Sunday, March 23, 2014


These Places Were Never In The Boy Scout Manual

Because I am constantly on the prowl for cool spaces in unforgettable places, I subscribe to way too many travel web sites and blogs. However, unlike such purveyors of mediocrity and really small fine print, Groupon and Living Social, and bundle sites such as Kayak and, who never, and I mean never, save you money, sometimes I get noticed with some pretty good deals on some pretty good places. And, of course, since this humble correspondent's only goal is to make you, the wandering vagabond that you have become, a happy camper, I am pleased to bring you some breaking news on actual camping.
Yes, that's right - camping. Now, let's be honest. Camping is not everyone's cup of tea. For me personally, I was a Boy Scout for life. Sleeping in a tent and living in the woods was the highlight of my existence until I discovered girls. And I still have fond memories of the Smokies with mom, dad, and brother camping next to a roaring stream and eating food prepared in large skillets and other non-electrical outdoor appliances. It was 1950's high tech at its best. It is amazing how food that you would never eat at home actually taste good after a couple of days in the woods. As another aside, my brother was not, is not and will never be enamored with camping. He says since we learned to walk upright, we should no longer sleep on the ground.  And the activity of modern day camping with all of the current high tech gizmos, solar powered flat screens and infrared grills is well beyond the scope of this blog.
As entrepreneurial endeavors go, the guy or gal that thought people would pay big money to sleep in the lap of luxury in tents is apparently on to something. The growth of high and low end camping for nomads is proving that we urbanites long for at least some  assimilation with the great outdoors. However, Baby Boomers grew up with air conditioning, television and automatic dishwashers. And with the proliferation of suburbia, we have distanced ourselves from the real outdoors. Well, glamping, or camping for people like my brother, proves you can have your cake and eat it too. No sir, this is no driving stakes, sleeping in a bag or eating freeze dried whatever. This "style" of camping would have made even Teddy Roosevelt envious.
And Now For The Good Part
As I said earlier, I receive all manner of offers, deals and "packages" extolling the virtues of tripping with yet another "adventure" travel site for amounts worthy of a medium size line of credit. However, if you want to take the plunge into the great outdoors and don't want to break the bank, then you should check out the latest offer from the Vacationist travel site. If you are not a member, just join online for free.
GLACIER UNDER CANVAS has just about everything a yuppified camper - and I mean that in a good way- needs. King size beds and all the comforts of home in a nice walled canvas tent. And you get to wake up to the beauty of one of America's most grand National Parks. In addition to the sleeping tent, you have your choice of  a Safari Tent with a shared bath, A Deluxe tent with a private bath in an adjacent teepee or a Suite with an en suite bath. Prices start at $139 and top out at $276. This is important if not having your own bathroom is a deal breaker, since a majority of glamping places provide shared bathing facilities. And what urban camper, including yours truly,  doesn't need his or her very own loo while communing with the beasts of the field and the fowl of the air? I'm sorry, that's where I draw the line. I lived in a dorm my first year in college and that's the last time I ever shared bathroom facilities. It wasn't pretty. The deal ends March 31, so get busy before the prices go up.
And the choices for glamping don't end there. There are numerous luxury camping "tent hotels", yurts, and other alternative outdoor sleeping places to suit every pocketbook while getting you back to the land.  Many are located in some very exotic locales as well. For more information on glamping, check out It gives some basics on the old/new way to sleep in the great outdoors and contains many links to other glamping sites. And if you want to see someone else's opinion on the best glamping places, then 10 of the Best Glamping Destinations for Travel Snobs would be a good place to start.
Head 'Em Up Move 'Em Out


Thursday, March 13, 2014


Writing, Grooming, Surfing and joie de vivre on AMAZON
Newsflash! Today's post is not about travel per se, unless you consider the reality that we still have to groom ourselves while traveling.  Unless you are Anthony Bourdain, who looks like he sleeps in a ditch most of the time, you need to get rid of that unibrow on occasion, not to mention those seemingly endless patches of hair growing in places you never would have expected when you were much younger. For men, in particular, nose and ear hair, disgusting though it may be, has to be dealt with, lest people talk about you in hushed tones. Some Europeans may find the presence of voluminous body hair to be stylish, even sexy, but we Americans have developed the No No Hair business model when it comes to unwanted growth in all the wrong places.
Women have been obsessed with good grooming since the ancient Greeks moisturized their skin with honey. But, let's be honest, all men are metrasexuals on some level. We shave, trim and pull out unwanted hair just like the girls. I don't think waxing is an accepted practice yet, but the search for grooming "tools of the trade" is never ending, which brings me to the central point of today's Alert.
Relevant Information Found While Surfing
As a writer, I am constantly reading other writers. That's one of the many rules laid down by "serious" writers. However, since I am addicted to trolling the internet, primarily to find the next best place to sleep, I have developed a chronic case of ADD. I have the attention span of an eight year old. The internet did it. But that's a discussion beyond the scope of this blog and gets analysis ad nauseum from TV shrinks and pundits 24-7. Because my attention span, or lack therof, is quickly approaching infinity, I take great delight when I read anything clever or interesting in something under the Twitter character max. BTW - It's very rare to read anything interesting on Twitter.  Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a piece of brilliant comedic writing on, of all places, Like a Dave Barry protégé, the reviewer captures the pain and glory of an ill fated "manual" hair remover. It's as if Dennis Miller were writing copy for an early SNL Weekend Update. After reading this little piece of serious humor, I felt the need to share it with my fellow vagabonds. If you are feeling low, this should brighten your day.
An actual product and its review direct from
Groom Mate Platinum XL Nose & Hair Trimmer
by Groom Mate
List Price: $29.87
Price:        $18.88
You Save: $10.99 (37%)
  • Groom Mate branded nose & ear hair trimmers are considered to be the finest battery-free nose hair trimmers available today. PHR Systems, Ltd. has been manufacturing these fine trimmers here in the USA since 1991.
  • The Platinum XL nose & ear hair trimmer is made from 100% stainless steel and includes an unconditional lifetime warranty with a money-back guarantee if not satisfied.
  • The Platinum XL trimmer has a patented rotary blade system that is guaranteed to never dull and to never pull or yank out nostril hairs.
  • The Platinum XL trimmer will never cut or nick the sensitive lining of your nostril and nose hairs are gently and painlessly trimmed.
  • A simple, safe and very effective nose and ear hair trimmer. Give yourself the gift of good grooming today!
 Ready to get out the credit card - right! Read on
Review by Schuylercat on Jun 3, 2010    
This little bloodthirsty monster works absolutely fantastic 99% of the time - spin and trim, gets the stragglers that electric back-and-forth models miss, easy and fast.

Then there's that 1%. It transforms, magically, into an instrument of evil Torquemada would have included in his torture kit. It becomes a little set of pliers, rather than a clipper.

Every so often it grabs a hair. It doesn't gently fondle the hair, and it doesn't caress the hair, and it doesn't bloody brush it: it grips it with the strength of ten frickin' Grinches, plus two, and...






I swear I can hear it giggling over the sound of my screaming.

Torquemada Indeed!
So the next time you're standing in front of the mirror, getting ready for a night on the town in Paris, Valencia or some other exotic locale, staring at your state of the art hair remover with the dead battery, you can chuckle at the trailblazer that gave you the unvarnished truth about the one with no power.
Remember Fellow Nomads - Grass Doesn't Grow On Busy Streets



Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Great Hotels Are Like Great Art - You Have To Know What You're Looking At
My favorite professor in architecture school was on a mission. Both in the studio and his favorite class - we called it history and mystery - his obsession was a long and arduous journey to impart knowledge to his students. As a former student of  one of the founders of The  International Style, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, he insisted his young charges leave his classroom and studio with as much knowledge of the aesthetics, structure and meaning of great architecture, art and other artistic accomplishments, great and small, as he could impart. Many people are fond of the statement - I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like. Statements like that in the presence of Professor Gettle would get you a stern reprimand and an intense lecture on the nuances of Renaissance painters  versus Cubism or the reasons for the fluted grooves in Greek columns, which are many and beyond the scope of this post.
Determining the coolness factor or the aesthetic worthiness of a small hotel and its surroundings requires much the same level of "knowledge" about what you are looking at and looking for in a place that can take your vagabonding to the next level. It's similar to comparing a Frank Lloyd Wright house to one designed by a lesser talent. By combining the notions presented throughout this blog with your own timely travel research, you will develop an appreciation of all the factors that make a place worthy of your time and money. Ultimately, the goal is to develop the knowledge and experience to ensure that you know what you are looking at. If you believe, as any aesthetic vagabond believes, that architecture and design, when done well, can actually make your travels, indeed your life, better, then read on. Otherwise, skip the esoteric lingo and check out the latest "deal" from Kayak or As someone once said when asked why he would spend $1,000 on a new suit as opposed to $200, he replied - Because I look much better in a $1,000 suit.
But Wait - It's Not Always About The Money
The focus of this blog has slowly transitioned, over its first three years, into an obsessive search for great hotels or other unique places to sleep that don't require a second mortgage to pay the rent. If you stay at The Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, for the ridiculous sum of $1,200 to $1,400 per night, everything, and I do mean everything, better be otherworldly, or there will be trouble. I'm just sayin'.
If you have unlimited funds, you will always have the perceived best at your disposal. Expensive hotels, especially "resort" hotels, spend an inordinate amount of time and money on services that a true vagabond doesn't need. I really don't need my luggage hauled to my room with the mandatory explanation of how the television works or where the hair dryer is. A hotel we stayed in not so long ago in Jacksonville Beach, of all places, did not have a coffee maker in the room or ice makers on the floor, requiring you to call room service to have those rather pedestrian conveniences delivered to your room with the expectation of a tip for each delivery. All part of the "total service" hotel experience - tedious!
Finding a great hotel at a great price is not always easy. It depends on where you are headed and what you are looking for. It's easy in Europe, the UK being the one exception. Italy, France, Spain et al have scores of great places at great prices. And its hard in the good ole USA. If you do a lot of homework, you can find reasonably priced hotels in parts of California, the Northwest and the East Coast. Florida? Fugetaboutit, unless you go to Miami. And why would anyone do that on purpose? Boutique hotels are, indeed, rare in the Sunshine State. When planning a trip, you should include a few places that you would never tell your in laws what you spent because they would try to have you committed. As my old roomie used to say - What's a few hundred dollars in a lifetime? As in life, travel is about balance, right?
Many factors go into the creation of a great hotel. Today, I am going where no other travel blogger has gone before. I am taking the plunge. I am waxing eloquent. I am going out on a limb. I am barking up the big tree. I am going to give my favorite nomads a short version of the  unadulterated, unfettered, unabashed and extremely opinionated checklist to use when searching for the perfect place to R & R like a true Nomad.
Aesthetics DO Matter
A well designed hotel, like a beautiful woman, gives one pause to smile. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In hotels, less so. One of the discussions we have around here fairly regularly is the attempt to answer the modern architect's lament - Why do Americans embrace the McMansion model of residential design, as opposed to the beautiful, simple and elegant "modern" residential designs that were immensely popular in the fifties and sixties but gave way to the faux estatelettes that litter suburbia today. Whether it's a sleek modern, minimalist design or a repurposed prison built in the fourteenth century that is now an elegant twenty room boutique, the design of the place makes a difference.

Cibilo Creek Ranch near the art colony/town of Marfa, Texas proves this point in the extreme. A repurposed fort, complete with gun openings used back in the day for keeping attackers at bay, Cibilo sits amidst thirty thousand acres of hauntingly austere and beautiful Texas desert. Purchased and restored by a wealthy CEO, this "ranch" sports every quality one would expect in a five star hotel overlayed and inserted into an 1800's fort. The blend of ancient and new makes it memorable. Not to mention the killer beds, on site food and camels, yes camels, that roam the place.
Size Really DOES Matter

If anyone within the sound of this blog has ever stayed in a mega hotel and thought it worthy of their hard earned cash, by all means please let me know. There is nothing more tedious  than a thousand room hotel that is over staffed and overpriced to respond to your every need. You become a bit player in a kind of a ground hog day of valets,  room service with average food and lobbies full of hundreds of people thinking they have found the best of the best. The smaller, the better in my book. You get more real personal service because the people serving you are usually the owners who have invested their money and their lives in running their little part of the travel world. Only in environs like the intimate courtyard of a repurposed manse in Avignon can you sit with the owner and discuss how their unique place came to be. Designed by a Swiss architect and his artist wife,  the edgy Lumani B&B,  in the heart of the City of Popes, is just such a place. Small really is the way to go. 
And Speaking of Food
Food is the WD-40, if you will, of travel. We all agree you have to have a great place to sleep, but, without great food, you will eventually become a creaky, cranky vagabond. If you are staying in an urban hotel, the food choices are usually many. You should aways check with the owners of your hotel for the best spots. Many boutique hotels are located in places far away from the madding crowd. This fact usually requires that food be served on site. Dining on rabbit at Castello de Tornano, in the heart of Tuscany, was both a culinary and sensory delight that we still talk about. The fact that it was served in the former great hall of a vintage castle built in 1110 didn't hurt.
The Bed's The Thing
At the The Inn of The Five Graces in Santa Fe, you can actually purchase their bed "system" for the princely sum of $5,000. Now I have never spent that much on a bed, but, sleeping on one will tempt you to run up your American Express right on the spot. Resist the urge. You're on vacation, man! The point is - great little hotels usually have big, comfy beds.
You Need Stuff To Do Too

OK, you've slept well. You've eaten well. And you have money to burn, because you didn't spend the ridiculous sums and you didn't pay all the fees and tips associated with a big fat resort. No, if you followed all the Do's and Don'ts of finding the perfect little place, you ended up in an intimate boutique with a view to die for at a price you can brag about. But after the sleeping and the eating, a vagabond needs something to do. That's where the local environs of a hotel come into play. And personal preference becomes critical. If you happen to be one who lives for the urban delights of Paris, then, an isolated former hayloft turned country chic suite to die for in the middle of nowhere probably isn't your first choice. But, if communing with cows and rural artifacts is your thing, then say hello to the country life.
Recently, on our annual anniversary trip to a small five unit boutique, Wild Springs Guest Habitat, in the even smaller town of Port Orford, Oregon, we enjoyed the wild beauty and isolation of the Pacific, as well as world class art galleries and edgy art exhibits. All in a community with no more than three traffic lights. If you do your homework, you can have your travel cake and eat it too.

At The End Of The Day

When its all said and done, the perfect vagabond hotel comprises those attributes that take you to a different time and place that feels right. Everyone is looking for God's Country. If you are passionate about travel and do your due diligence while planning your dream vacation, you will find your little piece of heaven on earth. In the city, in the country, by the sea or in the desert. Travel changes you in ways you never expect. And it goes a lot better when you are in a place that meets your aesthetic, emotional and cultural needs. So, happy hunting. Great travel requires inspiration and an unwillingness to settle. But when you sit with the ones you love and raise that glass of local vintage, under the big tree overlooking the big sea, you will know that it was worth it.

I hope 2014 takes you to places you never knew existed. Remember, the yellow brick road had a lot of curves in it, not to mention the interesting characters along the way.
See You Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Travel Quote of The Week - “The major advantage of domestic travel is that, with a few exceptions such as Miami, most domestic locations are conveniently situated right here in the United States.” – Dave Barry
Video Artist of The Week - Steely Dan - The purveyors of Post Modern Jazz Rock bring excellent musicianship and lyrics, sarcastic and ironic, that only Fagan and Becker understand - But its still great listening and very tight.