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Tag-Archive for "vacation"

Old Winter Olympics 5 Feb 24

You could call this post “The games that weren’t.”  The fifth winter games were supposed to be hosted by Japan, and the year was supposed to be 1940.  That might have been a spectacular event had WWII not intervened. The Japanese generally do a spectacular job of about everything they set their hand to. By now Japan has been reincarnated not only as a friend, but as a, well, spectacular vacation destination.

The Japanese are renowned for both their hospitality and for their scenery. Their culture is different enough from ours (American influence notwithstanding) that you watch almost everything with fascination and go almost anywhere and see something interesting. Choose from more than 3900 islands. A zillion places to stay. Several earthquake zones, and one Mount Fuji. Full name is Fujiyama (not mount Fujiyama—yama means mount). Or if you want to sound like you have some familiarity with things Japanese, call it Fuji-san. Mr. Fuji.

You have seen pictures of pagodas and other Japanese architecture, views of bustling Tokyo, and serene panoramas of the Japanese countryside. Here’s a nice picture you probably haven’t seen:

This is not Fuji-san

I think it’s a park. I can see some guy wanting it to be a golf course. Maybe some day it’ll be a bobsled run.

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Unconventional vacation location 5 Jan 24

Ever been to Detroit Lakes, MN? This little town in the depths of the Minnesota tundra (prairie in summer) serves as an exemplar of a vacation spot you might not think of. Unexpected things fit vacations well, since (as you often read on this site) the essence of a vacation is change (of schedule, and maybe scenery) from your normal routine.

The attraction I have in mind is a municipal museum, and Detroit Lakes has one.

The museum is not open all the time, but if you are visiting someone in town, they might know the guy who has the key, and you might get in (and get a private guided tour) regardless of the official open hours. Then again, maybe not. These museums seem to start when someone with a penchant for setting things in order finds a storeroom full of obsolete municipal hardware, maybe coupled with a prominent citizen who has an interesting collection. Perhaps something of historical significance happened there. Over time memorabilia accumulates, young soldiers are memorialized, the town centennial comes along. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion.

You never know what you’ll find.

The museum in Detroit lakes has, among other things, a collection of ball-and-chain shackles. You know, the things sometimes used as a metaphor for marriage. They never used them on real prisoners, but they did use them. Back during the depression, transients (hobos) coming into town riding the rails became a bit of a problem.  The town hired a few to wear the shackles and break rock near the train station when the trains came in. New hobos coming in would keep going when they saw the state of their compatriots. Hobo problem solved.

Generic ball and chain. DL didn't have any pictures of them on their web site.

The resorts and fishing in the area are pretty good, too.

Have you ever visited an interesting out-of-the-way museum? We’d like to hear about it.

Barbados Dec 09

Sounds rather like a cattle brand from southern Texas—bar-bay-dos. But it’s an island in the southern Caribbean; the eastern-most, as a matter of fact, quite a long ways from Texas.

The island is noticeably different from Dominica. Barbados, unlike many Caribbean islands, is not volcanic. It’s a pile of limestone, so the hills are low and rolling, and grass is clearly evident on the slopes. This has the advantage that the ground water on the island is drinkable—the limestone filters the water, unlike the hard basalts of the volcanic islands that let their rainwater run off.

Barbados is by far the most touristy of the islands mentioned so far in this series, and that’s saying a lot. You have to walk through a (bright, clean) shopping building to get to the tour buses, and the port is in an industrial area, so you pretty much need to take a taxi or tour bus to get anywhere.

The snorkeling is pretty good. The island is dotted with wrecks in fairly shallow water, and the sand on the beaches is a beautiful white. Beware the word “pirate,” though. It means “party, rum included.” they might take you to a nice wreck to snorkel around, but it’ll be accompanied by unbelievably loud Caribbean music and a lot of carrying on on the way back.

You'll note that not everyone on a cruise is beautiful.

You'll note that not everyone on a cruise is beautiful.

If you care to go on a more land-based excursion, a fellow named Carlos has a little shop outside the terminal. He will rent you a four-wheeled ATV and lead you to the northern tip of the island and back, and you get to stop at a nice beach or two while you’re at it. Barbados supports other water sports than diving, by the way. The east side—they call it the Atlantic side—is pretty rocky and windy and the surfing is excellent there, not to mention highly popular wind surfing on the south. Which I don’t think you can do in Texas.

Have you ever visited Barbados? Tell us about it in the comments.

Found a friend in the travel blog business Dec 06

Take a look at this place. It’s a lot bigger than this humble blog, and it’s not associated with a travel club like Serenity, but it looks pretty good, full of information and experience. Here’s their blurb:

Travellerspoint – Active online community of international travellers. Travellerspoint features a wiki travel guide, forums, blogs, photography, interactive trip maps, accommodation and more. (I’d put a comma before the “and more,” but hey, I’m a curmudgeon.)

I applied to see if maybe they’d include us in their list of associates, but even if they don’t, their site is worth a look.

In other news: Look for an ezine article about costs they don’t tell you about when they advertise a cruise. It should be out in about a week. Start saving up—the fare is the least of your worries.

Have you found another good travel site? Mention it in the comments.

Something else to do in Chicago 3 Dec 03

So that wonderful Midwestern beef distracted us from the Chicago-Style Pizza. Probably a good thing, because, as I say elsewhere in this blog, I like the idea of thanking my hosts when I travel by taking them out to eat.

Here’s a second tip from the sophisticated traveler: Get one of the locals to tell you where the good eating places are. That’s how we ended up at Connie’s.

It looks like a converted factory building

It looks like a converted factory building

The staff was friendly and eager to serve. We had arranged ahead because we were a group of about a dozen and a half people of assorted sizes. A mix-up in the kitchen delayed our meal (boo), but my children are raising exceptional grandkids, and we had no disturbances caused by hungry urchins. The restaurant had a sign on the wall advertising gift certificates, $100 for only $80. Our tab came to almost $150—if I had had my wits about me (and listened to my dear sweet astute wife), I would have bought myself a gift certificate and saved twenty bucks.

Chicago-style pizza is a deep dish pizza, with a mild sauce. My wife said it was overrated. Next time I’ll take everybody to Ricobene’s.

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