Sunday, March 30, 2008

Philadelphia, May 2004

Because of all the family problems that my brother and I were now faced with. I didn’t travel again until early summer 2004. I went to visit a good friend of mine. His name was Charley Maier. Sadly Charley passed away last year. He was in very poor heath when I meet him finally in 2004. Charley was my jukebox repair person. He helped to look after my classic 1960 Rock-ola jukebox. Which I still proudly own. Charley Maier was the best jukebox repairman in the world. He was an expert at repairing these classic and timeless machines. He will be missed by me, and all other people who are jukebox owners. Thanks to Charley I had a great time on my visit to Philadelphia. He showed me all around the city. We went to see the Baltimore Orioles play at Camden Yards. Went to the horse races at Philadelphia Park, and Delaware Park. If you’re a horse racing fan. Delaware Park is one of the best classic racetracks that is still active in the U.S. It shouldn’t be missed. Charley also took me to Pittsburgh. To see Kennywood Park. It is also a survivor. One of the oldest amusement parks. That is still going in the United States. If you love riding the old classic wooden roller coasters. Then you will feel like a kid again, and fall in love with the place. Also it was great to be in Pittsburgh. As through the 1970’s I was proud to say I was a devout Pittsburgh Steelers fan. It did feel right for me to finally be in the steel city!

Ixtapa Mexico, February 2005

2005 marked my return to my first love. To get back into the air, and to visit somewhere new and exciting. Things had stabilized at home. So on with my life! This marked the second time. I had the chance to travel with a great friend. I have been very fortunate to call some very special people my friends. Keith C. and I were off on a week trip to somewhere warm. Ixtapa Mexico. It was an all inclusive trip. They are great deals. Especially if you only going away for only 1 week . It isn’t my favorite way to travel. I prefer the vagabond style. Try to get out in the place or country you are visiting. And try to enjoy, and see it all. You have to be careful to balance travel and relaxation. So you come home with a new attitude. And are ready to tackle the stress and bullshit of the real world once again. I would have never survived all these years. If I would have never had the chance to sail away! Keith and I had a great week. We ate well. Swam in the ocean a lot. Rode rented bicycles twice. Went on a tour. We did ride our bikes to Zihuatanejo. It gave us the chance to get away from the commercial tourist area of Ixtapa, and enjoy a real Mexican town. I did get badly sunburned on this trip, on the first day. While Keith and I were snorkeling. Also I had a run in with some unfriendly coral. Och! I almost forgot the mosquitoes. Those blood sucking monsters are everywhere there. However it didn’t dampen my spirit, and I still had a great time. It is defiantly a real advantage if you get to travel with a great compatible friend.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

George Beurling's Gift

The best way to learn about George F. Beurling is to read his book "Malta Spitfire". This book was written in 1943 with the help of a man named Leslie Roberts. The book is an excellent account of George's life. Also his flying and fighting experience in Malta in 1942. One of George's best friends in 249 squadron in Malta is a man named Bob Middlemiss. Bob Middlemiss was shot down and wounded in Malta in June of 1942. Bob survived his injuries after being shot down. Before he was sent back to England to recover from his injuries. George Beurling gave him a gift. He gave Bob the insignia of the Regia Aeronautica. That he cut out of the rudder of an Italian Macchi C.202 fighter, flown by Faliero Gelli. Gelli was shot down by George on July 27th, 1942 and crash landed on the Maltese island of Gozo. He was a rare pilot to have survived a George Beurling attack. Bob Middlemiss kept this historic piece until 2006. When he donated it to the Canadian Air force Museum located in Trenton, Ontario. I was very fortunate and honored to have met Mr. Bob Middlemiss twice. This is how I found about about this story. I photographed this rare piece in 2006 after visiting the museum.

Malta "The George Cross Island" February 2006

2006 was my trip to Malta. The George Cross Island. Why do they call Malta the George Cross island? I will explain my reasons for going to visit the Maltese Islands, and you will have your answer. I have always enjoyed the study of history, and World War 2 history. My cultural background is Jewish or ancient Israeli, as I like to refer to it as. So I have always been interested why Mr. Adolph Hitler wanted to rule the entire world. And also why he was so determined to exterminate all the Jewish people in the world. That is certainly a scary thought to me. That means if Adolph Hitler would have been successful. My parents would have died for sure. And I would have never been born. There would have no trips. No life and no blog. That is a scary thought! In 2005 I picked up a book on a man named George Beurling. Who was George Beurling? I will give you the answer. George Beurling was a Canadian flightier pilot. Who proved during the siege of Malta in 1942, that he was the greatest fighter pilot during World War 2. George Beurling was an eccentric, a rebel, and a gifted flyer. Who was determined to be the best. And he was the best! George was born with tremendous eyesight. He could see farther and more accurate then any normal person. He felt at home in the air. Normal life was a complete bore to him. Flying and fighting was the only life he craved. During the battle of Malta in 1942. The soldiers and Maltese people were faced with the brutally hot summer in Malta. That can get up to 38 C. or 110 F. There are very little tress on Malta. So there is very little shade. Also food and all necessary supplies to continue life were in very short supply. Also fuel and ammunition were also short. It was a bad scene in Malta during World War 2. Yet the defenders never gave up. Malta was never invaded by the Nazi’s. After 1942 and because of the great job by the commonwealth armed forces, and the civilian population. The war started to turn against the Nazi’s. There defeat by Malta. Eventually lead to there complete defeat. This trip was dedicated to George F. Beurling, to all the commonwealth troops who served on Malta, and the Maltese people. They were all great heroes, and should never be forgotten!

This trip was 3 weeks in duration. The first week was spent with my great friend Peter V/D W. in the Netherlands. I had an excellent time. The highlights of this week. Was the day we spent in Amsterdam, the day we spent in Maastricht, and the day we spent in The Hague. Eating in restaurants is a very good experience, in Holland. The food is always good quality and quantity. The pubs in the Netherlands are a real pleasure. You always feel great when you stop by with a good friend. Relax and enjoy a quality beer or a cappuccino and a pastry. Also a big deal for me was riding a bike in The Netherlands for the first time. Bike riding is a way of life in Holland. Almost all of the Dutch people do it. It was great to feel like one of them. If you are a bike rider. Get to The Netherlands. You have the time of your life! Also I have to mention the homemade dinner. Peter’s sister Margaret made for me. I don’t remember the Dutch name. However it is casserole made with sausage and potatoes. It was a meal to remember! It is no secret that I enjoy to eat! It is one of the great pleasures of life that everyone should take very seriously. I do! You can enjoy it everyday. You can’t get into trouble for doing it. And it helps to prolong your journey through life.

The next 2 weeks were spent on Malta (The George Cross Island). "To honour her brave people I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.", (sgd) George R.I. This important medal was awarded on April 15, 1942, to the Maltese people.

I had a wonderful time being there. When I arrived. The airbus I was on did a circuit of the island. We flew right over Grand Harbor. It was an exciting moment for me. I had arrived in a special place in history. Where the battle for freedom was fought and won. If you enjoy history and archeology. Then Malta is the place for you. You will not be disappointed. Also Malta is a very good holiday destination in its own right. St. Paul’s Bay is a place of great beauty. There are some very nice beaches. Maltese food is also very good. You have to try Rabbit when you are there. It is the national dish. Also the pastries served on Malta are of superb quality and variety. Beware of them. You can get addicted to them. I did. Lucky for me. I did stay active while I was there. That is the key for not putting on any unwanted pounds. The highlights for me on my 2 weeks in Malta. Living in Valletta, visiting Medina, and St. Paul’s Bay, hiking the western side of the island and the air force museum at Takali.

I would like to say another world about George Beurling. About his accomplishments. About how special a man he was. He destroyed 27 Nazi aircraft during his tour in Malta is 1942. And there were many more that were never credited but probable. He was the only allied airman. To be the leading ace. Of any major theatre of the war. He accomplished all this even though he contracted a form of stomach virus known as (The Mata Dog). He spent many days so sick. He was unable to walk, let alone fly his Spitfire. By the end of his tour. Which ended on October 16th, 1942. He had gone from 210 pounds to 165 pounds. And on his final sortie. He destroyed 3 enemy aircraft before he was finally shot down and badly wounded. He survived World War 2. He was honored by the Maltese. They called him “The Falcon of Malta”

Friday, March 21, 2008

California- February, 2007

February 2007 was my tour of California. It started by going to San Francisco. The bay area is an excellent holiday destination on it own. I stayed at the hostel located at Ft. Mason. It was the perfect location for me. The fort is located right on the Bay. There is a great view of The Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Mason. A short distance west of the fort you are in the Marina district. It is one of the high end areas to live in San Francisco. From there it is all beautiful park land that leads to you to The Golden Gate Bridge. I did this bike ride several times on my folding Dahon bike. It was the first trip that I took my folding bike with me on a trip. I had a lot of fun with it. In fact it was one of the highlights of this trip. I can’t put into words what a joy it was to ride my bike over the Golden Gate Bridge. I did it 3 times. If you make it to Frisco. I highly recommend riding a bike or hiking across that great bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the engineering wonders of the world. The views from it, will take your breath away!

San Francisco is a fantastic city to get out in and explore. The public transit system is very good. You can ride a classic streetcar, an electric bus, Bart, or one of the historic cable cars. I did it all. There are 3 cable car lines left in the city. Make sure and ride them as much as you can when you are there. Buy a transit pass. That way you can use the cable cars, buses, and street cars unlimited. It doesn’t include Bart. Bart is the bay area subway or underground. I did ride Bart to Berkley. Doing so, the trip takes you underwater. That’s right there is a tunnel that runs along the bottom of the bay. It is called the Trans Bay Tube. It is also an engineering wonder of the world.

A budget traveler will also do well eating in San Francisco. There are a lot of restaurants of all different descriptions. Serving every kind of food you could think of. Also don’t miss out going to the Ferry Terminal Building, and having lunch there. You won’t be sorry you did.

Other great memories of being in the Bay area. I spent a very nice afternoon on Alcataz. I did the self guided tour in the prison, and a tour conducted by a park ranger that was very interesting. I did a day trip to wine country. I also did the trip to see the Muir Woods. It is a protected forest of California Red Woods. Don’t miss out on seeing them. It is a very special place. I then traveled on to see Yosemite National Park. I stayed in a hostel about 20 miles from the park. I was there for 3 days. The drive from the hostel was difficult, and can be dangerous. You are driving mountain pass roads. If they are snow covered or icy. Beware. Don’t end your life, or ruin your vacation. Yosemite is a fantastic place to visit. I brought home many excellent memories from being at Yosemite. From Yosemite it was time to get back to the coast of California. I drove to Monterey. It is an excellent place to stay. Excellent hostel there. Very well run by nice people. I also had a very special day in Carmel. I ate lunch is a very nice restaurant there. The food was great! Plus it wasn’t that expensive. Also I have to mention. What I believe was the best meal I ate on this trip. It was an Italian restaurant in Monterey. The food and service were excellent. It only cost me less then $20 for the meal.

Next was the best part of the drive south on the Pacific Coast Highway. The drive from Monterey along Big Sur all the way to San Simeon. The coastal beauty is outstanding. One of the most scenic drives you can do in the U.S.A. I stopped at San Simeon. The William Randolph Hurst Mansion can be found there. I did take 2 of the tours there. It is a fantastic place. Very much worth the visit. However it is staggering how rich William Randolph Hurst was. My journey down the California coast took to me stops in Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and to my final stop in San Diego. I do love the city of San Diego very much. It was my second time there. San Diego has a great atmosphere and almost always perfect weather. My highlight being there was my bike ride on Coronado, and down the silver strand. I almost rode all the way to Mexico. What an outstanding day!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Vermont, October 2007

I wasn't finished for great trips in 2007. It was time for me to visit another place that was very high on my list. To visit during my life. The state of Vermont. This was a one week trip to the Green Mountain state. I drove to great friends place Sandie and Keith. Located just outside of Brighten Ontario. I started to get into holiday mode. The next morning I traveled east to get to Vermont. I knew I was in for a great trip as soon as I laid eyes on Lake Champlain for the first time. The lake is the western boundary between New York state and Vermont. When you cross the lake you leave the rat race behind, for sure! Green Mountain State is like one huge state park. I drove to Burlington. The largest city. It has 40,000 lucky people living there. I couldn't find a place to stay there. October is high tourist season in Vermont. When the Green Mountains. Burst with all the fall colors. It is an awesome display of natural beauty. However I got a great lead. I received a reservation in a hotel called the Coolidge. They have some rooms there that they keep for hostelers. I was in luck. Good things were starting to happen. I had some dinner in Burlington. Then headed off to a town called White River Junction. It is a small town. Like all of Vermont. 90% of the lucky population lives in small villages, towns or hamlets. I arrived at the Coolidge and checked in. I liked it, very much. I had my own room in a historic hotel in Vermont, for $25 per night. Is this a dream or is it real? I pinched myself. Oh, yes it was real. And I was in heaven for a romantic fool like me. Everything was perfect and I’m on a roll. The whole trip went perfect! I stayed at the Coolidge for 7 nights. Doing day trips all around the state. The highlight was hiking in the Killington area. Eating in the old historic diners is very special food and atmosphere. I loved my experience in the Green Mountain State. Vermont isn't a state at all. It’s a state of mind! I will be back

Back In Time!

I'm now going to remember all of my previous trips. I going to go backwards from 2007 to the first trip which took place in 1983. I will try and include some original pictures from all of the trips. It will be great to here comments and memories from fellow travelers. Either from memories from some of the same locations where I have had the pleasure to go to. Or from other locations. Where I could travel to, and enjoy on future trips. So strap yourself in and enjoy!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Arizona 2008

My tour of Arizona 2008 was the second time. That I have gone back to visit this location. This trip would be a tour of the State of Arizona. The motivation for this trip was to hike into the Grand Canyon. My first trip to Arizona was in 1985. I did visit the Grand Canyon during that vacation. I vowed one day to return to the Grand Canyon. To complete the hike to Phantom Ranch and back to the south rim using the Bright Angel Trail. This tour of Arizona would be 3 weeks. The first week was spent in the southern desert. The second week was spent in Northern Arizona. One week was spent in the Valley of the Sun, in the Phoenix area. Arizona is a fantastic holiday destination for us snow bound Canadians, looking for some peace and sunshine! Both can be found here. I did have a rare major disappointment during this trip. As I had to cancel my hike into the Grand Canyon at the last minute.  I somehow contracted a poison ivy rash. Terrible thing poison ivy or oak. The rash is very painful. Itches like hell, and it can be very difficult to get rid of. Also the rash can spread very easily. I had no choice but to cancel my hike. As I would be doing my fair share of sweating during the 9.8 miles. Which is the distance it takes to reach Phantom Ranch from the south rim. Excessive sweating could easily spread the rash. Hiking the Grand Canyon can be one of the best journeys a traveler can go on. However it can also be a very dangerous trip. You have to be prepared, and at your physical best. You are responsible for your own safely travelling into the Grand Canyon. I retreated back to Flagstaff. Went to see a doctor. Who confirmed the problem. Got the rash under control. And continued on. I did enjoy a very successful holiday. The highlights of this trip were visiting; the town of Tombstone, Monument Valley, Sedona, The Petrified Forest, also making some great new friends on this trip. I made friends in Flagstaff with; Geri, Virginia, and Joey. I also became friends in Phoenix with Siobhán from Ireland. It was also great to meet Peter G. a fellow Canuck from Winnipeg. Peter G. and I hiked up Camelback mountain in Phoenix. Seeing the Grand Canyon again was awesome!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Welcome to my travel blog

Here is my first post for anyone who really loves to travel. I will cover all my my trips which started back in 1983. My first holiday to Freeport, in the Bahamas. As a young boy. I was interested in travel. I use to look at books with pictures of beautiful places from around our world. For a traveler looking at pictures. This isn’t good enough. Traveling to the place and to experience the location is the ultimate experience you can possibly have in life. I’m from a middle class hard working family. Very lucky to have very supportive parents. I was an average student and only finished high school. My marks weren’t good enough to pursue a university education. I joined our family business in 1979. After I graduated from high school. Our family was always sports oriented. My Dad being an above average athlete. He was almost good enough to be a pro baseball player, and was also very good at Canada’s national game ice hockey. My Dad always loved horses, and when given the chance. Pursed his love to be a professional thoroughbred horse trainer. My parents pursed that love from 1972 to my Dad’s retirement in 2000. Being at the racetrack was the chance not to be part of the real world. It was a lot of hard work. However you had the chance to work with amazing athletes. The horses are great! I will always have amazing memories of working with them. My career with the horses ended in 1993. Our business was in decline. I was hired by the Canadian post office in January 1994 and continue to work for them today. But dam, I had to come back to the real world! But love of travel costs money. The post office has given me a decent supply of the root of all evils and my paid holiday leave, has also given me the chance to keep doing it. When I worked in the horse business. I would work from the middle of January until the first week of December. I would have 5 weeks off, to get ready to do it all over again. So I would escape and get the hell away from Toronto. So my travels began in the winter of 1983. I would like to thank my great friend Al for helping to set this blog up. This first picture is from my most recent trip to Arizona. It is from Turf Paradise Racetrack. America's desert track!

The writing or pictures from this blog can not be used without written permission, from the author of this blog.