In the early 1980s, a colleague at the Minneapolis Star who was every bit as unusual as his name – Zeke Wigglesworth – announced he was having a party in which the guests were encouraged to put on slide shows of whatever global adventures they had recently experienced. There was a catch. Wigglesworth, a fine writer with an off-angle view of the world, said each show was limited to five minutes.
For those of you who don’t remember slides, they were the high rez, well-lit versions of photographs. A good slide show could be spectacular. An overly long one could be deadly dull. The key, as Zeke understood, was to keep it moving. Five minutes forces you to focus on the good stuff. I showed slides of a trip to England, mostly the Stonehenge part, and I remember someone showed images of camels and pyramids. There was also, as always with Zeke and journalists, lots of drinking and carousing, so I don’t remember much else.
The party stuck with me as a lesson in how to do travel writing. Keep the tale moving. And expect your reader to drink and carouse. I should note that Zeke used to end his day at the Star by doing loud sheep calls through a long metal tube while standing on his desk in the vast newsroom. After the Star merged with the Tribune and became less quirky, Zeke announced that he wanted to find a job in which someone would pay him lots of money to travel around the world. Shortly thereafter, he left the Star and became the travel writer for the San Jose Mercury News. He and his wife later traveled around the world in 79 days – beating the movie
I’m not moving this tale along as quickly as Zeke would require, but one more story about him is needed. Back in the early 1970s, Zeke and a group of other young Star reporters decided to build a sailboat -- a 38-foot sea-worthy sailboat. As the story goes, they bought a book on how to build a boat, found some vacant land near the Mississippi River, and started building. Some months -- or years -- later the boat was finished. In 1975, the reporter/boat builders actually quit their jobs at the Star, put the boat in the river, and sailed south to the Caribbean. They had a tropical adventure involving lots of islands, drinking, and carousing, then sold the boat, returned to Minneapolis and were given their jobs back at the newspaper. Probably wouldn't happen that way today.
My five minutes are already up, but that was the introduction, not the actual travel piece.
|Ocean, Ice Cream, Arles|
The actual travel story is my recent adventure with Misti. We recently dumped clothes in a suitcase and a gym bag, threw them into the Kangoo, and headed to Arles, France, where Reeve, Melanie, and grandson Ocean, live in an ancient house.
Our route to Arles was intentionally circuitous, involving several days of driving through Italy, mostly across the green belt that stretches across northern Italy. Much of it is flat. It feels like driving through Iowa, except the buildings are much older. And always, on the horizon, are the mountains – the Alps on to the north and east, the Apennines to the south. Misti liked the name “Trieste,” and I have an interesting
In the rain and cold, we wandered to a crowded pizza restaurant, then the grand plaza. No tourists, and not much going on. There were lots of berths for yachts, but no actual yachts. It was just an ancient Italian port city on a gray day. We wandered into a shop selling pottery and scarves, looking for a remembrance of the city. The young shopkeeper told us Trieste is struggling economically and only comes to life when the yacht people arrive in the summer. The very rich discourage development in Trieste, he said, because they treat it like their personal city – small, out of the way, and, unlike many Italian cities, not influenced by the Mafia.
We wanted to buy some Italian pottery from him, a few bowls or a dish. He told us the store couldn’t afford to carry real Italian pottery, so he was selling knock-offs from China. He apologized.
We wandered to a coffee shop. Except for the owner, an outgoing Italian woman who spoke little English, we were the only ones there. On the wall were photographs from the 1950s of people being blown off the streets by a very strong wind. “The Bora,” she said. “It was here last Tuesday, when the streets were covered with ice. It was 70 kilometers per hour. Very dangerous.”
She didn’t actually say it just like that, but close enough. The Bora, as it turns out, is like the Mistral wind in Arles, but shorter in duration and more intense.
We left the coffee shop and ventured to the nearby Castle Miramare, built by Maximilian, emperor of Mexico before he knew where Mexico was. Okay, he knew where it was, but he’d never been there. Turns out he was a Hapsburg, born in a palace in Vienna. He built his unique little castle on the Adriatic, lived there for a few years with his wife Carlota, as the commander of the Austrian navy, then agreed to give up his command and become emperor of Mexico. Things didn’t go as planned in Mexico and, in 1867, despite pleas from European leaders to spare him, he was executed by firing squad. Carlota, who was in Europe pleading for help when he was shot, returned to the Trieste castle, then to her native Belgium, where she refused to acknowledge his death and lived in seclusion until her death in 1927.
|Misti @ Maximilian's|
From our brief visit into Maximilian’s world, it seems both he and Carlota were interesting and decent people. We had no idea.
On to Udine. After spending a lot of time discussing how to pronounce “Udine,” Misti and I arrived in the city and stayed at an upscale hotel. In the hotel restaurant, a place with enough rating
|Misti Climbing Udine|
“Try me,” the guy said, and then went through his history of dam building in the western U.S., including a dam near where Misti grew up. Small world. Great couple. We told him we were heading east the next day, but didn’t yet know where.
“Cuneo would be good,” he said. So the next morning, after encountering the freshly caught octopi available at the market, we headed across the piedmont and into the mountains. Once in Cuneo, we landed at the “Royal Superga” hotel. We were tired, so the best we could do was venture out to an Italian restaurant (they are easy to find in Italy),
From Cuneo it was a few hours of driving through the snowy Alps down to Nice. I remember winding through similar mountains and tunnels when my
|Driving the Alps|
We arrived in Arles without realizing that it was bullfight weekend. Arles has a Roman coliseum that has been in continuous use since 90 AD, and once a year the city holds traditional bullfights, complete with picadors, bullfighters, and large bulls.
So, just after we arrived, some 50,000 people left this small town. Which was good.
|Out in Arles|
|House with a View|
Just before arriving in Arles, we met up with Reeve and Melanie’s family at her parent’s house in Marseille. We had the first of what would be several birthday parties for Ocean, who turned three while we were there. Misti got her annual "French Flip" haircut from Beatrice, and we finally found some nice pottery bowls -- French instead of Italian.
|Ocean & Friend|
Click here http://www.rivieraradio.mc/article.asp?id=1488793 and if you have iTunes you can stream the radio station. It is mostly mellow, so you can pretend you’re rich, famous, and naked on a Mediterranean beach as you read the rest of the blog.
Genoa is just around the coastline from Monaco. The city is a bit like Trieste, but bigger. We walked through most of the harbor area, and discovered that there are more than a thousand ships at the bottom
|Misti in Genoa|
I’ve always thought of Marseille as looking like a European version of Baltimore, but it turns out I was wrong. Genoa is actually the sister city to Baltimore, and it looks like it. Actually, it’s what Baltimore might look like in a thousand years. Genoa dates back to the 5th or 6th century BC.
That never happens in Vienna.
Then it was home again, just in time to see the first blossoms in Uwe’s garden of wonders.