Thirteen steps to Europe

Up the stairs we went, settling in for our adventures.

This week, it was Romania from Transylvania to the Black Sea, followed by Zermatt in the Swiss Alps to Lake Geneva. Before that, we took the finest trains from Sofia to Istanbul, Vienna to Trieste, Pisa to Lake Garda, Athens to Thessaloniki, the Black Forest to Hannover and Barcelona to Mallorca. 

Not for real, of course — although Barcelona, Switzerland and Germany are on our wish list for … someday — but the room I once pretended was a portal to sporting events is now our passport to some of Europe’s greatest sites.

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We hardly ever get the ‘full story’

If you ask the average American what they know about South Africa, I’m going to guess the answer will probably be apartheid and Nelson Mandela.

Maybe you’ll get some people who remember then men’s soccer World Cup in 2010, or even those who — especially if the saw the movie “Invictus” or read “Playing the Enemy,” the book upon which it was based (I’ve done both) — are aware of the country’s famed Springboks national rugby team.

But apartheid and Nelson Mandela is probably what you’re going to get, mostly because that’s what we’ve heard about South Africa.

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Birthday candles, toilet paper and the next ‘0’

I’m not entirely sure what Suzi and I will do for her birthday at the end of this month.

Normally, we’d go to one of the restaurants where we eat for special occasions, but this year, we’ll probably just order take-out and eat at home.

But one thing I do know is that, whether dessert is cake or cupcakes like we did last year, we’ll have a “9” candle for the second number of her age, since she bought one the other day.

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Optimism is good … but I’m not optimistic

This week, I’m talking about an auction that expressed a great deal of optimism, and how I’m not very optimistic at all, even though I know I should be.

(Even if you don’t like the politics behind this piece, the paragraph about bracing yourself for a fall is still good advice.)

Here are all the places you can listen.

Spotify

Apple Podcasts

Anchor

RadioPublic

Pocket Casts

Google Podcasts

Breaker

Little things that mean a lot when traveling

I once had pancakes in the Shannon Airport.

They weren’t diner-quality, nor what Suzi makes on our griddle at home — even though she doesn’t think hers are very good — but they were perfectly fine.

And since that an early morning flight from Ireland to Boston and the time-zone change it entailed were probably going to wreak havoc on my eating schedule, I can appreciate that they were more filling than whatever I would have otherwise picked up at the coffee shop.

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The week gone by — July 5

Portsmouth and Kittery … Kittery and Portsmouth.

The border between Maine and New Hampshire separates them, but they’re so intertwined that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is actually in Kittery.

They’re just a couple hours away, and for years, they have been a regular trip, usually on one of the first weekends that remind us that, even in New England, winter doesn’t last forever.

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Anything is possible, until it isn’t

First the was the flight — overnight, over water, over-tired me at the end because I didn’t sleep.

Then there was the train from the airport to the hotel, keeping an eye on our luggage so it didn’t roll away.

Then, before everything else, there was this view out the hotel room window.

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Updates from everywhere

The Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh wants us to know that the well-being of their guests and teams is their “absolute priority.”

The hotel will “adhere to the strictest possible terms of all advice issues by (the World Health Organization), as well as the protocols advised by local and international authorities.”

Furthermore, any employee returning from a country affected by COVID-19, or has been in close proximity with someone from one of those areas, has been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

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Getting out of the ‘vacation monastery’

Because we’re considering going to Switzerland this year, I’m going to take an interest in articles about traveling to the country.

In particular, one section of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s “This Is How You Live on Swiss Time” got my attention, even if the story was a few years old by the time I saw it.

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