I got my 5th Covid jab

NO … I’m not worried about cardiovascular disease or stroke. The tiny risk is far outweighed by the benefit of the vaccine.

The XBB.1.5 variant is super infectious, though not all that dangerous.

We’re all going to be exposed. Scientists feel about 80% of those exposed will get it sometime soon, even if you are vaccinated or have had Covid in the past.

I’m hoping another vaccine might help (a bit) when I get it.

So far as I know, I haven’t had Covid yet.

Also, I’m traveling soon to Bermuda, a nation that is behind most of the rest of the developing world in vaccine & natural protection.

There’s a pretty good argument not to bother with #5 — but getting the vaccine is free, easy, and I’ve never had a side effects.

PLAN ➙ Tuscany Trail, Italy May 2023

I’ve been researching the best bike rides worldwide. This one appeals most.

The Tuscany Trail.  And I’m registered for 2023.  Cost €97.

World’s largest bikepacking event. 

Cycling 470 km independently … but alongside as many as 3000 others.

It’s not a race.  Some finish in 2 days.  Some wander off and never finish.  😀

It starts 1st JUNE 2023.

I actually cycled here on a rental bike in 2010.  Loved it.

From there I’d most like to head back up to the Dolomites.  On to Switzerland.  And north to Arctic Norway to start the LONG ride I had planned for last summer.  CANCELLED when SAS Airlines failed to deliver my bike.

Here’s my PLAN for 2023.

Click PLAY or watch 2021 on YouTube.

On the Plain of Snakes by Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux is a jerk — but still my favourite travel writer of all time.

He’s age-81 as I post. Still going strong.

Theroux says he’s mellowed. And I’d admit his most recent books are much more positive than his scathing critiques of the past.

In 2015, he published “Deep South” detailing four road trips through the southern states of the United States. Excellent.

In 2019 he published On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey, his account of his extensive travels in his own car throughout Mexico.

In some ways it was a continuation of his Deep South investigation.

Near the start he recaps the deaths and damage done by the drug trade. The insatiable American market. The brutal competition in Mexico to supply it.

He does a terrific overview of illegal immigration before the pandemic. Mexico a net zero. Now mostly more desperate folks from Central America as well as many from India, the Caribbean, and even China.

Over the decades it’s gotten more and more difficult to cross the border illegally. And not because of any wall. Walls are considered a joke in Mexico.

In another instant, his comments come across as self-serving, as when he longs for a simpler Mexico with “inexpensive meals that were delicious, cheap motels that were comfortable, and friendly people who, out of politeness, seldom complained to outsiders of their dire circumstances: poor pay, criminal gangs, a country without good health care or pensions, crooked police, cruel soldiers, and a government indifferent to the plight of most citizens.” …

I was amused to read of all the time Paul paid bribes to crooked cops. An conspicuous car with Massachusetts licence plates — a sitting duck.

Theroux is mostly critical of ReTrumplicans. I like that too, of course.

“The per capita income in Oaxaca is the same as in Kenya and Bangladesh,” Theroux says.

“You’re dealing with people who have very little money and get very little help from the government. But they have a great culture they’re very proud of, their family values are very strong, and they’re very self-sufficient and creative. They mend their clothes; they fix their shoes; they’re actually able to take something that’s broken and repair it; they have a lot of cottage industries.

I admire that, and I admire the ones who pick up and go to the border. Most of the people I’ve met who crossed the border just wanted to earn some money to send back and then go home; they weren’t here to go on welfare or be the parasites they’re identified as.”

In fact, Theroux says, “the book was inspired by everything that Donald Trump and other people were saying during the presidential campaign about Mexico, Mexicans, and the border—their uninformed opinions and stereotypes.”

He adds, “One of the great reasons for traveling is to destroy stereotypes, to see people and things as they really are, to see the dynamics and the complexity of a country. As soon as he started saying things like, ‘There’s too many of them, they’re coming over the border, they’re rapists,’ I had a great reason for taking a year or two to get to the bottom of it.” …

Publisher’s Weekly interview

Personally, I’ve given up on travel in Mexico though I had a condo there for 20 years.

It’s gotten more expensive for the tourist. And on recent trips I found it too American. I’d rather go to Nepal.

However, reading this book has sparked some interest in getting to the far south of Mexico. I’ve never been.

For the Love of Europe by Rick Steves

Though I claim to dislike Europe — I’ve sure spent a lot of time there over the past couple of years.

When European guidebook author Rick Steves was age-14, his family dragged him to Norway to visit relatives.

Unsurprisingly, he didn’t want to go.

YET he documented what he saw and experienced on the backs of postcards which he numbered sequentially. He still has all of those cards stored in a wooden box. 

I’m the same age as Rick Steves. And did much the same thing. My first trip was to West Berlin, age-16.

He studied European history in University. And is today one of the main speakers on European travel for the North American audience.

His 2020 book called For the Love of Europe: My Favorite Places, People, and Stories compiles some of his most vivid memories from budget backpacking when he was young through to producing his television shows.

It’s fast paced and entertaining.

Rick likes the food culture best in France and Italy.  

In fact, I’d say he spends more time in Italy in this book than any other nation. Beware the womanizing gondoliers of Venice, for example. 😀

Watch Steve preview it on YouTube.

Visiting Seville, Spain 2022

This was actually my 3rd time stopping in Seville. It’s the essential transit point between southern Portugal and Andalusia, Spain.

I really do enjoy the city.

Seville got very, very rich after being named the royal monopoly port for trade with the growing Spanish colonies in the Americas and the influx of riches from them.

I’d walked the famous Cathedral in the past, so this time signed up for the rooftop tour. Very cool.

The technology in how they made this massive structure is fascinating.

I’d recommend rooftop over the regular tour as you actually do walk through the Cathedral coming and going to the top, as well.

My guide swears this is the REAL tomb of Christopher Columbus. But there’s another in the Dominican Republic. One or the other might be the brother of Columbus.

Wikipedia list of largest largest church buildings in the world:

  1. St. Peter’s Basilica (Rome)
  2. Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady Aparecida (Brazil)
  3. Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba
  4. Milan Cathedral
  5. Seville Cathedral

Liverpool Cathedral is in the top 10, as well.

On this short trip I spent the most time at the magnificent Plaza de España and surrounding parks.

The building was built 1928 to showcase Spain’s industry and technology at the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair 1929. What a legacy!

There are free Flamenco shows all the time at this plaza.

Another highlight of this visit was getting some fog, quite unusual in a city that has near non-stop sunshine.

I don’t shoot many creative shots, thinking myself more of a Fauxtographer than Photographer.

But I will try to play around more with urban black & white. I do like the feeling they give me.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Help Help Me Ronda, Spain

Have you heard of Ronda?

Intensely scenic.

The oldest bullfighting ring in Spain is here.

Hemingway in his short story Death in the Afternoon:

“There is one town that would be better than Aranjuez to see your first bullfight in if you are only going to see one and that is Ronda.

That is where you should go if you ever go to Spain on a honeymoon or if you ever bolt with anyone. The entire town and as far as you can see in any direction is romantic background.” 

Ronda, Spain 1834 David Roberts 1796-1864

Today there’s a population of about 35,000 living in a cliffside town.

The Guadalevín River runs through the city, dividing it in two and carving out the steep, 100-plus-meter-deep El Tajo canyon …

I did get a bit of drone footage for myself. But it’s not nearly as good as this montage.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Olive-oil Mill in Spain

For the second time ever I toured an Olive-oil factory. And it was just as interesting the second time.

They are still making oil the way it was done hundreds or thousands of years ago. The traditional “First cold-pressed” system.

The olives are knocked out of the tree into a net. And physically “pressed”.

Strained through these cloths.

Then purified in a number of steps.

I’m not sure when glass containers were introduced. That must have been controversial! 😀

The leftovers come out looking like these chips. They are reused in many ways, including as fertilizer for the Olive trees.

Molino El Vínculo in Cadiz Province has been in the same family since at least 1755. And the family grew olives here since at least 1640.

It’s a colourful place with many old pieces of equipment displayed for tourists.

I did try the oil. But couldn’t tell the difference between it and every other olive oil I’ve eaten.

Visiting Cádiz, Spain

Of the places in Andalusia I visited November 2022, Cádiz is the least popular tourist destination.

I was still pleased to have seen it.

Cádiz is a rocky, long, narrow peninsula, popular with sailors and fishermen for thousands of years. In fact, that Italian (Columbus) set sail from here on his second voyage to “India”. He was financed by the Spanish Crown.

By far my highlight was the Castle of San Sebastián, the fortress in the sea. That connecting levee was built 1860.

At dusk I’d take my wine to enjoy sunset.

There are good beaches, deserted in November.

Cádiz Cathedral was decorated for Christmas

Clearly they don’t have the budget of the BIG European cities.

The central food market is a highlight for sure. I’ve never seen so many varieties of fish and seafood. PHOTOS.

Most days I simply wandered the old town. Snapping photos non-stop. Here are a few samples.

I love the look of the simple fishing boats at low tide.

I got lucky having one day of overcast. Rare here. But it makes for more interesting skies.

I would recommend you visit Cádiz.

P.S.

The longest bridge in Spain is here. La Pepa, opened 2015. But I didn’t cross it nor could I even get close enough for a good photo. This pic is from Wikipedia.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Planning for Summer 2023

Though I claim to dislike Europe, my way-too-early current plan for next year is mostly Europe.

I’m scheduled to head back to Bermuda sometime January / February.

“Summer” starts March 2023 in Utah. Hiking. Cycling.

Utah

I might try to get to the Gymnastics Jr. World Championships in Antalya, Turkey March 26 – April 3rd.

Turkey

Greece?

I’ve not been to Santorini nor nearby islands. I’d love to make a stopover there in the Spring.

May in Nepal? Why not! I’ve never been there in the Spring.

Nepal

For years I’ve been trying to get to the Tuscany Trail, the world’s largest bikepacking event.

That starts June 1-2 out of Pisa, Italy. With my personal bicycle.

If time allows, I’d love to head back to the nearby Dolomites for hiking, cycling and via ferrata,

Italy

With stops in Switzerland, from Italy I’d want to make my way very north to Tromso, Norway.

Cycle south along Norway’s west coast to Denmark.

Ferry over to the Faroe Islands. And on to Iceland in August.

That was my plan from summer 2022 … that never happened when Scandinavian Airlines lost my bike.

Norway ➙ Denmark ➙ Faroe Islands ➙ Iceland

Will any of this happen?

I’d wager a 50% chance of any of those destinations actually coming to fruition. 😀

Old Yiddish proverb:

“Man Plans, and God Laughs.” 

Seafood Market, Cádiz, Spain

The Central Market of Cádiz is memorable to say the least.

Over 100 food stands in an ancient stone marketplace.

Surrounding the Market are different stalls where you can sample the best of Cádiz’s traditional cuisine.

Street urchins.

I wasn’t all that adventurous, opting only for the very popular street paella.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.