Category Archives: Travel

A Foggy Day in Londontown….

I’m thinking of London, one of my favorite cities, tonight…

I’ve been there about a half-dozen times and I felt at home there from the first moment I arrived.  Maybe its genetic memory…

As Samuel Johnson said:  “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

London is having a rough time right now with riots and violence in the streets….

And all I can do is wish her well, remember her fondly,  play a few songs and look forward to our next visit, whenever that may be….

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Delta bans U.S. Jews from Flights To Saudi Arabia

I really don’t believe this….

This is a U.S. Airline!!!

Someone at the Delta Airlines and in the U.S. Government needs to step up and speak up about this…all I can think about is Hitler’s special laws for Jews.  This is so wrong I feel like I’ve been slapped in the face.

And I am sick of the U.S. Government and U.S. Businesses cozying up to the repressive regime in Saudi Arabia, in general, because of their oil and money.

I’ll never forget Bush, Jr groveling and practically kissing the ring of the Saudi’s and then strolling around happily, literally, hand-in-hand with them when they came to visit him.

Oil and money really are trumping everything else today.  That’s got to stop.

Apparently standing up against something that is wrong on principle is a long lost American trait.  Now our government and businesses are acting like hookers who’ll lay down and do anything for the right price.

If these are the conditions of doing business with Saudi Arabia, then Delta should be forced to just say no….

Jews and Israelis, or passengers carrying any non-Islamic article of faith, will not be able to fly code-share flights from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia under Delta Air Line’s new partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines that is set to begin in 2012.

Although Delta announced in January that the Saudi airline would join its SkyTeam network next year, the implications of the deal only came to light recently, according to people who have scrutinized the details.

Saudi Arabia, which is governed by strict Islamic law, requires citizens of almost every country to obtain a visa. People who wish to enter the country must have a sponsor; women, who must be dressed according to Saudi standards of modesty, must be met at the Saudi airport by a man who will act as a chaperone.

Saudi Arabia bans anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport from entering the country, even in transit. Many Jews believe the kingdom has also withheld visas from travelers with Jewish-sounding names.

Religious items such as Bibles that are not related to Islam may be confiscated at the airport.

Colby M. May, senior counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal group founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, said his office is trying to determine if the agreement runs afoul of U.S. law.

“The very idea that there is a common carrier airline service that would deny an American citizen in America access to their services because they are Jewish or have religious items such as a yarmulke, a cross or a priestly collar, is deeply disturbing,” May said.

May said he is “trying to get answers” from Delta.

“They have not responded in a way that answers the question,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll do so.”

In a statement to Religion News Service on Thursday (June 23), Delta said it “does not discriminate, nor do we condone discrimination against any protected class of passenger in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender.”

The airline, which did not deny the new policy, insisted that it has no control over who may fly to Saudi Arabia.

via U.S. Jews Not Able To Fly On Delta Flights To Saudi Arabia.

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Delta Airlines Pees in Passenger’s Bag- Literally

Forget raining on a parade…

How about pissing in your luggage?  That’s a sure way to ruin a trip…

This guy from Britain had an even worse experience with Delta than I’ve ever had with USAirways.  I used to fly Delta and remember them fondly as being much classier and polite than those cattle cars in the sky run by USAirways.  This kind of destroys those happy memories of made-to-order Ice Cream Sundies by smiling Stewardesses.

At least USAirways has never used my Tumi as a toilet.

This is truly unbelievable…

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New York City Diary: Part 1- Catch Me If You Can

I won’t be posting much the next few days because I am vacationing in New York.  We usually do at least 2 or 3 long weekends a year in the City and this is one of them…

I know you’re not supposed to tell people when you are out-of-town, but we have a house sitter and an alarm system, so I’m hoping the alarm will stop them, the pets will attach them and the house sitter will shoot them if anyone tries to break in…I’ll take the chance for some time in New York.

Let me start by saying, for once, the journey up on USAirways was relatively smooth- which is exceedingly rare nowadays.  Of course, my expectations are lowered.  As long as we get to the original destination within a couple of hours of the scheduled time, without crashing and with luggage, I accept that as the best-case scenario.

Given this, It didn’t faze me that before we left they told us the plane’s bathroom was broken, so if you had to go to the bathroom, go before you boarded.  I’m just surprised they didn’t use this as an excuse to cancel the flight.  But then, it was a full flight and they probably just wanted the money.  If it hadn’t been full, I’m sure they would have canceled.

My biggest issue was that at least a third of my fellow passengers were wearing flip-flops.  Those who read this blog know this is a pet peeve of mine- people who wear flip-flops on airplanes and in other inappropriate places.  Not to mention on an airplane on a flight to New York City.   Doesn’t get much more inappropriate than that- short of the White House.

Who in their right frigging mind would wear flip-flops in New York City?  That’s like walking barefoot down Broadway.  That’s just nasty, unsanitary and unsafe.

Don’t get me wrong, I love flip-flops, I own flip-flops, I wear flip-flops, but I know when and where to do so.  It’s inappropriate use of flip-flops that make me crazy.  If the plane crashed, do you want to try to escape through fire and hot metal wearing little pieces of rubber on your feet?  If they didn’t fall off on impact?  Talk about slack-jawed idiots.

And there are pages of articles on the web about how unsanitary and unsafe it is to wear flip-flops in New York.  Just Google “Flip Flops in New York City.”

I’ll rest my case and I’ll try to move on…

After a pleasant cab ride into the City, I got to the hotel and made my first of three attempts to check in.

First, the room wasn’t ready, so I went to lunch.  Since I was carrying my messenger bag crammed full of all my electronics:  iPod, Bose Headphones, 2 cell phones, MacBook Air and Kindle, I didn’t want to go far.  That was too much crap to schlepp all over town.

So, I had to break one of my rules and eat in Mid town.  Tourist trap food.  Over priced.  Not very good.  Mid town.

I ate at a trendy little place on 8th Avenue and ordered a Beet and Grilled Shrimp Salad.  It was 4 shrimp, 3 cubes of beets and a couple of lettuce leaves for $14.95.  Never eat in Mid town unless you know the place or it’s an old diner…..I paid for my sins.

Try two, I actually got my room, but no key cards.  The machine was broken so the bellman had to let me in.   This was after standing in line for 20 minutes just like the first time.  Anyway, I got my room, unpacked and went off to get theatre tickets.  I got great orchestra seats for us to “Catch Me If You Can” at the Neil Simon Theatre.  Once I got back to the hotel, they had finally fixed the key machine and after a third 20 minute wait in line, I finally had both a room and keys to it.

I settled in to wait for my partner Steve to get here from the East Village where he is wrapping up a seminar at NYU and once he arrived, it was off to the theatre.

I had read mixed reviews of “Catch Me If You Can”, but had seen some scenes on YouTube and the Tony’s broadcast, so we decided to give it a shot.  Especially since we had discount coupons.

Another rule:  Never pay full price for theatre.  Going to the theatre is like flying.  On the plane, everyone paid a different price for their seats.  Same in the theater.  If you know where to look, you can get in for less than the posted price.  It’s the only way we can see as many shows as we do.  We do have to miss some until they cool off- there are no discounts for “Book of Mormon” right now and we aren’t about to pay $375 for two tickets to a show with no stars.  Even we have limits…

Anyway, “Catch Me If you Can” was a delight.  We both thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a great homage to the spirit of hope and innocence of the early 1960’s.  It had a kind of Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin Rat Pack feel.  Great choreography.  Excellent music and lyrics playing to the various early 1960’s sounds.  And uniformly excellent performances- especially by Tony Award Winner Norbert Leo Butz, leading man Aaron Tveit, Tom Wopat and Kerry Butler.

Aaron Tveit should definitely been nominated for the Tony.  He carries the show.  Norbert Leo Butz, in what is really a supporting role, steals it.  Kerry Butler, with the 11 o’clock number stops it and Tom Wopat proves again how far he’s come from the “Dukes of Hazard” to being one of the most consistently excellent actors on Broadway.

The problem was the book.  It took a while to draw us in, but about a third of the way through the first act, it had us hooked.  There is lot’s of glitz in the first act, but in the second act, it finds its heart and soul.  That surprised me as so many shows fall apart in the second act.  But in this one, that’s the stronger act.

I really recommend you see this show if you come to New York and are looking for one new musical to see.  And if you miss it in New York, see it on tour.  This is better than the Critics led us to believe.  Just be prepared for a somewhat slow start, then hold on for a great ride in the theatre.  You won’t regret it once it gets going…It’s thoroughly engaging…

Here are some scenes, then I’ll sign off for now.

More to come..

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Midnight In Paris

We saw “Midnight in Paris” this afternoon.  This is the best movie Woody Allen has done in years.

I’m not an Owen Wilson fan, but he was very good in this film.  Marion Cotillard was luminous.  Every time I see her, I am just amazed by both her talent and her beauty.  There were too many excellent supporting performances to mention.  Beautifully done.

And Paris.  This film is a love song to Paris and Allen shows her at her best.  After seeing this film, I can’t wait to go back there again…I need to go back there again.

And as an added benefit, which isn’t clear in the trailer, there is a time travel element.  You also get to experience Paris in the 1920’s with Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali, Cole Porter and Gertrude Stein, among others.  And a brief visit to La Belle Époque Paris with Talouse Lautrec and the crowd at Maxims.

If you love Paris, or you love Woody Allen at his best, you will love this film.

It was wonderful.

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Delta Air Lines Charges Returning Soldiers for Checked Bags

Another reason to hate the US Airlines…As if we needed another reason.

But this is truly despicable.  Charging checked baggage fees to soldiers returning from fighting in Afghanistan????



A team of returning soldiers from Afghanistan was hit with an unpleasant surprise upon their arrival into the United States this morning. The squadron, bringing a full load of gear with them back from the Central Asia was sacked with the baggage fees in place at Delta Air Lines, which, despite the agreement that they have with the armed forces charged the soldiers extra baggage fees.

In sum, the group spent nearly $2800 in baggage fees for their gear, money that had to come straight out of their pockets.

via Delta Air Lines charges returning soldiers for checked bags |


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Ocracoke Island Vacation Journal: Part 4

It’s our last day on the Island….

This week has flown by…

We had a great time at the wine tasting at “Zillie’s Pantry” last night.  Those events are always great fun.  Then we began a new tradition by going back to our friends Lee and Michael’s cottage where Lee made us a great pasta dinner.  So much better than calling out for pizza as in previous years…

Today, we had lunch at “Jason’s” then drove down to the Cape Hatteras ferry dock just to see if anything was new.  It wasn’t.  We did enjoy a walk through the dunes out to the beach and a great view of the sound.  The scenery here really is breath-taking.

We still hope to make it to Springer’s Point later today when we take the bikes back.  Then dinner at “The Flying Melon” one last time for this trip.

Then the ferry ride to Swan’s Quarter tomorrow and the drive back to reality.

Sometimes, the ferry rides are the most interesting parts of the trip.  But the excitement is usually coming to, not leaving, Ocracoke.

Last year there were a group of drunk East Carolina University students on board.  One young lady decided to spend the crossing in the cab of their truck with her boyfriend.  The entire ferry had a show we used to only see at the porno drive in movies…

This year, we only had a bicycle club on the ferry with us coming out to Ocracoke.  They just  brought the entire contents of REI Sporting Goods with them.  It wasn’t nearly as entertaining…

It’s been a great trip with great food, beautiful scenery, peace and quiet- and time to spend with friends and to read and relax.  It’s been too short….

We just reserved the house again for next year….

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Ocracoke Island Vacation Journal: Part 3

Well, yesterday didn’t go quite as planned.

But that’s okay.

We’re on Ocracoke.

We had been looking forward to hearing Katy Mitchell sing at “Dajio’s” last night, but unfortunately, she canceled at the last minute.  We still had an excellent meal that seals Dajio’s place, along with “Jason’s” and “The Flying Melon” as one of the top three restaurants on Ocracoke- and on the whole Outer Banks.  I’ve never eaten anywhere else on the Outer Banks that could touch these three…

Hopefully, we’ll get to hear Katy Mitchell someday.  Her CD is really excellent.  This just give us something to continue to look forward to….

I just finished Michael Parker’s brand new book, “The Watery Part of the World.”  Anyone who loves Ocracoke and the Outer Banks should read it.  It is a work of fiction set on fictional Islands on the Outer Banks, but you will readily recognize Portsmouth Island, Ocracoke and their history as being an inspiration.

Speaking of history, there is a lot of it on Ocracoke.  Blackbeard, the pirate, was killed here.  There is a great historical museum on Ocracoke, run by the Ocracoke Preservation Society, that gives you a lot of other local history and a real feel for how life used to be on the Island.

For more history, visit Philip Howard at  “The Village Craftsmen” and take one of his Ghost Walks.  They may touch on the supernatural, but they really offer a great deal of fascinating local history.  Philip also publishes a great blog at the Village Craftsmen’s Website.

Speaking of the Village Craftsman, this is one of several great shops on Ocracoke.  A lot of the art in our house- and we have a lot of art- came from these shops and Orcracoke and Outer Banks artists and potters.  Kathleen O’Neal’s shop- Island Artworks- is another stand out shop.  Just take the time to roam through them all…

We had a great walk down the Ocracoke Nature Trail, across from the Campground, this morning.  In all the years we’ve been coming to Ocracoke, we had never done that before..  It’s nice to know we still have more to discover here as we intend to keep coming back.

We also had another lovely walk on the beach…

Tonight it’s off to the wine tasting at “Zillie’s Pantry” with our friends Lee and Michael.  Then we will try to pull together dinner at their cottage.  But who knows?  Anything can happen on Ocraoke and those wine tastings can always lead to a change in plans!
More to come…..

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Ocracoke Island Vacation Journal: Part 2

We are a little more than halfway through our vacation on Ocracoke and I can already tell it’s going to be too short.

I’m not blogging much due to a dicey internet connection.  That also means I’m not really following the news….

It’s nice to take a bit of a break from it all and focus on simpler things that are more immediate and real…

We went for a walk on the beach yesterday.  The beaches here are amazing.  They are all protected National Seashore….No houses, condo’s, hotels, restaurants or bars are allowed.  They are natural- just as they have always been.

I’m not much for actually sitting on the beach.  That concept is, to me, much better than the reality.  I hate sand getting into everything.  I don’t like sticky smelly seawater and oily sunscreen makes my face break out…

When I first saw “From Here to Eternity” and the famous scene of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kissing and embracing in the surf as the waves crashed over them, all I could think of was that they had to be getting sand all up their bathing suits and that they couldn’t possibly be comfortable.  It seemed to me that they should have just checked into the Hilton like normal people in their, uh, situation…

But, still, I do love Ocracoke.   I do enjoy these walks and being around such beautiful isolation.

It’s nice to be away from it all and I could definitely use another week.  It’s been a stressful year and Ocracoke is the perfect place to de-stress and focus on the simple things in life.  Like reading and deciding where to have dinner.

There are really some excellent restaurants on this island.

Our favorite restaurant is easily “The Flying Melon”.  Imagine country French food made with local seafood only hours out of the water.  And fabulous deserts.  We eat there several times when we are here…

“Jason’s” is also a favorite.  In this case, imagine a New York Italian Restaurant that does seafood.  Great pizza’s and sandwiches and the best Pesto Pasta- with fresh shrimp or scallops- that I’ve ever had.
“The Back Porch is probably the most famous restaurant on the Island.  We ate there last night.  They are coasting on their reputation.  We only go every few years to check it out and see if it’s improved.  It hasn’t.  It’s just okay.  “The Flying Melon” has them beat in every conceivable way…

Tonight, it’s off to “Dajios.”  This is a new restaurant in a very nice space that use to be
“The Pelican”.  The food is much better than the former incarnation.  It’s great place with an outdoor patio and live music.  Tonight we are going to hear Katy Mitchell, a local artist who’s CD we bought a few years ago and greatly enjoyed.  There are a lot of talented musicians on Ocracoke and good live music is often available here…

Tomorrow night is a wine tasting at “Zillies”.  We always enjoy that, but usually end up too drunk to do anything but order pizza afterwards…

Our friend Michael, now from Portland, and his- now our-friend Jim were on Island Monday night.  We celebrated Michael’s birthday with a very nice meal at “Cafe Atlantic” and stayed up til midnight having entirely too much wine.

Tonight and tomorrow, we’ll be enjoying the company of our friends Lee and  Michael- fellow Greensboro residents and Ocracoke devotees who usually come the same week we do.  It will be great, as always, to spend time with them here on the island.

The weather has been good, but questionable.  Always seeming to be on the verge of rain…

As I said, it’s a great place to get away– but not from too much!

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Ocracoke Island Vacation Journal: Part 1

One of the joys of being on Ocracoke is getting away from it all.

That used to include the internet, cable television and, occasionally, electricity.

Things have changed a lot over the last 14 years that we’ve been making this trip.

As you can see, I can now even post on my blog from Ocracoke.

But that is still a challenge.  The internet at our house is only available by using my phone as a hotspot, so my access is still somewhat limited.

Ocracoke still has the ability to take you away.  Being on an Island off the North Carolina coast that is only accessible by ferry can’t help but change your perspective.  With only about 800 year round residents, Ocracoke is a very special place.  Fresh seafood for our meals- either bought from local fisherman at the community seafood market, or cooked from one of the local restaurants.  There are no chain restaurants or stores on Ocracoke.

Yes, local food and local restaurants.  If they can do this on an island why can’t we do this at home?  It’s really quite wonderful.

Normally, the best way to get around on Ocracoke is to walk or ride a bicycle.  I’m sure I must have ridden a bike as a child- I dimly remember it- but only until I discovered the cross town bus.  It has been a challenge trying to get back in the bike mode.  They say riding a bike comes back to you.  It does.  But stopping does not.

When I last tried riding a bike on Ocracoke a couple of years ago, I ended up in a muddy ditch half full of water.  This time, I’ve already run into a fence and possibly sprained my hand.  Much to the amusement of the folks getting drunk at McNally’s Saturday afternoon.  Something about bike riding immediately seems to turn me into Eddy from an “Absolutely Fabulous” episode from the 1990’s….

Golf carts are becoming increasingly popular on the island.  Maybe I should take the hint….

What else do we do?

Enjoy the beach and nature.  Well, not too much…I still can’t spend much time in the sun due to my previous history with Melanoma, but it’s nice to spend short periods of time at a beach that is all protected natural seashore.  No houses or condo’s blocking it.  Just natural, as it’s been for thousands of years…

Read.  Books and magazines mainly as the internet is a challenge.

I’ve already read one wonderful book on my Kindle.  The Cranberry Hush by Ben Monopoli was just wonderful.  He really captures what it was/is like the first couple of years out of college when one is still finding out who one is and what the world is about.  It really took me back to how it was for me almost 30 years ago.  It’s nice to know it hasn’t changed all that much.  The characters where memorable and still with me a couple of days after I finished the book.  I wish it were available in print format so I could more easily share it.

Now I’m on to The Paris Wife, a novel by Paula McLain about Earnest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, and their years in Paris in the 1920’s.  I’ve always been enthralled by that era- and by Paris- so I’m enthralled by the book.  At least so far…

Watch Movies on DVD:  We’ve also been watching some pre-code movies from the 1930’s.  They really make me aware of how the movie production code manipulated public opinion  and hid harsh reality from the American people.  It explains a lot about the older folks who went to these movies and formed their life view based on these depictions.  I’ve always said MGM screwed up generations of Americans….

More to come….

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