People and places


Older and Wiser

Having just returned from a month-long travel adventure, I’m struggling to get back into the swing of a normal life. My wife Trisha and I were very blessed to have experienced the trip of a lifetime. Nearly four weeks in Italy and two brief days in Paris. I am no longer John, I’m Giovanni.

I hope to share some highlights of our trip in future blogs, but only after we have reviewed the 1,400 photos (it’s true) my wife took, and the four hours of video I shot. Our sons are actually in the process of drawing straws to see who will brave to visit first and be subjected to the media barrage.

Interestingly, my most enduring recollections are not the snow-covered Swiss Alps framing beautiful Lake Como, nor the moon hovering over the romantic bay of Positano on the Amalfi coast. For me, it was our travel companions, fellow travelers we met along the way, friends we visited in their home country, and all the other interesting people we met in chance encounters that made us richer for the experience.

As usual, every time we travel outside the U. S., I’m always struck by the realization that people are very much the same all over the world. I understand that’s not a novel nor profound observation, but it’s a consistent impression with each venture to new lands. All of us want nothing more than to live in peace and enjoy life. We were fortunate on this trip to have had hours of conversations and good times with people we encountered along the way, each of whom served to enrich our experience.

First of all, after one week on our own in southern Italy, we were joined in Milan by dear friends and travel companions Lyn and Herb. Now, after several trips, more  like sisters and brothers, we shared both adventures and numerous hours in ristorantes, pizzerias, trattorias, and bars, laughing, discussing history, trivia, solving world problems, and simply gazing out at the beautiful areas we visited. 

It seemed in every place we traveled, from tourist to inn keeper, local to shop owner, most everyone was personable and interesting. In fact, one such  memorable experience came one night at a local ristorante we frequented in Verenna on Lake Como. I had the good fortune of ordering a delicious plate of smoked salmon ravioli. After everyone sampled, Trisha asked the owner if she might learn how to cook this heavenly dish. He invited her to report for duty the next night before the dinner service began. When she arrived the next evening, the chef not only taught her how to cook the dish, she actually prepared our dinner. The owner and server took great pride as the dish was served, proud of their student.

There were many other interesting people we met along the way. While we didn’t get the names of everyone, we did share information with several. To name a few: Al and Marsha, Matt and Debbie, Robert and Kim, Australians Greg and Ingrid with son Harry, Al and Martha, Rock and Paula, Frederick from the south of France, Australians Larry and Nina with friends Greg and Theresa, John and Barb, Australians Martin and Roxanne (who gave us lots of travel tips), Scott and Valerie, Joe and Donna, Brian and Kim, newly wed Australians Brook and Sam, horse breeder Mimmo from Positano, Italian train traveler Alexia from London, and engaged couple Amit and Sonal who graciously interrupted their romantic afternoon along the Seine in Paris and offered to take our picture with Notre Dame cathedral in the background.

An especially memorable part of our trip came when we visited the Lake Garda area of Italy. Our friends, Italian entertainer Maurizio and his lovely wife Danna, actually rented a van and picked us up at the train station. The van was essential given all of our luggage. They entertained us at their beautiful 800 year old home, part of the castle grounds in their small town. They also shared their favorite eateries where we all sampled the local wines and cuisine. Graciously, they also drove us to incredibly scenic and historic areas of the lake. They even awakened early on our last day and drove us to the Verona airport. We cannot thank them enough for their hospitality and generosity.  

I’m sure you get the idea by now. With all the history, beauty and art that surrounded us, it was the personal connections we found the most meaningful. Trisha and I are renewed, encouraged, and profoundly blessed to have had such an adventure. I’m hopeful we will take from our experiences and bring the same spirit and optimism into our daily lives here at home. Becoming a bit wiser as we grow older is a worthy goal.

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Salute To Veterans

On this Veterans Day weekend, I want to extend my sincere gratitude and best wishes to all veterans, past and present, for their service to our country. As a veteran myself, I know the sacrifice of both veterans and their families. I pay special tribute to those who were injured while on duty and those who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. I know most don’t often talk about their service to the country, and I’m not sure many in our current culture even recognize the past and present price that has been paid for their freedom. Each year when my sons call me and say, “Thank you for your service Dad,” I know it was well worth it.

For all the veterans out there, here is a link to get information and/or questions answered about your benefits:

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Florida

I’m a bit more tan as I write this blog as I just returned from a great getaway to Florida. It’s interesting that I often hear Florida being joked about on television. You know, the comments such as, “God’s waiting room,” etc. Well, let me tell you, retired or not, there is simply something about the warm weather, blue skies, palm trees swaying in the breeze, great food, and laid back spirit that could relax the most tense among us. I caught myself sleeping in until 8:30 or 9:00, and that was with the benefit of a 3 hour time difference. While the summers are hot and humid, from November to April, Florida is really a paradise. If you’ve never been there, do yourself a favor and make the trip. You will love it.

Oh, and if you ever get to South Florida and the Jupiter/Hobe Sound area, when hungry I suggest you make your way to Dune Dogs, The Catfish House, and Harry and the Natives. If you would enjoy watching boats cruise the intercoastal while eating crab-dip nachos with a beverage, I suggest the Waterway Cafe. Just to be sure of my recommendations, I spent a lot of time in each establishment on my latest visit. You’re welcome. 

 

 

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Travel Suggestion

If you’re looking for an interesting place to visit right here in the good old U.S.A., I suggest you think about southern Arizona. Having made several visits to this part of the country in the last few years, my wife and I have come to love the area.

Southern Arizona has so many fascinating places to visit, I’m not sure any one person could visit them all. We try to take in one or two each time which gives us plenty of reasons to return. Here are just a few of the places we have recently enjoyed. For more information simply click on the links.

Kartchner Caverns State Park 

Arizona State Parks: Kartchner Caverns: Home

 This is one of the newest and most interesting attractions in the U. S. It was discovered in 1974 by two explorers. Only revealed in 1988, the state of Arizona spent millions of dollars and opened it to the public in 1999.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Titan Missle Museum

Titan Missle Museum

My wife Trisha and I visited this location and took the guided tour a few weeks ago and it was fantastic. As seniors, we all remember the days of our nuclear standoff with Russia. The U. S. maintained many Titan Missle sites during those years and they were all manned 24/7 by the military. The sites were eventually destroyed, but this one was left in tact for historical purposes. It is the only publicly accessible site remaining from that era. There is a museum, gift shop, video room, and a guided tour for your enjoyment. I was surprised to see an actual Titan II Missle in the silo and our guide took us through a simulated launch. Quite breathtaking.!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tubac

Tubac Arizona > Southern AZ Artist Colony & Travel Destination

Here is an all-in-one place to visit. This historic Spanish settlement has become a true resort. You can find art gallaries, gift stores, wonderful food, golf, spas, and much more. Most of all, the relaxed and peaceful environment is worth the visit by itself. We love the beautiful hand painted pots and other crafts. On our last visit we purchased three more for our outdoor area. Quite beautiful and unique. Whatever your pleasure, you will find it here. Below is Trisha with good friend Susan at the main entrance.

 

Vitamin Warning

This one is for the guys. We live in an era in which people take lots of vitamins. I admit to taking them myself. Unfortunately, we often think more is better. A new study warns that taking too much Vitamin E can increase a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer. Because there are vitamin products out there with very high units of Vitamin E, men are being warned. The new research results were published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The multi-million dollar study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  As with any medical information, check with your doctor.

Grandkids

A long time ago, when dinosaurs walked the earth, October was my special month. It is the month of my birth. The fact is, birthdays were never a big deal in my family. I mean, everyone has one, so what’s the big deal. Well, so far this October, four of our grandkids have had birthdays. It is my greatest gift and a wonderful blessing. Happy Birthday each and every one. 

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

 

Let me begin by saying I’m probably one of the most patriotic people you will ever meet. My father served in WWII and his father in WWI. I served four years in the U.S. Air Force during the Viet Nam war. I also consider every first responder and all civilians who gave assistance on 9-11 to be true heroes. Additionally, I was and still am heart-sick for our country and everyone who suffered the loss of a loved one in the cowardly attack on innocent life. I didn’t, however, participate in the cultural and media-created grief-fest over the last month.

As a typical young man growing up in this country, I took my share of blows. As a skinny 7th grader, I was punched by the biggest 9th grader in school when I accidentally stepped on his foot. Pretty sure I broke some ribs but I never told anyone about it. Later on as a high school senior, I took out the catcher while scoring the winning run that gave my baseball team the league championship. Guess which one I choose to celebrate? What has happened to our culture when we create a spectacle to remember taking a horrible cheap shot from a bunch of lunatic fanatics? And why have we spent so much time building a monument to, lets face it, our biggest defense failure?

I can predict some of the answers. One would be we are doing this to honor the victims. Yes, I’m sure that’s part of it. But we won’t forget those people. They were the murder victims of heartless criminals. What I believe we should have done was build a new set of buildings twice as high on that site. What has happened to our can-do spirit in this country? We cry and moan over every mishap and wallow in collective grief. Remember when Princess Diana was killed in a car accident? For days the media brought us images of people around the world gathered in mass laying down flowers and crying. I felt bad for her and her family, but to be honest, I had never met her. I certainly didn’t break down or have a desire to gather with my neighbors to grieve. We all suffer the loss of loved ones. It’s the most difficult and emotional aspect of life. But if something happens to me on the highway, I sure don’t want my family to gather at the place of my demise and build a roadside memorial to visit each year.

When 9-11 occurred, I was so proud of our nation’s great resilience and defiance despite suffering such a horrifying attack. Now I feel we have been shown to be a nation of weak and powerless wimps, wallowing in a collective sea of pity and self indulgence. I truly honor those who lost their lives on 9-11, but seriously worry our culture has lost much of its grit and spirit.

North to Alaska 

 

Last week my wife Trisha and I, along with my mother Marty, sister Sharon , and good friends Madelynn and Juan, had the good fortune to explore the great state of Alaska. It was our third visit, and for those of you who have traveled to this scenic wonder, you already know its indescribable beauty. Fortunately for us, the weather proved to be just cold enough at the glaciers to meet expectations, offered a few brief showers in some locations, and provided the most glorious days even the locals and our ship’s crew described as the best weather they had ever seen. 

 If you’ve never been to Alaska, do yourself a favor and make plans to see one of the most spectacular places on earth. Here are just a few of the hundreds of photos we took on our plane, train, and ship travel adventure:

  

 

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When I was 15 years old my mother took my sister and I on a train trip to visit our grandmother in Iowa. It was early in the morning when the train made a prolonged stop in Omaha, Nebraska. Being from southern California, I was used to warm weather, lots of cars, buildings, brown hillsides, and smog. When my mother gave me permission to get off the train and explore for a while, I raced to a bridge above the train station and gazed out at the river below, the blue sky, and the greenery for as far as the eye could see. I was in a different world and have never forgotten that feeling of excitement in discovering someplace new. I also met  a number of characters on that train who were completely different from others in my limited experience. Ever since that time I have always been thrilled to see a new place or meet some interesting person. It can be around the corner or around the world, the thrill is still there.

Now that we have retired, my wife Trisha and I have more time to devote to this passion for meeting new people and visiting new places. We have just returned from a wonderful four week travel adventure which took us to many new and beautiful locations in Alaska, Russia, Japan, and numerous cities and historic sites  in China.

We would have to write another book to fully describe all the  wonderful people we met and incredible places we visited. Rather than do that, let me share a few of the nearly 1,300 photos taken by Trisha with her new camera. In future blogs I will share more of our adventure, but here is a small sample.

In Dutch Harbor with new friend and fellow traveler Jean Michel Cousteau

Catherderal of the Holy Life-Giving Trinity in Petropavlavsk, Russia

  

In Hakodate, Japan after cable car ride to top of Mount Hakodate.

Trisha taking in the beauty of the ancient Shinto Temple in Sendai, Japan

Standing on glass platform of the Tokyo Tower, 1091 feet tall.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura

Trisha in beautiful Nagoya, Japan

Riding the cable car to the top of Mt. Rocco in Kobe, Japan

Making new friends aboard ship.

Making friends at the Nagoya Castle.

With new friends Vicky and Bob in Tiananmen Square, Beijing.

Trisha in the Forbidden City.

Overlooking "Birdsnest" site of the summer Olympics in Beijing.

Terra Cotta warrior in Xian China.

Beautiful performance at the Xian Opera House

Aboard the 220 MPH Bullet Train in Shanghai

Loved this train.

Enjoying a beautiful garden in Suzhou, China.

Boat ride through the canals of Suzhou.

Enjoying a traditional tea ceremony in Shanghai.

Incredible Shanghai