Tag Archives: Travel

DETOUR: Going Somewhere and Somewhere Else

Detour Sign Dunedin FL
Detour Sign Dunedin FL (Photo from WikiMedia.org)

We are flying from Arizona to Florida to attend my grand daughter’s wedding. Nice trip. Exciting event.  However it seems that every time I have an opportunity to go Somewhere, I can’t help thinking about the opportunities—to go Somewhere Else. Soon I’ll be sharing our trip to Somewhere Else.

Do you think that way, or do I have a detour built into the routing of travel thoughts in my brain?

Here are some examples.


Visiting Ohio
Our sons with my husband’s grandmother in Ohio, 1966.

In the 1960’s, once a year we drove or flew from Arizona with our young children to visit our family still iin Ohio.  In 1964, that was a perfect excuse to go to the New York World’s Fair.

1964 New York World's Fair
1964 New York World’s Fair

Boston to Cape Cod and D.C.

Paul Revere's Tomb, Boston
Offerings left at Paul Revere’s tomb, Old Granary Burial Ground, Boston

In about 1968, Ken was scheduled to go to Boston for a national bridge tournament.  We turned that into an extravaganza with his family joining us in Cape Cod and then passing us off to my family for a trip to Washington D. C.

Capitol Hill at Night, by Thomas Hawk from Flcker
Capitol Hill at Night, by Thomas Hawk from Flcker

Sweden to Russia

In the late 90’s, we decided to make a long delayed visit to Sweden to see some relatives of my sister-in-law. But of course that led to Somewhere Else–St. Petersburg Russia.

Singapore to Cambodia

Hong Kong
Hong Kong Harbor at Night

Not to mention Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand.  As a club president, Ken took a Rotary-sponsored trip to Singapore in 2000.  Well, heck, if you’re going  Somewhere in Southeast Asia, you might as well add your life-long dream of visiting Angkor Wat–and stop in Singapore–and take a ferry to Macau–and spend a few days in Thailand–right?

Mobile Grocery Store
Mobile Grocery Store in Cambodia

Budapest to Bavaria and Austria

Chain bridge over the Danube, Budapest
Chain bridge over the Danube, Budapest, just blocks from “our” apartment

Hey, it was all once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after all! This one had a different start. Ken laughed when I said I had won a 3- night stay at an apartment in Budapest, thinking that was about the most remote possibility on our travel list.  However, after a bit of plotting and planning, we realized that we could get a long-delayed look at Austria and it just happened to be a big birthday year for Mozart, so Salzburg was full of music. And as long as we were going to Budapest by way of Austria, why not land in Munich and see Bavaria and the famous Neuschwanstein Castle as well.

Old town cafe, Salzburg
Old town cafe, Salzburg, opposite Mozart’s childhood apartment

Aegean Islands to Ephesus and Meteora

Island of Serifos--sailing out
Island of Serifos–sailing out

Looking back on it, some of our choices look just plain greedy.  After all, if one is going to rent a sailboat with friends and hire a captain and sail around the Aegean islands for ten days—isn’t that a life-time vacation?  Well, yes, but we went all that way—so why not extend just a big and go to Ephesus in Turkey. And as long as we’re staying a little longer, how about a jaunt up to Meteora in Central Greece, since Ken had never seen it.  We’ve never regretted our “travel greed.”

Meteora Greece
Ayios Triados, Meteora Greece
The Library – Ephesus, Turkey


Key West Florida Beach
Key West Florida Beach

Oh, yes, where was I? I started talking about a wedding in Florida. Very nice state. But SO close to three states of the five I have not yet visited–so we will catch them with a Southern road trip. We’ve been wanting to travel to one of my favorite cities– Chattanooga,  and also to the Great Smoky Mountains, so we’ll go there before driving back through South Carolina to Atlanta and flying home. (The three states I had not visited–Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina. The two to go–North Dakota and Alaska.)

Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

See?  Somewhere always leads to Somewhere Else.

Detour Sign


Take Your Gambling Addiction to Macau

Book Cover: Macau book
Destination: Macau

Book: The Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborne

Macau is a different place than it was on that rainy day when Ken and I visited thirteen years ago.  Then it had just been reacquisitioned by the Chinese from the Portuguese who had held it as a remnant of their once far–flung empire for many years.  Thanks to the Portuguese, Macau had a colorful and charming old town and restaurants with wonderfully different food. Those feature are glimpsed in the book The Ballad of a Small Player, which is about the best literary guide you’re going to find to the sometimes seamy island as it looks today.

A ferry ride away from China, Macau always promised the thrill of something slightly illicit with its old casinos and the free-flowing Portugese attitude  in contrast to the buttoned up Englishness of Hong Kong.  When my brother was stationed in Vietnam during that war, servicemen were warned not to go to Macau, so of course he went. By the time we got there, the island had tamed, and drew crowds of fanny-pack wearing middle American tourists as well as Chinese gamblers.

Macau casinos
Macau Casino LIghts. Photo by Brian Brain, from Wikipedia, Creative Commons License.

I have mixed feelings about the new Macau.  Las Vegas casino owners and other developers have moved in and crowded the island with a mass of glitzy gambling houses. The narrator of The Ballad of the Small Player,  calls himself Lord Doyle, although he is merely  a British lawyer on the run from his shady dealings back home. Through him, author Lawrence Osborne introduces us to casino after casino, explains the rules of the high roller games like punto blanco baccarat, and sheds light on what it is like to be a compulsive gambler–in love with losing.

Lord Doyle tells the story of how he started gambling to a prostitute with whom he has a relationship.. “It became a secret hobby, as it often does.” He goes from a French casino to gambling on line, then going to Birmingham every weekend

I became good at everything I played, though that did not mean I won consistently.  What I discovered was a taste for losing.  I understood in some way that playing something well and losing at it had something to do with playing it over the long haul.  But I didn’t care and I dare say no player does.

The author delivers the descriptions of the casinos  with a sharp eye and the disdainful humor they deserve.  He visits the Grand Emperor, “with a gilded replica of the British royal state carriage outside it and Beefeaters in fur hats filling a vestibule of cretinous gilt.”

I stopped and swung myself around and through the doors that were opened for me, and into a cool imitation of some Hans Christian Andersen fairy palace imagined by a small child with a high fever who has seen many a picture of Cindrella. 

Emperor Casino Macau
“cretinous gilt” at Emperor Casino, walking on gold bars. Photo from Wikipedia, Creative Commons License.

With his gift for this kind of incisive establishment of place, it is not terribly surprising to learn that Osborne is also an award-winning travel writer.

Osborne takes up where Graham Greene left off (minus the Catholicism) in exploring the morals of wanderers between societies, and the disdain of one culture for another–particularly the British and the Oriental. This looks like a small book–257 pages–but it is densely packed with ideas that make you slow down and pay attention. Osborne does not just describe what you learn with your senses, but also what you learn through contemplation.

Lord Doyle spends quite a bit of time in the Wynn casino, the Venetian Macau, touted as the largest casino in the world. There he thinks about the difference between the original Chinese establishments and the American transplants.

These Vegas establishments  are the very opposite of their Chinese counterparts , which at least have retained the louche tolerance of ages past.  The Vegas casinos are clean and overblown, with palatial dimensions and vacuumed carpets.  They are as family-clean and bright as their originals in the Nevada desert, and in them the insalubrious aspects of gambling are out to the back of one’s mind.

The novel kept me wondering, and therefore turning pages to find out–would he win or would he lose? And what did those words mean anyhow?  The questions stay in the mind once you have closed the book.

Irish Blasket Islands Produce Books Galore

Books: The Islandman by Tomas O’Crohan

Peig: The Autobiography of Peig Sayres of the Great Blasket Island 

Destination: Blasket Islands, Ireland

Ireland's Dingle Peninsula  near Blasket Islands
Ireland road and stone cottage
Sign along the road to Dunquin, Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. Photo by VMB.
Sign along the road to Dunquin, Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. Photo by VMB.

When my husband and I traveled along the coast road of beautiful Dingle Peninsula in Ireland, past the beach where Ryan’s Daughter was filmed, we saw this sign, “Next Pub Boston.” On up the road, we saw the pub, with canned soup and toothpaste among the sundries behind the counter for anyone who did not want to drive all the way back to Dingle. The town is called Duncan, or Dunquin in the native language that holds sway here on the Dingle peninsula.

Near the pub we spotted a very modern building with plate glass windows facing out to sea.The piles of rocks called the Blasket Islands out there in the wild waves used to be home to a hard-working community of folks, but the last inhabitants left in the 1950’s. The modern building houses a museum that provides a look at the islanders’ way of life, fishing and cutting peat from the few areas on the rock that supported any kind of soil.

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