In 1983, near the end of the year, Kathy and I embarked on our first trip to Greece. Unlike travel for work, whose timing is dictated by job requirements, travel for pleasure usually enjoys a wider latitude. Over the years, we’ve learned that matching a vacation with the right social season and weather conditions is important. I might have learned that lesson in early 1979 when I took my mom to Hawaii during its rainy season. Apparently I needed a second lesson, though, and got it in Greece during the end-of year holidays, a family time when many hotels and restaurants close for the season and travel is restricted. Those facts, combined with our chronic fatigue made for the kind of moments we smile about only after having survived them.
As I review my journal accounts from our recent three-month road trip in the U.S. and Canada, I’m reminded of just how rewarding it was. For the most part, Kay and I structured our travel around visits to you, our friends and family. Staying in touch with you long distance via email and social media is one thing, but when we’re with you in person, face to face, and in your homes, we feel reconnected and our friendship renewed.
Chicago is known as a city of neighborhoods, of which Beverly, on the city’s far southwest side, is one. It is special to me because it is where I lived full-time from the age of five with my family until I left for boarding school at fourteen and thereafter where I lived part-time during school holidays until I left more-or-less permanently to take my first full-time job in Michigan. My family remained in Beverly, and my sister Janis married and raised her children there. She still lives only a few short blocks from where she and I were raised. For these familial reasons, Beverly has always been part of my life. Over the decades, I’ve returned countless times for visits.
Most of you who are our friends and family know that each year Kay and I spend the last two weeks of July attending the annual conference of a literary society. Each year it is held in a different European venue. This year’s was Vico Forte, a small village with a large church in beautiful Piemonte (“foot of the mountain”) of northwestern Italy that borders France and Switzerland. This is a rich, bountiful region, and although our conference activities kept us intensely busy morning, noon, and evening, our program did include group visits to sights we might not have discovered on our own. Continue reading Piemonte
FARIT (Friends of the American Research Institute in Turkey) has been sponsoring guided tours to destinations near and far for years. Since we’ve lived in Turkey, Kay and I have subscribed to quite a few. Although organized touring is not our favorite way to travel, we make an exception for FARIT’s because a) the number of participants is not large, b) they attract an international group of well-travelled, well-educated participants, and c) they are led by exceptional guides. This last feature has special importance for us.
We had been told that Bruges was just like Ghent but with more tourists. The part about tourists was spot on; however, to us, Bruges felt very different. Bruges is a handsome city, to be sure.
There is probably more historic architecture there than in Ghent, and like Ghent, Bruges has its share of canals. Their difference is in their levels of liveliness. Ghent with its large student population and active locals seems like a real town, whereas the center of Bruges seems to have been given over almost entirely to tourists, many in large groups. The result is that the streets of Bruges have a museum-like feel. Of course, these opinions are based solely upon the impressions of only a few days and might change with longer acquaintance.
You might wonder how we arrived at our itinerary of the Benelux cities. Well, no rigorous thinking was involved, and there was no magic in the number 4. We simply read cursory descriptions of the towns and cities we had in mind and then relied on intuition guided by experience to determine how long to spend in each. Of course, we were somewhat constrained by the parameters of time, money, and physical endurance. Thus, we chose to spend an average of four days in each place. Our stay in Lisse was shorter since our only goal there was to experience the beauty of the seasonal flowers, while we spent an extra day in both Antwerp and Brussels because of their size and interest.
In our traveling lives, Western European destinations have always loomed large. We’ve returned time and again to the big countries – The United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. When we’ve thought of the smaller places, it’s often been with the idea that one day we’d go there. Well, that day came this spring for the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, collectively known as Benelux.
“Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.” Proverb
The land of Tunisia, on the North African Coast, sandwiched between the giants of Libya and Algeria has long been on my bucket list of countries to visit. Why? Because of what I’ve read of its history and heard of its culture. I have friends who have spoken glowingly of the weeks and months they’ve spent there. And the fact that of all the countries that experienced the Arab Spring, Tunisia is the only one seeking political change that has at least partially achieved it.
What makes Berlin so attractive to us? Kay and I are city people, and when I ask myself why, I am reminded of what Dr. Samuel Johnson said centuries ago about his own city of London: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” If I replace “man” with “man or woman” and “London” with the names of the any of the world’s renowned cities, I have answered my own question. Great cities appeal to us because of their great variety. To “great” I’ll add “surprising.”