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Category: Travelin’

Paris – Not What I Remembered.

When I was last in Paris, I was 10. I remember a beautiful city with broad avenues and sidewalks – all of which were fastidiously clean. There were people and traffic, but it was modest and moved in a relaxed steady way. I remember my father telling me the people here take pride in their city. I remarked how much cleaner it was then New York City, and Dad told me Parisians take great care to keep their city beautiful.

That has changed.

Paris is still filled with charm, beautiful design and architecture, and a deep and rich history. On the downside, it’s extremely busy, crowded and filthy. Everywhere we went the streets were strewn with trash and frequent evidence of human waste. With the dirt, trash, graffiti and general filth, it reminded me of New York City in the early 80’s. The only place where it was really clean was The Louvre.

The Hotel Atelier St. Germain where we stayed was on the fringe of the Latin Quarter – one of the oldest sections of the city. The hotel was very small but neat and clean. After a long day of travel, we just wanted to take a 2-hour nap before going out into the city. We were assigned room 43.

Going up to our room we took the smallest elevator I have ever seen. When I stood sideways my right shoulder was up against the back wall and my left shoulder was squeezed against the elevator door. If Loly and I stood side by side our shoulders touched each other and the walls. It was a challenge jamming our luggage on with us.

As soon as we entered the small room, our ears were assaulted by the sound of someone hammering and scraping stone and mortar literally right outside our curtained window. Loly went down to the front desk to see about getting another room. Then a fire alarm went off. There was no way I was getting on that double-wide coffin of an elevator, so I took a very narrow spiral staircase down to the lobby where the hotel manager was holding the door open and said to me in an urgent almost angry tone [cue the heavy French accent] “Were you smoking in the room? Did you take a shower?” I said, “No! I don’t smoke and no, I didn’t take a shower – we didn’t even have lights in the room.”

He moved us to room 61, which was slightly bigger and at the back of the hotel. There was no view, but I didn’t care it was cool, comfortable and quiet. I moved our luggage up using the spiral staircase. I didn’t do it again. The one thing we discovered, that we had not seen before, is that the key card to enter the room is also used to turn all the power on in the room by sliding the card into a slot just inside the door. When you leave you take the card and it shuts off every light, outlet and the AC.

It was very hot in Paris the day we landed. It was 97 (36 °C). After a nap, it was a little later in the day and down to 90. We decided to walk around and explore the area.  It’s incredible there were eateries everywhere. In some areas, you couldn’t walk more than 20 feet before passing by another outdoor café.

The traffic was heavy and chaotic almost constantly. There are painted lanes, but no one seems to use them. Everyone just jockeys for some sort of position on the road. The young population uses motorbikes of all kinds to great effect. I wouldn’t be surprised if they outnumbered cars there were so many of them. The riders ratio is pretty evenly split 50/50 women and men, and every one of them is insane. They seemed to swarm rather than ride. They exploited any and every open piece of road, and even sidewalks. They moved up between impossibly narrow spaces between cars, and even among other bikes. When the light changed, they’d take off at breakneck speed to the next light. Amazingly no one was killed, mangled or even bumped in all the mayhem.

The first place of note we visited was the Luxembourg Palace, the 17th-century palace built for Marie de’ Medici – the mother of Louis XIII. It now serves as a gathering place for politicians while the grounds serve as a busy public park.

Next, we moved past the Théâtre de l’Odéon on the left bank of the Seine. It was inaugurated by Marie-Antoinette on April 9, 1782, and was the theater in which the play The Marriage of Figaro premiered.

Afte that we went to one of the places I personally wanted to visit – Shakespeare and Company, Bookstore.

The original was founded by an American woman, Sylvia Beach in 1919. It was the gathering place of some of the most notable novelists and artists of the 20th century. It closed during WWII. It was re-opened in 1951 in its current location by another American, George Whitman. I was pretty happy to finally be there after reading about it some 25 years before.

Next stop was the Notre-Dame Cathedral. As it was so hot we were not willing to wait on the long lines in the hot sun to get inside. We opted to walk around and observe its storied and wonderful medieval architecture, which was completed in 1345, but was started in 1163! We stayed to take pictures and listen to the beautiful sounds of the bells before moving on.

We moved back to the left bank of the Seine and walked on the road along the river all the way to the Eiffel Tower. The tower that Gustav Eiffel completed in 1889 was as breathtaking and spectacular as I imagined. Again because of the heat, we were not willing to wait in the long lines to take the elevator up. We walked around taking pictures. We were told that the daily lighting ceremony would take place near sunset – which was at 10 pm in summer time Paris.

We walked over a couple of blocks and found a restaurant of our liking. I had steak tartar, and Loly had tuna tartar. It was flavored differently than what I was used to in the states, but I liked it. We wined and dined, and went back to the park. We found a nice grassy patch in the park right in the middle and settled in among thousands of other people sitting there.

We were there less than 10 minutes when the tower was first lit up – which elicited applause and sporadic shouts of approval from the crowd. Then the light show began. The entire tower was bathed in light and rapid flashes of twinkling lights that lit up the sky and everyone in the park. There was a roar of excitement from the crowd, people clapping and fist pumping at the spectacle. It was truly beautiful.

The sparkling display lasted about 10-15 minutes. By that time the sun was final lowering in the western sky around 10:15 pm, and as it did, the air began to cool and quickly became comfortable.

We walked all the way back to the hotel. We racked up 12.6 miles of walking on our first day. We showered, fell into bed and promptly passed out.

The next day was our day trip to the Normandy coast.

El Galeón Andalucía

This is another re-cap of “what we did this summer”. At this rate, I’ll cover Labor Day Weekend by Thanksgiving…

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July 26th, 2015 – This was a real treat visiting El Galeón Andalucía, docked in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I’ve long enjoyed stories of trans-oceanic exploration, sea battles, pirates and privateers during the 15th through 18th centuries.  So getting to tour El Galeón, and walk her decks was a real thrill.

This is the only galleon class vessel in the world sailing today. Construction of this ship began in 2009, and was built entirely in Spain. Over 150 men and women worked 16 months to create this exact replica of an ocean going galleon from the second half of 16th century. The results are simply astounding.Galleon15

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Technically, it isn’t an “exact” replica. It has modern bathroom facilities – though designed to match the ship – and of course it has an engine room.

It is currently crewed by 22 men and women, and is completing a 5-month, 16th Century Ship Tour, stopping at 10 different ports along the U.S. coast.  She will winter in sunny Fort Lauderdale, before setting sail for home port in Spain.

This galleon class vessel was originally built and use for transport and trade of goods, but was also besieged by rival states and put into military service.  It was also the target of pirates for looting or to add to their own attack fleets.

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As we came aboard the ship, Loly was amazed that such a small vessel was able to cross the vast Atlantic in the times of antiquity. Having read about this period extensively I was not surprised, and knew the Mayflower was a lot smaller!

El Galeón Andalucía is 170 feet long and displaces about 495 tons. The Mayflower was only 106 feet long and displaced only 242 tons. There were 130 passengers squeezed onto that tiny ship when it left England to cross the Atlantic for the New World. Like I said, a lot smaller, but it still made the voyage to Plymouth.

Man, I was the proverbial ‘kid in a candy shop’. My eyes went everywhere, taking in all of the details. I mean not only did the construction of the ship feel authentic, but even the small details like the handmade ropes and all the pulleys, block and tackle, the sails, the cast anchors, the wooden capstan, the netting and even the few pieces of furniture.  It was all so cool. There was so much to see and inspect.

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It was easy, at least for me, to imagine being on a cross ocean voyage, with full sails set into the wind. That romantic vision lasted but a moment as I remember tellings of the hardships, the hard work, and the oppressive heat and humidity of the Caribbean sitting for days on end in becalmed waters. I like the romanticized picture better…

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Book Review: The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

If you want to break away from the hassles of cubicle nation, starting your day to the shrill sound of an alarm clock, commuting in traffic, having others control your time and dictating what your income will be, then The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau, is for you.

More than 1,500 entrepreneurial start ups were considered for inclusion in the book. They had to meet the following criteria:

  1. They had to make at least $50,000 per year from their business.
  2. The business had to be started on a very low budget. The average starting investment was about $600.
  3. Be willing to open up the books on their financial data and demographics for analysis.

Chris interviewed over 100 people who broke away from the norm to start their own businesses and control their own destinies. He studied over 4,000 pages of data and surveys, and made hundreds of calls. In the end he created an actionable blueprint you can follow to create your very own startup.

The book has a definite motivational aspect to it, but also cuts right to the chase and gives you the information, tools and a clear path to follow to get started including:

  • The One-Page Business Plan. (A copy of which is available at 100Startup.com)
  • Six Steps To Get Started Right Now
  • Idea Matrix to evaluate the impact, effort, profitability, and vision of your business ideas
  • The Action Bias is about focusing on the right thing, to help your startup succeed

If you’ve ever thought or dreamed of creating your own business, The $100 Startup clearly shows you it is possible. This is more than just a business book; it’s your blueprint to personal freedom.

Get the book and make your dream a reality.


Chris Guillebeau is publisher of the popular blog The Art of Non-Conformity, where he writes about his extensive experiences as he visits every country in the world and creating personal freedom by building successful businesses from scratch.

You can follow Chris on Twitter and Facebook

 


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Passing Pennsylvania

 

At the age of 20, living in Long Island, New York, my two best friends and I came up with the idea of a cross-country road trip on the whim of a joke. Two of us were in dead-end jobs and the other was in a job that was sucking the life out of his youth. 

When we decided we were serious about the trip, I immersed myself in the planning process. I was totally psyched to go on this adventure and create this part of my story. As the time to leave drew closer, the doubters and disbelievers came out in force. Almost all of our friends and family members to a person didn’t think we’d go – and if we did, we wouldn’t make it out to California. Days before we left, one of the closest, most important people in my life told me, “You’ll never make it. You’ll get to the end of Pennsylvania, turn around in Pittsburg and come home.” 

That just pissed me off. Everyone who doubted us, who said we’d fail – pissed me the hell off. It showed how little they thought about us and what we were capable of. 

On the first night we did go as far as Pittsburg and stayed at a friend’s house for the night. The next day we left Pittsburg and Pennsylvania. We spent the next 22 days traveling across the United States and back having one of the best experiences of our lives. 

That same person who doubted I’d complete the trip later told me I was really irresponsible. I didn’t think so, but over the years I became a very responsible person – ending up doing the best of everyone under that person’s influence. Once again I proved that person wrong. 

Recently, that same person now said I was taking too much responsibility for my children’s futures at the expense of own. That person stated I would end up broke living in Section 8 housing when I was in my seventies. 

Man that pisses me off. 

I am bound and determined to prove this person wrong again and this time I will shove it in their face – telling them “I told you so – over and over.” Nothing motivates me than a person who supposedly loves me, doubts me so much.

My New Bike

It’s Friday the 13th, you just know I had to a post today.

I’ve been busy and it’s good to finally get back to my blog. Besides work keeping me busy, I’ve been shopping around to upgrade my motorcycle ride. I finally found one. I picked it up late last week.

I had been riding a 2001 Honda Shadow 750 A.C.E. Deluxe – which was a really nice looking bike and a great to ride, but it was too small for a guy my size.

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I traded it in and got a 2002 Honda VTX 1800R – the “R” stands for Retro. It’s a much bigger bike, with a whole lot more power. It was already set up with a windshield, extra highway lights, a passenger seat with backrest and two hard case leather bags for longer trips. When I took my first test rides of this model, it was a real beast – it pretty much took off without me. I got used to the extra power, and now love riding it whenever I can.

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Sometimes it’s hard for people, who don’t ride, to understand why the hell you want to ride around to nowhere in particular. When you’re riding a motorcycle, you get a sense of freedom you just can’t get riding in a car – even a convertible.

When riding a motorcycle you feel totally aware and completely connected to your environment. You notice the smells around you, the details of your surroundings and every facet of the road, Yeah, when riding on a peaceful country road it’s a little slice of heaven for me.

I have already joined a VTX riders club (better known as X-Riders). We were supposed to go on a nice ride into the Green Mountains of Vermont this Sunday, but it’s going to rain ALL weekend – AGAIN! We’ve been having so much rain this spring. We’re heading into our fourth washed out weekend in a row.

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