Tales from the Man who would be King

Rex Jaeschke's Personal Blog

Signs of Life: Part 8

© 2017 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

From time to time during my travels, I come across signs that I find interesting for one reason or another. Sometimes, they contain clever writing, are humorous, or remind me of some place or event. Here are some more from trips to France, Finland, California, Croatia, England, Korea, and Washington State.

 

Fast food, Italian style, in France!

 

From a small town in Normandy, France. Do you suppose this shop actually sells ketchup?

Perhaps it's actually an art gallery that specializes in Andy Warhol paintings.

 

A bakery in the French town of Avranches, named for the famous US tank commander, General George S. Patton, who liberated the town during WWII.

I stayed in that town when I visited Mont Saint-Michel.

 

And to truly show their admiration, they even named a pizza place after him!

 

In France. On the one hand, you could argue that this is a useful sign. On the other, it might well give some kids an idea they wouldn't have otherwise thought of.

 

You'll find this sign at the waterfront in Helsinki, Finland.

Finland is official bilingual: Finnish and Swedish; so all public signs are in both languages.

Just off the coast on a series of interconnected islands is an impressive fortress complex with large dry docks, called Suomenlinna in Finnish and Sveaborg in Swedish.

And since I just know you're wondering about the three initials, the Helsinki City Transport system is called HKL (Helsingin kaupungin liikennelaitos in Finnish) and HST (Helsingfors stads trafikverk, in Swedish).

 

So there you are, driving along a Finnish highway going out into the country for the Juhannus Day weekend, and you stop at a gas station and food place for a bite to eat. But what to have?

The literal translation for säilykkeet is canned food, and Pastat is pastes. But what caught my eye was the Tex Mex; Texas-style Mexican food, in Finland. Hmm. "Build it and they will come." I guess!

 

A Christmas advertisement with a difference, for the world-famous San Diego, California, Zoo.

Apart from their main property, their Safari Park in Escondido is definitely worth a visit.

 

There I was riding my little motor scooter on the back roads of the Dalmation-Coast island of Hvar in Croatia, when I came across this sign.

It says that "The disposal and storage of waste materials and garbage is prohibited". Fair enough, but I though the picture of the clothes washer or dryer and the brick wall were an interesting way to reinforce the message.

 

This interesting-named shop is in the quaint town of Totnes in Devon, England.

 

From outside a pub in Totnes in Devon, England. Very clever!

BTW, TLC stands for "tender loving care".

 

This photo was taken in my hotel room on the South Korean island of Jeju (sometimes called Cheju).

It certainly made me wonder just what kind of natural disasters might actually occur there.

BTW, the rope was to help guests get over the balcony to the one below, from where they used that balcony's rope to go further, and so on.

 

If you happen to be wondering around Ocean Shores, Washington State, wearing a deer costume for Halloween, it's nice to know that hunters are not supposed to shoot you!

 

Although it sounds like good advice, while the elk weren't looking, I stuck my foot inside the 100-foot zone!

 

One of many such signs in and around Crescent City, Northern California.

The most startling thing were the posters at various beaches asking people who found human remains from the Japanese earthquake of 2011, washed across the Pacific Ocean, to report them to authorities.

 

The sign of civilization! Yes, I am a long-time patron of Denny's. Any place that serves breakfast 24 hours a day is okay with me. And on many occasions, the waitstaff have given me crayons and pictures to color while I was waiting for my food to be served.

The ultimate experience came when I found a Denny's restaurant in the parking lot of a Motel 6 hotel, in Annaheim, California, in which I stayed during a family trip to Disneyland.

 

 

Oh, the Things that I have Eaten

© 2017 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

Did you ever notice how habit-forming eating can be? In my case, I've been doing it at least twice a day for 63 years! I love food, I love preparing food, and I even like grocery shopping. And over the past year, I've found myself thinking often about what I was going to have for my next meal, sometimes even several meals ahead.

My food tastes were established at a very early age, when I was raised in rural South Australia, descended from German-speaking Lutherans from Prussia. Our menus were pretty much built around meat-and-potatoes, and rice was something you ate for dessert! Being farmers, we raised most of our own meat, fowl, fruit, and vegetables. With limited refrigeration and no freezer, we ate what was in season, or what was preserved in jars or smoked.

Like most farmers of German descent, my father could butcher most anything, and I recall from a very early age the story that "the only thing not used when a pig was slaughtered was the squeal it made as it was dying". Imagine my surprise when some 45 years later, an older cousin informed me that, "No, even that was used; it was sent to the state capital where it went into making whistles for referees!"

Once I moved to a large city and then started traveling, my food tastes broadened quite a bit, from pizza to Asian food, from pasta to curry, and ultimately to biscuits and gravy and peanut butter and jelly!

In this essay, I'll mention some of the ordinary and not-so-ordinary things I have eaten, some of my ideal meals, and some things I will not put in my mouth. Bon appétit!

Meat

Many meat cultures have their mystery meat product, something made from all those unmentionable offcuts. In South Australia, it was called fritz. In an eastern Australian state, it was called devon. In the US, it's bologna. As a kid, I recall going to the butcher shop, sitting upon the counter eating a slice of fritz while Mom's order was filled. Fritz with tomato sauce (ketchup, that is) rated high in my school lunch sandwiches. These days, however, I rarely eat it.

For five years, I lived on a 4,000-acre farm on which we had many wild kangaroos and emus. From time to time, we'd hunt them, and occasionally we'd grill up some kangaroo steak with bay leaves. I recall it was tasty. Mostly, we cooked the meat and fed it and the soup made from it to the pigs. They also ate raw emu meat. [A few years ago, while touring eastern Germany, I came across a restaurant serving kangaroo. Presumably someone was farming them there, but it just seemed odd. I also saw an emu ranch in west Texas. What will they think of next?]

For more than 30 years, I lived near a 5-star restaurant, at which I ate on very special occasions. One of their specials was game, and I usually had the wild boar. Bison is readily available in my area, but I have yet to try that.

I was raised on a wheat and sheep farm on which two of every five years were droughts. When there was little else to eat, there was always lamb (or mutton), and I ate a lot of it. So much so, that ever since, I don't much care for the taste or even the smell of it cooking. You can have too much of something!

As a kid, I trapped rabbits to sell for meat and skins. Some of them finished up in our kitchen pot, and I have fond memories of braised rabbit with gravy. In my area, rabbit was sometimes referred to as underground mutton!

On a family trip around Finland, I did eat a reindeer burger, and recently, I had braised reindeer in Norway. It's not a taste I care much for.

For some years, I stayed in a B&B in Chiswick, just outside London. One day as I was walking to my meeting place, I saw a sign advertising a new restaurant with a South African theme, so I dropped by to look at the menu. There was ostrich, kudu, buffalo, and zebra, among other exotic things, and all I could think of was how in the dark of night, the kitchen staff must jump the fence at the local zoo to get supplies. As it happened, with the reasonably low cost of air freight, they shipped in 20 kilos of meat from South Africa, twice a week!

One thing I miss about buying quality meat is South Australia's butcher shops, their great sausages, and bacon without all that fat the US seems to insist on having. Also, without all those preservatives. When traveling in Europe, I have been known to drool outside the window of a butcher shop, looking at all those wonderful meat cuts, except perhaps at a Pferdemetzgerei (horse butcher, that is) in Germany.

Fowl

In my early days, I ate a lot of chicken, and I still do. I also was involved in the production line when we butchered and dressed 20–30 of them at a time.

In my neck of the woods, ducks, geese, and turkeys were rare things. I probably ate turkey only once or twice in my 25 years in Australia. However, since living in the US, I eat it on a regular basis, not just at Thanksgiving.

In my very early days, we kept homing pigeons, and I remember some of them finishing up in our soup, and not just to swim!

I'm reminded of a story I once read about "How to cook a crow". It involved putting a crow in boiling water, along with a large stone. When the stone was soft, the crow was cooked!

Fish

For many years I lived 20–30 miles from a river or body of water, but fish was a rare thing, although we did have cans of sardines and, occasionally, tuna, and jars of fish paste. I do remember trying smoked fish, and I liked it. In fact, a few years ago, I rediscovered it and now have it regularly, especially in the form of salmon.

Now I'm allergic to shellfish, so when I travel to a non-English-speaking country, I try to find out how to communicate that. Several times I've failed, and either got no fish at all, or only shellfish. [As well as my throat constricting, if I touch shellfish and then touch my face near my eyes, my face swells. The doctors say it's to do with iodine, but I've never had any problem with using that directly.]

I quite like the texture of raw fish, and whenever I'm visiting my friends in Japan, we go to a local sushi restaurant. Of course, without shellfish the choices are halved, but there are still plenty of options.

Some years ago, Chilean sea bass started appearing on up-scale menus, and I've eaten it a number of times in Business Class on long-distance flights. It turns out, it's a bit of hoax. According to Wikipedia, "The name "Chilean Seabass" was invented by a fish wholesaler named Lee Lantz in 1977. He was looking for a name that would make it [Patagonian toothfish] attractive to the American market."

Given a choice, I'll put anchovies on my pizza. Unfortunately, where I live, most people don't care for the taste at all, and those pizza parlors that do provide them leave them in a can, so the diner can apply them himself without "polluting" the whole pie.

While I've eaten caviar a few times, I don't understand why people get so excited about it. But then, I don't drink champagne either!

Vegetables

I was raised on potatoes, peas, green beans, carrots, cabbage, onions, and pumpkin. I was probably 25 and living in the US when I ate my first ear of corn. Since then, I look forward to it every season, eating it with butter and black pepper. As a kid, I do recall having canned corn kernels in Mom's tuna mornay. My father banned from the table anything more exotic.

Fruit

I grew up in an apricot culture: fresh, dried, and as jam. I love peaches, including dried ones, also nectarines, pears, and oranges, both fresh and in juice form. I enjoy an occasional pink grapefruit half for breakfast, covered with sugar and left in the fridge overnight. While vacationing in Mexico some years ago, I rediscovered mangos, and love eating them and their juice. However, I have yet to master peeling one. My long-time Japanese friends introduced me to nashi (Asian pears), which I absolutely love, and often serve for dessert at dinner parties. It tastes like a pear, but has the look and texture of an apple, and doesn't bruise like a pear. I'm a fan of stewed rhubarb with apple, and if there's hot vanilla custard to go with it, that's just fine with me!

Pastries

I was raised in a culture having what we called savory pastries, such as meat pies, pasties (PAH-sties, that is, not PAY-sties) and sausage rolls. These were the staple offerings at my high school cafeteria, or if one ate at a bakery or deli for lunch. (According to Wikipedia, savoriness is "a culinary term traditionally contrasted with sweetness. Savory foods are flavorful but not sweet".)

Having lived in the US for 37 years, I'm very much aware of the popular American habit of eating sugar-laden, sweet pastries for breakfast. And while I have partaken occasionally over the years, eating a doughnut for breakfast just doesn't seem right.

 

Eggs

I love my eggs, but they must have come from a chicken; no duck eggs for me, thank you very much! I prefer them fried "over medium"; that is, flipped with the yolk a bit runny. Now I cannot bear to look at an egg whose white is not completely set. Unfortunately, this is rather a delicacy in Japan where the egg is passed under a flame for only seconds, and is almost entirely clear. Then in Geneva, Switzerland, I ordered a pizza with an egg fried in the center. When it came, the white was hardly set at all, which quite put me off my pizza. [Sadly, some years later, I'd forgotten that, and ordered the same thing again!]

Now, we've all heard about the dangers of salmonella in food, and one way to contract that is by eating eggs that have not been refrigerated. When I spent two weeks in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1992, and prepared my own meals, I avoided buying eggs out on the street, as I'd seen them delivered there early in the morning, and stand out in the sun all day.

During a recent trip to Beijing, China, I stayed at a hotel that claimed to cater for international guests. However, almost no English was spoken in the dining room. I saw a young man making custom omelets, so I thought I'd try one. However, as best as I could tell, each one contained pieces of dried shrimp, to which I am allergic. Despite my questions to him, and his replying "Yes" to most anything I said, it was clear the omelet option wasn't!

BTW, who was the first person to see a chicken and say, let's eat the next thing that comes out of its butt?

Dairy Products

Being a growing lad, I like to consume at least a liter of milk a day, and I'm not talking that non-fat or low-fat crap! I mean whole milk that's come from a real cow, not a test-tube! However, I am not a fan of yogurt. One thing high on my list when I visit South Australia is the local thickened cream (which has no American equivalent). I can make do with clotted cream, but forget about that spray-can stuff served in the US. And I could eat vanilla custard every day.

Although I like a number of cheeses, my tastes are pretty basic; brie and Camembert are about as exotic as I'm prepared to go. In fact, if I find myself in the so-called gourmet-cheese section of a market, I have to hold my nose or detour around that section.

As I travelled around Europe, I learned of cheese made from sheep's milk. Who knew you could milk a sheep!

Offal

A favorite of mine when growing up was braised sheep's liver (lamb's fry), served with mashed potato, gravy, and onions. So, imagine my delight when I arrived in the US and saw "liver and onions" on a menu. After one bite, I discovered it was either pig's or calf's liver, and it had a very strong and terrible taste!

I also recall Mom serving up fricasseed sheep's brains. I don't recall if that's after I'd been good or bad!

Desserts

I don't often get as far as the dessert menu, but I have been known to indulge on occasion. High on the list come stewed fruit with vanilla custard or ice cream (but not just any brand will do). Thickened cream is a nice topping as is passionfruit pulp. A few slices of Asian pears are also fine.

For afternoon tea, I do like British Commonwealth-style buns, preferably buttered, or a slab of coffee cake. My grandmother and one aunt were masters of making what we knew as kuchen, a German cake containing potatoes, topped with streusel.

Many years ago, I was invited to supper with a family in rural Maine. The hostess asked if anyone wanted a slice of rhubarb pie? When several of us replied, "Yes", she put the pie in the oven, so we could eat it hot. When she served it, we found it contained rabbit stew, at which time she remembered just what the large letter R on the pie crust meant!

In 2005, for my mid-life crisis, I decided to walk the 187-mile-long Thames Path in England carrying a backpack. [See my essay A Walk along the River.] One evening, I ate at a delightful pub right on the path. After my main course, I still had room for some dessert, and on offer was hot apple pie with vanilla custard, so I partook and ate outside in the garden. When I returned my empty plate, the young waitress asked, "How was it?" I replied enthusiastically, "It was better than sex, and if you wrote that next to the menu item on the chalkboard, you'll sell all of it." She declined my advice, but on reflection, I don't think I was exaggerating. After all, it was some darned fine pie and custard!

Drinks

I like plain and flavored teas (but not herbal) and instant coffee, provided sugar (or honey for tea) is available. While people have assured me that, "one can get used to going without sugar," I simply don't want to. When I make coffee for one at home, it's my own version of café-au-lait made entirely with milk.

I drink coffee-flavored milk by the gallon. Really!

When asked as to why I emigrated to the US, I often reply, "Because I don't drink beer or wine, I was not allowed to stay in Australia, so I went to the US, as that country takes refugees escaping all kinds of oppression." That said, I do like a nice glass of port wine. Unfortunately, I measure nice from the liqueur ports that used to be available in South Australia until some 15 years ago. But it appears the cellars have been emptied of them with no suitable replacement made.

After whole milk, fruit juice is king; orange, peach, mango, and occasionally pear are my favorites, and once in a blue moon, some pineapple. But never banana.

Foreign Flavors

As I travel around the world, I don't mind buying street food, so long as I know it doesn't contain shellfish. I also enjoy walking through fresh fruit and vegetable markets and supermarkets. At a glance, everything looks the same as back at home, but on closer inspection, many things really are different.

Now the Koreans think they have pretty good BBQ, but then they probably haven't been to an Australian or Texan BBQ. Quite frankly, they have no idea!

For my first adventure trip, I went into the jungles of the northern Amazon. On one hike, our guide took us to a native village to meet the chief where we drank some of the local homebrew with him. It turned out that it was from the root of some plant that was chewed by women who then spat the juice into a bowl where it fermented. Only the women's saliva would work. I haven't been back for seconds since, however. Back in our camp, the local native cooks fed us mystery meat that was so heavily smoked, one couldn't tell what it was.

Ramen noodle houses are big business in Japan, and the highlight of eating in one, is that one can make as much noise as one likes slurping the soup. My young son was delighted at that custom.

When my wife and I arrived in Singapore in 1979, we heard about The Satay Club, which sounded to us like an upscale dining place. Imagine our surprise when our trishaw driver dropped us at a park where grandfathers cooked satays over charcoal fires while their grandsons served food and drinks to patrons who ate at picnic tables. It was great; I love spicy peanut sauce on meat. Unfortunately, the "club" no longer exists.

We found a Chinese restaurant in a small village near Munich, Germany. When the food was served, I wanted chopsticks, but the staff spoke no English and my small German dictionary didn't have the word. After some miming, I finally got a pair, but as I started to eat with them, I felt this strange sensation. All the Germans in the room were watching this European-looking guy eat with sticks. How Barbarian! [BTW, the German word is Essstäbchen, the French word is baguettes Chinois (literally, Chinese sticks), and the Japanese is hashi.]

I was in Antigua, the old capital of Guatemala, where I had two weeks of private Spanish tutoring. Each night, I ate at the same restaurant where I was served by the same waitress. She tolerated my poor Spanish and I tipped her well. Ordinarily, I don't eat big meals, but one night, I had room for dessert, so I asked her if she had any cake. She looked blankly at me, but didn't try to figure out what I was saying. After a number of attempts, I got annoyed. I was thinking to myself, "Darn it woman, don't you understand Spanish?" Several days later, I was clear across the country riding a bus when it occurred to me what I'd been asking for. I had the right word but the wrong language. Cake in French is gateaux, which is what I had asked for, but it came across as gato, which in Spanish means cat. So, it was no surprise I didn't get my dessert!

It was Todo Santo (All Saints Day), a big event on the Catholic calendar, and there I was as a lunch guest at a family in rural Mexico. From time to time, different people tried to get me involved in their (Spanish-language) conversation by asking me questions. I started talking about what I thought was His Holiness the Pope, but it soon became obvious that no one was following. As it turned out, I was using the feminine la papa, which means potato, when I should have been using the masculine el papa, the Pope. Potato, Pope; hey what's the big deal, right? [It occurred to me later that perhaps The Devil made me do it!]

While staying with a host family in Japan, I offered to cook them a Mexican dinner. However, finding all the ingredients in the local supermarket was a challenge. After lots of searching, I found an aisle of "obscure foreign stuff", and right there were the familiar yellow-and-orange boxes of Old El Paso Mexican food containing all one needed; YES!

I discovered empanadas when I first travelled to Central America, and I loved them! However, early on as I was chowing down on one fresh out of the oven, I bit into a whole olive that was inside the pastry. Not being a fan of olives, I quickly spat that out into the gutter. For all future purchases, I checked first to see if an olive was inside, and if it was, I squeezed it out before I started eating, so it wouldn't pollute the ham and cheese filling.

Things Not on my Menu

There are more than a few things I do not care for or can't imagine putting in my mouth. They include the following: haggis; tripe; cold, boiled rice with raw egg mixed in, for breakfast (Japan); boiled eggs, black from pickling in vinegar (Korea); kimchi (Korea); pig's feet (trotters); the eyes from any animal; animal tongue; kidneys; duck; goose; pickled cucumber or cauliflower; raw beef; horseradish (except very mild wasabi on mashed potatoes); capers; many cheeses; qwark and other bacteria-laden things; buttermilk; any milk less than whole; blood sausages; Rocky Mountain oysters; olives; green tea; poi; and blood (ala the Maasai tribe's cattle herders). I'm sure there are many others, most of which I've tried very hard to forget over the years.

So, Just What do I Love to Eat?

Off the top of my head, here are some ideal things I might have in-between snacks:

Breakfast: cornflakes with fruit; sausage or thick, slab bacon with little fat; eggs fried (over medium); crisp, shredded hash-brown potatoes with sausage gravy; wheat toast with strawberry jam or perhaps some orange marmalade; a large mug of steaming café au lait or hot chocolate (but without the girly-man whipped cream). And, yes, ketchup does go on eggs! And my home-made stewed tomato and onions goes well over sausage and eggs.

Lunch: A pasty (or maybe a meat pie) with ketchup, buttered finger bun (with a small amount of frosting and coconut), and a carton of iced coffee (made entirely with milk, as God intended, not like that watery crap sold in the US!) On a cold day, a bowl of soup just-like-grandma-used-to-make hits the spot. Now while chicken noodle soup is a good standby, I'm partial to tomato and basil with a freshly buttered bread roll on the side, and I make a wonderful hot-and-sour soup laden with soyed chicken, carrots, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.

Dinner: Bangers and mash with onions and gravy; medium-hot curried chicken and vegetables over steamed rice; a simple tuna or ham salad with cucumber, pickled beets (only certain brands will do!), lettuce, grated cheese, and 1000-Island dressing. Oh, and a few garlic-flavored croutons. And, for afters, some stewed apricots smothered with hot, vanilla custard, or a bowl of truly ripe fresh strawberries with French vanilla ice cream.

Anytime: Whole milk (but not too creamy;4% fat is adequate); passionfruit-flavored anything; mango juice; German mettwurst (preferably with garlic) from South Australia, on its own or in a sandwich of very fresh bread with butter. Stir-fried vegetables with peanuts, coconut milk, and some spicy sauce, optionally with meat.

I do love plenty of chopped parsley on everything except maybe cereal and dessert, and of course, a good dose of ground, black pepper. (Don't you just hate that when the waiter stops grinding over your food after just a few turns of the pepper mill? Did I say, "Stop"?)

And I have been known to eat a pound or three of milk chocolate with hazelnuts!

Conclusion

One strong bit of evidence that there is a coordinated international conspiracy against me, is that all too often, when I go to a restaurant, the vegetable of the day is broccoli! Who was it that said, "Just because I'm paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get me!"?

Bottom line: I like my food "regular"; you know, from a menu that has pictures, and is served on a placemat that has kids puzzles and drawings to color in. None of that exotic stuff for moi, thank you very much! As such, I chose not to eat in swank places. In fact, my most common up-scale dining experiences have usually been while flying in International Business Class (and on rare occasions, in First Class). Then, the selection process is usually by elimination: no shellfish, no duck, nothing I need a dictionary to figure out, and preferably not pasta. Fancy restaurants even find ways to ruin a perfectly good salad! Who stole my lettuce and replaced it with some wild rocket/arugula crap!

I'll leave you with some bits of food-related advice: not all cornflakes around the world are created equal; potato chips are not food, but they can be a food-delivery vehicle; it is okay to fry an egg on a pizza or to put pineapple pieces on it; it is possible to have too much Worcestershire sauce; breaking up chocolate or cookies does not let the calories escape; and not all red sauces are ketchup! Oh, and by the way, there is a big difference between using a capful and a cupful, especially when it comes to measuring vinegar.

Travel: Memories of Southeast England

© 2002, 2016 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

County Kent is the southeastern-most county of England. I (almost) accidentally spent a week there in December 2002, with my wife, Jenny. On one other occasion, I passed through it on the train from London to Dover, where I took a hovercraft across to France, and then a train to Paris.

When we reserved time on our calendars for a trip in December 2002, our first choice was to go to Uruguay. Given the very cheap fares United Airlines had been offering to South America, not only was I looking forward to meeting up with the friends I'd made down there during a 2-week visit a year earlier, I was also hoping for some much warmer weather, it being summer and all down there. However, that was not to be; when the time came to book, South America was no longer on sale! [Don't you just hate that when that happens?] However, London, England, was on sale, and as there are always plenty of things to do in and around that area, we made the decision to go there instead, I booked the flights, and I found a hotel, all in a matter of hours, only six days before our departure. So what if we were going to a different continent, country, and season; at least we were still going! [Remember my Travel Rule: Always have a Plan B, even for Plan B!]

[Diary] We travelled light; our luggage consisted of a full backpack and a daypack, for two people, for 10 days. We expected wintry weather, so took warm clothes. I even packed my long underwear (for which I was most grateful later on).

It was our first time flying since the Federal Government took over airport security from private contractors. Although the security line at Washington Dulles International (IAD) airport was very long, it moved quite quickly, and the inspectors were polite and most efficient. After years of having people messing around and not paying attention, and with each airport having its own idea of what a thorough search meant, it was most encouraging to see a major improvement.

We took the shuttle bus to the mid-field terminal and settled into the Red Carpet Club business lounge, where we had a light breakfast in comfort. Our flight left on time, and we were on a Boeing 767. Although it was quite old, the seats had been replaced; however, due to our last-minute booking, we were unable to get in the extended legroom section. Flying time was six hours, and we passed the time by reading. We had a huge tail wind, which brought us into London Heathrow (LHR) some 30 minutes early.

Almost all trans-Atlantic flights from the U.S. east coast depart in the evening, arriving early-to-mid-morning the next day. However, United had introduced one flight each day that departed Washington at 9:30 am, and arrived in London around 9:30 pm, local time, with the idea being that despite the 5-hour time change, one might be able to get on local time by going straight to bed on arrival. Since I hardly ever sleep at all on the night flights, I figured that this approach would be no worse, so was happy to try it.

We arrived with light drizzle falling, and soon had our luggage. We walked the long tunnels to the underground station, and immediately boarded the subway on the Piccadilly line. We got off at Earl's Court and waited for a District line train. While there, we chatted with a young German couple who were winding up their holiday. From there it was a short ride to Paddington Station, an area with which we'd become quite familiar over the years.

Before leaving home, we'd searched the Internet for a budget hotel. While doing so we came across a special winter rate, which just so happened to be for the Royal Norfolk Hotel, 100 yards from Paddington station. We'd stayed there on a number of occasions many years ago, but the price had steadily increased over the years, so we'd stopped using it. However, their internet-only rate was only £45 for a double room with en-suite, tax, and full English breakfast included, while the regular rate if one booked directly with the hotel or via a travel agent was £110! So, we'd reserved one night at the start of our trip and two more at the end.

The front desk clerk checked us in. He was a typical Brit—an Algerian who had been raised in Denmark, but was now living in London. Such is the world of the EU these days. Although it was 11 pm, local time (but only 6 pm back home), we weren't quite ready for bed, so I ventured out to a fish and chip shop several blocks away, and laid in a good-sized snack. Like all hotels and B&Bs in the UK, our room came with all the equipment and supplies for making tea and coffee, so we put that to good use as well. Lights out at 12:30 am.

[Diary] Our room faced the street, and delivery people were out awfully early, so I awoke much earlier than planned. However, we both had more than six hours of sleep. We went down to the dining room for breakfast around 8:30 am. Our waitress was a young woman from Mexico, whose husband was attending graduate school. She got bored with sitting at home, so got that job. We had the full English breakfast, since it was included in the room rate: juice, bacon, sausage, eggs, fried bread, tomato, mushrooms, toast, and the ever-present pot of tea. Way too much food at any time, let alone so early in the day.

We checked out of the hotel at 9:30 and walked the 150 yards to Paddington train station. The information office informed us that the train we wanted left from Victoria station, so we hopped on the Circle line underground for a 15minute ride.

Earlier that year, we spent a week in London with side trips to Oxford and Brighton. This time, we planned on covering the county of Kent with a short visit to the county of East Sussex, both south and east from London. We bought one-way tickets to Canterbury for £15 each, and headed off on the 2-hour trip. While no rain was in sight, it was pretty cold. We read a newspaper and watched the countryside go by.

From the station, we walked into Canterbury and located the tourist office just by the main gate to the grounds of the famous Canterbury Cathedral. As we hadn't done any advance research on what we might see or do on this trip, we made good use of these facilities. The young lady recommended the hotel built into the gate wall itself, only 50 yards away. The Cathedral Gate Hotel was 564 years old, and, yes, the manager did have a quaint twin room for us, right up in the attic, and for £46 at that, continental breakfast included. So, we checked in and proceeded to the "Rooftop" room on the top floor. The room floor had such a slope that the legs on one end of each bed had extensions fitted to them to make them horizontal. However, the table had no such modifications as I found when a teacup I placed on it almost slid off the other side. In any event, we settled in and had a cup of tea.

We walked through the cathedral grounds then bought a ticket to go inside. It was certainly something to see although I thought the outside looked poor in comparison to other churches I'd seen. We paid our respects at the site where Thomas a' Becket was killed and where his shrine stood until Henry VIII had it destroyed when he broke with Rome. Until then it had been a major drawcard for pilgrims from all over England and Europe. (Such pilgrimages were recorded in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.)

As you may know, the archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the Anglican Church. A new one, Rowan Williams, had just been appointed and was proving to be somewhat controversial. He certainly seemed to be progressive, and most days we were in country he was the subject of one newspaper article or another. Apart from allowing women to have higher ranks in the clergy, the other main issue was the separation of church and state such that Prince Charles, heir to the throne, could be allowed to marry a divorced woman. And currently, certain clergy were entitled to sit in the House of Lords, but would that continue?

It sure got dark early—before 4 pm—so we went in search of a place to eat. We finally finished up eating sitting outside a fish and chip shop, devouring a Cornish pasty and steak and kidney pie. We took some deserts and drinks back to the room. I had a long hot bath in a very deep tub that was even long enough to fit me. Then we read through some tourist information to plan the next day's activities.

[Diary] I was awake from 1–4 am, which was par for the course for trans-Atlantic crossings for me; however, I did get back to sleep until 8:15 am. As it was possible to have our breakfast delivered to our room we did so, and it arrived promptly at 8:30 am per our request. After a bowl of cornflakes, toast, and tea, we were sufficiently charged for our next expedition. However, I discovered the hard way that the electric kettle was not quite idiot-proof, and managed to scold my left thumb quite badly with a steam burn. I did manage to get my hand under cold water within seconds, and that saved a lot of pain and damage. In any event, we always travel with a first-aid kit, so no point doing that if we don't get to use it occasionally, right?

We checked out at 10:30 am. It was overcast and there was light rain. As a precaution, I wore my long underwear as the temperature was steadily dropping toward freezing. We walked a short distance to the main bus terminal and waited for about 15 minutes. Eventually, a double-decker bus arrived, the driver informed us that the best ticket was a local area day pass, and we boarded, sitting upstairs at the front, so we had a good view. The movement of the bus in that position was greatly exaggerated, and we constantly thought we were going to sideswipe cars and passengers waiting at the curb each time the bus turned. By the way, the name of the bus company was "Stagecoach".

We got off in Whitstable, a small sleepy seaside town north of Canterbury. We found some very friendly ladies in the tourist office, and then we toured the town museum, which was very well organized and interesting. This was fishing country, so many exhibits had a nautical flavor. This was the site of the first steam-powered passenger railway. We walked along the waterfront, but the cold wind made it unpleasant; however, the rain did hold off during our stop.

Next stop was Herne Bay, a little further east along the coast. By the time we arrived, the rain was back, so we quickly found a family restaurant for lunch. It had great food, great service, and great prices! I devoured sausage with onions in French bread while Jenny had sausages, chips, and peas. She also had a jam roly-poly with custard for desert, a little touch of home. And to top it off, the waitress made me her secret-recipe cafe-au-lait, of which I had two cups.

The town also had a small museum and tourist office, so we spent time there keeping dry and warm. We saw fossils of hippopotamus teeth and elephant tusks that had been excavated nearby. They dated back to a time when such critters lived in that area, which was hard to imagine given the current weather.

We walked along the waterfront for a bit to see the raging sea crashing on the beach. [Quite often, English beaches are quite stony, with large rounded pebbles everywhere. Many don't have any sand to speak of.]

From there, we took the bus onto Margate, a larger town further to the east, again on the coast. It was quite cold and windy, so we got information at the tourist office, bought some groceries, and headed for the Luxor B&B. Unfortunately, it was on a busy road, and the bedroom window leaked cold air all night, which became a problem in the middle of the night when the room heat was switched off. In any event, it was adequate as was the full breakfast; it cost £46 for the two of us.

[Diary] After breakfast, we checked out and walked back into town to the bus station. We bought a day pass and headed out, again in a double-decker bus, with a young woman driver. She dropped us off not far out of town and we walked the mile to the beach, which had real sand. It also had chalk cliffs all around. Apart from seeing the cliffs up close, we visited this place because it was named Botany Bay, the namesake of the place at which the First Fleet from England settled in Australia, in 1788. (It's part of the Sydney Harbor area.)

Rather than walk back to the same stop at which we got off, we decided to go south along the cliff tops and catch up the main road further on. Unfortunately, the bus route must have gone inland, as no bus stops or buses were ever seen. So, we had a 3-mile walk through the countryside, stopping occasionally to watch the locals at work and play. There was a busy golf course near the cliffs, a few trees, and lots of cold wind. As if getting that damned ball in the hole wasn't hard enough already! In any event, the English Channel made for quite a water hazard.

We finally got to the town of Broadstairs where we had lunch at the Prince Albert pub. From there, we took the local bus to Ramsgate, a popular summer resort with a large boat marina. We dropped into the tourist office to get information, and set off to find a place to stay. On the third try, we were lucky. Host Tony was very nice, took good care of us, and his place was on a quiet street. After a hot shower, we prepared the food we had bought, and stayed in for the evening watching TV. First, there was a most interesting documentary on ancient stone circles, then one on the development of radar in the UK, followed by an interview with David Attenborough. [Like most places we stayed in England, TV was limited to four channels.]

We slept well although I was awake for an hour in the middle of the night, during which time I finished my Agatha Christie novel.

[Diary] After our full breakfast, we checked out and walked back into the town along the waterfront. There was certainly some serious money tied up in the pleasure craft we saw. We got information on towns to the south and changed some travelers' checks at the bank. Then it was on the bus to Sandwich, home of the 4th Earl thereof (John Montagu), who invented the idea of sticking food between two slices of bread. Several stories abound as to when/how he did this: one has him playing cards, and he didn't want to get grease on them; the other has him taking lunch to work. The Earl was also the first Lord of the Admiralty in which capacity he was a sponsor of Captain James Cook, the explorer who (re)discovered Australia. It was Cook who ran into the Hawaiian Islands on one of his voyages, which he named the Sandwich Islands to honor his patron. [Cook was killed just off the Big Island, near a town that now bears the name Captain Cook.]

Sandwich was a quaint little town with half-timbered houses, narrow streets, and an old city gate and wall segments. We did the walking tour and finished up at the New Inn pub for a cup of hot chocolate and a chat with several of the locals who were having their noontime constitutional pint.

From there, we boarded the bus to Dover, again sitting upstairs in a double-decker. We had a good view of the countryside. Two big employers in the region were Pfizer chemicals and a nuclear power plant; we passed both.

In Dover, we dropped by the tourist office. Most of the B&Bs were clustered on two busy roads, so we went in search of a quiet neighborhood. On the fourth try, we found one that had a twin room for two nights. And with a multi-night rate of £40/night with full breakfast, it was a good deal. It was also close to downtown and the main tourist attraction, Dover Castle. The room had an en-suite bathroom and a double and single bed. After a rest and cup of tea in the room, we ventured out to a restaurant for dinner: bangers (sausages) and mash with peas for me, and fish and chips for Jenny. Back in our room, we watched TV and ate deserts.

[Diary] After a large and excellent breakfast, we started the steep climb up the path to Dover Castle, which although open for the most part to tourists, was still a military establishment. I especially liked not having to haul the backpack. We arrived at 10 am, opening time, and proceeded to the secret tunnels only to be told that the first tour didn't start until 11. [Don't you just hate that when that happens?] So, we got tickets for that and walked around a bit, visiting a Saxon church from around the year 1000, and a Roman lighthouse. At 11 am, we joined the guided tour of the tunnel complex that had been carved out of the chalk cliffs over the centuries. The first section was the hospital. Then came the tunnels built during the Napoleonic Wars when an invasion of England was expected. More than 2,000 troops lived down there at that time, and, apparently, more of them died from disease from living in the cold and so close to each other than died of other causes. Apparently, the lower levels were extensive, but were still classified and closed to the public. In the event of a nuclear war, it was to be used as the base for government in the southeast of England; however, the authorities have discovered that radioactivity would leech in through water coming through the porous chalk, so that idea has been abandoned.

The tunnel complex was the base from which the Dunkirk evacuation was run when the Brits were forced from continental Europe in WWII. It was only in 1985 that the Brits acknowledged the tunnels even existed, and it appeared that the Germans had not known of their existence. We then toured the old castle keep where Henry VIII dropped by for a few days to inspect his fortifications. Finally, we finished up on Admiral's Way, an observation platform that stuck out from the cliffs, from which we got our first glimpse of the White Cliffs of Dover. Despite the cold wind, the visit was well worth it, and by the time we got back home it had taken more than four hours. After a nap, we headed out for fish and chips, and then bought food to eat in the room that night. The temperature was hovering around freezing and snow had been forecast.

[Diary] At breakfast, we met a Japanese man who had been transferred to London for three years. We chatted with him and then checked out, catching the 9:35 am bus for Hastings, a coastal city in the county of East Sussex. Although there was no snow, it definitely was freezing. Throughout the 2½-hour journey, we watched from our front seat—you guessed it—upstairs in a double-decker bus.

After a short visit to the tourist office we decided that we didn't want to stay right in the city, so after a snack and hot drinks we headed for the train station where we took a 15-minute ride to the town of Battle, some six miles to the north. The Battle of Hastings actually took place there in 1066 resulting in William the Conqueror's whipping Harold, but only just. Apparently, after killing all those Saxons, William decided to build an abbey on the site as part of his penance. In the years that followed, the town of Battle grew up around Battle Abbey.

We arrived in the afternoon of the last day of a fair, and the abbey admission charge was much higher and some usual activities were unavailable, so we walked about the town and ate in our most comfortable hotel room at the rear of a restaurant. A most interesting documentary on the evolution of English after the Normal Conquest played on TV. (Did you know that the chess term "checkmate" came from Arabic via French? It means, "The King is dead".)

[Diary] Our full English breakfast was served in the restaurant and at a most respectable hour too. After that, we stowed our luggage with our host and headed for the abbey. We bought our tickets, got our audio wand, and headed out around the grounds, museum, and battlefield for a narrated tour. The audio wand allowed us to get commentary from the point of view of a Saxon soldier, a Norman knight, and Harold's wife (who was present at the battle, tending to the wounded). Of course, the two sides had different versions of the story.

At 12:30 pm, we retrieved our luggage, walked to the station, and boarded the 1-pm train for London. We got off at Tunbridge Wells where we were met by friends. We had a late lunch together and walked around the old town before departing for London on the 3:30-pm train.

The train terminated at Charring Cross station, so we walked a few blocks north to Leicester Square, home of the discount-theater ticket office. We got tickets for a performance that night then headed back to our hotel at Paddington station to check-in, unload the luggage, and to prepare for an evening of theater.

At 7:45 pm, the lights went down, the curtain went up, and George Bernard Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession began. Although it had been written in 1895, it was banned for 32 years, due to the nature of its subject matter. (Mrs. Warren and her business partners ran "houses of ill repute".) The star was Brenda Blethyn, to whom we had only recently been introduced in several movies. It was most enjoyable. We then went back home for a late gourmet supper of fish and chips with Jamaican ginger beer. What bliss!

[Diary] This was our rest day. After breakfast, we took it easy in the room, planning the day. Finally, we headed downtown where Jenny visited the Cabinet War Rooms (from which Churchill ran his end of WWII). I had seen it before, so I went on a walking tour over the Thames on a new footbridge, to the huge London Eye Ferris wheel, and around the Houses of Parliament. We met up at Westminster Abbey, and then headed back to the theater district for a matinee play. This time is was Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, which has been running non-stop for 50 years, with more than 20,000 performances. It was well cast and most enjoyable, and we were sworn to secrecy as to "who done it".

Afterwards we stopped in at a large supermarket to get food for the evening as well as candy and a Christmas pudding to take home. Back in the room, we packed our gear and settled down to an early night.

[Diary] Although the alarm was set for 4:45 am, we were awake before that. Soon after 5 am, we checked-out and walked to Paddington station where we caught the Heathrow Express train. Although it was expensive compared to the subway, it was much quicker and there was no change. At Heathrow, we were soon checked-in and seated in the Red Carpet Club lounge having a light breakfast. This time we managed to get exit seats with copious amounts of legroom, so the flight home was quite comfortable. United Airlines had declared bankruptcy a few days before, and from the quality of the meals, I could see where they were trying to save money!

As we approached Washington D.C., we were advised that freezing rain was falling and that we'd have to circle for a bit; however, we landed with little delay. Once outside we found quite a bit of snow on the ground, rain, and freezing temperatures. Despite the weather and delays, passport control was quick, our luggage came quickly, and we got a taxi without waiting. However, at home, our front entrance was covered in a layer of ice, so getting up the steps to the door was tricky. As we had a very early flight back, we were home by 1 pm local time, so, while Jenny unpacked, I got the ice and snow off of one car and went shopping to fill the empty refrigerator. We were back in the real world, with 10 days' worth of phone messages, email, and mail to handle.

Conclusion

[Diary] It was good to be back in our own place and bed; however, there was to be a distinct shortage of country sausage, bacon without large amounts of fat, and fish and chips. C'est la vie!

In the words of Mark Twain: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness".

Travel: Memories of Southeast England

© 2002, 2016 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

County Kent is the southeastern-most county of England. I (almost) accidentally spent a week there in December 2002, with my wife, Jenny. On one other occasion, I passed through it on the train from London to Dover, where I took a hovercraft across to France, and then a train to Paris.

When we reserved time on our calendars for a trip in December 2002, our first choice was to go to Uruguay. Given the very cheap fares United Airlines had been offering to South America, not only was I looking forward to meeting up with the friends I'd made down there during a 2-week visit a year earlier, I was also hoping for some much warmer weather, it being summer and all down there. However, that was not to be; when the time came to book, South America was no longer on sale! [Don't you just hate that when that happens?] However, London, England, was on sale, and as there are always plenty of things to do in and around that area, we made the decision to go there instead, I booked the flights, and I found a hotel, all in a matter of hours, only six days before our departure. So what if we were going to a different continent, country, and season; at least we were still going! [Remember my Travel Rule: Always have a Plan B, even for Plan B!]

[Diary] We travelled light; our luggage consisted of a full backpack and a daypack, for two people, for 10 days. We expected wintry weather, so took warm clothes. I even packed my long underwear (for which I was most grateful later on).

It was our first time flying since the Federal Government took over airport security from private contractors. Although the security line at Washington Dulles International (IAD) airport was very long, it moved quite quickly, and the inspectors were polite and most efficient. After years of having people messing around and not paying attention, and with each airport having its own idea of what a thorough search meant, it was most encouraging to see a major improvement.

We took the shuttle bus to the mid-field terminal and settled into the Red Carpet Club business lounge, where we had a light breakfast in comfort. Our flight left on time, and we were on a Boeing 767. Although it was quite old, the seats had been replaced; however, due to our last-minute booking, we were unable to get in the extended legroom section. Flying time was six hours, and we passed the time by reading. We had a huge tail wind, which brought us into London Heathrow (LHR) some 30 minutes early.

Almost all trans-Atlantic flights from the U.S. east coast depart in the evening, arriving early-to-mid-morning the next day. However, United had introduced one flight each day that departed Washington at 9:30 am, and arrived in London around 9:30 pm, local time, with the idea being that despite the 5-hour time change, one might be able to get on local time by going straight to bed on arrival. Since I hardly ever sleep at all on the night flights, I figured that this approach would be no worse, so was happy to try it.

We arrived with light drizzle falling, and soon had our luggage. We walked the long tunnels to the underground station, and immediately boarded the subway on the Piccadilly line. We got off at Earl's Court and waited for a District line train. While there, we chatted with a young German couple who were winding up their holiday. From there it was a short ride to Paddington Station, an area with which we'd become quite familiar over the years.

Before leaving home, we'd searched the Internet for a budget hotel. While doing so we came across a special winter rate, which just so happened to be for the Royal Norfolk Hotel, 100 yards from Paddington station. We'd stayed there on a number of occasions many years ago, but the price had steadily increased over the years, so we'd stopped using it. However, their internet-only rate was only £45 for a double room with en-suite, tax, and full English breakfast included, while the regular rate if one booked directly with the hotel or via a travel agent was £110! So, we'd reserved one night at the start of our trip and two more at the end.

The front desk clerk checked us in. He was a typical Brit—an Algerian who had been raised in Denmark, but was now living in London. Such is the world of the EU these days. Although it was 11 pm, local time (but only 6 pm back home), we weren't quite ready for bed, so I ventured out to a fish and chip shop several blocks away, and laid in a good-sized snack. Like all hotels and B&Bs in the UK, our room came with all the equipment and supplies for making tea and coffee, so we put that to good use as well. Lights out at 12:30 am.

[Diary] Our room faced the street, and delivery people were out awfully early, so I awoke much earlier than planned. However, we both had more than six hours of sleep. We went down to the dining room for breakfast around 8:30 am. Our waitress was a young woman from Mexico, whose husband was attending graduate school. She got bored with sitting at home, so got that job. We had the full English breakfast, since it was included in the room rate: juice, bacon, sausage, eggs, fried bread, tomato, mushrooms, toast, and the ever-present pot of tea. Way too much food at any time, let alone so early in the day.

We checked out of the hotel at 9:30 and walked the 150 yards to Paddington train station. The information office informed us that the train we wanted left from Victoria station, so we hopped on the Circle line underground for a 15minute ride.

Earlier that year, we spent a week in London with side trips to Oxford and Brighton. This time, we planned on covering the county of Kent with a short visit to the county of East Sussex, both south and east from London. We bought one-way tickets to Canterbury for £15 each, and headed off on the 2-hour trip. While no rain was in sight, it was pretty cold. We read a newspaper and watched the countryside go by.

From the station, we walked into Canterbury and located the tourist office just by the main gate to the grounds of the famous Canterbury Cathedral. As we hadn't done any advance research on what we might see or do on this trip, we made good use of these facilities. The young lady recommended the hotel built into the gate wall itself, only 50 yards away. The Cathedral Gate Hotel was 564 years old, and, yes, the manager did have a quaint twin room for us, right up in the attic, and for £46 at that, continental breakfast included. So, we checked in and proceeded to the "Rooftop" room on the top floor. The room floor had such a slope that the legs on one end of each bed had extensions fitted to them to make them horizontal. However, the table had no such modifications as I found when a teacup I placed on it almost slid off the other side. In any event, we settled in and had a cup of tea.

We walked through the cathedral grounds then bought a ticket to go inside. It was certainly something to see although I thought the outside looked poor in comparison to other churches I'd seen. We paid our respects at the site where Thomas a' Becket was killed and where his shrine stood until Henry VIII had it destroyed when he broke with Rome. Until then it had been a major drawcard for pilgrims from all over England and Europe. (Such pilgrimages were recorded in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.)

As you may know, the archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the Anglican Church. A new one, Rowan Williams, had just been appointed and was proving to be somewhat controversial. He certainly seemed to be progressive, and most days we were in country he was the subject of one newspaper article or another. Apart from allowing women to have higher ranks in the clergy, the other main issue was the separation of church and state such that Prince Charles, heir to the throne, could be allowed to marry a divorced woman. And currently, certain clergy were entitled to sit in the House of Lords, but would that continue?

It sure got dark early—before 4 pm—so we went in search of a place to eat. We finally finished up eating sitting outside a fish and chip shop, devouring a Cornish pasty and steak and kidney pie. We took some deserts and drinks back to the room. I had a long hot bath in a very deep tub that was even long enough to fit me. Then we read through some tourist information to plan the next day's activities.

[Diary] I was awake from 1–4 am, which was par for the course for trans-Atlantic crossings for me; however, I did get back to sleep until 8:15 am. As it was possible to have our breakfast delivered to our room we did so, and it arrived promptly at 8:30 am per our request. After a bowl of cornflakes, toast, and tea, we were sufficiently charged for our next expedition. However, I discovered the hard way that the electric kettle was not quite idiot-proof, and managed to scold my left thumb quite badly with a steam burn. I did manage to get my hand under cold water within seconds, and that saved a lot of pain and damage. In any event, we always travel with a first-aid kit, so no point doing that if we don't get to use it occasionally, right?

We checked out at 10:30 am. It was overcast and there was light rain. As a precaution, I wore my long underwear as the temperature was steadily dropping toward freezing. We walked a short distance to the main bus terminal and waited for about 15 minutes. Eventually, a double-decker bus arrived, the driver informed us that the best ticket was a local area day pass, and we boarded, sitting upstairs at the front, so we had a good view. The movement of the bus in that position was greatly exaggerated, and we constantly thought we were going to sideswipe cars and passengers waiting at the curb each time the bus turned. By the way, the name of the bus company was "Stagecoach".

We got off in Whitstable, a small sleepy seaside town north of Canterbury. We found some very friendly ladies in the tourist office, and then we toured the town museum, which was very well organized and interesting. This was fishing country, so many exhibits had a nautical flavor. This was the site of the first steam-powered passenger railway. We walked along the waterfront, but the cold wind made it unpleasant; however, the rain did hold off during our stop.

Next stop was Herne Bay, a little further east along the coast. By the time we arrived, the rain was back, so we quickly found a family restaurant for lunch. It had great food, great service, and great prices! I devoured sausage with onions in French bread while Jenny had sausages, chips, and peas. She also had a jam roly-poly with custard for desert, a little touch of home. And to top it off, the waitress made me her secret-recipe cafe-au-lait, of which I had two cups.

The town also had a small museum and tourist office, so we spent time there keeping dry and warm. We saw fossils of hippopotamus teeth and elephant tusks that had been excavated nearby. They dated back to a time when such critters lived in that area, which was hard to imagine given the current weather.

We walked along the waterfront for a bit to see the raging sea crashing on the beach. [Quite often, English beaches are quite stony, with large rounded pebbles everywhere. Many don't have any sand to speak of.]

From there, we took the bus onto Margate, a larger town further to the east, again on the coast. It was quite cold and windy, so we got information at the tourist office, bought some groceries, and headed for the Luxor B&B. Unfortunately, it was on a busy road, and the bedroom window leaked cold air all night, which became a problem in the middle of the night when the room heat was switched off. In any event, it was adequate as was the full breakfast; it cost £46 for the two of us.

[Diary] After breakfast, we checked out and walked back into town to the bus station. We bought a day pass and headed out, again in a double-decker bus, with a young woman driver. She dropped us off not far out of town and we walked the mile to the beach, which had real sand. It also had chalk cliffs all around. Apart from seeing the cliffs up close, we visited this place because it was named Botany Bay, the namesake of the place at which the First Fleet from England settled in Australia, in 1788. (It's part of the Sydney Harbor area.)

Rather than walk back to the same stop at which we got off, we decided to go south along the cliff tops and catch up the main road further on. Unfortunately, the bus route must have gone inland, as no bus stops or buses were ever seen. So, we had a 3-mile walk through the countryside, stopping occasionally to watch the locals at work and play. There was a busy golf course near the cliffs, a few trees, and lots of cold wind. As if getting that damned ball in the hole wasn't hard enough already! In any event, the English Channel made for quite a water hazard.

We finally got to the town of Broadstairs where we had lunch at the Prince Albert pub. From there, we took the local bus to Ramsgate, a popular summer resort with a large boat marina. We dropped into the tourist office to get information, and set off to find a place to stay. On the third try, we were lucky. Host Tony was very nice, took good care of us, and his place was on a quiet street. After a hot shower, we prepared the food we had bought, and stayed in for the evening watching TV. First, there was a most interesting documentary on ancient stone circles, then one on the development of radar in the UK, followed by an interview with David Attenborough. [Like most places we stayed in England, TV was limited to four channels.]

We slept well although I was awake for an hour in the middle of the night, during which time I finished my Agatha Christie novel.

[Diary] After our full breakfast, we checked out and walked back into the town along the waterfront. There was certainly some serious money tied up in the pleasure craft we saw. We got information on towns to the south and changed some travelers' checks at the bank. Then it was on the bus to Sandwich, home of the 4th Earl thereof (John Montagu), who invented the idea of sticking food between two slices of bread. Several stories abound as to when/how he did this: one has him playing cards, and he didn't want to get grease on them; the other has him taking lunch to work. The Earl was also the first Lord of the Admiralty in which capacity he was a sponsor of Captain James Cook, the explorer who (re)discovered Australia. It was Cook who ran into the Hawaiian Islands on one of his voyages, which he named the Sandwich Islands to honor his patron. [Cook was killed just off the Big Island, near a town that now bears the name Captain Cook.]

Sandwich was a quaint little town with half-timbered houses, narrow streets, and an old city gate and wall segments. We did the walking tour and finished up at the New Inn pub for a cup of hot chocolate and a chat with several of the locals who were having their noontime constitutional pint.

From there, we boarded the bus to Dover, again sitting upstairs in a double-decker. We had a good view of the countryside. Two big employers in the region were Pfizer chemicals and a nuclear power plant; we passed both.

In Dover, we dropped by the tourist office. Most of the B&Bs were clustered on two busy roads, so we went in search of a quiet neighborhood. On the fourth try, we found one that had a twin room for two nights. And with a multi-night rate of £40/night with full breakfast, it was a good deal. It was also close to downtown and the main tourist attraction, Dover Castle. The room had an en-suite bathroom and a double and single bed. After a rest and cup of tea in the room, we ventured out to a restaurant for dinner: bangers (sausages) and mash with peas for me, and fish and chips for Jenny. Back in our room, we watched TV and ate deserts.

[Diary] After a large and excellent breakfast, we started the steep climb up the path to Dover Castle, which although open for the most part to tourists, was still a military establishment. I especially liked not having to haul the backpack. We arrived at 10 am, opening time, and proceeded to the secret tunnels only to be told that the first tour didn't start until 11. [Don't you just hate that when that happens?] So, we got tickets for that and walked around a bit, visiting a Saxon church from around the year 1000, and a Roman lighthouse. At 11 am, we joined the guided tour of the tunnel complex that had been carved out of the chalk cliffs over the centuries. The first section was the hospital. Then came the tunnels built during the Napoleonic Wars when an invasion of England was expected. More than 2,000 troops lived down there at that time, and, apparently, more of them died from disease from living in the cold and so close to each other than died of other causes. Apparently, the lower levels were extensive, but were still classified and closed to the public. In the event of a nuclear war, it was to be used as the base for government in the southeast of England; however, the authorities have discovered that radioactivity would leech in through water coming through the porous chalk, so that idea has been abandoned.

The tunnel complex was the base from which the Dunkirk evacuation was run when the Brits were forced from continental Europe in WWII. It was only in 1985 that the Brits acknowledged the tunnels even existed, and it appeared that the Germans had not known of their existence. We then toured the old castle keep where Henry VIII dropped by for a few days to inspect his fortifications. Finally, we finished up on Admiral's Way, an observation platform that stuck out from the cliffs, from which we got our first glimpse of the White Cliffs of Dover. Despite the cold wind, the visit was well worth it, and by the time we got back home it had taken more than four hours. After a nap, we headed out for fish and chips, and then bought food to eat in the room that night. The temperature was hovering around freezing and snow had been forecast.

[Diary] At breakfast, we met a Japanese man who had been transferred to London for three years. We chatted with him and then checked out, catching the 9:35 am bus for Hastings, a coastal city in the county of East Sussex. Although there was no snow, it definitely was freezing. Throughout the 2½-hour journey, we watched from our front seat—you guessed it—upstairs in a double-decker bus.

After a short visit to the tourist office we decided that we didn't want to stay right in the city, so after a snack and hot drinks we headed for the train station where we took a 15-minute ride to the town of Battle, some six miles to the north. The Battle of Hastings actually took place there in 1066 resulting in William the Conqueror's whipping Harold, but only just. Apparently, after killing all those Saxons, William decided to build an abbey on the site as part of his penance. In the years that followed, the town of Battle grew up around Battle Abbey.

We arrived in the afternoon of the last day of a fair, and the abbey admission charge was much higher and some usual activities were unavailable, so we walked about the town and ate in our most comfortable hotel room at the rear of a restaurant. A most interesting documentary on the evolution of English after the Normal Conquest played on TV. (Did you know that the chess term "checkmate" came from Arabic via French? It means, "The King is dead".)

[Diary] Our full English breakfast was served in the restaurant and at a most respectable hour too. After that, we stowed our luggage with our host and headed for the abbey. We bought our tickets, got our audio wand, and headed out around the grounds, museum, and battlefield for a narrated tour. The audio wand allowed us to get commentary from the point of view of a Saxon soldier, a Norman knight, and Harold's wife (who was present at the battle, tending to the wounded). Of course, the two sides had different versions of the story.

At 12:30 pm, we retrieved our luggage, walked to the station, and boarded the 1-pm train for London. We got off at Tunbridge Wells where we were met by friends. We had a late lunch together and walked around the old town before departing for London on the 3:30-pm train.

The train terminated at Charring Cross station, so we walked a few blocks north to Leicester Square, home of the discount-theater ticket office. We got tickets for a performance that night then headed back to our hotel at Paddington station to check-in, unload the luggage, and to prepare for an evening of theater.

At 7:45 pm, the lights went down, the curtain went up, and George Bernard Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession began. Although it had been written in 1895, it was banned for 32 years, due to the nature of its subject matter. (Mrs. Warren and her business partners ran "houses of ill repute".) The star was Brenda Blethyn, to whom we had only recently been introduced in several movies. It was most enjoyable. We then went back home for a late gourmet supper of fish and chips with Jamaican ginger beer. What bliss!

[Diary] This was our rest day. After breakfast, we took it easy in the room, planning the day. Finally, we headed downtown where Jenny visited the Cabinet War Rooms (from which Churchill ran his end of WWII). I had seen it before, so I went on a walking tour over the Thames on a new footbridge, to the huge London Eye Ferris wheel, and around the Houses of Parliament. We met up at Westminster Abbey, and then headed back to the theater district for a matinee play. This time is was Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, which has been running non-stop for 50 years, with more than 20,000 performances. It was well cast and most enjoyable, and we were sworn to secrecy as to "who done it".

Afterwards we stopped in at a large supermarket to get food for the evening as well as candy and a Christmas pudding to take home. Back in the room, we packed our gear and settled down to an early night.

[Diary] Although the alarm was set for 4:45 am, we were awake before that. Soon after 5 am, we checked-out and walked to Paddington station where we caught the Heathrow Express train. Although it was expensive compared to the subway, it was much quicker and there was no change. At Heathrow, we were soon checked-in and seated in the Red Carpet Club lounge having a light breakfast. This time we managed to get exit seats with copious amounts of legroom, so the flight home was quite comfortable. United Airlines had declared bankruptcy a few days before, and from the quality of the meals, I could see where they were trying to save money!

As we approached Washington D.C., we were advised that freezing rain was falling and that we'd have to circle for a bit; however, we landed with little delay. Once outside we found quite a bit of snow on the ground, rain, and freezing temperatures. Despite the weather and delays, passport control was quick, our luggage came quickly, and we got a taxi without waiting. However, at home, our front entrance was covered in a layer of ice, so getting up the steps to the door was tricky. As we had a very early flight back, we were home by 1 pm local time, so, while Jenny unpacked, I got the ice and snow off of one car and went shopping to fill the empty refrigerator. We were back in the real world, with 10 days' worth of phone messages, email, and mail to handle.

Conclusion

[Diary] It was good to be back in our own place and bed; however, there was to be a distinct shortage of country sausage, bacon without large amounts of fat, and fish and chips. C'est la vie!

In the words of Mark Twain: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness".

Signs of Life: Part 7

© 2016 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

From time to time during my travels, I come across signs that I find interesting for one reason or another. Sometimes, they contain clever writing, are humorous, or remind me of some place or event. Here are some more, from trips to Italy, Jordan, and France.

 

Remember the good old Circus Maximus? It was the Roman equivalent of a modern-day Gran Prix, just with chariots instead of racing cars. Well, this road runs right by that site in Rome.

 

In 2009, I walked the full length of where the track used to be. In several places, I came across pieces of coconut husks, which I thought might have been dropped by African swallows on their way to England. (See Monty Python's "Holy Grail" for details.)

 

Now the address of this house is 110 G. Capellini Street, in the Italian coastal town of Porto Venere. However, the PEEK A BOO bit seems to have been a flourish added by the builder or the owner.

 

I unexpectedly stayed in that town for three nights. I was on my way to the famous Cinque Terre towns nearby, but couldn't get there due to a rail strike. So, I took a bus to Porto Venere instead, where I had a wonderful time. Some days later, I took a ferry up the coast to where I'd originally planned to be.

 

In travel (and in life), always have a Plan B, even for Plan B!

 

The Pirate's Café in the quaint town of Vernazza, in the famous Cinque Terre, on the northwest coast of Italy. I was based in that town during my hikes between the five towns.

Although I went by this cafe on numerous occasions, I never saw any people with eyepatches, peg legs, cutlasses, or striped shirts. Perhaps they were all out to sea!

 

BTW, pasticceria is Italian for pastry shop.

 

A sign on the trail between Vernazza and Corniglia in the Cinque Terre towns.

These were present every kilometer or so and were accompanied by some sort of box for emergency communications. Given the very rugged nature of the trail, it wasn't at all clear to me how one might be evacuated in a real emergency.

 

I say, "Beware of any train station that you must enter through a Tunnel of Love."

 

From a Cinque Terre town.

 

The sign says it all, don't you think?

 

A convenience store in the suburbs of Amman, Jordan.

Don't forget to read it right-to-left; it's Arabic!

 

BTW, the Greeks founded Amman, but they called it Philadelphia.

 

Being a non-recovering potato chip-aholic, this delivery van caught my eye. However, on closer inspection, the writing said something like, "The chips are all locked in a safe, and the driver does not have the key!"

 

In the suburbs of Amman, Jordan.

 

Sound too good to be true? I'd read the fine print if I were you!

 

In the suburbs of Amman, Jordan.

 

The JET Bus Terminal in Amman, Jordan.

 

Can you read the list of destinations? Me neither, which is why I had a Palestinian guide with me. In Arabic, he asked for two tickets to Petra, and after much smiling and such, we paid and boarded a bus, supposedly headed for that place. Imagine my surprise when we drove right by the exit to that old city, and went right on to Aqaba on the Red Sea coast! Don't you hate that when that happens! Well, four hours and a US$50-taxi ride later, we arrived at Petra. C'est la vie! Or as they say in Arabic, "إنها الحياة!"

 

Literally, "A Christmas Market", in Caen, in Normandy, France.

 

BTW, in French, Santa Clause is Père Noël, which literally is Father Christmas, the name used throughout the British Commonwealth.

 

From Caen, in Normandy, France.

 

"Put Fifi and Fido's droppings in the bag provided, if you please!"

 

Some advice from the French in Caen.

 

Roughly translated from the French, "Here lies William the Conqueror; may he Rise if Possible!"

In the Abbaye-aux-Hommes in Caen, in Normandy, France.

 

As I paid my respects, I said, 'Bill you wouldn't believe how the Brits have let things go since your time! Except for the Channel Islands, they don't even own Normandy anymore! And as for their international cricket team, well "girly men" comes to mind!'

 

Okay, let me see if I have this correct: I can confess my sins between 18:00 and 19:00, on Mondays with Father Brillaud, and on Tuedays through Fridays with Father Cheese!

 

A French drinking establishment called—yes it's the same in English—Vertigo, which doesn't seem at all like an enticing name for such a place. "Step right in and get dizzy and lose your balance wth us!"

 

A French "Pleasure Partner" condom (préservatif) vending machine, from inside the confessional mentioned earlier!

 

 

Travel: Airports

© 2016 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

When it comes to airports, "When you've seen one, you've seen them all" hardly applies. They range from a single, small hut manned only a short time each day, to small cities open 24x7! And many of them provide places to eat, drink, sleep, shop, get a massage, and pray. [BTW, I'm of an age where I knew the word aerodrome before I knew the word airport.]

Looking at my flight log, in my 46+ years of air travel, I've spent time in 166 different airports, which sounds a lot, but isn't when you consider how many thousands there are in the world. Those airports were spread around 51 different countries or territories. I've had more than 1,380 point-to-point flights, many of them out only, many in-only, and quite a few for a short layover. That's about 30/year all told, but as I hardly flew in the first eight of those years, the annual count is closer to 40, which is one every nine days. I've also spent more than 500 8-hour days-worth of time getting to, getting from, or being at airports. At 50 working weeks/year, that's about 2 years.

In this installment, I'll comment on some of the airports through which I've passed.

[For details of my flight log, runway designations, and the phonetic alphabet used by air-traffic controllers and pilots, click here.]

Naming Conventions

As commercial air travel became popular, an international system for naming airports became necessary. (We don't want to confuse San Jose, California, with San Jose, Costa Rica, for example.) The system you see used on your luggage tags is the 3-character alphabetic IATA code from the International Air Transport Association. This allows for 17,576 (as in 26 to the third power) possibilities. [If you've ever had such a tag read LTB, that probably meant "Lose This Bag". Just kidding, or am I?] An alternate system—hey, you gotta have competition, right?—is the 4-character, alphanumeric ICAO code from the International Civil Aviation Organization. Throughout this article, I'll use the IATA code only.

For a list of airports and their IATA and ICAO codes, click here.

The vast majority of the codes for the airports I have visited are quite obvious, when looking at the English-language spelling of the cities/areas in which they occur. For example, ADL (Adelaide, Australia), DEN (Denver, Colorado, US), KUL (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), OSL (Oslo, Norway), VIE (Vienna, Austria), and ZRH (Zurich, Switzerland). That said, there are more than a few that are not at all obvious, cryptic, or seemingly arbitrary. For example: ARN (Stockholm, Sweden), OOL (Gold Coast/Coolongatta, Australia), ORD (Chicago's O'Hare, Illinois, US), and YYZ (Toronto, Ontario, Canada).

In the early days of flight in the US, numerous aerodromes had weather stations, and the US National Weather Service had a 2-letter code to indicate US cities. Some US airports adopted that 2-letter code, and added a suffix X to make three letters. Examples include LAX (Los Angeles, California) and PHX (Phoenix, Arizona).

Now Canada has a fairly simple scheme: All Canadian airports have an IATA code that begins with Y, except when they don't; got it? The system seemed quite regular until I stumbled on a handful of radicals daring to begin with other letters. (Actually, there is "some method in their madness"; the Y prefix indicates, "Yes, this airport is near a weather station".)

Some Airports I have Graced

The airports listed here are in English order of their IATA code:

ACV – Arcata/Eureka, California, US: As Wikipedia states, "The airport was built by the United States Navy during World War II to test defogging systems." Well, I got to experience firsthand the thick fog there when my departure was delayed, and I missed my connection in SFO.

ADL – Adelaide, Australia: This was the departure point of my first-ever jet flight, on a Being 727, for a 1-week business trip to SYD (Sydney), at the ripe old age of 17! (It's possible that I flew in a light aircraft prior to that, but I have no memory of doing so.)

AKL – Auckland, New Zealand: I've been to NZ once, for a couple of hours, on a layover to Australia. And this airport was almost all I saw of that country, except for a bit on takeoff as dawn was breaking. Apparently, there is more to NZ than AKL!

AMS – Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Known as Schiphol, it is built where there used to be a large lake, on which ships sometimes sank during storms. (The word Schiphol means "ship grave".) Here, more than 20 years ago, I was subjected to a very long "interview" by a gate agent who wasn't at all convinced I was travelling on business, just because I was wearing hiking clothes and carrying a full-size backpack.

AYQ – Yulara, Australia: My first time in and out of this airport was on a small, private plane. At that time, there was no manned air-traffic control, just a set of rules as to how pilots announced themselves and gave priority to larger planes. Now that jet traffic is common, it's became a real airport. Yulara is the town that serves the very popular tourist destinations of Ayers Rock and The Olgas, which are now known by their Aboriginal names Uluru and Kata Tjuta, respectively. If you are looking for a unique experience to a remote place, this would be a candidate.

BGR – Bangor, Maine, US: This airport rates Number 4 on my list of frequented airports with around 90 times in and out. [For many years, I worked on a computer system for a paper company in central Maine.] Commercial aviation shares the 11,400-foot runway with the refueling-tanker wing of the Maine Air National Guard. It is a common jumping-off point for military passenger charter flights to/from Europe. If you want a reason not to go to BGR, see the movie The Langoliers from the book by Stephen King.

BOM – Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India: Due to its location with respect to the world's time zones, long-distance flights often arrive and depart here in the very early hours of the morning. I well remember having to go through numerous "layers" of staff, each of which seemed to have no purpose but to pass me along to the next person. (Perhaps it was a way to keep people employed!) A large and rather imposing security guard eyed a nice ballpoint pen I had in my possession, and he seemed to suggest it would be good if I made a gift of it to him. I hesitated, and after a very long pause, he offered to swap it with a third-rate pen he had. In the interests of getting into the country, I agreed.

BOS – Boston,     Massachusetts, US: This airport rates Number 2 on my list of frequented airports with around 200 times in and out. [For some years, I provided services to a company in the area; I also changed planes there when flying to/from BGR.] At one time, Boston had a problem with teenage pregnancy, and on the walls of some of the jet ways was a poster showing a very-pregnant girl, with the following text: "Make sure your daughter learns how to add and subtract before she learns how to multiply!" This airport is right next to the sea, and fog and/or low cloud sometimes occurs, and when one looks out the window one can only see water. On one approach, the pilot aborted the landing and then announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we seem to have missed the runway; I'm going to go around and try that again!" My long-term consulting client in Central Maine had its own twin-engine, prop plan, which sometimes flew to BOS. I rode it several times, once sitting in the co-pilot's seat. Landing at a major international airport and seeing it from the cockpit is much more interesting than seeing out a side window when sitting in the back.

CAJ – Canaima, Venezuela: This is the airport that serves the area around Angel Falls, the tallest in the world. Now to visit the falls, one might well expect to have to pay serious money to a local tour group, and that certainly was possible, if one wanted to get there by river. However, the friendly Captain of my Avensa airlines Boeing 727-100 gave us a treat. He flew low over the airport (presumably to let the staff know he was in the area) and then headed for the falls. As we raced up the valley at the same level as the point at which the falls began, he asked those passengers on the other side of the plane to take their seats, as he was going to do a U-turn and come back, so they could get a good look out their windows! [The 727-100 was the original, short-body version, but with its large engines, seemed to me like a VW Bug with a 12-cylinder engine! Having been discontinued in 1972, that model was no longer used in first-world countries.]

CGN – Cologne-Bonn, Germany: I went there once, but I didn't actually arrive by plane! I had a ticket from the US to CGN, via FRA (Frankfurt), which is only 85 miles away. To my surprise, the leg to CGN was actually on a train!

CPH – Copenhagen, Denmark: While it's a fine airport, for me, the highlight of flying into CPH is seeing the formation of wind turbines out in the sea. They look like "poetry in motion".

CUZ – Cuzco, Peru: This is the jumping off point for the famous Incan city of Machu Picchu. The main thing of interest is the airport's elevation, high up in the Andes at 10,860 feet (3,310 meters). While in the area, I learned firsthand about altitude sickness!

CVG – Cincinnati, Ohio: This airport is actually across the Ohio River in the state of Kentucky! It is named for nearby Covington.

DCA – Washington DC - National (now Ronald Reagan), Virginia, US: This airport rates Number 3 on my list of frequented airports with around 105 times in and out. (I've lived in the greater DC area for the past 37 years.)

DEN – Denver, Colorado, US: Originally, this was the designation of the Stapleton International Airport, but the code was reassigned to Denver International Airport when that was built. For a while, the new airport was known (at least informally) as DIA.

DMK – Don Mueang International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand: What I remember most about this airport was the large number of very short, heavily-armed soldiers on guard. It was July 1979, and the country was under military control, again. It was a bit of a surprise, but I didn't feel at all unsafe. [In 2006, a new international airport, BKK, went into service.]

EWR – Newark, New Jersey, US: This is one of the airports that serves New York City. As the US Navy reserves airport codes beginning with N, this code is made from other letters of the location's name.

EZE – Buenos Aires, Argentina: Its code comes from its being in the area of the city called Ezeiza.

FCO – Rome, Italy: I first landed at Leonardo da Vinci International in 1979. By the time we reached the end of our runway on landing, we were "way out in the vineyards", and took some 20 minutes to taxi to the terminal. It was my first time in Europe!

FRA – Frankfurt, Germany: This airport truly is a city that never sleeps! The first time I departed from there, in 1981, armed security people were very prominent, and German-Shephard dogs sniffed everybody and everything. (Think Baader-Meinhof Group/Red Army Faction.) It was a little bit intimidating. One time I arrived late and my in-coming plane went right by my out-going plane onto another terminal some distance away. By the time I got back to my next gate, my next plane had already departed, so I had to spend the night at an airport hotel. Nowadays when I depart FRA on a flight to elsewhere in Europe, the departure gate actually leads to a bus that takes the passengers a kilometer or more out to the plane.

HKG – Hong Kong: When I flew there in 1979, this code designated the old Kai Tak Airport, which is right at the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula, opposite Hong Kong Island. On takeoff or landing, one seemed to be flying between high-rise buildings. This was the destination of my first ever international flight.This code now designates the new Chek Lap Kok airport, which is located on an island some distance out of the city.

IAD – Washington DC - Dulles International, Virginia, US: This airport rates Number 1 on my list of frequented airports with around 300 times in and out. (I've lived in the greater DC area for past 37 years.) It is named for John Foster Dulles. I think that IAD might have been the first new airport designed for commercial jets. As such, it was built "way out in the country" as were many later airports. It serviced Concorde flights from London and Paris. At IAD, I once had the great pleasure of being "sniffed by a Beagle dog" that was searching among passengers and their hand luggage for fruit, vegetables and/or contraband.

ITO – Hilo, Hawaii, US: There are a number of theories about the code of this Big-Island airport. One goes like this: "Hilo Airport was called ITO after one of the first Hawaiian Airlines Hilo Airport station managers: "Mr. Ito." I flew out of there in 1982 on a plane with an unusual configuration. The front half was filled with passengers while the back half was filled with flowers (mostly orchids, I believe) headed for the US West Coast flower market.

IVL – Ivalo, Finland. This is the northernmost airport in the country, in the heart of Lapland, and it is the furthest north I've ever been. The Finnair Jet had its own retractable stairs, and the terminal was a small, log cabin. As we waited for our luggage, a large reindeer came out of the forest to welcome us and to stand still for photos.

JFK – New York City, US: This was my first stop in the US when I arrived from London in 1979. It was formerly known as IDL (Idlewild), and was renamed for President John Fitzgerald Kennedy after his assassination.

KEF – Keflavík airport, Iceland: Previously, the main airport for Reykjavík was RKV, which is close to the city. When I visited in 1987, I landed at the new airport, but all the car rental agencies and the hotel were still at the old airport, so the airport bus shuttled me between the two airports. During the ride, I recall seeing a sign for a "Texas BBQ" place. Later, I learned that KEF is shared with a US Air Force base. [RKV remains in service as a domestic airport.]

LAS – Las Vegas, Nevada, US: Only here would you find slot machines in the terminals, and you can hear them as soon as you get off the plane. I also discovered they have no airline lounges; instead, they want you there gambling while you wait.

LCY – London City, UK: Reachable on the Docklands Light Rail from the Tube, this small airport is just the thing for a quick trip to the Continent. The single runway is on a long, narrow dock between two waterways.

LGW – London Gatwick, UK: My one flight out of there was in 1979, to New York City in the US. It was on one of Sir Freddy Laker's "SkyTrain" DC10s. He was a pioneer of "no-frills" flying, and the flight cost US$99. Passengers were encouraged to bring along their own food.

LHR – London Heathrow, UK: This place is huge, and I can imagine it being intimidating to the novice traveler. The quick/expensive way to/from the city is on the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station. The slow/cheaper way is on the Piccadilly Tube line.

LIN – Milan Linate, Italy: Known for fog, I had a flight out that was delayed sufficiently that I missed my connection in Frankfurt to the US. During one trip there, the taxi driver asked me if I was in town for the fashion show. I looked down at my hiking clothes and boots and wondered just what sort of a fashion show it was.

MCO – Orlando, Florida, US: This is the jumping-off point for Disney World, Cape Kennedy, and many other interesting places to visit. It was formerly the McCoy Strategic Air Command (SAC) air-force base. Soon after I got my first video camera, I shot video on a family vacation at Disney World. Not being used to having a large camera bag, I accidentally left it on the mobile lounge that took me to my plane. In a panic, I went back to the main terminal where someone had turned it in.

MEL – Melbourne, Australia: Also known as Tullamarine Airport. In early 1970, before I got my first professional job, I worked a while at a plastics-extrusion company. One of its contracts was to make the tinted, hemispherical covers for all the light poles around the airport. I was the one making them.

MEX – Mexico City, Mexico: What a polluted city! The clouds were quite brown/yellow as I descended to this airport.

NAN – Nadi, Fiji: Pronounced "Nandi", it's at the complete other end of the main island, a long way from the capital, Suva. On my flight out to Australia, I met a very drunk, young man from Germany who insisted I correct his English if he made any mistakes. When I questioned him about this he told me that he had been travelling for many months with a large wooden trunk, and someone had told him the English name for a large wooden box was a coffin. So, he'd been telling people he was traveling around the Pacific with his coffin!

NRT – Tokyo Narita, Japan: This was a very controversial construction project in the 1960s with many—even violent—demonstrations. As I usually stay in/near Ueno Park, I find the (private) Keisei train to Ueno very convenient and not-so-busy. There's an express or local version, with different prices. When NRT was built, its international flights took over from HND, and most domestic/short-haul flights stayed at HND. However, both airports now support both international and regional flights.

OGG – Maui's Kahului Airport, Hawaii, US: The code comes from a well-respected pilot called Bertram J. Hogg.

OOL – Gold Coast, Australia: The code is derived from the airport's former name, Coolangatta.

ORD – Chicago O'Hare, Illinois, US: The world's busiest airport—a title it generally alternates with ATL (Atlanta, Georgia, US)— w.r.t the number of takeoffs and landings, it was my home base for my first year in the US. It has eight runways. Formerly called Orchard Field Airport.

ORF – Norfolk, Virginia, US: The US Navy reserves airport codes starting with "N", hence the "ORF".

OSL – Oslo, Norway: After I'd checked my luggage for a flight to London, at security, I discovered I had a Swiss-Army knife in my carry-on bag. Fortunately, it was a slow Saturday afternoon, and the friendly security man smiled and said he "could take care of it" and he did! He found a cardboard box, put the knife in it, got my flight information from my ticket, put that on a label, and told me to pick it up in London. Later, at the check-in gate, the gate agent called for a Mr. Jaeschke to come to the counter. My first thought was that it was something to do with my knife. But no, the agent just wanted to tell me he was upgrading me to Business Class, if that was OK. Sure enough, box and knife came out on the carousel at LHR.

PEK – Beijing City, China: Named after Peking, the former English name for that city. In 2015, I unexpectedly took off from there to the US two days in a row! On the first day, an hour into the flight, the pilot informed us there was a mechanical problem and that we'd be turning around and going back. After hours waiting on the ground, I finally got to a nearby hotel. The next day's flight left without incident, so five weeks later, I went back and tried it again. (Yes, I really did have two conferences there, five weeks apart!)

PER – Perth, Australia: In 2003, which was well after 9/11, I went through security with a large VHS video camera in its bag. The checker couldn't tell what was in the camera bag, so he asked another agent to check it. When I informed him it contained a spare, solid, old-style battery, he said "No problem" and waved me through without actually looking in the bag. I was stunned at his complete lack of attention to detail.

PNS – Pensacola/Gulf Coast, Florida, US: As my flight approached, it appeared that half the area's house roofs were bright blue. And as we got lower, I could see they were large tarpaulins (presumably provided by the US Army and/or emergency services) after Hurricane Ivan had been through.

PUQ – Punta Arenas, Chile: This is at the southern-most tip of continental South America, and is the jumping-off point to the Andean glacier national parks.

RGL – Rio Gallegos, Argentina: This was the endpoint of my 10-day trip across the Patagonia. In the weeks preceding, a volcano had erupted and its ash had caused the cessation of flight from this airport. However, by the time I got there, it was operational.

SAB – Saba, Northern Netherlands Antilles: As Wikipedia states, "The airport … has one of the shortest commercial runways in the world … flanked on one side by high hills, with cliffs that drop into the sea at both ends." As such, only Short TakeOff and Landing (STOL) propeller aircraft can use it. It's built on the only flat piece of land on the small island. And yes, the guy who checks you in and carries the bags to the plane, is also your pilot!

SAN – San Diego, California, US: One day as I was driving on the road between the airport and the sea, a barrier came around to block traffic. As I looked to the water, I saw a propeller-driven, amphibious, passenger plane drive up a concrete ramp and then cross the road to the airport. Not something you see every day!

SNA – Santa Ana/Orange County, California, US: Also known as "John Wayne Airport". A nine-foot bronze statue of him dressed in western garb, complete with 6-shooter, stands at the entrance. Having seen it, I can cross it off my list of "10 things to do before I die!"

SPU – Split, Croatia: This is the jumping-off-point for those heading south down the Dalmatian Coast.

SXM – St. Maarten, Northern Netherlands Antilles: It is officially called Princess Juliana International Airport, which puzzled me, as it was not built before Juliana became Queen of the Netherlands. However, when she abdicated in favor of her daughter, Beatrix, she took back the title Princess, and the airport was named after her later on. Aircraft Spotters love to stand outside the fence at the end of the runway and watch wide bodies take off right over their heads.

TLV – Tel Aviv, Israel: I remember it well for two reasons: The approach for landing and the security on departure. I was on a Lufthansa Boeing 747 and we were only hundreds of feet above the runway when the pilot pushed all four engine throttles open and we took off and circled around to land safely on the same runway some 15 minutes later. No explanation was given, but all I could think off was that someone was firing rockets at the airport! On out-bound flights, it's normal to be at the airport at least three hours before a flight, and I used most of that time getting through security. I think part of the reason was that I'd come in that morning from neighboring Jordan. My luggage was X-rayed every possible way and my hand luggage checked, re-checked, and checked again.

TXL – Berlin Tegel, Germany: It is scheduled to be closed when BER (Berlin Brandenburg Airport) opens. Along with THF (Tempelhof)—which is now decommissioned—it played a major role in the Berlin Airlift.

YYC – Calgary, Alberta, Canada: I was taking off in a Boeing 727 when there was a very loud "bang", after which the engines slowed down. The Captain informed us, "due to a high cross-wind, the top engine's compressor had stalled, so I'm going to restart it and try again". From the looks on their faces, I think many of the passengers were thinking, "Maybe we should go back to the terminal and find another plane!"

Conclusion

As to which city/metro area has the most commercial airports, I think London, UK, wins. It has Gatwick, Heathrow, London City, Luton, Southend, and Stansted.

As I was researching this article, I found that Wilkins Runway in the Australian Antarctic Territory rated an ICAO code, but not one for IATA, so what is used on luggage tags for baggage that goes there? Perhaps that's where lost luggage goes!

By the way, if you are travelling with kids and there is the possibility of being at an airport for many hours, bring something along for them to do! In my family's case, we travelled with a deck of UNO cards. And once all the bored kids in our part of the terminal saw how much fun we were having, they came over and joined us. It was like an UNO version of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, except I had no desire to take any of the kids home with me.

And just in case you were wondering, there is an airport AAA (in French Polynesia). However, I couldn't find a ZZZ.

Travel: Memories of Cornwall and Devon

© 2012 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

For many years, I'd been interested in visiting Cornwall, the southwestern-most county of England, and I finally got to do that in 2012. During that visit, I finished up having several spare days at the end, and when I asked a biking couple where they recommend I go, they immediately said, "Why Devon, of course". So, I went!

[Diary] I checked out [of my London hotel] at 9:15 am and stepped out into an overcast day with heavy cloud cover. There were people everywhere, many of whom were headed to or from the train station or one of several Tube entrances nearby. In the train station, I found a ticket machine that informed me that a regular one-way ticket from Paddington to Penzance was £132. That was a huge shock as I'd been online a few days earlier and found that the cheapest tickets cost £52! So, I went to the ticket office and got at the end of the long line. Fortunately, it moved quite quickly and soon I was talking to a real human, who was very polite and knowledgeable. He quickly ascertained that I'd be returning within 30 days, and sold me a Super Off-Peak return ticket for £97.50. And not only was that cheaper than I'd expected, he told me I could use the return over several days on my way back. The automated ticket machine didn't offer me anything like that; bloody robots!

As I still had 25 minutes before my train departed, I nipped into the Sainsbury's supermarket where I rescued some emergency rations for the 5-hour trip. These consisted of a small block of Cadbury's nut milk chocolate, a pint of whole milk, a bag of Maynard's Wine Gums, and a pack of Roundtree's Fruit Pastilles. This covered the essential food groups.

At 9:50, I went to Platform 8 to board the 10:06 to Penzance. Not having a reserved seat, I had to ride in Carriage E where I found an aisle seat facing forwards, at a table. Apparently, Friday morning was a very busy time on that route, and there were few empty seats and lots of luggage. We headed out on time with the sun threatening to break through the clouds. The main stations on my route, in order, were as follows: Reading, Exeter, Plymouth, Truro, and the end of the line, Penzance.

I chatted with a number of people around me, several of whom were Irish with tick (as in thick) accents. Soon after we started, a man announced in an entertaining way that as the wrong catering carriage had been hooked up, the kitchen was operating with only a small grill, so the choices of cooked food would be limited. The people at my table agreed that would be acceptable so long as the caviar and champagne were cold!

By the time we arrived in Penzance, we'd slipped 10 minutes behind schedule and the weather had deteriorated. There was a slow, but steady drizzle. I stopped in at the Tourist Information office to get some maps and brochures, and I had a very pleasant chat with the two older ladies working there. Although they could arrange accommodation, I declined as I had a list of B&Bs I'd try. After all, it was out of season and raining, so who in their right mind would be coming to Penzance to stay that weekend?

Who indeed! I walked some distance getting wetter by the minute, until I located my Number 1 choice. I was greeted with a response that had the following meaning: "Frightfully sorry old chap, but we're booked out. Lots of people in town for the weekend, don't you know!" Well the six neighboring B&Bs also has "No Vacancy" signs out, and as it was now after closing time at the Tourist Office, I was on my own. So, it was on to Plan B. I decided to walk to another place I'd read about online, but of course that too was full as were its five neighboring B&Bs. I was starting to observe a pattern, so I stopped off at a Guest House only to find it had closed. That was Plan C. However, right next door and directly across the street from the harbor was the swank-looking Beachfield Hotel, and that became Plan D.

As soon as I entered, I knew it would be a budget buster, but I was wet and tired. Yes, the hostess could accommodate me for two nights, but at a price slightly higher than my London hotel. Of course, it would include a full/buffet breakfast and she'd be ever so happy to take a credit card. I asked to look at the room and we ascended several sets of stairs to a very nice room right out the back that just happened to overlook an overgrown block with lots of construction debris and abandoned stuff. Ah, the ambience of England by the sea! Fearing that my choices were lessening, as I got wetter, I signed up for two nights and settled into my room where I used the electric kettle to make a cup of coffee. I ate my left-over breakfast sandwich and a biscuit (cookie that is) while watching some TV. Light rain continued and I was ready for a quiet evening.

I fired up my netbook computer and brought this diary up to date. Although I had free wifi internet access, the signal was blocked by the heavy fire doors leading to my room, so after a nice hot shower I went downstairs to a sitting room where I connected to the outside world. A flood of email arrived of which about half was spam. I took care of the important stuff before visiting a few websites. Then I moved to the formal lounge where I went through the brochures from the tourist office as well as the books and guides at the hotel, to make a plan for the next day.

[Diary] At 8:15 am, I took a seat in the dining room and read a newspaper while toast and tea were served. My custom-made, cooked breakfast consisted of pork sausage, bacon, fried tomato, and scrambled egg topped with a sprig of parsley. It was served on a rather artsy square plate. Presentation really does matter! I am happy to report that it tasted every bit as good as it looked, and there were no leftovers. I took a full hour, and the morning sun shone full on me through the window.

The bad weather had passed and there was plenty of blue sky and sunshine behind the clouds. I walked to the bus terminal where I found the coastal trail. The initial section of the path was anything but interesting. It was concrete with a man-made seawall to one side, and railway tracks and 4-lane highway on the other. Soon after, I caught up with two older men who were hiking with full packs. We walked and talked for some time. They were hiking a 600-mile coastal trail, three days at a time. Quite a few people were out with their dogs.

My destination was the neighboring town Marazion, which according to different sources was 1½, 2½, or 3 miles away. This quaint little market town was chartered in 1257 by Henry III. The reason to be there was the island a half-mile offshore. St. Michael's Mount (a smaller version of Mont Saint Michel in France, which I had visited several years earlier) consists of a fortress, priory, and harbor, not to mention a stately castle/home on the summit. Unfortunately, I discovered that it was open every day but Saturday, today. As such, no shops or restaurants on the island were open and no ferries ran. Bugger! It wasn't all bad news, however. A hand-laid stone causeway joined the island to the mainland over which vehicles and pedestrians could walk at low tide, which was to happen at 1:30 pm. To pass the time I walked around the town and sat in the sun chatting to a number of retired couples and a Chinese student. Lunch consisted of a cold pint of whole milk, which as the container declared came from "healthy, happy Cornish cows".

As the tide went out more of the causeway appeared and we tourists moved further and further along it until some large waves sent us scurrying back a bit. A few people had wading boots and they walked through a foot of water. A few brave souls took off their shoes and socks, and rolled up their trouser legs and followed. Frankly, there was little to see on the island as everything was behind the fence and required an admission ticket on open days. By the way, the original owners, who donated the island and improvements to the National Trust some 60 years ago, have a 999-year lease to keep living in the castle.

I decided to forego the bus and to walk back to Penzance. Along the way, there was a large marsh, which attracted a large variety of birds. The bird watchers were out in force watching with binoculars and taking photos. Along the banks were many holes near which wascally wabbits sat sunbathing.

I arrived back in Penzance just after 3:30 pm and immediately spied the Iceland Supermarket, which I'd heard sold most things much cheaper than others, so I went in to see what I could rescue. First up, I saw giant packets of Maynard's Wine Gums @ 2 for £4. Sold! A quart of whole milk was only 90p; sold! And then right by the register, yes ladies and gentlemen, they had 6-packs of chocolate Freddo Frogs with or without caramel filling. As I couldn't decide, I got one of each. Outside, I sampled the delicious, cold milk just to be sure it wasn't bad. And right there next to me was a sign for Drecklys Cornish Deli & Steakhouse, which was just a few doors down.

Although it was a bit early for supper, after my long walk I figured that I deserved a treat, so in I went and ordered a traditional steak Cornish pasty, just like Grandma used to make (although she happened to be German). I went upstairs to a table and started on this diary, but before I got very far, my pasty was delivered accompanied by two packets of tomato ketchup (yes, the Brits have finally sold out to the Americans, along with now also having drugstores) and two more of that mystery HP sauce. I used all of the former and none of the latter. The pasty tasted pretty good, but half was enough, and the rest went in my pack for an evening snack.

I strolled through a multistory shopping center on my way up to the high street. Shoppers were out in force and the sun beamed down upon us. I came across a £1 shop where everything cost exactly that. I rescued some blocks of Cadbury's nut milk chocolate. Eventually, I came to Penlee Park, which consisted of many acres of trees, gardens, and playing fields. I walked through that coming out on the street for my hotel.

By 5 pm, I was warming up back in my room. Soon after, I made a cup of coffee and finished off my pasty while listening to some music. Then I filled my big bath tub with very hot water and lay in it for a good long soak. After walking eight miles, various bits of my body were complaining. Not having had my full quota of sleep in recent nights, I very nearly fell asleep in the tub.

Given that accommodation seemed to be in short supply, I thought I'd better go online and find a place to stay in my next stop, St. Ives. Four weeks ago, as I was talking to a couple on a ferry in Croatia, they recommended highly the Sloop Inn as a place to eat and stay. So, I went to its website and just when everything looked fine to book a room there, I noticed the small print: All rooms were double/twin, and single guests had to pay a £20/night supplement. Bugger! So, it was on to Plan B. (Does that sound familiar?) After 30 minutes of searching, I had not come up with any B&B's in the "Rex Budget" range that had rooms available. Of course, being out of season the tourist office was closed on Sunday (my planned arrival day), so they wouldn't be able to help me find a place to stay. Eventually, I settled on a swank hotel on 70 acres with golf course, badminton and squash courts, and heated pools. Interestingly, the rate was about the same as the hotel I had in Penzance, so I booked that.

[Diary] Around 11:30 am, I rugged up and headed out into what seemed remarkably like the setting of "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day". It was overcast. I came upon a couple who were drying themselves off after a swim in the sea. The word daft came to mind.

I rode the 12:05 to the first stop, St. Erth, where I had a 15-minute wait for the connecting train. I chatted with a young family that was having a day outing. The 12:30 stopped at Lelant Saltings, Lelant, and Carbis Bay before arriving in St. Ives. The tourist office was closed as was the train ticket office, and the town map didn't cover the area in which my hotel was located. However, a local woman was ever so helpful, don't you know, and directed me to the shortest walking route.

The website for the Tregenna Castle Hotel said the hotel was a 15-minute walk from the station, but it didn't mention that is was up a very steep hill. The path certainly was scenic and from the top, the view out over the beach and ocean might have been impressive; however, I was too busy putting my heart back in my chest to notice. The hotel looked very much like a castle (surprise!), and the large foyer and lounge overflowed with leather sofas, tables, art, and potted plants. Yes, reception had me in the system, but my room wouldn't be ready for another 45 minutes, don't you know, but if sir would like to have a seat in the lounge and to use the wifi internet service, they'd take care of sir in a little while. Jolly good!

At 2:15 pm, I was in my ever-so-cozy room complete with double bed and view over a garden. I unpacked, boiled water in the electric kettle, and made coffee. There were two packets of biscuits on my tea tray: oat shortcake and Viennese finger. I ate the former. Although I was told the internet signal didn't reach the guestrooms, it reached mine, so that was a bonus, and I sat down to send some mail and to surf the internet.

Soon after 4 o'clock, I decided to go exploring on the hotel's Woodland Walk to see if I could see any of the announced wildlife (as in woodpeckers, rabbits, squirrels, robins, foxes, pheasant, badger, and owl). I opened the front door and it was raining. Bugger! In any event, I rugged up and as the path was under a heavy canopy of trees, I didn't get very wet. Undeterred by the rain the golfers pushed on. Perhaps it helped them excuse their poor scores. Of course, none of the aforementioned critters were silly enough to be out and about. No, they were all inside keeping warm and dry, and sipping cognac!

At 5 pm, I was in athletic mode. First up, it was swimming and although the pool was heated, it took me a bit to immerse myself completely. Next up was the hot tub, which was much warmer, but by no means hot. I tried going back into the pool, but that was way too cold by comparison. Thirdly, I sat in the sauna for a bit to cleanse my pores (not to mention my paws), and finally I had a short session in the steam room. I followed that with a very hot shower. After an hour of mild activity, I felt pretty good.

Back in my room, I made coffee, ate my breakfast leftovers, the other pack of biscuits (which I dipped in a tub of strawberry jam), and some dried fruit. I sent some email, read an old diary from my trip to Belfast and Dublin two years earlier, and faded fast.

[Diary] Breakfast was a buffet affair in a cavernous room. And, don't you know, they had all the windows wide open! Clearly, these people had no idea what nice weather is really like. Tea and a rack of six half-slices of mixed toast arrived soon after I sat down, and I eased into the day with a cup of tea and some buttered toast. I followed that with a full English breakfast, but took more than an hour to finish as I was reading the travel section of the newspaper. [Over the next few days, I discovered that one could ask for any number of half-slices of toast, but one was always served exactly six!]

At 10:30, I arrived at the St. Ives branch of the Tate Gallery. (This 20-year-old gallery is a sibling of the one in Liverpool and the two famous ones in London.) A combined 1-day ticket for two galleries was on offer, so I asked the cashier if I could buy £10's-worth of culture. She just smiled. I spent an hour perusing the halls, which consisted of a variety of art forms. Only one piece really interested me. It was by an African man and was a large sheet of cream-colored paper that had been set on a tabletop, with two teacups placed on it. Hot tea had then been spilled over the paper around the cups but not under them, making an interesting pattern. The artist had then taken different colored ribbons and sewn a border around parts of the edge of the stain. It was such a simple and basic idea yet the result was effective. (Besides, I saw a use for one of my old tablecloths!) At 11:30, I joined the 30-minute guided tour to try and improve my culture quotient. And while the talk was interesting, I'm sure I was no further advanced in the art-appreciation department afterward. One thing I'd glossed over, but which we stopped and looked at in detail, was a long, flowing cape with crocodile-like scales in lines down sections of the back. On closer inspection, the "scales" really were used teabags! I guess that's art.

After several hours, I was ready to move on, and so I walked to the Barbara Hepworth house/studio/gallery. Dame Barbara was a famous sculptor who blazed a trail for women as well as various art forms. She started out using the location as her studio, but eventually renovated several rooms as her living quarters. I was underwhelmed by both the indoor and garden selections although I very much enjoyed the 30-minute video presentation about her life. The highlights of the visit were completely unrelated to the artist. In the garden, numerous spiders were spinning webs, and I watched one from inches away as it went around and around. Further on, a large web was lying horizontal across the top of a shrub and it contained hundreds of tiny water droplets that sparkled in the light. Nearby was a small Catholic Church, and I went inside to see Hepworth's famous Madonna and Child sculpture. At least I could tell what that was.

The day was improving and the sun even came out for a bit. Down at the harbor I stopped at one of the many Cornish pasty shops to rescue a piping-hot sausage roll with dead horse (Aussie rhyming slang for "tomato sauce"), which I washed down with some whole milk. Nearby, a man was selling tickets for a boat tour to a seal colony, and not having anything better to do, I signed up. I took my time walking all the way around the harbor to the tour pickup point. There were 12 of us on the 3 o'clock tour, but as the tide was going out the tour boat couldn't come in to the pickup point, and a young man ferried us out six at a time in a small boat. The large set of rocks on which the seals lived was 3½ miles down the coast, and the ragged cliffs along the way had their tops hidden in fog. Of the 40 seals living there, we saw 10, four of which were in the water. It was a pleasant diversion.    

[Diary] After 4 days of Full-English Breakfasts, I needed a change, so I had a large bowl of cereal, toast, and tea, with some grapefruit slices on the side. I planned some train travel and worked on a Sudoku puzzle. After a leisurely hour, I went back to my room.

[Diary] I gave myself plenty of time to walk down to the station. In fact, I made such good time that I caught an earlier train, which took me to St. Erth 30 minutes earlier than I expected. The 14:58 to Plymouth arrived on time. It was like a train only smaller, consisting of two carriages. I faced forward at a table and watched the verdant countryside go by. There were lots of hedgerows.

We arrived in St. Austell and I confirmed my directions with a fellow passenger. On the way to my B&B, I spied a Lidl supermarket, so dropped by for some milk, juice, Camembert cheese, and a BLT sandwich. I was very pleasantly surprised at the reasonable prices, something that hadn't happened much this trip. The walk to Pen Star House was almost a mile with a small hill climb. Hostess Anne welcomed me and I filled out some paperwork and got my keys. My single room with en-suite was up one flight of stairs. It was very nicely appointed. It appeared that I was the only guest.

I stayed in for the evening eating my supplies while watching some television. Then I set up my computer on a table in the breakfast room and connected to the outside world. My main task was to find my next accommodation. I decided to stop at Totnes in Devon, as recommended by the couple I'd met in Penzance. Although there were numerous B&Bs listed, the first six I phoned were full or not answering. However, Number 7 was the winner. And as it was a cash-only place there was no credit card deposit process; it was simply a matter of trust that I'd actually show, a novel idea in these modern times. Soon after, I was back in my room winding down. Lights out around 9:30 after an easy day.

[Diary] After a small bowl of fruit, I had bacon, hog pudding (a type of mild sausage not related to black pudding), a fried egg, tea, and toast. It was a lot of food, so I made a large bacon sandwich for later. I chatted with the host, Gary, who ran a gardening business when the weather permitted.

I headed out at 8:45 in heavy fog and ever so light mist. In 15 minutes, I was at the train/bus station, which was pretty speedy for 1 mile; Senior Olympics, look out! The mist got a little thicker as I neared the station. I had 30 minutes to wait. The 9:30 bus to The Eden Project pulled up and six of us boarded and we were off a minute later. The £5.60 return ticket would get me a £4 discount at the gardens for having gotten there via public transport. As we climbed up above the town, visibility was reduced from 200 yards to 100. The country road was rather narrow and we had to stop several times to let large, on-coming vehicles through.

[The Eden Project was the main reason I'd come to Cornwall. Built in an abandoned china clay pit with construction starting in 1999, and covering 35 acres, it is an experiment in regeneration. It's "an educational charity and social enterprise, creates gardens, exhibitions, events, experiences and projects that explore how people can work together and with nature to change things for the better".]

At the entrance, I paid my admission and bought a detailed guidebook. As there was no rain, I started by walking on some outdoor paths. Apart from the extensive outdoor gardens and plantings, there is an educational center and two huge biomes, each of which is made up of a series of climate-controlled, connected geodesic domes. The themes of those biomes are Rainforest and Mediterranean, respectively, with the former being billed as "the largest rainforest in captivity".

In the rainforest biome, I waited quite a while for the lookout to open. This metal platform was reached by a long and swaying set of metal stairs, and was at the highest point of the largest dome. It certainly was humid up there with all the moist heat rising to that point.

Although I'd eaten a big breakfast, when I came across a pasty stand, the smell of that hot cheese and onion in pastry was too much and I succumbed. It tasted like what Grandma wished she could have made!

As you might imagine, the project is all about sustainability, and signs saying "Reuse. Reduce. Recycle!" were all around. Somewhere along the way, I learned about the Big Lunch, an event that "encourages people across the UK and beyond to get together with their neighbors for a few hours of community, friendship and fun". The idea behind this is that "we are better equipped to tackle challenges when we face them together".

Numerous small signs throughout quoted pieces from well-known people. The following one from Chief Seattle (in 1854) caught my eye: "Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself."

In the Mediterranean biome, I came across a large garden of hot peppers where I got the following lesson: "The spicy heat of a chili pepper is measured on the Scoville scale named after its creator Wilbur Scoville, an American pharmacists working in the 20th century. The number of Scoville Heat Units (SHUs) indicates the amount of capsaicin present in the fruit. Capsaicin is a chemical compound that stimulates nerve endings in the skin, especially in the mouth and eyes. Pure capsaicin measures 15 million SHUs." The hottest pepper growing there was 1.6 million, and if someone ate one of those, they'd need hospitalization. The pepper spray used by various law enforcement agencies around the world is 5 million, which accounts for its effectiveness.

So, was it everything I expected? Yes. It certainly was impressive and just shows what you can do with an idea, some energy, a few friends, and £140 million.

[Diary] I stepped out at 10 am and took my time walking to the station where I arrived well before my 10:35 train. I stood in the sun on Platform 2 being careful not to stand directly underneath the pigeons, when all of a sudden, another heavy sun shower started. The 3-car train was quite busy and after most people got settled, others boarded with reserved seats, and we all played musical chairs. I faced forward and watched the countryside go by. We stopped quite a while in Plymouth. Then we raced into the county of Devon where many dairy cows grazed in green fields making cream for the next day's Devonshire teas!

We arrived in Totnes right on time and I got oriented with the help of a railway employee. I headed out to find my B&B, which, don't you know, took me up the steepest street in the town. Near the top, I stopped to rest in an old bookshop where I bought a collection of short stories by W. Somerset Maugham. Just when I thought I was in a quiet neighborhood, 100 yards further along found me on High Street, the narrow but bustling main street. Soon after, I found my street and my next home-away-from-home. The gentleman of the house was home and expecting me, and he showed me to my room. It was quite small, but adequate with a share bathroom and toilet down the hall. And at £30/night, it was by far the cheapest place of the trip. Frankly, it was what I'd been wanting all along.

I headed back out to High Street, and one of the first shops that I saw was called "Not Made in China". Now a word of explanation: Totnes is an alternative lifestyle town where everything is organic with a capital O! It also has its own Totnes Pound currency to encourage shopping locally. Nearby was a shop that specialized in harps, and being an angel, I stopped to look at all the instruments in the window.

I walked down the very steep main street stopping off to read the menus at the numerous eating-places and teashops. I also went into a large supermarket and spent quite some time browsing, looking at products and prices. I bought some seasoning packets for menus I planned for once I was back home. I finally found the tourist information office where a very pleasant lady gave me a map and guidebook plus suggestions of how to spend my time. On the way back up High Street I stopped off at a butcher's shop to take some photos of his window displays of meat and prepared foods. I stopped by a small deli and ate a hot jumbo sausage roll with ketchup washed down by a way-too-strong latte. I worked on this diary while sitting there.

Next up was the Totnes Museum, a nicely renovated merchant's shop and house that had three floors and a courtyard. The friendly assistant included an audio tour in my ticket price, and I spent the next hour touring all the rooms and listening to details of life in the "good old days". The town goes back to Saxon times, around 900. A large room was dedicated to Totnes' favorite son, the prominent scientist and mathematician Charles Babbage, who made plans for a mechanical calculating machine and an accompanying printer, neither of which was completed until 200 years later, when they were built using only materials and skills known during his time.

I dropped by St. Mary's Church, an impressive edifice built by the Benedictine Monks who lived and prayed there happily ever after, at least, that is, until Henry VIII told them to pack their gear and "Push Off".

My B&B fronted a small square on one corner of which was a pub. As I came up to it, I saw a large, eye-catching sign, which contained the following text: "Is he getting under your feet? Is he moaning about shopping? Would your day be stress-free without him? We have the perfect answer! Drop him off at our HUSBAND CRECHE inside. It's FREE! We'll take good care of him. He is in safe hands and you can enjoy a peaceful afternoon. All you have to do is pick him up when you're done and pay his bar bill. TLC GUARANTEED." Very clever.

[Diary] At 9:45, I stepped out into a clear sky and sunshine. However, after 50 paces, it drizzled lightly. I started my cultural tour with a walk around three small gardens built and maintained as community projects. Then it was on to the Totnes Castle located on a hill overlooking the town. Apparently, it was built around 1100 by some bloke called Norman (who I think was a distant ancestor of Bob the Builder).

I browsed the stalls at the market before strolling down High Street. I stopped to drool over the display of pastries in the window of a bakery, and rescued a large Belgian bun, which the assistant was ever so happy to slice in half and apply butter.

Down by the River Dart I stopped to look at a large monument to native son William Wills. He and his partner, Robert O'Hara Burke, lead the first European crossing of Australia from south to north and back. However, they perished on the return leg. I learned all about them in elementary school in South Australia. (I forgot all about them soon after!)

[Diary] The weather out was nice and I walked the 15 minutes to the train station stopping twice along the way to bond with two very nice dogs, a Border Collie and a black Labrador. Quite a few people were waiting on the platform for an earlier train that was running 30 minutes late. I was quite early for my train, but as I could also ride the delayed one, I was in luck! I boarded Carriage E to find it quite full. However, I did get a seat at a table, facing backwards. The young woman also sitting there was happy to chat and before we knew it, more than three hours had gone by. She had been raised in England by a Portuguese mother, so was bilingual. We made up some time along the way, so I got to Paddington even earlier than I'd expected.

Conclusion

Apart from visiting the Eden Project, the rest of the trip evolved day by day. Certainly, the advice I received to visit Totness proved to be excellent. One lesson I learned is "October is too late in the season to go."

Signs of Life: Part 6

© 2016 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

From time to time during my travels, I come across signs that I find interesting for one reason or another. Sometimes, they contain clever writing, are humorous, or remind me of some place or event. Here are some more from various trips.

 

The Happy Chicken restaurant in Valladolid on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. From the menu:

Every day: charbroiled chicken with soup broth and onion.

On Saturdays and Sundays after 10:30 am: ribs and grilled beef, and soft drinks.

It seems to me that the chickens would not be very happy to be there, once they knew their fate!

 

Okay, smarty pants; try pronouncing that!

On the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, there are underground rivers, which are reached through sinkholes called cenotes.

Some place names—like this one—are based on indigenous languages.

 

A highway sign in the Spanish-speaking US territory of Puerto Rico.

Now a certain unnamed friend was riding with us, and after she'd seen numerous signs like this, she remarked, "That town called Salida sure is a popular place!"

Salida is Spanish for exit! How embarrassing!

 

Perhaps a better way to be "Working with the Community" would be to get all that crap out of the Thames River!

 

From a recreation center in the Netherlands.

I never did figure out why black poodles were banned!

 

The reception area of a rural motel in New Mexico, USA.

Each cabin/room was named for a bird or animal; I was in Rabbit. Out my back door, a stream ran rapidly past, and, yes, there was even a young beaver swimming there with his small lodge off to one side.

 

Apparently, Einstein and Medusa had the same hair stylist!

From the tulip festival in Ottawa, Canada, in 2008.

Click here to read about Princess Juliana of the Netherlands and her exile in Canada, which led to this tulip festival.

 

I never did figure out who these characters were, but they were beckoning me to a restaurant in the streets aound Ueno Station in Tokyo.

 

After World War I (the war to end all wars!), the French embarked on a huge construction project, the Maginot Line.

 

Unfortunately, it was never finished, and the Germans entered France in WWII by making an end-run through Belgium; tricky devils!

 

I toured a section of the underground fortifications.

 

From Japan.

No funny business with your dog; wakarimasu (do you understand)?

 

From Munich, Germany: A butcher shop (metzgerei) that sells horse (pferd) meat!

 

From the very quaint east German village of Tiefengruben, near Weimar:

 

The German equivalent to, "Slow down; children at play." Literally, Caution, Children.

 

The Hotel Elephant in Weimar, Germany. Famous as a dining place for Goethe, Schiller, Liszt, and Wagner.

 

Hmm. Pub food in Rome, Italy. Whatever might that entail?

 

I'm reminded of the Roman Centurion who walked into a bar and held up two fingers (like the English "V-for-Victory"), which meant, he wanted "5 beers"!

 

A street name in Rome, Italy.

 

Interestingly, the word propaganda is derived from propagate, and the negative meaning the former has today only came into being during World War I.

 

A manhole cover in Rome, Italy.

According to Wikipedia, "SPQR is an acronym of a Latin phrase, Senātus Populusque Rōmānus ("The Senate and People of Rome"), referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic, and used as an official emblem of the modern-day commune (municipality) of Rome.

 

 

A Little Bit of Astronomy: The Moon

© 2016 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

 

A few years ago, after living in cities for more than 40 years, I moved out into the countryside. As a result, I rediscovered the night sky. So much so, that since then I even sit out on my deck in winter, wrapped in a blanket sipping hot chocolate or port wine gazing at the Heavens. Of course, the biggest and brightest object one can see is the Moon. After I watched a most interesting documentary video on the Moon, I was inspired to research the topic and to write this essay.

When we say the Moon, of course, we're talking about the natural satellite that goes around the Earth. As it happens there are other moons going around other planets, both in our solar system and in others. So, Earth's moon is but one of many moons. In general, a moon is a celestial body that orbits another body.

According to Wikipedia, in our solar system, "Of the inner planets, Mercury and Venus have no natural satellites; Earth has one large natural satellite, known as the Moon; and Mars has two tiny natural satellites, Phobos and Deimos. The large gas giants have extensive systems of natural satellites, including half a dozen comparable in size to Earth's Moon: the four Galilean moons, Saturn's Titan, and Neptune's Triton."

The Moon rotates synchronously with Earth. As such, we always see the same side, called the near side. The opposite side is—da da—the far side, sometimes incorrectly referred to as the dark side, although it receives sunlight each day. [A very popular music album is Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.]

The Moon's Makeup and Environment

So, just what is the moon made of? Why cheese, of course! Anyone who's seen the Wallace and Gromit movie A Grand Day Out knows that! Although the moon's makeup is not quite the same as Earth's, the prevailing theory is that the Moon was created from the debris left behind after a collision between Earth and Theia, a large ancient planet.

Even though the moon looks quite white, its surface soil is quite dark. The brightness comes from the sunlight reflected off the silicon compound in the soil.

The moon has no active volcanoes, no tectonic plates, no earthquakes, and no appreciable atmosphere. Regarding gravity, an object on the surface of the Moon has only 16.6% of its Earth weight.

Compared to the Earth, the moon has a weak magnetic field.

Earth's Poles, Tropics, Seasons, and Tides

The Earth rotates around its axis at a tilt between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees. This gives rise to the two polar circles, the two tropical lines, the equator, and the seasons. The gravitational interaction between the Earth and Moon prevents the Earth's axis from wobbling.

The gravitational influence of the Moon (along with the weaker gravitational influence of the Sun, and the Earth's rotation) is what causes the tides in our oceans. The oceans closest to the Moon experience high tides, as they are attracted to the Moon, while those on the opposite side of the Earth experience low tides. Some shorelines experience two high and two low tides per day, while others have only one of each.

The difference between a high and low tide over a 12-hour period is called the tidal range. This range is at its largest twice a month, during a new moon and a full moon, when we have spring tides. This range is at its smallest at the first quarter and third quarters of the Moon, when we have neap tides. [I grew up in the Australian state of South Australia, which has a unique term, dodge tide. This is a neap tide with very little rise and fall over a one- or two-day period.] The Bay of Fundy, located between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, has the largest tidal range on Earth, of up to 53.5 feet (16.3 meters).

The Moon's Phases

A phase of the Moon relates to the shape of the part of the Moon we can see from some given place on the Earth. As the Moon orbits the Earth, the phase changes.

In the West, we refer to four primary lunar phases: new moon, first quarter, full moon, and third quarter (or last quarter). These are interspersed with four intermediate phases: waxing crescent, waxing gibbous, waning gibbous, and waning crescent.

Throughout history, attempts have been made to correlate certain human and animal behaviors (including madness) with phases of the Moon. This field of study is called lunar effect. Note that the word lunacy is derived from the Latin word for moon, luna.

Craters and Seas

The surface of the Moon has numerous craters from impacts of asteroids, comets, and such. The largest crater has a diameter of 1,390 miles (2,240 km)—about half the size of the United States—and a depth of 8.1 miles (13 km). Click here for more information about these craters.

Although there is no water at the Moon's surface, early astronomers thought the Moon contained seas, and named them each a mar, which is Latin for sea. One of the best known is the Sea of Tranquility, the landing site of the first manned mission, Apollo 11. Click here for more information about these so-called seas.

Eclipses

An eclipse occurs when an object in space is hidden temporarily, either because it passes into the shadow of another body—as with a lunar eclipse when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon–or by having another object pass between it and the viewer—as with a solar eclipse when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth. Given the Moon's size and its proximity to the Earth, during a solar eclipse the Moon completely hides the Sun. [Dazzle your friends by using the word syzygy in a conversion.]

The ancients often thought of eclipses as omens. Click here and here for further information on this regarding lunar and solar eclipses, respectively.

Time and Lunar Calendars

The gravitation force between the Earth and Moon slows the Earth's rotation ever so slightly, which resulted in the introduction of the leap second to our time-keeping systems back in 1972. As necessary, to compensate for this slowdown, at midnight on the last day of June and/or December of each year, an extra second is added, resulting in that final minute having 61 seconds. So, some minutes are more equal than others!

A prominent theory of Earth's creation (No; not the 7-day one!) is that it was formed after another object struck it and spun off Earth debris to create the Moon. The impact started the Earth spinning on its own axis at a rate of about once every 24 hours.

When we use the term year, we're talking about a solar year, which is based on the time it takes for the Earth to revolve once around the Sun. Calendars based on this time are solar calendars, of which the Gregorian calendar used in many countries, is one example. A calendar based on the cycles of lunar phases is, not surprisingly, a lunar calendar. Some calendars use a combination of factors relating to both the Sun and the Moon. (See Chinese calendar, Hebrew calendar, Hindu calendar, Islamic calendar, and Thai calendar.)

The Moon's Orbit

The moon orbits the Earth approximately every 27.3 days, although many people approximate this to 28 days. This orbit path is elliptical in shape and the distance from the Earth and the nearest and farthest point of the Moon's orbit differs by about 26,000 miles (41,600 kms). At certain times, the Moon appears so close to the Earth that we call it a supermoon.

Apparently, the Moon is moving ever so slightly away from the Earth.

Miscellaneous Bits

So, who owns the Moon and, legally, what can they do with it? For more information see Outer Space Treaty and Moon Agreement.

The name of the day of the week Monday, comes from the Old English "day of the moon". (Equivalent Germanic-language words have an equivalent basis.) In French, that day is Lundi, luni in Romanian, and lunes in Spanish.

It takes light about 1.26 seconds to travel between the Moon and Earth (compared with about 8.33 minutes to travel between the Sun and the Earth).

Click here to see a list of the artificial objects on the Moon.

The International Red Cross is well known in most Western countries; however, give the word cross implies a Christian influence, a corresponding branch of this organization, the Red Crescent, was created. The crescent shape appears as one of the phases of the Moon, and as Islamic countries typically use a lunar calendar, the crescent appears on some of their national flags.

The idiomatic English phrase "once in a blue moon" means "a long time". Typically, a blue moon is the second full moon in a given month, and has nothing to do with the Moon's color.

By the way, have you ever mooned anyone, or been mooned? Try it sometime!

Conclusion

According to Wikipedia, 'There is a traditional belief that the Man in the Moon enjoyed drinking, especially claret. An old ballad goes (shown here with original spelling):

Our man in the moon drinks clarret,
With powder-beef, turnep, and carret.
If he doth so, why should not you
Drink until the sky looks blew?

In the English Middle Ages and renaissance, the moon was held to be the god of drunkards, and at least three London taverns were named "The Man in the Moone".'

Travel: Memories of Poland

© 2011, 2016 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

Official Name: Republic of Poland (Rzeczpospolita Polska); Capital: Warsaw; Language: Polish; Country Code: PL; Currency: Złoty (PLN)

I've visited Poland just the once, for eight days in 2011, but only in the northwest.

[Diary] At the east station [of Berlin, Germany], I bought a First-Class ticket to Poznań, Poland. I went up to Track 1 to find the platform was under renovation and there was nowhere to sit. So I walked to the sunny end outside the cavernous roof and watched the world go by. Outside, there was one visible vestige of the old East-German regime, a large gas main that ran on top of the ground and up and over a local street. It was painted bright pink, and I'd seen lots of them during my first visit to the city in 1999. A rather run-down train pulled in to an adjacent platform. It belonged to the Russian Railways.

My train was the Euro City 43, and it was due to depart at 9:50. However, an announcement came in both German and English that there would be a 20-minute delay. Eventually, that became 30 minutes and then 35. It was a short train as business on a Saturday was slow; behind the engine were one First-Class car, a dining car, and two Second-Class cars. I settled into my reserved seat in a 6-seat compartment that I shared with a young Pole who was returning home from a business meeting in Hamburg. His name was Lukas and he too was in the IT industry. We spoke of many things during the 2:30-hour trip. He spoke English and was learning French. He lived with a German woman who spoke French and was learning Polish. [Now I say his name was Lukas because that's how westerners pronounce his name, which is actually spelled Łukas. Technically, the first letter is "L with stroke", and in Polish it's pronounced as the w in "went", so in Polish his name is pronounced "Wukas", not to be confused with "Woger" or "Wodewick" from Monty Python and the Life of Brian fame. A similar example exists with the Polish currency, spelled "złoty", which Westerners pronounce as "zloty" while the Poles say "zwaty".] To make Polish a bit more challenging, the letter w is pronounced as v, but only on Wednesdays between noon and 3 pm! Now, on the outside of each bus, tram, and train door there is a sign that reads "drzwi". Go ahead, try to pronounce it; I dare you!

The border between Germany and Poland is the Oder River, and just before we crossed, we stopped in Frankfurt (Oder). It is written this way to distinguish it from the other, really big Frankfurt, Frankfurt (Main); that is, the internationally known city is on the river Main. My first look at Poland was forest, forest, and more forest, with occasional farms of corn and cereal crops, and garden houses with large vegetable plots and fruit trees. I saw surprisingly few people or cars and almost no animals. [As it turned out, it was a long weekend after the longest day of the year celebrations of St. John's Day.]

My friend Ewa (remember, w is pronounced v) was there to meet me on the platform in Poznań. [I'd hosted her via Servas in 2008.] We drove back to her apartment where I met her friend Marek. We had a lunch of egg, cauliflower, and potatoes, with drinks and pastries.

Ewa had planned an afternoon and evening in the country. We stopped off in a small village that was hosting a volunteer fire-fighters' contest among the local fire companies, and watched some teams race against a stopwatch to assemble hoses and get their portable pump motors started. We ate some BBQ's sausage and pastries on sale at some stalls.

Next, we laid in some afternoon tea supplies and headed off to Ewa's country house, a 2-story cottage with a garden. We opened the doors and windows to let in the fresh air, and set up a table on the verandah where we ate bread and honey while drinking tea. It was all veddy sophisticated, wot! The village had about 200 cottages, but only five were occupied year-round. Truckloads of sand had been brought in to make a large beach/play area near the large lake, and many of the families in residence for the long weekend were there eating, drinking, and playing. A man had set up a PA system over which he was playing his entire ABBA collection. The main event was the making of floral designs on foam blocks with candles. When it got dark, the candles would be lit and the blocks floated out on the lake. Ewa and I walked quite a way into the woods nearby. Apparently, nearby, wild pigs come down to the water to wallow in the mud.

The cultural highlight of the day was a visit to a small village that had a very old wooden church, and that very night, it would be packed for a concert of "Musica Sacra and Musica Profana", Music, Sacred, and Profane. By the time we arrived, the 150-seat church was almost full and 200+ more people were seated outdoors where they could watch the indoor event via closed-circuit TV projected on a large screen. We squeezed into the back row of the church and settled in to a musical treat as comfortably as one can on hard wooden benches. The first act consisted of six nationally known singers who sang a capella, and from time to time, made sounds with their mouths like a variety of musical instruments. I expected a series of religious pieces, but there really weren't any. Yes, we had some classics, including wonderful renditions of parts of the spring suite from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and Ravel's Boléro, neither of which has lyrics. Then came Polish-accented pieces in English written by the Bee Gees, Paul Simon, Phil Collins, Ben E. King, Freddy Mercury (of Queen), and Gene Pitney. There was a particularly good rendition of Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World" and "Hello Dolly". At the end, the singers got a very long, standing ovation, after which they sang an encore. Then after another ovation, they gave a second encore. As it was getting late, we decided to leave before the Profane part started, which featured a different group outdoors. When the church-restoration plate was passed around, I gave generously; it had indeed been a great performance.

We were back home by 10:30 pm and I was fading fast. Lights out at 11 after a very nice introduction to Polish life, the countryside, and local entertainment.

[By the way, Ewa teaches English at a medical university. For some years now, she's been specializing in English as it applies to dentistry, and she co-wrote a book on the subject. I scanned an appendix containing translations of terms from Polish to English; who knew there were so many words specific to that field!]

[Diary] I was awake just before my 9-am alarm. While the others slept, I worked on this diary a bit. Ewa made a traditional Polish breakfast of "milk soup", which consisted of pieces of macaroni boiled in milk, with butter and salt added to taste. That was followed by scrambled eggs on bread with cold meat and "coffee" made not from coffee beans, but from cereal grains.

I brought out the pages I'd photocopied from my Jaeschke family book in Australia that traced my ancestors back to the Posen Province of Prussia. The city of Posen is now called Poznań, and it is Polish. Johann Georg Jaeschke and his first wife had eight children. Some years after his wife died, he married again, but produced no further children. In 1839, because of religious differences, he took his wife and children to Hamburg where they caught the ship Catherina and sailed to Adelaide, the capital of the new state of South Australia. [It had been created in 1836 as a free state; there were no convict settlers. Subsequently, many thousands of German-speaking Prussians from this area emigrated there where they spoke German for 100 years, until WWII made it unfashionable.] Unfortunately, the family book gives only a few place names of where the Jaeschke's were born, and nothing about where they lived, so without some serious research with the help of a Polish speaker I didn't expect to find out any more information. That said, my hosts did know several Jaeschke families in the area and found quite a few more listed in the greater metro area telephone directory. I had visions of finding an old Jaeschke castle and estate in need of a prince or king, but then I thought if there were one, I'd probably have to pay 170-odd years of back taxes. [Be careful what you wish for, right?]

We spent the afternoon on a cultural and nature expedition out in the country. We started at a 14th century castle, which now houses a very large library of old manuscripts. As lots of tourists were going inside, we decided to tour the extensive gardens instead, stopping off to read the many information boards about plants, trees, and shrubs. After that hard work, we sat in the shade eating ice cream.

From there it was on to a large baroque palace that was being restored courtesy of grants from the EU. Once again, we toured the grounds, but this time we were in search of the largest group of old oak trees in Europe. We walked down to a small river and along the flood plain where the water meandered in many horseshoe shaped pools. We came upon a grove of old monsters, quite a few of which are more than 1,000 years old. Some had died, while others had major insect damage via boring under the bark until it fell off in great swaths. The largest we saw had a base diameter of 9.3 meters.

We walked to a restaurant nearby and sat outdoors in the sun perusing the menu. I settled on goulash soup, which was served in a large sphere of bread complete with lid and knob on top. Ewa had traditional pirogues while Marek had pieces of pork in a sauce.

Near home, we stopped to buy me a day ticket for public transportation for the following day. We had a quiet evening reading, and I planned my solo tour into the city. Lights out at 10 pm after another day of fresh air and exercise.

[Diary] Dawn comes early at this latitude in summer, and I awoke several times after sun-up, but went back to sleep each time. When my alarm went off at 8 am, I'd had 10 hours of solid sleep, and I actually felt refreshed. I was nearly two weeks into my trip, and I was finally on local time. I put the kettle on and set the table, after which Ewa appeared. It was already quite warm out, but there was little noise and few people about. We ate a light breakfast of bread and sliced meat with tea/coffee.

At 9:45, I stepped out into a cool breeze and hot sun. It was less than 200 meters to the stop for Bus 63, and I had a 10-minute wait. The city's distinct green and yellow buses are modern and easy to use; however, the driver does not sell tickets. One must buy them from a machine at certain stops and punch them in the time clock on the bus when first boarding. For my day pass, I had only to punch it at the start of the first ride. I had a good map showing street names, bus routes, and bus stops, and I monitored my route as we went, so I would know how to get back again. Traffic was heavy and it took us 30 minutes to get into the city, which was not that far away.

I'd planned a walking tour of the old city, which was built on a slope, so I got off the bus at the top and walked down. It was Monday, and all museums were closed. First up was the Opera House, a fine-looking building with a statue of Pegasus (the winged horse) on top, with big steps up to the front flanked by statues of lions. Right opposite was a large park with a 50 meter-by-20-meter shallow pool in the center of which were a series of fountains. I sat on a park bench for a while watching the locals lying on the grass, reading, and sunbathing. All was right in that part of the world. I walked around the fountain and took in the cool spray from the jets.

Next up was a church, so I went in to look around. It was quite plain with a few stained glass windows and a large banner of the world-famous Polish Pope, John Paul II. I stopped in at a small art gallery and got my first culture fix for the day. Next-door was the tourist information office, so I stopped in to get a city map to supplement the ones my hosts had lent me. As it was getting quite hot out I kept to the shaded side of the street. Everywhere I looked downtown there seemed to be banks!

In the old-town, the streets were all cobblestone with trams lines embedded in many, and the car tires made interesting sounds as they went along the stones. I came upon a large outdoor market. There were fresh flowers of all kinds, with many large sunflowers. There was fruit, vegetables, and herbs, along with men's, women's, and children's clothing.

Nearby was the large town hall square (140x140 meters), which was dominated by a 3-story Renaissance town hall, built in the mid-16th century. The tourist attraction there is the noonday clock. I found a seat and waited 15 minutes for the big event. After the clock bell struck 12 times, two mechanical goats came out, sized each other up, and then proceeded to butt each other 12 times. And may I say, Ladies and Gentlemen, that it was the most exciting goat butting I'd witnessed in weeks! The goats had been at it since 1551, and appeared to be getting a little tired, as they only connected in the first few attempts. By the time the event was over, my side of the square was quite full. As far as I could hear, pretty much everyone was speaking Polish. A few times, I heard German, a couple of times English, and once Dutch.

The 3-story houses around the square were very nicely restored after WWII to their former Baroque and Renaissance styles complete with ornately painted and carved facades. The sides of the square were filled with outdoor restaurants, many of which seemed to be serving desserts. [My Polish host had told me that Poles didn't have a word for "lunch"; they ate breakfast, then late afternoon had an early supper, followed later by a late supper.] Nearby was the Church of St. Stanislaus. The interior was very ornate with marble and gilt everywhere. It surely was impressive, but for me, bordered on being "over the top".

I started back up the slope thinking about something light to eat. After some time, I spied a McDonalds with attached McCafe, so I went in to find it had attractive décor and looked very modern. I ordered some McNuggets, some veggie sticks, and a tall steaming glass of latte. I sat on a bar stool at a window bench and watched the world of Poznań go by, and it sure came in all shapes and sizes.

I'd started out "ready to go" at 8 o'clock. By 11 am, I was a bit lethargic. At 2 pm, I was definitely dragging my feet, so I made my way back to the park opposite the Opera House where I lay on the grass in the shade. Young children were stripped down to their underwear to splash in the pool, two guys were kicking a ball around in the water, and quite a few people were lazing in the sun.

At my home bus stop, I went into a large supermarket, and took my time looking up and down all the aisles. Those Poles have their own words for everything! I bought some emergency rations, such as Polish chocolate with hazelnuts, pasteurized whole milk (a change from the usual shelf-milk), a fresh cake, cheese, and juice.

[Diary] I left the apartment around 10 o'clock and bought a day-ticket at a local stop. I didn't have long to wait before my bus came and took me all the way into the city and out again. Along the way, a woman sitting next to me started asking me questions in Polish. I replied in my best Orstralian, "Sorry Love, no hablo Polski!" I followed the route on a map right up until we turned in an unexpected direction, and soon we pulled up at the end of the line. The driver spoke no English and was less than enthusiastic about helping me. Apparently, the route for Bus 63 had changed since my guide was printed. In any event, he did give me good information, and five minutes later, I was on another bus that took me right where I wanted to be.

My first cultural stop for the day was the church of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, a brick structure that dated back 900 years, and which was the only Maltese church in Poland. I knocked on the door to see if some of the knights could come out to play, but there was no answer. So I walked around the grounds and headed off to my next stop.

As I was getting familiar with the city's transportation system, I decided to hop a tram, and that took me to the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, one of the biggest churches in Poland. It was a good-sized brick building with some very nice stained glass windows. Except for the heavily gilded altarpiece, the building was tastefully decorated. I paid my entrance fee and took a tour of the basement in which 12 long-dead religious leaders lay in repose in coffins in a crypt. Old foundations of predecessor buildings had been excavated. In the garden, people were taking photos of each other standing in front of a large statue of John Paul II.

Next up was the Town Hall. As it was closed the day before, I was determined to visit its city museum, so I paid my money and walked around the three floors. As everything was in Polish I wasn't able to understand any of the explanations. There was a set of metal goats just like the ones in the bell tower. And just as I walked back out into the square, the clock chimed. I was just in time to have my second look at the butting goats in two days; it was almost too much!

Although it wasn't too hot out I was quite lethargic, so I decided to go back home and rest up. This vacation business can be quite tiring! I worked on this diary and some administrative chores.

Ewa came home around 4 o'clock and, not long after, we headed to her father's house some 3 kms away. He'd passed away earlier in the year, and she was taking care of his place. Our first task was to pick all the cherries off a small but heavily laden tree. Our next job was to get the electric lawn mower and extension cable out of the basement, to cut the back yard grass. As I was charging out from the underground garage with my face down, I failed to notice that the doorway top was quite low, and I attempted to move the concrete ceiling with my head. Suffice it to say, it didn't move at all; however, I pushed my skull down my neck a ways and probably now am only 6'2" tall! Nurse Ewa came to the rescue and had a cold compress on my head in no time. As best as we could tell, no brains spilled out and my head did not appear likely to fall off.

After that little wake-up call, I pruned a large rose bush and hand-watered the garden while Ewa did some chores. Then we set up a table on the back deck and ate an afternoon tea of slices of cake with butter, and drank coffee. It was ever so civilized!

Back home, the sun was streaming in the windows at 7:30 pm as I sat writing while listening to Andrea Bocelli belt out some ballads in Spanish. Meanwhile, Ewa was hard at work in her kitchen cooking us a last supper of pasta with her secret tomato sauce and cheese.

After supper, I used a simple hand-operated device to remove the pits from all the cherries we'd picked. Then I packed my luggage and wound down for the day. Lights out at 10 pm.

[Diary] I was up with my 8-am alarm; it was Travel Day! I eased into it with a cup of coffee and some cheese. Surprisingly, my head did not hurt although there was still some swelling. However, my neck was quite stiff. After a shower, I got my final email fix and packed my computer gear. Ewa and I mounted two bicycles onto the roof of her car for her to take to the beach. Then we chatted until 10 o'clock.

Ewa kindly drove me to the main train station where we said our goodbyes. It had been a most enjoyable stay. Inside, I managed to communicate my wishes to the rather stern-looking woman at the ticket counter, and she sold me a 2nd-Class ticket to Szczecin (pronounced "Stettin") for about $15. I thought that was very cheap.

I was on my own in a 6-person compartment in 2nd Class, and it was as good as my 1st Class ride from Berlin. Eventually, a young conductor came along, looked at my ticket, frowned, and then informed that it was for the local train only, and I was on the express. After playing with his mobile ticket machine for some time and then consulting with a colleague, he told me I needed to pay considerably more. My $15 ticket became a $35 ticket, don't you know! [Don't you just hate that when that happens?] Oh well, c'est la vie, right?

I sat facing forwards and saw mile after mile of forest, punctuated occasionally with some small villages and corn and cereal fields. Although I had been reliably informed that Poland did indeed have animals, during the whole 210-km trip, I saw only one horse, one cow, and a group of beehives; that was it!

Ewa had packed me a snack of ham and cheese sandwiches, which I ate en-route with a bottle of fruit juice. An earlier traveler had left several daily papers behind, so I perused those, mostly studying the Polish alphabet, punctuation, and typesetting conventions.

We made three stops along the way with each lasting no more than 60 seconds. A woman came by with her cart offering various items, but after I declined twice, she said, "Gratis", and gave me a small pack of cookies and a smile. As it was a train serving only domestic stations, all announcements were in Polish only.

We arrived in Szczecin at 1:25 pm, about six minutes behind schedule, and I stepped out into bright sunshine. I had about $20-worth of local currency, no map, no information about the city, and no Polish language skills. However, I was not completely without a plan or assets. I did have a cash machine card and the phone number of my Servas host. The first order of business was to find a cash machine, which I did, and to convince it to give me some more local currency. The next problem was how to phone my host. I found a phone, but it took only a phone card, as do most public phones around the world these days. So, where to buy a card and how to ask for it? It was then that I spied a young woman sitting nearby. I asked her if she spoke English, and she replied that she did. Then she walked me around a number of kiosks asking to buy a phone card, and, on the 3rd try, I got one. I invited her to join me for ice cream as a thank-you gesture and we sat and chatted for a while. She had just finished high school and, after the summer holidays, she was off to university to study computers. I phoned my host, Marek, to let him know I was in town, and we agreed I'd call him again at 7 pm to be picked up.

Near the station, I came upon a tour office that on a sign in the window claimed to speak English, and the young woman at the counter did. She sold me a nice map and tourist guidebook to the city, and directed me to the tourist office, which I'd missed in the station. Back there, I got more information.

So, what to do with five hours to spare while pulling my luggage and carrying my heavy computer bag? I walked a km along the riverbank towards the tour-boat dock and there at the ticket office was an ever-so-friendly ticket seller whose English was very good. I bought a ticket for the 1-hour harbor and river cruise, and had 15 minutes to wait. She shared a booth with a tourist information officer from whom I got information about public transportation. She also told me that starting tomorrow there would be a 3-day celebration as Poland took on the EU Presidency for the next six months. I saw plenty of evidence of this along the waterfront where crews were erecting stages and setting up PA systems. In less than an hour, I'd gone from practically nothing to having a whole plan in place.

My tour boat pulled out filled with retired German tourists who were traveling by luxury coach. I sat next to a couple and got a bit of a German workout. Next to our boat dock was a massive 3-mast sailing ship, which belonged to the local maritime university, and was used for training. Although Szczecin is 65 km up the Oder River (Odra in Polish) from the East Sea (the Baltic, that is), it has a big harbor and dock system. [The city was a member of the old Hanseatic League.] And we sailed all around that. There was some cargo sitting around, including quite a few very long wind-turbine blades, but very little activity. A half a dozen small ships were tied up with one being loaded with grain from a huge silo. The ships were from Gibraltar, the Netherlands, and Cyprus. There was a series of floating dry docks with the longest being at least 150 meters, and most had ships inside and out above the water. On the return leg, there was quite a bit of river traffic with ships coming and going, and tugs headed upstream. As we disembarked, an elderly man started talking to me in German. When I said I spoke English and was originally from Australia, he switched to English and told me about his two trips there.

I still had three hours to kill, so I looked for a seat in the shade with a grand view of the river. I found one, but it was up a long series of steep steps. I took my time hauling my gear up, stopping occasionally to put my heart back in my chest, but the end result was worth it. I looked right out over a grassy park to the training sailing ship. There, I worked on this diary and generally watched the world go by.

Around 6:30 pm, I made my way to the Radisson Hotel, which took me through a large park. In these days of mobile phones, public telephones were few and far between; however, there was one 100 meters from the hotel. Soon after 7 o'clock, I phoned Marek, told him where I was, and he came to pick me up. We drove to his house just outside the city and introduced ourselves. His wife and three children had recently headed off in separate directions for vacations, and he was home on his own. He and his wife ran a language school, with him teaching English, as well as Polish to foreigners, and her teaching English, German, and Swedish. They had two classrooms in the basement of their house, and had expanded to space in another building nearby.

While Marek cooked supper, I watched a half-hour of news on Deutsche Welle TV. Marek's good friend and neighbor, Mariusz, joined us for a late meal. Mariusz teaches English at a Catholic "Silesian" school. We talked of many things including American politics, past and present, as well as US foreign policy especially in Afghanistan. All too soon, it was 11:30. Lights out soon after.

[Diary] I was awake with the early light at 5:15 am. [Don't you just hate that when that happens?] And try as I might, I could not get back to sleep. My fertile imagination was in gear and I was working in my head on some business problems. Finally, just before 7 o'clock, I got up, showered and dressed, setup my laptop at the kitchen table, and started writing. It looked like a nice day outside, but rain had been forecast for the first day of the city's festivities.

I sipped hot tea and ate some of my emergency rations while updating this diary. Marek joined me at 8:15. He had a private English lesson at 8:30, during which I washed the breakfast dishes.

Around 9:30, Mariusz arrived to be my driver and guide. We drove 10 km to his school next to which is a 300-acre cemetery I'd read about in a tourist brochure. He gave me a walking tour starting with a section containing the remains of Soviet and Polish soldiers. An especially moving monument remembered the 20,000+ Polish officers executed by the Soviets in 1940 when Hitler invaded from the west and Stalin from the east. The Soviets took 250,000 Polish prisoners in that push. Another equally moving memorial was to all the Poles sent to death camps or forcibly relocated to Siberia, as late as 1952.

From there, we drove downtown, parked, and went to Cafe22 on the top floor of one of the tallest buildings in the city. It was a clear day and Mariusz took me on a 360-degree visual tour of the city. [As they might say in Maine, "You could see so far that it took two of us to look!"] We occupied a table by a window of the circular restaurant and ordered coffee. We shared a large slice of apple cake with whipped cream. After that, we visited the old castle, a pair of old city gates, the main cathedral, and the area around them. We walked by the birthplace of Catherine the Great as well as a small palace that she'd lived in much later on.

By the time we left the downtown area the traffic had gotten quite busy and the weather was deteriorating. On the way home, we stopped at a Tesco, the UK's leading supermarket export, and topped up my juice and milk supplies. A few spits of rain fell and the skies darkened. I spent a couple of hours at Mariusz' house where we drank tea and ate pirogues, a Polish delicacy, while watching some programs on BBC TV.

I was back home by 5:30 after which I worked on some travel planning and did some research on Wikipedia about Polish history and geography relating to the day's events. One particular search involved finding out why Australia's highest mountain, Mt. Kosciuszko, was named in honor of the Polish national hero, and hero of the American Revolutionary War, General Tadeusz Kościuszko. At 8:30, Marek and I ate dinner together, and by the time we finished that and I did the dishes, I was fading fast. Lights out at 10 pm.

[Diary] When my 7:45 am alarm went off I was feeling rested and after a hot shower, I felt even better. Marek had a private lesson, so I fixed a simple breakfast of bread and cheese with tea, and then dealt with business and personal email. Marek then introduced me to his student and she and I spent 30 minutes talking about many things, so she could have a conversation with a native English speaker. She works for HSBC Bank, and travels around Poland each week working with regional sales staff. It was a good workout for both of us. Later, he had a second lesson, with a young woman who has completed one Master's Degree and is now working on another. I spent time talking to her as well.

I spent the afternoon researching and writing an essay for my monthly blog. I also did a load of laundry and hung that out to dry in the afternoon sun; however, by early evening, it starting raining lightly. I caught up with some world news on TV and generally surfed the large selection of international channels to see the world from various cultural perspectives. Then I phoned Belinda in Germany to coordinate our meeting on Sunday, and instead of having her drive 90 minutes each way to get me, we agreed that I'd ride the train to Neubrandenburg, and she'd meet me there.

Marek and I had a late supper and then sat and talked of many things until just after midnight. It was a relaxing and enjoyable day. I was asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow.

[Diary] I was awake just before my 9:15 alarm feeling quite rested. Marek and I had a light breakfast of oatmeal, bread, cheese, and tea, and we continued our conversation from the night before. The weather was still inclement, so we stayed indoors, he working on household projects, while I washed the dishes and spoke by internet phone to various people in Australia. I followed that with a lazy afternoon

At 5 pm, we drove into the city in light drizzle. We had a very nice dinner at a local restaurant. I had pork with dumplings and vegetables, and topped that off with milk coffee. Afterwards, we drove around the shipyard area where Solidarity demonstrations had taken place at the same time they occurred at the more famous Gdansk shipyards. It was also the site of unsuccessful demonstrations in 1970, which resulted in the deaths of a number of people. We finished our evening eating ice cream at a small café. Lights out at 10 pm after a good rest day.

[Diary]

It was overcast, but dry and quite a bit warmer, which meant the final day of the festival might not be washed out. At the train station, while Marek parked the van, I went inside. The ticket agent spoke no English, so I wrote down the name of the town I was headed to and the time of the train, and then we played charades as to whether I was going one-way or return. The cost of the ticket was 98.82 złotys, and I had 100 in paper money left plus some change, so that pretty much cleaned me out of local currency.

My train was going all the way to Lübeck, an old Hanseatic League city near the Baltic right on the border of the former West and East Germanys. We waited on Platform 4 for 15 minutes before saying our goodbyes. It had been a very good stay with Marek. Right on time at 10:57, what approached the platform looked like a train only it was much smaller. In fact, it consisted of two motorized carriages.

Conclusion

My only connection with Poland is my paternal ancestry back when it was part of Prussia, and then quite by chance, my one Polish guest came from Poznań, a city not far from Berlin. I had two great 4-day stays with hosts, which generally makes a trip much more interesting. Basically, it becomes an adventure with a safety net!

By the way, just in case you were wondering, drzwi is Polish for door.

Bucket List: There is nothing driving me back to Poland, but as I visit Berlin from time to time, I'd be happy for a repeat visit with Ewa.