Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Blog Contents / Quick Links

Welcome to Steve Bailey's Tourist First! I hope these photos and impressions from my travels will help you plan your own trips. These blog posts are not updated once they're posted. For example, my post about a July 2019 visit to Venice does not reflect the terrible damage done by flooding in November 2019. 

Click on the orange links.  And please visit my professional web site

General Travel
In the Air, a Caste System
Here's What I Want in a Hotel Room 
And see what more than 1,000 of my New York Times readers want in a hotel room
Travel Experiences With Minimal Expense
Strategies for Saving on Travel
My 2008 New York Times column on travel in a motor home or RV
My 2004 New York Times article on eco-resorts in the Caribbean (not all are still operating)
It's Easy to Avoid Credit Card Ripoffs Abroad
Road Trip: Driving from the Chesapeake Bay to San Diego

African Safaris
Itinerary for Six Weeks in Africa
My 2019 New York Times Article on Tips for Your First Safari
The Safari Experience
Botswana: Kalahari Desert
Botswana: Okavango Delta
Namibia: Chobe River
South Africa: Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Tanzania: Ngorongoro Crater
Tanzania: Serengeti

Argentina
Mendoza: Home of Malbec

Britain
Wales: "Retiring" to a Canal Boat

California
Anzo-Borrego State Park: A Desert in Bloom
Idyllwild: Mountain Retreat
Los Angeles: Explorations on Foot
Malibu: The Getty Villa and More
Palm Springs: A Fall Getaway
San Diego County: A Joy Ride in the Mountains
San Diego: Cabrillo National Monument
San Diego: Embarcadero Walk
San Diego: Harbor Tour
San Diego: The "Other Zoo" is a Safari Park

Cambodia
Itinerary for Three Weeks in Southeast Asia
Small Airlines for Touring Southeast Asia
Religious Images: The Divine in Southeast Asia
Elephant Valley: Saving Asia's "Living Tractors"
Kep: The Place for Crabs (My Apologies to Chesapeake Bay)
Phnom Penh: Where the Past Is Past
Siam Reap: Gateway to the Angkor Region
The Angkor Temples: Angkor WatAngkor ThomBayonBanteay Srei, and Ta Prohm

Canada
Montreal: Frenchy but Not Exotic
Niagara Falls: The Canadian Side, Please
Toronto: First Impressions
Toronto: Second Impressions

Croatia
Itinerary for Two Months in the Balkans
Dubrovnik: Beach Resort and History Theme Park
Hvar: The Blue Waters of the Adriatic
Split: Ruins and 20th-Century Art
Zagreb: The City of Broken Relationships

Czech Republic
Prague: Music, Art and Architecture

Dominica
My 1997 New York Times article on the Caribbean's greenest island


Ecuador
Otavalo: My 2002 New York Times article on a New Years visit to the Andes
Quito: Mountain Capital

France
A Family Road Trip Finds the Best of France
Bordeaux: Wine Capital
The Loire Valley: Chateau Visits 
Paris: Trying to Avoid the Crowds

Greece
Itinerary for Two Months in the Balkans
Athens: Better Than I Imagined
Chania: Walls and Charm on Crete
Delphi: The Oracle is Silent
Heraklion: The Capital of Crete
Hydra: Quiet and Carless
Santorini: Island as Shopping Mall
Thessaloniki: A Party Town With Few Foreigners

Iceland
Reykajavik: Geothermal Wonderland

Iran
A 2016 Family Visit
What to Expect If You Visit Iran

Italy
Itinerary for a Three-Month Visit
Agrigento: Sicily's Valley of the Temples
Alberobello: Home of the Trulli
Capri: Another World
Catania: Gateway to Mount Etna
Lecce: Baroque Wonderland
Maratea: Italy for Italians
Masala: More Than Wine
Matera: Modern Cave Dwellers
Naples: One Nights Isn't Enough
Palermo: Beyond "The Godfather"
Pompeii (and Herculaneum): What Vesuvius Wrought
Rome: The Palaces
Rome: The Churches
Rome: The Ruins
Rome: Dining
Rome: Walking
Siracusa: Outpost of the Ancient Greeks 
Taormina: Mountains and Sea in Sicily
Trieste: The Least Italian City in Italy
Trani: On the Adriatic
Venice: A Summer Visit

Laos
Itinerary for Three Weeks in Southeast Asia
Small Airlines for Touring Southeast Asia
Religious Images: The Divine in Southeast Asia 
Luang Prabang: Monks and Tourists 

Maryland
Assateague: A Fall Afternoon
Annapolis: My 2008 New York Times article on Maryland's capital city
Baltimore: My 2002 New York Times "36 Hours" article on Charm City
Blackwater: My 2012 American Forests article on Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Chesapeake Bay: A Fishing Trip
St. Michaels: My 2004 New York Times "36 Hours" article
Tilghman Island: Where I Lived for 10 Years

Mexico
Ajijic: Expat-Friendly Town on Lake Chapala
Baja California: Cabo Crowds and Peaceful La Paz

Minnesota
Boundary Waters: My 2011 American Forests article on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Mississippi
Ole Miss: My Alma Mater
Oxford: My 2008 New York Times article on Faulkner, Football and Food  


Montenegro
Itinerary for Two Months in the Balkans
Kotor: Small but Choice 


Morocco
Itinerary for a Three-Week Visit
Chefchouen: The Blue City
Essaouira: Beachfront Medina
Fez: The One Must-See City
Meknes: Discovering an Outpost of the Roman Empire
Marrakesh: Not So Tourist-Friendly
Sahara: Camels and Sleeping in a Posh Tent
Tamatert: Village in the High Atlas Mountains
Tangier: Cosmopolitan City With a Past

New York 
Finger Lakes: My 2012 American Forests article on Finger Lakes National Forest

Nicaragua 
Land of Great Diversity and Monkeys and Volcanos
Managua: Not a Pleasant Place
Ometepe: Volcanos in the Lake 
Rio San Juan: Howler Monkeys and River Huts
Selva Negra: Ecology-Minded Coffee Plantation
Solentiname Islands: A Poet-Priest's Art Project
Solentiname Islands: My 2012 New York Times article and a photo slideshow

Panama
Bastimentos: Nature Inn and Chocolate Lodge
Bocas del Toro: Surfers and Backpackers
Boquete: A Coffee Estate in the Mountains
Panama Canal: An 11-Hour Trip Through an Engineering Marvel
Panama City: My 2014 New York Times review of the Panama City Waldorf Astoria 
Kuna Yala: A Cabin on the Water

Pennsylvania
Adamstown: My 1999 New York Times  article on Shopping for antiques in Amish country

Peru
Itinerary for One Month in Peru
Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu: Mountain in the Rain Forest
Amazon: River and Wildlife Cruise
Amazon: Fatal Fire on a River Cruise Boat
Arequipa: Juanita's Story
Colca Canyon: In Search of Condors
Cusco: The Inca's Capital
Lima: Museo Larco's Amazing Pre-Colombian Pottery
Lima: Ancient Culture, Modern Life
Ollantaytambo: Life Amid the Ruins
Paracas: An Ancient Mystery Beside the Sea

Portugal
Itinerary for a Three-Week Visit
Belmonte: Mountain Retreat
Evora: Cusine and Cork
Douro Valley: Where the Grapes Grow
Lisbon: Riverfront and Seafront
Obidos: Old Walls and New Buddhas
Porto: The Sweet Life
Sintra: Royal Aerie

Slovenia
Itinerary for Two Months in the Balkans
Ljubjana: Cozy Capital
Piran: At the Concrete Beach

South Africa
Robben Island: A Visit to Mandela's Prison
Western Cape: Beyond Cape Town and the Wine Regions

Spain
Hondarribia: Basque Country
Santa Engracia: Hidden in the Pyrenees

Tanzania
Zanzibar: As Exotic as Its Name

Thailand
Itinerary for Three Weeks in Southeast Asia
Small Airlines for Touring Southeast Asia
Religious Images: The Divine in Southeast Asia 
Bangkok: River Metropolis

Turkey
A 2010 Vacation, Istanbul and Beyond
Aboard a Gulet for a Blue Cruise
Istanbul: Seth Kugel Does It on the Cheap
Istanbul: Visiting a Hamam

Vietnam
Itinerary for Three Weeks in Southeast Asia
Small Airlines for Touring Southeast Asia
Religious Images: The Divine in Southeast Asia 
Ha Long Bay: Two Nights on a Junk 
Hanoi: Swarming and Sophisticated
Hoi An: Fine Dining, Fine Silks 

Virginia
My 2008 New York Times article on Virginia's Eastern Shore

Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park: Morning Glory Pool and Other Wonders

California: Malibu in Winter

A view from California Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, along the northern
part of Malibu. The houses on the bluffs below the highway are extremely
expensive. Jane looked up one with a "for sale" sign and the asking price
was just over 12 million dollars. It was not the most impressive house on its block.

Malibu conjures up images of surfers, endless summers and celebrities' mansions hanging off cliffs above the water. In winter, the summer has ended but the surfers and the houses are still there
along the 21 miles (34 kilometers) of Pacific coast that is Malibu, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of downtown Los Angeles.

On Dec. 23, 2019, after a rainy drive up from San Diego, we dropped daughter Katy and her family at the Los Angeles airport, and Jane and I headed up the coast for a quick visit to Malibu and one of its main attractions, the Getty Villa, the coastal counterpoint to the more famous J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Both museums were created to display the oil magnate's art collections: ancient and classical works in Malibu and works from the Middle Ages onward in the city. At both museums, the works displayed are not quite as impressive (to me, at least) as the buildings that house them.  Getty (1892 to 1976) was simply too late on the scene to scoop up the best art for sale in Europe. Nineteenth-century tycoons beat him to the punch, and most of their higher-quality collections can be seen in museums in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Chicago.

But if Getty couldn't buy, he could build. The Getty Villa is a full-scale reproduction, down to the bronzes in the garden, of the Villa dei Papiri, a partially excavated residence at Herculaneum, one of the two main cities destroyed in the year 79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Much of the building remains under a hundred feet of volcanic debris, mostly ash and mud. (For my visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum, click HERE.)  Although still buried, the building has been known since the 1750s thanks to tunnels created by a Swiss engineer, Karl Weber, working for the king of Naples. Among the objects recovered were more than 1,000 papyrus scrolls, which gave the villa its name.  Most of the scrolls contained works by Philodemos of Gadara, an Epicurean philospher, suggesting that the house belonged to the family of his patron, Lucius Calpurnius Caesoninus, who died more than a century before the eruption. Among other things, he was Julius Caesar's father-in-law.

Virtually everything recovered from the villa -- mosaics and bronze and marble sculptures -- is now at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples (click HERE for my visit to Naples and the museum).  Admission to the Getty Villa is free, though there is a fee ($20) to park.

After our airport drop-off, we headed up Pacific Coast Highway, stopping for lunch at the first interesting place we saw, Patrick's Roadhouse, which is in Santa Monica just before you get to Malibu. I had a great chicken sandwich, though it's really a breakfast and burgers joint.

Next stop was the museum, where we had 3 pm timed tickets, but we were admitted more than an hour before that. After the museum, we continued up the coastal highway to Surfrider Beach and our hotel, Surfrider Malibu, just across the highway from the beach and the Malibu Pier. Its rooftop bar was dry enough after the rain for us to enjoy drinks beside a fire pit and under a chilly sky. For our visit, Malibu's temperatures ranged from mid-50s (about 13 C.) at night to low 60s (about 17 C.) during the day. These brutal California winters!

 That night we had tacos at Malibu Farm, the restaurant at the start of the Malibu Pier. The next morning we had breakfast the the Malibu Farm Cafe high above the water at the end of the pier.

Here are some snapshots:
After parking in a multi-level garage, we followed signs into the villa itself.
A wine cup made in Sparta around 570 B.C.E. depicts
the hero Bellerophon and his winged horse Pegasus
battling the Chimera. This is not from the Villa
dei Papiri. As far as I could tell, no actual objects
from the original villa are here, just reproductions.
But other objects, such as this cup, were originals
purchased either by Getty himself or by the museum
since his death. His penchant for collecting beautiful
objects is depicted in the film "All the Money in
the World," which portrays Getty as preferring
objects over his own children and grandchildren.


Getty began his classical acquisitions with marble statues,
such as those displayed in this small gallery. The architecture
supposedly duplicates that of the original villa in Herculaneum.

This small pool in the Inner Peristyle (courtyard) is lined with
reproductions of statues from the original villa that are now at
the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. It's difficult
to imagine the expense to which Getty went in achieving his
dream. After his last visit to Herculaneum, he wrote in his diary:
"Tried in fantasy to excavate the Villa dei Papiri while regarding
the 100 feet of lava that cover it." 


The Outer Peristyle features a garden that resembles
those seen in ancient murals and mosaics.

The original of this sleeping satyr can be seen in Naples.

These are not duplicates. These terracotta sculptures depict Orpheus (his lyre is missing)
attended by two sirens, women-bird creatures of the underworld. Orpheus, the
god of music, was a link between this world and the next. 

This bit of flooring shows the level of detail at the museum.

As at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, a water
garden is given a central spot, here between the villa
and the museum store, restaurant and parking structures.

Even a corridor between parking structures
seems to have come from the ancient world.

Our room at Surfrider Malibu.

View from our balcony. That's the Malibu Pier in the distance.

Patrick's Roadhouse in Santa Monica was a colorful
spot for lunch. 

The entrance to the pier.

We had Christmas Eve breakfast at the Malibu Farm Cafe at the end of the pier. The
other building is a shop with swimming and surfing gear as well as very pricey clothes
 and accessories. Great for browsing if you can keep your wallet in your pocket.

We had our breakfast indoors, but these three chose to eat in the sun
despite the strong and chilly breeze.

Looking back toward land from the roof of the cafe.
Malibu Lagoon.

The Historic Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum is a short walk up the
shore from the pier.




It appears that the pot of gold might be on the Malibu Pier.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

California: Palm Springs in the Fall

One doesn't expect water in the desert (though the springs for which Palm Springs is named do exist),
and one doesn't expect deciduous trees. We saw this one in Andreas Canyon, one of the Indian Canyons,

  Looking for an easy getaway to celebrate a wedding anniversary, Jane and I headed northeast from our home in San Diego to the oasis town of Palm Springs for two nights in early December 2019.  This was our third time in PS, the first being in 2007 to look at Mid-Century Modern architecture prior to designing and building a home in Maryland. After enjoying that house for almost 10 years, we were back in Palm Springs for a second visit, a one-night stopover during our 2017 move from Maryland to San Diego.
    All three times we have stayed at the same place, the Orbit In, a shrine to Mid-Century Modernism that also happens to be affordable and in a great location for walking. This time we got the room, the Frey Lounge, that we stayed in on our first visit.
    Palm Springs seems forever associated with the Rat Pack era. Our Orbit In room was stocked with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. LPs and turntable for playing them.  In the adjacent town of Cathedral City, you can cruise on Bob Hope Drive, which intersects with Frank Sinatra Drive, Gerald Ford Drive (he spent his retirement years here), and Dinah Shore Drive. In celebrity-smitten Palm Springs, stars dedicated to people both extremely well known and extremely not-so-well known, are embedded in sidewalks.
    On this trip we returned to a restaurant we had liked during our 2017 stopover, Rooster and the Pig, a small Vietnamese-American place where we had fried mushroom clusters and shared a fish. A no-reservations policy means there's often a very long wait for a table. Fortunately, a table for two opened up quickly for us, allowing us to bypass larger parties who had much longer waits. This time we met the owner, the son of a New York father and a Vietnamese mother.  Our second dinner was at Shanghai Red's, a casual dining joint attached to the Fisherman's Market, where we had lunch just after getting to town. Simple grilled fish was good here, as were steamed clams, but I would not again order anything fried.
    Although we drove through heavy rain getting to Palm Springs, it was dry enough we when got there that we could walk out for meals and to browse the shops on Palm Canyon Drive. It was sunny the next morning and we could enjoy the hotel's pool, which was heated to 85 degrees. Then we drove south of downtown to explore Indian Canyons. The previous day's rain meant the canyon's creeks and waterfalls were flowing briskly.
     Here are some snapshots:

Mid-Century Modernism is often associated
with the early years of the Space Race.

Palm Springs is infamous for its intolerably hot summers, but the other seasons can be
quite chilly. We were happy that the Frey Lounge has a gas fireplace. It's other unique
feature is that the only place to shower is outdoors. (I was tempted to tell them that
a mild bleach solution would probably remove the soot from the fireplace.)

Our room came with all the essentials for the good life.
Our room's outdoor shower was just a few
steps outside and was completely private. 

The pool at the Orbit In, a nine-room hotel. Palm Springs discourages multi-story buildings,
meaning that with a hedge or a fence, you're guaranteed a degree of privacy. 

Palm Canyon Drive is the main shopping street. 

A lot of the stores seemed to target recreational shoppers
and impulse buyers.

Sidewalk stars honor celebrities
 whom I assume had some
association with the town. Many of the
names were people I had not heard of.

Several blocks of Palm Canyon Drive become a large outdoor market on Thursday evenings.

This is Lulu's on Palm Canyon Drive. We had a quick lunch
here before driving home to San Diego. My excellent burger
and fries cost less than the same items at the fast-food Burger
Lounge in San Diego.
The San Andreas Fault runs near here, but I think that's just a coincidence.

I slowed down quite a bit on this portion of the
road in Indian Canyons,

Trees and rocks keep parts of the Andreas Canyon Trail shady.

The day after a heavy rain, this waterfall had a strong flow.

Trails wend around and seemingly through large boulders.

The dead fronds reminded me of the skirt on Degas's "Little Ballerina" bronze.

What happened to the car that was parked
to the left of this one? 

Towering rocks are complemented by towering palm trees.

One of several mountainside houses visible from Indian Canyons. I'm not
sure whether they're on tribal land. 
Palm trees line a stream at the bottom of a canyon.