Category Archives: Travel

Life on the Mississippi

Nobody dreams about air travel anymore. Nobody talks about the romance and adventure of flight. Travel by air has become almost indistinguishable from travel by bus, except, of course, that busses have more comfortable seats, more legroom, fewer restrictions on passenger movement, and no extra baggage charges. You don’t have to remove your belt and shoes before you’re allowed on a bus. I’ve heard you can even bring a bottle of Cherry Diet Pepsi onboard without being stopped by security.

But boats and ships! That’s where the magic lives. Talk about romance and adventure and intrigue! Just think about the many and varied classic films that have been set on boats:  Death on the Nile, Titanic, Lifeboat, The Poseidon Adventure, Mutiny on the Bounty, White Squall (ahem), and all those World War II Navy movies.

And riverboats—forever linked to the legacy of Mark Twain and to the ghosts of riverboat card sharks and mountebanks and lost souls like Spider John—might be the most captivating of them all.

So after lunch at Galatoire’s, I walked down to the Mississippi River to watch the boats go by.


Willis Alan Ramsey — “The Ballad of Spider John”

More Christmas at Château de Vaux le Vicomte

It was probably obvious from my earlier post that I’m fascinated by Château de Vaux le Vicomte and its uber-celebration of Christmas. Since that posting, I’ve found a few more images and videos from the château.

First, there’s this beautiful short video from the Travel with Kat YouTube channel, which, btw, overflows with equally wonderful stuff.

View fullscreen. of course.

Then there are these pictures from the château’s website.

 

Finally, a revision of the official Christmas video, which is a mix of new footage and shots from the version I posted earlier.

Joyeux Noël!

Christmas at Château de Vaux le Vicomte

My Mother, who usually started decorating for Christmas sometime around Columbus Day, would have loved Christmas at Château de Vaux le Vicomte, although she might have found it a bit too restrained and understated. During the Christmas season, roughly mid-November through mid-January, she left no space untouched by toys and trees, tinsel and glitter.

I didn’t go home for Christmas as an adult. My painfully extreme introversion makes things like that simply impossible for me. But I saw the pictures, and, later, the videotape of what she’d created, and I heard the awed descriptions from one of my nieces: “It’s amazing! It’s like being in a toy store!”

Here’s a sampling of Christmas at Château de Vaux le Vicomte.


The Château is about an hour southeast of Paris. You can get there by public transit, using a train and shuttle, on those days when they’re not on strike.


This year’s “Vaux-le-Vicomte Celebrates Christmas” festivities began on 23 November and will be open from Wednesday to Sunday until 22 December. From 23 December until 5 January 2020, the celebration will be open every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day.


While the Chrstmas season is the most popular time to visit Château de Vaux le Vicomte, the estate is open to the public between mid-March and early November.

Well, maybe next year. The closest I’ll get to France this Christmas is having the $13 lunch special at Le Café Descartes, the cafeteria at the French Embassy.


Château de Vaux le Vicomte

This video begins with two or three minutes of superb drone views of the Château’s grounds, followed by some appropriately spectacular images from the Château’s appropriately spectacular interior. I have no idea why they decided to use what sounds like an Irish jig for the soundtrack, but you can always mute it if it gets too irritating. I sure did.

Need I remind you to view in full screen for the best results?

Added to My “Someday” List: A Stay at L’Hôtel in Paris

Oscar Wilde’s last words, as he lay dying in a shabby Parisian hotel, were “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”  At least that’s the official story, and who would want to question it.

Oscar Wilde has been dead since 1900, but the hotel, known simply as L’Hôtel, still exists. Wilde wouldn’t recognize it, though. It has been massively upgraded and enhanced, and now rates five stars and boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant (currently closed for renovation).

The wallpaper has been replaced, too.

The Oscar Wilde Suite

The Oscar Wilde Suite

If you’re in Paris in mid-April—which means you’re already living a charmed life—you can spend a night in the 35 sqm (377 sqft) Oscar Wilde Suite, for as little as €766 ($848). I can’t embed the hotel’s video tour of the suite, but you can watch it here.


Exploring L’Hôtel

L’Hôtel

L’Hôtel

Reception

Reception

Chic Room

Chic Room

Mignon Room

Mignon Room

Grand Room

Grand Room

Le Restaurant

Le Restaurant

Le Bar

Le Bar


All images from L’Hôtel.

Washington Is Losing a Panda — The Last of Bei Bei


The Giant Pandas at the National Zoo, like all the other pandas at zoos in the United States, don’t belong to the Zoo itself. They’re effectively rented from the People’s Republic of China on a 10-year lease, for about a million dollars a year, each.

If a panda cub is born in the US, the Zoo is charged a $400,000 baby tax, and the cub must be shipped to China when it turns four years old.


Bei Bei Celebrates His Fourth Birthday

Bei Bei, the Zoo’s youngest panda, was born on 22 August 2015, so it’s time to say goodbye. Next Tuesday, 19 November 2019, he’ll leave for China.

So much for birthright citizenship.


The National Zoo has scheduled a week of special events leading up to Bei Bei’s departure, including Q&A sessions with panda keepers and panda feeding times with special treats. Airbnb is providing free hot chocolate to Zoo visitors on Saturday morning. Here’s a full listing of what’s planned. As always, admission to the Zoo is free.

If you’re not in the area, or just want to avoid DC’s November weather, you can watch the action on the Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam. Camera One will be focused exclusively on Bei Bei for the full week. (Note: Pandas sleep a lot. The cameras operate 24/7, but your best chance for seeing live panda action is at feeding times and around midday, East Coast time.)


The National Zoo has posted videos of some of Bei Bei’s most memorable moments  Here are two of them:

Bei Bei’s First Steps

Playing in the Snow

From BBC Earth — A Glorious Seven Worlds, One Planet

For the past few weeks, a brilliant new nature series called Seven Worlds, One Planet, has been playing on BBC One. Each of the seven episodes focuses on a different continent; segments of the show were filmed in 41 different countries.

The narrator is naturalist Sir David Attenborough, as if it could be anyone else.

Here’s a sample, in which a Giant Leopard Seal pursues a Tiny Penguin:

Warning. The photography in the show is stunning, but Nature is not always pretty. Some viewers in the UK have responded to parts of the series with tears or nausea.

US viewers will be able to judge for themselves when Seven WorldsOne Planet premieres on Saturday, 18 January 2020, on BBC America, AMC, IFC,  and SundanceTV.


Survivor: Galápagos

From Planet Earth II — View in Full Screen

Remember the famous “Iguana vs Snakes” sequence from the BBC series, Planet Earth II?  When that little iguana made a run for safety as the rocks around it erupted with dozens of hungry snakes, we witnessed the most exciting chase scene in any movie or TV show released in 2016. I’ve reposted it at the bottom of this item. Three years later, it’s as breathtaking as ever.

New, Improved Version of Titanic

And it didn’t cost nearly as much as the original!

This is from Studio 188. From the I’ve found on the Net, I think they’re Russian, but beyond that I can’t find much information. They’re supported, in part, by Patreon contributions.

I’ll be posting more of their very clever “Low Cost Videos” soon.