Travel – tear down the walls

tower-of-londonYears ago we were staying at The Tower Hotel in London. As the name suggests it is next to The Tower of London, which is a Medieval Fortress that housed the Royal Armory and still houses  the Crown Jewels of England. It was built for protection, a place for the Monarch to retreat and defend themselves if they were attacked.

One morning, as usual, I was up early and went out for a walk. The Tower sits next to the River Thames, it is surrounded by a park – a perfect place for a walk. It was early enough that the London traffic was not yet awake, nor were there many other people out. As I walked around the walls, I considered what it must have been like to live inside the Tower. Though the Tower was used as a prison as late as 1952, its original purpose was a Royal residence, and a lavish one at that.

As I thought of what life would have been like in the parklike setting of moats and stone buildings, gardens and trees, as well as security from all dangers, eventually my mind began to focus more on the walls. Walls to protect you, walls that kept you safe from the enemies outside, walls that gave you security – walls that kept you in. Then it hit me, “the very walls that we build to protect us become the walls that in-prison us.” Fear builds walls, we find safety behind them, those on the other side of our walls become the adversary; outside the wall is a scary place, better to be incarcerated within our walls than to risk the perceived dangers beyond the wall. Walls may protect but they are a barrier to freedom.

This is one reason I like to travel, it breaks down walls. Prejudice is based on ignorance which leads to fear, and our fears build up walls for protection. When we travel and meet people that are different we discover that most folks in this world are pretty much the same. We all want to just do our jobs, have a place to live and food to eat, raise our kids, and have some fun along the way.

I remember that morning often, and am reminded that to really live life to the fullest you can’t hide from it. We live in a crazy world, with politics that frighten, yet I refuse to stop traveling, in fact I am motivated to travel all the more and I encourage others to travel as well. Relationships and understanding tear down walls, we need that these days.

Our final days in Tokyo, Japan

We arrived back at our Tokyo hotel, the Hotel Niwa, mid-afternoon on Thursday. Settled in then headed out to revisit the Kagurazaka area and find dinner.

Friday morning we got out of town and IMG_2416headed toward Mt Fugi. There are plenty of things to do in Tokyo, but we like getting out of town, and we hoped to see Mt. Fugi. Thanks the the public transportation feature of Google Maps (I know there is a blog about that in the future) we planned our Metro and rail journey without a hitch.

Our destination was Kawaguchiko Station, and Kawaguchiko lake. Google maps lays out the trains and stations, estimates the time, and at the bottom tells you the price. The price is important because if you buy your ticket from a vending machine you need to know what amount the ticket needs to be, it’s all there in Google Maps.

I was hoping for a quiet mountain village, but not to be, Kawaguchiko must be the destination for half of the tour busses in Japan, and it is the staging point for groups hiking on Fuji. And since the lake sits downhill from the train station you can’t see Fugi from the lake. We ate lunch at an Indian resturant, we were the only people there, all the other places were crowded; curry is always a good choice so we ate well.

The train we took down the mountain was such a treat, a fully restored vintage train, with a wooden interior, freindly staff, and hopefully views of the mountain. Fuji, like Mt Denali in Alaska, has a reputation for hiding from visitors behind clouds; a reputation it lived up to when we were there, none of those pristine vistas one sees in guide books. Yet it was a memorable trip, and we did get a glimps of the mountain.IMG_2380

Saturday and Sunday we spent with Saori, doing some shopping, eating and visiting the Tokyo National Museum. I had to find Obi belts to go with the Kimonos that I bought in Kyoto.


Monday night, Saori and Dijiro drove us to the Tokyo waterfront, a huge mall. We ate then wandered along the park taking in the Rainbow Bridge and the city lights of Tokyo. There are three Statues of Liberty from France in the world: New York City, Paris, and one that was given to Tokyo by the French.

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Our last night in Japan

Tuesday we flew home, it is good to be back, but a piece of my heart stayed with Saori and her beautiful country; I am sure we will return


Best Western Boulder, CO


Yes, this is exactly what the room looks like, without the flowers. This is a great place, the customer service is amazing. I must admit the exterior had me expecting a pretty average place, yet the experience at the front desk on to the first impression of the room was quite a pleasant surprise. And there is a great over-stuffed chair, one of my favorite amenities.

If you are in the area, check it out Best Western Inn, Boulder, CO

Room 14 and a chapel on the hill

IMG_0146Route de Moustiers (Route D952) goes through Roumoules and winds 7.5 miles toward

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Moustiers is a small village that sits in the rugged mountains of Alpes de Haute Provence in France, existing since at least the mid 1700’s it is listed as one of the most beautiful cities in France, which is well deserved.

We stayed in Room 14 at the Hotel le Relais, an inn at the center of town. Remodeled in recent years they have managed to keep the old world charm with such modern fixtures as electronic keys. If the front doors are locked, as they may be, there is a passageway to the left that takes you to a small courtyard, next to a church. There is a door there for guests into the hotel.

Room 14 is worth the extra, the best place we stayed in on our entire 3-week journey. It is the largest room in the hotel, but it is the two floor to ceiling French doors that open to a breathtaking view of the valley and the mountains in the distance that makes you just want to grab a bottle of Cote de Rhone red wine, a baguette from the bakery next door, some cheese from a shop down the way, and sit. So that is exactly what we did.

We watched the sun set behind the mountains across the valley while we reminisced about the almost 3 weeks we had already spent in Europe. That afternoon was certainly one of the highlights of the entire trip. From our deck we watched cars drive the D952 toward Moustiers or destinations beyond. Below us travelers and locals walked by on the stone walks, cars delicately navigated the narrow streets.

IMG_0161 As darkness fell, lights came on around the city. Standing on the small deck I looked to the left, away from the valley and toward the hill that the city sits on. A bright light shined on a small chapel, Chapelle of Saint Anne, the yellow light making the rose colored stucco stand out against the blue-black sky, the roof and cross just visible above the tops of the city and houses; poised as if watching over the city below.

At 7.00am the next morning I climbed the winding narrow streets in the dark, occasionally illuminated by a random light, my passing recognized only by a startled dog behind a fence and a hedge. The light was still on at the chapel, illuminating the gate and stairs leading through an ancient gate to the cemetery, weather worn stones testifying to the age and lives spent on these hills.

I sat on the low stone wall at the entrance to the chapel and read the Morning Office. Colors gradually appeared on the distant hills as darkness gave way to the dawn. By the time I finished the Gospel reading it was light enough to call it day. To the right of the chapel, an olive orchard reveled itself in the dawn, I had a sense that I had been praying in Getthsemine

Shishito Peppers, chocolate chip cookies, over priced Scotch – life is good

There are hotels that break the rules the right way, DoubleTree is one of those. I am at the Disney Main-gate hotel, it is $129 for the night, and that is for a suite, a real two room suite. They waived the $16/night parking, and anyplace that has warm chocolate chip cookies on check in is a hit. The more I travel the more I love a suite, with real furniture, coffee table, etc. 

The Grappa Lounge is a hotel lounge, but when tired and not feeling like the excitement of Bubba Gumps a few blocks away it is a fine venue. The surprise of the evening was the Grilled Shishito Peppers, only $7.


The Shishito Peppers are a low heat pepper with just a hint of spice, the grilling adds a nice sweetness. An addicting appetizer for sure, all backed by a Stone Pale Ale.

A Scotch in the room made perfect sense, the MacAllen 18 seemed the perfect choice, and worth the $10 or $12 it would cost. What a shock to find that it was $22. But the bartender made it a generous pour yet my Scots thinking struggled as I buy a whole bottle for about $60.

Back in the room, slowly sipping my Scotch, which goes well with a chocolate chip cookie, all is well with the world. Now it is time to check out a rugby match. Six Nations starts tomorrow, and to think some folks think Superbowl is the hot ticket.

Gardena, CA and Union Gap, WA

Tonight I is a stay in the room night, they happen at least one night a week. Wine and cheese, rugby or a good book. This night finds me in Gardena, CA. It is about half way between LAX and Disneyland, yet it reminds me of Union Gap, a suburb of Yakima, better known as Yak-Vegas, WA.

My night of reclusion requires shopping for wine and food, the best I could do here is Wal-Mart a store I work hard to avoid at all costs. This Wal-Mart has white wine for $1.97, scary. I bought a Mondavi for $8.57, some sliced cheese and crackers.

Staying at a Comfort Inn, scary looking from the outside but actually the room is pretty decent, large, clean and new. $30 more than the room I had near Disney, yet that one seemed to have a lot of friendly ladies near, some that got into cars in the parking lot, so possibly the room was “subsidized.”

The joys of traveling on a budget are that at times you end up in some interesting places, now a person can fight that or see it as part of the fabric of life this world offers. We travel through this world with blinders on for the most part so we miss the big picture.  And I must agree with Rick Steves’ that when we get away from the 4 Star travel we see the real world and meet the real people. This world is full of common folks, and they are worth getting to know. It is the people that makes travel what I love, all the people.

Souix Falls, nice evening

Made it to Souix Falls and had a great abbreviated seminar day one. Went to Old Chicago last night and hung out. Had the $2.99 happy hour pizza, what a surprise, not a frozen-pop-in kind of thing but made to order – anchovies and kalamata olives, it was great! They even had Belgian beer in proper glasses, interesting people to talk to made it a good evening.

Stayed at SpringHill Suites and am so impressed. One of the more comfortable rooms I have had in a long time. A bit higher price than some I stay in, $101, yet have to say it was worth it.

Denver? How did I get here?

This beautiful sunrise is my view of DIA – Denver International Airport, this morning. I am in a Ramada near, well as near as you can be, the airport. My room is graciously paid for by United Airlines, yes they still do that for mechanical delays in some situations. That small bump on the horizon is the airport.

My mantra when travel gets crazy is still “Let it be Hot! Getting upset just makes it worse, makes the customer service folks less likely to help, and does not do any good anyway. If there is something wrong with the plane I don’t want to be on it, so it is best that they find it before we are in the air.

I will take advantage of the further hospitality of United to have a French Brunch at Pour La France in the airport, then off to Souix Falls. The seminar will take a bit of tweaking, but Skillpath has called the hotel, connected with the attendees so all will be well. I will arrive with a fresh illustration of the challenges of Managing Multiple Locations, some times travel takes adjusting.

Morning tea and corn syrup

It is sunny here in Rapid City, SD, and thankfully yesterdays wind is gone, even the locals complained about the wind. I am sitting by the window of the Ramada Inn, conveniently arranged so that if you open the blinds you have no privacy, a frequent cost over function feature of the budget hotels I live in. People walk by looking straight ahead as is proper, only children look in.

I have my cup of tea with corn syrup in it, – well actually it is “non-dairy creamer.” The first ingredient is corn syrup and there is nothing in there that looks like it was ever near a dairy, the only connection to cream is that it is white. In Australia they are more honest, the simply call it “whitener.”

Interestingly the Lay’s potato chips I had last night had far less corn connection than I thought. Corn oil, and a corn sweetener was about it, why shoot they are almost health food!

Wednesday in Portland

Today is day two of a Managing People seminar. Will be good to get home, thankful that this was just a two day trip. Been gone too much recently.

Staying at a Comfort Suites – Portland Airport, these are one of my favorites. $71 and it is a mini-suite

Choice Hotels are my main chain thses days, for the most part a good value. The Econo group can be a bit cheap at times but I have stayed at them often when the  budget demanded it with no real problems. What I like as well with hotels in this price range is the extras – free parking, free breakfast, free wi-fi. If you stay at a $200 Hilton you will pay for all three, which is nuts and one of my major peeves in the hotel industry.