Sunday, March 31, 2024


Easter Sunday is the day all Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ - A simple quote from the great evangelist Billy Graham:

"God undertook the most dramatic rescue operation in cosmic history. He determined to save the human race from self-destruction, and He sent His Son Jesus Christ to salvage and redeem them. The work of man’s redemption was accomplished at the cross.”

Don Francisco wrote an anthem of celebration in 1975 at the age of thirty. He was awarded two Dove Awards in 1980 - Song of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. 

And to celebrate this greatest of days - one of the greatest gospel singers in modern history delivers the story of power and grace of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as remembered by Saint Peter. David Phelps delivers HE'S ALIVE with help from The Gaither Vocal Band and many other great singers.

Celebrate Easter with the people you love!



Wednesday, March 27, 2024


Wow! Time does indeed fly when you're having fun. Except, here in North Florida, during January, February and the first part of March. April's coming fast. For Serious Vagabonds, It's the time of year when you need to get your tickets, reserve places to lay your head and the much-needed trip to a spa. Some of the spas in Italy are utterly amazing. And I have more good news. If you put in the time, you can put together a trip to Italy, Spain, France or Greece that will not break the bank. I know this, because I have been to those countries, plus I spend an inordinate amount of time researching cool places to stay, eat, relax and live like a local. Admittedly, we didn't do a lot of traveling in 2023. A very wise person once said - I retired last year, why am I so busy? Oh, so true - grandkids, kids, doctors, friends and more stuff that comes out of nowhere!   Inflation rates are off the charts making travel, eating out or just going somewhere for a few days to relax costlier than ever.

And I know, many Vagabonds read every word of my erudite opinions, advice and wandering thoughts on travel. LOL! Of course, nothing changes you quite like travel. Romance is more focused when you travel, and travel shows you things about places, people and cultures that you can't really see if you don't go there. If you care to browse through this blog, just enter a country, a city, a restaurant, or a place to see in the GO AHEAD ASK BOX to the right and something will come up.

In some recent posts, I have given various web sites and search engines you can use to find those places you want to go.  I've said it many times - you can travel to Italy, France, Spain, Greece or even The United Kingdom for far less than the good old USA. As an example, I just found a nice boutique hotel in the beautiful city of Florence - The Riva Lofts on the Arno River for a paltry $99 per night! A hotel in Northern California can run six times that! As an example, The Post Ranch Inn, voted  the No. 1 hotel in the world, is $4,800 per night! Nice room, nice view but Wow! 

The only downside of traveling to Europe is the cost of airfare. Generally, tickets run about 20-30% more than tickets in the USA. That can be overcome if you have Travel Points with a major airline. We haven't bought a plane ticket in years.  As I have said many times throughout this blog, the best web site to find reasonably priced hotels in Europe is i-escape. They list hundreds of hotels all over the world from low priced to very high priced. If you are desirous of inexpensive travel in America or Europe, by all means check out AIRBNB. You can find great places to lay your weary head from $70 to $200 in Napa, Texas, Tuscany, Spain or France.

One last thing to consider is traveling in Europe via trains. Train travel in Europe is the best, most comfortable and cheapest way to get from Point A to Point B. There are many web sites to reserve your seats for very reasonable prices. My recommendation for Europe is trainline. I just looked up a ticket from Rome to Florence for $22 Standard or $42 First Class. That is downright cheap! The trains are very fast, comfortable and immaculate with great service. Train travel in our beloved USA is for another post.

So, get off the couch, get on your laptop and find places to go and things to do. You'll be better for it I promise. There is nothing like having a late lunch at the Castello di Tornano, a quick 45 minutes from Florence, sitting on a beautiful terrace with nothing but vineyards as far as the eye can see. A still photo of Castello di Tornano is shown at the beginning of this post. The video below features this amazing, repurposed stone fort/castle turned into a boutique hotel.  And it cost $136 per night today, including lunch, dinner and all the wine you can drink!

So Just Get Up & Go, Go, Go! Happy Travels!


And for all Vagabonds - Here is a very cool version of the classic Stand By Me, written by the great R&B artist and Grammy Hall of Famer Ben E. King in 1961. It is listed as A Song of The Century by the Recording Industry Association of America. This deeply relaxing tune is by a Canadian duet Music Travel Love with a few friends. It will help ease your thoughts and relax as you travel.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024


My Fellow Vagabonds, we are truly living in the New Age of Technology that will lift you up, take you down, make you feel smarter, make you feel completely uninformed and send you all the way to San Antonio without actually sending you there. 


If you follow this blog at all, you know that I adore travel. But traveling with family is actually one of the true joys of my life. A recent trip to Jacksonville Beach was an experience we will remember and laugh about forever. Traveling to the beach with family is always fun, interesting and can be extraordinarily funny. It can also bring things into the picture that you never dreamed could happen. Well, this quick three-day trip to Jacksonville Beach was all of that and more. My daughter in law, Tara, a true Vagabond when it comes to travel, reserved a stunning four bedroom, 2-1/2 bath home with a heated pool within walking distance to the beach. Everything directly on the beach was rented out or just too expensive due to the Players 2024 golf tournament in Jacksonville.

We loaded up two SUVs with enough luggage to take care of a small army for a month to anywhere.

In SUV No. 1
Hayes - Almost 7 / Smith - Just turned 1 / Lance - Dad / Tara - Mom
Cheddar - Always Active Dog - As Charles Schultz said - Happiness is a warm puppy! / Most of the one ton of luggage, toys and stuff required for any trip. Ha Ha!

In SUV 2
Susie - Ya Ya / Doyle - D - Yes, we're older! / The rest of the luggage, toys and stuff needed to insure complete happiness for all.

Susie, my one and only, and I headed to the place to stay for three nights to celebrate Spring Break with our crew. Lance, Tara, the kids and the dog would soon follow.

Stage 1

It's a fairly quick and easy drive to Jax Beach. About an hour from the AIRBNB, I received a simple text from Lance that turned our simple short trip into a very, very long trip! We just got a flat tire said the text! I called immediately. What happened, I asked. We hit something in the road he said, and this SUV does not have a spare. I said - the new world we live in is simply insane. Then he tried to apply a patch from the SUV's Repair Kit. Let's all laugh out loud! It didn't work. Where are you, I asked. Rest Area near Mile Post 265 he said! Then I said - OK, as soon as we get to the place, I will come get y'all. He said he was having the Acura towed to Jimmy's Firestone in Lee, Florida to have a new tire installed. Jimmy's told Lance to pick it up the next day. Stage 1 complete.

Stage 2-3-4-5-6

We arrived at our home for three days around 4:00 and unloaded everything. I hopped back into our SUV and headed north to pick up the crew. After about two hours, I see my people sitting at a table at the Rest Area - Mile Post 265. They looked really cold. They loaded up my SUV including the still growing black labrador in the back with a lot of stuff. Two hours later, we pulled into the Surf Luxe AIRBNB, unloaded and ordered dinner. After settling in, we enjoyed relaxing and watching the kids having fun - Stage 2,3 complete.

Then, the next morning, Lance and I drove back to Jimmy's Firestone. Lance picked up his Acura and we headed back for more fun - Stage 4-5 complete.

On Tuesday, we went to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens without Cheddar, who was boarded for the day. The zoo is a perfect place to take kids. Kids love everything about any zoo. The rhinos, the elephants, the snakes, etc. I would highly recommend to anyone with kids to take them to the zoo. It's a lot of fun and much cheaper than Disney. It's also great for exercise. I walked three miles. Seeing all of those amazing animals at the zoo, I always wonder - Do they miss their home on the other side of the world? The photo shows my crew feeding a very cool giraffe. Everybody loved feeding this gentle tall animal.

On Wednesday, we loaded up our portion of stuff and headed home. We walked into the house, poured a big glass of Pinot Noir and ordered pizza! LOL! Stage 6 complete!

A final thought - We drove 998 total miles in less than four days. We could have driven all the way to San Antonio, Texas with all those miles used completing Stages 1-6! And that, as they say, is the unvarnished truth of a great trip, with a few side roads, turnarounds and U-turns with the people I love.

As the great writer Mark Twain said - " I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them."

Spring officially started March 19. You need to get busy and Go Go Go! Head out to parts unknown or places familiar. It will make you feel better, especially if you go with the ones you love.


And for a little music this week - I don't know how they do it, but take a listen and a look at some great old time movie stars dancing to one of the biggest funk-pop, soul, boogie songs ever recorded - UPTOWN FUNK written and performed by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson with a crowd of rappers & singers. Great actors and dancers such as Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelley even Frank Sinatra dance to perfection in some of the greatest movies ever made.

And just to show that the young'uns are gettin' it done, enjoy this great tune and video by Bruno Mars and his boys doing UPTOWN FUNK released in 2014!


Wednesday, March 6, 2024


It was May 2015 - Three weeks in The Land of La Mancha. We enjoyed our last two nights in this land of dreams in one of the coolest hotels on the planet - HOTEL VIURA located in Basque Country. 

After three weeks in the art filled country of Spain, including a week with our kids, in the Spring of 2015, we stayed in Hotel Viura for two nights before flying home. As an architect, I am always looking for interesting, well designed, places to lay my head after a full day of walking, sightseeing or viewing great works of art. Where you stay makes a difference on the pleasure scale when you travel.

If we're True-Blue Vagabonds, we must stay in unique places with great design and great service. With the choices available and the ease with which we can find them, the search for places to stay when you are planning a trip, large or small, is a pleasure. Or I could be an overzealous obsessive architect that refuses to settle. But I'm ok with that. LOL!

Spain is one of the most diverse countries in Europe. With different languages spoken throughout the seventeen communities established in 1978, it is both funny and intriguing to communicate with people all over this art filled country. It must also be said - almost every person we talked to in Spain spoke English. The country's people are friendly and helpful. And, of course, in Spain they create delightful, tasty diverse offerings of Tapas. Ordering is an art in Spain.

Now - Back to the Hotel Viura 
iescape, one of the top places online to find great hotels at reasonable prices states the following on Hotel Viura - 

"Super-cool design hotel bang in the middle of a lovely village and surrounded by Rioja wine fields."

As best I can tell, this ultra-modern funky hotel was designed by mup-arq architects. This group of architects and designers left no stone unturned to create a unique place to sleep, eat and enjoy the pleasures of travel. From the funky hand scribed graphics on the doors to the Bistro Restaurant that served great food and wine.

As we enjoyed the last of a three week stay in Spain, I was so struck by the beauty of the culture of this amazing country. Spain is the largest country in 
Southern Europe and it existed under various dictators until 1975 when it transitioned into a fervent Democracy that has blossomed as a country and a destination for all Roaming Nomads. And, it goes without saying, if you go to this diverse place of beauty
and elegance, you must venture to the Basque area of Northern Spain and stay in one of the coolest
hotels anywhere - The Hotel Viura!

As American Chef Anthony Bordain said -
‘Any reasonable, sentient person who looks at Spain, comes to Spain, eats in Spain, drinks in Spain, they’re going to fall in love. Otherwise, there’s something deeply wrong with you. This is the dream of all the world.’ – Anthony Bourdain"

As this Nomad Architect says - Just Go!! You won't regret it.


‘Spain is a beautiful country 
with rich architecture and a huge cultural heritage. 
Arguably it has it all: mountains, a stunning coastline, and urban life, plus agriculture, mining, and industry.’ – Sir Norman Foster Architect

Sagrada Familia - Barcelona

Please enjoy a cool tune from one of the greatest - Prince. I had the pleasure of seeing this gifted artist a few years ago. I was mesmerized for three hours. He performed this acoustic version of one of his greatest hits - CREAM by PRINCE!