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On our flight to Cairo, we somehow ended up with an eleven-hour layover in Paris. Bummer! What will we do with ourselves? Well, we hire a driver and guide for a whirlwind tour of Paris, of course!

I contacted www.mydailydriver.fr and gave them our desired itinerary. They took care of the rest and did a bang-up job. The driver wasn’t fluent in English but super nice. Then once we were connected with our guide, we were able to communicate perfectly and she knew her stuff.

Paris has a few icons that every tourist must see. We chose to avoid the most tourist-trappy, i.e., the Eifel Tower. We did do a drive-by long enough to get a couple of pics from the car. Honestly, it was bigger than I expected. Very impressive for the period in which it was designed.

The four places on my list I really wanted to hit were:

1.  Sainte-Chapelle – because of the stained-glass windows.

2.  Notre Dame – because of the history and the fire.

3.  The Catacombs – because I love that sort of macabre setting.

4.  The Louvre – for everything NOT the Mona Lisa.

We met our guide at a café, because of course!

Food is always an important part of our adventures; we like to go on Food Safaris and try everything. Of course, the croissants in France are the best. But coffee is also important, and we like to sample the local brews. I like an espresso once in a while, but will normally order a ‘long’, so it’s more like American coffee. And I never put anything in my coffee: coffee should taste like coffee. The coffee at the little café was divine, almost chocolaty in creaminess.

St Chapelle was magnificent. I have a thing for churches simply because of the architecture and the beautiful art. I am not religious in the slightest, but I really love a good cathedral. This gothic style chapel is almost 800 years old and was consecrated on my birthday in 1248. I found it amazing that most of the windows have survived through wars, revolutions, storms, and vandalism. The space inside is not large, but the colors are breath-taking.

Notre Dame was closed, but we made a visit just to see it. I can be honest and admit that I cried when it burned. I watched the coverage of the fire for hours and cried over the lost history and beautiful art. It was a cultural tragedy for the entire world, not just France. Someday I will go back and see the completed rebuild.

We skipped the catacombs on the recommendation of our guide, because guides are not allowed to work inside the catacombs. She also warned us that once you get past the first chambers it’s just dirty smelly tunnels. I was a bit disappointed but found other ways to entertain ourselves.

The Louvre was amazing, of course. Our guide company had special passes for us, so we skipped right past the line. I was not interested in the Mona Lisa. It’s nice picture, but not that special. The Louvre is massive and many much more interesting items. One of my favorites was the ‘Winged Victory’. It is placed at the top of a wide sweeping staircase and is simply awe-inspiring.

I took a ton of pictures in the Louvre.

One of my very favorite paintings is located here. When I was a child of five or six, I remember my parents having a book with this painting in it. It is one of the first images I remember emotionally affecting me. I would seek out that page and stare at it. The tragedy and hope and pain and loss embodied in the piece hit me then and still resonate with me now. It is one of the great moments of my life to be able to stand directly in front of this magnificent painting and feel those same emotions.  

Paris deserved a longer stay, but I am glad we did the whirlwind tour. It was worth it and I highly recommend www.mydailydriver.fr if you have the time.

In our travels, my wife and I avoid tourist traps. We like foreigners and travel to meet them on their home turf, not to hang with other tourists. We seek to experience foreign parts with the locals. However, our vacation to Paris and Egypt was absolutely focused on tourist traps: the Eifel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Luxor temples, Valley of the Kings, Giza Pyramids, and the Egyptian Museum. There was no avoiding tourists.

Yet, we were helped by the fact that our visit was at the end of summer before the busy season, so most sites were at less than medium capacity allowing us to enjoy them in relative peace. We also had a private tour guide for most of the trip. We shared a guide with another couple for our cruise down the Nile, which included the Luxor temples, Edfu (my favorite), the Valley of the Kings, and the Temple of Isis at Aswan.

Ready for Adventure

Our days began at 7 or 8am to avoid the heat and crowds, allowing us to really experience the temples intimately without the crowds.

As the day progressed we had to contend with larger and larger groups of tourists. Busloads of people would be following a single guide around the temples. It turned into a cacophony of different languages. I can’t imagine they received much information from their guide. It didn’t look like a good time. We were usually done and back on the boat by early afternoon.

Our guides from Memphis Tours (https://www.memphistours.com) did a knock-up job, they were more than knowledgeable; actual Egyptologists. Not some random guy with a notebook.

The heat of Egypt was brutal and this Minnesota boy did some serious melting. My best suggestion to survive Egypt is to purchase a good quality Egyptian cotton scarf (not the $10 scarves sold by random vendors) and learn to make a turban. Once I was properly equipped, the trip was much more enjoyable. I sport a bald head and my dome was thoroughly baked after the first day. The turban was a life-saver.

We found the Egyptian people to be super friendly and helpful – for a tip. Tourism is really the only economy in Egypt and much of the local market is driven by tips. Don’t be stingy, but don’t be taken too easily. There is a fine line between being generous and being a sucker. I was caught as a sucker a few times, I know.

This trip was in the planning stages for almost four years; meant to be  Sheri’s fiftieth birthday trip. She wanted to scuba dive in the Red Sea. I learned to swim and then got my scuba certification for this adventure. We were set to go in the fall of 2020, but then disaster, pandemic, and general idiocy ensued ruining our plans.

As the date of our trip approached – again – I kept expecting something to happen; another outbreak of stupid, or an asteroid, or pilot strike… something. But nothing happened and we finally found ourselves on a plane to Paris and then Cairo! Crazy!

Three years of anticipation were finally coming to fruition and man was it worth it. I have 3000 pictures to sort through and memories to last a lifetime. Which is exactly why we travel.

The world is a really big place and we can never truly understand that if we never explore it. I love home and my boring middle-class American life, but I can never truly appreciate it until I experience other places. Only then can I recognize how fortunate I am to live where I do and how completely spoiled we are here. Never take where or how you live for granted, we are all only a stroke of luck away from living in a hovel or sleeping on the ground.

Enjoy life and see the world!!

More to come…

I am over the craft beer craze. I mean seriously OVER IT!

I want to go into a restaurant and order a beer I’ve had before and have it taste the same as it always has. I am tired of needing to do a sampler to find a beer I think I can stomach for this one time. Because I may never see it again and will never ever ever order it again.

My wife and I have started to look at beer lists online before going to a restaurant. The food alone will no longer get us in the door. If they don’t have a beer we recognize, we will not be patronizing that establishment. We like beer. We don’t drink often, but when we go out, there will usually be a couple of beers with dinner or after. But if the restaurant doesn’t have a beer I want, the food loses its appeal. I no longer care how good their BBQ is.

I also don’t understand IPAs. ‘Bitter beer face’ was not a sought-after experience when I grew up. Now I find that there are people that believe that bitter is better. I don’t get it at all. This is fine; they can keep those beers and all the other witches’ brew concoctions that people are labeling as ‘beer’.

Such as these potions that I call ‘gag-beers’, like Habanero Stout or Peanut Butter and Jelly Ale, or even breakfast cereal beer with marshmallows. Those are beers you buy just for the novelty. You will never drink them more than once. But hey, you can now brag that you drank an entire can of HellFire IPA and kept it down. You are that kind of ‘man’! (Yes the quotes are needed.)

Sigh…

After all the forced exploration of the craft beer fad, I have realized that all I really want is a tall Guinness or a Stella or even a good old Miller Lite. I no longer care what your cousin is brewing in his basement. Please stop forcing us to drink it.

Thank you!

Ellis Island should be a required pilgrimage for anyone with immigrant ancestors. Or really anyone that wants to truly understand what makes America America.

We are ‘the’ melting pot, a stew of every race and language and religion and superstition on Earth. Whether we know it or are willing to admit it, our culture and beliefs are a patchwork of every immigrant family that has made their way here.

My own immigrant story is not recent. My Irish ancestors came to America around 1670. So, I haven’t been Irish in 300 years but still identify as being of Irish descent. I think that deserves some discussion.

How long before your family is ‘American’? If you’re white and American-English speaking, it can be almost instantaneous. But if you happen to be non-white or non-European or have a second language, you can assume that it will never happen. You will always be hyphenated-American.

Some Chinese-American families have been here for generations – since before the Civil War – and still speak Chinese but are not considered American by many of their more recently immigrated fellow Americans.

I don’t know if I have any ancestors that came through Ellis Island. Still, I felt the impact of the immigrant experience all the same. The pain, suffering, and desperation that traveled through that place is both tragic and heartening. I believe it is that suffering that created the fortitude that immigrants contributed to our country’s fabric. People came here with nothing but hope, leaving behind family, friends, and everything they had ever known. They did this knowing that it would be forever. Many had nothing waiting for them here, nothing but the pie-in-the-sky hope that was and is America.

Today America is still that pie-in-the-sky hope for many people. But we seem to have forgotten the humble origins that made us. My ancestors were German and Irish immigrants that came here for a better future. I don’t feel that I or anyone has the right to deny someone else the ability to pursue the same hope that our grandparents and great-grandparents were given. Were they any more desirable than a poor family from south of the border? I don’t believe that your country of origin determines your moral fabric or the strength of your character.  

Cages for the undesirables.

Our visit to Ellis Island distilled the immigrant experience down to its essence. It was clear that immigrating is not a holiday or a vacation visit. It’s never short-term. There is no trial basis that can be reversed if it doesn’t work out. It is forever for most. Immigrants almost never go back to visit the old village or those long-lost cousins. The families and friends and homes left behind were gone forever, never to be seen again.

One of the most tragic things we learned was that some families were separated upon reaching America. People were not allowed in willie-nillie. They were inspected for diseases, sometimes even political affiliation. If grandma was suspected of being sickly, she was sent back to their port of origin, often never to be heard from again. Those are the tragic stories that we don’t hear about. But those are the experiences that made America.

“Whatever happened to great-grandma?”

“No one knows…”

Liberty from Ellis Island

New York City is dirty and eternally under construction. But I loved it.

We stayed in Manhattan, in the Lower East Side close to the Bowery. It was everything you imagine NYC could be. It was smelly and loud and the melting pot chaos that is America. It also had its unfortunate ugliness and tragedy, but that is part of the package – always has been.

We saw a lot of homelessness and some of it was extreme. One poor soul was sleeping or passed out on the sidewalk with no shoes and his bare ass hanging out with his pants at his knees. People were just walking by like it was nothing. He might as well have been a potted plant. But then, what are we to do? What is the correct response to that? I’m not sure. And therefore we didn’t do anything.

There were also several obviously stoned individuals wandering the streets. Most of the time I find them to be comical. Yes, it is sad and tragic that they got themselves into that situation, but looking in from the outside, it is funny. I think most of us have been that drunk at least once in our lives. When it becomes a daily occurrence, someone should step in and get them some help. That is the part society seems to have forgotten. 

One thing that non-New Yorkers seem to consider a settled fact is that the subways and buses of New York are piss-covered and stinky. Most people think the same about any subway and city bus system. However, I have found the public transportation system clean and pleasant in every city I’ve been in. I like Chicago’s system the best, but New York’s was very nice if a bit more confusing. My wife and I never drive when we go to a city with a subway and bus system. That way we never have to worry about where to park or traffic or any other BS. We fly in, get on the train, and hit the town. We are downtown long before we could have driven there.

I’ve also never felt unsafe in a public transportation system. Not once. Big cities are big, but not necessarily the untamed wilds that they are portrayed to be. There is just a lot of people in a small area. But they are still just people.

So, all you Timid-Tina’s and fainting lambs out there that want to see the big city but are terrified of taking subways or buses should calm down and get on. It’s gonna be fun! Life is supposed to be an adventure, right?

Some of the wildlife of NYC

While writing my previous post, I wanted to remember the little café we had stopped at on our first day in upstate New York.

What was the name of that place? Oh, I can find it on google maps. I’m good at maps.

I assumed I would be tracing our route on a map and locating the café that way. But once I got to the Maps page, I remembered Google Timeline. I had used the app before but had forgotten about it.  It was hidden in the drop-down options menu.

There was more than a decade of my travel history displayed on the world map. It showed my travels from 2009 onward. Almost every place I had been was there. All the restaurants, stores, places I’d worked and just driven by! I spent an hour reliving my trips and recalling wonderful places I had forgotten about.

It wasn’t until later that the creepiness started to hit me. Who else was seeing this? Could someone hack into my Google Timeline page and know where I had been, when, and for how long? And, if so, what could they do with that information?

It was at this point that my writer-imagination clicked on.

What could be done with this information? Hmmm…

– A killer could predict my daily route to work and set up an ambush or an ‘accident’.

– Someone could research my travel itinerary and pose as someone I might have met on the trip as a means of getting closer to me.

– A door-to-door salesman could predict when I would be home and available!

– An employer could check to see what I was really doing on the day I called in sick.

– A sexy foreign spy would know what coffee shop I go to alone on Saturdays and make sure to be there sitting next to me. (All foreign lady-spies are sexy by default. Foreignness plus spyiness equals sexy – period.)

I am not one to see hidden conspiracies in every shadow, nor do I have a knee-jerk distrust of new technology or BigTech. So, I actually don’t mind being tracked or filmed or recorded or whatever my Alexa is doing. But then, I am also not involved in any illegal or seditious activities. So track away. I’ve got nothing to hide.

In truth, I have an appreciation for Google Timeline. Rather than just having a file of pictures from my trips that will require me to remember where they were taken and who is in the view, I now have mapped moment-to-moment tracking of the route we took. In addition, my pictures have embedded date and time data that I can then match to the map. So, if I wanted to, I could create a minute-by-minute itinerary of my trip with pictures of that moment. How’s that for a vacation slide show?

 Google maps tracks me every day, and I am very cool with that. I find it both extremely handy and kind of creepy. However, unless I become a target for spies or start thinking about trading in contraband, my life is much too dull for this detailed information to be useful to anyone.  

“How odd… I stopped at the guitar store on the way home. And now look, Marge, here is an ad for a deal on strings at Amazon. How do those online algorithms know so much?!”

Hmmm…

For vacation 2021, we went to New York: four days in the Syracuse/Finger Lakes region and three days in NEW YORK CITY!! I’ve never been to NY other than passing through Kennedy airport, so I was excited for new adventures. I consider NYC to be one of the things every American should do once, like seeing the Grand Canyon. It can put things into perspective for you.

I am very much a Midwestern guy, and the coasts are relatively unexplored by me. Sheri, my lovely wife, and manager has relatives in the Syracuse area and has been to NYC a few times. She was to be my guide.

I’ve seen enough travel television and movies to have a few expectations of New York City. Upstate New York, on the other hand, was a blank. I had no expectations at all. I spent most of my youth in Northern Minnesota, and found the Finger Lakes area to be very similar. It felt rural but with a big city tourist patina that prevented it from being hick.

The one thing about Upstate that I knew about and was very much looking forward to was Poutine! Poutine is a Canadian dish that I have wanted to try for years. I finally got it, and it was AMAZING! A Poutine is usually french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds. I had mine as a breakfast on fried potatoes with brisket and fried egg. It was divine. I highly recommend it. The savory gravy brought it all together, and the cheese curds provided an occasional surprise gush of flavor.

We stayed in Brewerton, NY, and stopped at the aptly named Brewer Union Cafe  (https://brewerunioncafe.com) on our first morning. Breakfast is our favorite meal, so we always go big while on vacation. The staff was friendly and attentive and whoever they have mixing it up in back knows what they’re doing.

For vacation 2021, we went to New York: four days in the Syracuse/Finger Lakes region and three days in NEW YORK CITY!! I’ve never been to NY other than passing through Kennedy airport, so I was excited for new adventures. I consider NYC to be one of the things every American should do once, like seeing the Grand Canyon. It can put things into perspective for you.

I am very much a Midwestern guy, and the coasts are relatively unexplored by me. Sheri, my lovely wife, and manager has relatives in the Syracuse area and has been to NYC a few times. She was to be my guide.

I’ve seen enough travel television and movies to have a few expectations of New York City. Upstate New York, on the other hand, was a blank. I had no expectations at all. I spent most of my youth in Nothern Minnesota, and found the Finger Lakes area to be very similar. It felt rural but with a big city tourist patina that prevented it from being hick.

The one thing about Upstate that I knew about and was very much looking forward to was Poutine! Poutine is a Canadian dish that I have wanted to try for years. I finally got it, and it was AMAZING! A Poutine is usually french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds. I had mine as a breakfast on fried potatoes with brisket and fried egg. It was divine. I highly recommend it. The savory gravy brought it all together, and the cheese curds provided an occasional surprise gush of flavor.

We stayed in Brewerton, NY, and stopped at the aptly named Brewer Union Café  on our first morning. Breakfast is our favorite meal, so we always go big while on vacation. The staff was friendly and attentive and whoever they have mixing it up in back knows what they’re doing.

Poutine Breakfast!!

Our new house is not far from the local airport allowing me to watch planes take off and land. I happen to love traveling and flying in particular. Flying is freedom in my mind. So, seeing these flights taking off for points unknown makes me smile. Someone is getting out and seeing the world and that is a great thing. I wave at them sometimes to be funny. I’m so jealous.

Flight to Somewhere – cooler than here.


Today I am sitting in my backyard on a beautiful sunny day and dreaming of travel as the planes claw their way into the sky. They are both an inspiration and a taunt. There is a world out there to experience, but I have to wait to board and explore. I’ve been waiting since last year. It’s time.


Our next trip is to New York City in August, only 37 days away! I’ve never been to NYC and I’m very excited. We’ve planned a sailing tour of the bay, a visit to Ellis Island and, of course, Times Square. Those are the big ones. We tried to get tickets to a Broadway show, but like they say in NY ‘fuggedaboutit’, ain’t gonna happen. Which is fine, there are a million other things to do there. Like deli’s, food trucks and one hundred thousand coffee shops. I’m excited!


We will be spending the last days of the trip in Syracuse, sitting on a lake and relaxing. I am actually looking forward to that more than the tourist thing. Give me a chair, a beverage, and a book, and I’m good for a few days. Can’t wait.
In the meantime, there goes another one.

Wave, everyone! Have a nice trip! See ya! Bring on August so I can get to the airport on time!

I took this photo on a trip to Austria years ago and it’s always been one of my favorites. Just a loyal dog waiting patiently for his owner.

What a great dog!

This would never be my dog. My dog would have run away or followed me into the store or taken off into the store without me. Anything but what a good dog would do, such as this very good dog is demonstrating.

I don’t have a dog, but if I did, he would be an asshole. That’s just the kind of dog parent I am.

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