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April 30, 2004

A Lot Left To See



The sections of the world map above that are in red indicate the countries that I have been to at some point in my life. A lot of "uncharted" territory still out there for me!

Make your own map of your travels by clicking here. You can make a map of states in the U.S. that you've visited, as well.

May 24, 2004

Okay, time for the state map



A few weeks back, I did the world map. Here is the "states visited" map. The sections of the U.S. map above that are in red indicate the states that I have been to at some point in my life.

Make your own map of your travels by clicking here. You can make a map of countries in the world that you've visited, as well.

June 11, 2004

Gone fishin' . . .

Okay, I may or may not be posting for the next two weeks. It all depends on access to Internet cafes. I'll be on holiday in Paris, Scotland, western Ireland, and London. I'll try to snap some pics for the site.

I'm outta here!

June 15, 2004

Springtime in Paris

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Beautiful weather and lingering daylight in the evenings have marked my time in Paris thus far. A few quick observations:

  • It's amazing how much better public transport is in Europe than back Stateside. The Metro system here in Paris is fast, cheap, and convenient.
  • Walking around with an iPod basically provides a soundtrack for exploring the world's great cities. I had The Streets in my ears while (whilst, as they would say) on the Tube in London the other day and was listening to Berlioz as I walked by Notre Dame yesterday.
  • Dvorak keyboards are damned frustrating.
  • Paris may be a movable feast, but it's expensive as hell to eat here.

On to Scotland . . .

June 25, 2004

I'm back

I've returned after two weeks abroad. Good to travel, good to be home. Regular posting will resume in the next few days.

July 6, 2004

Pot Pourri

In an effort to catch up on my lapsed blogging, what follows is an assortment of quick takes on a variety of topical subjects.

John Edwards: Kerry made what was probably the safest choice for a vice-presidential nominee, but one that I think ultimately will help him in November. Yes, the pollsters will tell us that Edwards may not move any of the swing states into the Kerry column--not even North Carolina, probably--but he represents an articulate, charismatic presence on the ticket that could be reassuring to swing voters in various demographic categories that will be crucial in what should prove to be a close general election. The Tar Heel senator has a fascinating life story, coming from humble origins and facing genuine adversity along the way. Of course the GOP immediately attacked Edwards this morning as lacking the experience for the vice-presidency, what with only six years in the United States Senate. This is laughable, given that the man at the head of the Republican ticket boasted exactly six years experience as governor in a state in which that office held little real political power. Moreover, Bush was more or less a failure at everything he attempted in his life before his political career, in spite of all the advantages conferred by Poppy and his friends. In contrast, Edwards was a self-made millionaire who fought corporate wrong-doing and then distinguished himself in Congress by co-sponsoring sweeping reforms such as the Patients' Bill of Rights.

John McEnroe's talk show: Tomorrow night CNBC debuts a new talk show featuring former "Super-Brat" John McEnroe. As an adolescent tennis fan, I always rooted for Mac's greatest rivals: Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. (Though I never warmed up to Ivan Lendl, so McEnroe occasionally enjoyed my support!) I must admit that I've come around on McEnroe over the years. Maybe he's mellowed; maybe I have. When he started as an announcer on tennis telecasts I found him occasionally amusing but fairly undisciplined as an analyst. Nowadays he's refreshingly insightful, more open-minded (while still refreshingly honest and opinionated), and is capable of substantial slef-deprecating humor. So I am looking forward to seeing what he'll bring to the table as a talk show host. Mac seems to have become something of a polymath, with genuine interests in art, music, politics, sports, etc. He can do no worse in this new role than Dennis Miller, whose show is in the adjoining slot on the cable network; Miller is someone I used to enjoy immensely before his gradual transformation into a right-wing crank (which corresponded fairly precisely with his becoming more or less unfunny).

Spider-Man 2: This film deserves the box office success it has enjoyed the past week. It won't change the world and it not quite perfect, but it's a pretty spiffy summer popcorn flick. Have fun with this one.

Farenheit 9/11: On the other hand, this movie--also a relative box office champ--might, in fact, change the world. Michael Moore's documentary skewers "W" and company pretty effectively. For the most part Moore avoids the heavy-handedness that made me feel sorry for Charlton Heston in Bowling For Columbine. That's not to say there is no point of view here; quite the opposite, the director has conceded. He wears his politics on his sleeve and is unabashed about presenting his opinions on the Bush Administration, the war on terror, the Patriot Act, and the current Iraq misadventure. But for the most part, Moore himself maintains a lower profile in this picture, instead letting the objects of his derision condemn themselves on camera.

Wimbledon 2004: In spite of the seemingly endless rain (that kept me from getting out to the All-England Club while in London during the opening days of the fortnight) this was one of the best Wimbledons in recent memory. Finals weekend was particularly satisfying, with the coming of age of the charming and talented Maria Sharapova in the ladies' championship and the enjoyable and highly competitive Federer/Roddick tilt on Sunday. The sport needs a few more majors with the excitement we saw in SW19 the past two weeks.

Sting in concert: I caught the former Police front man in an outdoor show at Jones Beach last week. He was in exceptionally good voice, sharing the bill with Annie Lennox. I knew it would be a good show when the second song played was one of my Police faves, "Synchronicity II."

Whither Euro 2004? While I was ambling around Paris, Scotland, Ireland, and London in June, I could not escape the football frenzy surrounding the European Cup soccer championship. Every day, there was wall-to-wall coverage in the newspapers and on television. Upon returning to the States, I was struck that highlights of the tournament merited hardly a mention in our papers.

July 18, 2004

Scotland

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Watching golfer Todd Hamilton survive a playoff to claim the claret jug trophy for winning the British Open at Royal Troon earlier today brought back memories of my time in Scotland last month and two years ago. I flew in and out of Prestwick International in June; the airport is just a couple of miles away from the golf course and planes were visible flying over the tournament all weekend. I also took a ferry from Troon to Belfast in 2002.

On my last trip a few weeks back I met recent Choate grad Jack Fennebresque and his father Kim for an enjoyable evening of conversation and dinner at the scenic Loch Lomond Golf Club north of Glasgow (the club hosted the Scottish Open in 2004). I continued on north to the Isle of Skye where I reconnected with Dan Otto--a friend since the third grade whom I hadn't seen in over twenty years. We had a great time getting reacquainted, though I almost got swallowed whole by a Scottish bog while hiking back from kicking the soccer ball around in the hills.

I snapped the picture above while driving through the Highlands. The scene of a bagpiper doing his thing in front of a spectacular waterfall overlooking a picturesque valley would have been thoroughly charming had it not been for the hat left out to collect the odd quid and the handful of tour buses that had stopped on the roadside with me.

Last thought on Scotland: while rushing back through Glasgow to catch a flight to Ireland last month, I passed a liquor store with what may be the all-time best name for a retail establishment I've ever seen: Ministry of Booze.

July 21, 2004

Off To See The Wizard

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Every July, I drive about a dozen students from Connecticut to D.C. as part of the John F. Kennedy Institute program. As we approach Washington, there is a sight that never fails to thrill me. The view of the above structure--a Mormon temple, actually--looming over the highway as we approach it in the early evening each summer is pretty striking, as it's lighted such that it glows an iridescent greenish hue. I'm not the first to think it's a pretty fair substitute for the Emerald City from The Wizard Of Oz. In fact, for years an overpass near the temple displayed a pretty clever spraypaint job: SURRENDER DOROTHY. As we reach the crest of a hill and the spires of the temple appear over the Beltway, the kids on the trip finally realize why I kept referring to "lions and tigers and bears" for the last couple of hours.

July 23, 2004

This Is Progress

The New Jersey Turnpike has made a major improvement to the EZPass system of paying tolls. The EZPass Express lanes make it possible to cruise through the gates without really slowing down. Since the machinery has been upgraded to collect information from the EZPass transponders as traffic passes through at 55 miles per hour, my trip up the Turnpike earlier today was just a bit more pleasant.

July 24, 2004

The Ultimate iPod Accessory

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My new InMotion speakers, made by Altec Lansing, arrived in this morning's mail. These are designed for the iPod and provide superb sound for such a modestly sized package (the contraption folds neatly into the size of a paperback book, making it ideal for travel). Moreover, the speakers recharge the iPod as it sits in the cradle and also provide a port for an auxiliary audio line (for a CD player or anything else you want to plug in). Power is supplied either by plugging into a wall socket or inserting four AA batteries.

The InMotion speakers retail for $149 but I got a set for $99, including free shipping, from Buy.com; that's a steal for such a well-made iPod accessory.

August 13, 2004

Ducking the Queue

The wonders of e-ticketing allowed me to print my own boarding pass 24 hours before my flight for Tokyo leaves New York City. Hopefully this will mean a line-free experience at Kennedy Airport tomorrow!

August 15, 2004

Tokyo Or Bust

Well I arrived in Japan after 13+ hours on a plane. My experience at JFK Airport was as painless as I had hoped, what with Internet check-in in advance; it was virtually line-free!

A few quick first impressions before my jet-lagged body crashes:

Arriving in August, it strikes me that it's 59 years almost to the date that Japan surrendered to the U.S. to end the Pacific War. The Japanese remain perfectly friendly toward their one-time American conquerers, however.

Good ol' American cultural imperialism was certainly in evidence on the train ride from Narita Airport: along the way into the city, amidst the rice paddies I saw The Sports Authority, am/pm, Toys "R" Us, and of course the ubiquitous Starbucks.

Watching baseball and the Olympics on Japanese television is fun, even if I have no idea what is going on in the commentary. Sport really is a universal language, though. Last time I was here in 1998, I saw the Nagano Winter Games--both in person and on TV--so I guess that makes me a veteran of such spectating.

August 16, 2004

Tokyo By Night

Wandering through the streets of Tokyo, I felt like I was in a cross between Times Square and the set of Blade Runner. One notable change since I was last here six years ago: apparently you can no longer buy beer from vending machines on the street. Perhaps it's the high school teacher in me, but I always found such easy availability of alcohol to be asking for trouble.

August 17, 2004

Exploring

Spent the day poking aroud Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Kamakura, a seaside village not far from Tokyo that was an ancient capital of Japan. I did a LOT of walking today and treated myself to dinner at an Outback Steakhouse in Shibuya before collapsing in a tub back at my hotel.

August 18, 2004

My Hotel Room

Some nice features in my hotel room here in Tokyo:

There is a speaker in the bathroom that carries the audio feed from the television. So I can listen to CNN while enjoying a bath or brushing my teeth.

As is the case in many hotel bathrooms, there is a wall-to-wall mirror above the vanity sink, across from the bathtub. What I noticed here is that after a shower, when the mirror is all fogged up, there is a rectangle just above the sink that is somehow fog-free, just where you would want to look for shaving and such. Very cool.

Broadband Internet access in every room. Hence my being able to post this.

August 19, 2004

A Sushi Lover's Paradise

While exploring Kyoto today, I found the restaurant I had stumbled on in 1998, Musashi. This place is basically a horseshoe-shaped counter with a conveyer belt running around above, which ferries all manner of sushi, so it was easy to pick off just the things I wanted as they came by. And it's about as cheap as you can find for good sushi; the bill is tabulated by totaling the number of plates at the end of the meal; my lunch cost about 1,300 yen--around twelve bucks--and I had my fill of sushi.

August 20, 2004

Unlucky

I visited Nara, one of Japan's earliest capitals, and site of Kasuga Taisha--a beautiful Shinto shrine--and Todai-ji, a Buddhist temple housing the Daibatsu (a very famous 53-feet-high bronze statue of Buddha). At the Shinto site, I had my fortune told via omikuji, based on the stick I drew out of a canister, only to find the slip of paper with my fortune on it was labeled "Misfortune." Figuring I'd have better luck with the Buddhists, I tried again later in the day at Todai-ji, but the second slip of paper was headlined (even more harshly) "Bad Luck." Good thing I don't put much stock in that sort of thing, or it might have ruined my day.

August 21, 2004

Training

I am struck by how good public transportation is in other countries. I have been using a a rail pass in Japan this week, which enables me to travel anywhere in the country via shinksansen, the bullet trains, as well as around Tokyo. As I observed while touring in France and the U.K. in June, in countries that care about public transport, trains are punctual, efficient, clean, and convenient. And unlike my stay in Paris, my hotels in both Tokyo and Kyoto have been mere steps away from the train station, which has minimized the need to lug my luggage through the city--a factor that contributed to my missing my Eurostar train back to Paris (though it was easy enough to take the next departure, it turned out).

August 22, 2004

Land of the Rising Sun

I've been given a deluxe insider's view of Tokyo the past day and a half, courtesy of 1992 Choate grad Yasuo Hinoki and his fiancee Aki. Had my first samplng of shabu shabu at lunch today (it's what I would call beef fondue!).

August 23, 2004

I'm Back

As Frank Sinatra once sang, "It's very nice to go trav'ling/But it's oh so nice to come home." Especially after a 12-hour flight!

August 25, 2004

A Good Night's Sleep

My room at The American Club resort hotel out here in Wisconsin may have the best bed I have ever slept on. It's a king-sized bed with a mattress that has the perfect balance between firmness and softness, tons of pillows, and really comfortable sheets.

August 27, 2004

Man In A Suitcase

. . . was the title of an old Police song, one that captures my mood pretty well right now. After my Japan adventure, I spent the last couple of nights in the Midwest and have a pair of nights in the Grand Hyatt in New York ahead of me. The good news is, I think I have gotten over my jet lag.

August 29, 2004

It's A Helluva Town

There's a buzz in the air in the Big Apple. The GOP National Convention is descending on the city just as U.S. Open tennis is getting underway.

I walked through Times Square tonight. Protestors were out in force all over the place, as were New York's finest. (I haven't seen so many police in Times Square since I last spent New Year's Eve there.)

December 28, 2004

I'll Follow The Sun

Just a few hours away from a flight to Puerto Rico. I am looking forward to escaping from the sub-freezing temperatures of the Northeast!

December 29, 2004

Where Is Sister Bertrille?

The Flying Nun

I have arrived in Puerto Rico. It's warm but rainier than I had hoped. But I'll be here through Sunday, so ideally I'll have some time to craft a tan that will make everyone at home envious!

For those too young to remember, the picture above is from a TV show called "The Flying Nun" (I couldn't make this up!) that aired from 1967 until 1970. The premise was a novice nun--played by Sally Field--found that her light weight, the shape of her nun's habit, and the winds of San Juan combined to allow her to soar over the city. Really. For three seasons on network television. (Who thought this one up?)

December 30, 2004

Casa Bacardi

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I visted the Bacardi factory across the bay from Old San Juan this afternoon. Getting there reminded me of my time in Sydney in 1998: the ferry and the pier were reminiscent of the ferries from Circular Quay down under. And the Bacardi tour was better than the one I had in the Bahamas in 1989 (I remember riding a scooter all the way to the south side of Nassau just to get there).

January 1, 2005

Happy New Year!

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Spent much of the day exploring El Yunque, the only rain forest in the U.S. Forest system. It's less than an hour's drive from San Juan and a site with striking waterfalls and amazing biodiversity.

January 2, 2005

Lives Up To Its Rep

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JetBlue was voted the best domestic airline the last three years. Having traveled round trip to Puerto Rico on JetBlue--my first time with the carrier--I can see why. It was a pleasure.

February 4, 2005

MasterCard Moment

Round Trip Flight to Orlando, Florida: $238.70

Car Rental for the Weekend:
$123.40

Spending the Afternoon Hitting Golf Balls With My Dad On His 75th Birthday:
priceless

March 20, 2005

Spring Is Here

The days are getting longer. The weather is getting warmer. Even though I (reluctantly) left beautiful Florida sunshine this afternoon to endure a miserable Delta flight back to Connecticut (no wonder the airline is flirting with bankruptcy!), the promise of the new spring is upon us.

June 11, 2005

When In Rome . . .

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Whew! I just found my passport after a sudden realization that it wasn't where I usually keep it.

Tonight I fly out of JFK Airport for Rome (via London). From the Eternal City, I head to the west coast of Ireland (again, via London) and then finish with a few days in London.

I'll do my best to find an Internet cafe and update the blog when I can.

I ought to have plenty of pics, too, what with my spiffy camera and my new lenses, though they may not get posted before I return stateside.

June 12, 2005

Quick Hits

Some observations on the trip from New York to Rome:

American Airlines' Terminal 8 at J.F.K. Airport looks like a bus station circa 1962 rather than a modern terminal for a major carrier.

While waiting for my flight, I tried a Diet Coke made with Splenda (rather than NutraSweet). I guess it's a test-marketing thing. I like Splenda (a.k.a. sucralose) in the DietRite sodas, but it didn't do much for me in the Diet Coke.

While on the flight, I sat in front of a mother and son. The latter was probably about 11 years old and spoke with an English accent (his mother seemed to be American). About an hour into the flight he asked his mother if she thought it was a good idae that we were building all of these robots. She seemed non-committal in her reply. Then the boy said: "It's only a matter of time before the robots rise up and enslave mankind." Creepy.

Why are European airports much more civilized in providing luggage carts for free, as opposed to charging three bucks for them as they do in New York?

At Stansted Airport in London, I witnessed a trio of Italian men basically confirming all the worst stereotypes as they repeatedly cut the line while boarding a flight to Rome.

My RyanAir flight gave me a bird's eye view of the eternal city in the afternoon sun. I had clear views of recognizable landmarks such as St. Peter's Basilica and the Colosseum, as well as crumbling ancient aqueducts south of the city.

It sure is convenient to be able to use the Euro in many different countries while traveling in Europe, but it didn't do me much good when the only ATM in Rome's Ciampino airport wasn't working when I needed local currency.

There seem to be a LOT of Americans here in Rome. No doubt they are exploring the Angels and Demons tour of the city!

Conclusion of the day: if you know a reasonable amount of high school Spanish, you can get by in Italy.

June 13, 2005

S P Q R

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After having brunch in an Italian cafe while being serenaded by Bob Dylan, I embarked on a three-hour walking tour of the city, focusing on the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. A group of nearly thirty of us were led around by an English-speaking Roman archaeologist/tour guide named Valentina (I recommend Enjoy Rome for English-speaking visitors; the company runs a handful of such tours around the city). In the evening, I got thoroughly lost and ended up walking miles out of the way before finally getting back to my hotel at around 11 p.m. I am now BONE-TIRED and have blisters as a result of seeing most of Rome on foot!

June 14, 2005

Crippled

My legs and feet are SO sore from yesterday's adventures that I am putting off my plans to see the Vatican until tomorrow. I can hardly put any weight on my left foot. Instead I'll spend more time recuperating in my hotel room today than I care to. Ugh! Well, I brought some books I've been waiting to dive into, so here goes.

Healed

Earlier in the day I was getting worried that I might have somewhow broken my foot. I mean it HURT and I could barely walk on it. I was contemplating the hassles that would entail: dealing with a doctor abroad and all the insurance nightmares that go with that. Not to mention the prospect of being a gimp in rural Ireland and in London over the next week plus! Well I was not content to lie about and convalesce in my hotel room while in one of the world's great capitals for just a few days. So around 5 p.m. I gingerly made my way across the street to the Metro to set out and explore the city some more. I was limping around one of Rome's neighborhoods and no sooner did I stop thinking about the soreness of my left foot than it stopped hurting altogether and I could walk normally. Go figure! Maybe this former altar boy benefitted from the proximity of so many churches? There must have been something misaligned in my foot, a kink which worked its way out with a bit of exercise. Whatever the reason, my mood has picked up considerably!

June 15, 2005

A Confession

I did something horribly touristy last night in Rome. I had a craving for a burger, so I went to the Hard Rock Cafe. Huge mistake: had to wait too long for a table, the food was mediocre at best, and it all was horribly overpriced.

Arrividerci Roma!

I spent the afternoon fighting the crowds in Vatican City. Wednesdays are tough in general, given that the papal audiences in the morning tend to attract pilgrims in the middle of the week. But beyond that, my tour guide said the crowds outside St. Peter's Basilica were the toughest she's seen in five years.

In a few minutes I am off to the airport for a flight back to London. Then first thing in the morning I fly to Shannon and then drive like mad in an attempt to make the 1 p.m. ferry to Inishmore.

June 17, 2005

The Emerald Isle

Back in Ireland. Actually I am posting this from an Internet cafe in Galway City. I spent most of yesterday on the Aran Islands (Inishmore, actually) with the Choate Irish Literature group and we will spend a night in Doolin before heading down to Kerry to the town of Dingle.

Galway is booming. Ireland arguably has been the greatest beneficary of the European Union. The cities here are more European than ever. Jobs are abundant. The Irish are richer than ever. Shops and industrial parks are being built all over. And the diversity of the population is more evident than before: not just Eastern Europeans anymore, but many more African and Asian faces as well.

June 18, 2005

In Search Of Fungi The Dolphin

After a lovely evening in Doolin, I have arrived in County Kerry for three days in the harbor village of Dingle, allegedly home to Fungi the dolphin. The Kerry peninsula is the westernmost extent of the European continent. What's terrific about this place in June--apart from the exquisite scenery in abundance--is the mild weather and the daylight that lingers well past 10 p.m. In part, it's because we are so far north and in part because this is the most westerly part of the time zone.

June 20, 2005

A Relaxing Day

After a visit to the Blasket Islands yesterday, my last day in Ireland will be one of leisure. I went to the 10 a.m. Mass in Irish at St. Mary's Church in Dingle this morning. This evening the entire Choate group--31 strong--will have dinner at our favorite Global Village restaurant (hosted by Nuala and Martin, whom we befriended last year) and we'll have the treat of a private concert by the noted whistle and uilleann pipe player Eoin Duignan, something of a local celebrity. The rest of the day I'll poke around the town, shop a bit, and relax with a book or two. I am off at daybreak tomorrow for the Kerry Airport to catch my morning flight to London.

June 22, 2005

London Town

Samuel Johnson wrote "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."

I woke up and had breakfast over three newspapers: The Daily Telegraph, the slimmed-down foreign version of USA Today, and the indispensable International Herald Tribune.

I spent the late morning doing some shopping--mostly music I can't get back home--but I also got custom fitted for some tennis shoes at Harrod's.

After getting lucky picking up a primo theater ticket at the box office, I had lunch near Victoria Station at ASK--which I learned on the squash tour in March is pronunced "A-S-K" rather than "ask."

In the afternoon I made my way out to Wimbledon to take in some grass court tennis action.

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The evening activity du jour was Billy Elliot: The Musical, a new offering on the West End. The show was spectacularly good--a very pleasant surprise, as it was my second choice (I got shut out of the Guys and Dolls revival starring Obi-Wan, er . . . Ewan McGregor). On my way home after the performance, I passed by the stage door and who whould walk right by me into a fancy black Rolls-Royce but ELTON FRIGGIN' JOHN! (He wrote the music for this show, as he did for The Lion King.) Sir Elton has had many incarnations over the years, but for someone like me who grew up in the 1970s, he was for a while quite simply the biggest rock star in the world, so it was a thrill to see him up close and personal. I am reminded of my last night in London two years ago, walking home from the theatre on a lovely June evening and meeting Patrick Stewart on the street.

Tomorrow afternoon I fly back to New York and Friday morning I will begin drifting through a series of meetings to mark the beginning of summer school.

June 23, 2005

Last Day In Europe

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I am in the Apple Store on Regent Street in London right now, enjoying my last few hours before heading to Heathrow Airport. It's been HOT in London, so I'm well prepared for the likely muggy weather waiting for me back home.

July 19, 2005

The Nation's Capital

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As I have done the third week in July most years since 1988, I am enduring the combination of heat (90 degress plus!) and humidity unique to the swamp now known as Washington, DC. In my capacity as Director of the John F. Kennedy Institute in Government, I spent today shepherding a dozen students around Capitol Hill (we'll visit the White House and the Supreme Court, as well as other governmental and political sites of interest, later this week).

It's always somewhat exciting to experience life "inside the Beltway" for at least a few days every year. Politics absolutely dominates the culture of the city in a way it does nowhere else I've been. Only in this place do folks talk about the day's lead story in Roll Call with passion.

It was a treat to connect with some familiar faces now working in various capacities in Congress: current Choate student Jeff Berry, an intern in Rosa DeLauro's office; JFK Institute alum Hayden Brockett, now a full-time DeLauro staffer; and recent CRH grad Will Howerton, spending some time in John Kerry's office this summer over on the Senate side.

The evening hours in Georgetown are, in contrast to the days during this excursion, relatively leisurely in pace. This part of town offers a nice range of shops and restaurants as well as air-conditioned accommodations on the Georgetown University campus.

August 9, 2005

O Canada

Off this morning to Montreal for a couple of days. I plan to catch some of the Masters Series tennis while up there.

August 16, 2005

Subway Maps To Go, iPodders!

If you have one of the color screen iPods that can display photos, you would be foolish not to download subway maps for New York, London, Boston, Montreal, Hong Kong (and plenty more to come, no doubt) by accessing this nifty site. Well, assuming you plan to be in any of therse cities, anyway!

August 19, 2005

Travelin' Man

Off to Boston tonight, then on a plane at Logan in the morning to head for five days of vacation in Bermuda. I'll be there by lunchtime. I should be able to post while I am there, but if this space seems out-of-date, you'll know why.

Back In Beantown

A few quick hits:

I am spending the night in Boston, right in Logan Airport at the Embassy Suites. It's a great hotel: all the rooms are actual suites, you get a full cooked breakfast included with the room, and each room has high-speed wireless Internet access without a surcharge. And I found a deal on the Web for all of this for about $125.

This is my second trip to Boston in the last few weeks, and both visits have been nostalgic for me. I used to live 20 minutes north of the city and would come in at least once a week. I'd typically park in Cambridge, right on the Harvard campus, and take the "T" all over. Even after moving to Connecticut in 1987 I visited Boston regularly through the mid-1990s--at least a few times a year--but I haven't spent a lot of time up here in recent years. So it's been fun to reconnect.

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I finally broke down and picked up the "stick of gum" iPod, to be used while working out. Gotta have every toy, I guess!

I am happy Bill Maher's show is back on HBO after his hiatus, too. Best line of the night: teaching "intelligent design" on the same footing as evolution in public schools is like medical schools treating the stork delivery explanation of childbirth as a viable alternate theory.

August 20, 2005

Boston To Bermuda

I arrived in Bermuda a short while ago. The island is beautiful: the first thing a visitor sees is sparkling clear bright blue water next to the airport. It's quite hot here, without being stifling.

The flight down was a breeze. We were in the air not much more than 90 minutes, I think. I had a row of seats to myself, so there was plenty of space to stretch out a bit. The journey was made easier by my recent acquisition of the Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones, which effectively cancel the background rumble of the jet. While they are pricey, the sound quality is excellent.
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The other new toy I put through its paces on the plane was my portable DVD player: the Panasonic LS-55. It boasts 10+ hours of play on a single battery charge, which is enough to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy on a long intercontinental flight!
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I am about to head out to rent a scooter for the length of my stay here, as it's the most practical way to get around. More about Bermuda later.

August 21, 2005

Bermuda Shorts

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• The first thing I saw on the television in Bermuda when I settled into my place was a James Bond movie: Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice, to be specific. A little later yesterday afternoon, Thunderball was playing. Apparently AMC is running a Bond marathon all weekend, which I've been sampling on and off, as the exotic setting here does conjure up a certain Ian Fleming feel!

• The scooter is the way to go in terms of getting around down here. Non-natives can't rent cars and while you can do pretty well via bus and ferry service, with the scooter you can make your own schedule. I've thought of getting one of these back home since I was in college. Maybe the gasoline prices of 2005 will make it easier to rationalize such a purchase!

• Sundays seem to be very quiet here. Most shops are closed and when I drove (scooted?) to the St. George's end of the island in the morning to do some exploring, there were very few vehicles on the road.

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• Roger Federer was impressive coming off a six-week layoff after Wimbledon to beat Andy Roddick today. The Swiss player may just be too good for the American to beat with any consistency. (I got to watch this match on the CBS feed, though it was on ESPN Deportes as well.) Anyone willing to bet against Federer in Flushing Meadows next week?

• Since the place I am staying has a full kitchen--it's more like a small apartment than a hotel room--I picked up some salmon burgers to cook. I don't know if these are available back home, but they certainly are good!

August 23, 2005

A Day At The Beach

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Today was literally a day at the beach. The above picture is of Horseshoe Bay Beach, one of a string of beaches on Bermuda's south shore that I checked out today. As one who frequented the white sands of Long Island's south shore while growing up, I am very picky about my beaches and these are first rate: ample white sand, crystal clear blue water at a perfect temperature, the protection of coral reefs just offshore, and and spectacular scenery all around.

Aside from basking in the solar radiation today, I went into Hamilton for the papers and a haircut in the morning and explored the western half of Bermuda and took a ferry back to the center of the island before hitting the beaches.

I am staying in Paget, which is perfectly situated for my needs. A scooter ride into the "city" of Hamilton is less than ten minutes (it's really just a town: the tallest buildings are the huge pair of cruise ships docked on Front Street each day) and the beaches are even closer.

Tomorrow afternoon I head back to "the real world," but not before a last session on the beach in the morning.

August 25, 2005

Home Again

I might get used to Logan Airport. My flight back up from Bermuda was great: again, I had a three-seat row to myself. The Delta terminal was clean and comfortable and relatively uncrowded. I suppose flying in and out of Boston could cut the better part of an hour out of a transatlantic flight. And it's really not that much farther from Wallingford than the N.Y.C. airports (and the traffic is rarely a problem, especially now that the central artery takes you right from the Mass Pike to Logan).

December 28, 2005

Don't Cry For Me Argentina

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I am writing this entry from Buenos Aires.

I arrived yesterday morning after a nine-hour flight from Miami. (I spent the preceding week with my family in South Florida.) Upon arriving in the city, I promptly crashed before heading out to explore. The city is very European in feel. Things are relatively cheap here, the country having seen its economy tank about five years ago; the Argentinean peso used to be pegged 1:1 to the U.S. dollar, but now a buck gets you about three pesos.

One interesting thought: the southern reaches of South America represent the farthest places that human beings walked to from their prehistoric origins.

Five continents down, two (Africa and Antarctica) to go.

More later.

UN-lucky?

I am staying in room 1321 of my hotel in B.A. That's on the 13th floor. I thought most buildings didn't have a 13th floor, as it has traditionally been considered bad luck. I guess it's okay here because it's really the 14th floor, since the Argentines count the European way, with the first floor one story up from the ground.

December 29, 2005

¡Ay, Caramba!

I am fumbling through my Spanish this week, despite six years of formal instruction in the language in junior high and high school. That was a while ago, I guess, and not counting a few days in Puerto Rico a year ago, this is really the first time I've been in an entirely Spanish-speaking environment. I find myself slipping into French (which is odd, as it's a language I did NOT study!) when attempting to communicate with shop clerks and waiters. Last night, I nearly paid a news vendor 29 pesos when he asked me for 19. I am a bit envious of the students at my school who receive really good foreign language instruction and then often are sent to countries where they have to use it.

Globalization, Travel, and The Tourist Bubble

As I've mentioned before in these cyber-pages, I'm generally a proponent of globalization. I teach a unit on the topic using Thomas Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree in one of my courses. The rapid development of computer technology is a major piece of globalization. As one who travels a fair bit, I have benefited greatly in recent years from globalization. Not only has it become easier to get around the globe, I can stay in touch with home with an Internet connection in a cybercafé (or, even better, if I have high speed wireless in your hotel, as I do now!). I book my own flights and hotel reservations after shopping around online. It's easier to feel like a citizen of the world, at least in major cities.

There is a down side to all this, though.

On the day the Choate squash team arrived in England for its U.K. tour last March, I listened to the BBC while driving to our first stop in the country (everyone else was asleep due to jet lag, but of course I was behind the wheel and needed something to keep me from dozing off). There was an interesting report aired about how backpackers from Britain on their gap year--a year off between high school and university--could travel the world without ever really cutting their ties to home. Young Brits could easily stay in touch via e-mail and cell phones, watch Manchester United games virtually anywhere in the world, consume the food they were accustomed to in familiar eateries, and consequently rarely ever have the need to leave the "tourist bubble." That is, they infrequently had to interact with non-English speakers or immerse themselves into truly foreign situations.

Looking at my own travel habits, I can see the trap all too well. I rely on the International Herald Tribune to give me my fix of the New York Times each day, whether I am in London, Rome, Tokyo, or Buenos Aires. CNN is ubiquitous in hotels everywhere. I find myself surfing to familiar sites and even shopping on Amazon while half a world away. I cruise around world capitals with white earbuds playing me a comfortable soundtrack. In my hotel, I can fire up movies from home on my portable DVD player. I am routinely in touch with my work, communicating regularly with colleagues via e-mail even while "on vacation."

I wonder sometimes if it would be far better to cut myself off from the familiar and leave the laptop, the iPod, and the rest of the digital paraphernalia back home. But, then of course, how could I update this blog?

Madres de los Desaparecidos

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After a late lunch on the waterfront in the Puerto Madera section of town, I saw the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a gathering of protestors who meet weekly on Thursday afternoons in the center of the capital. All of these women had children who disappeared--presumably at the hands of the military juntas--during the Dirty War period of Argentine history. It was pretty moving. The scene wqas evocative of the Sting song, "They Dance Alone (Gueca Solo)," though the lyrics of that piece focus on a similar group in neighboring Chile, rather than Argentina.

December 30, 2005

Blame It On Rio

Off to Brazil this morning . . .

Welcome to Brazil

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I checked into my hotel, the Orla, which is right on Copacabana Beach. (The picture above shows the rooftop pool overlooking the beach.)

Brazil has a more Latin feel than did Buenos Aires, which struck me as European in many ways. This city is clearly a beach town, too, or at least the Copacabana and Ipanema sections I explored upon arrival.

December 31, 2005

Life In The Southern Hemisphere

I activated the Weather widgets on Dashboard to check the temperatures here and at home. At just after 4 o'clock in the afternoon, it was 97 degrees Farenheit in Rio and 27 in Wallingford--a differential of 70 degrees! I'll confess there is a certain perverse pleasure one experiences in a warm place knowing how cold those he left behind must be!

Reveillon

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Apparently New Year's Eve is a BIG deal down here in Rio de Janiero. There will be about 2 million people gathered on the beach right in front of my hotel. There has been a heavy police presence in the area all day long and Avenida Atlantica--the main drag abutting the beach--has been closed to all traffic since late last night. A number of barges just off Copacabana Beach are poised to launch a humongous fireworks display. There are already four enormous cruise ships anchored not far offshore to watch the evening's festivities. There are bands playing music and groups of families and friends with their spots on the beach staked out all day. I am planning on taking a "Polar Bear" dip once midnight strikes, but with the evening air temperature over 80 degrees tonight, it shouldn't be a hardship!

January 1, 2006

Happy New Year!

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The beach was packed for the countdown and the fireworks display (supposedly 24 tons worth) over the water was spectacular. It is traditional to wear entirely white on New Year's Eve here in Rio. At midnight, the locals throw flowers into the Atlantic as offerings to Yemanja, the Afro-Brazilian goddess of the sea and fertility.

Walking Man

I find that when I spend time in cities, I do a LOT of walking. I have blisters on my feet to prove it this week. And I nearly turned my ankle twice two days ago. I remember thinking I had broken a bone in my foot after one long trek in Rome last June. And in Melbourne in 1998, I really did my ankle in after a misstep getting off a tram. But I guess it's a healthier way to get around.

Cables, Wires, and Plugs

I finally have figured out how to deal with differences in voltage, electrical plugs, and the like when traveling internationally. That said, I tend to carry far too many redundant cables and rechargers with me. I need to look into finding one solution that takes care of my Palm, my portable speakers, my cell phone, etc.

January 3, 2006

In Transit

Arrived in Miami from South America at dawn's light this morning. Got to spend some time in Florida today: visiting my folks, soaking up the sun in the 80+ degrees weather, napping, and generally recharging the batteries. I am now marooned in West Palm Beach Airport--thankfully hooked up with free Wi-Fi!--waiting for a 10:00 (!) flight to Kennedy Airport . . . which should get me home somewhere around 3:00 a.m., if I am lucky! And the weather in the Northeast is supposed to be cold, snowy, and miserable, so it won't be a fun drive home.

January 4, 2006

Zombie Time

Left the Long Term Parking lot at Kennedy Airport at 3:20 this morning and arrived back in Wallingford a little after 5:00. I crashed until about 9:30, when I had to get up and get some work done. Fortunately, I didn't have to teach today. Even without jet lag, it will probably take me a couple more days to get back to normal.

February 2, 2006

Off To Florida

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It's Winter Long Weekend at school, so I am heading south the Florida for what I hope will be a few days of sunshine!

February 5, 2006

King Tut

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I drove down to Fort Lauderdale this morning to check out the exhibition at the city's art museum, "Tutanhkamen and the Golden Age of the Pharoahs." Maybe it was seeing Steve Martin host Saturday Night Live last night, but the whole time I was in the museum, I couldn't get his "King Tut" song (from a late 1970s SNL) out of my head as I meandered around all the antiquities.

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I was pleasantly surprise to learn I could find the song as a download on iTunes.

Cruising In A Convertible

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I rented a car from Enterprise on this visit to Florida. The clerk offered me a free upgrade to a two-seater convertible. Unfortunately, the weather has been alternately overcast, rainy, or cool since I arrived. It has been fun to lower the top, though, and two different women commented on the vehicle Friday and today while I was driving it. It would be totally impractical for me to own a car like this, but it's been fun to tool around in for a few days.

Off to the airport soon.

February 12, 2006

A Bargain

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I received an email alert about special fares to London Heathrow right through peak season, so I was able to book a round trip flight from Newark for $401 for June--about half of what I paid the same time last year! This was a steal.

February 16, 2006

Three Weeks Until China

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The Choate tennis tour of China begins three weeks from today!

March 1, 2006

Travel Documents

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I got my new U.S. passport in the mail last week and sent it off to get a visa for my trip to China next week. Passport pictures are inevitably unfortunate, of course. With my sabbatical coming up next year and an around-the-world journey planned, I asked for a 48-page version rather than the standard 24-page issue. I was a few months too early to get the new high tech passports, which have an embedded chip that supposedly will make it even easier to get through immigration lines at airports and such.

This spring I ought to be able to finish the process of obtaining my Irish citizenship, which will enable me to travel through the European Union on an Irish passport. (My grandparents were born in Ireland, which makes me eligible for a Foreign Births citizenship.)

March 9, 2006

Off To The Middle Kingdom

I am heading off to Kennedy Airport for the long flight to Beijing. My flight departs at 3:30 and arrives at 6pm tomorrow. Of course, most of that time differential is crossing the International Date Line. Actual flying time is 13.5 hours.

March 10, 2006

Beijing, Day 1

After 13 hours in the air, the Choate Tennis group arrived in China. After clearing immigration and customs and meeting the rest of our party and our guide, we were taken straight to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. The traditional food turned out to be better than I had expected. Our accommodations are at Capital Normal University; our rooms are sort of a cross between dorm rooms and hotel rooms, but comfortable enough. There's television here, but no channels in English.

March 11, 2006

Beijing, Day 2

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Today was a sight-seeing extravaganza: the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and an acrobatic show in the evening. Interspersed between these sights were traditional Chinese meals and some shopping stops.

Overall impressions: Beijing is a BIG city--one that sprawls outward rather than upward. And Mao must be rolling over in his mausoleum now that everyone in the country seems determined to make a buck (or a yuan), especially from Western tourists like us. The street vendors are relentless, offering knock-off watches and Chinese army hats.

March 12, 2006

Beijing, Day 3

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We headed north to Badaling to check out the Great Wall this morning. The conditions were windy and frigid, but it was a pretty cool spectacle nonetheless. Back in the city, we visited the Temple of Heaven and had a Peking duck dinner (overrated!) and then watched/slept through a kung fu show that was pretty cheesy.

March 13, 2006

Next Stop: Shanghai

We left Beijing this morning and arrived in Shanghai in the early afternoon. We settled into our pretty plush accommodations at the Shanghai Racquet Club, an expat community on the outskirts of the city and had some on-court time. This place has all the comforts of home: Western-style food (we had a late dinner at a nearby Papa John's Pizza!), Internet access, and satellite television with a slate of English-speaking options.

March 14, 2006

Fast Streets Of Shanghai

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After a morning routine of tennis training, the boys and I were taken by our hosts, the Jia family, downtown in the late afternoon. We all got measured for bespoke suits at a tailor shop (about $75 apiece--a tremendous bargain), took some group pictures on the Bund, had a great jiaozi meal, and shopped for cheap (a.k.a. pirated) DVDs in the Gubei district. I picked up the recent releases Elizabethtown and Pride and Prejudice, which I missed in the theaters, as well as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom--all for less than $2 per disc. (I already own the latter, of course; I got another copy just so I could watch the Shanghai scenes again while I am here.) I also bought seasons 1 through 3 of Nip/Tuck, which I have never seen, but understand is quite good. That set me back about $15.

March 15, 2006

The Ides Of March

While the boys were training, I went into Shanghai for a while this afternoon. The SRC, where we are staying, runs a free shuttle service into the city. It takes about an hour to get to the heart of town. I spent a few hours cruising around Huaihai Road--a major shopping district. Though I bought nothing, it was good to hit the pavement and get a better feel for the city. In many ways, Shanghai feels like a perfectly modern, economically prosperous city. The language difference obviously gives the place a different vibe than one would find in America or Europe, but I easily could have imagined I was in a Japanese city without much trouble.

March 16, 2006

Watching Tennis

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I've been able to see far more of the Indian Wells tennis tournament on television here in Shanghai--halfway around the world--than I would have back in the States. Live coverage of the event plays throughout the morning on one of the satellite sports channels. The age of globalization is here!

March 18, 2006

Podcasting

I used the new features in the updated iLife '06 suite--specifically Garage Band and iWeb--to create a pair of podcasts and a new site for the Choate tennis team. Check it out here.

March 19, 2006

Leaving, On A Jet Plane

About to head to Shanghai Hongqiao Airport for a two-hour flight to Beijing, and then a 13+ hour ride to New York. Including time in three different airports and the ride back to Wallingford, I figure I'll be traveling the next 24 hours.

April 2, 2006

New Year's Eve in Sydney

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I locked down my (rather expensive) reservations for a room in downtown Sydney for December 31, 2006. I was surprised just how hard it was to nail something down this far in advance, but I suppose this is one of the most desirable places in the world to ring in the New Year.

April 30, 2006

City Of Blinding Lights

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I spent much of yesterday in New York City, catching the Rangers game at Madison Square Garden--in which the Devils completed their sweep to advance to the semis of the Stanley Cup playoffs--and then watching the hot new Broadway show, The History Boys, in the evening.

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The production was one of the best I've seen. As a teacher--and a history and English teacher in particular--I found the play wonderfully provocative. The work is a thoughtful meditation on competing philosophies of education, the role of a teacher, and the very nature of history itself. While there is lot that's uniquely British about the play, there are universal themes here too. It's more than just serious "thee-a-tah," though, as the play is entertaining on many levels, with loads of biting humor on hand. The acting was first-rate and the staging wonderfully effective. The production was a critically acclaimed hit on the West End when it opened in London in 2004 and seems destined to a similar fate in its New York run.

It the mark of a great place that one can move seamlessly through the worlds of sport and art so easily. New York City is such a place. So is Choate.

June 2, 2006

Africa Is A Month Away

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As the school year at Choate is now winding up, I am able to spend more time preparing for my trip to Africa this summer. I'll be spending the last three weeks of July teaching in Cape Town, and then a few days in the Johannesburg area, which will include some time in a game park. In putting together the readings and syllabus for my course--"Modern Africa and Global Relations"--I've been thinking about the continent more broadly, particularly how Africa figures in the globalization movement. I am looking forward to checking things out for myself.

June 10, 2006

Off To Athens

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I checked in online from home--which ideally will save me a wait at the terminal--and I am heading off to Newark Airport for twelve days in Europe.

June 12, 2006

The Project Of Pericles

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The photo above is the Parthenon--one of the most famous bulldings (or what's left of it!) in the world. Of course, much of what one wants to see now resides in the British Museum, much to the chagrin of the Greek people! I visited the Acropolis this morning and then strolled through the Ancient Agora on my way to lunch. Pretty heady stuff: walking where Socrates walked!

By the way, my tip for a meal in Athens: O Thanasis near the Monastiraki metro stop: best souvlaki I have ever had!

June 13, 2006

Sailing The Wine-Dark Sea

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While in Greece, I figured it would be good thing to get out on the water, taking a page from Odysseus. I don't think Homer's epic involved a high-speed catamaran painted to promote a European wireless company, though!

At any rate, I made it out to Santorini (a.k.a. Thira), one of the Cyclades in the middle of the Aegean Sea. Most of the island disappeared in a volcanic eruption and there is some evidence that Greeks of the classic era may have been referring to Santorini when they described lost Atlantis.

Santorini Sunset

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Out here in the middle of the Aegean--or is it the Mediterranean?--I watched one of the most beautiful sunsets from the balcony outside my hotel room tonight. My room overlooks the caldera (a volcanic crater) toward the west of the island of Santorini, which gave me a terrific vantage point from which to see the sun melt into the horizon.

The picture above I snapped at dinner; you can see how the village of Thira is perched on cliffs over the water.

June 14, 2006

Feels Like Spring Break

The combination of the architecture at the hotel I am staying at on Santorini (the Majestic, if you make it here--I recommend it) and the cool weather at the end of a warm day gives me a strong sense of deja vu: particularly of spring break in the Califiornia desert or Florida. It dawned on me that I didn't get my annual fix of warm weather in March this year, as I was in China with the tennis team instead. Of course, I don't regret that trip at all, but I did miss the gentle climate I have gotten accustomed to at the end of the winter term. Even in the three years I have taken the Choate squash team on a U.K. tour, it was always followed by a trip south. So I guess I am getting my spring break in the Greek isles this year in June!

June 15, 2006

The Sacred Way

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I arrived in Delphi tonight (pronounced "del-fee" if you want to sound authentic) after renting a car and driving for a few hours along what the ancient Greeks called "the sacred way." The path was revered because Delphi was considered the omphalos--the navel of the earth, literally, or what we might call the center of the world. Of course nowadays much of the "sacred path" is a motorway!

My first sight of the archaeological site at Delphi was reminiscent of driving to Stonehenge on the Salisbury plain: you know where you are heading, and you have a rough idea of what it will look like, but it's still rather breathtaking how it just appears on the side of the road unexpectedly all of a sudden.

June 17, 2006

Ruminations On Landscape

Flying into Amsterdam this morning, it was amazing just how different this land is from Greece. The latter is characterized by a hard terrain: uniformly mountainous, with a dry, arid climate. Holland, on the other hand is wet and lush. And it's clear from the air that it is also as flat as a pancake.

June 20, 2006

Freaky Sight

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I didn't notice this coming from Paris on the Eurostar two summers ago, but on my trip from Brussels yesterday, just before the train's arrival in London's Waterloo Station, there appeared this huge factory with four smokestacks in the corners--the exact building (and from the train, viewed from pretty much the same angle) pictured on the cover the Pink Floyd's Animals album from the 1970s.

Kaiten Supper

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While most of England was watching the final first round World Cup game between the national squad and Sweden, I went our for a late bite to eat in the Picadilly Circus area, near my hotel. I ended up a Yo! Sushi, a chain based on the kaiten approach: each dish is placed on different color-coded plates, indicating different prices, and all the empties are counted up at the end of the meal for the bill. Customers choose their dishes as it passes by on a conveyer belt around the sushi bar. I've eaten at such places in Japan in the past. One has the advantage of selecting just what he wants as it chugs on by.

June 22, 2006

Goodbye To London

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I'm about to head to Heathrow Airport for the flight back to the States after nearly two weeks in Europe. It's always nice to go home!

June 23, 2006

Back To The Island

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After less then twelve hours back home, I left again for Martha's Vineyard, where I am spending the weekend attending the wedding of two Choaties from the Class of 1993: Sylvia Winter and Aaron Baggish--the latter a cross country runner and one-time coaching colleague. I am staying up-island--my favorite part of the Vineyard--at the Menemsha Inn, which has a great view of the harbor and the sunset.

June 24, 2006

Favorite Breakfast Spot

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While on Martha's Vineyard, I make a habit of having breakfast each morning at The Black Dog--famous for those ubiquitous T-shirts with the mascot on the front. Hard to beat the Eggs Benedict/Rasputin's Revenge (pancakes with chocolate chips and fresh strawberries) combination!

July 10, 2006

On The Road Again

I'm in Kennedy Airport today, getting ready for a night flight to London and then--after a hellacious nine-hour layover--on to Cape Town for three weeks. After that I'll fly to Johannesburg for a few days, including a bit of a safari, and then back home.

July 12, 2006

The End Of A Long Journey

I arrived in South Africa this morning after a lot of sitting on airplanes and in airport languages since midday Monday. It breaks down roughly as follows: eight hours in and around JFK Airport in New York, six hours flying to London, nine hours in Heathrow, and a bit more than eleven hours in the air en route to Cape Town.

July 13, 2006

Rainy Weather

First impressions of South Africa have been colored by continuing wet weather. It's winter here, of course, and while the temperatures have been cool but mild, we've seen a lot of precipitation. It has felt more like Ireland than Africa thus far!

July 14, 2006

Cape Flats Townships and Cape Town

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I spent the morning visiting potential community service sites for the SACT program in the black and colored townships of Cape Flats: a soup kitchen, a day care centers for AIDS-infected and -affected children, a shelter for homeless teenagers, and a shelter for single women and their children. The poverty in these townships was ovewhelming. In the black townships, typical dwellings were shacks assembled from crates and metal and wood scraps. In the early afternoon, our small group of teachers had lunch in Cape Town at a restaurant that might well have been in New York, London, or Sydney--perfectly modern, comfortable, and upscale. The effect of the day, of course, was the odd juxtaposition of poverty and affluence within a few miles of each other. I suppose one could find similar examples of economic dissonance so close to each other in the States, too. But it's quite jarring.

July 16, 2006

Robbens Island

Our group took the ferry from Cape Town to Robbens Island, which served as the prison for Nelson Mandela from some thirty years until his release in 1990. Pretty moving to see where so many political prisoners were incarcerated simply for opposing apartheid.

The afternoon brought a leisurely exploration of the V&A Waterfront--a touristy shopping area in Cape Town--and the Greenpoint market--what we would call a flea market, with dozens and dozens of vendors set up in a parking lot outside a stadium. I didn't have the energy or desire to engage in haggling, though.

August 6, 2006

Home Sweet Home

After some 20+ hours sitting on airplanes over three flights, I arrived home this afternoon after a month in Africa.

Internet connection time was elusive the past few weeks, so the blog has suffered, but I'll try to post some trip highlights in the coming days.

August 16, 2006

Fifth Avenue Apple Temple

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I am writing this on my first visit to the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The entrance to the underground retail floor is a striking glass cube in the middle of a plaza just off Central Park. One enters either down the spiral stairs or via the cylindrical elevator in the middle of the stairway. A pretty cool place!

August 17, 2006

Safari Highlights

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What follows is an overdue glimpse at my spectacular visit to Kruger National Park, South Africa, at the beginning of the month. Among the animals we ran into were:

buffalo
bush baby
elephant
giraffe
genet
hare
hippopotamus
impala
kudu
lion
rhino (white)
serval
tortoise
warthog
waterbuck
wildebeest
zebra

as well as lots of different birds. Four of "the Big Five" (all but a leopard) are on the list above, so we had very good luck on only two game drives. Here are a few choice photos from the trip:
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August 27, 2006

The Center Of The Universe

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Just got back from Times Square, where I saw the flick The Illusionist. (It was reasonably entertaining, if awfully predictable.) You really feel the place is the axis mundi--there's such an energetic vibe to the place. It's like Piccadilly Circus on steroids.

October 10, 2006

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie . . .

. . . oi, oi, oi!

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I ordered tickets for Rod Laver Arena so I can attend the first two days of the Australian Open in Melbourne in January, as part of my round-the-world trip during my sabbatical leave this winter. If I can swing a weekend getaway to Paris over Memorial Day weekend, I may try to complete a tennis Grand Slam of my own by attending all four majors in 2007.

November 13, 2006

Tickets, Please!

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I dropped just over $5000 this morning on a round-the-world fare for airline tickets for my upcoming sabbatical trip. I'll be traveling via United and its Star Alliance partners. Here are the segments:

Hartford to Chicago
Chicago to Tokyo
Tokyo to Hong Kong
Hong Kong to Seoul
Seoul to Sydney
Sydney to Melbourne
Melbourne to Perth
Perth to Singapore
Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok
Bangkok to Kolkata (Calcutta)
Mumbai (Bombay) to Cairo
Cairo to Frankfurt
Frankfurt to Barcelona
Madrid to Munich
Munich to London
London to Toronto
Toronto to Hartford

November 27, 2006

My Travels

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I am using a cool little application called Indy Jr. to chart my travels online in anticipation of creating a mini-site for my upcoming round-the-world trip. I've mapped my whereabouts in 2005 and 2006 here.

December 3, 2006

California Dreamin'

After getting home at about 10:30 p.m. last night, having spent most of the day up in Exeter, New Hampshire with the squash team, I had to get packed for a two-week swing through California and Miami. As my flight is scheduled for the ungodly hour of 6:05 this morning, I figured I could take my time, as going to bed would be pointless (and possibly a costly error if I were to sleep through my alarm). While driving up Interstate 91 at 3:30 in the morning, I noticed how unusually free of traffic the highway was. I was reminded of driving through the night on other trips I've taken: down the Pacific Coast Highway in California, from Sydney to Melbourne, and from Heathrow Airport to the northernmost tip of Scotland. I sorta like staying up late to drive, then crashing for a couple of hours on the side of the road.

Anyway, I am heading to San Francisco via Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles. Hopefully the warmer weather will knock out this cough that has been lingering in my system the last week or so.

Go West, Young Man

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After three flights, I have arrived in the Bay Area. I am staying near the airport, south of San Francisco proper, but close enough that I can drive up the 101 and be in the city in less than fifteen minutes. I paid homage to the local In-N-Out Burger and drove along the Embarcadero and around the North Beach section of town. The city is bigger than I remember it, but beautiful at night. It's a bit colder than I expected, but then again, this is not Southern California.

December 4, 2006

Exploring The Bay Area

I spent most of the day on the go, ambling around downtown (had to check out the Apple Store, of course!), driving through the Presidio, and then checking out Berkeley (first time there) and Palo Alto (I drove around the Stanford campus). I haven't been in the area since 1992, and even then was just here for a quick stop. Highways are a big deal here, but the traffic is nowhere near as overwhelming as it is in the L.A. vicinity.

December 5, 2006

Man Of Leisure

Slept in this morning, which did wonders for getting rid of the last of this cough I've had since before Thanksgiving. I drove downtown around 11:30 a.m. I tried to visit my sister, who works in the Ferry Terminal, but we did not connect. I did visit with three old friends, however: one over lunch, one mid-afternoon, and a third over dinner down in Palo Alto. It's nice to have the time to do stuff like this without the constant pressure to be somewhere.

Note to self: when heading into San Francisco during a weekday, take the BART rather than paying nearly $30 for just a couple of hours in a parking garage!

December 6, 2006

Daylight's End In The City By The Bay

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Just got back to my hotel after parking by the beach and watching the sun slowly sink into the Pacific Ocean (at 4:51 p.m.--ugh!--but with the winter solstice not far away, the days soon will be getting longer!). After a leisurely morning, I spent most of the afternoon exploring the neighborhoods of San Francisco. It's a special city. I was once told by one who had been all over the world that the three most beautiful cities are Cape Town, Sydney, and San Francisco. Nothing I've experienced the past few days would convince me otherwise (and I've spend some enjoyable time in the other two cities, too). The proximity of the hills and the water, the spectacularly scenic views all over the city, the energy and diversity of the people, the tolerant atmosphere, the tremendous range of cultural offerings, and the mild climate are all assets.

I was thinking of spending today at Yosemite Park, but a bit of research online suggested this was not the best time of year for such a trip (some of the main park roads are already closed for the winter).

I head back into the city tonight to meet 1993 Choate Tennis captain Jason Hancock for dinner. Then I am off early in the morning across the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the Napa Valley for a 10 a.m. winery tour and tasting session at Shafer Vineyards. Tomorrow night I fly to Los Angeles, where I'll spend a couple of days before going to Anaheim for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association annual conference for athletic directors.

Mmmmmmm . . . Burmese Food!

Just got in from a meal at Burma Superstar Restaurant (on Clement Street near Fourth Street in San Francisco). The food was delicious. Given Burma's shared borders with India, China, and Thailand and its proximity to Vietnam, it's not surprising that those countries' influences were strong in the cuisine, but Burma clearly has its own distinct twist on food. This restaurant is highly recommended, though it's likely you'll have to wait for a table.

December 7, 2006

Dionysian Splendor

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. . . in which the blogger goes through a Sideways phase--at least for a few hours.

I visited Shafer Vineyard in Napa Valley for a tasting session, which was fun, but probably mostly lost on me. The other five visitors seemed much more attuned to the nuances of wine than I, though it was a good exercise to compare merlot with cabernet and syrah. I liked the wines I sampled, though not enough to drop $190 for the top-of-the-range bottle.

The weather was wonderful--atypical for what I'm told is usually the rainy season in wine country. I gather it's off-season for the tourist crowd, too, which made my visit more enjoyable.

The City Of Angels

Got the to San Francisco Airport pretty early and thought I might be able to catch an earlier flight to L.A. Turned out my flight, scheduled for 6:50 p.m., was going to be delayed by two hours. The American agent managed to switch me to a United flight leaving at 5:08, which got me in long before I'd have left on my original schedule!

December 8, 2006

Livin' Large In L.A.

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Well, that title is pretty hyperbolic, but I felt like one of the guys on Entourage today, in that I spent my morning and afternoon in Los Angeles with very little to do and all day to do it. I drove over to Santa Monica and spent a few hours strolling around the Third Street Promenade and then checked out Hollywood for a bit in the afternoon. The thing about life in L.A. is that it seems you spend half your day in traffic. The places one wants to go are pretty spread out and there is no decent public transportation to speak of. At least it's pretty warm: I spent the day in shorts and a T-shirt.

December 9, 2006

Hello Anaheim

Drove down the road this morning and checked into the Anaheim Marriott, adjacent to the convention center hosting the 37th Annual Conference of High School Athletic Directors. I am about to head into a four-hour workshop (the first of four I'll attend over the next three days) in preparation for a certification exam I'll take Tuesday morning.

December 13, 2006

The Happiest Place On Earth

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Up and at 'em today to get the early jump on Disneyland, my first visit to the park since 1970!

Back In L.A.

After spending the heart of the day exploring Disneyland, I drove through Newport Beach and Laguna Beach before heading back to Los Angeles for my early morning flight to Miami.

December 14, 2006

Welcome To The Sunshine State

Just arrived in Miami and the first thing that hit me when I left the airport was HUMIDITY. It's reasonably warm here, but humid in a way California was not.

Anyway I am staying at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa, which is pretty plush. I effectively checked in without using valet parking or the bell staff. I am here for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Coaches Convention (I am an Auxiliary Member) through Saturday night.

December 17, 2006

Back Home

I suppose that, as a pretty seasoned world traveler, this really shouldn't impress me anymore, but I am amazed that I can eat dinner in Miami and be back in Connecticut three hours later. The jet age still boggles my mind!

December 24, 2006

Circumnavigation

Tomorrow I begin my round-the-world trip. I'll head west, and so will lose a day crossing the Pacific, but will gain it back in pieces over the next two months. The idea is to visit places I haven't been before (other than Australia, where I spent much of my last sabbatical in 1998; I'll be there in early January for a few weeks) such as Southeast Asia, India, Egypt, and Spain. I'll finish up with a couple of days in London, which means I'll have spent time in my five favorite cities during my four-month sabbatical: London, New York, San Francisco, Sydney, and Tokyo (the latter only on a brief layover, unfortunately).

December 25, 2006

Off I Go!

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The world tour begins.

I am in Bradley Airport, getting ready to head to Hong Kong via Chicago and Tokyo. I'll update when I arrive.

Until then, Merry Christmas everybody!

December 27, 2006

United Airlines = Santa Claus

I have arrived in Hong Kong, having spent most of Christmas Day in the air and having lost most of the 26th to the International Date Line. No Boxing Day for me this year!

On the first leg of my journey--from Hartford to Chicago--I thought it would be good to come up with a ranking system for the various air segments I’ll be flying in the weeks ahead. At first I figured there should be three categories: good, mediocre, and abysmal. Then I concluded I should add another rating at the high end for those times when you a get a row to yourself or similar such good luck. Little did I expect what happened to me in O’Hare Airport: I was summoned to the desk at the gate and bumped up to Business Class for my United flight from Chicago to Tokyo! And then the same thing happened again in Narita, for the final segment to Hong Kong! I had been bumped up to First Class once before--around 1991, I believe--on a Savannah to Hartford flight after spring break with the tennis team. That was nice for a relatively short trip, but these flights became worlds better because of the upgrades. I mean, if you are going to get a free upgrade, there’s no better time than a transcontinental flight! Here are a few of the advantages: significantly more room (in the seat itself, in the space between you and your neighbor, and in front and behind the seat), a much more comfortable chair--one that reclines to an acute angle for better sleeping, far better food and service, no charge for alcoholic beverages, a choice of free newspapers, less competition for the onboard lavatories, and first exiting privileges upon arrival. I concede I did adopt a certain air about the “great unwashed masses” behind me in the plane while sitting in the lap of luxury up front. I hope I have such good luck again on this round-the-world trip.

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Anyway, after clearing immigration and customs and arranging transport to my hotel in the city, it’s now early in the morning on the 27th and I am going to crash.

Hong Kong Hotel

I am staying in a great boutique hotel, the Lanson Place, in Causeway Bay. There is complimentary wireless access in all the rooms, but apparently the Internet is down--it worked last night when I arrived--due to an offshore earthquake that damaged some of the undersea cables. (I thought the Internet was designed to deal with this sort of disruption, but access is down all over Asia. Go figure.) So I’ll have to wait to post this blog entry.

Exploring Hong Kong

I spent much of the late morning and early afternoon poking around Causeway Bay, which is a vibrant neighborhood. The architectural juxtapositions in the city are stark: gleaming glass and steel skyscrapers sit next to run-down old buildings with unit air conditioners and drying laundry everywhere you look.

Public transportation is varied (subway, buses, trams, and ferries), cheap, and efficient in Hong Kong. Taxis are a reliable and cheap way to get around, too.

I met up with my advisee Greg Van in the late afternoon; he showed me the sights in the central business district, and then we headed uphill to his home for an enjoyable dinner with the extended Van family.

December 28, 2006

The Outer Islands

Much of today was spent on a boat with the Van clan, heading out of the Aberdeen harbor for an enjoyable day on the water and visits to a pair of fishing villages. Greg was playing in a golf tournament, so Geoff '10 and his mom--not to mention the aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends on board!--played host to me. The day was a great chance to see a different side of Hong Kong, one most tourists probably never see.

December 29, 2006

City Lights

I met up with Charles Depman ’06, who is spending a gap year in China and popped down to Hong Kong for the holidays; we took the Star Ferry across the harbor to Kowloon and explored the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district and enjoyed a good sushi lunch on Nathan Road. Charles and I agreed that Hong Kong feels like a cross between Shanghai and Tokyo in some ways.

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After Charles connected with one of his Choate classmates, I took the tram up to the Peak to check out sunset over the city from an incredible vantage point (higher than the skyscrapers filling the skyline in the picture above). Hong Kong at night is an absolutely incredible light show and the view from the Peak is not to be missed as day turns to night.

December 30, 2006

Nice Airports

Departing via the Hong Kong Airport was a dream. I checked in with my airline and dropped off my bags at Central Station in the city, and then had a leisurely ride out to the airport on an express train. The Hong Kong Airport still feels new and looks like a dream. It’s sensibly laid out and easy to navigate. I wish all airports were as good. By the way, I am blogging now from the Seoul Incheon Airport en route to Sydney and this seems like a pretty nifty airport as well!

December 31, 2006

In A Land Down Under

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I am now in Sydney, Australia, having arrived just after 8 a.m. on New Year's Eve. I've now visited six continents in 2006 (and will do the same in the first three months of 2007, by the way). I don't know if I'll ever make it to Antarctica, though.

I love this country and this city: everything feels entirely comfortable. I checked in at my hotel early and my room wasn't quite ready, so I had a couple of hours to wander around downtown before settling in. The Westin, where I am staying the next three nights, is an upscale hotel in the center of the business district, just a few blocks up from Circular Quay (which is the main ferry terminal in Sydney, located right in between the city's two most famous landmarks: the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House). In fact, I can see a slice of the Harbour Bridge from my room!

January 3, 2007

Life In The Antipodes

The modernity of a city like Sydney can lead one to forget just how remote this continent is from the rest of the world. For example, I have yet to be able to find an International Herald Tribune anywhere in Sydney, even though it's widely available throughout Europe and Asia, for instance. I had no luck finding American newspapers in South Africa six months ago, either, so maybe it's a south of the equator thing?

January 4, 2007

The Overnight Train To Brisbane

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I took the overnight train to Brisbane, the city lodged between the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast north of Sydney. When I booked a berth in the sleeper car yesterday morning, it looked like I'd have the place to myself. Instead I would up with a bit of a crazy old Australian guy to share the space with. I knew things were a bit off when I found two garbage bags on the floor of the compartment when I boarded; as I went to move this trash into the hallway, a grizzled fellow banged on the window, indicating I should leave the bags in place. I first thought he was a train worker, whose job it was to clear the trash. When he came on board, though, it was clear that these garbage bags were his luggage! Anyway, the guy talked non-stop about all sorts of details of his life history until I got my iPod headphones in place an hour into the journey. I survived the trip, even though we were awakened at 2:30 a.m. to change trains because there was something wrong with a screen on the engine, whatever that means. No worries, as they say down here.

January 5, 2007

My Sabbatical Travels

Here is a map of where I've been and where I am going on this four-month sabbatical:

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Here is a bigger version of the map.

Goin' Walkabout

I am renting a car and heading out with no specific plans before my train leaves Brisbane for the ride back to Sydney on Sunday afternoon. I'll either head north to the Sunshine Coast or south to the Gold Coast or both or perhaps just head west into the bush. We'll see.

Life's A Beach

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After some automotive bushwacking through the Glass House Mountains and some beautiful scenery around Maleny, I arrived at the Sunshine Coast in southeast Queensland. I am staying in Mudjimba, just north of Maroochydore and Mooloolaba, just east of Bli Bli, and just south of Eumundi and Noosa. (Aboriginal names are pretty common here, as you can see, much as Native American place names are all over New England.)

The entire area is focused on beach culture. Surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers dot the Pacific coast, especially this time of year, as Australian schools are closed for summer vacation and many families are traveling on holiday.

January 6, 2007

The Beauty Of The Information Age

When I got up this morning and checked my e-mail, there was a message from the iTunes Music Store alerting me that the latest episode of The Office was available for download. Staying in touch with favorite shows back home like this is a relatively recent treat; certainly I couldn't do it during my last sabbatical trip in 1998.

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Earlier in the week, I downloaded from iTMS an episode from the Discovery Atlas series on the Discovery Channel, one called "Australia Revealed." The overview of the country is nearly two hours long--but still only $1.99!--beautifully photographed in high definition, and narrated by Russell Crowe. I was turned on to the series by another Discovery Atlas episode ("China Revealed") on DVD that I was given for Christmas by a cousin; I watched this documentary on my portable Panasonic player on one of my flights. It's a great series. You can see it in all its splendor on the Discovery HD network, if you get it. Or you can order the DVDs for about $20 or download episodes from iTunes Music Store for $2. Here's the link to "Australia Revealed":

Discovery Atlas - Discovery Atlas, Season 1 - Discovery Atlas: Australia Revealed

Just My Luck

The Australian newspapers reported with glee that the local currency had tied its record strength relative to the American dollar. It's bad enough I get whacked on the exchange rate every time I go to western Europe, but now it's happening here, too!

January 7, 2007

Another Rail Journey

I'll be driving back to Brisbane shortly to catch the train to Sydney, which will arrive early Monday morning. Let's hope I don't share the compartment with the same guy I did on the way up!

January 8, 2007

Back In Sydney

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Arrived in Sydney on the overnight train just after 7 this morning and checked into my hotel, which is adjacent to the rail station.

This trip was much better than the one a few days before, as I had the compartment to myself. I watched Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on my portable DVD player and slept well in spite of all the creaking and croaking of the train car as it made its way south.

The Passport Shuffle

I picked up my passport today at the Indian Consulate downtown and then brought it over to the Vietnamese Consulate in Darling Harbor. (I am getting tourist visas to both countries.) The Vietnamese office was a far more pleasant experience: a shorter wait for service, a shorter interval for processing my visa, and it's less expensive, too. In fact, I'd have paid $70 in either the U.S. or Australia for the visa, but that turns out to be at least 20% cheaper here due to the exchange rate. Plus because I handled it myself, I avoided doubling the cost by using an expediter, which I would have had to do back home.

January 11, 2007

A Really Big Screen Adventure

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This morning, I walked over to Darling Harbor's IMAX theater to see The Mystery Of The Nile. As I am scheduled to be spend some time on the Nile myself just a few weeks from now, I thought this would be a good preparation for my visit to Egypt. The ads for the film are a bit misleading, as the film is much less about the historical aspects of Egyptian culture along the river (pyramids, tombs, etc.) than it is about an adventure-filled modern-day rafting trip from the source of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia down to the river's mouth in Alexandria. Still, the photography was stunning in the big film format.

Good To Go

I picked up my visa at the Vietnamese consulate this afternoon, so I am now all set with clearances for the remainder of my trip. The rest of the countries I am visiting either don't require Americans to obtain a visa or will issue one upon entry.

Temperature Check

According to my Dashboard widget, these are the temperatures for today here and at home (in Farenheit, of course):

Sydney, New South Wales:
low: 75°
high: 90°

Wallingford, Connecticut:
low: 24°
high: 36°

That's why I'm here!

January 12, 2007

Bondi Blue

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After the film, I headed over to Bondi Beach to take in the sights and have a quick dip in the Pacific Ocean. This beach is iconic in Australian culture.

If you remember the very first version of the iMac, introduced in 1998--the breakthrough machine that Steve Jobs used to turn Apple around, the one with the "hockey puck" mouse--its color was labeled "Bondi Blue" after the Sydney beach.
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Sundown In Sydney

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In my last night in the city, I took the "harbor lights cruise" which left Circular Quay at 8 p.m., just before the sun set to the west of the city. The 75-minute ride around the harbor showed off many of the neighborhoods all around the harbor and provided great views of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge, both of which were wonderfully illuminated. Mother Nature coöperated by providing an electrical storm to the west, which provided some atmospheric lightning that looked pretty cool above the lights of the city.

January 13, 2007

So Long, Sydney

Off to the airport and Melbourne!

Hello, Melbourne!

After a short--one hour--flight, I arrived at the Melbourne airport. This was my first time there, as in 1998 I drove to the city from Sydney (through Canberra) and I left on a train bound for Adelaide. My driver from the airport to my hotel spent the trip telling me just how much better in every possible way Melbourne was than Sydney.

I am now off to the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club for the finals of the AAMI Classic featuring Roger Federer and Andy Roddick.

January 14, 2007

Technology And Travel

Having spent time in Australia on both my sabbatical trips, in 1998 and 2007, I was reflecting today on the differences between the experiences that have resulted from technology.

Certainly the Web and e-mail had become common by '98, but my access to them while abroad was pretty rare. Basically, I was dependent on Internet cafés to touch base with folks at home and catch up with sports scores and such back at school. I was able to connect perhaps twice a week, if lucky. This time around I am traveling with my laptop and have been able to get in-room broadband access at each of my hotels thus far.

Communications programs like Skype and iChat have made it practically free to stay in touch with people back in the States in real time conversations. This was unheard of nine years ago.

I've been able to entertain myself on this trip, both with with my portable DVD player and with television shows I downloaded to my iBook from my DVR before I left home. Even better, I've been able to keep up with recent shows that have aired while I've been abroad, such as episodes of The Office and 30 Rock, by downloading them via the iTunes Music Store. I am looking foward to staying up-to-date with 24 and Battlestar Galactica and Heroes and Lost when they resume new episodes, too. And I admit one of the benefits of being out from under the firewall of an academic community is unimpeded access to BitTorrent sites and other file sharing networks to get media.

Also, the iPod phenomenon has changed my interaction with my environment. I am able to wander city streets or cruise through stores to the beat of my own private soundtrack. I try not to use the iPod too much in this manner so I don't miss out on the local soundscape, but there are times it's nice to retreat into a familiar, comfortable song in a strange place.

January 17, 2007

A Quiet Day In Melbourne

I didn't attend the tournament today, but the coverage is extensive on both Channel Seven and one of the Fox sports channels here in Australia. Today was overcast and MUCH cooler than yesterday's sauna-like conditions. I explored the downtown area leisurely and generally took it easy. Tomorrow morning I fly to Perth.

January 18, 2007

Perth

I am now on the western coast of Australia, on the Indian Ocean. My hotel is in the city center. It's a smallish city--especially compared to Melbourne and Sydney, with just a few skyscrapers and an extensive outdoor pedestrian mall (like the one I remember in Adelaide).

January 19, 2007

Change Of Plans

I rearranged my Egypt plans, visiting a travel agent here in Perth and booking a tour that will cover Cairo and the sights around Luxor and Aswan for the week I will be in the country. This way all of my hotel, transport, and sight-seeing will be arranged for me. I'm usually skeptical of these set-ups, but I concluded this approach will be a lot easier, especially after working my way through India on my own itinerary.

The Barber Offers Some Perspective

I got my hair cut this afternoon, so it will be maintenance free for the rest of the trip. The barber was a friendly guy who explained to me that western Australia is in boom times right now, largely because of the Chinese demand for raw materials. It's a huge mining area around here and the locals are benefitting from the construction boom in the Middle Kingdom.

Early To Rise

I called the airport shuttle service to arrange my trip back to the airport tomorrow morning for my flight to Singapore. It's an 8:15 departure, so conventional wisdom would have me at the airport (about 20 minutes away from the city center) a bit after 6 a.m. Unfortunately, the 5 a.m. shuttle doesn't go to the international terminal, so I've been asked to take the 4 a.m. trip--UGH! The woman on the phone was unhelpful; when I asked how far apart the domestic and international terminals were (thinking I could sleep a little later and just walk to the other terminal) she said she had never been to the airport. This is someone whose job it is to arrange airport transportation! So I've got my bags all packed already and two alarms set for 3:40 a.m.

January 20, 2007

Arriving In Singapore

I am back in the northern hemisphere (just barely)!

Aside from the absurd 4:00 a.m. shuttle pick-up (compounded by the fact that my 8:15 flight was listed as a 9:15 departure when I got to the airport, supposedly on account of daylight savings time--which meant I easily could have slept in and taken a later shuttle) the trip from Perth to Singapore was quite pleasant. The woman at the check-in counter not only got me an aisle seat, but put me in an otherwise empty row so I could stretch out and be comfortable. The Singapore Airlines service was excellent, with good food and a choice of periodicals on board the plane (a rarity nowadays); I digested the latest issues of The International Herald Tribune, Newsweek, Time, National Geographic, and Conde Nast Traveler.

Upon arriving in Singapore, I cleared immigration and customs quickly and took the train into the city to Orchard Road, the shopping district and the location of my hotel. The walk from the station to my hotel gave me the impression the whole city was one big shopping mall, but I think that's a function of this particular neighborhood. Still, there were a range of shopping options, from the "flea market" feel of electronics vendors to upscale department stores.

One other thing: it's incredibly humid here. Australia was warm, but never got as humid as today in Singapore is. It just started pouring, so maybe things will get more comfortable once the rain breaks.

January 21, 2007

Nightlife In The City

I met up with former student and tennis captain Ming Ong '05, who took me to his house for dinner (we stopped for ice cream on the way and I picked up the last two issues of Entertainment Weekly--one of my favorite guilty pleasures back home--in a shop). After dinner we polished off half a bottle of scotch (!) and then went out clubbing--not a typical night in Wallingford for me. One of Ming's friends was celebrating a birthday at the fashionable Ministry Of Sound, and I lasted until about 1 a.m. when my sleep-deprived state led me back to my hotel via a taxi to crash.

High Tea At The Ritz-Carlton

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I connected with a current applicant to Choate--a tennis player--who had contacted me via e-mail in the fall. He met me at my hotel this afternoon and he and his mother drove me around the city a bit to see the sights and then treated me to high tea at the Ritz-Carlton, a very Anglophile experience in an enjoyable setting with all sorts of sweet treats for consumption. It was a pleasant meeting.

Earlier in the day, I explored the shopping on Orchard Road. Lots of what's there is typical of what you'd find in a good U.S. mall: a Borders bookstore, an Apple store, a Nike store, etc.

Singapore seems as though it would be an easy place for an expatriate to live.

January 23, 2007

Good Morning Vietnam

. . . or good afternoon, actually, since it took me an hour to get through the immigration line at the airport here in Saigon!

It was a short flight here from Singapore. It looks like they are building a new terminal complex at the airport, but the one I went through surely wasn't it. After picking up my luggage--which had been removed from the carousel during my interminable wait in the arrivals hall--I took out 1,000,000 dong from the ATM (a bit over $60), arranged a taxi, and left the building to find hordes of people waiting outside, as if the Beatles had arrived in New York City for the first time. (Interestingly, this is the first country on my trip to use a currency other than the dollar.)

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The ride across town to my hotel was an adventure in itself. The streets were choked with cars, trucks, bicycle-driven carts, and more motor scooters and light cycles than I thought existed on the planet. I saw literally thousands of them. And not one helmet! It was pretty common for folks to cover their mouths and noses with a bandana of sorts, which made it look like we were driving through groups of bandits. The rules of the road here must be more like suggestions. It felt like Mr. Toad's wild ride, in that more than once I looked ahead to see a couple of cycle riders heading straight toward us in our lane, only to veer off at the last second. There were precious few traffic lights, meaning negotiating intersections, plazas, and roundabouts had an "every man for himself" feel to it. But people seemed used to it and I got to my destination in one piece.

The hotel is very comfortable, clearly a place that caters to Western business travelers. Things are dirt cheap in this country: the taxi, meals, Internet access in the hotel.

When I settled into my room, I tuned the television to Star Sports (an international ESPN network) to catch the tail end of Roddick's one-sided win over Mardy Fish. This advances Roddick to the semifinals, where he'll likely face Roger Federer.

I am about to head out to check out the local sights.

Saigon

My hotel runs a free shuttle twice an hour down to the central business district in town, which makes it convenient to check out the city. Unlike the more developed Asian cities like Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Singapore, there are very few skyscrapers here. My hotel is the tallest building in its district (Saigon is divided into a number of districts) and even in the center of the city, there are only a handful of ] hotels and office buildings with more than, say, 6-8 floors.

I still can't believe the traffic. Moving through town in a van is like a shark moving through the ocean, surrounded by schools of fish (scooters) heading in seemingly all directions. It would be madness to rent a vehicle here; I can't imagine crossing the street, let alone driving on one! Vehicles go wherever they want, cutting across the road with impunity. Of course, might makes right, so the bigger vehicles wind up getting the right of way. And there are SO many motorbikes; they are what bicycles were in Beijing 25 years ago (or what cars are on the Southern California freeways today!).

You can still detect the French influence in the city, with its broad, tree-lined avenues and older buildings reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

January 25, 2007

In Siam I Am

I arrived in Bangkok at the impressive new airport. My experience getting to the hotel was a bit difficult due to the language barrier with the driver. After some confusion as to which part of town the hotel actually was in--I had to boot up the iBook in the taxi to look up the address--once we got to the right road he kept insisting we were at my hotel every few buildings, but I knew the name was wrong. Luckily I spotted the President Solitaire around a bend as we backtracked and am now settled into pretty plush digs.

The dominant feature of my room is a huge flat-screen television and I got to the room just in time to catch the start of the Federer-Roddick semifinal from Melbourne. I guess this will delay my getting out and about to see Bangkok.

January 26, 2007

Bangkok

The part of the city in which I am staying--Sukhumvit Road--has a large population of expats, and hence good shopping, restaurants, and hotels. The streets are full of vendors and this is most apparent in the range of aromas that assaults you as you pass the various options for street food. All kinds of knock-off T-shirts, bags, CDs, and DVDs are on offer. As I walked into the city center--which is dominated by a few huge, modern shopping malls--the presence of vendors seemed to drop off and Bangkok looked much more similar to big cities back home.

The BTS Skyway is a cheap and convenient form of public transportation. It only covers limited territory, but it happens to serve my needs well, given where I am situated.

Hard Rock Cafe

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Yes, admittedly, it's a touristy thing to do, but I enjoyed a good dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe in Siam Square. Sometime you just need some good ol' American food. This restaurant happened to feature far more reasonable prices than its counterparts.

January 27, 2007

Bye Bye, Bangkok

I'm all packed up and about to say goodbye to the City of Angels in the Land of Smiles. Next stop: India.

A Stark Contrast

I left the shiny new airport in Bangkok and arrived in Calcutta at the dumpiest airport I've ever seen in a major city. The small international terminal was state of the art . . . for about 1961. No jetway, so we had to deplane out on the tarmac and walk in. Clearing immigration took about two minutes, so the law of averages meant, of course, that I had to wait at least half an hour to get my checked baggage off the barely-functioning carousel. Then it turned out there was no ATM in the international terminal and a hellacious line to change money at the one place still open for business at that hour on a Satuday night. So I hoofed it over to the domestic terminal and found an ATM and booked a taxi to my hotel.

On my way out of the the terminal I was besieged by men wanting to carry my bags and children begging for a handout. The taxi cab itself must have been fifty years old--no joke. And driving into the city I began to wonder if I should head back to the airport and leave this place. All I can say is that Calcutta at night looked like a post-apocalyptic nightmare: what a city might look like in a Mad Max movie. Traffic was chaos; apparently you can do whatever you want on the roads in India so long as you honk your horn repeatedly. Thus I was serenaded by a cacophony of horns throughout the 25-minute trip. The infrastructure of the city appeared to be falling apart. What was once the seat of the British raj seemed to be in shambles. Linguistic difficulties with the driver--who allegedly was speaking English--meant it took us a while to get to the destination, even though I had written down the address for him. My hotel turned out to be an oasis of peace in the center of a strangely disconcerting city.

January 28, 2007

Oh, Calcutta!

I'll concede the hotel here in Calcutta is quite pleasant: great service, Star Sports on the television to keep up with the final weekend of the Aussie Open, decent food. But honestly I feel trapped in my hotel, because there's really not much worth seeing in the neighborhood, other than lots of people looking to separate me from my cash by selling rides or wares, or just by begging.

To The Airport Once More

My ride to the airport is ready, so I have to leave the men's final in Melbourne at 4-all in the first set. Gonzalez has been able to stay with Federer thus far, but Gonzo doesn't look as fearsome as he did in his last few matches and I am sure Federer has another gear (or two) that he can tap when things get tight. We'll see.

Calcutta To Delhi

Well, by light of day, Calcutta was not quite the Dantean vision I had seen the night before. The city was still pretty unimpressive, but not quite a circle of hell. And there was a bit of striking rural scenery to be had en route to the airport.

The domestic terminal at Calcutta was so crowded there was no place to sit once I checked in and cleared security. My flight was late and was slowed by strong head winds, so I arrived in Delhi about two hours behind scheduled. Fortunately, my hotel had someone there to meet me and transport me into the city. My initial view of the place was that while it's not quite modern by Western standards, it's much better than what I saw on a similar drive into Calcutta.

Upon arrival at my hotel in the Karol Bagh section of New Delhi, I was told it was overbooked but that they could accommodate me at another property just around the corner. The manager threw in a free dinner and breakfast, and at that point I was happy just to have a place to crash, so I told him it would be no problem. He told me to move back to the main hotel in the morning.

January 29, 2007

A Chorus Of Horns

I had breakfast on the rooftop of my hotel, which provided a fine vantage point to observe just how horrible the air quality is here. The nonstop blaring of horns--which would have bothered me all night if I were a light sleeper--is something one gets used to, I guess. I got to read all about Federer's 10th Slam title victory--most of which I missed while travelling--in the local papers over breakfast.

Power

I finally got an adapter from the hotel so I could recharge the iBook and my iPod. None of the plugs I brought with me fit the sockets here--not even the one from South Africa, which I thought would do the trick. After a few false starts, I got the wireless Internet connection working as well, so I am back in business on the technical side of things.

Connaught Place

I took the Metro down to Connaught Place late this afternoon to check out the city center. It's nice enough--certainly cleaner and more presentable than Karol Bagh, where I am staying--but not really anywhere close to a place like Singapore or even Bangkok. Hard to believe India is being touted as the next big economic power along with China; from my vantage point, it seems there is still a long way to go here.

January 30, 2007

To Agra By Rail

I actually have booked two hotel rooms tonight in two different cities. I am keeping most of my stuff--including the iBook--here in New Delhi, but I am taking a late afternoon train to Agra (almost a four-hour trip) and will stay at the Trident Hilton there. It's too much of a hassle to pack up all my gear and schlep it on the train, only to come back to the same hotel tomorrow night. So I am taking only what will fit in my knapsack. The object is a sunrise viewing of the Taj Mahal. Unfortunately, my return train doesn't leave Agra until 6:50 p.m., so I'll have time to kill after the Taj.

January 31, 2007

An Architectural Wonder At Dawn

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Got up early this morning to get to the Taj Mahal before sunrise. Though there was a bit of fog, as it burned off, I managed to take some photos in the morning light. No doubt the highlight of my time in India thus far.

Agra And Agro

Agra is where I spent last night and most of today. "Agro," on the other hand, is British slang for aggravation.

The city--town, really--of Agra was a pleasant excursion and seeing the Taj Mahal bright and early really made the trip worthwhile. My hotel was modern and comfortable and I spent most of the afternoon there reading and watching episodes of The Wire before I had to catch the train back to New Delhi.

Where the agro kicks in is the feeling that foreigners here are regarded an easy mark for unscrupulous taxi drivers and their associates. Case in point: when I got back to Delhi tonight--at another station in town than the main one I left from yesterday (which conveniently was on the Metro system)--coming off the platform an aggressive young man was pushing his taxi on me for a fare of 750 rupees. Sensing a rip-off, I was smart enough to fend him off (though he was relentless). He lowered his price nearly by half, to 400, as I walked toward the competition. Sure enough, when I found the pre-paid taxi stand, where rates in the city are standardized, the fare turned out to be 125 rupees (about $1.50)! Even in Agra, where the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers were unusually pleasant, they were always angling for more business with sight-seeing tours during the day. On the way to the train station, I had to endure the hard sell at two shops, mostly so my driver could pick up his modest commission for delivering a tourist; I came close to missing my train as a result (which would have been a disaster). It's a little hard to enjoy the travel when you have the sense you're thought of as a target. (Of course add to this the beggars--many of whom are little children--who gravitate toward lighter-skinned visitors whenver a taxi stops in traffic.)

I've tried to be generous with tips, recognizing what I earn in a day may be more than some people here earn in a month. But it can be wearying to have everyone seemingly looking to part one from his money.

February 1, 2007

Bombay Dreams

About to head off to Mumbai (a.k.a. Bombay) for my last two days in India. My Monday night TV shows are only half downloaded, so hopefully I'll have Internet access there to finish that off. (Three of these shows are serial dramas--24, Heroes, and Prison Break--so I really want to get caught up on them.) Goodbye, Delhi!

Getting Around India

The guide books suggest that the authentic way to travel from city to city in this country is by train. Doesn't make much sense to me. Especially since my time here is limited, going by air is relatively cheap and much more efficient in terms of time. The flights are cheap by Western standards (especially on Jet Airways, which I strongly recommend) though the trains are really dirt cheap! The problem with trains is that they take forever and present another level of hassles, especially travelling on overnight journeys.

After a pleasant flight, I arrived in Mumbai, dealt with some more taxi agro, and settled into a nice hotel complex that doesn't seem near anything--in fact, though it's technically in the city, it's surrounded by milk-producing farms. Anyway, it's quite comfortable here and I've got the Internet up and running (though it's a rip-off here).

February 3, 2007

So Long India, Hello Egypt

Getting ready to head to Cairo in just a few minutes. I'll update when I can from across the Arabian Sea.

The Predators

To my surprise, I was met at the gate by a representative of Top-Deck Travel and escorted through Immingration and Customs and whisked across the city (through hellacious traffic) to the Indiana Hotel on the west bank of the Nile. The hotel is "old school" but comfortable enough (with an little Internet cafe on the first floor).

On my way over to the ATM at the nearby Sheraton, I "made friends" with an Egyptian on the street who, not surprisingly, had something to sell. I wound up in his papyrus shop and wasted about 45 minutes listening to him and his brother give me all sorts of deals on Egyptian art and touring opportunities, before I begged off and went about my business. The fellow who struck up the conversation was certainly friendly and pleasant, but it really is a hassle to be thought of as prey by every enterprising Indian or Egyptian I walk by on the street.

February 4, 2007

The Jewel Of The Nile

I have a free day in Cairo before I join my tour group tonight, so I'll be doing some solo exploring. Tomorrow we go to the Antiquities Museum and then to the Giza Pyramids.

No Super Bowl For This Guy

As I only get one English language channel--Star Movies--in my hotel, watching the Super Bowl tonight is not in the cards. Not a huge loss, really, though the commercials are probably more than half of the attraction of the event. (By the way, there's a rumored Apple ad on tap, one that announces the availability of The Beatles catalogue on iTunes Music Store, following the settlement of lots of litigation between Apple Computer and Apple Records over the use of the "Apple" name associated with selling music. We'll see. Or rather, you will see and I'll read about it tomorrow.)

Security Presence

It's clear that security concerns are a big deal around the city. I noticed that all of the big hotels--especially the American names (Hilton, Hyatt, Sheraton)--have vehicle checkpoints and even metal detectors to clear before one gets into the building. Police armed with rifles or machine guns are on many street corners, as well. Egypt is a moderate Arab state with historically close ties to the U.S. and has enjoyed a peaceful relationship with Israel since 1977--all factors that could potentially fuel the flames of Islamic radicals in this country. Since tourism is so integral to the economy of Egypt, one can understand why such a huge investment has been made in securing the city and all of the tourist sites throughout the country, especially after a bloody terrorist machine gun attack on tourists about a decade ago.

February 5, 2007

Map Update

Here is the updated map of my sabbatical globe-trotting:

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Here is a bigger version of the map.

Spirits Of Ancient Egypt

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Today was a sight-seeing day, as the photo above suggests. Pretty surreal to be hanging out in view of something you've seen pictures of your whole life.

Tonight my group--six others: four Aussies and two Kiwis--and I are on the overnight train to Luxor.

February 6, 2007

Luxor

The overnight train from Cairo got us in to Luxor a couple of hours late, but the experience was better than I had expected. We traveled in a first class car with recliner seats that were actually quite comfortable. Other than the train stations not having escalators nor elevators (which meant having to schlep heavy luggage when moving between platforms) this was an enjoyable trip.

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After checking in, we had lunch on the rooftop of our hotel, with a spectacular view overlooking the town and the Nile, with the Valley of Kings in the distance across the river.

This afternoon we are off to explore the Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple complexes in town here on the east side of the river. (The ancient Egyptians built their temples on the east side of the river and their tombs on the west, mirroring the path of the sun during the day, as they assumed the sun died each night, to be reborn the following dawn.)

Rambo, A Very Lucky Man

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The Karnak temple was a huge complex with some well preserved structures to explore. Sam, pictured above, is the local Egyptologist who served as our guide at Karnak and at the Luxor temple afterward (he'll take us across the river for the tombs tomorrow, too).

After our temple tours and before dinner, our group wandered through the Luxor bazaar, wherein the vendors routinely called out to us, recognizing the Aussies among our number and directing the occasional unwelcome compliment to our female contingent. I was repeatedly called “Rambo” by these people trying to get my attention; go figure! At one point, as three of the women in our group were walking behind me, a passing local called out: “Very lucky man! Three wives!”

We have an early 7 a.m. departure to the Valley of Kings in the morning; not so lucky, perhaps!

February 7, 2007

Convoy

We had a great morning exploring three tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and then stopping at the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut before a relaxed lunch back in Luxor and then an afternoon bus trip of three hours to Aswan. By government decree, we had to go in a police-escorted convoy. All foreigners on the roads must travel between cities this way--which seems to a move the government developed in a response to the act of terrorism in November 1997 in which dozens of tourists were killed at the aforementioned Queen Hatshepsut Temple. This approach seems a bit stupid to me: since the foreigners have to register for the convoy in advance and leave at a predetermined time, a simple security lapse would give potential evildoers a list of nationalities represented in the convoy as well as a multiple targets conveniently assembled in one place at a predictable time.

As if today's 7am departure wasn't bad enough, tomorrow we get 3am wake-up calls to head to Abu Simbel in another convoy!

February 8, 2007

Abu Simbel

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Just returned from Abu Simbel where we saw the impressive temples of Ramses II and his wife Nefertari. These temples, which were hewn out of a mountainside overlooking the Nile, were moved several hundred meters into an artificial mountain in the 1970s when Lake Nasser was created by the flooding due to the High Dam. They are striking nonetheless. just a few weeks from now, there is one day a year when the Ramses temple's inner sanctuary is illuminated by the sun in the morning.

River Cruise And Nubian Village

Our group enjoyed a late afternoon Nile cruise on a felucca, one that took us upriver to a Nubian village that had been relocated from the south as a result of the High Dam constuction. We had a terrific dinner there and took the boat back to our hotel. A high point of the trip.

Tomorrow we get to sleep until 9:00!

February 9, 2007

Aswan

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After a leisurely morning, we visited the Aswan High Dam, a modern engineering marvel constructed with the help of the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s. Then we took a boat to the island where the Philae Temple--constucted by Alexander the Great--is situated. (The photo above shows some bas-relief carvings on one of the interior walls of the temple.) This temple was also relocated from a nearby island due to the flooding arising from the dam project.

Soon we head to the train station for the overnight rail journey back to Cairo.

February 10, 2007

Out Of Africa

Back in Cairo, after the overnight train ride from Aswan. While my group heads out for some sight-seeing, I have the morning to nap, get cleaned up, pop on the Internet, and then head to the airport.

I've enjoyed the Egypt segment of my trip. It's been educational and fun.

Ich Bin Ein Frankfurter

Had a good flight, with the center row to myself, en route to Frankfurt from Cairo. I'm on a layover now, waiting for my connecting flight to Barcelona. It's refreshing to have access to Western food and periodicals after a couple weeks without.

February 12, 2007

Aaaaarrrgghhhh!

I actually was saying far worse things in the car until a few minutes ago.

I took the tram/metro/train combo back out to the airport this morning to pick up my rental car. Took a while, mostly because the train was late. Then I couldn't find the Alamo desk in the terminal at first. Once I got the car, I couldn't start it. After I worked that out, I fumbled around trying to figure out just how the unfamiliar manual/automatic hybrid transmission worked.

And then things got complicated. Let me say at the outset that I should have gotten a map before leaving the airport. I thought I'd be able to get back to the hotel, but I ended up driving in circles for far too long, passing familiar landmarks, but then being led off course by an apparent maze of Barcelona streets. When I finally stopped to ask directions, I got on the highway, only to realize it was going the wrong way. Each of two moves I made to turn around only took me miles out of my way without a turnaround opportunity in sight. I was screaming in frustration!

Once I settled down, I figured out how to get back to the hotel, though I had missed the check-out deadline by over an hour.

No worries now, I am heading out of Barcelona.

Catalonia

I am settled into a comfortable little hotel in the town of Figueres on the Costa Brava in the Catalan section, north of Barcelona and south of the French border and the Pyrenees. It's artist country (Dali, Goya) here. I am just north of Girona, the attractive medieval town that served as a base for Lance Armstrong and other Tour de France riders during their pre-race training.

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What is both fascinating and a bit confusing to me are the linguistic differences between Catalan and Castilian Spanish. It's clear there's a strong sense of cultural identity wrapped around this variation of the language, with its diverse spellings on signs everywhere. Of course, with limited high school Spanish at my disposal, it's a bit more work to make myself understood without knowing the nuances of Catalan speech.

The Internet speed is faster here than it was in Barcelona (yay!) even if the free hotel WiFi doesn't quite reach my 4th floor room in the back of the hotel. This I am online in the lobby, which is comfortable enough, even is spite of the elderly German tourists playing cards and yammering loudly nearby.

The only problem is that four of the episodes I've just downloaded seem to have disappeared from iTunes and my hard drive, so I've contacted Apple to resolve the situation so I can get caught up on my shows.

February 13, 2007

First Snow Of Winter

I saw my first snow of the winter this morning, at least from a distance, on the peaks of the Pyrenees. Of course, it was summer while I was Down Under, and my other destinations on this trip more or less stay warm year-round.

I left just before 10 this morning and drove north from Figueres--the town just north of Girona where I spent the night--to cross the Spain/France border, and then I headed west, pulling into Pau around 3:30 in the afternoon. Most of the drive was back roads, though I opted for the autoroute (i.e., motorway/autobahn/highway) for the final hour of the trip. I did see lots of vineyards along the way, as well as some impressive châteaux.

After driving around the city for half an hour, I located my hotel, settled in, and headed out to explore the town. The next day or so should be pretty relaxing: a chance to read, get caught up on downloaded TV shows, and enjoy this French city at my leisure.

February 14, 2007

Waking Up In Europe

There's a different sensation waking up in a European hotel. The light from the window overlooking the narrow streets and the different sounds percolating up from those streets and immediately give the sense that I am far from home.

It's a treat to head out and pick up The International Herald Tribune and digest it over a continental breakfast.

Rainy Day In France

It's a bit chilly, windy, and rainy here in Pau, which suits my purposes just fine. No grand sight-seeing agenda today. I am just kicking back a bit before visiting Chuck Timlin in Zaragoza tomorrow through Saturday and then spending a couple of busy days in Madrid and London before heading home.

February 15, 2007

The Plains Of Aragon

That title sounds like something out of The Lord Of The Rings. In fact, it's the location of Zaragoza--a city that derives its Spanish name from a corruption of "Caesar Augustus," its name in the Roman Empire. (On the signs is France it was "Sarragosse.")

I drove due south from Pau, departing a little after 9:00 a.m., through some gorgeous Pyrenees scenery and through a tunnel that was many miles long unde the peaks and back into Spain. I arrived in Zaragoza before 1:00 and met my friend Chuck Timlin in Plaza de España at 2:30. We moved my stuff into his nearby apartment and then went to the School Year Abroad base for his late afternoon English class. Afterward, Andover faculty member Bill Scott joined us for a couple of pints and then we went back to the apartment to relax a bit and watch some soccer before heading out later to check out some tapas bars.

February 16, 2007

Zaragoza

Classes finish early in the SYA program on Fridays, so I am now heading off to join the faculty for some tapas and drinks next to the school. Tonight we'll head out late--in the Spanish fashion--for food and socialization.

Tomorrow I go to Madrid.

February 17, 2007

Moving On Down The Road

After a late night--getting in at 3:30--of dinner and dancing, I enjoyed a great American-style breakfast in Zaragoza with Chuck and Bill before taking off for Madrid. The drive on the autovia was smooth, with landscapes that reminded me of the southwestern U.S. (only greener). I found my hotel easily; this time I remembered to bring a map for a change!

The Elements Of A Good Hotel

Having been in hotels literally all over the world, I have a pretty firm sense of what makes for a good lodging experience. Generally, I am perfectly happy in two- and three-star hotels; for the most part, a clean room, a comfortable bed, and a functioning shower is all I need, as I don't usually spend a lot of time hanging out in my hotel room when I am traveling. But here is a quick checklist of what I appreciate when on the road:

• a queen- or king-size bed with multiple pillow
• a shower with dependable temperature control and suitable water pressure
• a good-sized bathtub to recline in after a long day on my feet
• a free in-room broadband Internet connection; WiFi is a bonus
• a television with cable/satellite offerings that include a couple of English language news channels
• a mini-fridge with space for what I want to put in it (not filled with overpriced mini-bar offerings I won't use)

I am happy to report that my current location--the Hesperia Getafe Hotel, outside Madrid--has all of these features

February 18, 2007

Art Appreciation Day

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I spent much of today exploring two major art museums: the Queen Sofia and the Prado. The former specializes in modern works and is the home of "Guernica," Pablo Picasso's masterpiece, and lots of cubism and surrealism (e.g., Salvador Dali). The latter is the Spanish equivalent of the Metropolitan Museum, with a range of Spanish and international masters represented (it's heavy on Velázquez and Goya). The early Dali work above, "Mujer en una ventana," was my favorite of the day.

February 19, 2007

Another Early Morning Trip To The Airport

Off to the Madrid Airport for my 7:25 flight to Madrid and the connection to London Heathrow.

Merry Olde England

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I am now settled in at my London office (a.k.a. the Regent Street Apple store, with its free WiFi).

The flights this morning were uneventful and, for a change, my Heathrow arrival gate was actually CLOSE to the arrivals hall. (Usually my gate there is a four-mile hike from the center of the terminal.) I did get grilled by a woman at Passport Control. I thought the U.S. and the U.K. enjoyed a "special relationship," but you'd have thought I presented an Iraqi passport. I had to explain my whole trip, why I stopped in England, how long I was staying, and whether I had a hotel reservation. Once I showed a ticket for my Wednesday flight, I was allowed into Britain.

I took the Piccadilly line to the Gloucester Road exit; my hotel is just a block away.

BBQ Feast In London

Met up with two Class of 2004 alums: Alejandro Lloreda and Mauricio Osorio, both from Colombia and both studying at the London School of Economics (Mauricio is on an exchange year from Middlebury). We ate at Bodeans, an American-style barbeque joint in Soho. If you go on Monday night, you can get the "burnt ends" of the brisket, which I heartily recommend.

February 21, 2007

Westward Ho!

Heading to Heathrow Airport for my trip home via Toronto.

Toronto Holding Pattern

Had a painless flight from London to Toronto; the plane was half full, so there was plenty of room to stretch out. The new airport here is comfortable and attractive. I had a bit of bad luck, in that it took a while to get my baggage to the part of the airport designated for U.S. connections (so I could pre-clear U.S. immigration and customs formalities on this end of my next flight). When I arrived, it looked as though I could make a much earlier flight at 12:45, rather than 5:15, but I had to wait too long at the baggage carousel and barely missed my window. So I've got a few hours to kill in Canada. At least there is wireless access, so I can finish downloading my Monday shows and watch them.

Honey, I'm Home

Got to Bradley Airport, retrieved my car from my parents' house (and needed AAA to jump start the battery), and cruised down to Wallingford. I am home.

February 27, 2007

Pulling An All-Nighter

I stayed up all night, figuring I'd deny myself the chance to oversleep my early morning trip to Bradley Airport. After the frenetic tournament weekend and a day full of meetings on Monday, this gave me the chance to sort the mail, do the laundry, pack and tackle a few other projects with no interruption before heading off again for another three weeks on the road. I fly to see my folks in south Florida before a week in Aruba and a week with the Choate tennis team back at Saddlebrook.

Leaving Winter Behind

I've spent most of this winter in warmer climes--in fact, it was the height of summer for three weeks in Australia!--and so it was a treat to step off the plane here in Florida, where the temperature is consistently above 70 degrees every day. It was quite cold up in Exeter over the weekend and it snowed as I drove up to the airport in the wee hours of the morning.

March 2, 2007

Aruba Arrival

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An easy three-hour flight from Miami to Aruba (whole row to myself--sweet!) deposited me at the Oranjestad Airport. Aruba is a little less than twenty miles long and six miles wide--a pretty small island just off the northern coast of Venezuela. Having left Perth, Australia on January 22 and traveled through Asia, Africa, Europe, and back home to North America, my arrival in South America this afternoon means I've logged time on six continents in just under six weeks! (I also visited six continents in 2006, but it took me almost exactly twelve months to do so.)

The Sabbatical Map, Once Again

Here is the latest update to where I've been, where I am now, and where I am going before my sabbatical officially ends on March 20:

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Here is a bigger version of the map.

Tropical Breezes

I had dinner at the sushi bar by the casino here in the Marriott complex. Afterward, I took a walk along the beach under the full moon and it was windy, but the breezes were pleasantly WARM!

March 3, 2007

Return To The Nile

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I caught back-to-back episodes of Digging For The Truth on The History Channel this afternoon. Both shows brought me back to my time in Egypt a few weeks back, with their backdrops at the Giza Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, the Valley of Kings, the Karnak temple in Luxor, and Abu Simbel. One episode was about Tutankhamun and the other about Rameses II.

Indiana Jones wanna-be Josh Bernstein, who hosts the program, recently announced he is jumping over to The Discovery Network, which may mean the end of Digging For The Truth, at least as we know it. Bad news for The History Channel, as this has been its highest-rated show.

March 4, 2007

Steel Drums Forever

The Marriott Surf Club here in Aruba sure is a swell place. Because it's set up as a time-share property, the units are fully furnished with complete kitchens, full living and dining rooms spaces, laundry facilities, etc. There's a marketplace right downstairs to stock the kitchen. The beach is beautiful and the multiple pools are clearly the centerpiece of the resort (although the poolside bar is an interesting concept, in that I've always thought that alcohol and swimming were not the best things to mix together). One of the pools is essentially a river, with a strong current that pulls you around an artificial island as you float your troubles away. The only critique I have is the resort's incessant soundtrack. This place pipes what I'd call "elevator music" all over the grounds, except that all the familiar radio-friendly tunes are performed exclusively by steel drum bands. It was cute at first, but after three days of this tropical treacle, I am about ready to go postal.

March 7, 2007

Papiamento

The local language here in Aruba is Papiamento, which is a curious patiche of Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, and a smattering of West African tongues and English words. It's also spoken in Bonaire and Curaçao. But virtually everyone speaks English fluently, too, so tourists have no problem here.

March 8, 2007

A Convenient Crop

Apparently, Aruba's primary agricultural export over time has been aloe--which is a pretty handy thing to grow locally, given all the sunburned bodies I see around these parts.

March 9, 2007

One Happy Island . . .

. . . is the tag line on the license plates here. I'll miss the warm weather, the tropical breezes, and the friendly people. I won't miss hearing "Stand By Me" on the steel drums multiple times a day!

Back To Florida

The flight back to Miami was uneventful (though actor Mickey Rooney was sitting up in first class, but no one else seemed to recognize him). The traffic on I-95 up to Boynton Beach was no picnic, but the Alamo office in Miami had an automatic check-in kiosk where, after scanning your credit card and driver's license, you could basically zip through the usual car rental rigamarole quickly and without a wait.

March 11, 2007

A Short Hop

Off to the Fort Lauderdale airport this morning for a brief flight over to Tampa to meet members of the Choate tennis team for a week of training at Saddlebrook resort.

Saddlebrook

Back at the Saddlebrook resort for the first time in two years (last year, Choate Tennis went to China over spring break). I've been coming here most years since 1990, aside from about a five year period beginning in the late 1990s when the team went out to Indian Wells, California. The resort itself is more or less unchanged (though wireless Internet access has been a welcome recent addition). What has changed is that Tampa has continued to spread out. Wesley Chapel used to be pretty remote from the city itself, but one doesn't have to travel very far to find the usual Florida-type sprawl of shopping centers and malls.

March 12, 2007

The National Paper Of Record

I drove all over the area for about thirty minutes, trying in vain to locate a copy of today's The New York Times. Now that I am back in the States for good, I am trying to re-establish my daily newspaper habits (I subscribe to the Times and USA Today at home.) While I did have USA Today waiting at my doorstep this morning here in the resort, you would think the nation's pre-eminent newspaper might be available for purchase somewhere in this county!

March 17, 2007

New England Bound

I am sitting in the Tampa airport (thanks for the free wireless Internet access!) about to board my flight to Hartford. Today was a spectacular day: a cloudless blue sky and a perfect temperature. I am steeling myself for the ice and cold that awaits me.

Winter Wonderland

I returned to a Connecticut that is under a blanket of snow. (Note to self: though Crocs are convenient to wear through airports and on planes, they are really bad in a foot of snow when retrieving one's car.) The temperature tonight is below freezing, too. The winter I have been trying to avoid since December is still here.

April 12, 2007

Road Warrior

This morning I had to drive up to Northfield, Massachusetts--due north from Wallingford, just below the Vermont border--to meet with the Eight Schools heads. The drive up was through mild sleet, but things were a bit more treacherous on the way home. I hydroplaned a bit on I-91, which quickly convinced me to take it a bit more slowly. Made it back to campus for an indoor practice this afternoon.

April 20, 2007

A Place I'd Like To Be Right Now

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The Monte Carlo Country Club is hosting one of the ATP's Masters Series tournaments this week. This event is over a century old and has long been considered one of the premier stops on the European spring clay court circuit. Supposedly the club is a spectacularly beautiful setting, with scenic views overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

So far, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal remain on course for a final-round rematch of the 2006 championship. Nadal is gunning for a third straight Monte Carlo title.

May 7, 2007

Marlborough Man

Spent most of the day in Marlborough, Massachusetts--between Boston and Worcester--at a meeting of the NEPSAC Executive Board. Generally this group meets in the most central location in New England, but the venue seems to be gravitating eastward, from Sturbridge to Worcester and now to Marlborough. It means I am spending more time in the car than I want to.

May 21, 2007

Timing Is Everything

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I've been pricing round-trip flights to London in June at $800 and up online the past few weeks. This weekend the fare dropped to $600 and I grabbed it. Of course $200 hardly gets one through a day in London anymore, given the current exchange rate! But I'll take the savings nonetheless.

I've pretty much become my own travel agent the last few years, thanks to the Internet. I do recommend signing up for alert emails from airlines and especially from Airfarewatchdog.com. It was such an alert notice from Expedia that alerted me of a $27 airfare savings (which turned out to be almost ten times that!) this weekend.

My plan in June is to use London as a launching point on the low-cost European carriers to see Scandanavia, come back for a bit of Wimbledon, and then head right home for summer school.

June 4, 2007

Midnight Sun

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I am spending the afternoon and early evening with my parents in South Windsor and was able to concentrate on my travel agent routine online while up here. I've booked flights to and accommodation in Tromso, Norway for later this month. Tromso is north of the Artic Circle and when I arrive there in mid-June, I am not going to be experiencing much darkness in the middle of the night!

June 5, 2007

Heading East

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Come August, I will be heading to Russia for an eight-day visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg. I booked my tickets today by redeeming points I've been building on my credit card, so the travel there--on a non-stop Delta flight from Kennedy Airport--is basically free! I do recommend paying all your bills on one credit card so that you accrue points for stuff like this. Since my card is not linked to any particular airline, I can redeem points any way I choose.

June 7, 2007

Updated Travel Map

I've added my projected summer travel to the 2007 "where is he now?"map here on the website:

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Here is a bigger version of the map.

June 11, 2007

Leaving, On A Jet Plane

As in today's song of the day, my bags are packed and I'm off to the airport.

June 12, 2007

When a man is tired of London . . .

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. . . he is tired of life. So said Samuel Johnson, and I do believe he is correct. I am enjoying my time in this capital city once again (though I do feel like a pauper, as the already expensive cost of living here is exacerbated by a brutally weak dollar relative to sterling.)

Tonight, it's off to the opera.

June 14, 2007

Arriving in Norway

I left my Bayswater hotel around 8:30 this morning, took the Tube to Liverpool Street Station and then the Stansted Express train to the airport. From there I flew to Haugesend, Norway. (RyanAir is an Irish carrier that caters to the budget airfare segment of the market; as long as one is willing to use out-of-the-way airports--like Stansted and Haugesend, for instance!--the fares can be incredibly cheap.) From Haugesend I traveled by bus and ferry through the fjords on the west Norway coast up to Bergen, the nation's second biggest city. It feels more like a town to me, albeit a charming one built around a harbor. The landscape here is spectacular. The last time I saw fjords like these was when I was on the south island of New Zealand in 1998.

Quiet Comfort Indeed

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David Pogue had a piece in today's International Herald Tribune about noise-canceling headphones. He reviewed the Bose Quiet Comfort 2--which I was wearing as I read the article--and its competitors. I picked up the QC2s on a whim (admittedly, an expensive one!) in Logan Airport in Boston before heading to Bermuda for a week in August 2005 and have worn them on nearly every flight since. As I've been on at least a half dozen 12+ hour flights in the last two years, they have been a godsend. The noise-cancelling properties really do make flying easier: less headache, less jet lag, an overall easier transition.

I wish I had headphones like this when I was in college: not because I flew much then (I took a 30-minute flight twice between Albany and Islip--my first and second times in an airplane) but because I routinely took the long bus ride between Williamstown and New York City, stopping in virtually every town along the way. The ongoing low rumble of the bus for hours invariably put me out of sorts and gave me a headache and a touch of nausea.

The Devil Is In The Details

Nailing down accommodation in Bergen online a few weeks ago was tough. I ended up staying in a very expensive room here for the night in a Raddison hotel right in the heart of town, overlooking the harbor. My room is comfortable (if overpriced). Its best feature is clear: a bathroom with a gently heated tile floor. Why doesn't every bathroom in the world have this?

June 15, 2007

Bergen

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These shops are on the "bryggen," or waterfront, in the heart of Bergen. My hotel is behind these buildings at the far end, overlooking the harbor. The city is, like Rome, surrounded by seven hills (small mountains, really) on three sides; the fjord is on the fourth.

This is a quaint place. There was a free concert in the downtown shopping area this morning--mostly children's groups performing.

It does feel a bit cut off from the rest of the world. As in Buenos Aires, one can't get the day's edition of the International Herald Tribune from any of the local vendors until the afternoon.

Long Train Ride

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Took a seven-plus hour train ride from Bergen to Oslo. Supposedly this is the highest train route in Northern Europe (I guess that means other than the Alps). We certainly were above the snow line for part of the trip--kind of freaky to see a winter landscape in mid-June! But I am settled into my hotel in Oslo now (having missed dinner tonight) and will explore the city tomorrow.

June 16, 2007

Mythconception

Before this trip, most of what I knew about Scandanavia was based on stuff like this:
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and this:
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A Foreign Language

I've gotten pretty good at deciphering some of Norwegian. It's similar to German in many ways, but with some different-looking letters: "å" and "ø" primarily.

Most people here seem pretty fluent in English. Bookstores routinely carry English-language books and familiar pop songs from back home are ubiquitous.

Peaceful Norway

In late May, Norway topped the list of 121 countries as "the most peaceful country" in a study called The Global Peace Index, which was compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The survey looked at 24 factors to determine how peaceful each country was. The United States finished 96th on the list, while Iraq was last. The top five: Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland, and Japan. (Interesting that the latter two each had a particularly un-peaceful 20th century--Japan as a militarist power in the 1930s and 1940s, and Ireland with civil warfare and "The Troubles" over the course of many decades--so there is hope for all, it seems!)

June 17, 2007

Heading North

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Today I head to Tromsø, which is north of the Artic Circle. It's near the top of the map above.

A Strange Sight

As I wandered around the town of Tromsø this evening--it was pretty quiet, as it was a Sunday--I came across this store:
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As I peered in the window, it became apparent that it was a shop dedicated entirely to videogames. Why it is named after Spider-Man, I cannot fathom.

What is weirded yet is the depiction of the wall-crawler:
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Maybe this is what Mickey Mouse would look like were he bitten by a radioactive spider?

June 18, 2007

Freaky

I guess it's one of those things that you intellectually understand, but you can't really get it untl you see it. Here is the midnight sun--this is downtown Tromsø at 12:45 a.m.:
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Life In A Northern Town

Tromsø

The two-month-long daylight phenomenon is pretty cool here, but "midnight sun"? I have yet to see the sun here at ANY time of day. Thus far it's been perpetual overcast skies and on-and-off drizzle.

Before leaving Connecticut, I was asked why I was heading to this Viking village at the north end of the continent. No doubt I wanted to see this 24-hour daylight thing first hand, which now I have (and it makes it harder to get to sleep at night, for sure). But the remoteness of Tromsø appealed to me because these June vacations are just as much about decompression as they are about seeking out the unfamiliar. That is, at the end of the school year, I feel I need some time alone to relax, reflect, and review life. I am at my most thoughtful in these periods, generating lots of ideas, creating lists, and making plans. Now the trick is finding the time to implement them once I get back in "the real world."

A Pricey Country

Dinner this evening at a pretty low-key pizza place ran me over $50, as did a lunch I had in Oslo the other day. Neither meal was in a fancy restaurant, but I am realizing just how expensive Norway is (again, the weak U.S. dollar is doing me no favors).

I discovered online that Oslo is one of the ten most expensive cities in the world. And Moscow, where I am headed in August, is at the top of the list! Ugh.

June 19, 2007

Goodbye Norway

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I am back in the Oslo airport, experiencing sunshine for the first time in days. Tromsø was charming, but a pretty gray place overall; I never saw the sun once in my time there. I can only imagine the wintertime in Tromsø would be absolutely depressing, what with lots of snow and two full months of polar night--the place gets just a couple of hours of dusky light each day. (You can see exactly how much light the town gets at various times of year on this site.)

At any rate, I am killing time on a layover until my flight to Stockholm. I got caught up with the International Herald Tribune and USA Today as well as the latest Time magazine. I also am catching up on some podcasts. I have a handful that I listen to at least weekly, as well as a bunch I check out more sporadically. For those of you who might care, here is my current subscription list:

More Or Less Weekly Listens:

KCRW’s Left, Right and Center - a weekly political roundtable
SModcast - filmmakers Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier sally forth with great (if often twisted) humor
The News From Lake Wobegon - Garrison Keillor's monologues from A Prarie Home Companion radio show
The Ricky Gervais Show - not currently in production, but hilarious interaction between the British comedian, his co-creator Stephen Merchant, and their bone-headed sidekick Karl Pilkington
Wild Boars Tennis Podcast - my own handiwork, updated only in the spring

Sporadic Listens:

David Pogue - the technology columnist for the New York Times
In Our Time - in-depth consideration of eclectic topics, from BBC Radio Four
Car Talk - the NPR show featuring the brothers Magliozzi
The Onion Radio News - 60 seconds of humor you'd expect, given the source
Slate Magazine Daily Podcast - articles from the online magazine


Hello Sweden

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I arrived in Stockholm, took the airport express to the central train station, and made it to my hotel on the outskirts of the city (the neigborhood of Bromma, actually) by skillfully navigating the subway system. At first glimpse, this capital city is far more expansive than Oslo. Tomorrow I will explore it.

June 20, 2007

A Day In Stockholm

A laid-back day for me, mindful that in a week's time, I'll be back at work: teaching in the morning, handling office chores in the afternoon, and covering dorm duty in the evening.

I explored the city a bit via the subway system (T-bana) and ended up having lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe.
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I always feel a little guilty going to a place like this, as it seems like such a typically touristy thing to do. The fact is, it's comforting to have a little taste of home once in a while when abroad, even if it is overpriced. I do enjoy checking out the rock memorabilia, too. (I've been to Hard Rock Cafes in Amsterdam, Bangkok, Barcelona, Cairo, London, Melbourne, Oslo, Rome, Stockholm, and Sydney, as I recall.)

I took care of a couple of other tasks, too, namely getting my watch battery replaced and mailing some postcards.

June 21, 2007

Gamla Stan

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Had a lovely day exploring the Gamla Stan (the Old Town in Stockholm), with narrow cobble-stoned streets winding past attractive shops.

City Slickers

As someone who tends to spend a fair amount of travel time in some of the world's major cities, I am following with fascination a recent survey by the International Herald Tribune (in conjunction with a magazine I have never heard of called Monocle) that rates cities for their quality of life. You can check out the list youself online. For what it's worth, I have been to fifteen of the top twenty cities listed and while I would quibble a bit with the order, this is not a bad list.

Cunning Linguists

As an American, I am continually amazed at the facility with languages most Europeans seem to have. I have yet to deal with a single person in Norway or Sweden who did not speak fluent English!

June 22, 2007

Europe Without Euros

This is my first trip to Europe in years in which I did not use the Euro as currency at some point. Two of the three countries I am visiting--the U.K. and Sweden--are E.U. members that have rejected the Euro and the third--Norway--is not an E.U. member.

Personalized Welcome

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When I first arrived at the Stockholm Central Station, the signs over the escalators indicated that apparently I was expected. Nice of them to let me know exactly which way I am supposed to go.

The Strand

I arrived in London and made my way to my hotel on The Strand, just around the corner from Covent Garden. As I leave the hotel and look to right, I see Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square at the end of the street. Pretty good location.

June 24, 2007

A Quiet Sunday in London

The shops in London are open between noon and 6 p.m. on Sundays, so I had a limited window to stop by my London office (a.k.a. the Regent Street Apple Store) for Internet connectivity, get some lunch, and run a few errands.

I opted not to see a West End show this trip, in part because there is nothing here I am particularly dying to see, and in part because it would cost me a fortune with the current exchange rate and I've already spent enough on this vacation. I am sorry I missed Sir Ian McKellen as Lear up in Stratford by just a day; I'd have headed north for that if the timing worked out. But instead I booked tickets today to two Broadway shows for this Wednesday: a matinee of Inherit The Wind (which I starred in as a high school senior, though not on Broadway!) and an evening production of Spring Awakening, which did so well at the Tony Awards a couple weeks back.

June 25, 2007

Homeward Bound

I am preparing to swap my suitcase for a briefcase. Time to get back to work! I actually missed the first day of Choate summer school today and will need to hit the ground running for my 8:15 class tomorrow morning.

I have an evening flight that leaves from Heathrow at 8:05 and arrives at J.F.K. at 10:50. Assuming the flight is on schedule, that should get me to Wallingford by around 1:30 a.m. It still amazes me that I can have dinner in London and breakfast in my own house the very next morning!

July 8, 2007

A Cool Place

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Thus was a neatly named shop I saw when I was in Tromsø, Norway a couple weeks ago. Turns out the shop even has a website: www.arctictattoo.com.

July 16, 2007

Capital Bound

Off to Washington, DC for the rest of the week with the J.F.K. Institute program.

The Emerald City Could Be Greener

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I peppered the drive down to DC with Wizard of Oz references in antipation of showing the K.I. kids the Mormon temple looming over the Washington beltway illuminated in an eerie green, as in past years. The temple appeared right on schedule, bathed in light, but it wasn't as green as it was in the past, which made it a tougher sell as "the Emerald City." In fact, it looked much whiter, as it would in daylight (see the photo above).

July 17, 2007

The Pulse Of The Capital

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I spent most of the day squiring the ten Kennedy Institute students around Capitol Hill.

Security concerns have made navigating around the Capitol complex pretty frustrating. I remember the days when I could take a group from a House office building through the Capitol basement, onto the Senate Subway, and into the Senate office buildings without being stopped. No more. Without an official escort much of the time, we had to keep heading outside to move from one building to another. And of course, the temperatures in July in D.C. tend to be soaring--making every such trip a brutal hike.

That said, there is always an excitement about being in the midst of the wheels of government when Congress is in session. We are meeting lawmakers and staffers as part of our official schedule, of course, but there are also chance sightings of (and sometimes meetings with) political celebrities. Today we saw U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Senator (and presidential candidate and former First Lady) Hilary Clinton. More importantly, even in these cynical times, people in and around government often exhibit an admirable sense of idealism about their work; this feeling is somewhat infectious.

July 18, 2007

Monuments By Night

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I took the kids around to the monuments tonight. Evening is the best time to do this: it's a lot cooler, there are fewer crowds, and the venues are lighted for dramatic effect. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial--one of my favorites--was a huge disappointment, in that most of its fountain/waterfall features were dry and the lighting was not fully implemented through the site. But the Jefferson Memorial (pictured above), the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial all looked great.

July 20, 2007

Making Good Time

For the most part, the drive from Washington back to Connecticut went quite smoothly. We managed to beat rush hour in New York and arrived in Wallingford around 4:30.

July 25, 2007

Red Tape

Although my trip to Russia next month will be cheaper than it might have been--largely because the airfare is entirely covered by the "mileage points" I've built up on my credit card--I am paying dearly to get my tourist visa processed. It will cost me almost $200 when all is said and done. Living in a major city would be a huge advantage, as one could avoid using an expediter by going to an embassy or consulate to process the visa request in person (I actually did this in Sydney to get my India and Vietnam visas in January). But two separate trips into New York City to drop off and pick up my passports wouldn't be very economical, so I am resorting to an expediter in Houston, who supposedly will have my passport and a brand new tourist visa back to me within five business days.

Getting a Russian visa is a little more complicated than most, in that I needed to get documentation from the hotels I booked in advance (which in turn requires another set of deposits). Of course, the documents that were faxed back to me from the hotels were written mostly in the Cyrillic alphabet, so I hope it is what the consular officials want.

August 2, 2007

Visa In Hand

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My passport, with a newly affixed visa for my trip to Russia next week, arrived back from the expediter today. So I am good to go!

August 9, 2007

Off To The Airport Again!

Time to head out once more. I am about to drive to Kennedy Airport and then fly Delta to Moscow for a week there and in St. Petersburg.

What I Forgot

Sitting in the airport, waiting to board my flight, I realized what I forgot to pack: a belt (no real problem there); my portable iPod speakers (I can live without those, too); in the absence of the speakers, a USB cord to re-charge my iPod (I just bought a replacement cord here in Kennedy Airport for $18). But I've got my passport and my wallet, and I am traveling light, so hopefully there will be no snags.

August 10, 2007

Arriving In Russia

The flight to Russia was uneventful. It was a fairly full plane, but I was comfortable in an aisle seat for the nine-hour trip. The airport was similarly painless: no problems getting through customs and in the baggage claim.

I took the adventurous way to my hotel, via public transportation, specifically a bus and the Metro subway system. Though I was a bit unsure of where I would end up--NOTHING is written in English!--I managed to make it my hotel, the Novotel Moscow Centre, which is a business-oriented hotel with an English-speaking staff. My 12th floor room is spacious.

The 30-40 minutes on the bus gave me a good eyeful of the outskirts of Moscow. My first reaction was that my surroundings looked like a cross between Beijing and Madrid. Beijing for the foreign non-Roman alphabet writing everywhere as well as the functional-but-ugly Stalinist architecture on display. Madrid for the landscape and the endless advertisements for Western multinational companies everywhere: Toyota and Ford dealerships, Coca-Cola drink stands, McDonald's restaurants (of course all of these were in Beijing as well). I guess capitalism has arrived in full force here!

I am going to nap a bit before heading out to explore the city this evening.

Greetings From The Workers' Paradise

Slept more than I had intended to and took the Metro into the city for some dinner at about 9pm, as I was famished. I ended up around Pushkin Square, where I settled on a T.G.I. Friday's as the safest alternative (shoot me for choosing the toursity least path of resistance!). The meal was fine, if unremarkable. I walked down the Tverskaya thoroughfare to the Kremlin and Red Square--beautifully illuminated at night--before heading back to the hotel.

August 11, 2007

Damn You, St. Cyril!

After a great hotel breakfast, I set off to one of the train stations to secure a ticket for my overnight trip to St. Petersburg on Monday. Nowhere in the entire train station was there a word written in English. And not one person who worked there that I approached spoke the language, either. I suppose I've been spoiled in much of my traveling, in that I've almost always been able to find someone who could speak my native tongue.

The trick with Russian is that the alphabet is different. The other places I've been that don't use the Roman alphabet (e.g., Japan, China, Thailand, India, Greece) have consistently posted signs with English translations when it comes to public transportation, sight-seeing venues, etc. Not so here. Thus I find myself comparing "word pictures" of the names of subway stations to the listings on my map to be sure I am in the right place. It's like a big game of Concentration.

Anyway, I had zero luck at the train station trying to get a ticket, and the Intourist travel agent across town was no help either. At the end of a day exploring Red Square and the Arbat district (and a decent sushi lunch), I finally resolved my problem at the Guest Relations desk at my hotel. So I have my ticket in hand now. I'd have saved myself a lot of time and frustration if I had started here!

August 12, 2007

Making Progress

Here is the world map with the color red indicating the countries I had been to when I wrote a blog entry on April 30, 2004:

Here is that map updated with country visits from the past three years:

There's far more red on the current map--it helps to have visited some BIG countries such as Russia, China, India, and Brazil--but there is still a lot left to see!

Make a map of your own travels by clicking here.

August 13, 2007

The Kremlin

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Today I visited the parts of the Kremlin open to the public (a portion of the complex functions as the official headquarters of the President of the Russian Federation). Most of what you can see are ornate Orthodox chapels in the typical architectural style.

The Moscow Metro

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I've been traveling through the city on the excellent Metro system: it's fast, reliable, convenient, and cheap. There is a stop right outside my hotel that can take me pretty much anywhere in the city.

The Metro system was constructed starting in the 1930s and was intended to reflect the glory of the socialist state, and thus the oldest stations boast ornate and extravagant architectural designs, often with murals and sculpture in the official artictic style of Russian communism: Socialist Realism.

The escalators are among the longest I've ever been on--rivaling those at the Dupont Circle stop on the D.C. Metro or at Leicester Square station on the London Underground. They also move faster than others I've been on, though one gets used to this quickly.

A Storybook Church

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I headed back to Red Square tonight to snap a few pics of the iconic St. Basil's illuminated at night.

August 14, 2007

The Red Arrow

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I boarded the 11:55 p.m. train in Moscow last night for the eight-hour overnight trip to St. Petersburg, scheduled to arrive around 8:00 this morning. (I almost missed the train, as I was inadvertantly in an adjoining train station in Moscow--which explains the difficulty I had in trying to buy a ticket there two days earlier!--but was pointed in the right direction and found the Leningradsky Station to be much friendlier to foreigners, with English-language signage and announcements.)

I was assigned to a four-berth sleeper coupe, which I shared with two Russian businessmen, and settled into an upper bunk for some shut-eye. As I drifted in and out of sleep through the night, I was aware we were not moving for long stretches of time. When I arose in the morning, one of my companions in the compartment, who spoke some English, explained to me that there had been a terrorist attack on an earlier train on this route, and thus we would be delayed and rerouted. Apparently some Chechen separatists had blown up the tracks under an express train from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

The upshot of all of this was a 12-hour delay in getting to St. Petersburg. To make matters worse, the switch from an electrical engine to a diesel one meant we had no air conditioning throughout the day. So it was a pretty brutal experience, particularly as the two gents with whom I shared the compartment wanted to talk all day (one of them kept rambling on in Russian, as if I understood anything he said!). The one who did speak English at one point confided in me that he did some work for the KGB, but asked that I not tell anyone else! I found this doubtful, if amusing.

I was relieved to finally arrive in St. Petersburg. I am staying in a hotel just off the main thoroughfare of the city, Nevsky Prospect, which was just one Metro stop away from the train station.

August 15, 2007

Russia Looks West

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St. Petersburg was established by Peter the Great as part of his efforts to Westernize Russia, connecting the country to the rest of Europe in a way that remote Moscow never could be. The city today has a more cosmopolitan feel than does the capital. Like Sydney and Melbourne, there is clearly a competitive aspect to the reltionship between these two cities, both of which have served as the seat of political power in Russian history.

The photo above is the Church On Spilled Blood, the city's answer to St. Basil's Cathedral, and marks the spot where reformist Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881.

August 16, 2007

Bone Tired

I spent the day on my feet in a 90+ degree day here in St. Petersburg, came back to my hotel for a refreshing cold shower, and collapsed.

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The first half of the day was spent poking around The Hermitage, truly one of the great museums of the world. There were sections of the museum I skipped outright, and yet I had my fill of artifacts from antiquity (Egypt, Greece, Rome) right on through the history of Western art (Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, van Dyck, Rembrandt, Poussin, Claude Lorrain, Rodin, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, and Matisse, to name a few!). Of course, the architectural setting, which includes the opulent Winter Palace, is worth the admission price on its own.

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In the afternoon, I crossed the Neva River to explore the Peter and Paul Fortress, the place where the city was founded by Peter the Great just over 300 years ago. The fortress features the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the plain aspect of which hides an impressive Baroque inerior. All the Russian czars from Peter I to Alexander III were buried within and nearly a decade ago the remains of the Romanovs murdered in the 1917 revolution were also interred there, in a controversial move.

A long day, but well worth it.

Tomorrow I fly back to Moscow and then home.

August 17, 2007

Do Svidaniya, Russia!

I left my St. Petersburg hotel at 5:30 for the airport. I overpaid for the taxi--the driver charged me close to $50!--but since public transportation was not yet up and running and I had a 6:50 flight and the airport was entirely unfamiliar to me, I held my breath and paid up.

The Aeroflot flight wasn't bad, but the plane evoked all the horror stories I used to hear about Soviet aviation. The airplane had to be over 20 years old and I've seen better interiors in Greyhound buses. The rumbling sounds we were subjected to on the tarmac did not inspire confidence. But the short (1 hour, 20 minute) flight was uneventful.

At 12:15 I fly to New York.

Time To Crash

I made it home at last.

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The flight back was scheduled to be ten hours long--two hours longer than the flight over, due to headwinds. Storms in the New York metropolitan area delayed our landing. My seatmate was a 9-year-old named Gregory who was fluent in both English and Russian. At one point, he asked if he could plug into the extra headphone jack on my DVD player, and I let him. I was watching The Larry Sanders Show--extremely funny, but probably not exactly age appropriate for a fourth grader in terms of language and subject matter--but the boy lost interest in the program within five minutes and returned to his portable video game.

I breezed through the immigration checkpoint, and so the law of averages dictated my bag was one of the last returned at the carousel, of course. Getting out of the Delta terminal is never a picnic (whoever designed Terminal 3 at J.F.K. should be shot--it's woefully inefficient at handling both pedestrian and vehicular access and egress). Predictably, the Merritt Parkway was slowed to a crawl with late Friday afternoon traffic by the time I reached it.

I am home now, though, and ready to hit the sack.

August 23, 2007

Back To Eastern Daylight Time

I returned from Russia six nights ago. Last night was the first time since that I have slept "normal" hours. I seem to have shaken the ol' jet lag at last.

September 14, 2007

The Windy City

I booked airfare last night for a two-day trip to Chicago during the school's Long Weekend break in October. I drove through the city once--in the midst of a tornado warning--and certainly have logged my share of hours between flight segments in O'Hare Airport, but somehow I have never spent any time in Chicago proper. It's an easy and cheap round-trip from Bradley Airport, with non-stop flights, so why not?

October 7, 2007

Globe-Trotting Map Updated

I've updated my travel map to include scheduled trips through mid-December: Chicago, Washington, and Nashville. The former is a long weekend mini-vacation later this month, I'll be in DC at the end of the month with my American Political Institutions class, and I will be in Nashville in December for the national high school athletic director's annual convention. As soon as my post-Christmas travel arrangements are nailed down, I'll update the map again.

October 21, 2007

Land Of Lincoln

Well, I see why they call it "the Windy City." When my flight from Hartford was landing at O'Hare this morning, it was being rocked all over the place. Other than that, though, the journey was entirely uneventful. After the air miles I've logged in the last two years, I am at the point where I consider a two-hour flight just a short hop. I did get to watch two more episodes of Friday Night Lightson DVD; I am trying to finish off the first season so I can watch the new episodes I have been recording.

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I have always liked the clean, airy feel of the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare; it's what an airport should be like: efficient, comfortable, and architecturally dynamic (if only the air traffic were so efficient at O'Hare!). I've been through this place many times, but today was the first chance I've had to go to baggage claim and leave the airport on the ground.

On another topic, I seem to be incapable of truly traveling light--by that I mean no more than one bag, to be stowed in the overhead compartment--even on a two-night trip. It is my fantasy to travel by air such that I ought to be able to throw a few items into a small duffel bag and not bother with checking in any baggage. But I don't seem to be able to give up the use of my own shampoo, toothpaste, etc, which means the checking luggage, due to TSA rules. Moreover, I like taking the laptop AND the portable DVD player AND at least one book AND a few magazines with me on a flight (even though I will probably use no more than one of those diversions). So while I am not lugging around a lot on this trip, I am not as footloose as I thought I could be.

My Kind Of Town

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I got to explore the city of Chicago today and also catch up with two alums: Dan Schmierer '01 and Emma Ruby-Sachs '00. The weather was windy, but warm. Dan, who is getting his PhD. in economics from the University of Chicago, showed me around Hyde Park and then the Magnificent Mile and we ate on the sidewalk at a nice Italian place in the Loop. (We also had a chance run-in with former Choate faculty member Tim Karpoff, who ran by my rental car while we were stopped at a traffic light on Michigan Avenue--what are the odds of that?!) Later in the evening I connected with Emma in Andersonville--the very cool neighborhood in the north part of the city where she lives--and we went to Hopleaf Bar and sampled the Belgian beers and even some mead (a medieval beverage I've never tried; the fermented honey drink seemed more like a spirit than a cider or ale). A very good day in a city I've quickly become enamored of.

October 22, 2007

Second Day In The Second City

After a leisurely morning, I set out exploring again. I started in Evanston and checked out the impressive Northwestern campus, and then headed south on Lake Shore Drive and parked in an underground garage by Milennium Park in the heart of town. I took an excellent 90-minute architectural tour of the city on a boat on the Chicago River, then visited the Institute of Art, one the world's great museums.
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I was intending to head up to the observation deck of the Sears Tower, but the visibility topped out at about five miles, rather than the 30 miles one can take in on a clear day, and so saved myself $13 by not doing that. I stopped by the Lyric Opera (no performance tonight) and rode the El back to the car. Bruce Springsteen is in town at the United Center, but I knew I had no chance of tickets for that concert. I did have another chance run-in with a Choatie on Michigan Avenue (lightning strikes twice) in the afternoon near the Apple store (the layout of which is almost identical to that of my London office, a.k.a. the Regent Street Apple store).

October 23, 2007

So Long, Chi-Town

Off to O'Hare to get back to Wallingford before afternoon practice. I loved Chicago. I'll be back!

Cutting It Close

Thanks to the slow-as-molasses service at the Enterprise car rental place outside O'Hare Airport, I arrived at the departures terminal about 45 minutes before my flight was scheduled to leave Chicago. There was a huge queue for the check-in kiosks, so I asked a United staffer if I could jump the line to make my flight. She informed me that it was too late to check my bag--which meant I would have to dump much of what was in my toiletries bag--but led me up to one of the computers; when I successfully checked in, I found out my flight was delayed, which meant I COULD check my luggage after all. The delayed plane got me into Bradley Airport at 2:40, which meant I made a mad dash to pick up my bag, retrieve my car, and head back to campus to get to my 3:30 practice just a minute or two late. But I made it!

October 30, 2007

Washington Bound

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I am off to the District of Columbia now through Thursday with my American Political Institutions class. We'll visit the White House and Capitol Hill, among other places.

November 1, 2007

Mr Smith Goes To As Mr. Gallagher Leaves

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The Choate group spent the morning on Capitol Hill, visiting the Senate and House chambers as well as a congressional hearing. We also met with freshman Representative Chris Murphy (D-CT) and enjoyed a luncheon in the Capitol with some CRH alums.

On the ride back, we watched Mr. Smith Goes To Washington on the bus. I had forgotten just how good this film is.

Off now to the athletic center to run a late night make-up practice for cross country team members who were on the DC trip with me. Two days until our first championship meet!

November 8, 2007

Bon Voyage

My parents leave for a European jaunt today: Portugal, Spain, and France. I've never been to Portugal, but I do like Spain and France an awful lot. So I'm a bit jealous.

November 13, 2007

A Travel Plan

After a Hamlet-like period of indecision about where to go for my annual post-Christmas travel adventure, I decided to stay a bit closer to home--I've spent the past three New Years in Puerto Rico, Rio de Janiero, and Sydney, Australia--in the Southwestern U.S. Specifically, I am going to Las Vegas for a few days on December 26, and then will drive over to check out the Grand Canyon (which I've not yet seen, believe it or not) and then to Santa Fe and Albuquerque through January 2. No exchange rate worries this winter!

November 15, 2007

Destinations Update

I've updated my projected travel for the remainder of 2007:
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Here is a bigger version of the map, as well as my first pass at projected travel through March 2008. I need to decide where I am heading in early March before the tennis team trip (which likely will be to Bermuda).

December 5, 2007

Spectacular View

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After the Choate holiday alumni party I am spending the night in the apartment of an alum in Long Island City, across the East River from Manhattan. On the 24th floor of the building, this place has a wall of windows featuring a panoramic view of the river below and the city in all of its illuminated glory. The visual sweep ranges from the Brooklyn Bridge to the left to the Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge and Randalls Island to the right. And Manhattan sure does look pretty from this vantage point.

I have two meetings in the city in the morning before heading home to Wallingford.

December 6, 2007

The Commute

Hard to imagine there are some people who make a commute like this on a daily basis: I left Grand Central Terminal on an 11:07 MetroNorth train and arrived in New Haven just before 1 p.m. Since my car was back on campus, I waited about an hour for an Amtrak train to ferry me one stop north to Wallingford and then walked back to campus from the train station. Total cost for the trip was a modest $19 ($14 on MetroNorth and $5 on Amtrak).

December 16, 2007

Stranded

After a slow (30mph) drive up Interstate 91 through the storm, I arrived at Bradley Airport this morning knowing that my 9:12am flight to Detroit (for a connection to Nashville) was canceled. The Northwest Airlines rep I spoke to last night suggested I might have a shot at getting on a 12:30 flight, though, which would get me to my final destination around 4:30. SInce I am supposed to be taking a 4-hour course on legal issues in athletics that starts at 4:30, this midday departure might have gotten me where I needed to be, at least for most of the session. But that flight was wiped out by the weather, too, so I am here until a 4 p.m. flight and should arrive in Nashville a bit before 8pm.

Plan B

After eight hours in Bradley Airport, it became clear there was no way I was going to make it to Nashville today. So I "volunteered" my seat, got a free round-trip ticket, a free night in a local hotel plus two meals, and a rebooked flight first thing in the morning.

December 17, 2007

Detroit Rock City

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Well, I finally made it out of Hartford this morning. The NWA plane was packed for my 6:05 flight: no room in the overhead compartments and lots of carry-on had to be checked. There was a bit of delay for de-icing at Bradley and then when we arrived in Detroit, a jetway wheel was frozen so it took about an extra thirty minutes to deplane, as we had to move to another gate. No worries here, as I have a layover of a couple of hours before heading off to Nashville.

The Northwest terminal here at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport is attractive, spacious, and efficient. There is a tram the runs the length of the terminal on the upper level for rapid transfer between gates.

Greetings From Middle Tennessee

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I arrived in Nashville about 11 a.m., and headed into the city to meet a pair of Choate alums--now sophomores at Vanderbilt University--for lunch. (As one of them has a strong aversion to any invasion of his privacy, I will refrain from mentioning names.) Anyway, we had a nice meal near Vandy in what clearly was the "college town" part of the city. Then I headed over to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center to check in the hotel and register for the convention. This place is HUGE. In fact, it's the biggest non-casino hotel in the U.S. There are literally thousands of rooms, with vast covered courtyards between them, which have rivers running through them and all sorts of fountains and waterfalls. Plenty of restaurants and shops are on the premises, as well. Too bad I will only end up spending one night here. Tomorrow I will try to see some of the city sights, as my flight home is not until the afternoon.

December 18, 2007

The Athens Of The South

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As an amateur classicist, I couldn't pass up the chance to see the world's only full-sized replica of the Athenian Parthenon. It was built for the centennial in Nashville and features a 42' tall statue of Athena within the main chamber. The place is kind of cheesy and kind of impressive at the same time. The impressive light brown concrete structure replicates the same mistake made by those who envision these ancient monuments as gleaming white marble; in fact, the evidence suggests this temple, like most similar buildings of the time, was painted an assortment of garish colors in its heyday.

Not Canceling The Noise

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This is the first trip via air I have taken without my Bose noise-canceling headphones since I picked them up on my way to Bermuda a couple of years ago. In my rush to get out the door Sunday morning, they did not end up in my bag. I used EarThumps--which I usually use in conjunction with my iPod--to watch my portable DVD player instead on yesterday's flights, and didn't really notice the absence of the QC2s. Today, however, on the segment from Nashville back to Detroit, I was more aware of the rumble of the jet, perhaps because I was seated further back in the plane. I'll be sure to pack the Bose headphones for my flight to Las Vegas on the 26th.

December 19, 2007

Back In Beantown

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I am back in Boston for another Handel & Haydn Society concert, this one of Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Jordan Hall, pictured above, is about a block away from Symphony Hall, where I saw Messiah performed a few weeks back.

December 26, 2007

Off To Vegas

I am back at Bradley Airport, getting ready to fly to Las Vegas via Milwaukee. The airport is pretty deserted this time of day. Even though it's supposedly a heavy travel date, I guess most flights took off or arrived earlier in the day. I checked in about 45 minutes before my scheduled departure and was the only person going through security. A nice change of pace from the usual airport routine!

Cheese Country

Had a pleasant flight from Hartford to Milwaukee. I was in the back of the plane in the lucky(?) 13th row, which I had to myself. I am plowing through Season 3 of The Wire on DVD on this trip. I had forgotten the best part of flying on Midwest Airlines: the toll house cookies they serve "fresh from the oven" style, with melting chocolate chips inside! Looks like the connecting flight to Las Vegas will be at least an hour behind schedule, however.

December 27, 2007

Vegas, Baby!

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By the time my delayed flight arrived in Las Vegas, my luggage got to the baggage carousel, the shuttle deposited me at the rental car center, I picked up my Chevy Cobalt, I drove it across town and through the heavy traffic on The Strip, I checked in at The Mirage, and finally made it to the 18th floor, it's almost 2 a.m. (actually 5 a.m. East Coast time). So, this city's world-renowned nightlife aside, I am gonna crash!

Viva Las Vegas

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I walked most of The Strip today, taking in the splendor of all the major resorts that have been developed here in the last 20 years or so. Some evoke historical places (Luxor, Caesars Palace, The Venetian), others modern cities (Paris and New York, New York), and others fantasy locales (Treasure Island). Lots of places to lose your money: in the many shops (some of them very upscale), and of course on the casino floors.

Vegas is clearly more family-friendly than it used to be. Most major casinos on the strip have some big attraction to lure people in. The Mirage, where I am staying, is featuring the Cirque Du Soleil show about The Beatles, which I am seeing tonight.

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December 29, 2007

Leaving Las Vegas

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I left Vegas after Mystère and drove into Arizona. My trek took me across the Hoover Dam, which is nicely illuminated at night.

Grand

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My maternal grandmother used an expression that always struck me as old-fashioned: "Isn't that grand!" Well, the word certainly fits the visual spectacle that is the Grand Canyon. I had my first glimpse of the landmark this afternoon, and so can check off one of the items on my "life list"!

December 30, 2007

Wild Wild West

Today was mostly a driving day, with over seven hours in the car between the Grand Canyon and my Santa Fe destination. The trip was described to me beforehand as "boring," but I found the mostly flat landscape fascinating, as it's so different from what one would see in the Northeast. There were no deciduous trees, for one thing. Great expanses of desert or prairie were punctuated by colorful and dramatically contoured hills and mountains.

January 2, 2008

Deep In The Heart Of Texas

While the Albuquerque airport struck me quite modest in scope, the Dallas-Fort Worth complex is sprawling, with multiple terminals. I am on a layover for a couple of hours until my flight to Hartford. I'm still dragging a bit, but feeling worlds better than yesterday afternoon.

January 12, 2008

Bermuda Bound

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Got my airline tickets for Bermuda today. The Choate tennis team will be spending a week at the Coral Beach And Tennis Club in March.

February 1, 2008

Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes

It's Long Weekend break at school--we are off until Monday night--and I'm in the Charlotte airport right now, on my way to Miami for a bit of warm weather and a visit with my parents (tomorrow is my dad's birthday). I expect the 80-degree temperatures will be a welcome respite from the New England winter.

Miami

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I arrived in Miami a bit before 10 p.m. The new terminal complex at MIA is worlds better than its predecessor. It still took me far too long to get my bag (still can't seem to travel light enough to avoid checking a bag, even for a weekend getaway) and get my rental car. Fortunately the Doral Resort, where I am staying through Monday with my folks, is not very far from the airport. Walking out of the terminal into the warm air was a welcome feeling indeed!

February 4, 2008

A Reluctant Departure

My long weekend break in South Florida has come to an end. I am mildly tramautized just putting on long pants in preparation for the flight back to Hartford (and sub-40 degree weather). This has been a perfect getaway of family time, reading, and a couple of movies. I am also finishing up season 3 of The Wire, with one more DVD set to get me up to date before I can enjoy the current final season currently airing.

Free Wireless In The Airport

The Charlotte airport, like Bradley Airport back home or the JetBlue terminal at JFK, offers free wireless access. Most airports have a deal with a provider like T-Mobile that charges a flat rate for an hour's or a day's worth of time online. I wish all airports followed the Charlotte model.

February 29, 2008

Change Of Plans

I was planning on a road trip during the first part of next week: Philadelphia, Annapolis, Washington, and New York City. But I canceled my hotel reservations this morning. I'll still head into the Big Apple on Wednesday (I have tickets for two shows) but I could use the time here to get caught up on some projects without feeling like I am spending all of my break living out of a suitcase.

March 9, 2008

Back To Bermuda

It's just after 4 in the morning and I'm up and about to head off to Boston to catch a flight to Bermuda for the Choate Tennis spring break training trip. Got just about an hour's sleep, so no doubt I'll catch some shut-eye on the plane. But oddly enough getting up this morning was not a problem.

Double Whammy Time Change

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I've arrived in Bermuda, as has the entire team, and the weather is fine, the waters are alluring, and the Coral Beach and Tennis Club is comfortable and welcoming. We are on Atlantic time here, which means we all had to set our clocks yet another hour ahead for the second time in twelve hours!

March 10, 2008

Coral Beach & Tennis Club

We are lucky to be staying at the Coral Beach & Tennis Club, set right on Elbow Beach in Paget Parish in Bermuda. The club has eight Har-Tru tennis courts (as well as two squash courts, a fitness center, and quick access to the beach). Our accommodations are on the grounds as well and breakfasts and dinners are included in our arrangements. The dining room is fancy--blazers are required in the evening--but not so stuffy to make it uncomfortable. These are clearly nicer digs than we are used to having on our training trips.

March 16, 2008

Leaving Bermuda

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I am packed up and ready to head to the airport. It's a bit sad to have to leave Bermuda after a week of spectacular weather (especially for March), good tennis, and a terrific location.

April 12, 2008

Preparing The Next Generation

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Let it not be said that I do not introduce my young charges to all that is great in our civilization: here is the Choate tennis team earlier today at the one and only--not counting the other one down the street, that is--Blink's FryDoe in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. This culinary treat followed a dip in the frigid North Atlantic Ocean.

April 13, 2008

Charlottesville In June

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Tonight I signed up for a Shakespeare Seminar at the University of Virginia, to be held the last week in June. I will be staying in a room on "the Lawn" of Thomas Jefferson's "Academical Village," the original heart of the campus.

The actual program centers around three performances of The Bard's works--King Lear, Twelfth Night, and Measure For Measure--along with discussions, lectures, and workshops with cast and crew at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia.

April 14, 2008

Summer Of Shakespeare

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In addition to enrolling in the Shakespeare Seminar I discussed in my last post, yesterday I also booked two tickets to August performances at the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London--King Lear and The Merry Wives Of Windsor.

This morning I was on the phone to the box office at the RSC in Stratford in a futile attempt to land a ticket for Hamlet starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. Seems like I am months too late for this hot ticket. I will hunt for a spare seat on the Internet and check with ticket agencies, but I may be out of luck. I may see The Taming Of The Shrew in Stratford instead the night before my program in Oxford begins in August.

Closer to home, I also am pursuing a ticket for this spring's Broadway run of Macbeth, also featuring Patrick Stewart.

April 19, 2008

Where I've Been And Where I'm Headed

I've updated my travel map for 2008:
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Here is a bigger version of the map.

April 20, 2008

I Call That A Bargain

Because I pay nearly every one of my bills on one credit card, I have amassed hundreds of thousands of points over the years--points that I can cash in for virtually free travel. Thus, in booking a round-trip ticket between Boston and London for August, I paid just $22 (and surrendered 60,000 points) rather than forking over $1,035!

April 24, 2008

Miracle Of Miracles

Not only could I get into the parking garage connected to Union Station in New Haven this afternoon, but the very first parking space inside the structure was open! It seems like years since I've been able to park this close to the train station.

April 25, 2008

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

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If only I had acted on my plan late in the winter and lined up this trip I had planned to Monte Carlo! Here is the line-up of featured matches I would be watching on the Côte d'Azur right now:

Andreev (RUS) vs [4] Davydenko (RUS)
[1] Federer (SUI) vs [6] Nalbandian (ARG)
[5] Ferrer (ESP) vs [2] Nadal (ESP)
[3] Djokovic (SRB) vs Querrey (USA)

Note that the top six seeds are all still alive in the event.

May 20, 2008

California, Here I Come

Got my ticket to the West Coast today for my July seminar at Stanford. It was actually cheaper to go from Hartford to San Francisco and then from San Diego back to Hartford than a simple BDL-SFO round trip. Go figure.

June 21, 2008

Starting From Fish-Shape Paumanok

Like Walt Whitman, I grew up as a Long Island boy, so it's been a nostalgic return for me today. Three of us are slated to attend a Choate gathering tomorrow on the East End, so we took the ferry from New London to Orient Point, drove down the North Fork a ways and then across Shelter Island, and stopped for a pleasant outdoor lunch overlooking the docks in Sag Harbor. We are being put up in a pretty plush guesthouse on an estate in Bridgehampton and just finished dinner at the summer home of another Choate family.

During the drive earlier today, I realized I hadn't spent time on the island (other than in the city, of course) since my parents moved up to Connecticut three years ago. I miss the geography, the pervasive views of the water, and the feel of this place where I spent my first eighteen years.

June 23, 2008

Travelin' South

I've been on the road since 9:30 this morning, heading down Interstate 95 to Washington, DC. I have made this drive virtually every summer the past twenty years, but with a bus full of kids in tow. Today's trip has been as painless as it's ever been. I coasted through New York City and have had no major traffic delays thus far.

My Pilgrimage

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My first stop in the District was one of my favorite locations in the city: the Jefferson Memorial. Good stop to hit the men's room and change out of my grubby travel clothes to make myself presentable for my dinner, with a little inspiration thrown in for good measure.

June 24, 2008

A Capital Day

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I slept in a bit this morning, then headed out to enjoy the city. The temperature was warm but comfortable, with minimal humidity. Under a cloudless blue sky, I walked across the P Street bridge from Georgetown to DuPont Circle and then took the Metro downtown.

This time of the summer, with school still in session in much of the country, there are far fewer student groups on hand as well as fewer families from the heartland, compared to the third week in July when I've made the Kennedy Institute trip over the years. There do seem to be more foreign tourists, no doubt benefiting from the weak dollar.

It certainly is nice to amble around the capital without a schedule to keep, nor students to keep in tow, nor security clearances to worry about!

Remembrance

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I spent much of the afternoon exploring the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a Washington site I had never visited before. Pretty moving stuff, though of course my trip to Dachau and Auschwitz in 1990 had a much greater impact.

June 25, 2008

Heading Into Dixie

Taking off from DC early this morning and heading west into Virginia on my way to "Shakespeare camp" in Charlottesville.

Cavalier Country

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No doubt Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia. This is clearly a college town, and UVa is at the heart of this place. I've settled on campus and we have an opening reception and dinner this evening.

June 29, 2008

On The Road Again

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One final class session for the Shakespeare Seminar this morning, then I will visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home, before leaving Charlottesville. My plan is to stop in Philadelphia this afternoon and then get home to Connecticut late in the evening.

Philadelphia Freedom

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I have stopped in the City of Brotherly Love for a couple hours to break up the drive home. Always good to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, especially after a week in Thomas Jefferson's stomping grounds.

July 5, 2008

Heading West I.

Had a breeze of a flight from Hartford to Charlotte this morning, with an aisle seat and an empty seat next to me. The plane arrived 30 minutes early, so I can really take advantage of the free wireless network in the terminal. I only got two hours of sleep last night, so I imagine I'll be asleep most of the way to San Francisco.

Heading West II

The second segment of my trip west was also uneventful, again with an open seat next to me and a flight that arrived early. I am taking public transportation--a combination of the AirTrain, BART, and CalTrain--to the Stanford campus in Palo Alto and will have the weekend there to get settled in before my seminar starts Monday morning.

Settling In At Stanford

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I am now getting comfortable in my assigned quarters right on the Stanford University campus. I'll be spending the next two weeks here as a Coe Fellow, studying early American history in a seminar.

July 14, 2008

The City By The Bay

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I met my sister at the Ferry Terminal, where her office is, and she gave me a tour of the city--first on foot, then by car--before we sat down for a sushi dinner. Pictured above is the famed City Lights bookstore, ground zero for the beat generation (Kerouac, Ginsberg, et al.).

July 16, 2008

Berkeley

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I went over to the East Bay this afternoon to check out Berkeley. Choate grads Tagan and Cathal Blake showed me around the campus and its environs, including a spectacular--if fog-covered--view from the hills of the sunset out to the west.

July 17, 2008

Getting Prepped For Oxford

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I received travel info for my week in Oxford in August. I will be staying in Merton College, one of the oldest in the university, and need to send my laptop info so Internet access in my quarters can be arranged. I guess it's a case of old world meeting new!

July 20, 2008

Tracktown, U.S.A.

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I just finished watching Without Limits, one of two biopics about running legend Steve Prefontaine, in the new home of Scott and Dawn Mattoon out here in Eugene, Oregon--a fitting place to see this film, as it was where Pre rose to prominence as an athlete (and where he was tragically killed at the age of 24 in an auto accident). Got to see the University of Oregon campus, including Hayward Field (which just hosed the Olympic Track & Field Trials a few weeks back).

July 21, 2008

Surfing The Web In Portland

I drove from Eugene up Interstate 5 to the Portland International Airport, where the gods have smiled on me to provide free wireless Internet access! I still don't get why every airport in the country doesn't get on board this bandwagon . . .

'Til The Sun Comes Up Over Santa Monica Blvd.

I made it to southern California. The flight to LAX was pretty straightforward. I scoped out the Pacific Ocean and then got a bite to eat and ambled around the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica before heading up Santa Monica Boulevard to my hotel in Hollywood. In spite of the hassles of L.A. traffic, I always enjoy driving through Beverly Hills and Hollywood. The latter is certainly still one of the poles of American culture, and the billboards above Sunset Boulevard always indicate what's hot or what's just around the corner in the entertainment world.

July 22, 2008

Local Flavor

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Does anything say California more than lunch at In-N-Out Burger? Just enjoyed a "double double" in Orange County while en route to San Diego.

July 26, 2008

This Old Bag

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I've acquired a lot of bags over the years from my tennis suppliers, currently HEAD and adidas. Once these became available with wheels, my life on the road got a lot easier! The particular bag pictured above has been all over North America, traveled to Africa and back, went to Europe a few times, and even circumnavigated the globe with me. After some two years of use, it's now pretty beat up and the telescoping handle fell off somewhere between Portland and L.A. on this trip, which makes the bag nearly impossible to roll on its wheels. Thus I've contacted HEAD and a replacement (with the updated Tour Team orange/gray/black/white color scheme) is already on its way so I'll have a functional bag with wheels before I leave for the U.K. in two weeks.

So Long, West Coast

I've been away from home for three full weeks now and had a thoroughly enjoyable time in California and Oregon. My fellowship at Stanford was a terrific experience (I shipped the formidable stack of books I read while there back to Connecticut to reduce the travel load). And while I was out here I saw four plays (three Shakespeare, one Friel) and an opera. I also connected with my sister in San Francsico, the Mattoons in Oregon, and a whole bunch of Choaties in Palo Alto, Berkeley, L.A., and San Diego. Attending Comic-Con had its high points, though to poach the title of a David Foster Wallace essay about being on a cruise ship, I think it was "a supposedly fun thing I'll never do again."

As always, when one travels for any length of time, it's great to come home.

Fly By Night

(Nothing like the title of a Rush song to start the blog entry.)

I am taking the red-eye from San Diego to Charlotte and then an early morning flight from there to Hartford. I eschewed my usual aisle seats in the hopes I'll find the window seat conducive to sleeping through most of the flights. I have a long day tomorrow, as I have to go to New York City in the evening for the closing night performance of Damn Yankees.

July 27, 2008

Early Morning Layover

Made it into Charlotte after just four hours or so in the air, and thankfully I slept through most of that. I have a two-hour flight up to Hartford. Even if I catch some shuteye on that segment, I'll still be pretty bushed, so I'm confident a nap will be on the agenda once I get back to Wallingford.

August 1, 2008

Ah, Venice!

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I just completed arrangements to visit Venice for a couple of days later in August, on the back end of my week at Oxford. The program had an optional extension to Paris, which I bagged because it seemed overpriced, so my return flight was scheduled four days after we finish up the program in Merton College. So now I'll have a night in Zurich (my first time in Switzerland, strangely enough), two in Venice, and another night in London.

August 7, 2008

London By Way Of Logan Airport

I arrived at the Boston airport about an hour before my scheduled flight to London. Delays on the Mass Pike slowed me down on the trip up, but soon I'll be winging my way across the Atlantic Ocean.

August 8, 2008

Arrival in London

After a fairly pleasant flight, in which I got less sleep than I had hoped for mostly because Iron Man was available among the on-board video offerings, I negotiated my way through the loathsome Heathrow Airport and took the Tube to my hotel on the Strand. Much to my delight, I was able to check in early, and will be able to catch a few hours shut-eye before heading out for the day.

August 9, 2008

Stratford-upon-Avon

I'm about to head to Paddington Station in order to catch a train to Oxford. Once I arrive, I have a rental car waiting for the short drive up to Stratford-upon-Avon. I have a ticket to tonight's performance of The Taming Of The Shrew at the RSC. I may try to see if I can get into a sold out the matinee performance of Hamlet featuring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart this afternoon, too, though that looks like an unlikely scenario. And I'm not sure if I can sit through four long Shakespeare plays in a span of 48 hours.

August 16, 2008

Arrival In Switzerland

My flight to Zurich was a bit delayed by a security alert at London Heathrow, though it was otherwise uneventful. As I'm just in Switzerland for one night, I checked into the hotel connected to the airport: an SAS Radisson that opened just two weeks ago on August 1. It reminds me of the similar Radisson hotel I stayed in while in transit at London's Stansted Airport a few summers back.

August 17, 2008

The City On The Water

I took an early but sparsely populated flight from Zurich to Venice this morning, and then a water taxi from the airport to the Piazza di San Marco, the heart of the city. My hotel though a bit hard to find, is just 50 meters from the plaza itself. Fortunately, the room was ready for my early check-in.

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Arriving at San Marco by vaporetto (the Italian for "water bus") I was struck how the modern city seems relatively unchanged from all the images of Venice I've seen in classical art. Compare the contemporary photo above with the painting below--mindful of its older boats and the slightly different angle--and you'll see what I mean.

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Bells And Birds

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In my short time in Venice already, I've become accustomed to the sounds one must live with in such close proximity to the Piazza di San Marco. There are bells that peal loudly and regularly throughout the day. And just outside my hotel window, pigeons coo and flutter their wings routinely. I don't find either set of sounds at all annoying; rather, they remind me I'm in a place far from home.

August 18, 2008

Ambling Through Venice

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I took the advice of a traveler who had been to Venice before and left my map in the hotel room, opting to find my own way through the narrow winding streets of the city. What passes for "streets" in Venice would be considered "alleys" most anywhere else. But there are enough signs indicating the direction of the major landmarks of the city that one can find his way without too much trouble. Taking a wrong turn, of course, quickly becomes a dead end unless you can walk on water. But you can't really be off course for long in this place.

Venice truly has maintained its Old World feel. Part of that is the lack of traffic and its accompanying noise: quite simply, there are no cars, buses, or cycles anywhere in sight or in earshot. Nor does one see skyscrapers dominating the landscape. Also missing are the logos and advertisements for multinational brand names one is accustomed to seeing all over a modern city. That's not to say that Venice isn't commercial; indeed it's clear this place thrives on the tourist trade. It is possible to stumble onto a McDonald's and a Burger King, but they are well out of the way, rather than prominently positioned in Piazza di San Marco, the way such establishments are clearly visible in Times Square, Piccadilly Circus, or even Red Square. And so Venice seemingly has kept the more obvious signs of globalization well hidden in preserving a traditional appearance that still has a lot of charm for the visitor.

The Course Of Empire

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Every time I walk through the Piazza di San Marco, I'm reminded of a Thomas Cole painting, the third in a series of five known as "The Course Of Empire." The painting in question is called "The Consummation," and it depicts a prosperous port city in all its abundant glory, a city-state at the zenith of its power. The arrangement of the architecture in the Venetian plaza--the ornate Byzantine architecture of the basilica, the adjacent formidable ducal palace overseeing the Grand Canal, the clock tower, and the twin columns featuring the lion of Saint Mark and the statue of Saint Teodoro of Amasea atop them--all suggest Cole's magnum opus.

I suppose Cole's "Course Of Empire" paintings are my mind because I saw them recently in a slide presentation at one of our seminar meetings out at Stanford a few weeks back. I also remember seeing the original paintings in person at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford ten years ago with a Choate American Studies class.

August 19, 2008

So Long, Venice

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I didn't get to see much of the city this morning, as I had to spend some time on the MacBook attending to some pressing work for the start of the school year. And now it's time to leave Venice. I've enjoyed my short stay here and we'll definitely planned to return to this beautiful city.

Back In Zurich

I have a short layover in Switzerland on my way back to London. On the trip to the airport back in Venice, I was treated to much better views of the city from the vaporetto route, as it was a spectacularly clear day, unlike the rain and overcast weather that greeted me as I arrived in Venice on Sunday morning.

August 20, 2008

On The Grid Once More

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My American Airlines flight just landed at Logan Airport, which means I can reactivate my iPhone. I've had it in airplane mode since leaving the States almost two weeks ago. I'm determined to avoid outrageous charges for telephone or data access while traveling abroad, so I cut off all connectivity for the device while in Europe.

September 3, 2008

All Over The World

This morning I ironed out a difficulty updating my site using Dreamweaver (had to find out how to enable passive FTP, for you techies interested) and so I am now able to update my travel map for my journeys since the beginning of 2005:
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Here is a bigger version of the map.

October 6, 2008

On The Road Again

I'm putting in quite a few miles behind the wheel of my Ford Explorer these days: to Manhattan and back Friday night for a play, to Boston and back yesterday for a concert, to Worcester, MA, and back today for a NEPSAC Executive Board meeting, and then to Watertown, CT, and back for a League athletic directors meeting. A good chance to get caught up on podcasts and iTunes U. lectures!

November 7, 2008

Off To The Emerald Isle

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My parents arrived in Ireland this morning for a two-week tour of the auld sod and Scotland with a church group. Not sure I'd choose to be there in November, given my druthers, but I'm a bit envious of their trip nonetheless.

November 13, 2008

Hitting The Road

I am up in Massachusetts the next two days. Reebok International is hosting the NEPSAC Executive Board meeting this afternoon, a dinner tonight, and the Annual Meeting tomorrow morning. In addition to today's Board activity, tomorrow I am co-hosting a panel session for new athletic directors and then presenting an award--sort of a "lifetime achievement" recognition--to my colleague Tom Yankus. Then I have to hurry back to campus for girls' varsity squash practice.

December 6, 2008

On The Road Again

First match of the squash season in my new role as head coach of the girls' varsity squad. We had a 4:30 match at Exeter, with nearly a three-hour trip each way, so this constituted a long day on the road. Happily, we won the match to start the season off right.

December 8, 2008

Where In The World . . . ?

I usually travel the week after Christmas. In fact, I've rung in the last four New Years in San Juan, Rio de Janiero, Sydney, and Santa Fe (pretty good variety, if I do say so myself). No big plans for this year, at least not yet. Though I plan to be around for most of the break, I am considering a few days in Quebec City or Montreal or both. And I will spend two nights in New York City for the American Historical Association Annual Meeting after the New Year.

January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!

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I have rung in the past four years around the world: in Puerto Rico, Rio de Janiero, Sydney, and Santa Fe. And I've been in Times Square twice when the ball dropped. (My favorites from among those? Rio, followed by Sydney--both were WARM!) This year I was on the Choate campus with friends, which was a pleasant change of pace.

At any rate, all the best for a healthy and prosperous 2009!

January 2, 2009

Bad Advice

Since I am heading into the city for a couple of days, the easiest way to get to Manhattan without the hassle and expense associated with parking is to take MetroNorth from Connecticut. I usually catch the train in New Haven--a quick twenty-minute jaunt from home. But several of my colleagues in the Development Office at Choate have suggested South Norwalk station as a better place to park. So I tried it today. I don't see any advantage: it's nearly three times the drive from campus, you only save a few bucks per day to park there, and there's not much savings on the train ticket either. Next time, I'll leave from New Haven.

January 3, 2009

Medius Mundi Locus

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As many times as I've stayed in New York City, I think I've never wound up sleeping near Times Square. I usually wind up somewhere on the West Side of Manhattan. I am reminded a bit of my old central London lodging of choice: the Regent Palace off Piccadilly Circus. You could walk out of the hotel and feel like you're in the center of the world. But Times Square is Piccadilly Circus on steroids: everything is bigger, brighter, and louder.

January 17, 2009

New Hampshire-Bound

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I am heading up to the Granite State today for the USPTA New England annual convention. It's a three-hour trip I hadn't planned to make, but I was notified that I won an award, so it would be a bit awkward not to attend the awards luncheon. Unfortunately this means missing a day of coaching when the Choate girls have three dual matches against good opponents.

February 3, 2009

U.K. Tour IV

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Looks like I'll be in England in March. The stars have just aligned for a fourth Choate Squash tour of U.K. schools for a week at the end of the winter term. Now I've got to get to work on all the logistics involved.

Tracking My Travel

I updated my travel map page with projected 2009 trips:

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Since this is a pretty small map, you might want to check out the page with maps of all my treks since 1995.

February 5, 2009

Getting To South Florida

I left Wallingford at 1 p.m. for my 3:00 Continental flight to Fort Lauderdale via Newark. When I checked in at 2:00, I was informed my flight had been canceled but that if I hurried I could be switched to a Delta flight currently boarding. I had no baggage to check, which was good, but I was selected for extra security screening, which had me sweating it out on my way to the gate. I made it, however, and landed in Florida three hours ahead of schedule, as the Delta flight was direct.

February 8, 2009

Airport Bound

Heading off for an 8:00 a.m. flight out of Fort Lauderdale. I was struck this weekend (as I was was frantically searching for my passport) that I haven't flown for six months--first time I can say that in years!

February 9, 2009

English Schools

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I've been getting encouraging responses from English "public schools" (which has the opposite meaning over there, referring to tony independent boarding schools, rather than what they call "state schools") willing to host the Choate Squash squad heading over there next month. Thus far we'll be staying at Winchester, Charterhouse, Cheltenham, and Eton, with possible stops at Marlborough and Harrow in the offing as well. Some of these institutions are really old, having been established in the 14th and 15th centuries!

February 27, 2009

Behind Enemy Lines?

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I am spending the night on the campus of Deerfield Academy, Choate's athletic arch-rival. I have a nice room in the Deerfield Inn, not far from the tennis courts where my team has competed many times over the years. I am making the rounds to the three venues for the boys' New England Squash Championships tonight and tomorrow before heading back to Choate to coach the girls' team in their tournament.

March 4, 2009

Next Stop: London

As always, right before heading off on a trip, my last day in town turns out to be incredibly productive, as there is a mad dash to whittle down my "to do" list while I am here. I've gotten a lot done already. I'll be able to take a few chores with me to tackle on my laptop. But I'll be pretty tightly scheduled during most days in England, driving the boys around, visiting various sights, and interacting with our hosts. So whatever I have to get done will likely be processed late at night, and then I will need to sort out Internet access to get my output where it needs to go.

But I am looking forward to what should be a fun trip and will keep all you blog followers posted.

March 5, 2009

Winchester College

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After a very copacetic flight (lots of empty seats = ability to stretch out) and a cumbersome process of sorting out our vehicle rental, the four Choate Squash boys and I got on the road and visited Stonehenge before heading to Winchester for our third visit to the Wykehamists (who also came to Choate on a squash tour once). Winchester is the oldest--and some would say academically most prestigious--of the English "public schools." I joined members of both teams for pizza in town in the evening, where we celebrated Geoff Van's 17th birthday.

March 6, 2009

Charterhouse School

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Our touring party left Winchester in the morning and headed down to Portsmouth for a visit to the Royal Navy dockyards and a tour of H.M.S. Victory, Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. After some shopping in the outlet stores and a sumptuous lunch of Indian food, we made our way to Godalming and Charterhouse School, where we prevailed in a very competitive match. I enjoyed a dinner in town with my counterpart at a restaurant called Bel and The Dragon, which is situated in a converted church, making for a beautiful dining venue.

March 11, 2009

Home Sweet Home

It kind of amazes me that I woke up in one of the boarding houses this morning at Eton College and in the middle afternoon I find myself in my own home back in Connecticut. I am no stranger to jet travel, but this sort of thing still thrills me.

The early start of Daylight Savings Time back here in America means the time difference was only 4 hours on the trip back.

March 10, 2009

Last Night In Britain

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After a trip all the way back to our WImbledon hotel to retrieve a left watch, the boys and I visited Windsor this morning (but did not tour the Castle this time around) and spent most of the day with our hosts at Eton College. I forgot how big this school is: 1300 or so boys, nearly three times Choate's male enrollment. No wonder Eton can field (literally) 24 soccer teams! We had a nice tour of the College Chapel and ate lunch and dinner in the main dining hall before splitting up to sleep in two of the houses. We have an early departure time tomorrow in order to make it to Heathrow--fortunately pretty close by--for an 8:30 flight home.

March 9, 2009

Cheltenham College

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Another great day in England. I sent the boys to the Roman Baths first thing this morning while I finished filing my adviser reports in the hotel, then we made our way to Cheltenham College for lunch, some time downtown, and then a good match with the hosts (which happened to fall our way). The master-in-charge of squash is having me stay overnight at his home but I was treated to a splendid dinner "in College" in a private dining room with the adults associated with the squash program

March 8, 2009

Watchmen

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Our touring party left Wimbledon this morning and made our way to Oxford, where I introduced the boys to real tennis (a.k.a. court tennis) at Merton College, my stomping grounds from last August. We then drove to Bath and settled into our hotel. We had a terrific Thai dinner at Yum Yum Thai (where the 2005 group also ate) and then all saw Watchmen. I was nervous about seeing this: I read the comics when they first were released in 1986-1987 and have taught the graphic novel for about a decade now. But I was pretty pleased with the film. It couldn't possibly capture the nuances and detail of the printed work, but I thought it captured the spirit of it pretty well.

Now Geoff Van and I will watch last Wednesday's episode of Lost, courtesy of iTunes.

March 7, 2009

London Town

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I chose the Holiday Inn Express in Wimbledon South to avoid taking the car into central London (and facing the congestion charge) and because the hotel rates were cheaper. My ace in the hole was the Colliers Wood Undergroung station literally right across the street. So just my luck that this part of the Northern Line was shut down for the weekend! Fortunately, there was a bus added to ferry us into the city. We cruised around Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus for a while, ate at an overpriced steakhouse there, and then made our way to Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament, and then along the Thames in a light rain before jumping back on the Tube and then on the bus to go back to the hotel.

March 15, 2009

Living In Style In Florida

For bringing 13 boys down to train at Saddlebrook, the resort puts me up in style in my own condo. It was over 80 degrees when I arrived here this afternoon. I am looking forward to a week of warmth and scraping the rust off my tennis game.

March 19, 2009

Spring Training

It's absolutely rejuvenating to spend a week in warmer climes at the end of winter, exercising pretty hard for a few hours each day and enjoying plenty of unstructured time to read, watch DVDs, sunbathe, or do not much of anything! This is restorative for the soul.

March 21, 2009

Matching Luggage

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I am realizing now, sitting here in the Tampa Airport Marriott, that all of my bags on this trip match. Nice to get free gear!

March 22, 2009

One More Strike Against LGA

I am here in the baggage claim of the Delta terminal at LaGuardia Airport, some 10-15 minutes after most of the passengers on my flight have retrieved their luggage and left, and I am still waiting for my checked bag to make its appearance on the carousel. Arrgghhh!

March 26, 2009

Summer School In New Haven

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I signed up to take a course at Yale this June and July, studying the history and tragedy plays of William Shakespeare a few afternoons a week down in New Haven. This will pretty much eliminate the possibility of the trip to Europe in June that I take most years, though I may try to fit in some long weekend jaunts a little closer to home. I just spent a week in England earlier this month and--if I get my act together in the next few days--plan to be in Paris for a weekend in May for the French Open tennis tournament. Moreover, I plan to be in the U.K. and possibly somewhere on the Continent for a couple weeks in August.

March 29, 2009

The Road To Wembley

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Since my course at Cambridge finishes earlier that day, I just booked a ticket to see U2 at Wembley Stadium outside London on August 15. Should be pretty cool to see my favorite band at this historic venue. Of course, the stadium has been rebuilt since then, but it was at Wembley in the summer of 1985 that U2 really arrived on the global stage with a Live Aid set that blew away a worldwide television audience.

March 30, 2009

Punting Along The River Cam This August

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I sent in my paperwork this morning for a Shakespeare program at the University of Cambridge this summer, one which starts just after my Summer Programs commitments at Choate wrap up at the end of July. I am looking forward to spending a couple of weeks in Cambridge in August; I haven't been there since my very first trip to England in 1994.

April 1, 2009

Heading North This Month

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I cashed in some mileage points on my credit card for a nearly-free round trip ticket to Reykjavik at the end of April during the school's long weekend break. It may be economically advantageous to visit a somewhat bankrupt Iceland about now, as there should be a favorable exchange rates and bargains aplenty. I'll have only three full days in the country, but look forward to exploring this ancient Viking land.

April 3, 2009

Springtime In Paris

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After years of threatening to do so, this May I actually will be going to Paris to see the middle weekend of the French Open. I cashed in some more points from my credit card--I have a huge backlog I've accumulated over many years--and I hope to spend an enjoyable three days in the City of Lights.

Updated Travel Plans

I locked in my airfare to London in August and subsequently updated my travel map page with projected spring and summer destinations.

April 4, 2009

A Taste Of The Bard, Eh?

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I booked a round-trip flight to Toronto in June for a weekend at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario and also reserved tickets to see Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and Chekhov's Three Sisters. Should be a pleasant early-summer getaway.

April 5, 2009

My Shakespeare Project

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As I may have mentioned in this space before, I am in the middle of a quest to see all of William Shakespeare's plays performed. I am roughly halfway through the list at this point, so I have identified a trio of works I haven't seen staged yet that I can catch while I am in England this August: between Shakespeare's Globe (pictured above) and the RSC in Stratford, I plan to catch As You Like It, Troilus & Cressida, and The Winter's Tale.

April 6, 2009

Czech It Out

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This August I will have a few days between when my commitments in England end and my return flight to New York. I've been ruminating where I should spend this time and today I decided I am going to Prague. I was in Czechoslovakia when it was still one country, but really have only been in Slovakia--driving through it for a day and then spending a night in Bratislava. And that was nearly twenty years ago! So a taste of Prague will be a splendid way to wrap up my summer travels.

The American Blackfriars

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For a measly $10 and 25,000 United Airlines mileage points, I got a round trip ticket to Charlottesville, Virginia for summer school's long weekend in mid-July. My plan is to make the short drive through the Shenandoah Valley and spend two nights in Staunton at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, right next door to Blackfriars Theater, home to the American Shakespeare Company. My program at UVa last June was centered around the ASC playhouse and this July I'll get to see Much Ado About Nothing, The Merry Wives Of Windsor, and Titus Andronicus. I also plan to visit Thomas Jefferson's Monticello while in the area, which I haven't been to since I was a boy.

April 10, 2009

Tennis On The Dirt

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I booked three days worth of tickets at Roland Garros (that's French Open tennis) for the last weekend in May: Friday I'll be in the second stadium, Court Suzanne Lenglen, and I have grounds passes for Saturday and Sunday, but I think I'll track down a show court ticket for at least one of those days either online or from the scalpers.

April 13, 2009

St. Paul's School

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I am spending three days on the campus of St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire--the place I started my prep school teaching career years ago. I am here as part of a visiting evaluation team to review the school's athletic department. It's kind of fun to be able to take a break from my routine and poke around a similar school for a while.

April 14, 2009

The New Hampshire Capitol

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Concord is the seat of the State of New Hampshire. While visiting St. Paul's, I am staying downtown at the Holiday Inn, right across from the State Capitol. When I taught in the Law and Government program at SPS, we enjoyed frequent field trips to see the state legislature in action and visit other working parts of the government. On one such trip to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, we had an enjoyable session with one of its judges, David Souter, who has since been elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Souter clearly enjoyed interacting with students and led a lively and thoughtful discussion.

April 15, 2009

Finishing Up At SPS

The evaluation team I am part of is now wrapping up its visit to St. Paul's School. This has been a wonderful experience of collegiality. We all feel that the adults and students at SPS were wonderful hosts. And reviewing the athletic program at a peer school gives me a good opportunity to re-examine what we do at Choate and why. Add to that the nostalgia value for me personally of returning to the place where I discovered my vocation and this has been a very good week.

April 23, 2009

Viking Holiday

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I'm about to drive to Kennedy Airport to catch a night flight to Reykjavik, where I will spend the school long weekend break. I'll be back in touch on the other side!

April 24, 2009

First Impressions Of Iceland

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I didn't get as much sleep as I wanted to on the five-hour Icelandair red-eye flight to Keflavik airport. I arrived at around 6:30 a.m. local time, caught a shuttle bus to my hotel, and had to wait a few hours to check in, but the hotel let me get some breakfast at the buffet and snooze a bit in the reception lounge.

The airport terminal, named after Leif Ericsson, looked new and had what I consider to be a Scandanavian design aesthetic: spare, spacious, and clean, with lots of soft wood finishes. It seems like an awfully big place to handle so few flights per day. There was a security line to clear--first time I recall going through that after getting off a plane!--but the locals were wonderfully pleasant (and fluent in English) and I was processed through passport control with hardly a glance.

The ride into Reykjavik from the airport was 30-45 minutes and offered a good sense of the landscape here: bleak and barren, but still beautiful. It's been said that Iceland and Greenland ought to swap names, and I could see green everywhere here, but it's a deep, mossy green, not at all like the lush kelly green on the fields of Ireland, this country's closest neighbor to the east. The volcanic formations do create the effect of a moonscape all around. And despite the gulf stream keeping the Iceland climate milder than its name suggests, it is colder here than back home (about forty degrees so, if the promise of temperatures in the 80s in Connecticut comes to pass). It's very windy, too, and the snow-capped mountains across the harbor create a sense of cold--which is not something I usually welcome in late April!

April 25, 2009

The Golden Circle

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I rented a car in Reykjavik today and drove what is known as The Golden Circle, a popular route for visitors to Iceland, consisting of the waterfalls at Gullfoss, the geothermal wonders of Geysir, and the physical beautiful and historically significant Þingvellir, seat of the oldest parliamentary government in the world.

April 23, 2009

No Checked Baggage

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I've been aspiring to do this for some time: limit my luggage to just one piece of carry-on for trips less than a week long. I have done this for my winter long weekend getways to Florida to visit my folks, but this is the first international trip I've been able to pull it off. The trick is to depend on the hotel to provide shampoo and conditioner, take just one razor cartridge, which can always be replaced cheaply if confiscated, buy toothpaste locally, and minimize changes of clothes. I still am taking more than I should: two books, instead of one; two seasons worth of DVDs, instead of one; and more magazines than I will be able to digest in three days. And I can't seem to part with my MacBook and the portable DVD player. But everything fits into one backpack and this is progress!

April 26, 2009

The Blue Lagoon

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No this entry isn't about that cheesy Brooke Shields/Christopher Atkins castaway movie from the early 1980s. On my way to Keflavik Airport I spent a couple of hours at the Blue Lagoon, a spa of sorts with mineral-rich geothermal waters that are a striking shade of milky light blue. In addition to soaking in the lagoon, one is encouraged to cover one's face with white silica mud to cleanse the skin. The mix of heat, minerals, and unique algae species are all supposed to be really good for the skin. I'm not sure about that, but it was definitely a relaxing end to my time in Iceland.

The visuals were striking, too: the mossy volcanic rocks formed a craggy rim around the edge of the lagoon itself. The strange color of the water was capped by a steamy mist blowing across the lagoon. Under a a cloudy sky, all of these features made the place look positively otherworldly. I felt as if I were on the set of a science fiction movie, or perhaps in a Wagnerian opera.

April 30, 2009

My Paris Adventure Awaits

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Four weeks from tonight I'll be on a flight to Paris for three days at the French Open--a surgical strike of a getaway before returning to Connecticut for the last week of school! Since Tennis Channel offers wall-to-wall coverage of the European clay court circuit each spring, the last week or two I've been able to catch a fair amount of action. Consequently my appetite to see some tennis on the terre battue in person at the end of May has been whetted.

May 3, 2009

A Lawrenceville Story

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I am driving down to New Jersey this afternoon for a gathering of the Eight Schools Athletic Council. We have dinner and some meetings scheduled for tonight on the Lawrenceville School campus and then we'll huddle first thing in the morning with athletic administrators at Princeton University before heading back to Lawrenceville to wrap things up at lunchtime.

May 2, 2009

Prepping For Cambridge

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Yesterday I got the official notification of my acceptance into my program of choice at the University of Cambridge, so I'll be spending some time in England this summer immersed in books amidst some crumbly old buildings. I fished around on Amazon.com earlier today to find the best prices for my course books, though I dread the thought of lugging texts overseas and back! When I was at Stanford in 2008, I ended up shipping a dozen books back home so I wouldn't have to schlep them through Oregon, L.A., and San Diego.

May 3, 2009

Podcasts and Lectures

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While traveling to central Jersey, I had about three hours solo in the car, which was a perfect chance to get caught up on my favorite podcasts and also listen to a couple of lectures that I purchased from The Teaching Company. I am a fan of both of these formats--podcasts and audio lectures--and used my time behind the wheel this afternoon to good advantage.

May 4, 2009

College Town

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Even on a wet day, Princeton University looks pretty impressive. I've spent a fair bit of time here over the years, usually staying at the Nassau Inn, right across from campus on the main drag. (I used to be a regular chaperone for the boys' hockey team when they'd play in the Lawrenceville holiday tournament each December and I've been here for various squash tournaments and clinics as well.) It's a pretty idyllic college town setting--even if it's not Williamstown!

Wrapping Up In L'ville

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We've just finished our annual ESAC meetings with a luncheon with the Lawrenceville Head Master (two words down here!). Most of our time has been spent in the Lavino Field House, pictured above. Now I am facing three hours on the road in the rain in an attempt to get home before a 4 p.m. practice.

May 19, 2009

A Quick Getaway

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Booked air travel, hotel, and tickets for a quick trip to the Windy City this September (leave Saturday afternoon, return Sunday night) to see Tosca at the Lyric Opera and Richard III at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. It's the only weekend we won't have a cross country meet scheduled, so it's a perfect escape from school, if a brief one.

May 29, 2009

Roland Garros

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I have finally made it to the French Open, the only one of the four majors I have not attended (before today). I've been to the Aussie Open twice and Wimbledon a half-dozen or so times, and made countless trips to the U.S. Open over the years. I have a ticket to Court Suzanne Lenglen today--the second show court--and grounds passes the next two days, but will be angling for a Court Chatrier ticket, depending on the order of play. Today, Novak Djokovic completed his victory and Venus Williams got drummed out of the singles. Up later is #3 Andy Murray.

May 28, 2009

Jet Setting

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I am about to head to Kennedy Airport for a night flight to Paris, where I will be spending the weekend enjoying some tennis at the French Open. Lest it sound like I usually do this sort of thing, I am treating this as a special one-off: cashing in some mileage points to do something I've wanted to do for years-- a "surgical strike" of a getaway. I'll keep you posted.

May 30, 2009

A Great French Restaurant

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My favorite place to get a cheap bite in Paris is the crêperie in the Latin Quarter pictured above. It's on the corner of rue de la Harpe and Boulevard Saint-Germain. Had a delicious ham and cheese crepe for dinner tonight!

May 31, 2009

Sounds Of The City

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I slept last night and the night before with my window open to the Boulevard Montparnasse below and the sounds of the street. Where I am staying a busy commercial center (the view above is from my window) off one of the major Metro stops in Paris. But the city noise doesn't bother me nor keep me from sleeping. As someone who grew up in a small town, chose an even smaller town for college, and spent a lot of my childhood on my grandparents' farm out in the country, I seem to gravitate toward cities when I travel now. I feel comfortable walking the streets of urban jungles all around the world and like the bustle and array of cultural and other diversions available. And public transportation can't be beat, especially where it's well implemented, as is the case here in Paris.

A Literary City

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Stopped at one of my favorite Parisian haunts on the Seine this morning, the English language bookstore Shakespeare And Company--a mecca for expats and travelers in the heart of France. I ran into a school group from the Memphis University School, a bunch of juniors (it's an all-boys school) studying the Lost Generation, and was reminded of the central role Paris played in the lives and work of such American authors as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein (as well as Irish writer James Joyce). Lots of literary history in this place!

June 9, 2009

Canon Fodder

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Today I finalized reservations for a few days on the West Coast at the end of August, mostly at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Just about a year ago, I resolved to see every play in the Shakespeare canon produced on stage. Here is the list of what I've seen thus far, starting my count in the spring of 2008 when I saw Patrick Stewart as Macbeth when the production came to Broadway:

1. 4/24/08, Macbeth, Broadway
2. 6/20/08, Hamlet, Shakespeare In The Park, The Public Theater, New York City
3. 6/26/08, King Lear, American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA
4. 6/27/08, Twelfth Night, American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA
5. 6/28/08, Measure For Measure, American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA
6. 7/3/08, All's Well That Ends Well, Shakespeare & Co., Lenox, MA
7. 7/18/08, The Comedy Of Errors, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
8. 7/19/08, Othello, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
9. 7/22/08, Romeo And Juliet, Old Globe Theater, San Diego, CA
10. 8/8/08, The Merry Wives Of Windsor, Shakespeare's Globe, London
11. 8/9/08, The Taming Of The Shrew, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford, U.K.
12. 8/13/08, Much Ado About Nothing, Oxford Castle, Oxford, U.K.
13. 9/9/08, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hartford Stage Company, Hartford, CT
14. 10/3/08, The Tempest, Classic Stage Company, New York City
15. 5/14/09, The Merchant Of Venice, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City

So as of now, I am not quite halfway done. But here is what I've scheduled in the weeks and months ahead:

16. 6/13/09, Julius Caesar, Stratford Festival, Stratford, ON, Canada
17. 6/20/09, Henry V, Richmond Shakespeare Festival, Richmond, VA
18. 7/10/09, Pericles, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Garrison, NY
19. 7/19/09, Titus Andronicus, American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA
20. 7/26/09, Two Gentlemen Of Verona, Colonial Theater, Westerly, RI
21. 7/28/09, Antony And Cleopatra, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Center Valley, PA
22. 8/1/09, As You Like It, Shakespeare's Globe, London
23. 8/1/09, The Winter's Tale, The Old Vic, London
24. 8/16/09, Troilus And Cressida, Shakespeare's Globe, London
25. 8/22/09, Henry IV, Part I, Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
26. 8/26/09, Henry VIII, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
27. 8/28/09, Coriolanus, Old Globe Theater, San Diego, CA
28. 9/27/09, Richard III, Chicago Shakespeare Festival, Chicago
29. 10/28/09, Love's Labour's Lost, Annenberg Center, Philadelphia, PA
30. May 2010, Timon Of Athens, Actors' Shakespeare Project, Boston, MA

This will put me over three-quarters of the way through, leaving these plays of the "official" canon of 37 yet to be seen--all plays that are produced infrequently (though I have leads on a couple productions coming in 2010):

31. Cymbeline
32. Henry IV, Part II
33. Henry VI, Part I
34. Henry VI, Part II
35. Henry VI, Part III
36. King John
37. Richard II

Then there are two plays sometimes attributed to Shakespeare, at least in part, that some scholars regard as canonical:

38? The Two Noble Kinsmen
39? Edward III

I'll try to see each of these if the opportunities present themselves.

Since starting this project twelve months ago, I have seen--or will see--some of the plays in the canon more than once; here are those duplicates on my list:

8/8/08, King Lear, Shakespeare's Globe, London
9/19/08, The Comedy Of Errors, Paul Mellon Arts Center, Wallingford, CT
6/13/09, Macbeth, Stratford Festival, Stratford, ON, Canada
6/26/09, Hamlet, Shakespeare & Co., Lenox, MA
7/2/09, The Tempest, The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, Madison, NJ
7/18/09, The Merry Wives Of Windsor, American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA
7/18/09, Much Ado About Nothing, American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA
8/15/09, The Winter's Tale, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford, U.K.
8/25/09, Macbeth, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
8/25/09, Much Ado About Nothing, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
8/26/09, All's Well That Ends Well, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR

I have not included any productions I had seen before last spring, such as the Twelfth Night I saw in Central Park in the summer of 1989 when I was a Klingenstein Summer Fellow at Columbia, or the versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Othello I watched on the Paul Mellon Arts Center stage here at Choate, or the condensed Henry IV (combining parts I and II) starring Kevin Kline as Falstaff at Lincoln Center a few years back.

And of course I am familiar with filmed versions of some of these plays (e.g., Branagh's Henry V) which I have not included for the purposes of this list either.

February 8, 2009

In Transit

Made it to New Jersey. Now I have to board a puddle jumper to take me on the very short flight from Newark to Windsor Locks.

June 12, 2009

YYZ

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Made it to Toronto, about two hours behind schedule. My 6:30 flight from LaGuardia was canceled, but I go a seat on the 7:30 flight. That got in late and had to wait in the long queue to take off on a busy night in New York City airspace. But I am here. Now I will drive to Stratford.

By the way, it was clear I was on a Canadian airline because we got updates from Stanley Cup hockey the whole trip. It seems the Penguins are popular champs up here.

June 13, 2009

The Stratford Festival

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I had a pleasant drive out to Stratford, pretty much on major highways all the way. I am spending the next two days here attending some plays: two Shakespeare productions tomorrow and Chekhov's The Three Sisters on Sunday afternoon. I am also signed up for a backstage tour of the main theater complex (pictured above) and a lecture/ discussion with lunch tomorrow.

June 15, 2009

Everyone Gets Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

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Apparently there were some ruffled feathers that this corner of cyberspace never mentioned two Class of '08 Choaties whom I met in Paris at the end of last month and who spent a day with me at the French Open. They did treat me to dinner (and I did treat them to breakfast when they had run out of money a couple days later) but I should note that they did foul my hotel bathroom, too. At any rate, Christophe and Tucker now can enjoy a small moment of recognition.

June 20, 2009

D.C. Bound

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I am taking the 10:18 Acela Express from New Haven, which will get me to Washington by 3 p.m. I can rent a car in Union Station. It's a bit pricey, but well worth it to relax and spread out with the New York Times, which I can't really do when I am driving for seven hours! I also want to read Henry V before I see it tonight.

The Folger

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While here in D.C. I have a little time to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library, just a short walk from Union Station. Of course, walking to Capitol Hill reminds me just how warm Washington gets this time of year!

The Blue Dot On My iPhone

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Since my new iPhone has a GPS chip inside, it's easy to get mesmerized watching the pulsing blue dot move across the Maps app as the train heads south!

A Fortuitous Wrong Turn

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Driving down the interstate, I missed the exit that I wanted to take into Richmond, but it turned out to be a good thing, because driving down Monument Avenue I stumbled across this statue of Arthur Ashe, one of the city's famous sons. The statue shows the late tennis champion holding books slightly higher than his racquet and surrounded by children. A nice testament to a great man.

Agecroft Hall

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I arrived at Agecroft Hall about an hour before the show. The house itself, an expansive Tudor style edifice, was originally built in England in the 15th century, disassembled, shipped across the Atlantic, and rebuilt here in Richmond. The grounds are beautiful, with lovely gardens that are perfect for tailgating before the evening performance.

June 21, 2009

Heading North

I drove back to Washington after the play, returned my rental car at Union Station, and just boarded the the 3:15 Amtrak regional to take me back to New Haven. I booked a seat in business class, which probably was a mistake, since the train has plenty of empty seats throughout and all I intend to do is sleep until we arrive in Connecticut. I could have saved myself about $35. Live and learn, I guess.

July 8, 2009

Car Rental Complications

I am trying to do something that should be pretty simple: rent a car for 24 hours in a major university town in England this August. I finish my program at the University of Cambridge on the morning of August 15. I am seeing The Winter's Tale in Stratford in the early afternoon and then catching the U2 concert at Wembley Stadium that night. The only practical way to get to the various places I need to go is by car. I planned to drop it off back in Cambridge on Sunday morning and then take the train into London, where I will spend the night before flying to Prague. But because Hertz in Cambridge is closed on Sunday, I can't drop the vehicle off there, so I will have to drive it into London and drop it off there and pay an exorbitant charge. The whole shebang will set me back something like £100. Hopefully because it's Sunday I won't get screwed over with the congestion charge in central London on top of that.

July 17, 2009

Packing Light

I am heading to Virginia for a three days and two nights, flying on United to Washington and then to Charlottesville. I plan to check no bags, of course, but my challenge is to see just how little I can take with me. Having the Kindle and the MacBook Air should help lighten my load.

Like Captain Janeway, I Guess

Today was a first. My flight from Hartford to Washington-Dulles was captained by a female pilot. Not a big deal, really, but as she spoke over the PA system it dawned on me that in the dozens and dozens of flights I've taken all over the world, I couldn't recall ever having a woman fly the plane before.

Back In Charlottesville

Had a nice time in Charlottesville tonight--once my delayed flight got here, anyway. I connected with a 2005 Choate alum (and recent UVa grad too) for an enjoyable dinner and a few drinks on "the corner" just off the university campus. It was absolutely pouring for a while here on an otherwise pleasant summer night.

July 20, 2009

Settling Into Georgetown

I am spending the week in Washington, DC with the J.F.K. Institute program. We survived the long drive down to the capital today, suffering though the usual congestion in the Bronx on I-95, though the trip was otherwise uneventful. (I did enjoy building up to the appearance of "the Emerald City"--the Mormon temple on the Beltway, as I do every year I take kids to DC.) Since I transferred a few shows to my laptop, I will unwind with a little entertainment before catching some shut-eye.

July 26, 2009

Boston and Cambridge

I have some time to kill this afternoon before I head to Rhode Island for tonight's play. I drove around Boston for a while before parking off J.F.K. Street in Cambridge. When I taught at Andover I used to spend a lot of time here; it was just over 20 minutes away, after all. Even when I moved to Connecticut I would come to Boston far more than New York. That's no longer true, but I do love coming up to Beantown and wish I did so more regularly.

July 31, 2009

In Which Our Hero Meets Some Adversity

Things got complicated this afternoon. As I was packing, a fierce electrical storm ended up cutting all power in Memorial House. I had clothes in the dryer (that I planned to take on my trip) and I had to fumble around in near-darkness for the final stages of packing. Not fun. And it forced me to leave for the airport about 30 minutes later than I had planned.

Felled trees, steady rain, and congested Friday traffic combined to make the trip from Wallingford to Kennedy Airport pretty brutal. So brutal, in fact, that I arrived in the terminal about 20 minutes before my flight was due to take off. I knew as I was stuck in traffic that missing my flight was a growing possibility, but I hoped departures would be delayed due to the weather. No such luck in my case. So I have a seat on the 11:30 flight (I was due to fly out on the 9:15) but American Airlines charged me $250 for the change! Outrageous, but I think it's because I booked this with mileage points, if memory serves, so it's in a weird class of tickets. But at least I will get to London early tomorrow!

August 1, 2009

Arrived In London

Made it to London. I am tight on time because I have tickets to the theater (or, theatre, as they spell it here) with a 2:30 curtain and so I took the Heathrow Express into Paddington and then had a short Underground rather than taking the Tubeall the way in; this saved me about 20 minutes or so (and I paid dearly for it!). So off I go to the Old Vic.

August 2, 2009

The Other Place

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Well, that's how they referred to Cambridge when I was at Oxford. After sleeping in past 11 a.m., I headed over to King's Cross on the Tube and took the train north to Cambridge and I have settled in at Clare College. My rooms are on the fourth floor of Memorial Court--the worst part of that was carrying the bags up three flights of stairs upon arrival, but no worries. I walk through the college's gardens and cross its bridge (pictured above) on my way to the Great Hall for morning and evening meals each day. I am heading out now to explore the town (sorry, I can't call this a city as they do!).

August 15, 2009

So Long, Cambridge

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About to depart from Clare College. I've enjoyed my fortnight in this medieval town and my time studying Shakespeare in the university.

I have rented a car and am off to Stratford-upon-Avon and then to London tonight.

August 17, 2009

Czech It Out

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I arrived in Prague after a relatively short (90 minutes or so) flight from London. Plenty of empty seats on the plane, so a very comfortable trip. Had a wild ride into the city center from the airport thanks to a crazy driver, but I am now settled in at my hotel and ready to head out and explore.

August 18, 2009

Bohemian Rhapsody

Had a great day exploring Prague. I can see why it's widely regarded one of the world's most beautiful cities: the winding streets, the majestic churches, the bridges over the River Vltava, and the castle dominating the cityscape.

August 19, 2009

Heading Home

Packed up and about to head to the airport. Prague was an all-too-brief treat, but I am anxious to get home at this point.

Layover In London

Happily--and surprisingly--I was able to check my bags through to New York at the Prague Airport, which saved me some schlepping from (the lovely) Terminal 5 to (the barely tolerable) Terminal 3 here in Heathrow. I also checked in for my American Airlines flight to JFK there, so this layover is pretty relaxed.

August 22, 2009

Arriving In Philadelphia

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I really like traveling by Amtrak or Acela in the Northeast Corridor. So many of the hassles of air travel are avoided and I have time to read or get some work done.

I boarded the train late this morning for the journey to Philadelphia. I am seeing a play here tonight and the theater is just a few blocks from 30th Street Station, so the train was a no-brainer. Good to be back in the City of Brotherly Love.

August 24, 2009

Heading West

At Bradley Airport right now for a 5:30 a.m. flight to Philadelphia, where I will connect to a flight to Denver. I will end the day in Ashland, Oregon--home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Mile High City

After a bit of a harrowing landing experience--after a harsh jolt upon our initial touchdown, the pilots ascended to circle around and try again--the airport in Denver has been quite pleasant. If memory serves, I haven't been here since 1994, when it was still quite new. Since my Denver-area plans for the day fell through, I'll be able to jump on an earlier flight to Medford, Oregon, which will get me into Ashland six hours ahead of my original schedule!

Back In Philly

Just a day and a half later, I am back in Philadelphia, but only to make a connection in the airport. I don't remember being in this particular airport before, but it's pretty nice.

August 29, 2009

Cutting It Close

The flight from San Diego to Charlotte was uneventful--other than the guy in the window seat of my row making me get up four times (!) to let him out--but when we landed in Charlotte, the jetway at our assigned gate didn't work so it took about an extra 45 minutes to deplane. Some people were in danger of missing connecting flights but fortunately it looks like I will just make my flight to Hartford!

September 26, 2009

Off To Chicago

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I just finished a morning practice with the team and scooted up to Bradley Airport for a 2:15 flight. As this is the one weekend of the fall without a cross country meet, I am sneaking away to Chicago for a quick getaway.

September 27, 2009

A Scary Scene

My brief trip to Chicago was marked by spectacular early fall weather. In contrast, Connecticut had rain on and off all day today. This was evident to me on the wet roads during my drive home from Bradley Airport tonight.

Traveling south on the interstate through the city of Hartford, I saw a car just ahead of me graze the concrete divider on the right of the highway, sending sparks everywhere. The vehicle then careened out of control across the road into the left divider and then, like a pinball, it rebounded into the right barrier head-on, coming to a sudden stop. Watching this accident unfold was like a slow-motion replay for me. My first impulse was to slow down to avoid getting caught in the middle of this episode. I carefully passed the crashed car then pulled over to the right shoulder and fumbled for my iPhone to dial 911. I then left my car to head back to the accident to see what I could do to help. Fortunately the other driver who was playing Good Samaritan was an off-duty policeman, so I was able to follow his lead in extricating the driver from the car crash--he was mostly shaken up and had some pains in his rib cage (probably from the airbag impact) but had no visible cuts or bruises--and getting him to a safe location. Moving him turned out to be a smart move, because while we were helping, two other cars began to slide out behind us and crash into the barriers on either side of the highway. It was clear the road conditions were dangerous such that if we stayed at the scene of the accident, we might well be in danger of being hit by another out-of-control vehicle. So I led the driver of the first accident down the road a bit until state troopers arrived on the scene.

In the end, it looked as though no one was seriously injured, though there were some pretty banged up cars from the incident. I was surprised more people didn't stop to help, but I was glad I could play a small role in offering assistance.

An event like this does give one pause, though, and the rest of my trip was noticeably slower and more careful than it had been before.

October 2, 2009

A South American Olympics

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So the 2016 Olympics are heading to Rio de Janiero. It's fitting, I guess, that Brazil will host, as the Games have not yet been to South America. As an American, I am confident that Chicago would have been a terrific choice, too. I've spent time in all four cities that were the final candidates (Madrid and Tokyo being the other two) and the IOC could not have made a bad choice with this bunch.

October 3, 2009

Dallas Bound

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Looks like I am heading to Dallas in the middle of December. Once I realized the annual Groton girls' squash play day was canceled this year, I am now free to attend the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association convention. I leave Friday night and return to Connecticut midday Monday. It will pretty much be an exclusively work-related trip, however: most of my weekend will be spent sitting in banquet halls attending a series of four-hour classes for professional development credit.

October 10, 2009

Trekkin' To The Commonwealth

Already a long day up here in Massachusetts. Choate teams left Wallingford at 1:30 after SAT testing, hit a snarl of traffic on the Mass Pike, and my team didn't start its race until 5:45. We finished in darkness! A pair of close losses was frustrating, especially since we have yet to race with a complete and healthy squad. And now we are boarding the bus for the two-hour-plus trip home.

October 19, 2009

No SuperBowl For Me In 2010

For the past few years, my parents have spent their winters in Florida and I have headed south during the school's winter long weekend break to visit and get a taste of warm weather in the middle of the cold season up here in New England. Because this year's SuperBowl is being played in Miami, it's proven to be very difficult to line up an affordable flight back north on the day following the game--our last day of the break. So I have booked a ticket to fly back to Connecticut during the game time, which will save me about $800!

October 22, 2009

Iberia Awaits

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I've booked myself a trip to Portugal (with a short excursion to Gibraltar and Sevilla, Spain) the week after Christmas, so I will be ringing in the New Year in the Algarve, on the southern coast of Portugal.

October 26, 2009

Anchors Aweigh

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I visited Annapolis for the first time today, having awoken in DC and rented a car at Union Station. I toured the U.S. Naval Academy, watched the noon formation, and had a nice lunch with a former cross country captain who is now a midshipman at the Academy. This place is awfully impressive. And the town is lovely.

October 28, 2009

Acela To Philly

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I am traveling to Philadelphia on the Acela this afternoon, though it arrived in New Haven 40 minutes late and was further delayed coming into New York City. This is such a comfortable train! The play I am seeing tonight is at the Annenberg Center, on the Penn campus, just a few blocks from 30th Street Station in the City Of Brotherly Love.

November 9, 2009

The Fall Of The Wall

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Today marks the 20th anniversary of the momentous day when the citizens of Germany started dismantling the Berlin Wall, the physical embodiment of a forty-year Cold War. I visited the Wall less than a year later and hacked out a souvenir chunk for myself. Amazing to consider how different the world is from what I knew a quarter-century ago!

November 24, 2009

Canadian 360°

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I bought some floor tickets for the return of U2's 360° Tour to North America next summer. Specifically, I am heading up to Montreal for the July 17 show. Haven't seen U2 from ground level yet, but now I have to figure out if I really want to wait all day for a great location near the stage, especially if that means giving up a day in a great city.

November 25, 2009

Heading To Jamaica In March

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I nailed down my airfare this week for the 2010 Choate Tennis spring break training trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica. As I recall from my last trip to the island many years back, I will need to pack some sunscreen!

November 27, 2009

The Old Stomping Grounds

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"Starting from fish-shape Paumanok" began one of Walt Whitman's poems, referring to the Native American name for Long Island. I spent the first eighteen years of my life on the Island, returning regularly until my parents moved to Connecticut a few years back. I am heading back there overnight since the Foot Locker Northeast Regional Meet will be staged at Sunken Meadow State Park--my high school course!--since Van Cortlandt is undergoing construction.

November 28, 2009

Snake And Cardiac Await

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Cross country in Sunken Meadow State Park this morning: just like old times!

December 12, 2009

Conventioneering

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Made it into Dallas last night and took a shuttle to the Gaylord Texan Hotel and Convention Center, a mammoth complex right near the airport. I am attending my fourth National Athletic Directors Conference in the past four years (the others were in Anaheim and Nashville). Since I'm only here until first thing Monday morning, and I'll be engaged in a trio of four-hour mini-courses as well as other sessions in that time, plus I don't have a car, it's unlikely I will get out of this place to see anything else in Dallas. So I could well be anywhere in the country right now; the city itself doesn't register in my plans. Of course, there is a slew of restaurants and other diversions here in the convention/hotel complex, so I'll be living in the convention bubble this weekend, I guess.

December 11, 2009

Flying To Dallas

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I am off to Bradley Airport for a weekend getaway of sorts. Lest that sound too leisurely, this is a work-related trip to the National Athletic Directors Conference, which is in Dallas this year. I scheduled this convention when I realized this would be an open weekend on the girls' varsity squash schedule, though we subsequently moved our Exeter match to tomorrow, so I will have to miss that.

December 10, 2009

Alma Mater

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I am back on the Williams College campus for the first time in a few years. This place is so familiar to me, and yet there are a handful of major architectural developments that have changed the place substantially since my last visit. I am exploring the replacement for Baxter Hall--the student center and dining hall I knew--the beautiful new Paresky Center. Spring Street has been largely transformed since my undergraduate days and there is a new academic building south of Sawyer Library. The theater has been thoroughly renovated and expanded as well, and that's where I am heading tonight. Happily, most of the campus remains just as I remember it.

December 14, 2009

Globe-Trotting In 2010

I recently updated my travel map page with projected destinations for 2010. Some of these trips I am not sure about yet, and I probably will be adding at least a brief U.K. jaunt in August at some point as well as additional travel during the last few months of the year.

December 21, 2009

One Of These Days . . .

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. . . I want to travel to Europe the old-fashioned way: by boat. The notion of a leisurely five days at sea with time to unwind and read is probably romantic and nostalgic. But there would be no jet lag!

December 28, 2009

Back To Rio

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Just firmed up plans for a five-day jaunt to Rio de Janiero in June. I have a ten-year visa for Brazil from my New Years trip to Buenos Aires and Rio a few years back, but will have to have it transferred to my new passport.

Sailing Through The Airport

I left for Newark Airport plenty early, remembering my missed flight to London at the end of July. Moreover, there were supposed to be much longer lines through security due to the recent terrorism scare on a flight from Amsterdam on Christmas Day. Well I arrived in Newark early and had no delays getting checked in and through the security screening.

Off to Lisbon on an 8:15 flight!

December 29, 2009

Hello Portugal

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I had a smooth flight over, with an open seat next to me giving me plenty of room to spread out. I slept a lot of the way, though I watched the first half of The Informer before I got too drowsy (I'll have to catch the rest on the way home). No problem clearing immigration, but now I have been waiting for over 30 minutes for my checked bag to appear. Seems like some of the luggage on our flight is stuck somewhere between the plane and the carousel. But I just connected with a Choate alum from about fifteen years ago who was on the same flight.

Once I pick up my rented car, I will drive a few hours south to the Algarve region.

Highway Robbery?

Had an easy drive on the motorway down to the Algarve region, but was struck by the toll charged for the trip from Lisbon: €18.60, which equates to nearly $27!

Vale Do Lobo

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I am settled in at the Vale Do Lobo resort, and was upgraded to a higher level of accommodation, which was nice. So I have a two-bedroom apartment with a private pool at my disposal for the next few days. The weather is warm but rainy and this is clearly the off-season for this place, as there don't seem to be many people in my immediate neighborhood in spite of the holidays.

December 30, 2009

For The Want Of A Plug

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I stupidly failed to pack any of my adapter plugs for the various devices (MacBook Air, iPhone, two iPods, Kindle, digital camera, a portable DVD player, and portable speakers for the iPod) I brought with me. (Okay, okay, I admit I have a hard time cutting the technological cord when I travel!) I have a couple of cheap European adapter plugs as well as the Apple World Travel Adapter kit back home, but that does me little good now! So I am rationing the use of each electronic gadget for the time being, as there apparently is not an appropriate adapter for U.S. plugs to be found in the south of Portugal--and I have looked in the resort newsagent, two local supermarkets, an electronics store, and a Staples office supply store. I did find an adapter for U.K. plugs in one store, which didn't surprise me as the majority of guests in this resort seem to be Brits (apparently this is a favorite holiday and retirement destination for the English).

I did, however, discover online an entertaining article on why plugs and voltage are different around the globe. It's an educational and witty read.

December 31, 2009

A Load Of Bull

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I drove through the northeast and across the center of Spain on my last trip here. I am pleased to discover here in the southwest of the country the same phenomenon of the roadside black bull silhouettes popping up along the way.

January 2, 2010

Travelin' Man

When I first started this blog in April 2004, I posted this map indicating the countries I had visited up until then:
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Here is my updated map of countries I have been to as of the start of 2010:
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January 3, 2010

In-Flight Entertainment

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Continental Airlines happens to have a pretty good in-flight entertainment system at each seat. I watched the second half of The Informant (which I had started on the trip over to Portugal). This is a pretty witty movie--not laugh out loud funny, but wryly clever. Matt Damon is perfect as an eager beaver informant working for ADM and Scott Bakula is great as a straight man in his role as an FBI agent. Steven Soderbergh directed, and I like most of his work.

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I also saw the remake of Fame, which was pretty pointless (and nowhere close to an improvement on the original). Not only was the story pretty flimsy, but the music wasn't all that good. The best song was only one swiped from the 1980s version.

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And finally I saw an episode of The Big Bang Theory, a CBS comedy that I have never seen before. It's a mildly amusing show, but I found the canned laughter annoying--especially while listening to the program over headphones. I've taken it for granted, I guess, that most comedies I watch (The Office, 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm) never use a laugh track.

January 10, 2010

Union Station In New Haven

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I am taking the train into New York City and for a change I am down at the New Haven train station in plenty of time, without the rush to park, scramble for tickets, and run to the platform. Arriving early results in a much better pace on a Sunday morning!

January 19, 2010

New York City By Night

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Following this afternoon's squash practice, I drove down to Brooklyn via the Triborough Bridge and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and caught spectacular views of Manhattan along the elevated sections of the highway. I am here to catch a Shakespeare production, which is just about to start.

January 23, 2010

Road Trip

Long day for the girls' varsity squash team today. After SAT testing finished (some twenty minutes late, unfortunately) we made the three-hour trek to Concord, NH, for a showdown with our St. Paul's School counterparts. We had some good competition, particularly at the top of the ladder, and prevailed 5-2 (and got matches for the five extra competitors who made the trip, all of whom won). The down side of the excursion was getting home just before 10:00 at night. Unlike our trip to Andover two weeks before, which was in a comfortable double-decker motor coach, i was behind the wheel of a mid-bus for all of the driving. So I am ready to crash now!

January 31, 2010

Across The Canadian West

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Spent some time today planning my summer schedule, the centerpiece of which will be a trip across Canada bookended by two major North American Shakespeare festivals: one in Stratford, Ontario, and the other in Ashland, Oregon. I am taking a four-night train trip from Toronto to Vancouver, and this journey is supposed to be filled with gorgeous scenery. I'll spend a couple of nights in Toronto (the men's ATP event will be up and running while I'm there) and in Vancouver as well.

February 5, 2010

In-Flight Wi-Fi

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I am posting this entry high above New Jersey, where I am connected to the Internet via the Gogo service on my Delta flight to Atlanta. First time for airborne Web access, which is pretty nifty!

This segment of my trip is delayed, so I am hoping the Atlanta-to-West Palm Beach flight I am connecting with will be behind schedule as well so I can get to Florida tonight. Otherwise I may well be spending the night in Georgia.

Almost There

I managed to fly over the storm that is bringing the middle Atlantic states to a standstill today. The conditions are rainy and overcast here in Georgia, but nothing like the blizzard hitting D.C. As my plane was landing, we were flying through low cloud cover until the runway appeared just a couple hundred feet below. My flight was delayed leaving Hartford and my connection out of Atlanta is similarly behind schedule (I actually missed the plane to West Palm Beach I was supposed to be on, but Delta went ahead and booked me a seat on the next flight out, thankfully). But it looks like I will make it to Florida tonight. Good think I am not connecting in Charlotte!

February 8, 2010

Northward Bound

My time in the warmth has come to a close; I am about to jump on a plane to Hartford. The way back I am taking a direct flight. But I am not looking forward to the ice and snow.

February 14, 2010

I Am My Own Travel Agent

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Spent some time online tonight, surfing for deals on flights and hotels in Copenhagen, London, Ontario, Vancouver, Seattle, and Ashland, Oregon. The Expedia and Marriott websites have been the backbone of my searches, but I make a point to do some comparison shopping before booking anything. It looks like I've gotten some good deals by paying weeks or months in advance.

February 20, 2010

Closing In On The Canon

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Here is an update on my progress seeing all of Shakespeare's work staged. I am within a few months of completing my quest.

Thank God for the Internet; without the Web, I don't know how I would have tracked down some of the more obscure theatrical offerings I have arranged. For example, a little Shakespearean company in New Jersey is staging the Wars Of The Roses plays (all three parts of Henry VI along with Richard III) in the space of one day in early March, dubbing the experience the "War-A-Thon." Attending this enables me to knock off three hard-to-find Henry VI shows.

Here is what I have seen thus far (not counting anything I saw before the spring of 2008):

1. 4/24/08, Macbeth, Broadway
2. 6/20/08, Hamlet, Shakespeare In The Park, The Public Theater, New York City
3. 6/26/08, King Lear, American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA
4. 6/27/08, Twelfth Night, American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA
5. 6/28/08, Measure For Measure, American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA
6. 7/3/08, All's Well That Ends Well, Shakespeare & Co., Lenox, MA
7. 7/18/08, The Comedy Of Errors, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
8. 7/19/08, Othello, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
9. 7/22/08, Romeo And Juliet, Old Globe Theater, San Diego, CA
10. 8/8/08, The Merry Wives Of Windsor, Shakespeare's Globe, London
11. 8/9/08, The Taming Of The Shrew, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford, U.K.
12. 8/13/08, Much Ado About Nothing, Oxford Castle, Oxford, U.K.
13. 9/9/08, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hartford Stage Company, Hartford, CT
14. 10/3/08, The Tempest, Classic Stage Company, New York City
15. 5/14/09, The Merchant Of Venice, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City
16. 6/13/09, Julius Caesar, Stratford Festival, Stratford, ON, Canada
17. 6/20/09, Henry V, Richmond Shakespeare Festival, Richmond, VA
18. 7/10/09, Pericles, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Garrison, NY
19. 7/19/09, Titus Andronicus, American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA
20. 7/26/09, Two Gentlemen Of Verona, Colonial Theater, Westerly, RI
21. 7/28/09, Antony And Cleopatra, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Center Valley, PA
22. 8/1/09, As You Like It, Shakespeare's Globe, London
23. 8/1/09, The Winter's Tale, The Old Vic, London
24. 8/16/09, Troilus And Cressida, Shakespeare's Globe, London
25. 8/22/09, Henry IV, Part 1, Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
26. 8/26/09, Henry VIII, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
27. 8/28/09, Coriolanus, Old Globe Theater, San Diego, CA
28. 9/27/09, Richard III, Chicago Shakespeare Festival, Chicago
29. 10/28/09, Love's Labour's Lost, Annenberg Center, Philadelphia, PA
30. 12/10/09, King John, Williams College, Williamstown, MA
31. 1/10/10, The Two Noble Kinsmen, Guerrilla Shakespeare Project, New York City
32. 2/13/10, Cymbeline, University of Delaware, Newark, DE

(I have seen some of these plays two or three times in the last two years, but I am only counting the first viewing in tallying the canon.)

And here's what I have on tap in the next few months (I already have booked tickets for each of these shows):

33. 3/7/10, Henry VI, Part 1, Collingswood Shakespeare Company, Collingswood, NJ
34. 3/7/10, Henry VI, Part 2, Collingswood Shakespeare Company, Collingswood, NJ
35. 3/7/10, Henry VI, Part 3, Collingswood Shakespeare Company, Collingswood, NJ
36. 4/3/10, Richard II, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington, DC
37. 4/13/10, Edward III, Richmond Shakespeare Festival, Richmond, VA
38. 6/10/10, Timon Of Athens, Actors' Shakespeare Project, Boston, MA
39. 8/1/10, Henry IV, Part 2, Shakespeare's Globe, London
(Technically I saw Henry IV, Part 2 as part of a combined Henry IV production a Lincoln Center some years back, but I am not counting that as part of this series.)

Fitting, I think, to finish my quest in the recreated Globe Theatre in London!

February 26, 2010

King Of The Road

I am traveling through much of New England through some dodgy weather today. I drove to Suffield, Connecticut, to drop off materials for the boys' "C" squash tourney there before trekking up to Exeter, New Hampshire, to get the "A" event underway. (I actually had to stop for about 20 minutes for a conference call related to my presentation at the TABS Risk Management Conference in Delaware this June.) Now that play is winding down here, I will head out with the Choate team for a late supper before driving to West Springfield, Massachusetts, for a night in a motel. First thing in the morning, I get back on the Mass Pike for the trip to Salisbury, CT--the boys' "B" venue--and then back to Suffield before finally joining the Choate girls in Deerfield just after lunchtime; I'll be there through the end of play Sunday afternoon. Whew!

February 27, 2010

Country Roads

Earlier today, I got to see a part of Connecticut I've never seen before: driving from Salisbury to Suffield through the northwestern part of the state, I left Route 44 (which I do know pretty well) for a pleasant drive through all sorts of towns I've never seen before: New Hartford, Barkhamstead, Salmon Brook, Hungary, and West Suffield. It sure is a nice part of the Nutmeg State.

March 8, 2010

Europe With Just A Backpack

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I am spending the rest of this week in Denmark and England, and I have packed VERY light. Taking only a backpack with me, and that's far from fully stuffed. Just one pair of pants will do for the week, and one pair of sneakers as well. A total of three shirts. One book to read, and one to write in. My MacBook Air. An iPod. A comb, a razor, and a toothbrush. Some vitamins. That's pretty much it.

JFK

Back at Kennedy Airport once more. Had a flawless drive down and left the Explorer in Long-Term Parking and then took the AirTrain to arrive at Terminal 4 with plenty of time to spare (still reliving my nightmare at the end of summer school last year, when I missed my flight to London!). Next stop: Heathrow Airport.

March 9, 2010

An Unusually Pleasant Heathrow Experience

Enjoyed a pleasant flight over the Atlantic. When I checked in at JFK, I moved my seat so that the one next to me was unoccupied (one of the virtues of electronic check-in at the kiosk) and I could stretch out a bit and get some sleep. On Virgin's excellent in-seat on-demand movie player, I watched the first half of Julie And Julia, which was pretty good, though not quite engaging enough to keep me awake.

We landed in London a bit early, I didn't have to walk forever (which one usually does at Heathrow) and the lines at the U.K. Border and the "in transit" security checkpoint were virtually non-existent. Picked up today's copy of The Guardian and a couple of English magazines for the SAS flight to Copenhagen later this morning.

There's Nothing Rotten In The State Of Denmark

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Made it to Copenhagen and everything has gone smoothly thus far. The airport experience was pleasant (the immigrations inspector hardly looked at my U.S. passport before waving me in). The train station just beneath the terminal has frequent trips to the heart of the city, just minutes away. As is the case in other Scandanavian countries, most people here speak flawless English. I have checked into my hotel, conveniently located near the Central Station and the Tivoli Gardens (closed until April, unfortunately) and am now fighting a bit of jet lag.

March 11, 2010

SAS Flights

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I am taking SAS from Copenhagen back to London this afternoon. Had a good flight over here the other day on this carrier. I like the fact that the airline gives free newspapers--The International Herald Tribune among the choices--when you board. I don't like the fact that they charge you even for water and soft drinks served while in flight!

Bye Bye Copenhagen

Heading off to the Copehagen airport for my flight to London. It's been a lovely 24 hours here in Denmark, but it's been cold and I haven't seen the sun since my plane dipped below the clouds on the way in on Tuesday. I can see why Hamlet was in a funk: it must be depressing to live under what seems like a permanently overcast, cloud-filled sky. But there is something to be said for this place. It's friendly, it has lots of culture and character, and it's very connected to the world in all sorts of interesting ways. The Danish people seem quite evolved and socially conscious. And I like the fact that one can live in this city with a high quality of life, get from the central train station to the international airport in fifteen minutes and hop a flight to anywhere on the continent in just a couple of hours.

March 13, 2010

From London To New York Again

I am in Heathrow's Terminal 3, having taken the Tube from my hotel on The Strand right to the airport to catch my morning flight home. It's probably safe to say I have now flown the New York-London axis more than any other air route in my life. And I figure I will do at least two more such round trips before 2010 is through.

White Knuckle Landing

The winds in New York are gusting very heavily today and that made landing a jet airliner a tricky proposition in Kennedy Airport. My Virgin Atlantic flight actually abandoned the first approach due to the winds and the second time around it felt like we were riding a roller coaster as the ground drew nearer. Hard not to feel a pit in the stomach at a time like this. Feeling a tremendous sense of relief once we touched down, the passengers burst into a spontaneous round of applause.

March 14, 2010

An Almost Disastrous Alarm Mishap

Having not gotten a lot of sleep the last two nights, complicated by my body still being on U.K. time, I decided to catch a few hours of sleep between 7 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. before packing my bags and heading to Bradley Airport for my 5:30 departure. I had to plan this carefully because the shift to Daylight Savings Time robbed me of an hour I otherwise could have used for some more shuteye. But I stupidly set the alarm clock for 12:50 p.m. and since it didn't go off, I was lucky to wake up on my own about an hour later, which gave me about 45 minutes to get my act together for a week in Jamaica. Fortunately, I made it to the airport in time, had an easy time checking in, and am about to fly to Philadelphia to catch my connection to Montego Bay.

Airline Seats

Comparing my seats on two segments on USAirways today with my situation on Virgin Atlantic yesterday, I can vouch that airline seating is MUCH better on the American carrier than on the British, where I felt squeezed into my seat for some seven hours.

Hello Montego Bay!

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I had a smooth flight down to Jamaica on a day when many of the 25 or so Choate kids on their way here struggled to get on flights from New York due to the rain and wind conditions there (lots of delayed flights all day). Though the sun is behind cloud cover, the temperature is in the 80s, so the warm weather is already a pleasant change.

Looking forward to some quality time on the tennis courts this week.

March 20, 2010

Saying Goodbye To Rose Hall

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I am packed up and about to check out of the resort. It's been a great week of tennis, with good weather (enough cloud cover and cool breezes to keep it comfortable) and good company. I am hoping the weather back in New England will be better than it was when I left!

Queueing

Seems like I have spent a good chunk of today standing in line. The USAirways check-in line in Montego Bay was preposterously long, followed by a lengthy wait at the security checkpoint. So no time for lunch before catching my flight back to the States.

Then our plane had to sit on the tarmac here in Charlotte until an arrival gate was available. And upon deplaning I ended up on the mother of all lines for the immigration officers--a good hour's wait. Then had to collect my checked bag, clear customs, go through security again, and then hustle to the gate for my (thankfully delayed) connection to Hartford. So no time for dinner either. And the days of in-flight domestic meals are long gone, so it looks like a late meal when I arrive back in Connecticut.

April 10, 2010

A Spring Day In Exeter

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The Choate boys' tennis team is spending much of today in the Granite State. The Wild Boars just dispatched their Phillips Exeter Academy counterparts in a closer-than-expected 4-3 win and is heading over to Hampton Beach for a dip in the North Atlantic and a sampling of the local delicacy: fried dough!

I ran the summer tennis camps here at Phillips Exeter for a half-dozen or so years in the early 1990s, so I guess this campus qualifies as another of my old "stomping grounds." Good to be back in seacoast New Hampshire on a glorious (if windy) spring afternoon.

April 11, 2010

London Calling

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By cashing in some points on my credit card rewards program, I've just nailed down round trip airfare to London in June for about $150 out of pocket. So my itinerary is taking shape quite nicely: I'll fly to Heathrow on a Saturday night, see Macbeth at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on Sunday afternoon, then hop a flight to Rome that evening. In the morning I will fly to Florence, and then take the train back to Rome later in the week in order to jet to Budapest for a few days before returning to England for a visit to the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon (where I will see productions of King Lear and Antony And Cleopatra), the back to London for a tennis coaches conference, followed by the first day of Wimbledon. The night of June 21 I will catch a flight back to New York. All told, it will be nine days spent in Europe during what is probably the best time of the year to be there.

April 2, 2010

Philadelphia Freedom

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Choate has a long weekend break in the middle of each trimester and this spring I will be heading to Philadelphia for a couple of nights for a brief getaway in late April. The National Constitution Center has an exhibition on the influence of neoclassicism (specifically Roman) on the early American Republic. On the way home on Sunday, I will attend another One Day University in New York City.

April 1, 2010

On The Blue Danube

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Nailed down the next phase of my June travel: Budapest. I'll have a few days there in between Italy and England. Never been to Hungary and I am looking forward to this stop.

Firenze

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I am heading to Florence this summer, at least for a couple of days. This will be my third trip to Italy. I will arrive in the Rome airport late on a Sunday night, take a morning flight to Florence, then the train back to Rome later in the week. I'm excited to take in the artistic treasures of this city first hand!

April 3, 2010

The Folger Library

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Our party of five young scholars and one teacher left Wallingford at 6:15 this morning, made good time driving south to DC, picked up another student at Union Station, and then checked out the Folger Shakespeare Library on Capitol Hill. Since we had plenty of time before our 2:00 curtain for Richard II, I wanted to show the kids some of the First Folios (the collection of 79 is the largest in the world) on display in the exhibition hall. We lucked out while there, as we got to watch the resident acting company rehearse the final scene of Hamlet for an upcoming production in the Elizabethan theater in the building.

April 13, 2010

Destination: Richmond

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In an unusual midweek getaway from boarding school life, I am flying down to Richmond, Virginia, tonight to see Edward III performed. My flight back departs at 5:43 tomorrow morning, so I'll be at work in Wallingford mid-morning before my team's trip to Northfield Mt. Hermon.

Edward III is a play only recently considered part of the Shakespeare canon. It's very rarely staged, so this is an unusual chance to catch this work in performance.

Behind Schedule

Nothing I can do about this, but my flights to Richmond have been late all day, due mostly to the rain affecting the schedule in Dulles Airport. We didn't get off the ground in Hartford on time because of the delays in DC (actually we had to sit on the tarmac at the end of the runway for a while with the engines powered down). And my connection to Richmond will be late as well, so making the 7:30 curtain in Richmond is going to be tight.

April 22, 2010

Eyjafjallajokull

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A year ago tonight I was on my way to Iceland for Spring Long Weekend. The volcanic ash that has shut down air travel through much of northern Europe recently is only just now affecting traffic to Iceland's own airports. I guess I'm lucky I made it there in 2009 rather than this year!

April 23, 2010

Car Trouble

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My Ford Explorer wouldn't start this morning the second time I tried to leave the house, apparently with a dead battery. Campus Safety provided a jump start and off I went to run some errands and grab lunch. But the same clicking noise kicked in when I tried to start the vehicle after lunch. So I called AAA and--after a wait of over an hour--was pleasantly surprised to learn I could get my battery replaced on the spot, which would save me a trip to the garage.

May 3, 2010

Back At SPS Again

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Just finished a morning Chapel service at St. Paul's School. (We visiting athletic directors, here for our annual Eight Schools meeting--were introduced to the community by the Rector.) It was very nostalgic for me, as I spent four mornings a week in the Chapel of Saints Peter and Paul in my very first teaching job on this campus in the summer after my junior year in college. (Staggering to me how much time has elapsed since then!) After a long time without a visit to Concord, I've been back at SPS four times in the last eighteen months: once with the Choate debate team, once as part of an evaluation team, once with the girls' varsity squash team, and now for the ESAC meeting.

May 2, 2010

Drive Time Radio (Sort Of)

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On the road today. I drove from Wallingford to South Windsor for some family time, then up Interstate 91 and across Route 9 through New Hampshire to get to Concord for two days of Eight Schools Athletic Council meetings. While behind the wheel, I digested a few songs on my iPod as well as a mix of "real" radio and recorded lectures, podcasts, and audiobooks, including:


  • two lectures on Richard III from The Teaching Company

  • some Tom Lehrer songs being performed on a rebroadcast of "A Prairie Home Companion" on Connecticut Public Radio

  • recent "The Political Scene" podcasts from The New Yorker

  • the last episode in "The Ricky Gervais Show" series

  • "The Thistle and Shamrock"--a weekly Celtic music program--on New Hampshire Public Radio

May 5, 2010

The Power Of The Dark Side

I don't have a TomTom GPS navigation system, but if I did, I might get have get these Star Wars voices just because this promo is so entertaining:

May 18, 2010

Round Trip To London For $200

I cashed in some miles from my credit card and was able to arrange a trip to London and back for a weekend at the end of July. My out-of-pocket cost for airfare--in peak season--was only $200. I have tickets to see four plays in two days, including three Shakespeare histories at the Globe: Henry VIII and both parts of Henry IV.

May 27, 2010

Bummer

U2's North American summer tour has been postponed, probably until 2011. I have four tickets for the floor for the July 17 Montreal show, but looks like that won't be happening now. Too bad.

May 6, 2010

Lodging In Europe

Locked down plans tonight for hotels in London, Rome, Florence, and Budapest for my June travels. So nice to be able to work as my own travel agent via the Internet.

June 12, 2010

Minimalist Approach To Luggage

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Ready to head off to Kennedy Airport for nine days in Europe. The more I travel, the more I am convinced I can make do with less stuff to carry around with me. So I am limiting myself to one backpack (my trusty HEAD-issued one) to hold most of my gear as well as a small shoulder bag I can use during the day.

Here is the gist of what I expect to get me through just over a week on the road: four T-shirts, two shorts, one pair of sneakers, four pair of socks, a track suit jacket in case it gets cool, a razor, a toothbrush, a comb, vitamins, a book I intend to finish, a universal plug converter, digital camera, iPad and its USB cord, MacBook Air and its power cord, a travel pouch with my passport and travel documents and Macbeth ticket, Bose nose-canceling headphones, EarThumps, iPhone, iPod Touch, and a few magazines. That's actually traveling light--though I admit I may be overdoing it on the tech front, with no fewer than four WiFi devices in tow! Probably should be able to ditch the laptop and iPod Touch, but whatever.

Seamless Start To My Trip

When I flew to London at the end of summer school in 2009, it started disastrously. I had to rush to finish reports and other chores before leaving and left packing until the last minute. Normally not a problem, but thunderstorms shut down the electricity, which slowed me down considerably and got me off to a late start. Road and traffic conditions were abysmal in light of the weather and I ended up getting to JFK fifteen minutes before my plane was scheduled to leave. I had to pay through the nose for a later flight.

This time around, I was packed early, left campus early, enjoyed smooth sailing on the drive down, checked in and cleared security quickly, and everything is peachy!

June 13, 2010

When In Rome . . .

. . . go to bed. My flight just landed at Leonardo da Vinci Airport and I am exhausted. Fortunately, I only had to walk to the Hilton adjacent to the terminal. In the morning I head to Florence.

June 14, 2010

Tuscan Adventure

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I have arrived in Firenze, the home of the Italian Renaissance. After a bit of urban bushwhacking to find the place, I have settled into my hotel and discovered that the "free wireless Internet" advertised here is exactly an hour's worth after there are charges (!) and that the connection speed of the hotel WiFi is so slow it has me yearning for the good ol' days of dial-up!

Heading out to explore the city a bit this afternoon.

June 15, 2010

Art Appreciation

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Got an early start and spent much of the day hitting the museums in town. Not a bad way to spend part of a vacation: checking out works by the likes of da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Rafael, and Caravaggio.

The sculpture of David is most closely identified with the city, of course. What strikes one when first seeing it is the size of the work. I guess one assume's it will be life-sized, but it is considerably larger than that! (And I'm hardly an art critic, but the hands did seem a little too big.)

Choaties Everywhere

Good to know the chances of meeting up with someone connected to Choate are pretty high no matter where one goes in the world. Had an enjoyable dinner near the Duomo tonight with one of my former advisees from the Class of 2009, a runner and tennis player. He is here for six weeks studying Italian.

June 16, 2010

Return To Rome

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I took the high-speed rail from Florence back to Rome this morning, cruising through the rolling hills and expansive green landscapes of Tuscany. As soon as we pulled into Termini, I could feel the pulse of this city. There's an energy to Rome that's much more intense than a place like Florence can offer. This is a capital city, a center of politics and commerce and media. There's an almost palpable buzz one can feel in the air, not unlike what you experience when you arrive in the middle of New York City.

Layover In Germany

So nice to fly Lufthansa, the German carrier, because they actually feed you and offer you a choice of drinks without the stupid nickle-and-dime approach the U.S. airlines have adopted in recent years.

I have a connection to Budapest to catch shortly. Fortunately, it was just a few gates away from where I deplaned from my flight from Rome.

Land Of The Magyars

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I arrived in Hungary and have settled into the Ramada Plaza, which overlooks the Danube River. Happy to report there is excellent WiFi service here! Tomorrow I explore Budapest.

June 17, 2010

The Paris Of The East

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Spent most of the day exploring Budapest. The city is beautiful, with wide avenues and some striking architecture. It bestrides the Danube River and has an efficient and cheap public transportation system (I used a combination of subway trains and trams to get around). It feels a lot like Prague in some ways.

June 18, 2010

"O Ye Spires Of Oxford!"

That's a snippet of Wordsworth.

I am spending tonight and tomorrow night in Oxford, a short jaunt from both Heathrow (where I arrived today and will have to return my rental car first thing Sunday morning) and Stratford-upon-Avon (where I will spend most of tomorrow seeing two plays at the RSC).

Terminal 5

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Because I took a British Airways flight back to London from Budapest this afternoon, I finally got to experience Terminal 5, which opened in 2008. This terminal is everything the rest of Heathrow Airport is not: beautiful, airy, efficient.

June 24, 2010

Wallingford To Wilmington

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Boarding Amtrak right here in Wallingford this morning, just a mile from campus. The rail journey this morning will get me to Delaware, where I am delivering a presentation at a conference tomorrow. Pretty convenient to avoid even the short drive to New Haven to catch this train.

June 25, 2010

Conference Presentation

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I just finished my athletics-themed presentation at the Risk Management conference sponsored by TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools), and it seemed to be well received. I'll take a 1:34 train from Wilmington and be back on the Choate campus for the opening dinner for the summer session faculty at 6:00.

June 26, 2010

Summer Travel

I updated my travel map page with summer 2010 trips:

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Since this is a pretty small map, you might want to check out the page with maps of all my treks since 1995.

July 10, 2010

Blackfriars Bound

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Next weekend was supposed to be a Montreal getaway, centered around a U2 concert Saturday night. But since the tour is postponed until 2011, I canceled my plans to head north and today I decided to go south instead, specifically to Staunton, Virginia, where I will see two plays at the American Shakespeare Center: The Taming Of The Shrew and Othello. Booked both theater and Amtrak tickets this morning.

July 13, 2010

New Dates

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Just got word today that my tickets for the U2 show in Montreal have been pushed back twelve months to July 9, 2011. So I can start making plans for a trip to Canada midsummer next year.

July 30, 2010

Crossing The Atlantic Once More

About to head to Kennedy Airport for a flight to London: my fourth trip to Europe in 2010. The airfare is more or less free, as I cashed in mileage points so I could catch three Shakespeare history plays at the reconstructed Globe Theatre. This will be a bit of a whirlwind tour, as I'll be back stateside Monday morning.

July 31, 2010

In The Shadow Of St. Paul's Dome

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I am staying in the City of London proper for the first time since I started frequenting the British capital in 1994. Most of the places Americans think of as "London"--Piccadilly Circus, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace--are, in fact, located in the City of Westminster. "Greater London" refers to the entire metropolis. But "the City" is the medieval core of the place, defined by just over a square mile on the north side of the Thames. It's pretty much the financial district for modern London.

The most visible landmark in the City is St. Paul's Cathedral, and from my hotel window I can see the front towers and the Dome of the imposing edifice less than a block away. I am also a 10-12 minute walk across the Thames--via theMillennium Bridge--from Shakespeare's Globe, the theater where I will be spending about 9 hours of my stay here this weekend.

July 17, 2010

Midnight Train To D.C.

After settling in the Mem House boys, I took a 12:45 a.m. Amtrak train from New Haven's Union Station and arrived in the nation's capital about 7:00 this morning. I got a fair amount of sleep along the way. I now have a rental car and will take my time driving over to the Shenandoah Valley. I'll probably find a place for a short nap along the way!

July 18, 2010

Washington By Night

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Driving through the streets of D.C. in the wee hours is starkly different than the capital by daylight. There is little traffic (thankfully!) and the illuminated dome of the U.S. Capitol looms over the city in a magical way.

I am taking the 3:15 a.m. Amtrak back to New Haven this morning. Hopefully that journey will entail mostly sleep! I'll catch about 90 minutes shuteye in my own bed before driving to western Massachusetts for a third Shakespeare performance in two days.

The Village Beautiful

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Back in Williamstown, home to my alma mater, for a few hours tonight. Had an enjoyable dinner with the Confortis followed by a visit to the Clark Art Institute's new (to me, anyway) addition, the Stone Hill Center, which provides spectacular views in the gloaming.

August 6, 2010

Ready For YYZ

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Last week I bought the DVD of the Rush documentary, Beyond The Lighted Stage and enjoyed it. Now that I have familiarized myself with the history of the city's best-known musical product. I am ready to head to Toronto.

BDL's Terminal B Offline

I had missed the news that Terminal B at Bradley Airport was being mothballed. All airlines leave from the expanded and much more modern Terminal A now and Terminal B (which I never cared for all that much) is slated for demolition.

The True North Strong And Free

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The flight from Bradley to Toronto took nearly two hours because we were on board a turbo prop propeller plane rather than a jet, but it left plenty of time to read and watch some video on the iPad. I have just rented a car and will spend the night in Guelph, about halfway between the airport and my weekend destination of Stratford.

August 10, 2010

Transcontinental Train Trek

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Off I go! Vancouver or bust.

August 11, 2010

Can The Senate Be Fixed?

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Being on a train for four nights is giving me a great opportunity to unwind and catch up on my reading. George Packer's article about the "broken" Senate in last week's issue of The New Yorker is a fascinating read: a "don't miss" piece for anyone interested in American politics and government. I'll have to find a way to work this into my American Political Institutions course this fall.

August 12, 2010

On The Canadian Prairie

Had the chance to get off the train and wander around Winnipeg for a few hours. Good to stretch a bit, but not much to see here, frankly! The station's WiFi did give me the chance to get caught up on the news of the world, however.

A Close Call

Just as we were about to pull out of Winnipeg, I realized I had left my Kindle back in the station's waiting room and I panicked, realizing the likelihood of me getting back to the station and locating the device before the train departed was slim. Fortunately, when I (in a frenzied state) asked the porter, she assured me someone had found it, brought it aboard the train, and she would deliver it to me in a few minutes. Whew!

A Day Hurtling Through The Prairie

We are in Saskatchewan now. Meals have been very good aboard The Canadian. I have shared a table in the dining car with folks from Germany, Austria, England, Newfoundland, Ontario, Alberta, Chicago, and Washington, DC thus far in the trip. An interesting mix of people!

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Meanwhile back in my cabin, I've been watching Rubicon, the new series airing on AMC. Saw the first two installments on iTunes and it looks promising, though it's a bit slow so far.

August 13, 2010

Long Days

I am picking up an extra hour in the day on each of the last three nights on the train due to the gradual movement from Eastern to Pacific Time Zones. This has added to the leisurely feel of taking the train across the continent.

Rocky Mountain High

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In the last hour or so of westward travel, it became clear we had left the prairie and arrived in the Rocky Mountains! We have a short stop in Jasper, a charming mountain town just east of the British Columbia border. Scenery around here is spectacular!

August 14, 2010

Arriving In Vancouver

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The train pulled into Vancouver this morning right on schedule. After an hour's leisurely amble through the city from the train station to my hotel, I am settled into a room on high floor (thanks for the upgrade!) with great views of the city and the water.

August 15, 2010

A Sunny Day In Vancouver

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Spent a glorious summer's day walking around much of the city of Vancouver. The sheer physical beauty of the place is stunning. Like Sydney, Cape Town, and San Francisco, there are spectacular vistas over the water and they are often framed--as in the latter two cities--against a backdrop of impressive mountains. Moreover the people here are friendly, the politics progressive, and the scope of the place very manageable.

Not So Sleepless In Seattle

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Back in the States after nine days in "America's hat" (a.k.a. Canada). My 5:45 train from Vancouver to Seattle was converted into a bus trip--at least for the first part of it, as there was a drawbridge out just north of the border. So about 180 of us traveled by bus to the border station, where we were processed by the Homeland Security folks, and then to the Amtrak station in Bellingham, Washington, which is a beautiful little town from whence the ferries to Alaska depart. The Cascades is a terrific train, with tremendous views of the coastline and a pretty cool dining car (check out the ceiling mural--a map with illuminated lights).

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Additional delays on the train meant that we arrived in Seattle about 75 minutes behind schedule. No worries, as the station was just a few blocks walk to my hotel in the Pioneer Square district. Feeling fairly exhausted from a day touring Vancouver, I am ready to hit the sack.

August 16, 2010

Urban Hiking In Seattle

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For the second day in a row, I toured a city mostly on foot. (An especially good workout today, since Seattle is far hillier than Vancouver.) I did some touristy things, such as going to the Space Needle's observation deck--it was a cloudless day, so the views were very nice. This is another great town.

August 17, 2010

Light Rail

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I am becoming a fan of light rail. I used the new system built for the Winter Olympics while in Vancouver over the weekend and I took SoundTransit from my hotel to the Seattle airport this morning. It's cheap, reliable, and efficient transportation. The trains share an underground tunnel with Seattle buses downtown and then work their way through the southern parts of the