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Greece2015 MykonosThe Word Is: Cash is King! Discounts prevail, pensions and small hotels give most value; bus it to the beach; eat gyros and souvlaki and an Alpha Beer daily.

Euros and major credit cards are no problem for the savvy traveler in 99% of the venues.  Lock your Cash in a sealed envelope in the Hotel room safe or the Hotel front office safe with any good jewelry. Take only what you need for the daily missions.  Keep only one credit card on your body.  Inform your card company bank that you wish to be informed of any purchase over $XXX.xx dollars via text.

Greece2010 125Most of the restaurants on the Greek major tourist islands bring the Card Billing Machine to your table for you to swipe your card.  Use the visible ATM machines in the front of the local bank windows.  Avoid the ATM in Gas Stations or Beach Bars.

http://www.pensionhotel.co.uk/

Greece2015$100 to $200 per day will get you  a room in a pension, perhaps with a continental breakfast for two people. These prices are quite normal.  The room will be in a smaller building with close proximity to the harbor, bus stations, restaurants and the port of Mykonos. Expect twin beds that might be a tad firm.

Here is the news on the ground: there are definite rip-off. Example this: Paranga Beach, on the north side of Mykonos Island is  a great sandy cove beach with a small traverna.  The beach vendor maintains the beach and offers Chaise Lounge Bed (2) and one umbrella at the sea edge. The ripoff price is 120 Euros.  What?  These should be no more that 5 Euros each  or 25 Euros max!  I would expect a full body massage at those inflated prices.

Greece2010 193A cocktail at the Little Venice area in Mykonos Town, a trendy nightlife spot, will set you back $20.00. Note, the tip is included, thank goodness.  Shopping will be a task in the evening well-lit narrow white cobblestone streets of Mykonos. Look for up to 20% cash buyer discounts on jewelry and clothing.

The Mykonos traveler will find that they are in an insulated world from the confusion and news of the day.  Make the most of it and like Zorba, ” live for the day”!  Opa.

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My Mojito

    This is My Mojito… Now that I’ve  got your attention, …

There is a small cookbook that was willed to me from a dear relative.  The dust cover is a bit tattered.  Over the years, I have opened it and searched for ideas that pre-online searches failed at horribly.  The oak bookshelf for these little treasures, as this book is, contains several aged cookbooks that are rare or out of print.  Many are softcover gems on ethnic cuisine that were gathered on exotic islands or at their airports’ gift shops in a last-minute purchase. Dog-eared pages, stained with gravies, give evidence of their importance to me.

Gram or Liter, Cup or Pinch

A lack of Celsius temperatures on the oven dial does not remotely cover the variety of measures, temperatures and rules in many of my cookbooks. Aside from baking, my rule is alway 325 degrees fahrenheit.  I can deal with liters, but grams baffle me, excepting hashish talk, of a prior age, of course.  In the old days, “sprinkle” was uses a lot. One book, a Betty Crocker three-ring binder, has a wonderful section on “Happy-Hour Cocktails”. In this section the talents of a chemist come to be, as exact measurements of Angostura Bitters  fulfills the perfect flavor and color of the Classic Manhattan. Holiday Punch for the wassail bowl lists a dozen ingredients.  These retro times demanded the chef to pay attention.  My simple mojito has simple rules: freshness in all ingredients and simple sugar syrup with Cachaça Brazilian White Cane Rum. Simple.

Rose Louise Sorce was native to her Italian heritage, and  a resident of Milwwakee in the early 1950’s.  Her recipes were handed down from grandmother to mother to her. A state fair booth in Wisconsin got her started on writing, according to an old Milwaukee Journal story by their staff.  La Cucina from Twayne Publishers in 1952 was the rollout of years of work.  I refer to this book from time to time.

Let’s call up some friends; like 1000! Perhaps you have a church basement around?  Can we find several 12 gallon steel simmering pots?

Can I have the left-overs? Enjoy.

Rose   sorce1recipe1000

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Good Eating: Tangy Soul and Rustic Ribs

sweetpbbq_2    You must start with good ingredients: Tenacity, Funk, and Smoke.  The Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House just might have the right combo.  As many may know, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, offers a glimpse into the mid-south culture of their University of Tennessee, pickup trucks, country tunes, white church steeples and kickback eating.  I have eaten fine BBQ worldwide. I have even served on an award-winning barbeque team in Memphis, TN.  My home cooking of this fare can be pretty tasty.  Enough about me, this is about religious experiences: or, Pork, Brisket Beef and all the fixin’s.  Put the formula under an umbrella of old school soul music and the high-end smoker ovens of Sweet P’s and all works well.

A rolling countryside of the Maryville suburb draws many to the drifting scent of burning hardwood, a low-key one story restaurant and kitchen with plenty of staffers. Trimmed St. Louis slabs of pork ribs from the smoker, rich with the crust of dry-rub seasoning and moistened from the well-balanced soul sauces will start a plate.  Adding the combinations of side dishes create a vision that fills a full cafeteria tray. The steamed collard greens, unique with onions, carrots, beans and spice are smothered in flavors.

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Lacquered picnic tables, sporting old school soul record album covers, set stage for James Brown songs pumping out of their speakers or weekly live artists on the weekends.  The price to chow down is reasonable, so warm seasonal temperature spill the diners out to the patio and tents near the smokers.  The chalkboard menu makes all easy, as the team give you your filled tray and you pay.  The  beer list is extensive. Energy is high and the turnover is brisk.  Takeout and catering round out the mix. Perhaps a long ago Food Network showing of a Man vs. Food episode opened some eyes, but this place had it together.  I suggest the half-rack, fixin’s, of mac-n-chesse, collards and a brew, like Sweetwater IPA. Wait, get some smoked chicken wings first! Drizzle the blend of soul and hot sauce on all.  The folks of Sweet P’s can be found at 3725 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920 and http://www.sweetpbbq.com.  This place is smokin’.

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IMG_5494The central area of Athens, Greece, near the Governmental Parliament Building, offers a wealth of joy to the visitor or the local.  This area has something for everyone.  From the people watching, to food, to touristy trinket stores, and to some fine specialty stores, all engage the traveler on foot.  The narrow and cobble-stoned streets warrant good walking shoes.  The vendors of the small establishments often lean outside the doorway and beckon the foot traffic. Smaller side paths lead to more treasures and more obscure wares.  A store that is a wall on which hang antique door-knockers could be a good example. The owner would be a specialist in that trade.  Commerce is brisk in many shops, as there are lots of people.  As it is said, “better buy it now, as it won’t be here next time”, is very true in the Flea Market.

Take a stroll through this area. Getting to the flea market is easy. If you are coming from Syntagma Square you will be walking down Metropolitan Street, past the Cathedral and the square of shiny marble. There is a small Byzantine church in the shadow of the cathedral that you should take a look at called Agios Eleftherios.  I love the peace and solemn quiet in this space. The church has an Icon inside which they say performs miracles. There are some cafes in the square and this is where Pondrossou Street begins. This section of Pondrossou is the high-end section of Monastiraki. There is a lot of touristy stuff here. I bought a wonderful Bouzouki guitar here from John’s Music Store.  But in my opinion, the really cool stuff is on lower Ermou and across on small streets. If you seek originality and real antiques leave Monastiraki behind and wander around Psiri.

If you continue through the square you will come to Ermou and if you cross into Psiri there are people selling there too. The further you go the weirder it gets and by the time you get down towards Pireos Street you have very poor people buying and selling from piles of rags and little gypsy children running barefoot.  Some shops are not even stalls, only things hanging a some wall. All is for sale.  So… Gypsy, bad, bad, bad!

vendorGypsies are skinny and invisible to the human eye. They know where every wallet is in the world. Then they are quicker than the fastest I have ever seen, ( personal ). Your Sock “might” be safe.  Here is an example of one stealth group gypsy action, [sadly from personal experience, from a time ago] : I don’t look like a tourist, just a Westerner, Plus, I stay away from the logos on the clothing and designer accents. These are a beacon of light to the gypsies. The thieves work the odds and the angles.  Groups in skinny teams quietly surround the mark, i.e., the Metro train commuter, a narrow cafe; close in, as in a crowded space; press against the (now) victim; and fleece every zipper, pocket, nook and crannies. When the train opens at the station, the Gypsies evaporate and all is gone. Do not get in that position ever. Hint: position a mouse trap in your back wallet pocket! Wait for the …snap and scream!

Check out the morning meatmarkets, if available to your schedule in Psiri.  In the evening, the tavernas, ouzeries, and little restaurants are authentic & the nightlife is excellent ( Cab it back to the hotel in a metered vs. “Gypsy Cab”).

The Tourism Police are an integral part of the Hellenic Police (ELAS), consisting of men and women especially trained and competent to offer tourists information and help, whenever they have any problems. They are also competent to solve minor differences between tourists and enterprises. They all speak foreign languages. You can recognise them by the shoulder badge Tourism Police on their uniforms. Tourism Police operate an emergency telephone line on a 24 hour basis (just dial 171 any day, any time, from all over Greece).

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The Boston Globe Newspaper’s Travel Show heats up a Chilly Weekend

giveaway-banner-azoresGive away twenty-four vacations and promise untold discounts to vacation hungry and they will come, and they did come.  The winter season provides the inspiration to the masses and the purveyors of varieties of travel near and far produce.  The anchor vendors to the 2014 Boston Globe Travel Show on February 7th, 8th, and 9th on the harbor front bring the warmth of the Caribbean, Europe offbeat retreats, Asia and the Pacific, while New England regions champion the cultures of food, the sea and mountains and day trips away to inns.

The hunger for taste and drink sets the stage.

07_NSTourism_010924Nova Scotia, Canada may be imposing in the dead of  winter but the heart and humor of the province comes through in the culinary specialties of the near neighbor. The taste of the sea and the wealth of the vines combine to give the attendees flavors that excite. Chef Jason Lynch of Le Caveau Restaurant and sommelier Amy Savoury of Tidal Bay Wines take you on a culinary journey featuring Nova Scotia scallops and wine.  Nova Scotia is now recognized as a culinary tourism destination and the trade has stepped up to provide. Local cheddar cheese, seafood and white wine round out the preparations with samples for the many throngs eager to partake.photo4

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Pan seared Atlantic sea scallops served over a wild beet puree, beure blanc sauce and a hint of creme. The  wine was white and crisp.

Your coupon may just be the ticket.

Area 2 bustles with dozens of Travel Booths dedicated to the warmth of the Caribbean Sea.  Salsa  music lilts  in the aisles and the Dominican Republic triple booth has swarms with activity.  Winning drawing gifts of bottles of Brugal Rum and on-site hand-rolled cigars, as well as island vacations under palm trees is good reason for the buzz.  Attendees sign up at the many terminals and the business is brisk.

The Boston Globe Travel Show offered a  successful season to present the best of values and creative ideas for winter weary vacationers.

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Hidden Gem of American History Shines its Lamp Brightly

NL_Light_mosaic     On the waterfront street near the City Pier of historic New London, Connecticut, USA, are the granite columns of the  179-year-old Robert Mills building: The Custom House and Maritime Museum.  Mills is most know for the Washington monument in District of Columbia.  His architecture on the 150 Bank Street location augments the age of seaport towns, such as New London, to regulate and collect the tariffs of sailing ship trade across the seas.  The Granite facade and the red brick vaulted interior rooms, highlighted by massive maple doors and soaring ceilings, evokes a time when government real estate was permanent.  The Custom House and U.S. Treasury Service still maintain office space on the second floor, though it is more of a museum space.  The three levels and a sub-basement contain treasures of the ship building days, mariner memorabilia, Ship Models, ancient sea paintings in oil, collections of sailing art and libraries of books and data.  The groupings are contained in delightfully decorated “captain’s rooms”, replete with mariner furniture.

1839 History that Rocked the World:

First Step To Freedom

amistad4On that infamous night of  July 2 at 4:00am, 53 slaves brought through Havana, and onboard the Amistad  schooner and south of the Bahama Islands revolt and seize control of the vessel.  The “Black Pirates” are discovered and taken into custody off the coast of Long Island, New York, by the U.S. Navy . They seize the schooner and escort it to New London to the U.S. Custom House.  The location serves as the beginnings of the Abolitionist Defense Committee and the US Supreme Court to instigate the Free-State Provisions.  The 35 surviving Africans departed New York for Africa aboard the barque Gentleman, and were returned to their Sierra Leone in 1842.  In 1866, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution defines a citizen as anyone born in the U.S. (except American Indians) or naturalized, thereby extending all rights of citizenship to African-Americans. 

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compliments of Wikipedia

The second floor remains the historical depiction space of the events and contains many displays.  The current Amistad Schooner  docks periodically on the local wharf, up from New Haven, Connecticut mooring.

Preserving the Protectors

The New London Maritime Museum stretches a bit further to preserve history.  The New London Harbor Light, at the mouth of the harbor, was the fourth lighthouse recognized by George Washington when he enacted the 1789 Act for the Establishment and support of Lighthouse. It is one of the earliest  flashing beacons. This and the Race Rock Light, off of nearby Fisher’s Island, New York, are under the management of the U.S. Custom House and Maritime Museum, having been turned over from the Coast Guard.  Tours have become available to these working lighthouses.  The history of the maritime region and the donated collections, the resources of knowledge and the staffing of very competent docents, make for a sea worthy journey.

http://www.nlmaritimesociety.org/

 Amistad---Abolition~~element44amistad1_Hahnfront

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Trustee/Docent: Harrison Lea Jewitt, on command on Sunday for Visitors

Trustee/Docent: Harrison Lea Jewitt, on command on Sunday for Visitors

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Copps Hill Burial Ground      My travel to a new destination is not complete without a journey to a local cemetery.  You may call me bizarre, as others have noted this trait as unusual.  I generally see that the culture of a land and the knowledge of an age long past is before my eyes upon walking past those gates.  A somber reflection, in a dignified manner, into the lives of those departed, opens my eyes to the needs to respect the dead.  The payment of homage and need to glorify the memory of a family member takes on so many differences in the cultures of my travel.  From an early age I found the monuments to the dead intriguing.  The walks through the cemetery take on a peace of their own.  Ancient or modern in design, open wide or grown over set a tone.  The maintainers of the gravesites add to the culture.  My earliest remembrance came from a Victorian era matured cemetery in Connecticut, USA.  Though not in a New England wealthy town, the deceased  retained many beautiful and massive stones over their graves.  Many monuments reflected the touch of the sea with anchors and granite crosses adorned with cherubs and dolphins.  The cedar and cyprus trees were so mature that the shadows fell across most graves in a cloak of sadness.  Pools of fresh water in the hollows on the grounds drew weeping willow branches toward the reflections on the water and tears of leaves  floated down in the breeze. The families of the late 1800’s felt the sadness of loss of the loved ones and those graves clearly let the living feel the grief.

    sabagraveIn the heat of the noonday sun, no cemetery was more striking to explore than the Hassell Cemetery on the 5 square mile  island of Saba in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean Sea.  This island is an upside down ice cream cone with a population of 2,000.  The lilliputian villages are populated by ancient seafaring Scot families and Carib/African descendants. The families had etched a space over several generations to bury the dead.  Volcanic in nature, the land required the above ground vault mausoleums.  These were not like the historic New Orleans, LA style, but more low-rise, in a dense plot of graves.  The island seaman would travel the world and return with glass and ceramic tiles from every culture.  Those tiles were then used to pave every inch of every vault in every color and mixed pattern. The reflection in the sun and the intensity of the blend is a vision of ingenuity.  Most crypts sport an oval photograph of the deceased imbedded on a raised head stone. Like a hotel washroom, the tiles are scrubbed and shined gleaming by the  families.  They were so proud of their graves.

  GreeceChurch On the road to the last vestige of land of the mainland before touching the deep blue Aegean Sea and the islands of Greece, the villages of the Peloponnese area, known as Mani, gives us the color of a proud culture.  These fierce people from ages long past retain the memories of stoic, no, Spartan times in history. This culture retains religious veins of intense respect for the dead.  The honor of the departed parent is most evident here.  The graveyard of Greece is a family place and many times attached to the family’s own individual church. These churches serve as the last resting place.  Black-shawled women tend the grave/vault near the cubic whitewashed structure.  Within a glass-doored wooden tombstone are put vessels of  “holy water” and olive oil, photographs of family, incense, dried flowers, toys, “toma” or the pressed religious icons of silver, painted icons of saints, candles of golden bee’s wax and the list goes on.  The touching sadness of the stuffed toy puppy and the photo of the dark curled haired toddler speaks of this culture.  These are glimpses into a respect for life and the prayers for the departed.  The life of the village revolves around all in the Mani mind-set.

     These and the many chances to walk the paths that the mourners have walked have opened my eyes to a respect for the timeless  museum of granite, marble, slate and the wood.  I place my hand on the chiseled words and feel the warmth of the stone and drink in the sound of the wind through the monuments that draw me to the land of the lost.  The land of the living becomes most real. 

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