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gromit
Posted: Fri Sep 04, 2020 9:17 am Reply with quote
Joined: 31 Aug 2004 Posts: 8792 Location: Shanghai
I think my favorite international cities to visit are:
Rome, Istanbul and Jerusalem.

We did a terrific combined trip where we started out in Rome for a week --with a side trip to splendid Orvieto -- followed by another 10 days in Turkey. So we followed the Roman Empire from Rome to Turkey. I really liked all the layers of history in Turkey from Greek to Roman to Muslim to Ottoman/Turkish. Istanbul is one of the worst cities to drive in, but it's fascinating to tour around.

Caveat: I haven't been to London in a long time, though was there 4 times in the 80's. And I was once in Paris for a few days and New Year's Eve.
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Our next trip, whenever int'l travel is athing again, is probably to an ex-Soviet joint such as Belarus and Ukraine, or maybe Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan.

And after that we will visit Andorra. I'm trying to decide if we combine Andorra with Northern Spain or Southwest France or both. I've started planning that trip, and Spain near the Pyrenees sounds impressive. The Basque culture and famous food in the West along the Atlantic coastline. San Sebastian right near the border with France looks beautiful -- beach, small city, mountains. With the main La Rioja wine region just a little inland. And then the Catalan culture on the Mediterranean side, including Dali museums (one with giant eggs on the roof) in his hometown and more beaches.

I originally conceived of this trip as Andorra and the French countryside -- which I still need to research -- using Paris as an in/out hub. But Madrid is about 2 hours closer driving-wise, and I found so much to do in Northern Spain. I'd feel like a chump blowing off an opp to get to back to Paris. Was there only 3 days 35 years ago. Actually if we can fly into Barcelona, that would save us a lot of driving time.

Spain has really changed over the past 3 or 4 decades, and it's food and beaches are pretty popular these days, or were before the pandemic.

Probably have to wait for next Spring for a trip.


Last edited by gromit on Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:39 am; edited 1 time in total

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Befade
Posted: Fri Sep 04, 2020 4:51 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 3710 Location: AZ
Waiting for a trip...... my favs are Helsinki, Tokyo, Kyoto, London, Jaipur, Amsterdam, NYC. Future yearnings are Oslo, all Nordic cities, Santiago, Buenos Aires, maybe Medellin. You seem to like Eastern European. I would love to be in London or Helsinki right now.

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gromit
Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:09 am Reply with quote
Joined: 31 Aug 2004 Posts: 8792 Location: Shanghai
Eastern Europe is where we haven't been. We're trying to get to all 51 European countries (though a few like Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are somewhat questionably included.

I haven't been to Helsinki or Amsterdam.
We had a nice trip to the 3 Baltic countries, going in and out of Warsaw. But if I had to do it again, I would have gone in and out of Helsinki, which is just a 2 hour ferry to Tallinn, Estonia. It was nice to hit Poland and LOT Air had good prices, but the Warsaw to Vilnius drive wasn't interesting. It is probably faster now as they were constructing a trans-Baltic highway at that time (2009). But is still listed as a 6 hour drive for 280 miles.

I'd rec an Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania trip. Start in Helsinki, then rent a car when you get to Tallinn. Nice places, and each of the three countries very different. Estonia is trying to be modern and high tech and looks towards Finland which it shares cultural and linguistic similarities and a national anthem apparently. Lithuania gravitates towards Poland and the EU, with which it shares a long history. While Latvia is saddled with a large Russian population in its East and kind of stuck in no man's land. (guarantee if Putin meddles in the Baltics it would be Eastern Latvia, which would put Russia in the middle of the Baltics geographically -- but there's always Kaliningrad to cause trouble with).

The Baltics have a high regard for nature. They like to hike and collect wild mushrooms and berries and honey and sell them roadside. There's a lot of quirky sites such as the Latvian Runsdale Palace in the middle of a forest modeled on Versailles. We even spent one night in a Latvian castle -- and being the only guests were given keys to the castle.

I like touring around small countries, as we did recently with the Caucasus -- Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia.


Last edited by gromit on Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:42 am; edited 1 time in total

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gromit
Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:37 am Reply with quote
Joined: 31 Aug 2004 Posts: 8792 Location: Shanghai
I like Tokyo a good deal.
I spent one Summer in a Tokyo suburb and got in a fair amount. Tokyo one of the only cities that reminded me of NYC, with its urban density and its very distinct neighborhoods. Ueno has the museums and Iranians; Roppongi for bars; Akihabara for electronics and anime-related stuff; Asakusa for Old Tokyo; Ginza = 5th Avenue; etc. And a ton of neighborhoods I never got to. Tokyo is pretty damn big. Also expensive.

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gromit
Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:08 am Reply with quote
Joined: 31 Aug 2004 Posts: 8792 Location: Shanghai
We did a Bulgaria/Romania trip in 2017 and interestingly we skipped Bucharest. Flew in/out of Sofia. I don't think we've ever gone to a country and skipped the capital/major city before. But we focused on Iasi instead which was terrific and wound up having a great time in Romania where our timing was crazy good and everything just worked out really well. Which was odd because our timing in Bulgaria was consistently off.

(in some countries, such as Turkey, the capital isn't the major city)

It seemed odd to skip the capital, but for Romania I think it paid off well. Also I live downtown in a big city, so the countryside sites were a nice change. While Bucharest didn't seem to have that many standout attractions (there's the world's second largest building that Ceausescu erected for whatever reason, which is super-massive and 1/2 empty).

Otherwise it might sound odd, but Romania has the best roofs in the world. Just a huge variety of interesting shaped and designed roofs. Nice country, with lovely little mountain towns. Too bad everyone wants to leave for the wealthier parts of the EU.

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Befade
Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 9:54 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 3710 Location: AZ
The trouble with Japan is no one speaks English. I spent time searching for ramen. One place was playing all Michael Jackson. I like the nature....the best outdoor sculpture garden in Hakone. The bamboo forests. The Amuse Museum showing Boro clothing. The cat cafes. If I go back Id go to the Kusama museum.

Helsinki is great for design. A walkable city where I found a great Turkish diner. Amsterdam is also walkable. The Van Gogh Museum. The canals. Bicycles have the right of way. Miles of tulips.

If I went to Istanbul Id go to Orhan Pamuks museum.

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gromit
Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 1:47 am Reply with quote
Joined: 31 Aug 2004 Posts: 8792 Location: Shanghai
I found it pretty easy to pick up basic Japanese.
Japan isn't a good place for vegetarians, as they eat tons of sea animals.

I like a good walking city -- Shanghai isn't but it is a good biking city, filled with bike lanes and cheap bike rentals all over the past 4 years.

Tokyo is fine for walking, but at the subway you have to know which exit to take as you'll never find your destination if you go out the wrong exit. It's confounding, but at least directions usually include the proper exit, and usually a half dozen buildings and sites are listed for each exit.

In Istanbul, many of the main tourist sites -- Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Underground Basilica Cistern, the ancient hippodrome -- are right next to each other. With the Golden Horn, sultan's Topkapı Palace, main spice market and Galata Tower just a short walk away.


Last edited by gromit on Sun Sep 06, 2020 2:43 am; edited 1 time in total

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gromit
Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 1:53 am Reply with quote
Joined: 31 Aug 2004 Posts: 8792 Location: Shanghai
https://goodistanbulguide.com/whats-underground-in-istanbul-basilica-cistern/

We only went to the Basilica Cistern:
Quote:
The Basilica Cistern is a massive water reservoir that is nearly 1500 years old. Built under Emperor Justinian.

The Basilica Cistern covers a total area of nearly 100.000 square feet. The cistern, which has a water storage capacity of nearly 100,000 tons, can be reached by descending a stone ladder that has 52 steps. The interior of the building is supported by 336 columns, each 30 feet high and 15 feet apart. Most of these columns, which were added to the structure in 28 rows, including the Medusa Heads, which were the subject of legends, were collected from the structures considered to be old at that time.


The site was used in one early James Bond film.

There's a lot of unexplored subterranean Istanbul. As that article mentions one ancient cistern is under a carpet shop.

After we finished eating in a restaurant in the sultanahmet neighborhood, they asked us if we wanted to tour the palace. Huh? In the back of the restaurant down some stairs are 3 or 4 large cave-like bricks rooms that were part of an extension of the sultan's Topkapi Palace. Discovered around 2000, with a plaque from the city gov't verifying the ruins and authorizing the restaurant to care for it and not make changes. It wasn't something to go out of your way for, but pretty cool as a final course at a random restaurant.

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bartist
Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 11:17 am Reply with quote
Joined: 27 Apr 2010 Posts: 6629 Location: Black Hills
gromit wrote:
I found it pretty easy to pick up basic Japanese.
Japan isn't a good place for vegetarians, as they eat tons of sea animals..


How can a nation with a strong Buddhist tradition and mass quantities of tofu and mung beans and endamame and soba noodles and rice and so on not be a good place for vegetarians? When I first practiced vegetarianism, I did a lot of grocery shopping at a Japanese market. (I found mochi pretty addictive, btw, approach with caution)

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gromit
Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 12:05 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 31 Aug 2004 Posts: 8792 Location: Shanghai
Noodles, rice, tofu and maybe some beans is pretty limited.

Restaurants have vegetable tempura. Somewhat oily, but good -- and the batter fried leaf looks great. Maybe some miso soup without meat/fish. Or a bowl of noodles with a few greens on top. And not much else.

In food stores you can buy seaweed, and there's an odd fermented sticky-stringy bean dish called nato, which I liked but is very polarizing even among Japanese.

Maybe by now there are more actual vegetarian restaurants. Or more veggie options at regular joints. I stayed at a friends apartment while she was mostly gone, so I mostly cooked for myself. But eating out options were decidedly limited.


Last edited by gromit on Mon Sep 21, 2020 3:34 am; edited 2 times in total

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bartist
Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 5:27 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 27 Apr 2010 Posts: 6629 Location: Black Hills



RIP Emma Peel.

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Syd
Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 8:04 pm Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 12636 Location: Norman, Oklahoma
gromit wrote:
I'd rec an Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania trip. Start in Helsinki, then rent a car when you get to Tallinn. Nice places, and each of the three countries very different. Estonia is trying to be modern and high tech and looks towards Finland which it shares cultural and linguistic similarities and a national anthem apparently.


That's true about the national anthems. When Estonia was part on the USSR the anthem was banned, and Estonians would listen to Finnish radio to hear their national anthem. It would have been an instrumental version since the two countries use different lyrics.

Estonia used to have nationwide wifi. They were probably the first country to do so. They probably still do though the Russians like to hack it.

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carrobin
Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 10:12 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 7744 Location: NYC
Lovely photo of Diana Rigg. Mrs. Peel was my role model when I moved from SC to NYC--to be so cool and smart and, well, gorgeous and British, impossible, but she was the great ideal. I later saw Rigg onstage in New York and in London, but Emma Peel was always the icon. (And how did I miss her on "Doctor Who"? Gotta track that down.)
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gromit
Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:47 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 31 Aug 2004 Posts: 8792 Location: Shanghai
Hey, I wanted to get some book recs for my mother whose 80th b-day is coming up.

She reads a ton of mystery-detective-thriller novels.
But can venture out of that for some other good reading.
She likes clever, well-researched novels with good esoteric factoids/details.

So if you know any lesser known detective/thriller writers.
Or just other good books. I'd appreciate the help.

The Devil in the White City was a big hit a few years ago. A rec from here.
Both my parents liked that a good deal.

Where would be a good place to start with Donald Westlake/Richard Stark?

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carrobin
Posted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:03 am Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 7744 Location: NYC
How about Kate Atkinson? "Started Early, Took My Dog" got me hooked on her Jackson Brodie novels. There aren't many of them, but a British TV series resulted, all too brief. (Most of her books aren't mysteries, but worth reading.)
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