It is my brother Adam’s birthday, and I wish him the best.
To commemorate his day, I present The Open Road by Claude Friese-Greene. Greene filmed The Open Road as a travelogue of a road trip in A.D. 1924 from Land’s End in Cornwall to John o’ Groats in Caithness and then finally to London. Adam and I made our very own road trip to see these British extremities, though I suspect that we took a slightly different course.
The movie is charming—another testament to what Britain has lost since the war. What commercial liberal man has exchanged for mammon!
Anyway, happy birthday, Adam! I remember well those little towns, Welsh castles, and Scottish Highlands.
To everyone on the new calendar, have a blessed feast of the Transfiguration and a productive Dormition fast.
August is the month of travel for many folks in the northern hemisphere, and I would like to share a site that someone sent me some time ago—Egeria. It is a travel accommodation exchange site for Orthodox Christians, which allows people to travel at much cheaper costs. It also allows for people to meet new folks and to develop new friendships. I have a travel loving cousin who has used these sorts of travel exchange sites for years, and she loves them.
I find the concept interesting, but I do not know if such would be good for me. When I travel, I often meet new people at places of interest, in youth hostels, on trains, on ferries, and such. However, I have never followed up those initial contacts to develop friendships. When I travel, I have an agenda of what I wish to do and to see, and I would find the social obligations of a travel exhange somewhat of a nuisance. If I did not have time constraints, I would not mind. However, I am an object and project oriented tourist rather than a person oriented one, and I would rather pay more money than lose time. My cousin, on the other hand, likes the social aspect of travel most, and this sort of exchange suits her perfectly. It may also fit your travel preferences. In any case, I wish you the best in your journeys.
When I travel, I like to sample the local cuisine. There are many ways to accomplish this. One can dine at the finest restaurants that a city has to offer, but one has to be wealthy in order to do that. One can also get himself invited to dinner by local folks in order to sample regional homestyle cooking, but one has to be outgoing, charming, witty, or quite good looking to gain the favors of reserved natives. Naturally, rich and beautiful folks have the advantage. If you find yourself lacking in those prized goods of human life, you can always sample the cheap but beloved establishments of a given place. Peasants and proletarians have their esteemed spots, too.
Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide often feature such delightful local dives where one can eat at establishments honored by regular folks. Another useful resource for travel within the United States is Roadfood.com. I recommend checking it whenever you venture into a new town.
For Cincinnati and its neighboring towns, Roadfood lists Price Hill Chili, Graeter’s, Putz’s Creamy Whip, Mr. Gene’s Dog House, Camp Washington Chili Parlor, Hathaway’s Coffee Shop, Zip’s Cafe, Blue Ash Chili, Friendly Stop Cafe, the Root Beer Stand, the Golden Turtle, and the Golden Lamb. I have eaten at all those establishments except Zip’s Cafe and the Friendly Stop Cafe. I would say that the list comprises many representative favorites from Cincinnati, though I note many conspicuous absences. Still, I encourage you to consult Roadfood and to enjoy those cheap eats.
I have been researching a possible trip to Rome for my father and me. I wish that the dollar - euro exchange rate were different, but post-war American prosperity could not last forever.
Something that I discovered during my searching was Monastery Stays—an information and reservations site for all of the religious housing accommodations in Italy. This is not for a traditional monastery stay, where you would participate in the life of the community. In such cases, people sometimes leave donations, but the “cost” of such stays usually involves minor labor. Rather, these religious communities have prepared certain rooms that they offer to guests for an inexpensive rate. It makes money for their community; instead of making vestments, candles, or coffee, they run a hostel service. We’ll definitely consider a monastery stay, as it seems a lot cheaper than Roman hotels. Plus, I would rather our tourist money help to support such communities. Evidently, some of the religious houses offer dinner for reasonable rates, too. What could be better than an Italian meal convent-cooked by nuns?
I have heard that such accommodation is available elsewhere in Europe, but I have never taken advantage of it. The unfortunate thing behind this is that these communities have extra rooms because their orders are dying. I have no problem with their making money and offering inexpensive hospitality, but they make use of mostly empty religious houses. Were Western Europe spiritually healthy, most of these institutions would not have any room for guests. The end is near, indeed . . .
I happily am a lifetime member of Hostelling International—one of the “progressive” era’s few real worthwhile accomplishments. Begun in A.D. 1909 by a German teacher, Richard Schirrman, Hostelling International has spread throughout the world, providing inexpensive quarters, an international meeting place, and cultural opportunities to young travellers in over eighty countries. Next year is the centennial anniversary of youth hostels. To celebrate, you may wish to try them out.
I have greatly benefited from Hostelling International in my own travels. Far from home, often in countries where I did not know the local language, H.I. hostels were always safe, clean places where I was sure to meet interesting people from all over the world and to receive reliable travel information from fellow travellers and the hostel staff. Even as an adult, I continue to take advantage of hostels. H.I.‘s reservation service is rather hassle free, and H.I. maintains a pretty consistent quality control standard. Unlike many hotels and motels, I always feel that H.I. is on “my side” as a traveller instead of attempting to milk my wallet of its remaining pennies.
I have also stayed at dozens of independent hostels, some of which are considerably nicer than HI hostels and some of which are not. My favorite independent hostels so far are probably Hostel Vista Serena in Manuel Antonio and Luna Loca Hostel in Montezuma, both in Costa Rica, and a wonderful hostel in Munich, the name of which I do not remember. It was in a residential neighborhood and had great food. The Costa Rican hostels were set in paradise; each morning, I woke up to the sound of monkeys. I found iguanas, birds, frogs, lizards, and those same monkeys close to these hostels or on the properties themselves. A huge jungle frog tried to take a shower with me one morning. They were so beautiful. If you can make it to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, I recommend both.
In addition to cheap prices, fellow travellers, and helpful staff, there is almost always a kitchen in a hostel. Grocery shopping abroad is quite fun, and preparing a meal in a communal kitchen with random foreigners is even better. After the meal, you can hang out in the common areas, play games, watch movies, or strike up a conversation with folks that will expose you to rather different perspectives.
I have so many great hostel stories. In Berlin, I met an older woman of Serbian descent who was from Australia—I discovered in my travels that Australians come to Europe and travel for several months at a time. Anyway, we had several fascinating discussions after visiting Berlin each day. She told me that she was glad that so much of the city had been destroyed during the war; she still harbored tribal grievances against the Germans for what the Nazis had done in Serbia. Vindictiveness lasts for many years. In Bonn, I roomed with a young Norwegian man who bought me my first German beer, as I was too cheap to buy it myself. He did not harbor any ill will to anyone; he was probably just happy to see how far Norwegian money would go in less expensive countries. Adam and I stayed in several posh hostels throughout Britain, including some converted castles and mansions. In the U.S.A., I really like the Fisherman’s Wharf hostel in San Francisco and the Point Loma hostel in San Diego—both clean, convenient, and full of character. Hostels really are the best way to travel.