Category Archives: Travel

The day we were left alone in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

If you’ve ever been to the Palace of Versailles, you know what a tourist attraction it is. If you’ve never been, take my word for it. Even on a cloudy, drizzly winter day like yesterday, when the park and gardens were closed and only the palace itself was open to the public, there were dozens of tour buses parked in front of the palace. Getting a photo without other people in it is nearly impossible. So it was somewhat remarkable that, for a few brief moments, Kathryn and I ended up in the Hall of Mirrors, the highlight of the tour, by ourselves.

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Regional words and fat Frenchmen

It turns out that Angelina, the venerable tea room on rue de Rivoli in Paris, has an outpost at the Palace of Versailles. Kathryn and I found ourselves there earlier today, enjoying a snack of chocolat chaud africain before finishing our tour of the museum. We were in the tea room all alone — more on why we were alone in a future post — and we had just ordered. As usual, Kathryn let me do the ordering. I think she likes to hear me speak French, even though my French sucks.

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Kathryn and I have arrived safely in Paris. It was snowing at Charles de Gaulle Airport when we landed, and it’s still snowing in Paris as I write. More to follow later.

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Latest adventure underway

Our latest adventure is now underway. The most stress-inducing part of any trip by air for me — the TSA gauntlet — is safely behind us.

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Hiking along Horton Creek Trail

Kathryn and I decided to take a break from our usual summer routine of doing absolutely nothing in the sweltering Phoenix heat. Instead, we made a day trip to the slightly cooler Payson area to do some hiking along Horton Creek, just under the Mogollon Rim in Tonto National Forest.

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Another road trip to Las Vegas gets underway in just a few hours. We’re going to try some new places to eat this weekend, and we’ll return to some old favorites too. As always, you’ll find updates and maybe even a few photos here.

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Southwest go-around

I’ve never been on a commercial flight that’s had to make a go-around, so it was fun to watch a Southwest flight do one at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport a few minutes ago. I’m sure it was a lot less fun for those aboard.

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Mother’s Day recognition

My mom and dad took a Mediterranean cruise about this time last year, to honor their 40 years of marriage. After an enjoyable and most uneventful cruise, my mom fell quite sick on the last day of the trip. They had to extend their stay a week, with my mom spending most of that in a state-run hospital in Civitavecchia, Italy. Recently my mom finished up her own series of blog posts about the trip, so I invite you to let her tell you the rest of the story.

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Reflections from the friendly skies

Although I usually bring a computer with me when I travel, I generally don’t use it when I’m on an airplane. I value my privacy. I prefer to pull out a paper notebook and a pen and write in cursive. Even someone sitting next to me would have to strain to decipher that.

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Rental car nightmare

Yesterday may have been my worst day of travel ever, at least in terms of what went wrong. Still, it wasn’t all that bad.

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Observations from Sky Harbor

I recently uninstalled all the social networking apps from my mobile phone, so I’ll make my pithy observations here on the blog. The following are a few of my thoughts from Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix.

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When a flight delay works in your favor

Shortly after passing through the security checkpoint at Sky Harbor, just before 5:00 am, we saw the departure monitor showing our flight to Charlotte would be delayed by 45 minutes. It turns out the first officer for the flight hadn’t shown up for work for some reason, so 45 minutes was just an estimate. In any event, we’d definitely miss our connection in Charlotte.

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Florida bound later this week

Kathryn and I are bound for Florida later this week. We’ll be spending four nights with Kathryn’s aunt in a beachside condo about halfway between Vero Beach and Fort Pierce. I’m hoping to spend the time relaxing, although it remains to be seen whether that will happen.

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Baby’s first bath

This was one of my favorite photos from our trip to Europe in 2007. It was taken at a rest area, just off the autobahn in Austria.

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My first sports wager

I placed my first-ever sports wager while I was in Las Vegas last Sunday. I was getting ready to watch the AFC Championship Game in a casino bar, conveniently located about a hundred feet from the sports book. It seemed like the thing to do.

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Odd start to the day in Las Vegas

Our room has a view of the mountains to the west of Las Vegas. We arrived after dark last night, so we couldn’t see them then. When we woke up this morning, we still couldn’t see them. There had been some rain overnight, and the mountains were obscured by clouds. The ground was wet, and the wind was howling. It suddenly seemed like not such a great day to go hiking. So we ditched the plan and decided to see a morning movie instead.

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Safe arrival in Las Vegas

It turns out people use this blog to check in on us when we travel. Kathryn and I hadn’t yet made it to Kingman when she received a text message from a concerned friend wondering if we were okay. Yes, the road from Phoenix to Las Vegas is not the safest of journeys, but to set minds at ease, we arrived in one piece and checked into our room a few minutes ago.

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Going places: January edition

Well, folks, I’ve had a good, long two-week rest from my blog. It’s time to sit down and catch you up on where I’m going and what I’m doing. For your reading pleasure, here’s the latest edition of my not-quite-monthly “going places” series.

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Two easy ways to see the Pope in Rome

There are two easy ways to see the Pope when you’re in Rome. Kathryn and I were able to see him both ways during our visit to Rome earlier this year. As long as the Pope isn’t away from the city for his vacation or for an apostolic visit, you should be able to see him too.

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More photos from Shaw Butte

Not a lot of words in this blog post. Just some photos from a recent hike at Shaw Butte. The hike was later in the morning than usual. The sun was bright, which put me in a black-and-white mood.

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Smog cloud over Phoenix

During a hike last weekend at Shaw Butte, I pointed my camera south and took a picture of downtown Phoenix under a thick layer of smog.

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Last day in Las Vegas

It turns out I didn’t get the sunrise photos I wanted on our last day in Las Vegas. It was raining when the sun came up and still raining when we left the hotel, although the rain let up early in the morning. We did find a decent donut shop, found a beautiful Sunday Mass, and had lunch with our friend Kerrie, with whom we couldn’t connect Friday evening.

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Eating and relaxing in Las Vegas

Our weekend trips to Las Vegas tend to be busy. We usually cram everything we possibly can into the less-than-48 hours we’ll be here. Sleep comes only out of necessity. So it’s a little weird that I’m starting a new post at 6:20 am, after getting a full night’s sleep and then some. I think we were in bed by 9 pm. That’s pretty lame.

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New day in Las Vegas

It’s just after dawn here in Las Vegas. I’ve been awake for an hour or so, and I’m working on my second cup of shitty in-room coffee. Our room at the Orleans has a view of the Strip. Since we’re west of the Strip, I’ve been watching the sun rise over Luxor, Mandalay Bay, and the McCarran airport.

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Las Vegas road trip status update

The status of this weekend’s road trip to Las Vegas is now unambiguous. Kathryn’s doctor this morning ordered her to spend the weekend in Las Vegas. Sweet! I’ll submit a health insurance claim when we get home.

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Road trip to Las Vegas appears to be happening

As of this morning, the trip seems much more likely. Kathryn has packed her bags and appears ready to go. There’s still one last hurdle to jump. I’ll know for sure in a few hours if Kathryn can go.

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Kuba Kuba in Richmond

Kuba Kuba is a restaurant than left an impression on me when I lived in Richmond, despite having eaten there only a few times. It was high on my list of places to visit during our recent stay.

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Is my wife sexier now that she’s Silver Preferred?

When Kathryn boarded the Charlotte-to-Phoenix leg of our return trip from Richmond, she was already quite an attractive woman. By the time we landed, though, something had changed. She seemed even sexier. More radiant. She had become Silver Preferred.

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Richmond, Virginia: Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

When I lived in Richmond, I wasn’t much of a church-goer. In the three years I lived there, I can count the number of times I attended Mass on one hand. Zero. Now, seven years later, attendance at Sunday Mass is part of my life. I don’t intentionally miss it. When planning our recent visit to Richmond, I found the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart has a Mass at 5:15 pm on Saturdays. It was a particularly convenient time, shortly after our arrival in town. It was also within walking distance of our hotel. We had a winner.

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Richmond, Virginia: Splurge at the Jefferson Hotel

I looked around a little bit and found out we could get the Jefferson Hotel, a landmark, historic, five-star hotel in the center of Richmond, for $179 a night, if we prepaid. I don’t like prepaying for a hotel, but I decided to jump on this. I’d been to the Jefferson Hotel once for a Christmas party, but never to spend the night.

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I usually pack shoelaces

The easiest way to travel light is to limit the amount of footwear I pack. I typically travel with at most two sets of footwear. More often than not, it’s just the one set I’m wearing when I leave the house. This one set of footwear is often a pair of well worn hiking shoes. If any part of such shoes is going to fail, it’s most likely the laces.

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Bottoms Up Pizza

Bottoms Up Pizza was one of my regular places to eat when I lived in Richmond, at least in part because it was walking distance from my apartment in the Tobacco Row area. It is located in the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood, hence the name. Indeed, it’s at the very bottom of Shockoe Bottom. A line on the wall near the entrance shows customers how high the flood water rose in the aftermath of Hurricane Gaston in 2004.

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Seeing Virginia again for the first time

I lived in several cities in Virginia for a total of about 13 years. Prior to our recent trip, Kathryn had never seen Virginia at all. We felt it was important to make sure the trip was new for both of us. In light of that, I’ve created a list of things we did for the first time.

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Going places: November edition

My typical Sunday evening is spent with my wife and my parents, who have us over for dinner regularly. Today, however, my wife is in Chicago, and my parents are in Key West. It seems like everyone is traveling but me.

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Puerto Vallarta: Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is perhaps the most photographed building in Puerto Vallarta. It’s located in the heart of the city center. We decided to go there for Sunday Mass during our stay.

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Puerto Vallarta: Running the gauntlet at the airport

Immediately upon leaving the customs area, we were forced to walk through a narrow corridor, maybe 50 feet long, with white desks and video screens on both sides. I now refer to this as the gauntlet. In the gauntlet, roughly a dozen men and women with official-looking badges work over the fresh arrivals, trying to convince us they are our ride to our hotel. They’re not.

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Puerto Vallarta: Getting around by bus

Kathryn and I recently spent seven days in Puerto Vallarta. Other than the rides between the airport and our resort, we did not use a taxi once. All our travel around Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding areas was on the local buses.

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Kathryn and I arrived home safely from Mexico yesterday evening. I’ll continue posting updates until I’ve run out of stories from the trip. More photos are coming too.

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Puerto Vallarta: Day trip to Sayulita

Kathryn and I decided to take a day trip yesterday to Sayulita, a village on a small bay some distance north of Puerto Vallarta. We traveled there by bus, one of the ones the locals use. I’m not sure how long the ride was, maybe a bit over an hour. The trip there and back only set us back 100 pesos for the two of us, so it was a cheap excursion, at least for the transportation. It was a different look at Mexico and an interesting change of pace from Puerto Vallarta.

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Puerto Vallarta: Much ado about nothing

Well, after all the preparations, Hurricane Juvo was a bust. Kathryn got some internet time today to track the storm. It has already passed us and has been downgraded to a tropical depression. The employees of the resort, who just this morning were bracing for the worst, have already brought back the chairs and umbrellas around the pool area, and it looks like dinner service will take place by the ocean as normal.

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Puerto Vallarta: Still awaiting Juvo

We’ve been gearing up for Hurricane Juvo since Monday, but it’s taking its sweet time getting here. The latest report is it’ll come ashore as a category-three hurricane much further south in the state of Jalisco, then follow the coast north toward us, probably having weakened to a tropical storm by then.

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Puerto Vallarta: Weathering the storm

We knew before we left the States that a hurricane was looming off the Pacific coast, and the forecasts at the end of last week were that the eye would pass over Puerto Vallarta this afternoon. We can’t seem to find a weather report on the television, but folks we’ve talked to seem to think the storm is now tracking south of here.

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Going places: October edition

Out of an abundance of caution, I’ve declined in years past to divulge the details of upcoming travels. Now I’m going to open up a little and provide an overview of our travel plans for the next few months.

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Confession at St. Peter’s Basilica

During our trip to Rome earlier this year, Kathryn and I recognized how long it had been since our last confessions. Far too long. The gift of the Holy Father’s blessing at the General Audience earlier in the week, and the possibility we would receive it again after praying the Angelus on Sunday, increased our desire to receive the sacrament as soon as possible.

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The opposite of a travel photo

What’s the opposite of a travel photo? A photo you take while sitting at home in front of your computer. I captured this sunrise over Phoenix this morning by rotating my swivel chair 90 degrees to the right.

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Incomparable sunrise at Shaw Butte

It was another beautiful morning in Phoenix. I arrived at the trailhead for the Loop at Shaw Butte at 5:48 am, and the temperature was 68 degrees. At a stopping point on the way up the south side of Shaw Butte, I snapped a photo of the sun rising over the mountains to the southeast.

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Favorite Phoenix urban hikes: The Loop at Shaw Butte

One of my favorite urban hikes in Phoenix is what I call the Loop at Shaw Butte. It’s a roughly five-mile hike, has a lot of changes in elevation, and is relatively uncrowded. My preference is to start this hike about 20 minutes before sunrise.

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Germany: Any reason to celebrate in Monheim am Rhein, Cologne, and Düsseldorf

Christian let me know that I had to order the right beer for the city I was in. In Düsseldorf, they brew Alt, so that’s what they drink. In Cologne, they brew and drink Kölsch. I would be frowned upon if I ordered a beer in the wrong city. Those fortunate enough to live in Monheim am Rhein could order either, when in Monheim, of course.

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Mission San Xavier del Bac: White Dove of the Desert, Tucson

During our recent weekend trip to Tucson, Kathryn and I took an opportunity to visit Mission San Xavier del Bac, just outside the city. As luck would have it, there was a Mass scheduled there Saturday morning. It was to celebrate the 366th birthday of Fr. Eusebio Kino, the Jesuit priest who founded the mission way back in 1692. So we made sure to schedule our visit to coincide.

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Sonoran hot dogs at El Guero Canelo in Tucson

A Sonoran hot dog starts with a standard frank. The frank is wrapped in bacon and fried. The fried, bacon-wrapped frank is put into a soft, split roll which has been filled with beans. Then it’s topped with diced tomatoes and onions, mayonnaise and mustard, and a drizzle of jalapeño salsa.

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