Coming Soon

Movie theater in australia
Movie theater in Australia, photo by Fernando de Sousa courtesy of Wikipedia

Description

Sometime in the next week I am going to be publishing a collection of some of my travel essays about traveling in Europe. The way things go for me the actual collection won’t be available till the beginning of next week and then the writing will only be available as an e-book on Smashwords and Amazon. Even though most of the material has already been published on the internet, I am spending more time editing and collating the articles than I originally planned. I have yet to put together a cover, for the book, so that will probably happen at the last minute. Nonetheless, putting together the old material has required more work than imagined, mainly because I can’t run through an old essay without making at least a few editorial changes.

Old and new towers in Berlin
Old and new towers in Berlin, including the bombed William Kaiser church

Title

The title for this collection  goes back to President John Kennedy’s famous speech inside Berlin during his term of office. While speaking to the German audience he made the wonderfully comical statement, “Ich bin ein Berliner”, which can be translated to mean, – you guessed it, “I am a jelly doughnut”. This is just one of the many interesting things, readers will discover, while digesting these traveler’s tales.

The shore of the Mediterranean Sea at Finale Marina, Italy
The shore of the Mediterranean Sea as scene from the youth hostel/castle at Finale Marina, Italy

Inspiration

The inspiration comes from two journeys I made to Europe in the new century. My first overseas voyage took place during October 2003, when I visited  Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria. Three years later, I made a six week journey that included repeat visits to Denmark, Germany and Austria, as well as new explorations into Slovenia, Italy, France and Switzerland. Who knows when I will return again (hopefully soon), but my initial experience did open me up as a writer.

Rainbow over Lake Geneva on the French-Swiss border
Rainbow over Lake Geneva on the French-Swiss border
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A Tale of Two Cities

66 Diner on Old Route 66 in Albuquerque
66 Diner on Old Route 66 in Albuquerque

Albuquerque

Albuquerque is the southernmost of the two cities and with a population of nearly half-a-million, it is the largest city in New Mexico. The University of New Mexico is located here along with Sandia Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base and Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. The city is noted for its location on the original Camino Real (Royal Road) that ran all the way into Mexico and old Route 66, which passed through the city on its East-to-West path. Even today, some of the Art Deco highway architecture can still found within the city limits. Currently the new NM Railrunner passes through the city on route from Santa Fe to the southernmost point.

Poster of ongoing art show on display on the exterior of the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe

About 50 miles to the north of Albuquerque at an elevation of 5,000 feet, sits the state  capitol of New Mexico, Santa Fe. Once this frontier outpost was the western terminus of the Santa Fe Trail start began in Independence, Missouri and crossed the Kansas prairie to northern New Mexico. Once trade routes were established with the US, merchants here were able to do business with both the US and Mexico and as a result the town flourished. Much of that heritage can be seen today among the numerous trading posts, restaurants, stores and inns that abound in this high altitude city of only 70,000 residents. Despite its small size, Santa Fe is a busy business hub that sees much commerce and trade.

Nm Railrunner Emblem
A bold image of the roadrunner marks the NM Railrunner train.

The Rail Runner 

Linking Santa Fe and Albuquerque by cheap rail has done many things for both cities. The rail cost between 300 and 400 million dollars and was first opened in 2006 with a run between Albuquerque and Belem to the south. In 2008 the train began servicing Santa Fe, so nowadays almost 300,000 one way passes are used every month. Price of a roundtrip same-day ticket are just under $10 dollars, while a one way is only a little bit less.

The railrunner has a been boon to tourism because of the ease of access between the two cities. Also it has created work commuters, who can ride the rails and save fuel and wear and tear on the vehicles. The number of daily riders has risen each year, yet the rail still falls 10 million short on being self-sufficient every year. Considering the rail line between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is less than five-years old, the overall outlook of the rail service is bright and encouraging for other places that might want to consider setting up rail connections between closely located cities. It should be noted that this is not a high-speed service as maximum speed is somewhere around highway speed.

How It Works 

Visual Tour Through The City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia Skyline
Philadelphia Skyline as seen from ground level

This is what I saw when I first came into the City of Philadelphia on a pleasant train ride that took me through the Amish country of the southeastern part of the city. After arriving at the Amtrak station I went to Suburban Station and emerged into the realm of high buildings and intense sunlight. From here I made my bus connection out to the Chamanoix Mansion, a classy hostel located near one of the city’s large urban parks.

Blue Air-conditioner in Philadelphia

Here is a picture taken on a very hot afternoon on a June afternoon that I have dubbed “The Blue Air Conditioner”. I don’t know how some people, including myself, would survive the sometimes torrid heat without this nifty electronic cooling device.

Cedar Tree
Cedar Tree In Philadelphia

Sometimes, surviving city life takes lots of  creativity and ingenuity. Planting trees and painting walls are two activities that can make a place more livable, though this image may lead people to think otherwise.

The Old and the New In Downtown Philly
The Old and the New In Downtown Philly

Philadelphia is full of contrasts. Here are two different styles are architecture.

Across Pennsylvania

Train Stop at Downington, PA
Train Stop at Downington, PA

The train ride started near the swollen, but not quite flooded Susquehanna River that flowed right through Harrisburg, the state capitol. After leaving the station and passing underneath a maze of overhead power lines, electrical transformers and metal connectors the train ride headed for greener pastures – literally.

At first glance, the countryside looked like normal fields, but a small team of horses pulling an old plow through the green terrain was a dead giveaway. I knew I was heading  into the heart of the Amish country. Except for the team of draft animals the view from the train window was pretty normal. Only a pair of young Amish boys headed home from school broke the familiarity of the rural scene.

But these two were different. Instead of bicycles they rode small scooters which they pushed with one foot. The mechanical devices worked quite well, for with one powerful stroke of the leg, each boy was able to coast quite a ways along the side of the  highway. Their movement reminded me of skateboarders, but their transportation had two wheels rather than four and the front handlebar was situated at waist level, several feet above the ground level.

Definitely lacking were the baggy shorts, oversized T’s and backwards baseball caps that skateboarders love. In their place the boys were dressy, blue cotton shirts and long khaki pants. Several books were tied to the back of the youths in a manner that resembled an old-fashioned satchel. From the safe distance I watched the boys as they nimbly glided down one small incline and then pushed their way back up the other side.

Seconds later, the scene had vanished, like it never happened. Their was no way to revisit the intriguing event, but somehow I could not stop wondering if I was looking at the past or the present. With our fluctuating gas prices, volatile oil supply and increasingly difficult foreign wars, I could easily imagine I was also looking into the future.

Montreal’s Underground

An Entranceway To Montreal's Underground

I signed up for a tour of “Urban Montreal” the other day, just for something to do. Actually, there’s plenty to do in Montreal, but the tour, which took place this morning, turned out to be an informative and fun event. We even got to see Leonard Cohen’s childhood home and enjoy a very tasty smoked meat sandwich at one of the city’s more famous eateries, Schwartz’s.

However, the main emphasis of the tour was the vast underground network of stores, plazas, restaurants and coffee shops that can be found underneath Montreal’s downtown skyline. On a cold windy November day, these heated tunnels and walkways were a welcome relief to the downtown streets and canyons that often act like a wind tunnel, even in a mild breeze.

Our walk began at noon and as a result the underground areas were backed with office workers enjoying their noontime repast. The amount of eateries and shops that were available to the general public was astounding.

Empty Walkway In Underground Montreal
Empty Walkway In Underground Montreal

The guided walking  tour took us past the Montreal Hockey Arena to the city train depot, then underneath some of the city’s ritzier hotels, including the Hotel Queen Elizabeth, where John Lennon once wrote the music and lyrics to “Give Peace A Chance”. At McGill University, which may well qualify as Canada’s number one academic institution of higher learning and party school, we came out of the vast tunnel system to the world of sunshine and light. From that point on the pedestrian excursion became an art tour.

After viewing the facade of several old churches we got to hang out in front of Raymond Mason’s, The Illuminated Crowd. This 1988 bronze sculpture has turned into a real crowd-pleaser, especially among tourists and out-of-town visitors, who love to be photographed mingling with the metal figures. It may seem tacky at first glance, but somehow Mr.Mason has managed to create a truly interactive piece of public art.

After leaving the McGill area, we entered a building filled with art galleries and studios and then headed towards the Latin Quarter, where much “grafitti-styled art” could be seen. This wasn’t the free variety that outlaw taggers provide at night, but rather public art commissions awarded by public and private entities. On the surface the colorful expressions might somewhat resemble genuine guerrilla grafitti, but upon closer examination and appreciation, it is easy to see the complex visual nature of the outdoor undertakings that Montreal chooses to display in public. Included below are a couple of pictures of the art.

Official Street Art Executed In Black and White
Official Street Art Executed In Black and White
Outdoor Painting In Color
Outdoor Painting In Color

Montreal At Night

Night Lights on a Rainy Night In Montreal

I love walking around this city at night. So much that I often stay up to the wee hours of the morning, walking for miles on end and then stopping at an all-night internet cafe so I can communicate online. The Christmas season is rapidly approaching so by now all the stores are all decorated and waiting for Christmas shoppers. And for the most part they are not disappointed, for the Christmas shoppers are already out and about.

For you see- up here in the provinces there is no roast turkey and pumpkin pie at the end of November. That’s because Canadian Thanksgiving falls right on October 123. That’s right Columbus Day. I’m not sure I like the implication, but the home country sure doesn’t mind for the October is a long holiday and feast day not at all unlike our own Thanksgiving.

Well, anyway with no November Thanksgiving, there can be no “Black Friday” and so as a result the Christmas spirit doesn’t have to wait for the end of November to get rolling. And overall the transition is more gradual because it begins earlier.

Green Wreath At DesJardin Center

The Green wreath hangs above the entrance to the DesJardin Center. This place contains tons of glass and open space as well as a large Food Court with a free Wifi connection. It is good place to go in the morning where you can buy a cup of coffee or some sort of similar refreshment, take a seat and write meaningless blog material, just like I’m doing now.

Poissonnerie in Montreal
Poissonneriein Montreal on Sherbrooke Street
Night Lights in Montreal

And finally we come to this nocturnal explosion of color. Basically, the digital age has been a boon to nighttime image making. These cameras are not only very sensitive to night time shooting conditions, but the final image can be easily adjusted to create a more realistic color scheme.  I use a cheap Kodak Easy Share CX7430.

The camera has been good to me as it is a good nighttime shooter. However the images are not real sharp and a wicked paralax has developed so I can no longer shoot a daytime picture with a distant horizon line, for a wicked series of blobs develops towards the horizon when I do. As a result I shoot a lot of wall scenes and close-ups. I have my eye on a Panasonic Lumix with a Leica lens, but it may be awhile before I can afford one.

Hope you liked the images.

Channeling Jack Kerouac

Kerouac Park in Lowell, Massachusetts
Kerouac Park in Lowell, Massachusetts

This has been a summer on the road for me, for I have abandoned my Portland (Maine) apartment, stored everything of value in a storage locker, gave away my desktop computer and headed for the open roads, fields and forests on my bicycle. It’s been quite a learning experience, but more about that later, for after spending two weeks enjoying the June hostel scene in Boston I quietly left Beantown one night on a 11 0’clock train bound with a one way ticket for Fitchburg.

Actually, I got off the train near Acton and spent the remainder of the night underneath an interstate bridge trying to get some sleep. Sleep did not come easy thanks to the hum of overhead traffic and my stony bed. By some quirk of chance I found myself nestled near a deer trail, for I glimpsed several of the creatures during the course of the night. In the glare of the streetlights they appeared like strange silhouettes.

Sunrise had me up and on the road and around 6 A.M. to see what I could learn about the great writer of the road from a visit to his hometown. But first things first – I had to stop at the Lowell McDonald’s for a large coffee and two Egg McMuffins. I imagine the Beats might have done the same thing – but that is merely speculation on my part.

Then came the bike tour of the city. No pretty tour guides to leave a group of tourists around, just me on my bike with a knapsack full of personal items on a summer Sunday morning that was about to turn into a scorcher.

A once-used factory building in Lowell, Massachusetts
A once-used factory building in Lowell, Massachusetts

Next came the big factory buildings. I have scene a few of the old New England factory buildings in my day but this one takes the cake. The sheer size of these brick structures was mindboggling. If I was looking for an explanation of why Jack had left town – but the truth was I just wanted to visit the place. I spent the next hour or so cruising beside the giant structures, like I was a shadow in a DeChico painting.

Finally, I discovered the canals and the Merrimack River. That added a little humanity and natural scenery to the picture but not much. Still, the canals were the nicest part of the whole visit  – not including the Egg McMuffins – I enjoyed riding past and stopping to look at the waterways that once powered this industrial dynamo.

And when I finally departed Lowell, I think I understood a little bit better the process the put Kerouac in motion and launched his writing career.

Lowell buildings reflected in a canal.
Lowell buildings reflected in a canal.