Tag Archives: travel

The Louvre: An Exercise in Empathy

My daughter Emilia stops by The Louvre to pose with the peeps on pedestals…

Getting Free

Ah, The Louvre! Arguably the world’s most famous museum! Home to the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, The Code of Hammurabi and Napoleon III’s apartments. A building filled with more history and knowledge than even the world’s greatest geniuses could consume. But here’s the catch: it’s all in French.


I didn’t notice this until I walked into my first exhibit: a room filled with gorgeous scultpures. I realized when I was at the free museums in Liverpool just how much I love sculptures and reading the plaques that come with them so I get a sense ofIMG_0951 what each statue is thinking and living through. But when I went to understand the sculptures better in The Louvre, I was met with French descriptions.

At first, I was a bit disappointed—all these incredible pieces of art, and I didn’t know what they meant? But then I remembered an old mantra: art is…

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Penny Lane: Then & Now

My daughter Emilia is traveling in Liverpool, the home of John, Paul, George and Ringo:  The Beatles.

Getting Free

The monumental Beatles fan I am, the moment I got to Liverpool, England, was the moment I made sure I got myself to all IMG_0716the Beatles’ landmarks: Paul McCartney’s childhood home, John Lennon‘s childhood home, Strawberry Fields, St. Peter’s Church, and, of course, Penny Lane. I, of course, know all the lyrics to Penny Lane (as any halfway-decent Beatles fan should), and all the while I roamed the Lane, the lyrics were bopping through my head. How does the Penny Lane of today hold up to the Penny Lane McCartney immortalized in song? Well, let’s have a look at the lyrics.**

Verse #1:
In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he’s had the pleasure to have known
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say hello

Now, in my travels on Penny Lane, I found 2 barbershops, neither…

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Cork, Ireland is Hobbiton, Middle Earth

My daughter Emilia in now in Cork, Ireland. And “Lord of the Rings” fans take note: she may have found Frodo’s hometown…

Getting Free

When I arrived on the ground in Cork, Ireland, I immediately felt a strange attachment to the place. It was uncanny and uncalled for, especially because I’d only been there 15 minutes and was just walking down a street carrying all my luggage with no specific experiences yet made. But I felt a connection, and now I know why. It’s because Cork, Ireland, ISHobbiton. Let me explain.

I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I won’t go in to serious detail, but I’ve seen every movie/special feature at least 4 times (not exaggerating), I’ve probably watched the Helm’s Deep battle scene upwards of 15 times, and I’m certainly not done watching them. I’ve only just begun. Anyways, Hobbiton has always been my favorite location from the LOTR films. Yes, Rivendell is beautiful and serene, Mordor is eerie and mysterious, Gondor is magnificent—but Hobbiton (within…

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True Life: Ireland—Keep it Simple

My daughter Emilia is traveling in Europe and posting an account of her adventures. Here’s her report from Cork, Ireland…

Getting Free

It’s evening. Around 8 pm. The sun still hasn’t set. Aleah and I are sitting in the living room of our next Couchsurfing host, Ciaran (pronounced “Kee—rahn), with his roommates Ronan and Conor and his friends Kieran and O’Shane. There’s a huge music festival—Live at the Marquee—going on outside Ciaran’s house not more than a half-mile (or however many meters that is to them) from his doorstep.

“‘Ey shall we have a listen to the music, then?” asks Ronan, setting down his Heineken and looking around the room.
Ay,” “Ay,” we hear. Apparently, the big act that night was Z-Z-Top—but clearly, the boys (or “the lads,” as they call themselves) were not going to pay for the full-price ticket. These guys are working class and constantly talk about how much they hate their jobs. But after eavesdropping on several Irish conversations unintentionally (they sometimes talk…

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Escape to Santa Cruz!

On Sunday, September 16th, my wife and I took a quick day trip to a whole new world: from our suburban home in Woodland Hills to the island of Santa Cruz – the largest of the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. Santa Cruz lies in the Santa Barbara Channel a mere 67 miles from our home in the western end of the San Fernando Valley.

The 42-mile drive to the harbor in Ventura took us less than an hour. We arrived at the Island Packers dock where our boat was waiting to carry us to Santa Cruz.

Victoria took a seat on the upper deck of the Island Packers boat, gazing out at the collection of vessels in Ventura Harbor.

We headed out of the harbor shortly after 2:00 PM. I’ve sailed out of Ventura Harbor many times, but not often aboard a boat of this size.

The pilothouse on the upper deck of the boat with the captain at the controls.

As we raced across the Santa Barbara Channel, a thick marine layer cast a hazy shroud over the islands in the distance. Santa Cruz is 25 miles off the California coast, and we covered that distance across a flat, grey ocean in less than an hour. (See map above.)

As we neared Santa Cruz, the foggy marine layer was burning off…

…and the island was finally revealed in brilliant sunshine.

The closer we got to the island, the more the colors came out. The water became more blue and the island more golden and inviting as we approached the cliffs near the Scorpion anchorage on the eastern end of the island. (See map above.)

The Island Packers crew prepares to dock at the Scorpion anchorage.

The approached the dock at the Scorpion anchorage, where a pair of metal ladders stood ready for us to disembark.

A short dirt path leads from the anchorage to the former sheep ranch buildings that now serve as the visitor’s center and headquarters for this unit of the National Park Service. (Yep, the 5 westernmost Channel Islands are a National Park!)

A couple hundred yards from the anchorage, the building of the former sheep ranch came into view.

Old rusted farm equipment provides mute testimony to the brief agricultural history of the island. For about 150 years from the 1830’s through the 1980’s, sheep ranching was the dominant industry on the island.

Victoria stands next to the old farm building that is now the National Park visitor center.

Victoria and I pause along the trail that rises above the visitor center. We only had about 40 minutes to explore before the boat was scheduled to return to Ventura. (We could have taken a much earlier voyage out of Ventura, but inspiration hit us too late in the morning.)

The trail rose quickly and the view was stunning. You can see our boat waiting at anchor below the cliff.

Victoria marches up the trail. Behind Vic, the mountains give a sense of low large the island is: 22 miles long and from 2 to 6 miles wide.

Victoria pauses at a particularly picturesque overlook to – what else? – take a picture.

Here’s another view from Victoria’s perch looking east above the Scorpion anchorage.

Heading back to the boat, Victoria spotted an island fox: a species that is native to six of the eight Channel Islands. (Vic earned her merit badge for the day.) I managed to shoot some footage of this cute, red-hued predator as it made its way through the chaparral.

We lined up on the dock to board the boat for our return trip – along with dozens of campers and day-trippers. It would be a far more crowded ride back to Ventura.

As I waited on the dock for everyone to climb down the two ladders onto the boat, I had plenty of time to study the gorgeous coastline.

Take a moment to enjoy the gentle lapping of the waves on the pebbled beach.

Now, take another moment to enjoy the hypnotic swaying of the kelp and other ocean vegetation along the coast.

With the boat’s cabin crowded with returning campers, hikers, snorkelers and kayakers – Victoria takes windy refuge on the bow of the boat.

It was a great trip to Santa Cruz Island: a brief excursion to a whole ‘nother world that’s not too far away.


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