Wednesday, April 24, 2024


Today's post and a few others to follow will attempt to show my fellow Vagabonds the many interesting places for travel in the greatest country on earth. The good old USA! In addition, I will give many suggestions on hotels, restaurants, things to experience and places to go. I will also show how to get creative when finding those places that won't max out your American Express. In over five hundred posts on this blog, I have been an unabashed champion of travel to Europe. Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece are all different from our beloved USA. Even the United Kingdom has interesting places and things that won't break the bank. Just get out of London as quickly as possible. 

Unless you just like spending your hard-earned cash, the first thing to consider when traveling in the USA is money, money, money! Unlike Europe, typically, 5 stars here tend to be very expensive. However, as always, that depends on when and where you go. Mid-summer is usually expensive. Cheapest times tend to be early Spring and mid Fall. Obviously, if you go late Fall or Winter, it can be cold, unless you visit a place in the South. 

If you don't believe that the US is more expensive read on. 

The Post Ranch Inn - Big Sur - Insane beauty overlooking the Pacific. Every amenity you can imagine. Price - Early September - Cliff House Room with views over the Pacific- $3,875 or Middle Butterfly Room with "mountain" views - $1,825. We had the pleasure of eating at their five-star restaurant Sierra Mar several years ago. 

Bottom line - You can fly to Italy for a week and spend less than those prices in some of the finest, inexpensive hotels anywhere.

Obviously, that's an extreme example of insane pricing for a place to lay your head after a busy day sightseeing, no matter the view. But if money is no object - The Post Ranch Inn is the place. 


Today's post is about, IMHO, the greatest city in America. Songs have been written about this great city. Great architects have lived and designed great buildings in this city. True American architecture came from the likes of Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and many others in this city - Chicago


Chicago has it all - great museums, impressive buildings, and Lake Shore Drive. The Chicago River Architecture Boat Tour is a must.

Places to Sleep in The Windy City

If you are a wandering soul just get busy online and find a place you can afford and enjoy. Here are a few recommendations from The Nomad Architect.

Hotel Allegro - Reasonably priced hotel with excellent reviews in downtown.

21 C Hotel - A very small hotel chain with great rooms and amenities for reasonable prices. We stayed in this nice boutique hotel when it was called The James Hotel - Outstanding!

Lovely Garden Studio in Chicago - If you're a Vagabond that follows this blog, you just gotta' know that I'm a firm believer in AIRBNB. This very cool loft studio is downright cheap and near everything with outstanding reviews - $161 per night. 

Places to Eat in Chicago

Great restaurants are everywhere in Chicago -every culinary delight you could  imagine - prices are from cheap to insane. Here are a couple of links to check out various places you might want to take a look at.

Great Steaks - EATER CHICAGO

Great Seafood - TIMEOUT


Great Buildings, Museums, Great Restaurants, Lake Shore Drive, Architecture Boat Tour, Etc., Etc., Etc. Enjoy this great city with your favorite Vagabonds! Next week we'll pick up on some great places to enjoy yourself near the great city of Chicago. STay tuned for more travel information on the 3rd largest city in AMerica.


Here is a pretty good crew (LOL!) - Bonnie Raitt, Tracy Chapman, Jeff Beck and Beth Hart performing the great song Sweet Home Chicago in honor of the multiple Grammy winning blues artist, guitarist and singer Buddy Guy at The Kennedy Center Honors.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024


Barcelona is the  birthplace of many renowned creatives - Antonio Gaudi Architect, Joan Miro painter and sculptor, Antoni Tapies painter and sculptor and many others. Picasso grew up there and Salvador Dali was born in the small town of Figueres close by. So Barcelona has serious street cred when it comes to creative natives. Upon visiting this beautiful city, you will see the evidence of architecture, art and creative energy around every corner. And if you want to read about a very cool AIRBNB we stayed in just check out one of my former posts HERE. All five of us, my entire family, before grand kids, stayed in this reasonably priced three bedroom/two bath in the heart of Barcelona.

IMHO - the best way to travel in Spain is via train. Like the rest of Europe, the trains in Spain are immaculate, fast, comfortable and cheap. Upon arrival in the capital of Catalonia, you will immediately get a sense of the great art and architecture. Not only that. It is truly one of the cleanest cities I have ever visited.

To make things simple, here is my list of the museums, buildings and other things you should see and do in the "City of Gaudi".

First and foremost - The Sagrada Familia

This masterwork of architecture and art was designed by the modernist architect Antonio Gaudi. In the opinion of the architectural world, Gaudi was Spain's greatest modern architect. Some would even say he was Europe's greatest modernist. That issue has been discussed and written about since 1883 when he took over the design of the magnificent work of religious architecture. He worked on this project for forty three years until his death in 1926. Even though I studied this building in architecture school and had seen hundreds of photographs, I was not prepared for the experience of walking in, sitting in and observing this amazing work of beauty and power. And it is still under construction! The main tower will be 557 feet tall - the tallest religious building in Europe. It is scheduled to be completed in 2026. My suggestion is to go as early in the morning as you can. It is less crowded and the light coming through the stained glass windows is truly something to see.

Park Güell

Park Güell is a truly inspired work of architecture and design also design by Gaudi, it was built from 1900 - 1914 and opened as a public park in 1926. It was also named a World Heritage Site in 1984. The tiled roof terrace of this profoundly creative public place will give you many places to sit and enjoy the views over Barcelona. 

The Father of Surrealism is the one and only Salvador Dali. Dali’s house in Portlligat is where the artist lived for over forty years. He first bought a small fisherman’s cottage in the 1930s. Later, he purchased some nearby homes, enlarging his property. Today, Salvador Dali’s House in Portlligat is a museum where you can see his former home, studio, and library. To say that Dali was a unique artist would be a colossal understatement.  

For an enjoyable daytrip we piled in our rental, kids and all, and drove to Dali's incredible place to see his work up close. You can see more of Dali's work as well as other artists in and around Barcelona in such places as the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary ArtBarcelona is never boring. Just click this link to see all the things you can do in this art filled city - THINGS TO DO IN BARCELONA.

If you can't get to Spain right now and you want to see some of Dali's work, just head to Saint Petersburg, Florida to see the Dali Museum in downtown Saint Pete. It contains the largest collection of Dali works outside of his home in Spain. To read the fascinating story of how the Dali Museum ended up in Saint Petersburg just click Mr. Dali below.

Salvador Dalí

“I do not understand why, when I ask for grilled lobster in a restaurant, I'm never served a cooked telephone.”
― Salvador Dalí
All Vagabonds will enjoy the food in Spain, particularly Barcelona. There are Tapas restaurants everywhere. Typically, small bites of great food are served as you order. The only country that has better food than Spain is Italy.
‘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

So, as I always say - Just GO! You will not regret it I promise.
Here is a great performance from a great movie -  Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I realize it has nothing to do with Dali or Spain, but you could argue that it has a definite surreal quality! LOL! THE PARADE SCENE - FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024


In 2005, we took our first  
trip ever to the continent. I wrote in 2012 about our trip to the land that invented romance. As Mark Twain said - "The Creator made Italy by designs from Michelangelo". Nothing truer was ever said. So, today's post is a remembrance of our first trip to the amazing, beautiful, grand country of Italy. If you have never been to Italy, and you want to travel to Europe, Italy is the first place you should go. Our experiences traveling there for three weeks changed my opinions, perceptions, and thoughts about the world. It is my hope that today's post will motivate you to Just Go! Take a look at some recent posts before this one for some tips on planning any trip, using your own Bucket Lists and desire for things yet unseen and experienced. And the most amazing thing, after a lot of research on current day hotels, restaurants, spas, and things to do and see, IMHO, the prices in The Most Romantic Place In The World are still reasonable.

Milan - Leonardo & Armani Slept Here - Life Imitates Art & Vice Versa

Planes, Trains & The Last Supper

As we settled into our seats at Tampa International for the nine-hour flight to one of the world's great fashion centers, Milan, we had read all the books, listened to the Italian language CDs for hours on end, researched late into many nights and planned our first trip abroad at a level of detail exceeded only by the Allied Invasion on D-Day. The excitement I felt was like Christmas morning, my first real date and seeing The Beatles in concert in '64 all rolled into one. Even my fellow Nomad and wife, Susie, demure though she may be, was unusually talkative and animated as she began to realize that we were actually doing something we had dreamed about for years.

As Americans traveling to the country that gave us opera, the Lamborghini, and Spaghetti, we had committed ourselves early on to learn everything we could about the history, traditions, and people of one of the great cultural building blocks of western civilization. Italy's architecture, music, art, and culinary contributions to the civilized world are well documented. But we were now taxiing to lift off to experience firsthand all of the things we had only read about in travel and history books, seen in Italian films, or heard on a Pavarotti recording.

No discussion of travel to Europe would be complete without the mandatory acknowledgement that flying for nine hours, even to Italy, is simply one of the least enjoyable experiences any human being willingly agrees to subject himself or herself to. There is no component of air travel, particularly to Europe, which can be described as pleasant, tolerable, or even slightly uncomfortable. In a word - it sucks! From the ergonomically masochistic design of the seating to the bland microwaved food to the C movies provided to help get your mind off your misery, flying on any commercial airliner for nine hours is proof positive that they just don't like you or care about you in any way. But in a world which is growing increasingly less civil by the day, it's the price one must pay to experience the joys of travel to the continent. And without hesitation, I can say it was worth every uncomfortable second spent with Delta to experience one of the truly great cultures of the western world.
After our uneventful flight  & arrival at Milan's Malpensa Airport, we made our way through customs and boarded a quick train to Cordona Station. As per travel guru Rick Steveswe planned to store our luggage in a locker at the train station as we had reservations to view one of the great paintings of Leonardo Da VinciThe Last Supper, which was within walking distance of Cordona Station. Alas, this was not to be, as the lockers were closed for repairs. Since there was no plan B, we headed out foSanta Maria Delle Grazie Church with our luggage in tow. Then we got lost. As strangers in a strange land, we were at the mercy of various people on the street to give us directions to the church. After finally finding our destination late, the very nice English-speaking docent allowed us to view the great painting with the next reserved group.
With our luggage still in tow, exhausted from a nine-hour flight, we stood in awe of one of the most compelling works of art ever created. As we studied the great mural created by the original Renaissance Man, the first sparks of the paradigm shift hit us. We knew we were in a different time and in the presence of divine inspiration from another time at this place. Davinci painted The Last Supper around 1495. As with all great ancient paintings, the painting suffered extreme deterioration over five centuries. Fortunately for weary pilgrims and art lovers alike, the painting went through a major restoration started in 1978 and completed in 1999. Because of the popularity of this priceless 
work of art, viewing is only allowed by small groups 
in fifteen-minute intervals.

Just as Leonardo himself was obsessed with his mode of dress (many historians consider him to be the first real fashion conscience genius), any account of a visit to Milan would not be complete without a discussion of its position as one of the fashion centers of the world. Armani, Versace, Chanel, Prada and Gucci are just a few on the endless roster of world renown and less famous designers who have boutiques all over The City of Fashion. They even have outlet malls. And you thought outlet malls were only on I-75 between Atlanta and Tampa. No sir. Milan is the place for fashion conscience shopaholics, rich and fiscally challenged alike.

Pizza, Coca Cola, and The Duomo
Upon leaving The Last Supper and the Santa Maria Delle Grazie with our first real memory of Italy, we headed for the famed Piazzo del Duomo, the main city square of Milan. Getting more exhausted by the minute, we snagged an outside table at a small cafe right on the piazza, ordered pizza and a coke (cut me some slack, it's my first day) and marveled at the most important work of Gothic architecture in Italy, the Cathedral Duomo. This majestic work of art took over five centuries to build. At over 500 feet in length, 300 feet in width and 350 feet in height, this massive church features five naves constructed of white Candoglia marble. Though thoroughly exhausted from our flight and first day activities, we enjoyed our first meal in Italy in plain view of one of the greatest works of religious architecture ever created. As we sat and took in the beautiful day in our new temporary home, we gathered up our luggage and headed to the train station for a connecting train to Lake Como and a little hotel on a mountain.


After settling into our first-class seats for about $90 Euro for two, we headed out for the three-hour train ride to the small resort town of Varenna on Lake Como and The Hotel Eremo Gaudio, a small boutique number in a re-purposed former monastery built on the side of a mountain in the 1400's. One note - Sadly - The Eremo Gaudio is now closed. However, there are countless other reasonably priced hotels and AIRBNB's on the shores of Lake Como and other nearby villages.  As we began to speedily make our way through the countryside to Lake Como, I thought to myself, these Italians have this train thing down. We were traveling the way human beings were meant to travel in what has to be one of the most amazing countries on earth. And we had only been there a few short hours. As we emerged from a long tunnel, the train sped around a curve and Lake Como came into view. I gently squeezed my favorite Nomad's hand and smiled. Sorpreddente (Surprising)! Next up, Varenna and Lake Como. 

So, get busy. Find places to stay and things to see and do in this great land of romance and beauty. As Giuseppe Verdi said - "You may have the universe if I may have Italy". 

Italy - you'll never forget it if you go!


Travel Quote of The Week.
 "A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what is expected a man should see". Samuel Johnson 

Video Artists of The Week.  Even if you are not an opera fan, you will be moved by this classic - The Three Tenors performing O Sole Mio 1994.


Wednesday, April 3, 2024


This post picks up where I left off (May 2, 2018) when I first started writing about our three weeks in Greece and Portugal in 2018. I know. Kinda sad that I would be that derelict in my duties as a purveyor of great spaces to sleep and faraway places to enjoy. Just click the date/link above to see the post I reference.  Santorini is a one-of-a-kind place in this country of islands, amazing food and friendly people. And the views are to die for.

And now. The Rest of the story!!

Wine and Cheese Galore - Oh My!
OK. Let me get this out of the way. If you like great wine and ridiculous cheese - you absolutely, positively must go to Santorini! The red is outstanding, and the white is to die for. And kinda' cheap. And the cheese? Well, I recommend that you add Santo Winery to your Bucket List and, when you get there, ask specifically for their goat cheese. It is pure heaven to your palate. The photo above is the view from the terrace where we enjoyed said goat cheese and fabulous wine.

Upon arrival at the Morfes Luxury Residence and meeting our Super Host Ion, it became quite apparent that we were not in Kansas or Athens anymore. In many previous posts on this blog, I have hailed AIRBNB as one of the truly great opportunities for travelers who are looking for a great place to sleep, eat and enjoy travel for, in many cases, a very low price compared to high end hotels and other lodging choices. To be honest, this particular AIRBNB is no longer a bargain. It now runs about $450 per night. Inflation is rampant, particularly in Greece! The island of Santorini is probably Greece's most expensive place to vacation.

I don't generally like to pay for high priced places to sleep. However, Morfes Luxury Residence is worth every penny. There are dozens of restaurants nearby. It is located in one of the most desirable areas of the island and the views of the Aegean Sea are romantic, invigorating and peaceful. The place also has a private veranda with a large hydromassage tub with views of the beautiful, tantalizing Aegean. So, if you're going to this special place referred to as Thira by the Greeks, prepare to relax and absorb this island of beauty and romance that has existed since prehistoric times.

If you've never been, this island will make you feel young, passionate and renewed.

Καλό ταξίδι (Have a great Trip!)


“Greece was a muse. It inspired creativity in magical ways that I can’t even begin to understand or explain.” ― Joe Bonamassa

Here is an amazing performance by one of the great rock bands, founded in the 70's and still touring. The Grammy winners and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, Ann & Nancy Wilson of HEART perform Stairway to Heaven in a tribute to one of the greatest rock bands in history, Led Zeppelin at The Kennedy Center Honors in 2012.