These are stories of our travels; me and Susan, my wife, traveling companion and editor without peer. Each story is also an off-beat travel guide, packed with information and recommendations with helpful links. Scroll down for a list of all the posts. These posts are longer than you usually find but scroll through each post and see what’s there. Click on the links and you will find sites that give in-depth information about each place mentioned.
Then there was COVID
Here and There
Travel in the time of pandemic – Trip to New York May 5-21, 2020
We’re here, in Oakland, May 5th. We were to have flown to New York today, our annual two week stay. But we’re still here.
Now, late afternoon, we should be installed, there, in our apartment overlooking Central Park and the Reservoir, walking down the block to the wine shop and Mani Market for groceries. But we’re here. We would dine at a nearby place or even order from Chirping Chicken. We can’t do that here.
Refunds for theater tickets, shows we may never see, tour of Central Park Sanctuary, already in the bank. No dinners with New York friends. Because we’re here.
Never even had the chance to make the reservation for my birthday dinner at Babbo’s Ristorante, which Susan always made exactly one month in advance. We weren’t going to be there.
Can we make here there? Lake Merritt – not the Reservoir Beauties Bagels – not H&H Bagels on Columbus Hot dog on the bench in our front yard – not from a cart in front of the Met Recreate Babbo’s menu
Braised octopus tentacle
Spicy lamb and mint filled pasta pockets
Grilled Kid ribs
2007 Foradori Red
No elegant cookies, chocolate calligraphy Happy Birthday on the plate, only Mint Milanos
We can have that here but it won’t be there.
Walking fast, 100 blocks in the rain, umbrellas waving high above sidewalk crowds
Subways speeding for miles, uptown bus slower than a walk
Mid-town glowing across a dark park, dim light of planes gliding into La Guardia
Old money lines the park to the east, beyond, unnamed bridges and waterways
Bistro Cassis, Hummus Kitchen on nobody’s best of list
Museums deep in art and history
The owner of the wine and spirits shop remembers us
Wash and fold, the dance of a couple, a graceful chorography of shirts on and off the pressing machine
Lives in the faces of a thousand each day, on adjacent subway cars disappear in a blink
We are here What will we find when we can go from here to there?
Buy now September 2022, as we head to Europe, I begin again
CURRENT STORIES – click on images to visit posts
Who are we and how do we roll?
Or more to the point, how do we travel? For some , travel is adventure. They want to see every corner of the world and the exotic is the goal. We have friends who tell fantastic stories of a several month trip to India with tales of illness, plague and pestilence. Well maybe not plague, but it was a very challenging time. That’s not us.
We tend to find places that we love and keep going back. We love all of California, we love Hawaii, we love New York City, we love Italy and France. We love Oaxaca. We like a lot of other places, too, especially those that are like the places we love. We travel to relax and spend time together, eat well, explore and hike. We like to return to places until we feel like locals without the obligations of tourists.
We prefer apartments to hotels, and we like to land in a room with a deck, a hot shower, a glass of wine and a good meal each night.
We avoid shared bathrooms, particularly those that are a long way through the woods or porta-potties. We don’t camp, car camp or backpack, at least not anymore. We love to walk through cities or hike in the country, but, since we hit our late sixties, 12 miles or so and no more then 2,000 ft of elevation in a day is about our upper limit.
We aren’t generally comfortable in 5-star places; too fancy and formal. We are solidly 3-star travelers. Well maybe sometimes a little 4-star, when we splurge.
We prefer cities and towns that we describe as having a café culture where people commonly stroll through the City and outdoor café’s are in abundance.
How we plan.
We enjoy the travel planning and use all the Internet resources, book flights, find apartments and research restaurants, plays, and museums. We each approach this process in a different way as we sit in bed together, each with our laptop searching, comparing notes and getting very excited. I tend to look at maps, try to figure out just where things are and make the travel arrangements; Susan tends to book the rooms and events. She has a keen eye for the perfect apartment with a balcony and just the right New York Off-Broadway shows that actual people can afford.
In our early travels, we were booking a trip to Rome, Naples, the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. Three weeks. Susan booked the hotels for the entire trip and I only had to book one, a beautiful modern place overooking the sea on the Sicilian Coast at Taormina.
When we arrived, late in the afternoon, they had no record of our reservation and they had no vacancies, as it was high season. Staying calm, I boldly pulled out the confirmation from my bag and showed it to them, confident that this would be resolved. They pointed out that this was indeed a reservation request for their hotel for that night but then noted the place at the bottom that I should have clicked to confirm. Ouch!!! The phrase “All you had to do was book one room, just one room!!!” was ringing in my ears even though Susan never actually said it out loud.
The hotel manager was very sympathetic but simply couldn’t help us, so he made some suggestions and off we went. It was very quiet as we got back in the car and headed down the coast. I don’t really remember how long it took or how many places we tried, but in relatively short order we had a delightful room at the Hotel Lido Medeterranian, overlooking the sea with a large balcony and a bar/restaurant right on the beach. Then we could start to talk again and, after a glass of wine, even laugh.
So clearly, it is safer if we stick to our areas of expertise. And double, triple check everything!!!
We do all the planning, usually a long time in advance, put it in our calendar and put it out of our mind. Then one day, as if by magic, we find ourselves on a plane, in a city, on a beach, up a mountain.
Our secret weapon, well perhaps not so secret, is Airbnb. I say Aribnb but we use, VRBO, Flipkey or even Ville et Village, a site that we started using 15 years ago before there was Air in Bed and Breakfast. They all work more or less the same.
For the past few years we’ve been renting out our home while we travel. We open up a time on the calendar and when we get a booking we sit down and figure out where we want to go. Sometimes it’s just for a long weekend, maybe a quick trip to Yosemite, just four hours away, others times it can be for a week or more, or we’ve even strung together three or four reservations and have gone away for a month.
Airbnb gone wrong, but it turned out just fine
A few years ago, we got a request for a full week rental. We quickly checked our calendars and accepted. It soon became clear that we actually had events throughout the week that would keep us in town. We regrouped. We could have cancled, but I know that really screws up people’s plans and hurts our rating. So we rented a place in Alameda, an island community adjacent to Oakland. It was a beautiful small studio cottage in a japanese garden with Koi pod and caged canaries for less than half of what were renting our house for.
We explored Alameda, wandering through the Gold Coast with many beautiful Victorian and Craftsman homes. Friends came over for drinks and we walked to a good little Italian restaurant C’era una Volta (Once upon a time). We took off and spent the day hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore about 90 minutes away. But the highlight of the trip was the evening of the historic Golden State Warriors win number 73, breaking the old single season record set by the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls 20 years ago.
We had planned to order out and watch the game in our litte nest, only to discover, at last minute, that the rather large TV was only for videos; they didn’t have cable. Not to be thwarted, after a few choice expletives, we headed out to Park Avenue a few blocks away. There were plenty of restaurants and bars there. The first placd we encountered was the Clubhouse Sports Bar. I had noticed, on my morning walk for coffee, that the Clubhouse was opened before 9am with a double handful of gents at the bar, so we entered a little gingerly.
We were imediately welcomed into the Club by Tom and Pete, who were several drinks ahead of us, but not as far ahead as Vince. We brought our take away and others were getting pizza delivered right to the bar. The game was fantastic with the Warriors winning easily by 20 points. There were high fives and yells all around with every amazing 3-point shot. We left after the game but it was clear that the regulars were just starting.
Renting out your house isn’t for everybody
Airbnb provides us with great travel income, but this isn’t for everybody. Last year we had an inquiry from a couple in DC who wanted to rent our house for a week. The husband began the discussion hoping to negotiate a lower price. We gently indicated that we didn’t negotiate price and hoped that he had good luck finding a place. A couple of days later, he sent an email saying that he had a great idea. Their house was on a lake just outside of DC, near the train into town. Would we like to just trade houses? Through the magic of Google street view, we walked around his neighborhood, did some research and said yes. We hadn’t been in DC for ages and started to plan a trip.
Our planning had not progressed far when we got a sheepish email saying that he had discussed this with his wife and had, in his words, “made a terrible mistake.” We laughed when we imagined the conversation when he told his wife that they were going to trade houses. “Are you telling me that your “great idea” is for strangers to live in my house? Stop this silliness and just rent the house,” which they did.
Shameless self promotion
This is the Airbnb listing for our house Our house
Check out our airbnb listing. It is a perfect perfect 3-bedroom home for family gatherings in one of Oaklands most exciting neighborhoods. Let us know if you found our airbnb listing through www.ontheroad.guide
Index of links:
Hotel Lido Medeterranean
Ville et Village
C’era una Volta
Point Reyes National Seashore
Park Avenue, Alameda
Clubhouse Sports Bar
Our Airbnb listing
One thought on “Stories From the Road – Not exactly a travel guide”
Thanks for producing this material.
I’ll carry your luggage on the next trip.