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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Mountain Hiking – Big Small Contrasts

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

Travel - Swiss GrasshopperThis large green grasshopper greeted me along my way hiking in Switzerland.  I’m sure he was congratulating me on completing a very hard ascent and descent of the Fenêtre d’Arpette of the Tour du Mont Blanc.  I had to stop and admire his gorgeous green with black accenting.  He actually had big expressive eyes for a bug!

Travel - Swiss Fenetre

One of the things I love about hiking in the alps is the wonderful contrasts of enormity and the diminutive.  I am a slow hiker partly because I am overwhelmed by the environment and I cannot rush through it.  A hike here is not just a good workout in nice surroundings to me, but rather a chance to really step outside of normal life and lose myself in a place.

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Tour du Mont Blanc – Fenetre d’Arpette at Last!

Posted on September 20, 2013. Filed under: Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Fenetre 4

We went back this year to the Tour du Mont Blanc and hiked a piece of it we missed last year.  Bill had a sore knee and this variant of the route warned of joint-crushing boulder climbing so we took the easier, though no less scenic, Bovine Route.  This year, feeling better, we went up to the Fenetre from the pretty little town of Champex Lac and then back down to the town.

Travel - TMB Fenetre 1

Here is the view of where we were going.  The little dip in the skyline right above the road is the Fenetre.  Doesn’t look so far, huh?

Travel - TMB Fenetre 2

I think this was probably the hardest way to do this because the route on the other side looks less rocky from the pictures I’ve seen, but we had a great place to stay in Champex which made for a nice thing to look forward to after the hard hike.  We also had a car which made it more difficult to do through hiking this time.  As you can see this is a very rocky path, and this is after the harder part of nothing but boulders.  If it weren’t for my trekking poles I could never have done this!

Travel - TMB Fenetre 3

At the top, though, there is quite a payoff with an amazing view of the Trient glacier, and the world’s tallest dammed lake.  I was amazed that it wasn’t very windy.  Every other Col I had been to had been brutally windy, but it was calm and sunny this day.  Really, we had perfect weather, lucky for September.Travel - TMB Fenetre 5The gourmet meal at the lovely Hotel Alpina at the end of the day really hit the spot!

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Tour du Mont Blanc and Swiss Preparedness

Posted on September 16, 2013. Filed under: Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Swiss Woodpile

It was impressive to walk through a little bit of alpine Switzerland and witness the amazing preparedness of these people.  Can you believe this woodpile?  After this picture I went around the back to use it for cover and, surprise!  There is another pile exactly like this right behind this one!  I was impressed with many woodpiles like this one that we walked past.

Travel - TMB Swiss Chard      Travel - TMB Swiss Preparedness

In addition, the gardens were beautiful!  Look at that chard!  I wonder if it’s still called Swiss Chard when growing right here in Swiss soil?

Travel - TMB Swiss BouldersIt’s beautiful in September, but the people around here must know brutal winter is coming.  The mountains have thrown down boulders the size of houses so they know.  Many of these boulders are big enough to climb all by themselves.  We ran across a climber who told us he was starting with boulder-climbing to get ready for sheer rock wall climbing.

All-in-all I was pretty amazed by Switzerland and these hardy mountain dwellers!

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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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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 Panorama Photography

Posted on August 3, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Photography, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB panorama

I loved my new Sony NEX-5N camera for its panorama capabilities on the TMB.  I had to learn to use it, though, as the camera was new for the trip and I hadn’t had a lot of time to experiment before we left.  To operate the feature, you choose it from a menu, then hold the shutter release down while panning to the right.

Travel - TMB panorama 3

Any angling, though, will shut off the feature right then and there and the camera reports an error to you.  I found that I was prone to angling as I panned because the mountains go up!  So I learned to plan the sweep of the camera, starting high enough to capture the peaks that come into view as the pan progresses.  Whew.

Travel - TMB panorama 2It was worth figuring out this feature because some of these photos have made spectacular prints to frame.

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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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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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