I recently had a question from a person in the UK who had read one of my reviews on TripAdvisor. Before I started doing some blogging - and continuing today I post some things on TripAdvisor. I found out I have had over 25,000 people read my reviews !!! Wow - I thought that was pretty cool - 25,000 - I never would have thought.
That doesn't compare to a bunch of folks I am sure but since I was only doing it every now and then it made me smile !! So in honor of the first 25,000 today's blog:
I read an article from the NYT that talked about Necessary or "Don't Leave Home Without Them" items the author packs whenever she travels. It got me thinking about the few things that I ALWAYS take with me. This blog is about those things that I never go without. I carry more but trying to focus I narrowed them down to five.
One caveat: taking my iPhone goes without saying. That little piece of technology has made travel significantly easier. Movies - Books - Books on Tape - reference guides - maps - access to the Internet - currency conversion - all in the palm of your hand. On another blog I will write about my GoTo Apps for travel......but this is about my stuff.
My number one item that I NEVER travel without are my BOSE Noise Cancelling Earbuds. I love these things. You can read a full review - matter of fact a number of reviews if you Google them. A lot are about the BOSE sound profile...it isn't loved by everyone but here is the thing I am not looking for perfect sound for music or movies. Often I will just put them in and use them to cancel the ambient sounds without plugging them into my phone or iPad. I use them to cancel excessive noise - especially while flying aIthough I also use them when I mow the yard!!!!!! I had over the ear BOSE headphones that were noise cancelling but I found traveling on an overnight flight I couldn't wear them and sleep. Plus they were bulky and took up too much room. So I went for the earbuds and now they are the number one gadget in my bag. They are not cheap - $249.95 but I have owned Sony's and Panasonic's which were less than half the price so if price makes a difference there are others on the market....but don't confuse Value and Price. These are worth it for me - I love em. They are a great Value.
Next item I make sure I have is a portable multi-port charger. It is an Insignia Four-port charger with collapsable prongs. I bring USB cords so that I can charge all of my tech overnight. I try to keep most items in full charge - that way I am not caught somewhere with a dead-worthless tech tool. There are other multi-ports but Insignia has been pretty rugged and has worked well. Side note: I didn't include adapter plugs or converters which are necessary when we go overseas - but since most of my travel is domestic...I am talking about items that I would use most often.
This is a mophie portable juice pack charger. I have had it for a number of years and still use it. It isn't the most powerful one on the market. I had to do a little calculation...it is 14.8Wh with 5 Volts so the output is 2960 mAh. There are more powerful and longer lasting ones on the market today - even though this isn't the top of the line I never travel without it. INCLUDING - when we are walking a city.
I take a lot of pictures and use a remote shutter release for my iPhone. This uses a lot of battery power. That with navigation drains my battery fairly quickly. When it gets down to about 20-30 percent I will click in the mophie and power it back up.
You have to have a USB - lightning cable for the iPhone or iPad and if you use any tech that has a micro input (like the BOSE earbuds) then you need that cable too. I had another charger from Brookstone that included both cables which were integrated into the unit. I used that a ton...but unfortunately for me (but lucky for someone else) I left it in a small GoLight daybag in the Barcelona Cathedral - fifth pew from the alter on the right - dumb me - but it happens.
To solve the multiple cable problem I found this:
I found A USB cable that has BOTH a lightning end for the Apple products AND a micro charger for my BOSE and other gadgets that use that type of input. You can't use both at once but It works great and does the trick without adding additional cords to haul around.
Although it works great...technology continues to advance I am looking to add a new charger with more power that includes both types of tips in one unit. Regardless of the make - a portable charger with different cable ends is a must for me.
Finally - as my fifth item I would include: pen/mechanical pencil notebook.
Pretty simple isn't it. With all the technology we have and use - I never travel without a pen/pencil and small notebook. Analog works.
It isn't just the simplicity and ability to take notes in an instant or the fact that it keeps a record of places - dates - people and thoughts but reviewing it after a trip - after looking at the pictures, reading my notes about where I have been - whom I have met or just what I was thinking about takes me back. It reminds me about my feelings - what I was thinking at the time. Thoughts can be so fleeting. Writing them down helps me not just remember but reading them brings back the moment. Flying into NYC past the sky scrappers in Manhattan at sunset with the light reflecting off the windows. The hotel in Kitzbuhel Austria - the rain the streets reflecting the purple city lights as we walked - the emptiness of Hallstatt when the tour buses left - of the plaza in Siena Italy - eating pasta and drinking wine - just the two of us......of seeing the Pope in the Vatican during Easter....of St. Patrick's Day in Dublin, I love to go back in time with my analog journals ....
That is it - my top five must travel with items....there are more for sure but if you see me on the road - you can bet I will definitely have these with me.
Travel Safe - Travel Well............here is to the next 25,000 readers !
I really didn't know what to expect when we began our visit to Scotland. I have had friends and family who have been there and even played golf on the Old Course.....but I didn't set that up in advance, we wanted to see as much as we could so we knew we would be on a whirlwind trip across the country anyway.....maybe next time. We hopped over on Ryan air from Dublin to Glasgow and continued our adventures there.
One of the ways we like to explore a new city is by The Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours. We find that when we have limited time -- unless there is something very specific we know we want to do - it is a convenient way to see some of the more impressive sights. We have also found that by circling those things that we are interested in during the tour - we can go back to the ones within our allotted time. The problem is never "not enough to see or do" - the problem is you see so many wonderful things that we "always, ALWAYS run out of time". Riding through the city our first impression was that Glasgow is a beautiful -artistic - historical - and gorgeous place to visit. Again - you hear about these places but until you can experience them first hand you don't really know. If you get the chance be sure to visit the city of "Glaswegians".
Founded by a Christian Missionary - St. Mungo around the middle of the 6th century the Glasgow Cathedral sits on the site where he was reported to have started his religious community. You may visit the Cathedral and the St. Mungo Museum - The Cathedral is dark and more austere than many we have visited but I found the plaques and memorials to individuals and groups around the inside walls to be most interesting.
I found this one to be particularly disconcerting. It appears we have been fighting wars in Afghanistan long before our current involvement.
It wasn't the only one. There were regiments which fought and and men and women who died or were honored from around the world. Battles in Europe - Egypt - Indonesia.....and on and on through the World Wars and even conflicts in the middle east today.
It is a sad commentary.
Behind the cathedral and up the hill sits the necropolis. As you can tell hundreds of stone monuments from so far back the rains have washed away the dates. I thought it odd - I wasn't sad going there. Time stands still for no one. Sometimes - selfishly I admit - I think mostly about my life and the people closest to me and I don't appreciate and think about those folks and families that have come before us who did wonderful things to shape history, to care for each other, make unimaginable sacrifices, who lived in very difficult times and still maintained their sense of the goodness of humanity. Just being kind is a way to contribute to the beauty of the world. Hmmmmmm........travel is not just enjoyable - it gives you the opportunity to think differently. I love it.
The University of Glasgow's main campus is a few miles from the downtown area. I decided I wanted to go and visit the Kelvingore Art Gallery and Museum. I will save that for another blog - it rightfully deserves its own pages...but the University alone is worth the visit. I needed to take the subway.....
It really is a "Tube". It is the second oldest Underground or Subway in the World. London was first. But it is fast - easy to navigate since it runs in a circle going opposite directions. An Inner Circle and Outer Circle....you can't get lost. I jumped into the "Tube" and set off for the University.
Established in 1451 - it is the fourth oldest University behind Cambridge, Oxford and the University of Edinburgh. Some of its buildings sit majestically on top of the hill looking as solid and stately as ever,
There is a park that sits in the campus with a peaceful stream, walking paths and benches throughout. It was a warm fall day so I decided to walk through the park to the Kelvingore. Fabulous -
But that isn't all that I liked about Glasgow it isn't just about buildings and parks and subways - it is about people......Glaswegians are whimsical and delightful.
Sitting in front of their city building is a statue of the Duke of Wellington sitting proudly astrid his trusty stead...with a bright orange traffic cone on his head.
The statute was commissioned over 141 years ago. Apparently some students (or student - no one knows for sure) climbed the statue and placed a traffic cone on his head sometime in the 80's. Some thought the prank was hilarious - a don't take ourselves so seriously attitude - but the City Council didn't think it was so funny. They removed it. A few days later another one mysteriously appeared. They again had it removed. This has been going on for over 30 years.
A couple years back the City Council hatched a plan to raise the statue so no more cones could be placed on his head. Apparently this caused a public outcry....petitions were signed, rallies were help, social media became involved. Glaswegians in mass wanted it to stay. The council scrapped the idea. So there it sits in this splendid and historic city - right in front of city hall as a reminder to the public and politicians alike...a reminder "don't take ourselves so seriously. Even in the midst of challenging times - keep a sense of humility - and humor. BRILLIANT !!!!!! I love to travel.
Travel safe - Travel well
What a wonderful day in St. Andrews, Scotland.
It was cloudy, rainy and windy....perfect Golf weather according to Tom Morris - the inventor of the game of GOLF ! But that was just a "wee bit" of what we found in St. Andrews. We found a wonderful pub with amazing Fish and Chips and service to match. Humble shop folks - helping and so kind. An amazing Church dating from 1140 - beautiful flowers amidst the shops, students in their school uniforms and finally ....of course - The Old Course.....it was a magnificent afternoon in St. Andrews.
We decided to take the train from Edinburgh. What you actually have to do is book a ticket from Edinburgh to St Andrews Bus...which we did with the direction of the Rail-line folks. They were so helpful. When we arrived in Leuchers...which is the train station...there was a bus waiting to take us to the city....there was also a young man who booked to Leuchers but not St Andrews......as he tried to board the bus he was told he needed another ticket. As is typical of so many young people today...he didn't have cash - he had a card - but they don't take cards...only cash. So we paid the 3.20 GBP for him so he didn't have to walk back to the station and get cash. He was thankful - the bus driver was amazed - maybe it was their introduction to American Generosity.....maybe - maybe not. It was the right thing to do at the right moment.......WE LOVE TO TRAVEL !!!
So entering St. Andrews we had a chance to walk through the Old Town. It was wonderful and beautiful. Maybe it was the rain that left a glisten over the city. It shimmered. St. Andrews has the third oldest University in the UK - only behind Oxford and Cambridge. It is a lovely city. A City - feeling safe and embraced in its history and the people of today so gracious.
We entered the Parish Church of Holy Trinity....as they say " We are a living congregation of today's "Church of Scotland" but our roots go back to 1140".......
We visited the OLD TOWN and the University of St Andrews Center. We decided to lunch there....at the Central Pub....it was the best decision we made that day among many GREAT decisions. The service was personal - the food - terrific and the feeling like we were in someone's home having dinner. It was special. Maybe because of the rain - there weren't many people or tourists ...or maybe because they were just that way...gracious, appreciative, attentive......whoa......wonderful.
Finally - the Old Course at St. Andrews
I bought some Souvenirs - and had my picture taken..and taken and taken. My dad loved golf. It started here. It is the game that individually can never be won but can only be played.....the best game as is the game of life. I thought about my dad and how I proud I was of him and how lucky I was to be his son and knowing he once played there even if I only had the chance to gaze over the 18th and inhale its magic.
It was a wonderful - cloudy - rainy - windy - beautiful day in St. Andrews. The town - the flowers - the course....the waves off the ocean......the people - my thoughts and gratefulness....it is more than just a golf course or THE golf course....it has shaped history...it means so many different things to so many people....and it now means more to me.
Travel safe - travel well
This will be a shorter blog - because it is Saturday and I don't have a lot of pictures to share - just a story.
One of the most enjoyable and fascinating things about travel is without question - the people you meet on your trip. We were traveling from Dublin by train to Skerries - then to Malahide where there is a most magnificent castle.........
It is well worth the visit - BUT that isn't the point of this blog.
We met a fine gentleman on the train - older but wanting to be conversant. He sat across from us on the aisle and we started to chat. Asking where we were from - we told him Colorado and he was pleased that we had journeyed so far to see his country. The he scooted over to the very edge and began his story.
He asked where we were headed and we told him we weren't sure. You see when we travel we often leave the middle days open so that if we run into someone or a place to see we are open to just going. I call it "vagatouring". We have a plan but it is very flexible...and yes we have been caught without a a place to stay or getting completely lost...but those make the best memories.
Anyway - he saddled over and asked us if we had ever heard of the "potato blight and the Irish famine in the 1800's". Of course we have we said...it sounded horrible and the cause for many Irish to emigrate to America. As he leaned closer he asked if we wanted to know what really happened........he piqued our curiosity - so we said yes.
He explained that the famine wasn't caused by a potato blight. It was caused by the British who were trying to rid Ireland of the Catholics. It was genocide. There was plenty of food available but it was held by the British to starve the people into submission. He went on to say that the only reason we don't know the real story is because history has purposefully omitted the true story. The people at that time were so desperate they ended up trying to stave off mass starvation by eating grass to the point their teeth became green. Eventually - it didn't work and the food was released to the people. By then many had died and/or left the country. But Ireland remained predominantly Catholic.
He sat back and said he learned this from his parents and grandparents and that we would never find this in the history books because they are written by the winners. We parted at the next station with heartfelt goodbyes.
I love to travel. I love to meet people and hear their stories. Whether true of not - I don't know but they are true to them and they mean so much to them that when they want to share them to just listen to their views and thoughts without judgement........it is priceless.
Travel safe - Travel well !!
It has been a few weeks since my last post. We have traveled to Ireland and Scotland and there are more stories to come but I wanted to start with this one.
In Ireland - there is a little town called Skerries. It is known for having the last remaining "working wooden windmills" in the country. It isn't a town that you will read about in many of the guidebooks....just a line or paragraph or two. It is north of Dublin on the train line so we decided to spend part of a day and make a tour.
When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised how peaceful and quiet the town was - especially after leaving the craziness of Dublin. It was wonderful.
As we walked through the city and learned a little more about the area we found out that it is believed that this was the place where St. Patrick first stepped onto Ireland. We read that his footprint is still in the rocks but you must find it on your own. It isn't located by any landmarks. After you locate it ----- you may either step into the footprint or dip three fingers into the water covering it and make a wish. You find it and believe through faith.
As I said the "sandal print" isn't marked. We walked to the Red Island or Red Hook looking along the coast for any indication of any type of footprint. Along our route we meet some wonderful people including a woman who talked about growing up on the knoll with her father manning the lighthouse on the point. She told us about how her mother would use signal flags to contact him and then they would use them through morris code to talk with each other. She spent some time telling us how it was "back then". Beautiful and other times when the weather turned how they feared for their father's life. The lighthouse can be seen from the edge of the water but it was at least one maybe two miles out to sea.
She told us that there was a time when walky-talkies were banned for civilians and how her mother and father smuggled them to use - until her mom was caught. They were confiscated....back to flags and morris code. It was a simpler time as you can imagine. But simpler doesn't mean less dangerous. Often it was worse. She was wonderful.
We continued to look for the footprint in the rocks on the shore. Finally - I thought I found it. It looked like the pictures we had seen but sometimes you just have to go with your instincts.
I dipped my three fingers in the water and made a wish.....one which I will not disclose. Did I really believe that I had found the footprint. I didn't know. But I decided to go with it.
To be fair - I didn't take this picture. I copied it from a website.....but that is the spot.
The story isn't over. You see - I had my doubts about St. Patrick leaving his footprint in the rocks on the shore. I mean come on - really?
As I caught up with my wife I expressed my belief that I had found the footprint....but was it actually St. Patrick's......I had my doubts............but just as soon as I said that - a bee stung my little finger. One that was NOT dipped in the footprint. It was immediate and painful but not debilitating.....just a quick sting and done. A wakeup call ! My finger swelled a little and itched like crazy. It itched for the rest of the time we were in Ireland but as soon as we left for Glasgow Scotland - it went away.
SO what do you take from this - I can't speak for you. I learned this: I found the sandal print of St. Patrick as he came upon the shores of Ireland. I dipped my fingers into the waters and made a wish and I believe the wish will come true. I was reminded by that bee sting there is more depth and beauty and miracles and coincidences and cause and effect and chance encounters in this world that we can ever imagine or understand......AND.........faith is a good thing and to be open to life and the experiences it offers.
Also.............I am glad I am not allergic to bee stings.
Travel safe - travel well !
BK Travel Tips
To enjoy travel and see the world and often yourself as if for the first time and with with the eyes of a young child.