Montpellier, France: Donating blood at the Place de la Comédie

I was walking across the Place de la Comédie, and I noticed a sign that there were blood collections going on. I hadn’t given blood since I was seventeen years old, and I hadn’t actually tried since September 11 last year, when I was turned away because of the crowds. I wasn’t in a particular hurry, so I figured I could kill an hour or so giving a pint.

On my way out to do the shopping this morning, I was walking across the Place de la Comédie, and I noticed a sign that there were blood collections going on. I hadn’t given blood since I was seventeen years old, and I hadn’t actually tried since September 11 last year, when I was turned away because of the crowds. I wasn’t in a particular hurry, so I figured I could kill an hour or so giving a pint. Continue reading “Montpellier, France: Donating blood at the Place de la Comédie”

Three simple rules for traveling

There are lots of lists out there with things you need to know about traveling. Over the years, I’ve developed three simple rules I swear by. Not surprisingly, I formed these rules by violating them.

There are lots of lists out there with things you need to know about traveling. Over the years, I’ve developed three simple rules I swear by. Not surprisingly, I formed these rules by violating them. Continue reading “Three simple rules for traveling”

The English woman on the train from Ljubljana to Salzburg

I’ve been reviewing a lot of my old travel blog posts recently and sharing the more interesting ones on Facebook and Twitter. While doing this, I noticed a glaring omission on my part. There was a story I never told because, at the time, I was so embarrassed by my naivete with respect to the opposite sex. It happened five years ago this week, in August 2006.
Continue reading “The English woman on the train from Ljubljana to Salzburg”

St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow

Usually when I talk or write about St. Mary’s Basilica, I’m referring to the beautiful Spanish mission style Catholic church in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. I was looking through some of my old photos recently, and I found a picture of another, much older St. Mary’s Basilica. This one is in Krakow, Poland. It’s also beautiful, built in a Brick Gothic style in the 14th century.

Usually when I talk or write about St. Mary’s Basilica, I’m referring to the beautiful Spanish mission style Catholic church in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. I received confirmation there. My wife and I were married there, and we remain parishioners there. It’s quite special to both of us. Continue reading “St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow”

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas: Secret hidden pizza on the Strip

On our recent trip to Las Vegas, Kathryn and I decided to find the secret, hidden, nameless pizza place at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. I had read about it in our local paper some months earlier.

On our recent trip to Las Vegas, Kathryn and I decided to find the secret, hidden, nameless pizza place at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. I had read about it in the local paper some months earlier. Continue reading “Cosmopolitan Las Vegas: Secret hidden pizza on the Strip”

St. Peter’s Basilica: You are Peter, and upon this rock I build my church

I really wanted to get a series of photos of the verses inscribed around the interior of the cupola, but you’ll see in this photo that a pretty thick fence blocks the view. You can just make out the words Petrus et behind Kathryn.

Kathryn and I visited St. Peter’s Basilica several times during our trip to Rome. On Wednesday, we decided to climb to the cupola of the basilica. We were in need of a good workout, so we passed up the elevator and took the stairs. Continue reading “St. Peter’s Basilica: You are Peter, and upon this rock I build my church”

General Audience with Pope Benedict XVI

Kathryn took this wonderful photo of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, at the General Audience on February 23, 2011. We arrived two hours early, and despite the throngs of people already waiting to get into the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall, we were able to get some great seats.

Kathryn took this wonderful photo of the Holy Father at the General Audience on February 23, 2011. We arrived two hours early, and despite the throngs of people already waiting to get into the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall, we were able to get some great seats. Continue reading “General Audience with Pope Benedict XVI”

Apologies for the long delay

I want to express my apologies for the long delay in producing posts about our trip to Pennsylvania and Rome.

I want to express my apologies for the long delay in producing posts about our trip to Pennsylvania and Rome. It seems like there haven’t been enough hours in the day for me recently. I’ve prepared several pages of notes on paper, and I’ll try to get everything online before the rest of my memory fades. Thanks for your continued patience.

False start: Who needs money?

I don’t remember how, why, or when, but at some point, the conversation turned to debit and credit cards. I mentioned how I’d just learned our debit cards, like our American Express cards, had different numbers on them, so if I lost my card, we could report it lost and continue to use Kathryn’s, or vice versa. At this point, Kathryn announced she hadn’t brought her debit card.

Our 2007 trip to Europe started with a flight from Phoenix to Phoenix. The aircraft we boarded to begin our journey had a mechanical problem just after takeoff. However, it had too much fuel to land safely, so we circled west of the airport for about an hour before landing. We then rescheduled a later flight. Continue reading “False start: Who needs money?”

Dealing with airfare for a multi-city itinerary

Normally when I travel to Europe, I buy a round-trip ticket, and that’s the end of the story. Since I live in Phoenix, I usually have to connect somewhere, often Philadelphia, and it’s not a problem. I decided to try pricing the trip as a multi-city itinerary, Phoenix to Philadelphia to Rome to Phoenix. It’s a good thing I did.

When we first started planning a trip to Pennsylvania that would continue on to Europe, I wasn’t really sure how to go about booking the airfare. Continue reading “Dealing with airfare for a multi-city itinerary”

Packing carefully: Is one suitcase enough?

Kathryn decided to take her case to Facebook to see what the consensus would be. Most of her friends agreed that one suitcase would not be enough for two people. Fortunately, social media polls are not binding on anyone.

Several weeks before our trip, Kathryn and I began negotiating how much baggage we would bring. I wanted to pack light, especially since we would be using public transportation in Rome to transfer between the airport and our guest house. I insisted we could share one small suitcase. She, on the other hand, wanted to travel with more options. She thought we should bring one suitcase each. The difference in price wasn’t really a factor. The extra piece would cost us $25 more on the Phoenix to Philadelphia leg of the trip, but it would be free on all the international segments. Continue reading “Packing carefully: Is one suitcase enough?”

New format for my travel tales

My wife Kathryn and I recently returned from a ten-day break in our daily routine. First, we spent three nights in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the wedding of a very good friend of mine. After a night spent on a plane over the Atlantic, we then spent six nights in Rome, Italy, for some sightseeing and pilgrimage. Continue reading “New format for my travel tales”

Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

We checked out of the hotel and arrived at Our Lady of the Angels around 9:30. I’d never been to a church quite like it before. It sits on a massive complex, with its own multilevel parking garage and plaza, including a restaurant and gift shop. Its modern architecture, admittedly somewhat imposing and unpleasant when viewing it from the freeway, is much more appealing close up.

Sunday was the final day of our trip to Los Angeles, and it wasn’t really supposed to be much of a day for us. The plan was to get up early, pack up our things, find a place to attend Mass, and make the long drive back to Phoenix. Continue reading “Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels”

Great day in Los Angeles

We woke relatively early Saturday, around 6:30 or so, knowing we had a big day in front of us. We had a light, early breakfast at the hotel, mindful of the fact we’d be attending Mass later. Kathryn and I shared a waffle and each had some cereal and something to drink. After heading back to the room to shower and dress, we got in the car and headed over to St. Francis.

For the most part, Kathryn and I slept pretty well the first night in L.A. I was woken up by a bit of noise around the pool area at midnight, but I got back to sleep pretty quickly. What woke me up was the sound of a beer bottle hitting the ground. Luckily it didn’t break. The managers must have given the folks a talking to, because they drank from cans the following night.

We woke relatively early Saturday, around 6:30 or so, knowing we had a big day in front of us. We had a light, early breakfast at the hotel, mindful of the fact we’d be attending Mass later. The breakfast served was what a lot of hotels now refer to as deluxe continental, which means continental plus a waffle iron. Kathryn and I shared a waffle and each had some cereal and something to drink. After heading back to the room to shower and dress, we got in the car and headed over to St. Francis. Continue reading “Great day in Los Angeles”

Pilgrimage to the City of the Angels (1/3)

I haven’t updated my blog with any good travel tales for quite some time. However, Kathryn and I managed to pack a lot into our most recent 60-hour road trip to Los Angeles last weekend, so I figured it was time for a new post.

I haven’t updated my blog with any good travel tales for quite some time. However, Kathryn and I managed to pack a lot into our 60-hour road trip to Los Angeles last weekend, so I figured it was time for a new post.

When I sit down to write a new post, I often have the title in my head before the text. The word pilgrimage came to mind right away. Although I was a little hesitant to use it at first, I think it’s appropriate here. The timing of the trip was chosen to allow us to witness one of the friars from our church make his profession of solemn vows into the Franciscan order, as well as to support our choir, which would be singing at the mass. Los Angeles, a city named after Our Lady of the Angels of the Portiuncula, the place where the Franciscan movement began, seems like a particularly fitting place to celebrate such an event, especially in a church named after St. Francis. Continue reading “Pilgrimage to the City of the Angels (1/3)”

Home from New York City and then gone again to Portland, Oregon

I’m back on the road again after enjoying three nights of sleep in my own home. Actually, that’s not quite true. I spent one of those night’s at Kathryn’s place. I’m aboard a flight to Portland, Oregon. I have about an hour until landing, so I thought I should take a few moments to catch up on my blog. Continue reading “Home from New York City and then gone again to Portland, Oregon”

Frequently asked questions about our road trip in Europe

We’ve only been home a few days, but Kathryn and I have already heard a lot of questions about our trip. For the benefit of everyone else, I’ve decided to repeat some of them here, along with their answers. Continue reading “Frequently asked questions about our road trip in Europe”

Eventful start

Our adventure has started rather eventfully. We took off from Phoenix this morning right on schedule, and now we’re safely back on the ground … in Phoenix. The aircraft had a mechanical problem shortly after takeoff, and we had to return to land, but only after circling for almost an hour to burn fuel. We’re not sure what happens next.

Long overdue post

There’s a certain irony to writing a blog. During those times when you have the most to write about, you have the least time to write it. The year 2007 has been, and continues to be, almost unbelievably good to me, and for several months I’ve been maintaining a hand-written list of all the things I want to write about.

There’s a certain irony to writing a blog. During those times when you have the most to write about, you have the least time to write it. The year 2007 has been, and continues to be, almost unbelievably good to me, and for several months I’ve been maintaining a hand-written list of all the things I want to write about. However, the blog format lends itself to telling stories in a chronological fashion, so as my list grows longer, I feel a certain pressure to write everything or nothing. More often than not, over the past few months, I’ve chosen nothing, but with a new travel adventure beginning in less than 48 hours, I’ve run out of time. Therefore I’ll dispense with the formalities and blurt out everything I recall in whatever order seems relevant. Perhaps it’ll all make sense at the end. Continue reading “Long overdue post”

Arizona road trip: Tonto Natural Bridge, Strawberry, Jerome

I had a chance Sunday to get out of town for several hours and enjoy some parts of Arizona I hadn’t ever seen before. The weather was warm and the sky was clear. It was a perfect day for an Arizona road trip.

I had a chance Sunday to get out of town for several hours and enjoy some parts of Arizona I hadn’t ever seen before. The weather was warm and the sky was clear. It was a perfect day for an Arizona road trip. Continue reading “Arizona road trip: Tonto Natural Bridge, Strawberry, Jerome”

Celine Dion in Las Vegas

I had two specific goals for my recent visit to Las Vegas. I wanted to see Celine Dion, who was sick when I visited in December, and I wanted to learn how to play craps. I’m happy to say I accomplished both goals, and I did it while fighting a cold. In retrospect, I probably should have spent the weekend in bed, but I really did have a great time.

It probably seems like I just got back from Las Vegas, but I went again a couple weekends ago. I had some unfinished business from my December trip, so I’d been itching to take another trip up there. I had two specific goals for my recent visit. I wanted to see Celine Dion, who was sick when I visited in December, and I wanted to learn how to play craps. I’m happy to say I accomplished both goals, and I did it while fighting a cold. In retrospect, I probably should have spent the weekend in bed, but I really did have a great time. Continue reading “Celine Dion in Las Vegas”

Drinking in Pasadena, redux

I spent last weekend in Pasadena, visiting the same buddy I saw in August. I’ve spent the time since then sobering up.

I spent last weekend in Pasadena, visiting the same buddy I saw in August. I’ve spent the time since then sobering up.

When my friend and I started planning this trip a few weeks ago, I reserved one of my club airplanes, intending to fly out there. I was looking forward to getting some good cross-country experience, and flying into the crowded Southern California airspace was a challenge I felt I was ready for. However, the week before the trip, the weather forecast started to deteriorate, and by Wednesday, I decided just to abandon plans to fly and simply drive there instead.
Continue reading “Drinking in Pasadena, redux”

Flight canceled

I told a number of you I would be flying to Southern California this weekend to visit a friend of mine. I’ve been following the weather reports for several days, and every time I see a forecast, it gets worse. After some deliberation, I’ve decided to cancel the flight preemptively and make plans to drive there instead.

I’ll have plenty of chances to fly there when the weather is conducive. I’ll choose to stay on the ground this weekend and live to fly another day.

Vegas revue: Bally’s, Fremont Street, and Les Folies Bergeres

When it was nearing dusk, I took the bus to Fremont Street to check it out. It was definitely over-the-top, as advertised. I enjoyed walking around there for a while. If my lunch hadn’t been so enormous, I would have tried some of the food there, like the deep-fried Twinkies. Fortunately, there’s always room for a beer.

My trip to Vegas was short, but sweet.

Upon arriving, eating lunch, and drinking a couple beers, I started to give some thought to what I was going to do that evening. I decided that since I was there by myself, I would see Celine Dion, since I can’t imagine anyone I know would ever come with me. I was staying at Bally’s, so I walked across the street to the Caesar’s Palace box office to see if they had any single tickets left. Well, it turned out that Celine was sick, so the show was canceled. I would have to find something else to do. Continue reading “Vegas revue: Bally’s, Fremont Street, and Les Folies Bergeres”

Last-minute solo getaway to Las Vegas

I made a last-minute executive decision this morning to do an overnight trip to Vegas. I got in the car at 8:10, and thanks to the miracle of time zones, I was at my hotel at 12:20. I’m going to see how much trouble I can get into by myself in less than 28 hours. I’ve already wandered off the Strip, and I’m settling into my second beer.

I made a last-minute executive decision this morning to do an overnight trip to Vegas. I got in the car at 8:10, and thanks to the miracle of time zones, I was at my hotel at 12:20. I’m going to see how much trouble I can get into by myself in less than 28 hours. I’ve already wandered off the Strip, and I’m settling into my second beer.

Drinking in Pasadena

One of my friends, who goes all the way back to junior high with me, finished his PhD a few months ago and is doing a residency at UCLA. His wife was out of town on business, so we decided to do a guys weekend. I arrived early Friday evening. My friend and his wife are living with her parents, and her father cooked us a great dinner. After that, my friend and I proceeded to Old Town Pasadena to do some serious drinking. However, neither of us Einsteins considered the fact that we had already done some serious drinking during dinner, so the evening rapidly devolved into sloppy drunkenness.

I got back this afternoon from a fun weekend in L.A. Well, I was mostly in Pasadena, but that’s close enough, right? One of my friends, who goes all the way back to junior high with me, finished his PhD a few months ago and is doing a residency at UCLA. His wife was out of town on business, so we decided to do a guys weekend. Continue reading “Drinking in Pasadena”

Missed connection

It looks like I’ll make it home tonight, but I’ll be a lot later than anticipated. I missed the connection to Phoenix here in Minneapolis, but I got a boarding pass for a later flight to Las Vegas, then to Phoenix around 1 am. The check-in agent says this happens almost every day with the Icelandair flight, which has a short connection to Phoenix and is almost always late.

The thought of having been up for 28 straight hours is not at all appealing.

En route

The first flight segment is done, but it was the shortest. I have two to go, if all goes well. I’m having a beer at the airport in Iceland, which gave me a chance to use most of my remaining kronur. The next flight is reportedly on schedule.

From the plane, I was able to see the glaciers I didn’t see during my stay here.

Heathrow

After all the horror stories I’ve heard about Heathrow for the last six days, I arrived at the airport this morning, got through the security outside the terminal, checked in, went through the normal security checkpoint, cleared an emergency passport control, and arrived at the departure lounge in … wait for it … 20 minutes. I could have stayed in Oxford for another two hours, but oh well. I took advantage of the time to eat an enormous breakfast. It’s going to be a long day, and I’ll need more than three meals.

They are letting passengers take small bags on board as hand luggage now, but still no liquids, since I’m heading for the US.

All journeys end

I’ve just boarded the bus to Heathrow from Oxford, where I’ve spent the past two days with a buddy from college. It’s here that I begin what will probably not be a pleasant journey home. The security situation at the airport is very fluid, and I’ll find out when I get there just what I’ll be allowed to travel with. As a precaution, I’ve packed as much as I possibly could in my checked baggage, leaving only a handful of essential items in my small backpack. Continue reading “All journeys end”

Waiting for a flight

I’ve had a pleasant four-day stay in Ireland, but today I head across the Irish Sea to England. I’ll spend a couple nights there before returning to the US.

Here at the airport in Dublin, everything at the security checkpoint seemed to be business as usual, although many flights to and from the UK are behind schedule or cancelled. Mine is delayed 20 minutes right now, meaning my bus connection in London will be awfully close. We’ll see how it goes. Continue reading “Waiting for a flight”

Guinness Storehouse

I toured the Guinness Storehouse here in Dublin today. I won’t elaborate much about this tour. It goes without saying there was a pint of Guinness at the end of the tour, which is of course said to be the world’s freshest Guinness. However, to their credit, they served it in a top-floor bar with a 360-degree panoramic view of Dublin.

So, in what I imagine will be the last of my alcohol-related blog entries, at least for this trip, I toured the Guinness Storehouse here in Dublin today. I won’t elaborate much about this tour. Continue reading “Guinness Storehouse”

Old Bushmills Distillery

After a whole day of waiting, I was able to tour the Old Bushmills distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, home of my very favorite whiskey.

Yesterday morning, after much holding my breathe, I was able to tour the Old Bushmills distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, home of my very favorite whiskey. I was shut out all day Friday because there was some maintenance underway that required them to cancel tours, but they were able to re-open for Saturday. Continue reading “Old Bushmills Distillery”

Another quick update from Ireland

I’m sure someone I know is waking up this morning, turning on CNN, and hearing about violence in Northern Ireland. I didn’t hear about it until an hour or so ago myself, so it hasn’t affected me, other than increased traffic. Police with machine guns were checking cars on the bridge in Derry, and I didn’t know why until later.

I’m sure someone I know is waking up this morning, turning on CNN, and hearing about violence in Northern Ireland. I didn’t hear about it until an hour or so ago myself, so it hasn’t affected me, other than increased traffic. Police with machine guns were checking cars on the bridge in Derry, and I didn’t know why until later. In any event, I’m now back in the Republic of Ireland, where I had already planned to spend my time before heading back to the chaos in London.

Northern Ireland

I’m in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, where I spent the night in a farmhouse bed-and-breakfast about six miles from Bushmills. Today I’m hoping to see Giant’s Causeway and tour the Bushmills distillery, if it’s open.

I’m in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, where I spent the night in a farmhouse bed-and-breakfast about six miles from Bushmills. It was a bit of trouble finding a place to stay. The area is crawling with summer tourists from the Continent. I went to a pub last night, and I was beginning to wonder whether I’d really left Germany, since the place was packed with Germans. Continue reading “Northern Ireland”

Pub stop in Ireland

I’m in Ireland, and for the first time on this trip, I’ve rented a car. I left the airport in Dublin maybe an hour ago, and I started driving north until I found a little roadside pub. I’ve had a pounding headache all day.

Quick update. I’m in Ireland, and for the first time on this trip, I’ve rented a car. I left the airport in Dublin maybe an hour ago, and I started driving north until I found a little roadside pub. I’ve had a pounding headache all day, exacerbated by a flight, a long line at immigration, and a car with both a right-side steering wheel and a stick shift, which is of course operated by my left hand, which is very confusing. Of course, once I get on the left side of the road, everything is backwards, so it all seems to make sense. I thought a little food, a little beer, a little coffee, and a little Advil would make the afternoon go better. Continue reading “Pub stop in Ireland”

Weight

I had a discussion with a cousin of mine a few days before I started this voyage. He was joking that I might gain 20 pounds during this trip because of all the beer I’d be drinking, which is perfectly reasonable.

I had a discussion with a cousin of mine a few days before I started this voyage. He was joking that I might gain 20 pounds during this trip because of all the beer I’d be drinking, which is perfectly reasonable. However, I responded that I might lose 10 pounds because of all the walking I’d be doing, which is also perfectly reasonable. Continue reading “Weight”

German women, French language, Chinese food

New day, new place. I’m once again passing time on a train, this time bound for Cologne via Hagen.

I had a fun day in Kassel. My friend met me at the train station, and after we dropped my bags off at her place, we saw the city’s beautiful green spaces on foot, including a grueling half-hour walk to a castle perched atop a hill. We earned the ice cream we stopped for. I was surprised by the lack of tourists, since it was such a pleasant setting. Then again, it may have been pleasant because of the lack of tourists.

Later, we went out to dinner with some of her friends. The dinner was a Chinese buffet, and I must say I’ve rarely seen four young women eat so much at one time. I think one of them had six plates. They put me to shame.

At one point, my friend commented that I was the only man out with all these young women. I could do worse, I said. She studies French and math at the university in Kassel, and so most of her friends are classmates who also speak French. In fact, one of them was French. So it was somewhat bizarre that I was out with several young, attractive women, speaking French, at a Chinese restaurant in Germany. It’s not something that happens to me every day.

After dinner, we met some other friends of hers at a bar near her apartment for a drink. One of them did not speak French, and so the tables were turned, as the young women who speak French and German every day now had to speak English, which none of them had spoken in years. I got to be a teacher for a short while.

My friend put her apartment at my disposal, while she slept at a friend’s place nearby, which I thought was particularly generous of both of them. She had to leave early for work, so I didn’t see her this morning. I slept very well and rather late, and I almost missed my train.

I also missed breakfast this morning, and this train has no cafe car, so I am very hungry. Sometimes a regional train like the one I’m on will be serviced by a snack cart at some point. We’ll see. If not, I have a long wait for food. Hagen is still over two hours away, and I only have 11 minutes for my connection, if everything is on time. If not, I’ll have to wait another hour for Cologne.

My plans for tomorrow involve an airplane, which is the only reason I’m going to Cologne. This may be my last long train trip for a while.

One night in Munich: Posh restaurants and English Gardens

The gods have recently forgiven me, and we had some really pleasant weather for walking around the city. We walked through the city square, all the way to the English Gardens, where the recent rain has filled the streams nearly to overflowing.

I had a very pleasant evening in Munich last night. My friend found me shortly after I wrote my last post, and fortunately she was willing to sit with me while I finished my beer. Despite being a two-minute walk from her apartment, she had never been in that particular bar. It was kind of an after-work place where guys watched sports, so I guess it wasn’t her scene.

The gods have recently forgiven me, and we had some really pleasant weather for walking around the city. We walked through the city square, all the way to the English Gardens, where the recent rain has filled the streams nearly to overflowing. We saw some places that were new since my last trip to Munich over three years ago, including a very posh shopping center and a market that had been turned into a restaurant hall, where we had dinner and chatted for hours.

I got an early start this morning, not immediately realizing that my train didn’t leave until almost 11. My friend left for work at 7:30, but she let me stay at her place as long as I needed. Even though I was only there for another hour, it was nice to have a little time to myself and an apartment at my disposal.

Today I’m on my way to Kassel to see another friend. I’m on the train now, and I’ll be there in about an hour. Germans and foreigners alike seem to know little about Kassel, so I guess I’ll just be surprised when I get there.