Tuesday, April 28, 2015


And she starts telling me about her eight mile trek from a "nearby" village to Machu Pichu in tennis shoes. And I'm thinking, this girl is far too intelligent to do that on purpose. Well, as it turns out, the trek was unexpected and it was you know, like a whole new experience that was  well worth the relative pain she had to endure to get to one of the world's truly magical places. Just listening to her describe it made me ever more determined to get there in the near future. It has been on my Bucket List since Professor Gettle described the daily sacrifice of virgins to the gods way back when I was a lowly and unknowing architecture student.

And as we continued our discussion about travel, we concluded that the unexpected must be embraced while traveling. It's those things that are not on an itinerary or in a brochure that will make travel meaningful and may even change your way of thinking.

Travel Like You Give A Damn!

This time of year people start talking seriously about vacation. Most serious nomads start getting those "gotta' move" jitters around the middle of April. Tax season is over. The kids will be out of school soon. Winter will finally blast its last gasp, even up north and millions of travelers will take to the roads, the rails, the seas or the air to places familiar and unknown. For us traveling is not really a leisure activity. I consider  travel one of life's opportunities to change, sometimes profoundly, my world view. When I heard my young friend explain, with unfettered enthusiasm, the joy she felt upon arriving at the high mountain Estate of The Ancient Incas, it further convinced me that travel, to be truly appreciated, must have those experiences that come from somewhere or someone that we did not think about before we hit the trail.

I once heard  a  barkeep in Montepulciano singing an aria at the top of his tenor voice late in the day while lost and looking for the 700 year old house we had booked for the night. With this sound floating down the narrow streets of this magnificent hill town, I walked into the café  to ask directions. Like all Italians, he was ever so polite, stopped singing and explained how to get to our destination. As I left the café he resumed his magnificent singing, picking up right where he had left off. This simple encounter and experience was, dare I say, quite profound. Watching aggressive old men play an intense match of bachi ball in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower will let you know for sure that people the world over have their  priorities very much in order.

In the fifties, as the son of a hardworking, entrepreneurial business man father  and a classic homemaker mom, I always assumed that everyone went to Daytona Beach in early summer, followed by a two week camping trip, in late August, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and The Great Smoky Mountains. I learned to pack a trunk from my obsessively organized father. My first memories of driving are the times I spent in my dad's lap behind the wheel of the big Caddie as we headed  south to the beach or north to the mountains. I also have Technicolor memories of stopping at a roadside somewhere south of Ocala and eating ice cold watermelon that had been submerged in freezing water all day. Your teeth hurt, but, the sweet taste of that summer delicacy was pure heaven.

And, with the freedom of summer at The World's Most Famous Beach, I enjoyed eating a hot dog with a real six ounce coke that brought tears to my eyes. If you are under fifty you have no idea what that means. It was something quite exotic and worldly for a ten year old from Tallahassee. Then it was on to camping in the Great Smoky Mountains with all of the latest gadgets one could attain in 1957. It was a very "American" experience that I utterly loved. My brother, however wasn't quite so sure. Actually, he was quite sure. He loathed camping then and now. Yes siree, my brother is of the certain opinion that there is absolutely no reason for a normal thinking, sane person to EVER sleep outside.

The point here is that travel means different things to different people. Some find extreme comfort in that favorite place on a lake. Others relish the extreme adventure involved in setting out on a little used fork in the road. I think there is actually room for both. On occasion, we visit one of our favorite cousins who lives on Lake Blackshear in Warwick, Georgia. It never fails to take me to a place of sentient peace and tranquility, not to mention insane food. The simple pleasure of sitting and having a morning coffee on a porch on a lake is - well - one of life's good things. You don't need to read The Art of Doing Nothing at this place. That fine art has long been perfected in that beautiful house on that simple porch looking out onto that peaceful water where nothing is demanded and everyone seems to laugh  a lot.

However, I have also been on the receiving end of some of the most unexpected pleasures that seemingly came from nowhere. From the debauchery and beauty of Venice to the art show of Ocean Trash in Southern Oregon, to the old man who gave us directions in Wales in his native tongue, which has nothing to do with American English. My journals are full of those things, great and small, that make you want to keep moving. But, remember, where you sleep does matter. The castle in Provence or the smallest hotel room on earth in Venice - it all makes the heart grown fonder of things yet unknown.
And one last thing that can assist you in getting off the couch and on the road to nirvana? Grab a book, that one book that spoke to you about a place, a time or a people. We have been planning a Bucket List Trip to the land of Don Quixote, bullfights, tapas and Tempranillo for a long time. All of that thinking about, talking about and planning for our visit to the land of conquistadors  made me re-read one of the truly great novels of the twentieth century, Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, which I mentioned in a post, Now I Know Why Hemingway Always Wrote Standing Up , a few weeks back. His detailed descriptions of every tree, pebble strewn path, river and the people that visit and inhabit the exotic locales of Pamplona, the running of the bulls - well, you know the story - have helped me to prepare mentally and yes, spiritually, for what I hope will be the trip of a life time
It is my fervent hope that you will find yourself completely lost in some ancient place and look up and see something that will make you see life better in this world that increasingly makes less sense! My one and only says that traveling with me is one U-turn after another. Remember, half the fun is getting there. And the other half is sleeping in a place you could only dream of.
Happy Trails -  Felici Percorsi - Bonne Route -llwybrau hapus - Buenos Caminos - Head Suusarajad,
Travel Quote of The Week - “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
Video Artist of The Week - Who better to celebrate the life of the vacationista than The Beach Boys. With the sounds and lyrics of Summer, one of the greatest pop/rock groups in history makes us all appreciate life's simple pleasures. And they are on tour, after fifty plus years. The last time I saw them, they were still worth the price of the ticket.

Thursday, April 9, 2015



That's right, a minivan! When I pulled up to the Marriot in Dallas to pick up "the kids", my son - the first one out the door - exclaimed in his best high pitched Leave It To Beaver voice - HI! DAD!! Then the rest of the crew piled in and discussed, ad nauseam, our mode of transportation for our days in Big D and our subsequent trip south to the tattoo capital of the world, Austin. You know how kids are. Wow dad, what a cool ride said the daughter snarkily. Was this an upgrade? asked the daughter-in-law laughingly. Well, at least we won't get a ticket for speeding said the mom admonishingly. And on and on. However, no one complained about having their very own seat. We just put the 5'2" daughter-in-law, the one who queried me about the upgrade, in the little seat in the back and all was very cool. Perfect ride I say.
As we made our way south on Interstate 35 from Big D to Austin, I was happy as a tipped cow to have all of the family headed for some good times in the Live Music Capital Of The World. After hours of searching dozens of web sites, I found a place  that would sleep five  just off South Congress Avenue (SOCO), which is THE happening area in Austin. A 1926 bungalow had been repurposed with some serious funk to create a very cool landing spot for the four days/three nights we were in the place that boasts many favorite offspring, including Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughn and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Complete with old doors,  corrugated tin ceilings and a very funky paint job, in and out, The Red Bungalow proved to be a real find. It had all the basics, including a nice outdoor patio for socializing with your morning coffee and it was within easy walking distance of the clubs, restaurants, museums and ridiculously high priced boutiques of every ilk on South Congress Avenue. The bathrooms could have been a bit bigger and the furniture was somewhat sparse, but, other than that, it was good quality space for our familial coalition of five vagabonds in search of a happening in a city where residents boastfully proclaim - KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD! And, based on the sights and sounds of this unique town, residents and nomads alike nurture that admonishment 24-7.


That's right, locals and visitors alike go crazy over bats in this town. Observing the short migration of 1.5 million bats every night at dusk is truly an unforgettable experience. According to local legend, when the bridge was renovated in 1980, the bats found the cracks and crevices built into the bridge a perfect place to call home. Presto! Lots and lots and lots of bats call The South Congress Avenue Bridge over Lady Bird Lake home.     Although in residence as early as March, the best time to witness this man assisted natural phenomenon is in August, which is when we were there. Perfect planning by you know who. They apparently winter in Mexico. I am sure they are included in the latest version of The Dream Act - just kidding.

I also highly recommend paying ten bucks for an open top boat for viewing from the lake. You don't have to fight the crowds on the bridge and the little lady that captained our launch was very knowledgeable about the bats and the Austin skyline. And no need to worry about bugs, since the bats eat 10,000 to 30,00 pounds of insects on their nightly flight. Watching the sky turn black with over a million bats, as they take to the countryside, is a great way to enjoy an early evening with family and friends. And don't forget to bring along a cheap merlot or pinot and some Dixie cups. Good time, indeed.


Apparently tattoos   generate   some  form of street cred in ultra hip Austin. Every size, color, style and theme can be found on bodies, ankle to neck, along with mega piercings of every lip, nose and ear. I cannot attest to other parts unseen. The GEN Y generation apparently has an almost obsessive need to express their individuality with tattoos. One day, in a galaxy far far away, when the inevitable drooping, dropping and sagging sets in with age, the old Millennials will lament the foibles of their youth. As a friend once noticed about a lady friend who had put on a few pounds - It used to be a butterfly on that cheek, but now it's a California condor. Austin locals, from pizza joint waiters to hotel concierges, wear their body art with intense pride. And that attitude is pervasive all up and down SOCO.

If you are a music lover, then Austin is, indeed, where you need to be. Specifically, live music is around every corner and in every venue from barbecue joints to the famed Austin City Limits. Unfortunately ACL had no performances while we were there. In addition, I have read that you need a special dispensation from the Pope to score tickets or be best buds with Willie Nelson. One very cool place we went to enjoy barbecue and some good live R&B was Salt Lick Barbecue. You can also pick up some Texas wine at Salt Lick Cellars next door. Our friend for life, Paula, a transplanted  Floridian took us to this great little spread in Texas Hill Country. It's nice to know we have a friend in one of the coolest town's in America who knows their way around the place.  It's a must visit for hungry vagabonds where great food and music can be had with a view. And having a true Austinite show you around doesn't hurt.

Tex-Mex, Fried Chicken, All of The Above - you name it - is available in the culinary haunts in every corner of this great city of just under a million. It may be left of center politically, but Austin is pure right all the time when it comes to food. Whether it's Lucy's Fried Chicken, which manages to turn comfort food into something sexy or Torchy's Tacos for serious Mexican with that undeniable Texas Touch and bottled cokes. Oh yeah baby!

I would be remiss, as an architect and nomad, if I did not mention one place to sleep in Austin that has been on my Vagabond radar for years. Hotel San Hose' is a repurposed, updated motel right on South Congress. Unfortunately, the place was booked and it is pretty pricey. However, I did take the time to walk its zen like environs and public areas. With its minimalist aesthetic and blend of natural materials laid over the bones of an old motor inn, it seems to live up to its billing. Very retro eco. So, when in Austin, its worth checking out.

Austin should be on every Nomad's list of places to see before you die. It is as All American in a Texas style kind of way as you will find. Like Lyle Lovett says in the song of the same name "That's right - your not from Texas, but, Texas wants you anyway". As we boarded the plain for good old Tallahassee, that song kept playing in my head. I am not from Texas but every time I go, I feel like maybe they do want me. With the right jeans and the right hat, who knows?

Head Em' Up Move 'Em Out!


Travel Quote of The Week - "Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called walking" - George W. Bush

Video Artist of The WeekNorah Jones & The Little Willies - Born in Brooklyn, raised  in Texas, Norah Jones is the daughter of concert promoter Sue Jones and Ravi Shankar, master sitar player (Yes - The guy that taught Beatle George Harrison). The multi-award winning artist formed an ad hoc group of players and singers - The Little Willies - who turn out some amazing music that you will NEVER hear on the radio. One of the most compelling recordings by this group is a little ditty called "Lou Reed" with Norah Jones on piano & vocals, Richard Julian on vocals, Jim Capilongo on guitar, Lee Alexander on bass and Dan Rieser on drums. Just picture it - Mr. Velvet Underground tipping a bovine. Now that's something to ponder!


Thursday, April 2, 2015



That's right fellow vagabonds, travelers, wanderers, searchers, seekers, fly boys & fly girls and nomads who need a break - the good old USA is soon to have somebody to compete with the greedy, money grubbing "we charge for everything" airlines like Delta, United, KLM, Air France, British Airways ad nauseam. The latest news about low fare airlines is going to be a boon for penny pinching Nomads who want to cross the pond or just catch a quick flight to Cleveland without 3 - 2 hour layovers.
RYAN AIR is coming to America. Ridiculous fares can already be had in the UK and the rest of Europe from/to selected cites. How does a round trip TIX for a paltry $65 from London to Barcelona grab ya? I thought so. Now, you have to read their rule book about luggage, carry-ons, on line purchases, etc., and they charge for every extra. But, if you are a savvy vagabond, and what reader of this blog isn't, you can plan and pack accordingly. A specific date is not set yet, and the first flights will probably only be from Boston and New York. They tend to fly to second tier airports. But who cares? You can save enough money to sleep in a five star instead of on your long lost cousin's couch. If Ryan Air makes a go of it on the Transatlantic routes, it will be a matter of time before you can catch that flight from Nashville to Cleveland for ten bucks. Click here to read a take on this from the SKIFT travel blog. I mean, other than Southwest, the best and cheapest airline in America, when is the last time you flew an American based airline, landed and walked away with  a good feeling about them or yourself? Hopefully, Ryan Air will make the big boys change their ways.
WOWAIR'S tag line is "Iceland's Most Punctual Airline". Stop laughing! They are serious. I have never been to Iceland, but, based on the quality and prices of their hip hotels, it is not a place that takes traveling well lightly. They are throwing their hat into the ring of the cacophonous US to Europe Airline Market. Click here for a Washington Post article outlining the plan. Depending on when and where you go, you can catch a one way from Boston to Paris for $99. Now that's just insane. Like any low cost air travel provider, you have your lovers and haters. The fact is - you can NEVER, EVER do worse than the bigs. So, I say wowee - zowee to WOWAIR.
So, fellow vacationistas, these two little tidbits are worth checking out and tracking to see what they do next. And of course, I will keep you posted when events develop or news is released.