In the wake of the passing of film critic Roger Ebert, I am, like many of Ebert’s admirers, revisiting some of his writings. I was particularly struck by this essay, All By Ourselves Alone, in which he discusses his travel rituals in cities like Venice and London. He opens the piece at a familiar Venetian cafe:
Of course you must have a newspaper, a book, a sketchpad–anything that seems to absorb you. If you are simply sitting there, you will appear to be a Lonely Person and people will look away from you. If you seem preoccupied, you can observe them more closely. In any event, I do not sit there for the purpose of people-watching.
No, I am engaged in Being By Myself in a City Where No One Knows Who I Am and No One I Know Knows Where to Find Me. I have such places in many cities. London, of course. Paris. Rome. Stockholm. Edinburgh. Cape Town. Cannes. Read more
I started writing about travel just a few years shy of the debut, 12 years ago, of this annual series of the best travel stories from American publications. For most of the last dozen years, I have treated myself to the BATW, usually at Christmas time. It’s a professional expense, yes. But the book also gives me insight into the sort of travel writing readers are responding to, which places are being written about, what their angles are, and which publications are still promoting and producing quality travel tales. Browsing the table of contents as well as the “Notable Travel Writing” in the back of the book provides a snapshot of where the best writing is being done and who is doing it.
Every so often, I like to contribute to the Twitter discussion #FriFotos. This week’s topic is “bridge,” and I can think of only a few bridges I like as well as the Bosphorus Bridge. A feat of engineering more than a thing of beauty, Istanbul‘s Bosphorus Bridge connects Europe with Asia. When driving over the bridge, there are signs that tell you, “You Are Now Entering Europe/Asia” The change from one continent to another is not immediately evident, but a switch goes off in the head that makes you think: Crossing this bridge is special.
This photo was taken in the neighborhood of Ortakoy next to the oft-photographed Ortakoy Mosque. I highly recommend paying this part of Istanbul a visit.
A little more than two weeks have passed since I was on vacation in Maine with my family. It was a first time any of us had been in the state and it made a lasting impression.
Now I am in the process of going through notes and photographs so that I can attempt to put into print what I felt, touched, smelled, and tasted while I was there. (By the way, I didn’t write while I was there because I was too busy being in the moment.) This hasn’t been an easy process, mostly because so much has been written about “Vacationland” for the travel pubs that I have what Don George calls in his Lonely Planet Travel Writing guide the “fear of the known.” Read more
Five years ago this weekend, I was browsing these gorgeous fava beans and artichokes at a produce market in Ankara. Cool to look back through my Flickr archives and rediscover what I was doing on the same date years ago./p
I’m spending the holidays in Tallahassee, Florida, which happens to be the town from which the Whitis family, the winners of Good Morning America’s “Our Lights Are Better Than Your Lights”, hail. I’m not only in the same town as this Christmas lights attraction, but approximately three doors down from it. When my family and I arrived after a very long drive yesterday, we had to get a police escort to stop traffic so we could get down the street to my sister’s house. Cars were lined up for at least a mile to get a chance to drive by the GMA winners’ home.
So what does it take to earn bragging rights for the best Christmas lights in the nation? Apparently, it takes 17,000 LED lights and a patriotic, red-white-and-blue light show set to the techno remix of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American.” I can’t say it’s a beautiful display – the word “tacky” comes to mind. But it certainly took a lot of effort and the winners have asked visitors and online admirers to contribute to the Semper Fi Fund, an organization that provides “immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.”
I took a few photos* of the Whitis’ lit-up home, but you can’t really appreciate the audaciousness of this light display until you watch the video complete with music. Thankfully, for the neighbors’ sake, the family has purchased some radio spectrum (92.3 FM) for the duration of the Christmas light show so the neighborhood doesn’t have to endure techno music repeating on a four-minute loop for five hours per night. (I understand there’s currently a lawsuit against the family because of the light and music display, which is probably one reason why the radio spectrum was purchased.)
Here’s the full video of the Whitis’ family’s Semper Fi Christmas House, which will be on display through Christmas night. I promise you this is real:
*All photos (except featured photo) taken with the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-WX9 camera, which was provided courtesy of Sony.