Wednesday, June 21, 2023


The First, The Best & The Worst

This week's post is, well, all about me. This is an updated post of Random Musings first posted on every Vagabond's favorite Travel Blog on Tuesday, October 2, 2012. And, as you would expect, today's post is all about me and the important people in my life. I have talked before about this architect's obsessive need to make lists. I have also been told by friend and foe alike that I generally do not know when to be quiet. That is one of the reasons I took up this adventure in journalistic narcissism. You know the song - I need a release, etc. etc. Ugh!! Having said all that, I thought this week would be a great time to re-recount some memorable moments of travel and add a few new ones I have experienced. I mean, I haven't just sat at home and watched TV since 2012. 

Normally, I would come up with a plethora of insights on the unique qualities of a small hotel or other places of architectural quality down some road in a place I hope you have never been. And I know my legions of fans have come to expect erudition & enlightenment on a weekly basis about traveling down the smaller road. But this week it's all personal. So please indulge me my musings, random though they may be. I thank you in advance.

If the following list appears to be incomplete and random, it is. The original post brought back a distinct memory as I watched the clock on the wall as the seconds ticked down to that Saturday at 5:30 PM when my smart, handsome, witty, fair-haired son, Lance, married the equally smart, gorgeous, wonderful fashionista, Tara, under a large pecan tree at Vinewood Plantation just south of Atlanta in Newnan, Georgia. And let me just say, even though, as the father of the groom, I was pretty much out of the loop, the organizational skills required in planning a wedding make planning a vacation look like ordering a Happy Meal at Mickey D's! The "kids" honeymooned at a small, oceanfront resort in Barbados Tara found, by being a diligent and obsessive Nomad. We discussed getting daily reports from Tara & Lance to share on The Nomad Architect. Nah! Not much communication from Barbados was forthcoming!

So, Without Further Ado - A Random List of Travel Memories

First travel memory - Way back in the day - Ordering & then eating, all by myself,  a loaded hot dog with a side order of fries in a cone, then chasing it with an ice cold six-ounce bottle of coke, followed by a Nutty Buddy ice cream cone from the mobile hot dog stand in front of the Castaway Motel on The World's Most Famous Beach - Daytona. The coolest thing about the beach was that people could drive on it. What a way to live for a seven-year-old!

First memory of traveling with a car radio - Riding late at night to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to go camping in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, my father would find the great radio DJ John R. on WLAC from Nashville on the AM dial. Sitting in the back seat cocoon of the big car, I heard music and "radio talk" I had never heard before. Rhythm & Blues from the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and a raspy, gravelly aged voice broadcasting an array of eclectic "commercials" for everything from vinyl seat covers to hair cream. It seemed so exotic back then.

My first realization that there was another world  out there - Visiting New York with our father while on business was always a treat. I believe my penchant for wanderlust came to be when my father rented a bright red convertible and took an all-day tour of New York City from Manhattan to Harlem to The East Village to The Bowery with the top down. With my mom in the front seat and my brother and I rubbernecking at every turn in the back, it was an experience I have never forgotten.

Favorite Disney World memory - After the sixth or seventh time riding with my daughter, Lauren, through It's A Small World, in one day, and sharing the simple pleasure of my baby girl being mesmerized by magic, I realized that life simply does not get any better.

Favorite Sports Memory - This didn't involve travel, per se, unless you consider the fifteen-minute ride to the ballpark travel. My son's first No Hitter. If you know anything about baseball, you must understand the depth of pride I had watching my kid tossing that No Hitter. Absolute proof positive that life simply doesn't get any better.

Coolest Small Hotel - On a side street, a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower, is the lilliputian Hotel Mayet. Everything about this cool little hotel is - well - cool and small. The rooms, the corridors, the two-person elevator and, of course, the bathroom are designed for the little people. But I have never stayed anywhere that has more style and design. Every surface, every piece of art and every fixture is well executed. No detail is left to chance. The topper was the cave-like breakfast room, in the basement, with bright striped vinyl-clad floors inserted under an old stone vaulted ceiling. What a way to begin the day!

Funniest travel memory - Nothing like a road trip with the kids, right? On our way to Nashville we decided to take some R&R at the Dillard House, a family restaurant and small inn north of  Atlanta.  In addition to a great restaurant, they also have a small petting zoo of goats, rabbits and other farm animals for a pleasant diversion for NOWK's (Nomads with Kids). The day was a classic summer day in the South. Very hot and very humid. As the kids were being entertained by this particularly large bearded goat, we observed one of the truly unique happenings in nature, at least among farm animals. With sad eyes gazing in the distance, the goat slowly turned its head to the side and proceeded to "cool" himself by peeing on top of his head causing the four us to laugh uncontrollably. Had we had a video camera, we could have paid for the trip with our winnings from The World's Funniest Home Video. And to send us over the edge into laugh nirvana was watching another family with kids walk up to the goat and start petting it on the very head that had just been relieved upon. Now that's funny!

Most Romantic Place We Ever Slept - This one is hard. But at least tied for first place has to be The Cliff House on Whidbey Island near Seattle. Accessible by ferry, this amazing awarding winning house of glass and wood boasted killer views of Puget Sound, deep in the forest on the west side of Whidbey. It felt like the end of the world. After walks on the rugged, desolate beach or down the lane under canopies of massive douglas firs and redwoods, you got to return to this amazing piece of residential design to watch the sun go down and rest for the next mist-covered morning. It was the perfect place to take the one you love. Unfortunately, this amazing romantic house stopped renting several years ago.

Most Favorite Big City - Hands down - Paris!. Paris has it all. Great boulevards and side streets to wander down. Because Paris has so few tall buildings, it has a human scale that invites you to investigate around every corner. The street-side cafes, along with intimate public spaces, allow you to just sit and watch the world go by. And of course, you have the Eiffel, the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou. Our first night in Paris - after a delightful dinner in a small cafe next to our hotel, we decided to go for a walk. We turned the corner and there it was, the Eiffel Tower covered in lights. Romance with my one and only - perfect. And last, but not least, the food. The perfect combination of art and artistry.

Least Favorite City - Also a no-brainer - Las Vegas. Sin City has everything, including 110-degree heat, thousands of wandering, sweaty tourists looking for something that isn't there and more tacky buildings per square foot than any place on earth. You cannot take any city seriously that has a fake Statue of Liberty, a fake Empire State Building, a fake Brooklyn Bridge and a fake Eiffel Tower. But, the topper of tacky has to be the real estate developer's ultimate testament to bad design - the coup de gras of imposture  - The Grand Canal of Venice. One can only hope that what gets built in Vegas stays in Vegas. The most attractive part of this desert enclave of banality is US 15 North, the road to the natural wonders of Southwest Utah.

Scariest Travel Memory - Yosemite. Shortly after Labor Day. No Crowds. What a great way to see one of the great natural wonders of this vast country. But on this trip, the splendor of the natural world quickly evaporated when we lost our eleven-year-old Lance. Lance needed to use the restroom, so his mother patiently waited outside the restroom while Lance went inside. After what seemed like an eternity - no Lance. Now, my bride is not one to panic, but, after yelling from the door, with no answer, then asking a gentleman exiting if he had seen a cute little blond kid inside - to which he replied no, the freaking out began. Ready to stand in front of the park exit and allow no one to leave the park, we started our feverish search. After several minutes, there he was, quietly standing on a large boulder enjoying the view. Turns out the restroom had two entrances/exits and he went out the in door! Together again, we laughed happily, but it wasn't funny.

Most Memorable Meal - This one is easy. After arriving late on a Sunday at the Castello Di Tornano, a country hotel in a tenth-century stone castle, in the heart of Tuscany, we asked if we could get something to eat. Without hesitation, an awning was opened up over a table on the terrace overlooking the rolling hills and vineyards of this picturesque place. As we sat down, plates of prosciutto, risotto, cheese, bread, fruit and a nice local red were cheerily served by Massimo and his assistant. There we sat, literally under the Tuscan sun, on this beautiful plateau with an ancient castle cum hotel as a backdrop, enjoying lunch like a Don and his mistress. I looked at my wife, as we were enjoying our wine, cheese and bread and said - "Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pulled Me Back In" - Michael Corleone from The Godfather.

Venice - Smallest Bed I Ever Slept In - 
After two amazing, wonderful days and nights on the shores of Lake Como in the small town of Varenna in a reformed ancient monastery turned into a thoroughly modern boutique hotel of 25 rooms about 600 feet above Lake Como with a large terrace overlooking the lake and a small, yet luxurious room to sleep in. Our space in the Emero Gaudio Hotel had it's own small balcony with a view as well.

But I digress - Back to my story - Next stop - Venice. As we waited on the train to arrive, I overheard a small group of girls talking in English. We walked up and asked where they were from. They all said Tallahassee, Florida - my hometown. They were students at my school - Florida State University. They were on a summer trip touring Italy. After we talked for a few minutes, I had two thoughts - 1) It is, indeed a small world and 2) I really wish I had gone on a summer tour of Italy when I was 20! 

We arrived in Venice later that day, walked to our very cool little hotel, and checked in. Hotel Flora was, and still is, one of those hotels you read about in travel books. Very little English spoken, ancient building and a beautiful, flowered courtyard. And we also learned that travel is always best when you get surprised by the unexpected. 

As we got to our room, we saw two twin beds on opposite ends of the room. Then I decided to take a shower. The shower was actually a two-level sits bath. I just laughed quietly as I took my shower. Later, after dinner, we retired to our very small beds for the night. The next morning, the concierge told us he would be moving our luggage to a much larger room with a king bed and gave me the key. I thanked him as best I could in Italian. After a great night's sleep, we had a first-class breakfast in the courtyard then ventured out to see this amazing ancient city.

Least Impressive Thing I Saw In Italy - The Leaning Tower of Pisa. What is there to say? It's 185 feet tall and it currently tilts approximately 4-5 degrees from vertical - about 15 feet.  That's it. It has 8 stories and there are always people climbing the stairs up and down. And, BTW, that's all there is to see in Pisa. The reason it doesn't fall over? Well, the latest theory is an engineering concept called dynamic soil-structure interaction (DSSI). I'm an architect and don't really get it. If you're interested to know more just click the link in red.

Most Impressive Thing I Saw In ItalyStatue of David - Accademia Gallery, Florence

The statue of David is one of the most amazing works of art I have ever seen. Executed from 1501 to 1504 from one large block of marble stone by the great Michelangelo, its artistic power is mesmerizing. Standing 17 feet in height, it's history and beauty make it the greatest sculpture in the world, according to art experts and regular lovers of great art.

Florence is considered by the famous and infamous to be the most beautiful city in Italy. The following quote captures this great city of beauty, design and art from ancient to modern.

"Stand on a bridge over the Arno River several times in a day and the light, mood and view changes every time. Firenze is magnetic, romantic and busy. Its urban fabric has hardly changed since the Renaissance, its narrow streets evoke a thousand tales, and its food and wine are so wonderful the tag 'Fiorentina' has become an international label of quality assurance." - Lonely Planet

So, that's just some random thoughts from the past and some new thoughts on memorable moments from travel & life. I could write a book of anecdotes, but that would probably be pretty tedious. I encourage you to sit and write down or at least ponder your own travel moments that have stuck with you. It's an exercise worthy of your time. Like old photographs, travel memories give your life meaning and continuity. In this world that seems to turn more upside down every day, we need to hang on to those images. And, if you feel so led, I welcome you to share your own travel experiences. Just click on the comments link below and write away! If you are reading this as an email, then just click THENOMADARCHITECT to go to the blog for the comments link.

Today is the First Day of Summer - To celebrate Summer, I'm going to be posting some great tunes for all you Vagabonds to crank up when you're on the road, on the train, on the plane, on the boat or walking down a woodsy trail to a place you've never been. Find a big screen TV and crank it up for these!

The modern-day carrier of the torch for music made famous by Frank, Bing and other greats in the forties, Michael Bublé is bringing back this great music with a new modern twist. Enjoy HIGHER by Michael Bublé.

There is only one Steven Tyler. His voice is an amazing instrument of power. Here is a great set of tunes, The Abbey Road Medley, Tyler performed for Paul McCartney at The 2010 Kennedy Center Honors. Only Tyler could deliver those tunes to one of the greatest songwriters in history.

ELVIS! - 1956 - Ed Sullivan Sullivan Show - The hair, the moves, the voice - The King of Rock & Roll changed everything.

Travel Quote of The Week -Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going. - Paul Theroux

From Memory Lane,


Sunday, June 11, 2023


With over 23 miles of hard-packed WHITE sand, great waves on the Atlantic, and one of the most unique histories of any beach in the world, Daytona Beach is the place to go for Spring Break and Summer. Driving and parking on the beach are still allowed. It was free in my day, but, if you want to get into the beach scene and feel really cool, it's worth every penny.

Daytona Beach became famous in the early 1900s for the beginning of what is now called NASCAR. If you want to see some of the early days of high-speed racing on the beach, just click on the NASCAR link above. There are still remnants of the original course at South Daytona Beach. Due to recent events, like the last two very bad hurricanes which damaged Daytona quite a bit, it will take some effort to see the old track. According to reports, there is an effort to replace the sand and refurbish the track that was disturbed by the hurricanes. The best place to start is at The North Turn Beach Bar & Grille where the original racetrack turned onto Atlantic Avenue.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must fess up. I grew up vacationing on the World's Most Famous Beach every summer from the age of six until I graduated from high school and continued going there while in college.       Every summer,
my dad would load up the car and we would head south for a couple of weeks of fun and sun. I learned to swim in the old Castaways Hotel, which is still there. Back in the day, it had a high diving board and we always had a room with an oceanfront view. So, please forgive me if I admit my love of these times with Mom, Dad, and my Older Brother. After high school, my friends and I would go spend spring break at 
Daytona. I have very fond memories of driving up and down the beach with my door slightly open. Oh so cool. LOL!! 

Of course, as they say, time marches on. For years Daytona was the place where everybody went for spring break. Then, things began to change for a variety of reasons. I have heard many stories about the problems Daytona had in the late seventies - early eighties. Over time, due to local control of the beach, and its surroundings, kids moved on. Of course, all of Florida is popular with college kids due to its more than 1,350 miles of coastline and amazing weather.

So, let's fast forward to current day. My wife and I enjoyed a four-night trip to celebrate our 49th anniversary at my most favorite beach. The sun, the sand, and the always beautiful waves bring about a complete change of attitude at a great beach. Now, unlike most of my family, I am not an all-day, sit-in-the-sun beach person. I do love the view and the air and the waves crashing on the shore. All I need is a nice glass of Pinot Noir and a comfortable chair and I am good.

We lodged in a great new, renovated hotel on South Daytona Beach, oceanfront, at the DELTA HOTEL by Marriot for around $250 per night, which, today is a deal. They are showing deals at $234 right now. We went in August so it was not very crowded and the weather was perfect. The room was perfect, the service was tops and the views were amazing.

In addition to a great hotel on the beach, Daytona has many great restaurants for a romantic meal or a quick snack for lunch.

Anna's Trattoria Italian Cuisine is the real deal. Authentic Italian food and great service make this place a must-do in Daytona Beach. Romantic setting, great food, and great wine - it doesn't get any better.

Another must-do restaurant is Stonewood Grill and Tavern on LPGA BLVD. Great steaks and outstanding service.

And for a great breakfast, brunch or lunch check out Peach Valley Cafe. Omelets to die for.

So, my fellow Vagabonds, get your reservation at The Delta, hop in the car, and enjoy a few days at The World's Most Famous Beach. 

Enjoy Life Every Day. That's what vagabonds do!

Happy Summer!

And to ensure that you can have a sweet ride getting to The World's Most Famous Beach, here's a cool song - Love, Love, Love by My Morning Jacket for the road.