say. The twinklin’ lights is pretty at night. But if you wants t’ keep th’ peace, best to draw yer blinds an’ sleep wi’ one eye open!

Yer seafarin’ pal,
Capt. Billy

I suppose the Captain has a point – hiding your light under a bushel is sometimes the most prudent thing to do.

Are you an electricity waster?

Loose Time

Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

On a recent trip to the southeast and beyond, Michael and I had great fun visiting relatives and seeing sights. There was a carefully laid–out itinerary, with appointments to be had and expectations to be met all along the way.

But our fondest memories are of an unscheduled day and a half between destinations.

We were commitment free – the only task was to travel at a leisurely pace from Peachtree City, Georgia to Charleston, South Carolina. Since Savannah was in our path we made our way there, and spent a delightful afternoon walking among some old buildings and Colonial Park Cemetery.

Among our casual discoveries –

A riverfront dinner at One Eyed Lizzy’s and a relatively luxurious night at “Inn @ Mulberry Grove.”

The next day we only had to make a 2 ½ hour freeway trip. Rather than hurry along, we snagged a map at a visitor center and decided on a detour to Hilton Head Island. We had no reservations for any of the pricey resorts, but did manage to find a lovely public beach with amenities for retirees like a boardwalk and real rest rooms.

On the road to and from the beach, we drove for several miles past strip malls – but not your cement-and-asphalt-on-the-prairie ugliness to which much of North America is accustomed. These rows of shops are nestled in among long tall pines and live oaks draped with Spanish moss. They look like someone just threw out some strip-mall seeds, and the shops sprouted there amongst the trees. They beckoned. We stopped.

Michael making up the itinerary as he goes.

Not everything was small and charming. We found a Barnes & Noble, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay full price ($16.95 for the paperback!) for THE Savannah book everyone had been recommending, Midnight in the Gardens of Good and Evil. So we wished for a thrift shop, and a St. Vincent’s showed itself around the next bend – bought the hardcover Midnight… for two bucks. An inexpensive meal at a modest Dunkin’ Donuts capped a satisfying ramble.

It felt a bit like magic by then, and it was. There is nothing like free time. Even if you are retired, as we are, you fill up your days with commitments of one kind or another. Sometimes it takes getting out of Dodge to find that unplanned, open, loose time. Next trip I’m going to insert into the itinerary: one day to go “off road”, a day committed to no one, to do whatever presents itself.

When have you had a satisfying span of loose time?

Are You Among Friends?

Today’s guest post comes from Jim in Clark’s Grove..

My first trip as an overseas agricultural volunteer for ACDI/VOCA was the one that I took to bring information on sustainable farming to Bulgaria.

This was a great adventure, giving an interesting perspective on a part of the world that was new to me. Before making this trip, I didn’t even know where to find Bulgaria on a map. I did know that it had recently emerged from behind the Iron Curtain in 1994 when I visited. I was not an experienced international traveler, but I was willing to give it a try. There were some hardships encountered during this trip due to the somewhat difficult traveling conditions. The many fascinating experiences I had there learning about the country and its people more than made up for the travel problems.

Most of my time on this trip was spent in Butan, a small village in Northeast Bulgaria. I arrived there late at night with my Bulgarian host and my translator. A welcoming committee of people from the town was pleased to learn that I was willing to drink rakia with them. Rakia is a drink similar to brandy that is very strong and has a unique flavor that I learned to appreciate. There were no hotels in the town, but there was room for me to stay in a home.

I enjoyed touring Butan, which has cobblestone streets and homes surrounded by walls. The streets are lined with fruit and nut trees and through some openings in the walls you can see chickens and other livestock that are kept in back yards. Grapes grow everywhere. I drank homemade wine at several homes that I visited. The mayor invited me to his home where he offered me three kinds of wine made from grapes that he grew. One family was very proud of the water buffalo that they owned. Most of the homes I saw had outdoor toilets and some had cars. Both donkey carts and trucks were used as commercial vehicles.

I could go on for a long time about my experiences in Butan. Instead of doing that, I want to tell about how I was helped out of a difficult situation.

Stancho, who hosted my trip, turned out to not be completely reliable. He became dissatisfied with my translator, she decided to leave, and Stancho left to get another translator. No one in the village could translate for me. I was on my own for a couple of days among people who didn’t speak my language.

I decided that I would be okay on my own because I thought I could trust the people where I was staying. That turned out to be true. They cooked a special meal for me and invited other villagers to the meal. Guests at the meal included a man who I learned later had been separated from his group on a trip to Cuba. For a number of days he had to find his way without being able to talk anyone, just as I was doing.

I was treated well by everyone I meet in Butan and they all knew that Stancho had his shortcomings.  I learned latter that the people at ACDI/VOCA were not sure that Stancho would make a good host and had some reservations about using him in this capacity. However, the change in translators, because Stancho drove away the first one, turned out to be a stroke of good luck for me.   The second translator did a very good job and is now a friend of mine who invited me back to Bulgaria to visit him. 

Talk about your experiences with giving or receiving help from people you don’t know.

Quick Trips

Today’s guest post is by Sherrilee

As I’ve mentioned on the Trail before I have a fabulous job – some days.

Part of my job is to accompany clients to destinations that have been earmarked for incentive travel trips. Over the years I’ve been to some really fabulous places: New Zealand, South Africa, Hawaii, Russia, Belgium are just a few.

Photographs credited © Musée du Louvre

The downside to this is the speed with which I sometimes have to see some of these wonderful places as we are often trying to fit in as much as possible in as short period of time as possible. Once in Switzerland we drove four hours to eat lunch and walk through a museum at breakneck speed only to drive four hours back. Another time we visited four historic castles in one day in the Loire Valley.

But the funniest of all my fast trips was in Paris. The incentive program was going to include three days of optional activities and the client wanted to see as many of them as possible in one day; one of those activities was touring the Louvre Museum. Our guide for the day was a small, but extremely feisty French Vietnamese woman, who clearly knew her way around and wasn’t going to waste any time by just wandering around looking at random art. When we hit the museum, she dragged us quickly from one spot to another; in no time we had been from one side of the Louvre to another to see the Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and the moats of the medieval Louvre. We were in and out so fast that I had to catch my breath.

So the upshot is that I’ve spent 20 minutes in a museum that most people want to explore for two or three days!

When have you gone a long way for a short visit?

Black Hole NASCAR

Yesterday we considered Felix Baumgartner and his strange, dysfunctional relationship with gravity, constantly challenging it to mess him up and regularly escaping from its clutches without injury.

Baumgartner’s latest attempt to give himself over to gravity and live to tell the tale is expected to happen this morning.

Meanwhile, in other gravitational news, we discover that the center of our Milky Way galaxy is dominated by a supermassive black hole which is pulling everything inward. The thing is so incredibly dense, when stars get too close even their light can’t escape.

Talk about dysfunction! Who could survive a relationship so completely confining?

That there is a Black Hole at the Center of the Milky Way is an idea that has been supported by the research of UCLA scientist Andrea Ghez, who just last week identified a new star racing around the center at a breakneck pace.

This star, called SO-102, goes around the black hole once every 11 years. By comparison, our own sun also orbits the black hole – every 200 million years. Clearly this newly discovered star is a speedster, leaving us in the dust and going considerably faster than the next quickest orbiter, a star called SO-2 which makes the trip once every 16 years.

By watching these two stars, Ghez will be able to learn quite a bit about the characteristics about that massive invisible thing in the center of our galaxy – kind of like going to a NASCAR race and deducing everything about what’s happening in the infield by the speed and trajectory of the cars barreling by.

But ultimately, all this racing around in space ends the same way things wound up in Talladega two days ago.

Are you a good driver?

Fall Guy

Sometime soon, possibly today, Felix Baumgartner will put on a space suit, climb into a capsule tethered to a high altitude balloon, ride to the edge of space and then jump out, falling 23 miles back to Earth.

He’ll cover almost the same distance as yesterday’s participants in the Twin Cities Marathon, but in just a few minutes rather than 3 hours, powered by gravity. But it’s not just a whimsical daredevil stunt – the project is intended to gather useful data to make high altitude bailouts possible for pilots and even astronauts.

If successful, Baumgartner will break the record for plummeting, now held by Joe Kittenger, who dropped from 19 miles up when he was in the Navy, almost exceeding the speed of sound in the process.

Baumgartner plans to go the rest of the way to Mach 1, and has been planning the attempt and training for years.

Lots of things can go wrong at high altitude and excessive speeds, especially when a human body is traveling faster than any body has before, outside the confines of a machine. One group of experts suppose that Baumgartner might not notice when he breaks the speed of sound. Others have worried that one part of his space suit could hit Mach 1 while other sections are going slower, setting up potentially destructive vibrations.

Apparently the only way to find out what happens is for Felix Baumgartner to leap out of his capsule and let gravity do its thing.

When have you taken a memorable fall?