Stay Home if You Are an Ugly American

Posted on December 9, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Bill at Cinque Terre

Hiking in the Cinque Terre

As we travel around we find many fellow travelers who are friendly and enjoying their trips as much as we do.  We also occasionally come upon what we term the Ugly American who makes us ashamed to come from the same place.

I think you are an Ugly American traveler if:

1.   You expect to be able to have everything just as you like it at home.  (“We insist on American-style coffee, not this espresso-stuff they drink here.”)  If you even try unusual local food/drink you expect it to be unpalatable, or something that will make you sick.

2.  You get angry that there are other people trying to travel too.  You are surprised and irritated when you have to wait in line, share a table, or tolerate a crowd at an important attraction.

3.  You look at people’s customs, dress, and language with disdain.   You see nothing but inferiority everywhere you look.

4.  You expect everything to go perfectly smoothly.  When the inevitable disruption to your plans happens, you wallow in self-pity instead of finding a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

5.  You are frightful of local people, expecting them to rob you when they have the first chance.

6.  You are actually happy when you see McDonald’s, Starbucks, and the like in foreign countries.

When we run across Ugly Americans we try to slink away.  They want co-conspirators, though, so there have been times we’ve tried to show them the bright side.  Aren’t the differences in culture they are experiencing interesting?  Haven’t locals been friendly and helpful considering how many tourists traipse through their area every season?  Isn’t it amazing to see such wonderful, world-famous art/mountains/historical sites?

Trust me, there is no arguing Ugly Americans out of their mindset.  Next time I might just say, “You should stay home.”  That is the truth.  If you can’t enjoy the differences between your destination and your home, then you should stay there, at home.  If the food, drink, accommodation, weather, sights, people and transportation are irritating to you, why have you come at all?!  You are not enjoying it and your fellow travelers are ashamed of you.

Travel - Atop the Duomo

Atop the Duomo in Florence

Travel - Chestnut seller

Chestnut seller in Florence

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Marie Antoinette’s Play Village

Posted on November 10, 2013. Filed under: France, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Marie Antionette

Marie Antoinette had a small village built on the grounds of the palace at Versailles in 1783 where she could enjoy the “charms of country life” as explained by the Versailles website.  This small village allowed her to escape the pressures of court life as she could pretend to be an average maiden in the country.  I wonder if it fueled the hatred for her by the common people who came to see the royals not as benevolent leaders, but as rulers who exploited them and indulged in decadence.

I also wonder why the buildings seem to be crumbling badly.  I first saw them in 1985 and even then visitors could not enter the structures.  Looking through the windows it was interesting to see them in their unrestored state, just a mess.  The mind pictures the elegant queen and her ladies-in-waiting strolling about the marble floors, balconies and spiral staircases.

I went back in 2010, expecting that by then there had probably been restoration and maybe it would even be possible to enter the buildings.  But no, they looked to be in much worse shape than when I had last seen them.  I even checked my photos from 1985 to confirm my suspicions.  After a little checking I see that the main building, the Queen’s House will begin restoration in 2014.  Perhaps enough funds have finally been raised (it seems Dior has pitched in financially).  I’m glad because the hamlet represents an interesting time in France’s history.  It’s also just darned cute and I’d like to see them preserved!  I think this may warrant another visit in 2016, perhaps, as the project is expected to take 18 months.  I always like having an excuse to travel!

The Queen's House

The Queen’s House

Travel - Marie Antionette 2

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Tour du Mont Blanc – Ancient Roman Road

Posted on August 27, 2013. Filed under: France, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Roman RoadHere we are beginning our hike on the stretch of the Tour du Mont Blanc that is an ancient Roman Road.  This climb was strenuous, but the old paving was interesting to think about.  I pictured chariots, horses, and Roman soldiers making this arduous trek through the mountains to their conquests.  And then I forgot all about that because, as often happens on the TMB, it just kept going up!  Don’t kid yourself, the TMB is quite a workout no matter how fast or slow you do it.  Every night I was sore, with aching hips and thighs.  Self-talk is important, though, so every night I literally told my “boys” (thighs) to heal up because we have another day of hiking tomorrow.  And miraculously, they did!  I would wake up feeling much better and ready to go.

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Paris – The Musée de l’Orangerie Basement!

Posted on August 17, 2013. Filed under: Art, France, Paris, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 1The spectacular Musée de l’Orangerie has the enormous Monet waterlily series of paintings and it blows you away to walk amid his ponds.  But that’s upstairs!  Don’t miss the light-flooded basement, the Walter-Guillaume galleries, reopened after extensive construction in 2006.

There are some jewels here:  Renoir and Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse.  22 Soutines!  And a particular favorite of mine:  Kees van Dongen who I love because of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Woman with Cat.

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 5What a great place to learn about art by reproducing it.  I remember my last year of high school at the Milwaukee Art Museum where there is a painting I hated (Fragonard’s The Shepherdess.)  My teacher had me spend several hours with it, drawing it, and I fell in love with it.  There is much to be learned from copying another’s work.

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 4  Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 2

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 3

This place was quite a feast for the eyes.  Next time you get to Paris don’t miss it!

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Tour du Mont Blanc – Mountains and Lakes

Posted on August 13, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Photography, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Mountain Beauty

I was surprised at how few lakes we did see on our hiking adventure of the Tour du Mont Blanc.  There seemed to be water everywhere with streams running with lots of water many times requiring us to hike right through them.  But lakes, there were not as many as you’d think.

This particular morning, though, the trail went right along this beauty.  The air was so still that the surface of the water made for the most perfect reflection of the crystalline clear ultramarine sky.  Wow.  Here we have mountains, snow, sky and water more perfect in the reflection so I moved the land line up to showcase it.

This is one time the word awesome is an actual good description!

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Tour du Mont Blanc and Beaufort Cheese

Posted on August 2, 2013. Filed under: France, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB La Ville Des Glaciers La Ville Des Glaciers is a sweet hamlet along the TMB that offers gorgeous views of both big scenery and close-up farm life.  This is the epicenter of Beaufort cheese, the luscious stuff produced right here.

I’ve heard that some of the residents will take you into the buildings and show you the small scale production here of this local delicacy, but we didn’t see any signs of human life on the day we came through.

Travel - TMB La Ville Des Glaciers 2

It was September, after all, and something like 10,000 people had just traipsed through this region so I wonder if the locals had had enough.

No matter, we found the cheese available almost every day afterward and we enjoyed it to the fullest!  It made a fine pack-along for the trail as well as post-day hike/pre-dinner snack.

Travel - TMB La Ville Des Glaciers 3

I know imported Beaufort cheese is available in the states, but really, how can it be the same?  I know how I feel after making that trip across the big pond – dang tired!  I think having this product here, right where it’s made, without any travel at all has got to be the best!

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Tour du Mont Blanc – The Refuge Dining Room

Posted on July 31, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Refuge Dining Rooms

An interesting dynamic can happen in the refuge dining rooms along the Tour du Mont Blanc.  Here we are in the Refuge Bonhomme after dinner.  You can see the terra cotta pichet of wine on the table readying everyone for a great chat!  Within a short time we had about 6 people all from different countries exploring world views well into the night.  It was like an impromptu united nations meeting!  There were some uncomfortable pointed questions at us as Americans, but we found the whole experience very interesting.  Keeping a respectful approach while explaining when we disagreed worked to allow conversation to flow and everyone ended with a clap on the back, a handshake and big smiles.  If this happens to you take the opportunity to learn about other peoples’ views, just remember to be pleasant. Just think about how incredible the Tour du Mont Blanc is that it brings people from all over the world together for one purpose, if just for a short time.

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The Image Thief at the Musée d’Orsay

Posted on July 30, 2013. Filed under: France, Paris, Photography | Tags: , , , , , |

Travel - Musée d'Orsay 1Ok, so l have no beef with the Musée d’Orsay as far as the building and the collection goes.  How could I?  This museum houses some of the most important works of the period 1848 to 1914 especially of the impressionism movement in a refurbished train station designed in 1900.

You want to know my beef?  No photography.  Ok, I get that a lot of people are really stupid with their cameras and they don’t know how to turn off the flash.  I used to work in an art museum and I know that people don’t understand the harm that can be produced when millions of people flash a super bright light at artworks, if only for a split-second.  It’s a very destructive force over time.    But a flat-out ban on photography turns people like me into an image thief.

So here is the best I could do with the over-the-top beautiful clock at The Musée d’Orsay.  I had to stay somewhat behind the wall there to be out of view of the guards.

Travel - Musée d'Orsay 2This was a bit better because the sculpture was already behind this wall.

Taking pictures in museums is great fun and I understand the rock and hard place museums are in.  I just protest the stance of no photography!

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Mountains, Flowers, Clouds

Posted on July 26, 2013. Filed under: Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB mountains/flowers/clouds

Mountains

Flowers

Clouds in the sky

Air

Sunshine

Wind in the face

Footsteps

Trail

Peace in the heart

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Gearing Up for a Hiking Trip

Posted on July 22, 2013. Filed under: Exercise, Health, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Packing

Yesterday we did our first training hike for our next adventure.  Part of the training is getting the shoulders and back to strengthen for the weight of the pack.  Mine will be about 20 pounds which figures out at about 14% of my body weight.  This is a significant load for my spinal column, it’s associated musculature, my hips, knees, and ankles too.  With some training all of these structures can rise to the occasion by becoming strong enough to handle the load without injury.  The guys at the outfitting store amaze us when they tell us that often customers are in the store to buy their backpack for the trip they are leaving on tomorrow.  The folly of this boggles my mind.

Last year, when training for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we trained for the most part with rice-filled bags in our packs just for the weight.  This changes the way the load sits in the pack because each bag is so dense.  In reality, the items I carry all have different densities, sizes and shapes.  So this year I decided to mostly pack my bag the way I do for the trip and train that way.  In the photo you will see most of what I am packing.  There is a little bit art to this task.  Heavier items in the bottom and up against the back, lighter items fill in around.  That’s the general rule, but you also want easy access for items you want to retrieve often so those tend to go more outside or on top.  Clothing rolled and secured with a rubber band works well to keep it as small as possible.  Already yesterday I weighed two pair of rain pants.  The new ones save me 6 oz. so the pants from last year have lost their slot!  Every ounce is carefully considered as to necessity and if there is any way to make it lighter by changing the item in some way.

The first training hike went well but today I am a little sore in the low back.  This tells me it was a perfect first day.  I will continue to increase the time that the pack is on my body eventually wearing it even to walk the dogs around the neighborhood.  This will be time and effort very well spent.

See this post for a thorough description of what to consider when packing for a hiking trip: https://www.jenreviews.com/backpacking-trip/

 

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