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Travel Tales of Travail – Why Deke’s Knee Creaks


When my husband “Deke” and I went to Greece, we enjoyed places and experiences that will last a lifetime.  In Mykonos, we stayed in a luxury hotel with not only great service, but also great people.  The staff, including sensitive Virginia, insightful, young and accommodating George, and a very serious staff worker I nicknamed, “The Philosopher,”   We waved good-bye as we left, and I felt like I was saying good-bye to friends.  My heart actually hurt when we boarded the ship and sailed for Santorini.  Santorini being Santorini helped to heal the wounds incurred by our departure from Mykonos.  Truthfully, Santorini could help to heal the heart of anyone with its white cliff-side homes and breathtaking drops into the Aegean.  When it was time to leave Santorini, Deke and I were hopeful.  Athens awaited, and we planned on spending our anniversary in Paris.  I was filled only with happiness, anticipation, and hope.  The Gods, however, had some surprises in store.

The sky was gray when we arrived in the city of Athena.  We checked into our hotel, and proceeded to explore the city.  We enjoyed seeing history everywhere we went, and walking on Athens’ unique, marble streets.  I felt somehow profound in the shadow of The Acropolis; I took some glorious shots of the famous edifice at sunset, and we snuggled at night in the happy contentment that couples feel when they are having an adventure together. 

It remained mostly overcast, and soon the rains began.  Deke had some business to tend to, so he wore a suit and his dress shoes, as Deke tends to do.  Next to a bank, Deke stepped on wet marble, and down he went in his dress shoes.  The good people of Athens rushed over to Deke, but he refused their imploring to go straight to the hospital.  Instead, Deke stood up, limped to cab, and came back to the hotel.  When Deke walked into the room, he was ashen and I knew that this was worse than your average fall.  The pain in Deke’s knee and the rains only increased as he lay in the hotel bed.  Finally, the concierge called to have a doctor come to examine Deke’s knee.   Through the rain, the orthopedist came.  Deke was not in the best of states, and couldn’t quite understand the doctor’s Greek accent, so I translated.  For some reason, I am great at interpreting accents for others.  “I am afraid your patella is broken.  I will send over an x-ray technician to confirm this.”  And still the rains came.  The x-ray technician arrived, and right there in the room, he took an x-ray.  Try getting that kind of medical service in the United States.  The x-ray confirmed what the doctor had suspected all along—Deke’s knee was broken.  The doctor ordered a splint to be delivered to our room, and as the torrential rains only increased, a dedicated employee delivered Deke’s splint.  That night, Athens got so much rain that cars floated down the narrow streets.  The storms made the international news.
Are the Gods pissed off that we’re here? I thought as I gazed at The Acropolis from our window.  The doctor recommended we go back to the United States for Deke’s treatment.   It took days to get a first-class flight out (so Deke could keep his knee outstretched), so he languished in his bed tending to insurance and airline business.  In the meantime, I climbed up to The Acropolis without my Deke, and though it was glorious with the clouds over Athens, I couldn’t help but be a little cranky without my man.

When we departed from Athens, our driver told us that on the day Deke broke his patella, his son broke his leg.  I realized that I had been a bit self-absorbed worrying about my problems; the whole of Athens had seen better times.

When we arrived at the airport, a happy and enthusiastic young man helped Deke get into a wheelchair, and then wheeled him to our plane bound for Paris. 

“I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry honey that we won’t be able to spend our anniversary in Paris” (it was our anniversary that very day).  I assured Deke that it was okay—that we had a glorious time in Mykonos and Santorini.  

When we found our seats in first class, we were a bit puzzled.  The seats were no bigger than those in coach.  To make it seem roomier, the airline simply put a seat between people; the only problem was that the airline put down the armrests permanently and Deke couldn’t put his leg up; nor could he stretch it out properly per Doctor’s orders.  Deke grew cranky.

A French, feminine flight attendant did her best to cheer Deke up.  When he complained about the 
pain, she gave him extra attention.  “But you did not touch your breakfast; you must eat; you must eat 
for your strength!”  Deke did not oblige.  She tried again, “Would you like some chocolate sir?” 
Voulez-vous un peu de chocolat ?”   “Who di ha di what?” asked my husband.   I translated.  “No,” 
he said sadly, missing his appetite. 
The pain in Deke’s knee was only increasing as we flew past the Matterhorn and closer to Paris.  
Overcast and grim-looking, Paris did not look inviting.  Still, I looked with anticipation as the ground 
approached during landing.  Suddenly, the plane ascended rapidly; the pilot had abandoned the landing.  
He simply didn’t feel comfortable in the dense fog.  Deke groaned.  The pilot circled and attempted a 
landing one more time.  This time it was successful, and the passengers broke into applause.  Though 
the flight attendant tried to be charming even as Deke was wheeled off, he was not so charming in 
return.  
When we arrived at the airport, a frenzied employee greeted us.  It was possible we would miss our 
flight to Salt Lake because of the first abandoned landing.  The employee put Deke in the wheelchair, 
and pushed.  Bang.  She pushed Deke into the wall of the elevator.  Deke cringed.  We nearly ran 
through the airport, Deke leading the way and feeling every bump.  We made it, barely.  Finally, 
Deke could lie down and stretch out his leg!  We settled in.  I looked up.  There, on all of the 
international flights in the world, was the former wife of a man with whom I had once had a thing.  
I knew she did not particularly appreciate me being a figure from her former husband’s past, so I lay 
low—literally.  I couldn’t hide forever, and besides she was a flight attendant and on her feet.  
Luckily, she was not our flight attendant, though she did glance our way now and then.  I don’t 
know if she ever recognized me; she was accommodating and nice to Deke—maybe she felt sorry 
for him sitting next to me.  I will probably never know.
The flight was long and because of the pain Deke felt when he stood up, he avoided drinking 
anything to dodge having to use the bathroom.
When we arrived in Salt Lake, Deke found that his paperwork from the Greek orthopedist was missing.  
We looked everywhere.  Our flight attendant looked everywhere.  It was simply missing.  
We needed it to get reimbursed from our travel insurance company.  I approached the “luggage patrol.”  
I asked if our paperwork had been turned in.  “No,” she said disinterested.  We waited around for a 
while, Deke’s knee throbbing, until we finally gave up and went home.  The paperwork had of course 
been turned in, and the next day I drove back out to the airport to pick it up.
Well, we’ll always have Mykonos and Santorini.
 
Do you want to avoid as many travel mishaps as possible?  Try a luxury home exchange from 
International Vacation Home Exchange.  Their knowledgeable and friendly staff is sure to help you 
find the perfect vacation home.  See how this works.
 
Thanks to travel writer and photographer Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow her on Twitter @Sonag2000

More Great Australian Destination Ideas


Queensland enjoys frontage on both the Coral Sea and the Pacific Ocean and was first inhabited by Aboriginal Australians. The state is quite large, so the climate can vary wildly depending on where you visit. From the tropical north to the outback region and down to the temperate southern country, QLD has a lot to offer. Brisbane lies in the Southeastern part of QLD and attracts a lot of tourism. The area is self-described as a laid-back environment that offers high culture without pretention. Whether you’re looking to stroll through a botanical garden, take in a show, or shop for high-fashion, Brisbane has got you covered. Queensland also features lots of wildlife, great surfing, and scenic backdrops for outdoorsy adventures. The Golden Coast is a sight to behold in and of itself, making QLD far worth the trip.
New South Wales is Australia’s most populous state, home to the ever-popular destinations of Sydney and the South Coast. NSW has some of the most unspoiled coast in the country, along with mountainous regions and even rainforests in the North Coast. It is certainly a noteworthy destination for those who love picturesque and natural vacation spots. The climate trends toward the side of arid, but up in the mountainous regions it can be downright chilly. There is also plenty of culture to be found here, for those who prefer city life. Sydney is the largest city in Australia and, as such, offers no shortage of attractions, events, and culture. It isn’t too difficult to get around in Sydney, with public transit a popular option for traveling up the coast or moving about the city, but outside of that NSW is a bit more isolated. Like most of the states, NSW has many different sides. These include bustling city and quiet seaside oasis, so there’s a little something for everyone here.
Victoria is home to Melbourne, a bustling metro area and popular travel destination. “Authentic” Australia is also in abundance in VIC, with the penguins of Philip Island, the Great Ocean Road along the coast, and stunning desert landscapes. As IVHE has previously noted, VIC is also home to world-class fishing. Victoria offers a great mix of culture and nature. Melbourne is an easy sell for foodies, sports fans, theatre fanatics, and music lovers alike, while the wilder part of the state sates the outdoorsy among us. There is also a robust wine culture here, which is something for both camps to enjoy.

Last but not least there is Tasmania, the island state to the south of VIC. This is a truly unique place, perfect for nature lovers. A whopping 45% of the area is comprised of nature reserves and parks. From scuba diving to mountain climbing, they’ve got you covered. There are also compact cities to be found, should you get a hankering for a touch of night life, but the real crown jewel of TAS is decidedly the natural beauty all around. If you’re looking for even more detail on the southeastern region (Victoria and Tasmania), we’ve even provided a more in-depth post on the subject.
For more great Australian destinations, visit our previous IVHE Blog.
Thank you to travel writer Emma Close.  

Deciding Where to Vacation in Australia


The “Land Down Under” is vast and varied – almost overwhelmingly so. In a perfect world, you’d simply tour the entire country from end to end, but most of us lack the time and/or money for such an adventure and must settle on one or two destinations. For hopeful vacation planners who are looking for an Australian getaway, it can be a bit tough to discern where the best locale is. Never fear though, we’ve got you covered! With a touch of research, some IVHE insight, and a little introspection on your part, you’re sure to find the perfect spot for an Australian holiday. (this is the first of two blogs on Australia)
                The first thing to understand about Australia are its states, of which there are six. IVHE has vacation properties in all six of them, so you won’t be at a loss for choices on that front. Western Australia is by far the largest and is aptly named, being that it comprises the Western portion of the continent. South Australia lies in the middle and extends out to the shore in a southern direction, while the Eastern side of the continent is comprised of the territories Queensland (the northernmost of the three), New South Wales (in the middle of this eastern group), and Victoria (by far the smallest and the most southern of the lot). Further to the south sits the Island of Tasmania which, despite being off on its own, should not be overlooked as a potential vacation destination. There are also two main territories. These include the Northern Territory, which abuts South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory, which is a smaller region located within NSW. Deciding which state you’ll want to visit is the probably the toughest part of your vacation planning, so it’s best to start with an in-depth look at what each place has to offer the discerning traveler.
Western Australia draws quite a few visitors every year, a testament to all of the attractions it has to offer. The state has quite a bit of frontage along the Indian Ocean and much of the coastal region boasts a lovely Mediterranean climate.  A whopping 92% of the population of Western Australia is located in the southwestern corner, where you will also find Perth. Whether you’re looking to catch some sun at the shore, explore the densely forested areas, or have a true outback adventure exploring their mind-blowing rock formations, Western Australia has plenty for the adventurous traveler. Being that Western Australia is so vast, it boasts incredible biological diversity, making it a great spot for an outdoorsy vacation. Perth provides a good dose of culture and nightlife, to complement the vast areas of natural beauty.

South Australia is by far the most arid region in the continent. The coastal areas have a pleasant Mediterranean climate, but parts of SA can get downright hot during certain times of the year. The sea is always a great destination in Australia, and SA is no exception to that rule. There are also a host of bike trails, rivers and lakes, and parks and preserves for nature lovers. Wine connoisseurs are also in luck, as South Australia is a bastion of fine wine and great food. Adelaide is a very popular destination for visitors, with lots of culture and gourmet dining to be found there. The warm summers and mild winters make SA a good place to consider year round.
For more ideas, visit our next IVHE.blog.
Thank you to travel writer Emma Close.  

More Great Things to do in New York!


6.       Visit New York’s Highly-Rated Gramercy Tavern 
On 20th Street just off of Park Avenue South is my favorite restaurant in New York City, Gramercy Tavern.   There are actually two sections in this establishment—the restaurant and the tavern.  The restaurant is expensive and often the wait is long to reserve a table; however, the tavern serves on a walk-in basis, and has a welcoming and warm atmosphere.  With magnificent floral arrangements and creative cocktails, Gramercy Tavern provides a great ambience whether you’re there alone or with friends.  I have seen famous folk wander in amongst the lively and stylish environment, and some of my own favorite New York memories were created here.  There can be long waits on Friday and Saturday nights; however, Gramercy Tavern is also open for lunch, a normally less busy time to come.
   
7.       Walk Through Central Park
It may seem like a cliché, but a walk through Central Park, no matter the season, is a must.  Part of what makes New York City great is the park.  Created in 1857, Central Park is iconic in film.  No matter how sophisticated you are, walking through the park and seeing things you have seen on the screen is a thrill.  Plus, you never know who you will see.  I waved to Woody Allen in the park, who waved back—good times.  The bridle trails are great for jogging, and the Shakespeare Garden is an inspiration in spring and summer.

8.       Linger at Any Coffee Shop in SoHo
The SoHo neighborhood in Manhattan, fashionable, exclusive, and artistic, is worth your time.  With numerous boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants, it’s great to shop if you have the money, and great to window-shop if you don’t.  When it’s time for a break, linger at one of SoHo’s many coffee shops.  It won’t be long until someone interesting walks through the door.  Some of the coffee shops feature community tables—perfect for the person travelling alone.

9.   Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
To really get a feel for the various characters in New York, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  You can find everyone from the person walking to work to a man with a pet snake on one shoulder and a boom box on the other.  It’s invigorating, and you’ll feel like you’re part of the pulse of the city.

10.  In Pleasant Weather, Eat Lunch on the Steps of The New York Public Library on 5th Avenue
If you want to feel the rhythm of the workforce, go to The New York Public Library on 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan at lunch.  A business district, Midtown features the hurried employee looking for a reprieve during day. People with their takeout lunches relax in the sun on the steps of the library.  Behind the library is Bryant Park—another great place to go at lunch where you can find people playing chess.  There were once so many pigeons, that the city hired a falconer to release his bird at lunch to shew away the pigeons; the only problem was that the hawk decided one day to pick up what it saw as lunch—someone’s Chihuahua! Needless to say, the falconer plan was scrapped.

Wait, that was only 5, the first 5 are in yesterday's blog for 5.  Start planning a New York stay with IVHE in one of these luxury home exchange options in New York; it’s a great way save thousands in accommodation costs to stay in the city.  See how this works and read testimonials.

Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow me on Twitter @Sonag2000

10 Great Things to Do in New York


As a former Manhattanite whose wallet wasn’t always full, I learned of some great but reasonably-priced things to do in New York.  Here are my suggestions:

1.       Have a Drink at The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station
Tucked away in a remote corner of Grand Central Station is The Campbell Apartment.  Sophisticated and historical, this lounge is the perfect place to meet for drinks during a busy, Manhattan day.  The lounge was the former office of business tycoon John W. Campbell.  The wait staff is the most refined I have seen in Manhattan; when I was last there, the waitresses wore pearls.  The lighting is ambient and invites lingering no matter how busy it can get.

2.      
Attend MetFridays at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
On Fridays, the balcony overlooking The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s elegant, main lobby turns into the best bar in New York.  With live entertainment, often chamber music, you can enjoy cocktails and appetizers in one of the world’s most renowned museums. Purchase tickets early to avoid waiting in line.

3.       If You’re a Literary Lover, Attend the Barnes & Noble Author Events Throughout the City
Some of the best authors in the world do readings at New York City Barnes & Nobles.  The Barnes & Noble at Union Square attracts a particularly sophisticated array of authors which have included Oliver Saks, Joyce Carol Oates, Frank McCourt, and Jane Goodall just to name a few.  Admission is free, and often includes author signings.

4.       Visit The Morgan Library and Museum
On the corner of Madison Avenue and 36th Street is the former residence of financier J.P. Morgan.  During his lifetime, his collection of illuminated manuscripts and other artistic treasures was vast, and it was decided that after his death these treasures needed to be shared with the public; his home is now a museum.  If you’re a bibliophile as I am, The Morgan Library and Museum is a must-see; the elegant library is so beautiful and has so many historic books, I actually had tears in my eyes during my first visit.   Of special note are Morgan’s Guttenberg Bibles; he also favored medieval art which is prolific in the museum.  While perusing, stop for afternoon tea at The Morgan Café in a modern setting or have lunch at The Morgan Dining Room, the Morgan family’s original dining room for a more formal setting.

5.       Ride the Staten Island Ferry for FreeNew York’s Staten Island Ferry is free!  Ride in winter or summer past The Statue of Liberty, and view downtown Manhattan at night—truly worth the ride.

Wait, that was only 5, check out tomorrow's blog for 5 more.   If your plans include a New York stay (and everyone’s should) IVHE has several luxury home exchange options in New York; it’s a great way save thousands in accommodation costs to stay in the city.  See how this works and read testimonials.

Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow me on Twitter @Sonag2000


How Not to Fight on Vacation


If You’re Not in the Driver’s Seat, Abdicate Control
I learned this lesson in Italy.  I’m somewhat of a backseat driver when my husband is at the wheel, but when we rented an Alfa Romeo to drive around Tuscany, I was so glad I wasn’t driving (driving in a foreign land is just not my thing) I simply stayed quiet even when things looked a little dubious.  This helped to create harmony on a dream vacation.
Spend a Little Time Apart Every Day
This may seem counterintuitive, yet I have found that it helps.  You and your traveling partner(s) are not usually together 24 hours a day at home, so why should you be on holiday?  Nothing can create tension like never separating even for just a few minutes.
Let the Person Who is the Most Organized Take Care of Most of the Travel Details
Normally the person who is the most organized prefers to take care of details in nearly every situation.    It will save the person who is less organized the opportunity to relax more on holiday (too many details can give me a headache), and everyone is happier.
As In Any Relationship, Compromise!
We hear it all the timecompromise is the key in any relationship; this is especially true of traveling companions.  If you are locked in a disagreement about where to visit, suggest a compromise such as spending a little less time in a particular museum and using the extra time to relax in a café.  
If Your Traveling Companion Doesn’t Want to Participate in an Activity, Go Yourself and Don’t be Angry
This sounds easier than it is, yet choosing not to be angry when your traveling companion does not participate in an activity will only add to your enjoyment.  Do you really want to be angry while visiting The Louvre or The Acropolis?
If You Are Headed toward an Unknown Destination, Get as Clear An Idea as Possible Where You are Going
“John, you said you knew where you were going; we are nowhere near where we need to be!”
“We’ll find it.”
“Why can’t you ever stop and ask for directions?  Why are you so stubborn?”
“Oh give it a rest, Phyllis.”
Does this sound familiar to anyone?  For some reason getting lost encourages fighting the way a fine wine encourages relaxation.
To prevent this from happening, why not ask the concierge for detailed directions, or let the person who is better at reading the map read the map?  When I studied abroad in Germany, we traveled with a great map reader, and when someone complained that the map reader was always the one in charge and thought he was “omnipotent,” our trusty leader abdicated control; chaos ensued and let’s just say that the best map reader became the best map reader again.
If Things Don’t Go as Planned, Have a Plan B or Be Spontaneous
This is one of the most important things people can do on vacation.  Nothing is worse than someone being miserable because things didn’t go as planned and subsequently making other traveling companions miserable.  I have found that to plan both indoor and outdoor activities to match the weather has been very helpful in making things go more smoothly.
If One Person Likes to Go, Go, Go, and Another Likes to Relax, That’s Okay
I have traveled with some who like to be on the go constantly and others who like to take it easy.  I have found that to try and change the nature of the other leads to trouble.  Normally, the person who likes to relax is more than happy to have a nice margarita by the pool while others go out and discover the city.
Let Those Pesky, Recurring Issues Go
Vacations can sometimes amplify any existing issues in a relationship.  I have learned to try and let most issues go while on holiday.  My husband and I had our worst anniversary (the armpit of anniversaries) overseas when I brought up a problem.  How I wish now that I hadn’t!
Remember, a Vacation is an Investment!
My guess is there are more people who have been disappointed on vacation because of arguing than those who have not.  One great thing to remember is that a vacation is an investment—financially, emotionally, and an investment of your time.  Try to get the most out of your time—arguing only cheapens your investment.
Making the Most of Your Investment
Want to make the most out of your travel investment?  Turn to International Vacation Home Exchange.  Their travel consultants can help find the perfect luxury home exchange while you and your traveling companion(s) are out seeing the world.  See how this works.

Photo thank you to Michael Baird

Thanks to travel writer Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow her on Twitter @Sonag2000

5 Ways to Live Locally While Traveling Globally


Visiting top tourist attractions are most likely on everyone’s travel itinerary.  We all want to see the sites we’ve read and heard about over the years.  While visiting these sites be sure to make it a well-rounded holiday by spending a little time gaining insight into how the locals of the area live.  Here are a few tips to help you do just that. 
Use Public Transportation
You might find it easier to Uber or book a car service when traveling around an unfamiliar place, but by doing so you miss out on the real flavor of the culture.  Taking the time to learn the local public transportation system is a great way to really immerse yourself in the daily routines of the locals.  Don’t be afraid of getting a bit lost along the way, you can always just get off and get right back on again. 
Learn the Language
You don’t need to necessarily make an investment in Rosetta Stone (unless, of course, you want to) but it’s a great idea to at least learn a few words and phrases in the language of the countries you visit.  It will not only help you get the feel of living locally but it’s also good “travel etiquette” when you’re a guest in another country.  If you are traveling with kids then it’s a great way to expose them to another language.  We always like to have our kids take turns being in charge of learning a few key phrases for the country we are about to visit.  We then will call upon them for a particular phase that’s needed.  It’s a great learning experience for adults, as well, as children. 
Ask the Locals for Suggestions
One of our favorite “side-line” excursions was on a trip to Ireland while driving the Ring of Kerry.  During a quick stop at a gift shop, the owner told us about a little known off shoot of the Ring of Kerry that the tourists don’t know about.  He pulled out a map and showed us how to drive onto the ferry and take this recommended detour.  He also mentioned an ice cream shop on this route that he said was reason enough to make the trip.  So off we went on this mini adventure.  With all the research I do before leaving on holiday I would have never found out about that delightful route without chatting with a local, and yes, the ice cream was amazing!
One of the best ways to truly get the local experience is by booking a home swap, living in local’s home is a great way to experience he local culture.  A popular option is International Vacation Home Exchange.  They offer non simultaneous home swap to their members, which is a convenient booking option. 
Visit the Local Grocery Store
I always love stopping into local grocery stores on holiday.  It’s a great way to experience what’s grown locally or to find out about some of the local cultural favorites.  You can watch other shoppers for what types of items they are purchasing or ask the owner for suggestions.  They are usually more that happy to teach you about their cultural dishes. 

I’d love to hear about a living-like-a-local travel experience you’ve had by leaving a comment in the section below.  Hopefully these tips will help you add a little local flavor to your next holiday experience but remember that to truly fit in with the locals you’ll unfortunately need to leave your selfie stick at home. 

Thank you Travel Writer Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

Travel Tales of Travail – Barcelona Blues


I arrived in Barcelona, Spain full of anticipation.  It was from the airport, to the train, a short distance, and on to the French Catalan Coast.  As often happens with me, I have difficulty sleeping on planes so after an all-night flight, I had no real rest.
I think most of us have arrived at the luggage carousel and have impatiently waited for our baggage to be spewed out of the mouth of whatever contraption it is that spews out the baggage.  We must look so pathetic—watching the luggage carousel go round and round for our “special” delivery which looks almost exactly like everyone else’s “special” delivery.  It is almost as if we are having an identity crisis until our luggage appears, and then when the magic bundle is finally in our hands, it is as if our mind says, “Good—I am myself again.  My sh** that I have packed is reunited with the wonderful me.”
Such were my thoughts in the Barcelona Airport in front of “my” luggage carousel.  The only problem was that it just kept going around and around.  I was getting dizzy, and I noticed a small crowd of others with the same dumb, perplexed looks on their faces.  I’m not sure how long we stood there in front of the carousel until one of us finally spoke to “baggage control.”  The airline employee said that the baggage had been delayed; there was no estimate as to when the baggage was to appear.
After two more hours of no sleep and not brushing my teeth, my baggage appeared!  My sh** that I had packed was reunited the wonderful me, and I was off toward the train bound for France.
I had learned a little French to make my trip go more smoothly and to show respect for the French people.  The problem was, I didn’t bother to brush up on my Spanish.  I had taken a little Spanish in college, but had decided that it was not my language when our Spanish instructor asked us each to describe our sueño (dream).   I proudly declared in Spanish that I wanted to take a nap with Don Johnson.  The classroom was quiet and I guess that they thought, “Who are we to judge her sueño?”  Like someone who is slow to get a joke, about ten minutes after sharing my sueño, I said, “Fiesta! Fiesta! I want to go to a fiesta with Don Johnson, not take a siesta with him!”  The students and instructor burst into laughter.  “We just thought you were honest,” said one of the male students on whom I had a mild crush.  Perhaps it was this semi-traumatic experience which kept me from giving the good people of Barcelona their due by brushing up on their language.
This did not serve me well at the train ticket dispenser.  The sophisticated Barcelonians were not that pleased when I asked for help with the train ticket dispenser without so much as a por favor.  I struggled to figure it out for myself, but to no avail.  Finally, a nice lady who saw all of us (mostly Americans) struggling with the machine, came over and helped us.  I was late, but it was onto the train I went.  As I stumbled over my luggage while getting onto the train, I saw what I thought was a great place to finally sit down and relax.  It was then that a French couple came over and politely reminded me that I was sitting in their seats.  It took a while, but I finally found my seat, and it was on to Banyuls-sur-Mer, France—delayed luggage in tow. 
Want your trip to Barcelona to go more smoothly than mine?  International Vacation Home Exchange can help.  See this luxury exchange home in Barcelona and speak to an IVHE travel consultant.
Join me next time in my Travel Tales of Travail series when I discuss why Deke’s Knee Creaks.

Thanks to well-meaning but accident-prone travel writer Sona Schmidt-Harris – You can follow her on Twitter @Sonag2000

More Great Travel Books


A good book on vacation is a wonderful pleasure; a good book related to you travel destination is an even greater pleasure this is the second in a series, to read the first click here

Amsterdam – The Diary of Anne Frank
Deservedly famous, The Diary of Anne Frank is a must-read if you have ever, or you are planning on visiting Amsterdam.  Though I read, “The Diary of Anne Frank” when I was just a girl, much of it came flooding back to me in my twenties when I visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam.  Because of the depth of the writing of a young girl and the tragic circumstances in which the diary was written, it is somehow surprising to learn that the Frank house is very beautiful, bright and airy.  Strangely, it is evocative of youth and thus the spirit of Anne Frank herself.

Hawaii - Hawaii by James Michener
Considered by some to be a potboiler, Hawaii does indeed contain some melodramatic moments, but this saga by Pulitzer Prize Winner James Michener captivated me both in print and film.  Abner Hale, a devoted and uptight divinity student soon-to-be preacher needs to marry in order to go to Hawaii on a mission to convert the natives to Christianity.  Abner meets the beautiful Jerusha, and soon they are married and on their way to Hawaii.
Outside of the sensitive portrayal of the Hawaiians and their traditions, Michener does a brilliant job of conveying that it is the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law that matters.  At least the film did for me when I was a child.  When I read the book later as an adult, I was struck with how sweeping and ambitious the book was, and I was especially moved by “From the Boundless Deep,” and early chapter in the novel that details the birth of the Hawaiian Islands.

Greece – Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle – Translated by D.P. Chase
Going to enjoy the sunshine and beauty of Greece without tending a bit to your Greek history or philosophy is like going to Paris and not walking down the Champs-Élysées.  When I was in Greece, I found that a taste of Aristotle a day helped to keep luxury hotel snobbery away (although I must admit, one can get used to such things). 
In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle is concerned primarily with “the Chief Good” or “that which all Things aim at.”  The book is a kind of ethical manual for becoming a refined person.  Of special interest to me was Aristotle’s doctrine of “the mean” wherein Aristotle postulates that it is the person who manages a middle way who is most refined and balanced.
Also of special interest to me was Aristotle’s discussion of the meek:
“For the notion represented by the term Meek man is the being imperturbable, and not being led away by passion, but being angry in that manner and at those things, and for that length of time, which Reason may dictate.”
I found the passage above to be the perfect companion to explicating the Christian ideal of “Blessed are the meek . . .”

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Thanks to travel writer Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow her on Twitter @Sonag2000

Choose a Great Book for Your Travel Destination


A good book on vacation is a wonderful pleasure; a good book related to you travel destination is an even greater pleasure.  Here are some suggested books for some popular vacation spots around the world (this the first of two blogs on great books visit the next blog):

Dublin - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
This sensitive portrayal of a young man, who considers entering the priesthood but ultimately chooses the artistic life, is a page turner in its quiet, but earnest way.  With autobiographical echoes of Joyce’s own life, the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus (so named after the mythical, Daedalus, a skilled artist and craftsman) grows, suffers, and “sins” his way to his ultimate, artistic fate.  Much of the novel is set in Dublin, famous for its various literary figures and other colorful characters.  Some passages of the book are heartbreakingly lyrical, and one can see clearly how Joyce and Dedalus are likely one when Dedalus proclaims at the end of the book, “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”  To many, Joyce is the conscience of Ireland and Dublin.

Istanbul – The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Just as Joyce is to many “the uncreated conscience” of Ireland and Dublin, so Orhan Pamuk is “the uncreated conscience” of Istanbul and Turkey.  Deserving winner of the Nobel Prize, Pamuk sensitively weaves a passionate love story in and out of the teeming and varied streets of Istanbul throughout “The Museum of Innocence.” 
Kemal, though engaged to Sibel, falls in love and longs for Fϋsun, a distant relative.  While pining for Fϋsun, Kemal comforts himself by wandering through Istanbul taking in the sites, smells, political atmosphere and many moods of the city. In addition to his wandering, Kemal begins collecting and pilfering objects related to Fϋsun: 
                As the objects accumulated, so did the manifest intensity of my love.  Sometimes I
Would see them not as mementos of the blissful hours but as the tangible precious
debris of the storm raging in my soul.

Florence - Dante’s Inferno
A raging in the soul of another sort is found in Dante’s Inferno.  The first part of Dante’s, The Divine Comedy, Inferno chronicles Dante’s journey through hell next to his guide and teacher, Virgil.  A wonderful blend of the religious and secular, Inferno details various sins, sinners, and their punishments.  As terrifying as any horror film of current imaginations, Inferno describes such dreadful scenes in hell as two sinners buried in the ground close together with only their heads sticking out; one head chews on the head in front of him.  For some reason, this was especially terrifying to me, and I had to stop reading for a bit; in fact, on my way to Italy, a woman on the plane mentioned that she had tried to get through Inferno several times, and was unable to finish it.
So why should you read it in Florence?  Because not only is it a canonical work, but it also speaks to who Dante was and what was going on in fourteenth-century Florence.  As brilliant as Dante was, he also managed to make some enemies and was later exiled from Florence.  One of the city’s favorite sons today, his portrait hangs in the famous Il Duomo.  Il Duomo itself served as both a religious and secular center of sorts reportedly because of sizable secular funds used to build it.

New York City – By Nightfall - Michael Cunningham
No one portrays sophisticated New Yorkers better than Michael Cunningham.  Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Hours, Cunningham turns his attention to a modern, New York couple’s marriage and extended family.  Peter and Rebecca Harris have a comfortable life; Peter is an art dealer, and Rebecca, an editor.  They seem to have it all—careers in the arts that pay!  But something haunts Peter; he questions his own authenticity; he questions his marriage, and he ends up questioning his sexuality.  It is like Cunningham to play with the blurred lines of human sexuality—in this sense, he is a very honest writer. 
Rebecca’s younger brother, “Mizzy” comes for a visit.  A college dropout, former drug addict, and free spirit, Mizzy challenges Peter’s belief in himself. In part a commentary on the commodification of art, this novel will not only give you a sense of the complicated New Yorker, but also spotlight the tragedy of modern, “successful,” American living.

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Come back in a couple days, we'll have more great travel books to share with you - read it here.  

Thanks to travel writer Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow her on Twitter @Sonag2000

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