Market Strategy


Most tourists like to meander through marketplaces, if not for the view, for the sale they expect to gain.  As an itinerary planner, I often include these venues as places of interest.  Those who like to peregrinate the length and breadth of a city will inevitably run into a souk, bazaar, flea-market, fair or arcade of some kind, and may choose to wander in just to pass the time.  Whether indoor or outdoor, marketplaces are treasure troves worth exploring.  Therefore, it is a good idea to have a market strategy before venturing inside.  Usually, markets are jam packed with cultural novelties, artifacts, art, crafts, sculptures, food and just about anything you can think of.  It’s where vendors and customers interact to each other’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction.  On location, one can expect to witness a dichotomy of wills on display in business transactions and haggling skills.  It’s a place where real treasure and junk coexist, but that’s a determination which rest solely in the eyes of the beholder.

Large marketplaces are diverse, and frequently sell food, clothing, artifacts, etc. all under one roof.  These kinds typically draw the larger crowds.  Smaller markets tend to specialize.  More like the antiques, fruit, vegetables, and flea-market types.  However, no matter the size or category, people are drawn like magnets to explore and maybe to procure a purchase or two.  I confess I am no different.  As a world traveler, I use the opportunity to browse large and small markets to better understand the culture I’m in.  Though not a foodie, I usually gravitate to the food, fruits and vegetables markets where I can taste-test and learn of different foods and their preparation (tip: a sure way to fill your belly for free).  To browse in any one of the locations I mention hereafter would be worth the time and effort, and in my opinion, should not be overlooked or dismissed as a nonentity.  About that strategy though, firmly answer the following questions: Do I seriously want to make a purchase?  Do I have space to carry it or have the means to ship it home?  Do I want to only enjoy all that I’ll see?  The answers to these pertinent questions will help to keep you from busting your budget, from regretting an impulsive buy, and from making a bad decision on the spur of the moment.

One memorable market I visited and worth mentioning is Japan’s Tsukiji Market.  It no longer occupies the location it did for the past 83 years, but has been relocated to  Toyosu, and is so called.   My experience perusing that iconic landmark which supplied a third of the world’s fish and seafood was jaw-dropping.  It was my first time visiting a fish market of that magnitude.  I watched fish sellers shout, bid, work, and even sing as they moved fish in and out.  My host bought a few fillet chunks of tuna, another ‘first’ seeing the actual fish, and the size of it.  Up until then I was only accustomed to the canned mush “Chicken of the SeaBumble Bee brand.  The tuna was served with miso soup and to this day, it was the best tuna I’ve ever tasted, finger licking good.

Two other markets that I enjoyed visiting were the Spice and Grand Bazaars, respectively, in Istanbul.  The minute you step into the mall, the scent of a variety of spices assault the nose.  Piles of cumin, curry, paprika, saffron, dried fruits, nuts, herbs, mushrooms, twigs, and leaves I could not identify were on display.  Barrels of figs, olives, grains and ready-made salad condiments were neatly arranged to encourage the salivating visitor to buy.  The Grand Bazaar also is as it states – Grand.  One can easily get lost in the myriad of stalls if not careful.  Vendors sell everything you can think of.  It is a hive of activity and a pick-pockets dream location for their nefarious acts.  However, these two locations are interesting and should be explored once in Turkey.

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Israel’s Mahane Yehuda and Carmel Markets, respectively, to my mind are a foodie’s delight.  Vendors are friendly and quick to invite you into their stall to take a look.  A cacophony of shouting and calling to patrons to buy is the daily norm.  One vendor in particular caught my attention, crying in a loud shrill voice, ‘Boreka’ (Bow -reee-kah).  From his stall he managed to catch the attention of others and drew a crowd.  He deftly manipulated the fast-food he was preparing and handed them out on order.  I could not resist trying the stuffed, fried-dough, after all they were selling like hot cakes.  I was not disappointed, it was delicious.  Jaffa Flea Market was also a haven for old, antique items that could be used to decorate the home.  Furniture dealers displayed nifty woodwork designs that were not from the standard assembly line.  It was interesting just to inspect the skilled workmanship of the furniture.

Yet another food market worth mentioning and one I visited two years ago was the fruit and vegetable market at Saquisili in Ecuador.  The produce was fresh and, in many cases, organic.  Local farmers sold their produce wholesale directly to merchants, retailers and individual buyers.  Vendors organized by neatly squatting under one large roof to display a wide variety of their goods.  This market event operates just once a week, is the highlight of its small community, and people of all walks of life travel there over great distances to fraternize, buy and sell their goods.

I could go on and on about the many markets I’ve had the privilege to peruse in places like: Cambodia, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Italy, India, Peru, Thailand to name a few, but beside food, I love to frequent markets that offer old as well as new stuff.  In Seoul, South Korea, I stopped by Namdeamun Market where designer name brands were the order of the day.  The knock-offs whether genuine or not were readily available on every table and stall.  I bought two identical style purses in different colors and a hat that I still wear to this day (colorful winter hat with two braids, my friends may remember it 😊).  I still own and periodically use these items.  Not a bad purchase and quality of items I’ve had for more than 20 years now, if I should say so.

Community Peeps, if you do not have a market strategy when you visit such a place you are bound to come out a little lighter in the wallet than you bargained for.  Therefore, it is imperative to walk in with a clear plan that is attainable.  What has been your experience venturing into these or similar turf?  Any haggling stories you’d like to repeat here?  If so, please write them in the comment box below.  As always, I’m eager to hear about it.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Train Tripping


Train travel is one of my favorite modes of transportation at home and abroad.  I love to hear the chug, chug, chug of the wheels on the track and the occasional whistle blow which reminds me of the old western movies (I bet the recollection just brought a smile to your face too 😊).  I especially love to travel by train from country to country or from one end of a country to its furthest end.  It is the opportunity to see the countryside, landscape and natural beauty.  It is also time to rest and recover from an exhaustive vacation, cover a great distance over land, and eliminate a hotel expense especially if traveling overnight.  A resource I have found particularly useful, informative and nearly always accurate is “Seat61.com.”  What started out as a hobby for Mark Smith, the man in seat 61, has turned out to be a helpful tool for all those who visit his website.  He writes about train travel around the world.  His information which includes maps, links, etc., of the destinations, train stations, connections, schedules, ticket fees and services are spot on.  I was able to use his recommendations many times over.  Here are my train travels in South Africa, Italy and Japan respectively.

I traveled from Johannesburg to Cape Town using the overnight sleeper train, a journey that took more than 12 hours.  I rode economy class which turned out to be a mad scramble of pushing and shoving just to board the train.  Once I secured my seat next to a window and settled down for the long ride, looking around I realized I was the only foreigner in that car.  The chatter was loud, at times there was singing, kids playing, and vendors moving up and down the aisle selling their goods from depot to depot.  Food was another activity that brought the passengers together.  Groups or family members (I presume) were sharing and passing food around the car.  It was nothing like the train rides I am accustomed to in the USA, but I was loving the experience.  As night came, activities became quieter as everyone settled down and prepared to sleep as best they could in the straight back seats.  Folks spread blankets and pillows along the aisle and in between seats, wherever they could make themselves comfortable for the night.  I simply stretched my legs out on another vacant seat while propping up trying to remain vigilant of self and property.  Once a male vendor knocked my protruding feet off the seat while passing down the aisle saying something in his native tongue (at first, I thought it was accidental) until a couple women across the aisle gave him a scolding.  Then I realized they were coming to my defense.  Before this incident happened, I had become familiar to them by my frequent smiles and friendly gestures to the children.  I had even bought and shared a meal with the South African sitting next to me.  It was an unforgettable experience and I would do it again.

The next ride was from Durban to Jo’burg.  I reserved a single cabin in the sleeper car, and was given a clean sheet, pillow and blanket.  This trip was overnight and lasted more than 12 hours too.  The ride from Durban was different.  This time I enjoyed peace and quiet as we rode along occasionally stopping at scheduled stations to pick up and drop off passengers.  I decided to try out the meal car.  The food was adequate and satisfying.  Nothing spectacular happened to me on this ride though, worth mentioning, other than at one of the stops I looked out the car window and saw little boys on a wall panhandling.  When I didn’t throw money to them, they decided to moon me (pulled down their pants to show me they derrières).  All I could do was laugh, but wished I’d had a few coins to throw their way.

Another train journey I recall was from Venice to Rome.  That ride was comfortable, arriving just before midnight.  That meant many hours before our scheduled check-in to the hotel.  The option to stay at the train station for the few hours was upended when the cleaning crew came to do their job.  All persons were unceremoniously ushered from the waiting areas and doors closed until reopening times at first light in the morning.  With more than five hours to spare my niece and I wandered the streets, stopped in a café or two until they closed, listened to the vibes belting out from a local disco and finally sitting down on the steps of a hostel where the young people were constantly coming and going.  Poor planning was at fault for our having to wait out the time on the streets in the dark hours after midnight until check-in.

Still another journey by train was on the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto.  No one takes the bullet train to sightsee or to oohh and ahhh about the landscape.  For me, it was all about the experience and traveling on a train that goes up to speeds of 200 mph.  Before the cat could lick his ear, it seemed like we had gotten to our destination even though this was a two-hour journey.  Time flies when you’re having fun.  My Japanese host smiled knowingly at my disappointment.  Just when I felt like riding a bit further, I was getting off.  The train was comfortable, neat and clean.  Passengers were quiet and formal.  Everything was orderly.

There have been other places I have taken the trains with interesting stories to tell such as Argentina, Chile, Kuala Lumpur, Spain, United Kingdom, Venezuela and many more.  It is a fascinating and comfortable form of transport, and safe too.

Community Peeps recounting these memories of my train tripping days are always a treat.  I may not get the chance to revisit some of these places or do some of the same things again, but I do have the best recollections of them.  What about you?  Any train stories you would like to share with me?  I’d be glad to hear of it.  Please share in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Everest Or For Ever Rest


Never thought I’d see the day where headlines announce overcrowding of the slopes on Mount Everest.  Not in droves, but recent news reports have highlighted an increase in the number of mountain climbers who have undertaken the task to complete the arduous climb.  Some do it or forever rest where they have fallen.  Sherpas who are professional guides help to carry equipment to the top.  They lead climbers, hikers, celebrities and groups up the dangerous mountain terrain to an altitude where only planes fly, and at the peril of their own lives.

I take my hat off to all those who have reached Everest’s zenith or are in the throes of planning the hike up some other treacherous mountain.  Truly, it is not for the faint of heart.  Everest is the tallest mountain on earth, the peak scaling 29,029 feet.  Before even reaching the summit, the climb up causes the body to gasp for air.  Oxygen is thinner at the 26,000 feet elevation and beyond, otherwise called the “death zone.”  Some effects the climber may experience there include exhaustion, delirium, incoherence, and moments of insanity, all due to the inability to breathe in enough oxygen.

Mount Everest has proven to be a perilous nature challenge, but lately, more and more people are taking up the dare.  Optimum fitness levels and pertinent climbing skills help to achieve the goal of reaching the pinnacle.  However, some persons have not been so fortunate.  According to an article in Business Insider, 11 people have died just this spring alone from trying to reach the crest.  Overall, it is recorded that the steep mountain has claimed the lives of 306 people to date.  As if the tough climb was not enough to drain the experienced climber, they bypass frozen dead bodies, now a part of the landscape, which must present a mental conflict as they trudge slowly upward.  Besides the real dangers the assent poses, hikers say the 20 minute limit spent on the peak is worth every bit of trouble before descending to base camp.

What is causing this sudden surge in interest with respects to Everest?  Have the situation become easier or more navigable than in prior years?  I don’t think so.  The dangers certainly are the same.  Plus, thin air, avalanches pose the most serious threat to climbers.  In 2018, an avalanche took the lives of 16 Sherpas.    So, what pushes the hiker to go all the way to the apex?  Could it be to enjoy the view (which I am told is out of this world), to claim bragging rights, to take photos, to be a part of an elite group of mountaineers?  Whatever the reason, losing life or limb is a hard price to pay for 20 minutes of goal satisfaction.

Everest may be the only place on earth that my itinerary plans would recommend, turning back, until better circumstances, better fitness, and better overall conditions could be met.  I believe in accepting limits and preserving life in order to try again another day.  The thought of forging ahead at the risk of your own life, just because you may have considerable expedition expense loss, wasted time and talent, or because you say to yourself, “I’ve come too far to turn back” may not be prudent thinking.  Another day, another attempt, another opportunity may present itself if you are determined to one day achieve the goal.

The closest I will ever come to Everest is when I visit Nepal, which I hope to do some day.  It would be amazing to rise to the heights, but I can still remember my experience when I climbed Table Mountain in South Africa.  That mountain would be considered a hill to the likes of the mighty Everest.  Even though, it does not hold many of the risks found on Everest, it proved to be a strain to me physically and mentally.  The venture took me twice the time to complete.  My legs felt like stumps, at times my heart felt like it would burst inside my chest, and the residue of salt squeezed out through my pores from sweat were caked on my face by the time I reached the top.  I looked a frightful sight but the view at the crown was fantastic and worth the effort.

Although climbing the South African peak did not pose a danger or threat to my life, they were many times on the trail I felt like giving up.  The battle to continue was as much a mental one as it was physical.  I achieved the personal goal, gained bragging rights, took awesome photos and relaxed before descending via the cable car.  My experience on Table Mountain pales in comparison to what the Sherpas and professional climbers do on Everest.  Yet, my attitude to such an undertaking is if at first you don’t succeed, try again.  Do not risk your life unnecessarily.  Live to try again.

Community Peeps, mountain climbers and hiking enthusiasts, what has been your experience on climbs?  What challenge or difficulties did you face?  Please share your experience in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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The Weather Variable


Summer is swiftly approaching and lots of people will take the opportunity to catch the sun’s rays on a destination trip they have been planning for months.  Beginning this Memorial Day weekend and continuing through to the Labor Day weekend, we will see travelers from the four corners of the USA using every means of transport to reach their vacation spot, nationally and internationally.  Whether making a solo or family and friends’ trip, there are some things one should consider before departure.  One such consideration should be the weather variable.  When making plans, a knowledgeable understanding of the destination’s precipitous weather conditions should be studied to guaranty successful itinerary activities and expectations.

At the height of summer, a few damaging, even deadly weather conditions may take place.  In the Caribbean and Americas there may be hurricanes; in Asia and Africa they are called monsoons.  In the USA, specifically the south and mid-west another natural affliction is tornadoes.  Heat waves and torrential rains also weigh into the injurious mix.  A knowledge of the day’s forecast before take-off to start your holiday is advisable.  Check the weather forecast and advisories daily, and a weekly review leading up to your departure date.

Off peak seasons are the cheapest travel times and they usually happen to be when the weather is not considered to be the very best.  In some of my adventures, I chose to travel during the rainy season.  Of course, I watched and noted the forecast and planned my daily activities to suit.  It has been my experience in places like: Costa Rica, Kuala Lumpur, Paraguay and Panama, I have witnessed torrential rains pour down from the sky like clockwork.  Obviously, residents who are familiar with the season, are always prepared when they leave home by carrying an umbrella, raincoat and boots, if needed.   In one of the aforementioned places, I have had my encounter with changing weather patterns too.  I remember traveling with a friend and it was our first day in Paraguay.  We decided (actually, it was my idea since I wanted to see the landscape), to travel to Asuncion by local bus from the airport.  Clearly, this meant a longer time driving to the city since the bus would pick up and drop off passengers along the way.  By the time we arrived in Asuncion, heavy dark clouds had gathered, and it started to rain.  We were riding in the bus, higher off the ground than most sedans.  I could see motor vehicles trying to maneuver away from the pooling water on the roads but thought nothing of it until it became evident, we were experiencing a flash flood.  The rising water started to lap at and climb the bus steps as we drove along.  Some passengers including myself became alarmed and began to scream about the invading water level.  The bus driver then began to look for steeper roads to pull away from the flooding areas.  The rains soon stopped but not before some cars were left stalled in the murky waters.  That flooding experience can be blamed on poor drainage, inadequate infrastructure, or maybe even global warming, but whatever the cause, it was a close call, one that I do not ever want to repeat.

Community Peeps, vacations are relaxing, fun getaways.  However, we must still consider and respect weather conditions wherever we go.  Be prepared by knowing what the day’s forecast is before setting foot outside your door.  Have you ever been caught in bad weather and felt unprepared?  What did you do?  Please share your experience in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Itinerary Planning Is For Everyone


Yesterday I learned of the passing of I. M. Pei, a world renowned architect.  His more notable works include the Louvre pyramid in Paris, and the John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts.   The sad news announcement brought back memories of my encounter of working with him, not directly, but indirectly.   21 years ago, I had the pleasure of organizing and working on a conference that featured him as the keynote speaker.  I can still recall the excitement among my colleagues at the asset management company where I worked in New York City.  Little did I know then that my itinerary planning skills were being honed to cater to the rich and famous, and which I would also use to render service to others many years later.

In the financial boutique, the finance planners were some of the brightest and best in their field.  The small group was wealthy, educated and tight-knit.  They were hand-picked by the company’s owner and were backed by a prominent Asian tire company.  In retrospect, the planning of the conference taught me the nuts and bolts of itinerary planning.  No stone was left upturned and no expense spared to ensure the conference was spectacular, auspicious and impressive.

The event was held in Paris and a few of the top brass flew to the event on board the supersonic jet – Concorde.   Booking those tickets were also an exciting to-do.  Obviously, this notable transportation had to be booked months in advance and cost thousands of dollars.  Before the conference, some colleagues flew to Indonesia for custom made dress fittings for the event.  The gift tokens, including the specially crafted wooden pens in bamboo cases, rice paper note-pads, name tags, and other fine touches helped to make the event extra special.  Many hours of paying attention to every detail, meeting with managers, consulting with business partners, briefing and debriefing the CEO on the organizational progress was stressful at times.

However, working with the office of I. M. Pei was professional and cordial.  No major or unrealistic demands were made on his behalf.  Even though I did not attend the event, from all accounts, the function went off without a hitch.  I take this opportunity to offer condolences to the Pei family.

Community Peeps, organizing and planning travel itineraries is for everyone, whether it is a large, small, executive or individual account,.   Still, this particular event was one I could hardly forget.  Remembering how my itinerary planning skills were developed over the years and by what means is humbling.  Paying attention to every detail then helped to perfect my craft, but now, serves to ensure plans meet my customer’s satisfaction today.  Do you have a special skill you use to benefit others even though at the time you only considered it a part of your 9 – 5 job?  Share your experience in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Attraction Or Distraction?


Changi International Airport in Singapore is not making it easy for other airports around the world to compete with them for the enviable number one position. Voted the leading airport for seven years running, it is by far the most prestigious and exciting airport to visit.  Last month they raised the bar again with the opening of a new wing called “Jewel.” This recent introduction of their latest attraction will more than likely help them cop the top spot for a few more years to come.  Is this latest stimulus an attraction or distraction?  Let us consider.

The making of Jewell cost the Singaporeans a whopping $1.3 billion.  Shaped like a donut, the lifestyle hub is located close to terminal one.  It took more than four years to build and holds amazing gardens, trails, a rain forest, mall, luxury stores, a multi-screen Imax theater, supermarket, hotel, restaurants and a rain vortex.  This tunnel-like waterfall feature is smack-dab in the middle of the dome.  All these offerings are available 24-7.  Sounds like a lot to cover on foot in a short time?  No worries.  You can catch the skytram that weaves its way throughout the new indoor wonder.

It has only been two years since I visited Singapore and experienced the attractions of Changi and already my visit is dated.  Back then I found the airport huge to cover, and makes a layover of eight hours look like child’s play if you want to enjoy its attractions.  It also makes me wonder as an itinerary planner, if this will be the new trend in upgrades as other airports vie to be the best in class and category.  Will airport planners encourage more futuristic designs and exhibitions with the intention to attract more and more tourist?  Should I recommend airport attractions as a consideration for visitors to do when traveling?  Should this new phenomenon be cast as an adventure of its own or only for those who have long layovers?  Should vacationers be encouraged to take time from their holiday to explore the airport if it has interesting attractions?  Would the possibility of exploring cause the not too careful traveler to inadvertently miss their departing flight?  These questions are just a few of the many questions I have.

The Singapore government designed the new facility not only for globe trotters, but for the residents too, and expects approximately 50 – 60 million people to visit the site this year.  There is a likelihood then that the volume of expected pedestrians may slow viewing or cause long lines to board the tram; however, vacationers may access kiosks available throughout the dome for easy and early check-in.  If you are anything like me, you would want to see it all, and may be tempted to walk every inch of the dome which sits on 1.46 million square feet, is 10 stories tall – five stories below ground and five above.  The spanking new allurement is not finished.  A recreational facility that includes a fascinating glass bottom bridge, canopy park, topiaries, slides, a maze and more will open in June.  All these fun and exciting activities, not to mention the jacuzzi and pool on the roof top are things the delayed visitor can do to pass the time.

Community Peeps, I have never thought to encourage or recommend spending a day at the airport.  It has always been the feeling that most travelers want to get in and out of the airport as fast as they can.  However, times are changing, and it seems like airports are swiftly becoming places of adventure and activity.  What is your take on this new development?  Do you like the prospect that you can enjoy much more than just merely sitting at the gate, browsing a store or eating at a fast food restaurant?  Share your thoughts with the rest of us in the comment box below.  If you have any plans to visit or pass through Singapore, will you opt for a longer layover?  This is all interesting to know and I would love to hear from you on the matter.  Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on whether you think it is an attraction or distraction.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Because You Follow


Besides itinerary planning, there are a few other reasons why I started this travel website and blog.  One of the main reasons why I continue to share from week to week is because YOU follow.  Last week I reached 1000+ followers and I want to thank all of you for that.  When I achieved the millennial status, it gave me fresh wind beneath my wings.  This milestone is significant and exciting to me.  It’s exhilarating to know that everyone of you are interested in reading what I have to say.  Of course, I do not take it lightly, and am truly humbled by the fact that my community is growing.  Like brushing my teeth, combing my hair and dressing for work, I take pride in what I want to share with you, am careful to be positive and encouraging (at least I hope I am), and being honest and genuine in sharing my views.  You are the reason for my continued presence online and I hope to always deliver on promises, experiences, thoughts, tips and relevant travel related information.

Community Peeps and readers, you have stuck with me, offered your comments, clicked liked, shared on your social media pages and followed.  You didn’t have to do any of this, and so, your interaction with me via this portal is greatly appreciated.  Obviously, I cannot thank you enough, and it is at times such as these when words fail me.  Suffice it then to know that it is all because of you why this website and blog continues to exists.  I hope that you will always enjoy reading, be impressed to like, boldly comment on subject matter, and willingly share on your social media pages too.

I am grateful and want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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Itinerary Planner

Lessons From The Ashes Of Notre Dame


Nothing lasts for ever.  That uncompromising truth was evident as the world witnessed the burning of the famed and renowned Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France on Monday, April 15.  Watching the televised blaze engulf a national landmark, brought anguish, pain and disbelief to mind, feelings eerily familiar and reminiscent of the 911 blaze at the World Trade Center in New York City.  Personally, I have spent time in both places and my reaction to this tragedy is certainly warranted.  Saddened by the destruction, I too respectfully want to offer to the people of France my solidarity in their loss and look forward to the rebuild.

Reminiscing of my visit to the historic tourist attraction many years ago, I hope to share some lessons learned from the ashes of Notre Dame.  I hope they’ll be valuable to all trippers and teach others how to memorialize their adventures too.  However, let me recount my time at the cathedral.  The first encounter was on a group tour back in 1994.  That year we visited attractions in and around Paris which included popular places like the wine valley of Champagne, Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, The Moulin Rouge, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and shopping at Les Galleries LaFayette to name just a few.  Back then I was enthralled by the culture, cuisine and haute couture fashions of France.

The Cathedral was magnificent.  Works of art, relics, carvings, and masterpieces helped to make the house of worship a museum in an of itself.  Without and within everything was old, dating back hundreds of years.  Even with the steady flow of tourists, the sanctuary was quiet.  Some were huddled in groups closely listening to their guides giving historical details in tones little above a whisper, while others sat reverently in the pews.  I remember taking a seat for a few minutes too.   As our guide took us on the outside of the cathedral, one of the main requests was to point out the gargoyle that helped to make the cathedral even more famous via the movie, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”  Everyone wanted to see the hunchback.

As I look at the devastation left behind by the fire which has consumed brick and mortar, and has ended a part of history, I am reminded to approach future sightseeing adventures with these thoughts:

  1. Strike the iron while it is hot – If traveling to a landmark building/site that is deemed hundreds, maybe thousands of years old, or that has some acclaim to fame, take the time to stop and visit. Seize the opportunity to view, peruse, inspect, handle if possible, and learn all about the attraction.  Sometimes, tourists pass up the chance, or are turned off by the high prices of entrance fees to these attractions, but after traveling great distances my recommendation always is – pay the price.  You will only do it once, and you’ll have a lasting memory.  Look, I can still recall my visit 25 years later (wow, time flies when you’re having fun 😀).
  2. Collect memorabilia – Scrap-booking is a good tool for ardent travelers. Grab a piece of history by taking as many photos as you possibly can.  Daily record every detail in your diary.  Build a memorial of your experience via scrap-booking to tell your story of the trip using: photos, receipts, brochures, maps, postcards, etc.  (I will share some of my photos of the tour in France in a future post).
  3. Old versus new – When old things are lost and replaced albeit by new and improved things, the thing that is lost makes the new experience never the same again. The plan to rebuild reminds me of the Biblical account of the temple of Solomon that was devastated.  The elders and priests who witnessed the rebuilding, and who were familiar with the first temple mourned when they saw the new temple.  The newer temple couldn’t compare to the magnificence of the former temple (read the account in the book of Ezra 3).  The promised five-year building plan already declares that the roof cannot be replicated due to lack of similar material.  Also, time will tell of any further damage to the priceless artifacts that escaped burning.

Surely, with all the monetary pledges for the restoration pouring in, the new and improved Notre Dame will more than likely be a state of the art, updated treasure in five years.  However, only those who have visited in the past and can revisit in the future will be able to tell the difference.  I hope to be one of them, God willing.

Community Peeps share your impressions in my comment box below of your experience at Notre Dame Cathedral.  It would be great to reminisce with you of the iconic, world renowned treasure, as we all go through this difficult time with the people of France.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

Information Ready


It is the fourth month of the year and spring-break activities may be on the lips of every student.  One such activity may be a carefully crafted travel plan.  Groups of exuberant, vivacious travelers will engage in fun and frolic in an attempt to forget the stress of academia, to recharge, and to have a great time in a different place.  These young adults eagerly look forward to executing their customized itineraries with great expectations.  It is their sole intention to share with their loved ones lasting memories of an unforgettable trip.  In a week or two they will feel the buildup of excitement.  The anticipation of what is to come will rise to levels that may seem unbearable before setting out on their adventure.  Still, at this initial stage it is crucial to always know where one can go when one needs help in a strange place.

It is imperative to have a ready list of places/businesses/services you can seek out for help if you need it.  Usually, my first stop in any foreign country when I disembark is the information desk.  There, I ask all pertinent questions re local transportation, hotel direction, area, money exchange, restaurants, etc., before leaving the airport.  In my past experiences while on the road, I have found it may not always be wise to approach a total stranger.  They may not want to assist you or may feel wary of your approach.  So, here are some front-line resources you can use for immediate help if you need it.

sign arrow direction travel
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Police – In all countries, the police are there to serve and protect people.  Do not hesitate to locate the nearest station or approach an officer for help.  They gladly assist tourist in distress, who are lost, needing directions, or other information.

Consulate/Embassy – This particular recommendation may not be one to easily access without an appointment.  However, a request at the guard station may put you in touch with someone who can aid you.

Travel Agency – They are in the business to know all that pertains to the traveler.  They are a good source to find and locate your travel needs.  Use their services for directions, and advice on attractions, area, transportation, recommended tours, etc.  You will find they have up-to-date information and network connections that will put you in touch with whatever you need.

YMCA/YWCA – Usually this organization has its doors open to assist anyone with a need.  Do not hesitate to go to either establishment irrespective of gender.

Church – Any house of worship is a safe bet to enter and appeal for support also.  If your particular church is not in the neighborhood, usually a catholic church can be located to offer back-up.

Hotel/Hostel – The concierge or front desk receptions of these establishments are always willing to help the traveler who needs support.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions there even if you are not their guest.

i-booth – Last but not least, many i-booths are strategically located in major cities just to assist tourist.  Representatives man these stations and they are usually outfitted with maps, brochures and tour operator paraphernalia for the traveler.

Community Peeps, what other places would you suggest to go to for help?  Write your responses in the comment box below.  I am anxious to know your thoughts on the subject and to add them to my repertoire of recommendations for the future.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

Uptick in Female Solo Travel


Solo travel among women has risen dramatically according to an article in Forbes.  Is it a cause for concern?  Probably not.  Though the article primarily addresses the top 20 places women are traveling to, one cannot help but ponder the issue of personal safety as women go it alone on their bespoke adventure trails.  To give this issue more depth another recent article reported the kidnapping of an American women while on a safari in Uganda and highlighted the dangers women or solo travelers face.

Traveling alone should be approached with sobriety and thoughtful planning.  Though some dangers are avoidable, there are those that are simply premeditated.  Let me explain.  Every solo journey, I am acutely aware of my surroundings, people and activities.  My behavior adapts to suit the environment I am in.  My guard is heightened, watchful and I approach everything with caution.  For example, while on vacation in Fez, Morocco, as I was walking on the street, my eyes locked with a man on the opposite side of the road.  In my usual manner, I smiled and carried on walking.  He smiled too.  It wasn’t long before I realized he was trying to engage my attention by smiling whenever I looked in his direction.  If I walked faster, he kept pace, and if I slowed, he did the same.  I was concerned but not overly frightened because we were on a busy street.  I decided to go to the recreational plaza near to the riad where I was staying and sure enough, he followed me there.  I sat in the square where mothers with their children and older men gather to socialize.  He lingered too.  I kept a watchful eye on him.  He kept on looking at me.  I sat at an angle where I could see him and waited until he became distracted to make my move.  I ran to the riad as fast as I could to elude him.  I didn’t look back.  Whether he was trying to be friendly, wanted to harm me or some other sinister act, I was not sticking around to find out.   Knowing what to do in suspicious circumstances may help to pre-empt any mishaps or disasters.  However, even with adopting the utmost care in itinerary planning, stuff happens, like the guy following me and the kidnapping case in Uganda (even though the gravity of the latter is much more serious than the former).

Solo travel has been my modus operandi for many years.  I love the freedom it gives me, and I have good and bad memories of such times at home and abroad.  It is imperative that one pay close attention to all that is going on and not become too immersed in the events or happenings around them.  Keeping your wits about you is paramount to being safe.   So, what can women do to safeguard themselves in questionable or dangerous places?  Try these simple tips when you vacation alone:

  1. Do not take any questionable risks. Read travel advisories before you embark on your trip.
  2. Always leave a daily plan with your close friends and family.
  3. Use social media to keep everyone in the loop on your whereabouts. Take lots of photos and post daily commentaries of your activities to your chat sites, forums or media page.
  4. Do not deviate from your planned daily itinerary. If for some reason a change must be made, alert others of the change immediately.
  5. Do not attract attention to yourself by being obnoxious, rude, or flashy.
  6. Wear loose fitting clothing that does not hug the body or draw attention to your curves. While this may not be a reason to precipitate an attack, it is a sensible approach to eliminate any unbalanced desires to do so.
  7. Stay close to your guide, large groups or within crowded areas.
  8. Complete your sightseeing activities within time frames that have the most pedestrian traffic.
  9. Avoid walking or traveling lonesome roads. Stay in well lit areas if out at night.
  10. Know where you are going and what to expect when you get there. Be vigilant and observant of your surroundings at all times.

Community Peeps, especially my female counterparts, enough cannot be said about adopting safe travel practices whilst on vacation.  Have you or any of your loved ones encountered a situation that was a cause for concern, or because of the safety measures you used you were able to avoid a danger?  Share about the encounter in the comment box provided below.  Equally, your thoughts or tips would be appreciated too.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

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