Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Apr 23 2014

More than little familiar………

Published by under Too many countries,Travel

Scott Adams has to be spending his days at our office:

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There is a serious point here. Travel always is the first thing that gets cut-even when its not the root cause of the financial problem. Our new, erstwhile,  masters don't see that problem as well as they should-even while they spend travel money for the preferred customers, while lecturing the herd on how we need to save money. In reality-you can save money and still travel.The devil is the details-and stop being penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to travel. Trust me, I ran travel budgets for over 15 years.

But now that's a big part of my ongoing frustration. Knowing-and I do mean knowing-I am right, and not having my concerns listened to. They may choose not to listen. 

But it does not mean I am wrong.

And besides-those frequent flyer miles are not going to earn themselves.

 

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Feb 03 2014

Traveliing again

On the road again-had a challenging journey yesterday to the other side of the Atlantic. To start with my ICE train to the Frankfurt Airport was going to be delayed by 90 minutes. That was a non starter as it was going to make me late for check in-and my requisite need to "pre-charge" in the lounge. ( The new Lufthansa lounges in the Z terminal of FRA are pretty sweet). Went to the Deutsche Bahn office and got re-routed to an IC train which was taking me to the Frankfurt Main station.

I made it in a ok amount of time-but then using LH's check in kiosks caused a bit of problem when it refused to read my passport. The newest EU immigrant manning the kiosk line-seemed not to grasp the fact that I need to go to a counter where a human could check my passport. Finally got that worked out-and by the grace of God the security line was very short. Landed safely in the lounge.

Then after boarding the plane-saw the change to get an open aisle seat with out someone next to me. Snagged it and figured things were looking up! But I spoke too soon.

The plane required maintenance that delayed us by almost an hour. Now this was a problem because I was hoping to make it time to get in a combat nap at the hotel prior to Super Bowl kickoff. Now I would be lucky to make the kickoff-much less the first quarter.

It turned out ok-made it to my room just as national anthem was being sung. Turns out, of course, I need not have bothered-the game was a Seahawk blowout. They slaughtered the Bronco's, who appeared to have left any offense they had back in Denver.

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On a serious note, James Fallows has been running an excellent series of articles about the use of Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg. "About the service and sacrifice of this brave man and other men and women like him, we cannot say enough." But as Fallows points out-ALL of us should be outraged that he had to make TEN deployments to the various hellholes America has chosen to fight its war without end in. Furhtermore, there is a dichotomy of purpose when you have the architects of a failed policy somehow applauding him-while failing to do the things that might have prevented his suffering in the first place.

The vast majority of us play no part whatsoever in these prolonged overseas campaigns; people like Sgt. Remsburg go out on 10 deployments; we rousingly cheer their courage and will; and then we move on. Last month I mentioned that the most memorable book I read in 2013 was Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain. It's about a group of U.S. soldiers who barely survive a terrible encounter in Iraq, and then are paraded around in a halftime tribute at a big Dallas Cowboys game. The crowd at Cowboys Stadium cheers in very much the way the Capitol audience did last night—then they get back to watching the game.

 

Later Fallows examines the implications in clearer detail.

There was another moment in the speech that I think will look worse in the long view. It was the emotionally charged ending, the tribute to the obviously courageous and grievously wounded Sergeant Cory Remsburg.

The moment was powerful human and political drama; it reflected deserved credit and gratitude on Remsburg and his family; and as I wrote earlier today, I think it was entirely sincere on the president's part, as a similar tribute would have been from his predecessor George W. Bush. With the significant difference that Bush initiated the wars these men and women have fought in, and Obama has been winding them down. And so the most favorable reading of the moment, as John Cassidy has argued, is that the president was trying to dramatize to the rest of the government the human cost of the open-ended wars many of them have egged on.

But I don't think that's how it came across to most of the Congress, or was processed by the commentariat. This was not presented as a "never again" moment; it was a "this is America's finest!" moment—which Cory Remsburg himself, and with his family, certainly is. (Also see Peter Beinart on this point.) For America as a whole, the episode did not show us at our finest. In the earlier item, I tried to explain why these few minutes will reflect badly on us and our times when our children's children view them years from now. Since the explanation was buried at the end of a long post, I repeat it at the end of this one.

A Congress that by default is pressuring the country toward war, most recently with Iran, and that would not dream of enacting either a special tax or any kind of enforced or shared service to sustain these wars, gives a prolonged, deserved ovation for a person who has dedicated his all to the country. Tears well up in many eyes; the cheering persists; the admiration for this young man is profound. Then everyone moves right on.

Years from now, people can play this clip and see something about the culture of our times. It's a moment of which only the Remsburg family will be proud. 

 

His long exploration of the historical allusions is also worth a read.

Lunch is over-gotta get back to work. Hope it does not snow tonight.

 

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Jan 25 2014

Two gentlemen from Verona

Published by under Travel,Uncategorized

We got back in the middle of last week, but it's been a busy week at work and other items. Preparing to crank up my 2014 travel program next week with a trip back to the land of my birth. So posting has been abysmal and for that, my apologies.

After our two rain soaked days in Venice, which were compensated by the fact we had great dinners each and every night, we got back on the road and headed up to Innsbruck. Along the way we stopped for lunch in Verona ( click to embiggen):

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That's the arena the Romans built. It dates from 45 BC as does this gate:

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Some more shots of the arena:

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To see more pix , look below the fold

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Jan 17 2014

Super soaker……..

Published by under Travel

Yesterday we drove down through Austria into Italy and into Vicenza. We are staying here while we visit Venice for a couple of days. There is just one problem ( well two actually). Today it rain all damn day. Not just a sprinkle, but the kind of steady, get on your nerves rain that just makes being out and about as a tourist, not nearly as much fun as it should be.

When got up and saw the rain coming down-we thought we would beat it by driving out to the town of Nove, where the S.O. could do some ceramic shopping. Which was all well and good-and we got out relatively unscathed.

But the rain had not stopped. So by the time we got out to the bus stop-to catch the train to the Stazione, the umbrellas were getting a good work out. And while we dried out some on the train, we got right back into it as we walked from the station to San Marco square.

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And the rain just kept on coming as we walked towards San Marco square:

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By the time we got to San Marco plaza-it was pouring.

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It really did rain:

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More to follow in a later post. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

 

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Aug 01 2013

And we’re back.

Published by under Too many countries,Travel

Ireland was really great. I really enjoyed it and have made up my mind that I need to go back. With the exception of the fact that the Union Jack was not in its rightful place flying over the buildings of Dublin-its a great place to visit. 

As an aside-I have never understood the whole division of Ireland and Britain. From a logical standpoint, it would make better sense if all the British Isles were under one government. I do understand the 1000 years of history and the way the British slighted the Irish and all that, but the thing is,  the Irish seem to have more in common with the British than they realize. Then again-they seem to have reached an accomodation of sorts now-and actively trade with one another. And on a positive note-Ireland has been able to avoid getting sucked into the overseas adventures that the British have-so maybe they are on to something.

I'll post a more detailed travelog this weekend. I'm pressed for time this evening.

Here are a few pictures though. We spent two nights in Dublin, and two in Galway-where, as it turns out, was having its Race Week. Wish I had known that before we left, I would have considered staying longer.

For you Quiet Man fans ( of which I am one) here is the stone bridge from the opening scenes of the film:

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The library above the Book of Kells-Trinity College.

 

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At the Cliffs of Moher

 

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Downtown Dublin on O'Connel street:

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The Benedictine Abbey in Conomara.

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More to follow!

3 responses so far

Jul 26 2013

Road trip

"Skippy, Paul Ryan has us on double secret sequester probation,  whatever that is."

" I know that".

" And you are already taking a 20 % pay cut-that you didn't deserve and can't afford."

"I know that too".

" And furthermore-you've got a stack of credit card bills that would choke a horse. American Express is probably going to be sending a hit man your way in short order. And you are still stuck paying all that blood money to that whore of an ex-wife of yours!"

"Hoover, I'm not following you. What is it you're trying to tell me?"

"Damn it man-I'm telling you that you probably need to stay home and save some money! These damn furloughs are no joke!. And furthermore-thanks to what the House did to the Defense budget a few days ago, layoffs next year are pretty much guaranteed. Doesn't that scare you-even a little bit?"

"Well, I'll tell you Hoover-it scares the shit out of me. Don't you think I know all those things? Of course I need money. I need lots of money-and they don't sell Powerball tickets over here. I'm pretty much fucked."

"So what are you going to do?"

"Road trip."

"What?!?!"

" Let me clue you in pal-they are going to nail us no matter what we do, so…we …might ….as …..well….have ….a good time. See you later pal, I'm off to Dublin!"

"You'll be sorry!"

"Probably-especially when I stagger out of the pub. Speaking of which, can I borrow 50 bucks?"

Hoover stomps off cursing.

And on that note-I'm off to Dublin! First pint's on Hoover!

One response so far

Apr 14 2013

More Madrid

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben,Travel

The S.O. dragged me 447km round trip yesterday to buy a cast iron dutch oven.  Don't even ask how much it cost.

On the plus side she seems to have re-learned the idea of gratitude sex-for now. We will see how long it lasts.

In the mean time here are some more Spain pictures. Click on them to see properly and in a larger view.

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This was the old castle the Hapsburgs used in the 15 and 1600 hundreds. Easily accessible by bus from Madrid-that's what we took. It is known as El Escorial.

More pictures below:

 

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It had a beautiful Basilica inside-but of course, no pictures were allowed.

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Some pictures from the gardens:

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One of the things that surprised me about Madrid was the geography-it was much more hilly than I expected. I guess I had envisioned it as flat.

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Apr 03 2013

Viva Madrid

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben,Travel

I kind of think I now understand why Hemingway liked Spain. It is France without the stuck up attitudes of the French.

Regardless-I really enjoyed my trip to Madrid. Surprisingly, the city was very clean, the subways worked much better than those here in Stuttgart, and the wine and food were simply marvelous. The down side of course being, that to eat the food, you had to wait till 8:30 PM or later. I was fine with that-the S.O., not so much. Rather than adapt, she thought she could bend the city to her will. As a result I got to be witness to a few episodes of "the ugly Nihonjin". Suffice it to say, it wasn't pretty and I wanted to go hide in a corner. But, of course, I couldn't do that-I had to pay the bill.

Nonetheless the architecture in the city is marvelous. Below you can see some examples of it. In many ways the city looks like Paris-and why not? considering the lineage of the King is from France. ( Yes its true. The Hapsburgs lost the toss and France has influenced Spain ever since. If they could not win by invading-as Napoleon found out-they just influenced the monarchy. ( click on all the pictures to see them as they should be)

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Taken in front of the Teatro Real.

And of course there is the Royal Palace:

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Let's not forget the parks:

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And the music in the parks:

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How a Mariachi Band ends up in a Madrid Park is beyond me. But they had a cute looking lady singer:

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More to follow in three subsequent posts.

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Mar 27 2013

Taking matters into my own hands

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben,Travel

Those frequent flier miles are not going to earn themselves you know.

And since my erstwhile employer is not cooperating by providing me with the kind of travel I both need and should have as a job perk-I guess I will have to do it myself. So its on a plane today to the heart of Spain. I really don't have the money to do this right now-and the timing is not the best. But its March 27th, there is still snow on the ground and people are watching Charles Krauthammer be stupid.  ( I realize using the name Krauthammer and "stupid" in the same sentence is repetitive-but its a great example of how really deluded a certain segment of the American population is.)

So I need a break.

Pictures to follow if I can my laptop to work right.

Hasta la vista baby!

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Dec 09 2012

Return trip

Published by under Beer and Babes,Travel

The S.O. and I had to take separate flights home. She was on Lufthansa and I was on United.   I figured the S.O. would have had the better deal on Lufthansa-but as is typical for her, she found a way to fuck it up. She came into Frankfurt complaining about everything. The flight, the people sitting next to her, the seat, and the fact that it was snowing in Stuttgart and we had to take the train. It took every bit of restraint I had not throw my coffee on her while we were waiting at Starbucks. I've heard this type of whining many times before. I have long grown tired of it. If you don't like traveling then why do you ask to go? Certainly I would have had a better time had she not come along-but that seems increasingly to be the case. The only real blessing was that by the time we got home she was tired-and so I got some rare hours of time alone to myself.

Tomorrow is a work day-and the snow is still coming steadily down. The journey to work tomorrow will probably be most interesting, to say the least.

As for my flight-well United proved yet again that it sets low standards and then fails to meet them. Under the scowl of the S.O. I pre-charged with a couple of beers in the lounge-this to avoid the 6 dollar beers if I could. Like I have said countless times before-the nickle and diming of passengers is a disgrace-just charge 20 bucks more and serve drinks for free. American Air Carriers truly suck-in terms of service. I will be looking forward to traveling on the foreign based carriers when I begin my travel schedule after the first of the year. I only need 100K more miles to be a million miler, so that is one of my goals for 2013. Don't think I will make it-but I am going to try.

I did some reading on the trip. I finished Tom Ricks book, The Generals. My office mate really liked it-I am more ambivelant about the work. I agree with Ricks central point that America's flag leadership is sorely lacking in the traits needed to be successful. What I don't agree with him on is the reasons why this is-or how to cure it. I will write a more detailed review this week.

For now though, its time to cry myself to sleep and dream of better days. 

 

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Nov 12 2012

Swiss Miss

Published by under Travel

And we are back. After our day in Zurich-we stayed in a hotel and then got up the next morning and drove to Interlaken. Which was a great drive-albeit taxing as it went over the mountains. But then down to the lakes and we got to see some great scenery.

We stopped and had lunch in the town of Interlaken-then went further SW towards the town of Tun-along the Thunsee.

This town is 20 Km west of Thun.

A closer view:

 

On the way back over, going over the mountains-we decided to stop at a scenic overlook. As I stopped the car and got out-in one of those uniquely embarrassing moments for both involved-I stepped out of the car and looked over the top of the car back into the woods. As luck would have it, a female pair of eyes, attached to a body in the squatting position, having thought herself concealed well enough, gazed directly back at me. I quickly averted my glance and snuffled a well deserved snicker or two. Unfortunately, the SO also caught a glimpse-and in a move that surprised me-expressed some level of disgust. Not wishing to compound on embarrassment I told her in Japanese ( which I assumed the lady peeing would not understand), "when you have to go, you have to go." She still was not amused. She is becoming more and more of a prude as she ages-much to my own chagrin and disgust-since mentally, I am moving in the opposite direction.

Her boyfriend-obviously not in as much urgency, comes out of the deep woods-having taken the time to give himself more concealment. We by that time had crossed the road and took in the view-hoping that they would get in the car soon and leave, thus ending an embarrassing situation for all concerned. We puttered about taking pictures of the Obersee:

 

The Obersee has a lot to see-including what appeared to be a tram on the other side:.

 

After shooting some more pictures-it was back into the car and back to Zurich. What amazed me-was how docile the drivers were-it was nothing like being in Germany where Porsches and Mercedes run down in the left lane in a heart beat. On the A4 towards Zurich, the cars all stayed at the posted speed limit which fluctuated between 80, 100 and 120 km/h. I got the distinct impression more people took the train. Then again-it might have something to do with the huge traffic fines.

One of other thing we noticed-Zurich is not cheap. Dinner even in a modest restaurant could set you back 50 bucks-and that is with only one beer. The other thing that drove the SO nuts was the amount of Chinese women she saw. Not women who were tourists-although there were plenty of those-but rather, women who were well dressed and gave the appearance of living there. I tried vainly to remind her that China has money and a lot of it flows through Zurich on the way to points beyond, like Africa. She never grasped that-probably because she still can't accept the fact that China has passed Japan's economy.

Perhaps I should return alone. It looked like it had potential.

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Nov 09 2012

Friday Night in Zurich.

Published by under Travel

Got up this morning and the S.O. and I drove to Zurich. It's interesting what happens along the way. Driving down the autobahn to Singen-Porsches and Mercedes will run you down at 180KM per hour. As soon as you cross the Swiss border-everyone moves along at a much more timid 120 and 100. Probably has something to do with those 500 Euro fines for speeding. Its really amazing to watch.

After arrving here-we went out exploring.

The Main Station in Zurich.

Then its down Bahnhofstrasse as it is the yuppie shopping street. Zurich being the banking capital it is-has lots of money to spend. Then it was down to St. Peter's church.

 

Then its down to the Frau Munster Church and the view of the lake:

After which a sojurn up the hill and to the Grand Munster Church:

Finally a view of the bridge at night:

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Sep 16 2012

More Palma pix

Published by under Travel

Have been under the weather since returning. Clearly I no longer have the staying power I used to have. Slept and slept today.

 

Here's the Palma pix:

Trams in Soller.

 

Western Coast on the road to Valdermoss.

 

Interesting building that looks a lot like those of my Alma Mater.

 

A view every Sailor knows-Palma Port.

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Sep 05 2012

Palma

Published by under Travel

And we are back.

It was a great trip and I had forgotten how much I really like Palma and why its a great liberty port on so many levels.

Now this particular trip was a different one for me in that I ventured out from the area between the city of Palma and the beach at Magaluff. Back in the day-the Navy made renting a car such a pain in the ass, that  I never made the effort. Now truth be told-thanks to the mistaken assumption I made that the ex could handle money, coupled with living in a house with a 15% interest rate ( my personal souvenir of 1980).

Sure, you say, that's just a good excuse to justify why you did not go touring and hit the bars. Well the response is, "No its not true".  When one is having to live on an allowance of 400 a month ( especially when I was living on an Ensign's salary)-and $130 of it had to go pay an expense the government should have paid ( my wardroom bill). It did not leave a lot. Especially with a non working spouse who could not get off her ass and get a job-but still expected "trinkets" coming down the brow when the cruise was over.

So the beach and beer was just fine. Plus, truth be told, I walked a lot around the town both in the day at night. In those days the buddy system was a phrase not a vindictive regulation. Prowling alone at times was a lot of fun. It still is. I plan to do some of it this weekend when I return to the traveling set. ( The SO got her vacation-now I get mine).

Nonetheless, this trip-we branched out a bit and really explored the island from North to South.

The first day we went to Valdermoss- a town in the Northwest that has , as its chief claim to fame, Fredryk Chopin and his Mistress the French authoress George Sand.

 

What is really kind of bizarre about these two statues is that they stand right next to the entrance to a church. That's right-after the Spanish government tossed the monks out on their asses in 1835, Chopin wintered over here in 1838-39. The "cells" in the town were available for private rental. This in a monastery that had been there since 1309.

Here is a better shot of the town:

The second day we drove to Cap De Formentor. Its the north most tip of the island-and tough to get to ( but worth it):

 

That's actually a curving road in the foreground.

There's a lot more to show-but I have to be in Frankfurt tomorrow followed by an evening flight back to another place to be revealed later. More pictures to follow I promise.

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Aug 21 2012

Colmar

Published by under Travel

On Sunday the S. O. and I drove the circle-heading south to Freiburg-and then over to Colmar, France. The journey almost ended before it began.

While leaving Stuttgart-we came upon the ever present construction that is on going between the city and the town of Herrenberg. German traffic laws require you to slow down sharply in a construction zone-most times to 60 km/ hr. I had complied with this restriction and was driving in my lane when I heard the loud squeal of wheels as if brakes were being applied behind me. Glanced in my review mirror and saw a car had moved into the left lane-and then realized he had not seen a car already there. I hit the gas and that one move alone saved us from being hit because when the rear car swerved he turned-and you guessed it-he got slammed by another car, We just had escaped it by 1 car length.  Between keeping an eye on the traffic in front of me, and hearing the destruction behind me, it was a nerve wracking start to our journey. Once we cleared the construction I stopped and checked the car over. We had in fact been blessed by not being hit by any pieces of car flying. The VW looked as good as ever.

Shaken, but resolved, we got back on the road and pressed onward. As you come to Freiburg-you pass through mountains in the Schwarzwald and there are some really beautiful rock cut outs. The day was glorious-it would have been a great day to be in a convertible. Once you hit Freiburg, the land level out again and then its passage through about 25km of farmland and you arrive at Colmar. The wine capital of Alscace.

Colmar has the distinction of being the last major French town liberated by the Allies in World War II. Apart from Normandy, the areas of France most bitterly defended by the Germans were Alsace and Lorraine. This occurred in part because the Allied surge across France in 1944 was slowed down by logistical difficulties as the Allies reached the easternmost extent of France, but the primary reason for the stout German defenses of these regions is that Alsace and Lorraine  were claimed as part of Germany and would be defended as strongly as any other German soil.  The battle of the Colmar Pocket was fought here in 1945 in January and February.

Its a very pretty town-it has the nickname of "Little Venice" , since it has some small canals that boats run on to various houses.

 

And lest anyone think the French are really ingrates-we came across several plaques looking this one:

The town is a modern city surrounding a very old ancient central old town. Many buildings in the old town can trace their roots back to the 14 and 1500's. Both the major church's can.

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