Friday, October 16, 2009

Global Souls Anonymous

Ever wonder why friends think you’re crazy when they find out you just spend your last thousand bucks on a plane ticket to some place they’ve never heard of? Have you ever wondered why your parents urge you to buy furniture instead of travel luggage? It could be that they’re simply not “global souls.”

In his eponymous book, Pico Iyer presents himself as a quintessential global soul. Born in Great Britain of India parents, he attended boarding school in California but now lives in Japan. Although he serves as a prototype, the rest of the book details many other global souls, people who, when asked where they’re from, have so many answers to choose from that they can’t think what to say. But even those of us from a particular place may feel like global souls. I’m from in Illinois but live in Arizona where I play in a mariachi band. I enjoy speaking Spanish but take jobs in Italy to work on my Italian. I’m at home in airports—those in between places that connect vastly different worlds.

I didn’t need Pico Iyer to tell me I’m a global soul, but his book gave me the gift of realizing why so many people I come into contact with aren’t necessarily on board with me—why colleagues roll their eyes when I say I’m off to some country the day after grades are due, why my boss, when offered the opportunity to teach in China, confessed no desire to go and suggested I go in her place, why my brother treasures his life of exile in Switzerland, and why my ears prick up any time I hear an unusual accent. Global souls aren’t made—they’re born. Circumstances only take things to extremes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cinque Terre

Last summer I finally had a chance to visit "Cinque Terre," the set of five burgs that are linked with convenient hiking trails as well as a train line. Whether you find yourself in Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, or Riomaggiore, you're treated to spectacular views even if you have to hike in the rain. While you have to shell out for a "Cinque Terre Card" that allows you to use the trails, this area might be called "no worry tourism." You can't get too lost (other hikers will assist you), the towns are all small and manageable, and the each view is another Kodak moment. Better yet, the locals are friendly and there are plenty of places to plop in the water. Even Corniglia, the only burg that is up on the hill instead of hugging the coast, has a path down to the nearest beach. To start your journey, take a train to La Spezia if you're coming from the South, Levanto if you're coming from the north.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Winter Is Winter!

The problem with carnivale is when it takes place. Not only is it hard to get away during January or February, but the weather can be brutal! Of course, that's partly why people love carnival. During the dark, cold winter, they want something light and happy. My British friend Peter would say that there is no such thing as bad weather, only wrong clothes. Still, when we went to carnivale in 07, Ann and I got pretty darned cold......

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Carnevale a Venezia!

Carnival in Venice was revived in the late 70s and has been going strong ever since. For the ten days before Lent, the city is a festival of color, style, and creativity. In fact some of the people who don masques spend all year planning and sewing their costumes. The results are fantastic!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Carnival Approaches

Last November I had the chance to go to New Orleans and visit Glinda. Although I had a great time visiting her, hearing great music groups, and walking past all the beautiful balconies in the French Quarter, I also got a big kick out of the costumes and props at Kern's MardiGras World.

This year I won't have a chance to visit New Orleans for the grand carnival festivities, but maybe I'll be able to go next year instead. In the meantime, if you're in the area...... be sure to check it out!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Roman Holiday

This week I reviewed William Wyler's classic film "Roman Holiday." I assumed I'd seen the film years ago because I recognized the still on the DVD cover showing Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn on a motor scooter. To my surprise and delight, I hadn't seen the whole film. Eddie Albert is wonderful as Peck's confidante and photographer!

The film was shot on location, which was unusual at that time. It's amazing to see the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps with only a few tourists around! The sweet comedy shows how the magic of Rome can contribute to the memories of a lifetime. Thank goodness most of us who visit Rome have the luxury of enjoying the city for more than 24 hours! But we can trace the actors' steps and relish in the fact that fifty years later, the monuments shown in the film still earmark any trip to Italy's "eternal city."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cruise Great Britains Canals in a Rose Narrowboat

Not sure what to do with your summer vacation? Two years ago we had a great time renting a narrowboat and motoring along the Oxford Canal. While there are several companies that rent narrowboats, we were quite happy with the services from Rose Narrowboats. We rented the boat for four days. We didn't travel very far or very fast, but half the fun was listening to sheep, stopping at pubs, and generally kicking back. The hardest part was navigating the locks. Try to avoid passing through them in the rain!

Even though the narrowboats are small, they're quite efficient. Shelves are built into the walls, and the tiny bathrooms are perfectly serviceable. What we liked the most was that canal travel forces you to go at a relaxing pace. One of our favorite activities was watching all the different boats. They were gaily decorated with happy colors. Many had mascots, either live or painted. We did have one incident with intruders. When we came back from an excursion to Braunston, our boat had been invaded by ducks!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Buy Those Tickets!

Since it's already mid-January, it's high time to buy summer air tickets if you haven't already. The biggest consideration might be your own flexibility. If your summer vacation dates are specific, you won't want to lose out on an extra day of vacation because you can't find a plane ticket for the day you really want.

I've also found that while it's convenient to shop around on Expedia or a similar service, it's best to actually buy the ticket directly from the airline. That way, if you do have trouble, you should be able to solve your problems a bit more smoothly.

After hemming and hawing I finally bought my summer ticket. Just as I did last year, I'm flying in and out of four airports: Phoenix to Rome, Zuerich to St. Louis. I considered flying to Chicago instead of St. Louis (my parents live in Springfield, which is closer to St. Louis), but it was actually more expensive to fly to Chicago instead, even though I have to fly through Chicago to get to St. Louis. Go figure.

By playing around I was able to get a little better price. For example, the 7am flight out of Zuerich was $25 cheaper than the 10:30 flight. The downside is that I'll be nervous about trying to catch such an early flight! Flying on Thursday was cheaper than flying on Saturday, and flights are usually less crowded during the week.

Don't delay! Get your summer tickets as soon as possible.

Friday, January 9, 2009

If You Haven't Made Summer Plans, Now Is the Time

Now that my Christmas vacation is almost over (I spent much of it playing with my niece!), it's high time to start thinking about summer. It seems that airline prices go up around the beginning of March and then climb steadily after that, so I always try to buy my ticket before Valentine's Day. With today's oil prices, though, it's hard to predict anything at all. Right now the best prices to Europe from Arizona are on British Airways. It's always a balance: knowing your plans well enough to buy the ticket, and buying the ticket before the prices go too high or the flight schedules become too inconvenient. (The BA change fee is now $200, so it's important to buy a ticket you can live with.)

Travel tip: It used to be quite expensive to travel any way but round trip. Last summer I actually used four airports for my transatlantic flights. I flew from Phoenix to Rome and then returned to St. Louis via Zuerich. The round-trip price from Phoenix to Rome was only $35 cheaper, but the "open-jaw" route saved me a long train ride and an extra flight.

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