The definition made me laugh. This is the perfect description of our trip to Ireland. After the plane landed in Shannon and we managed to negotiate our way to the B&B where we were staying, it was coddiwomple for the next three weeks.
We never knew where we were, where we were heading and mostly, we didn’t really care. We found places we loved, avoided any place that had more traffic than we cared to drive it, and had a wonderful time. We missed most of the “favorite” tourist stops — too much traffic. We don’t go on vacation to sit in traffic jams, so if we bumped into one, we took the next uncrowded turn in the road. But we found stone circles and old graveyards and ancient round towers and at least one nearly unknown author who signed his book and let us play with his pet chickens.
We stayed in some wonderful B&Bs and a fantastic one in Dublin that was really a small hotel where they also had a great dining room. We shopped in stores no one had heard of, got great prices on clothing that I still believe will never wear out. Garry’s tweed jackets don’t look any older than they did when we bought them almost 30 years ago.
Maybe it’s because neither of us have any sense of direction, but maybe this is really the way to vacation. Just go. Find a place. Look it up in one of the dozens of books describing every piece of land in the country. You mean … you don’t travel with a working library of the country you are in?
That was always the first thing I did when we were going someplace new. I bought every book I could find that had the historical details of the place. No book has everything, of course, so I bought all of them. A small traveling library was always with us.
Along the way, we stayed in B&B’s that were known for having private libraries so we could read up on everything as we went. We took a million pictures, ate lamb and salmon and drank a substantial amount of Irish coffee (it’s never too early …) and Jameson. We sang in pubs and told stories.
If we should ever travel again to another continent, I would do it again, just like that. No fixed destination, no formal reservation except for the plane or to meet others.
When we used to spend a month or more on the Vineyard and became “summer people,” our vacations were completely lacking in substance and that’s the way we liked them.
You lost your watch on the third day. You forgot to wear underwear by the end of the first week. By the middle of the second week, you had no idea what day of the week it was and were probably at least a little tipsy.
If you made it to week three, by then you forgot what you used to do back on the mainland.
The Vineyard was where you went and nothing happened. There were no events. No parties. No concerts except usually one around the end of August to raise money for the food bank — generally the Taylor and Simon families propped up the event.
Since 1884, islanders have enjoyed the beauty of this magnificent carousel. Built by Charles W.F. Dare, it is the nation’s oldest platform carousel still in operation. Acquired by the Preservation Trust in 1986, the carousel is a National Historic Landmark. Children (and others) may enjoy a ride from Easter Sunday through Columbus Day. Rides cost just $1 and if you catch the brass ring, you ride for free. Video games and refreshments are also available.
Unless a president came to visit, or a plane crashed somewhere, nothing happened. Oh, right, one year, there were fireworks in the channel behind the house. There were two Clinton parties, one hosted by the Simons (that was when Clinton played the saxophone) and the next held by the Taylors, which is when I met Kate (I had no idea who she was until later). She was the only woman I met who dressed like me in long Indian dresses and beads.
One year it was really hot.
One summer it was surprisingly cold.
One summer, a novelist I liked did a book signing at “Bunch of Grapes.”
One of our friends made an amazingly good daiquiri. I made frozen strawberry daiquiris using real strawberries and brown sugar that tasted so good, even people who never drank got wiped out.
Garry commented considering the alcoholic stupor many of us were in, our real question should have been “Do I know who I am?”
So what made it so special? Probably the same thing that makes boating special. Nothing. You slept, you hung out on the dock. Read a book. Roamed through Oak Bluffs looking for bargains. Wandered around Edgartown. Had a burger. Had a drink. Bought something useless but pretty.
No substance. Doing nothing and loving it.
Strolled over to the Flying Horses carousel. If you got lucky, you might catch a gold ring and get a free ride while the calliope played.
Watched pink sunsets over Nantucket Sound.
If it rained, maybe we’d go to a movie.
There was no schedule until you had to leave. Then, you had to find your watch, make sure you could find your ferry tickets. Hope the bridge was not open so you wouldn’t miss your boat. Missing the boat could mean a very long day in the parking lot of the Steamship Company.
Nothing was special or substantial about the Vineyard. That’s what made it special.
George and his ever talkative wife Martha had just about enough of the Midwest winter. They were tired of snow, tired of cold. At close-to-retirement age, they were just plain tired. When another cold night forced them to stay at home rather than visit a favorite neighborhood stop, they realized there was only one thing that could pull them through to warmer weather. Baseball! Right then and there, they began to talk about a trip to sunny Florida for a round of spring training games.
A year before, they had traveled to Florida on a rare road trip to see the Chicago Cubs play. The Cubs lost but they deemed the trip a success. They had visited a ball park other than Wrigley Field, spent a day at the beach, and wandered through town to do some typical tourist shopping. They had some very hot days, but did not suffer the kind of stifling humidity Lake Michigan can serve up in July. Now, in March, they were ready to go south again.
George sat down with spring schedules to see what teams would be playing. He wanted to find the best matches for the days they could go to Florida. Martha researched the ball parks themselves and the surrounding night spots on the internet. When they had chosen a few games they might like to see, they looked at hotels, air fares and rental cars. After a full night of debate and delay, they made their choices.
They would return to the familiar spots of St. Petersburg. From there they could go to Tampa to see the Yankees, then down to Bradenton to catch the Pirates and from there to Sarasota to see the Orioles.
Unlike the famous George and Martha of Broadway play and movie fame, this couple rarely had arguments. In fact, they were in agreement on just about anything that meant parties and good times. When almost all of their arrangements were in place, and they were congratulating themselves on another “road trip extraordinaire”, Martha had one more good idea. Of course, the good idea may have been fueled by the German beer she had been drinking all night, but it was an interesting idea, nonetheless.
“Why don’t we call old Harold for the game in Bradenton or Sarasota?” Martha blurted out as if her head had been hit by a rock and she was stunned silly.
“Harold!” George shouted with glee. “That’s a wonderful idea. The old boy probably needs a road trip anyway. Let’s give lucky old Harold a call.”
While Martha dutifully looked for Harold’s phone number, George wondered why the little tapper of Dortmunder beer had run dry. “I am headed to the basement, ” George called out. “I have to find another one of these big cans of beer. You killed the last one.”
“I did no such thing, George,” Martha lied.
When the twosome finally met back at the kitchen table, each was carrying the object of their search. “Well dial the phone and hand it over, old woman,” George said with a laugh.
“I am not as old as you, wise guy,” Martha said as she handed over the phone. Both began to giggle and laugh like school kids up to no good. The phone rang away as the couple talked on until George finally realized there must have been at least 20 rings. He hung up.
“I can not imagine that Harold is not home at this hour. He was never out late.” It was true, of course. In all his life Harold was rarely out at night, and since he retired and moved to Florida, he was always home by dark.
“He’s probably sleeping, you nit wit,” Martha declared. “Let’s give him another try tomorrow.” And so they did. In fact, they called for several days in a row and at different times of day, but Harold never answered. When the day of the trip arrived, Harold was not part of the plan.
Undeterred by their lack of success at lining up Harold for a game, they resolved to try him again once they landed at the Florida airport. They departed from Chicago’s Midway airport. Unbelievably, it was once the busiest airport in the country, but that was before the jet age. Now the crowded airport just seemed like the busiest airport. St. Petersburg airport, on the other hand, was in stark contrast, even for spring training. The crowd was small and the rental car line was short. The couple got their car, got to their hotel, and got on the phone. Still, there was no Harold.
“I hope the old guy is OK,” Martha said, finally voicing more than a bit of concern.
“Sure, Harold is just fine,” George insisted. “He is probably at some nice restaurant right now being fussed over by some cute waitresses. Don’t worry.”
At that very moment Harold was being fussed over by some weary nurses at the Intensive Care Unit of the county hospital. This trip, the retired planner from the Midwest was going to miss the endlessly talkative George and Martha.
Note: The next Harold story appears next week. What happened to Harold? The previous story: “Missing Monday“
What is it about water that so many people find endlessly fascinating and soul soothing? People pay top dollar to live in homes that have a view of water – any water – ocean, lake, pond, marsh, stream. Prime vacation spots are often on, in or near the water.
I love the sound of our backyard mini waterfall. I can also sit and look at it for hours. The sound of waves lapping onto the shore have been recorded innumerable times for relaxation tapes, sleep aids and comfort for newborns.
People also love the feel of water; pushing through the fingers, falling onto the hand, resisting a closed palm, like in swimming. People walk with their feet in the water at beaches and swim anywhere they can, both under the water and on top. There are a plethora of gadgets to help you play in the water, from inner tubes to noodles, paddle-boards, beach balls, etc. There are also too many water sports to even try to list.
There is a theory that our obsession with water is rooted in our time in our mother’s womb. As fetuses, we float in the uterus in a protective amniotic fluid, gently rocked as our mothers move. We may even hear the sounds of swooshing water. Which could explain the universality of humans’ love affair with water.
But it doesn’t explain why only some people seek the water in many different aspects of their lives.
Personally, we choose to live in the woods — but we own a boat. Listening to water slapping against our hull is our version of Nirvana. Our boat is big enough so we’re not close to the waterline when on-board.
So we have an inflatable dinghy that we drive around. In that, we are as close to the water level as you can get, like in a canoe or a rowboat. I can’t resist putting my hands in the water and opening my fingers as we ride through the water. I love the sound of the little boat pushing through the water, punctuated by the percussion bursts of waves breaking against its sides.
I don’t have any earth-shattering conclusions to make. I’m sure there are research studies out there on the subject. It’s just that I’m on my boat enjoying being on the water and wondering why it is so satisfying for me. I had a swimming pool and a pond during summers growing up but no one in my family went to beaches or liked boats. We were city folks who ‘roughed it’ in the countryside of Fairfield County, CT during our summer vacations.
So I have no family history or childhood memories to fall back on, except the pool and the pond. Maybe that, combined with my primal connection with amniotic fluid, is enough.
If you were given $22 million tax-free dollars (any currency), what is the first thing you would do?
Same as last time. Pay off the house. Possibly knock it down and build one more suitable to our needs.
Help out my friends and family who need it. Take a really lovely vacation for which someone other than me makes ALL the arrangements.
Hire a cook and people to clean the house. Get my hair cut by someone who won’t scalp me. Get more Bomba socks!
In what do you find the simplest of joys?
Pretty much all my joys are simple. I’m not sure what a complicated joy would be.
I’m just happy when all the bills are paid and nothing is broken or breaking down.
What would be your ideal birthday present, and why?
I want that vacation, but I want someone else to take care of it. ALL of it. Reservations. Tickets.
Literally everything from leaving home to returning. I don’t want to worry about money or travel connections or whether or not they will let me have a bottle of shampoo on my flight.
Usually, when all is said and done, this means staying home.
What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?
This was not a very smiley week. I was grateful to finally have normal weather and some sunshine.
A flower or two would have been grand, but the leaves are coming out, so if we aren’t bright with color, at least we are green. Each time I look out the window, I see the leaves have gotten bigger. Spring is happening in a huge hurry, trying I think to make up for all that lost time!
I just heard about a fun and easy new way to take a 3-day weekend trip. I don’t travel very often for one simple reason – I hate the planning process. Too many choices! So much research! Too many logistics and details!
A company called “Pack Up & Go” (https://www.phillymagicgardens.org) has solved this problem for everyone. Not only do they do all the planning for you, but they add an exciting element of surprise to the enterprise.
My son, David, and his fiancé, Katie, recently used this service and had a wonderful experience. Here’s how this service works. You give the basic parameters for the trip, like budget and how far you are willing to travel. Also where you have been recently so they don’t send you there again. Then you decide if you primarily want action, relaxation or culture on your weekend.
The main part of the Pack Up & Go questionnaire narrows down your interests and preferences, for food, entertainment and activities. For example, do you prefer fine dining or hole in the wall restaurants? Vineyards or breweries, or neither? Do you like to go to museums and galleries, historical sites, parks and nature, all of the above? Do you like to shop? Flea market or thrift shop?
You also have to list your favorite forms of entertainment, like live music, dancing and clubs, theater, movies, comedy clubs, etc.
David and Katie decided to embrace the surprise element of the service, so they didn’t open their package of trip information until the day of the trip. In case you choose to be surprised on the day of your trip, the service gives you packing tips in advance to prepare you for the weather where you’re going and for any activities that need clothing or equipment, like swimming, hiking or tennis.
David and Katie live in northern Connecticut. When they finally opened their travel package they discovered that they were being sent on a four-hour drive to Philadelphia. The hotel they were sent to was fabulous and they loved the surrounding area. They were also pleased to find that their package didn’t just include suggestions about things to do or places to eat, which was what they expected. It turns out that all the decisions are made for you so you just have to relax and follow your itinerary. The package contained dinner reservations and tickets for one show each night!
The first night they were sent to a theater production of “Noises Off”, a slapstick comedy which they loved. David said it was laugh out loud funny. The next night they went to a comedy club with top-notch performers. And David is an aficionado of Comedy Central, so he knows good comedy. These were too excellent choices for David and Katie.
The restaurant choices were just as spot on. One of the restaurants they were sent to is owned by an Iron Chef from the Food Network, Jose Garce. Iron Chef is one of David and Katie’s favorite shows, so they knew about Garce and were thrilled to be going to his restaurant. It was a fantastic meal and they might never have found the restaurant on their own.
For the afternoons, the package included suggestions for lunches and for activities in the area. David and Katie ended up going to an amazing, unusual and unique ‘museum’. It is an indoor and outdoor space encompassing several rooms and courtyards. They are all covered, from ceiling to floor, in mosaic art, sculptures and other design elements, like bicycle wheels and colored bottles. As you walk through the spaces, you are literally surrounded by the art.
This magical place is called “Philadelphia’s Magic Garden”. https://www.phillymagicgardens.org. It took the artist fourteen years to complete it! I wish I had seen it in person, but David’s photos are phenomenal (so are the ones on the website). The You Tube videos on the website are also worth watching. They allow you to immerse yourself in the rooms and get the experience of what it feels like to be there in person.
We were all amazed at how appropriate and high quality the Pack Up & Go picks were. The package was really tailored to David and Katie and to their interests. I was very impressed.
I’ve never written a blog singing the praises of a particular product or company. But this seems like something that many readers could use and enjoy. So check out the website and treat yourself to a work free, stress free weekend away from home! Go for it!
I loved traveling — especially alone so that I didn’t have to worry about other people’s plans and schedules. Those were days when I was an early riser with a lot of energy, so I wanted to get up in the morning and be out and about.
After Garry and I got married and we worked out a few kinks in our traveling, we became great travelers. We had a good time together — everywhere we went.
I don’t think we had a really bad vacation. We had one when it rained — heavily — every day . I suppose that was as bad as it got. There was one where the accommodations were nasty, but the weather was great. I think I’d rather have crappy accommodations than bad weather. After all, how much time do you really spend in your hotel room? If the weather is good, you’re only there to sleep.
These days, though, the idea of travel makes me tired in advance. It isn’t just bad backs and the arthritis or that we don’t want to spend a day on our feet.
It’s the airlines that want to charge you for a bag of peanuts and have made the seating so tight that even short people like us are crowded. It’s the noisy airports where all we hear is white noise, static, echo, and mumbling. There are no comfortable seats and a bottle of coke can cost seven or eight dollars.
There’s no fun in flying. The security makes it so slow. The weird restrictions make it impossible to know if you can take your shampoo and hair gel or they will be seized as potential explosives. The elderly are their favorite targets for setting up extra fees for everything.
Nothing to eat while you’re flying, though I notice there’s plenty of booze aboard. No assistance during the flight. I’m too old to heave my bag into the overhead bin and I’m not putting my valuable — or my computer and cameras into cargo.
And then, there’s driving. Rutted roads, miles of traffic jams or just plain heavy traffic. Road construction. Detours. Those days when we could drive all day are gone. Three or four hours into a trip, we’re ready for a nap and a soft chair.
There are places I’d love to see, cities I’ve yet to explore … but I’m afraid they will have to wait for the next round of life.
Our best traveling days were in our forties and fifties when we were still energetic, but didn’t have a little kid to plan around. When it was just the two of us. No agenda, no plans. Just going where we felt like going whenever we were in the mood.
But if won a vast quantity of money on, say, the lottery and we could do it all first class? I might just change my mind!
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