Tour de France Redux

The Tour De France makes for spectacular sports television. Only the Olympics and World Cup soccer have more viewers worldwide. So, I posted an article last July during the 2011 Tour de France.  And now that I’ve returned from my travels to Turkey and Greece (and have my 47-inch HDTV and TiVo locked in to record every stage of this year’s Tour), I thought I’d repost.

It’s titled, Love suspense thrillers? Then watch the Tour de France! and compares the key elements of a great suspense novel to what every stage of this ultimate athletic event has to offer.

Even if you don’t think of yourself as a biking enthusiasist, I encourage you to check ’em out.  My blogpost and Le Tour itself.

Just a thought.

Istanbul – Day 2

So, with a mere two days to experience all Istanbul has to offer I checked in with Gem, our expertly knowledgable concierge at the W Hotel, and he suggested a few must-dos for this magnificent and multi-faceted city.  That meant Saturday tackling the bazaars and a cruise of the Bosphorus.

1.  Still a bit jet-lagged and recovering from our night in Taksim Square, we slept in until 9am, skipped breakfast, then fetched some Turkish lira from a bank machine in the Migros convenience store a couple of blocks away.  They didn’t open until 10, so we wandered  through the tight-packed tangle of streets admiring the entrepreneurial creativity of the shopkeepers who had wedged their tiny businesses into spaces barely half the size of our hotel room.  And each with a small stool or chair outside propped outside, the better for gabbing with the vendor next door.  Cozy.

2.  After downloading our moolah we taksied to the Grand Bazaar, by reputation perhaps the single largest flea market in the world.

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A Turkey/Santorini Sidebar

So, it’s catch-up time.

I can hardly believe it’s been a full week since my last post — and I know better now than to have “promised” more frequent and consistent reports from the field while on vacation, but hey . . . it does say “irregular” up there doesn’t it?  Thanks, though, for hanging in.  I’ll do my best to make it worth your while.

Okay, here’s what’s going on.  Soon enough I’ll post a entry for each day of our travels, and since we’ve already been there/done that for more than a week of posts, here’s what’s coming up over the next few days, as quickly as I can get them written:

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Istanbul – Day 1

So, we’re two full days into Istanbul and I’m wishing we weren’t jetting south tomorrow to see my dad and the southwest Turkish coast. This is a spectacular city, and for a whole lot of reasons, many of which I’ll detail below and in my next couple of posts.  Since it’s taken me longer than I’d hoped to get online and scribe, I’m going to split my Istanbul highlights into three back-to-back posts, one for each day here.  That way you won’t be faced with endless scrolling, involuntary yawning, and that secret wish to jump ahead simply because it’s so dang long!

Okay, Day Numero Uno.  (Presently, my kindergarten level Spanish is still better than my Turkish.)

1. Here’s some sage advice from a guy who knows it firsthand: fly on a single airline your entire life, use their credit card, and take advantage of every partnered perk they have that earns you points/miles.  Believe me, it all adds up.  In the 20 years that I’ve been flying tons I’ve earned almost 900,000 actual air miles with my home-based Alaska Airlines. Add to that bonus miles, credit card miles, rental car miles, 1-800-FLOWERS miles, etc., etc. and it’s probably 3-4 million. And I’ve been able to leverage that into  a bunch of free flights for myself and extended family.

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Turkey Bound

So, my wife and I kick off the vacation of our lives this morning, winging our way first to Chicago, then on to Paris for a quick layover before our final leg to Istanbul, Turkey.  Yeah, pretty amazing, huh?  Little ol’ me in Turkey.  And we’re not stopping there.

You see, it’s like this in a nutshell: My parents bought a small hotel in the Caribbean in 1973, then they divorced and both remarried outstandingly cool people, my dad’s wife Angela being Welsh, and they sold the hotel and my dad bought a place in north central England (Lincolnshire) and they started splitting their time between the Turks & Caicos and England, but then they began vacationing with a sorta timeshare deal and hit on this place in southwest Turkey that they fell in love with and a few years later decided to buy a small place and refurb it, and so now they tri-split their time between the three spots, and this year is my dad’s 80th birthday, so he invited us to join him there to celebrate.  Got it?

But first Nancy and I will hang out in Istanbul for a few days, then fly down to Dalamar where we’ll drive around to Amos, where my dad lives, which is right next to Turunç.  We’ll get there on Monday and then my brother Eric and his wife and daughter will arrive on Wednesday from Bangalore, India, where he works for Boeing.  On Friday we’ll leave them and ferry to Rodos, where we’ll catch a plane to Athens, then on to the Greek isle of Santorini for a week of unfathomable bliss.  We decided to take our first shot at VRBO — Vacation Rental By Owner — and I think we scored big time.  Here’s a photo of our balcony.  Seriously, that’s our exact balcony.  The place is called Mi Amo, you can look it up.  We’ll then finish the trip with one night in Paris, France — we arrive at 2:30pm and depart for home at 10:30am the next day.  A single night in Paris.  Sounds like a movie or something.

See, like I said, a trip of a lifetime.  At least my life time so far.  And if you’d like to tag along on the journey, I’m going to do my best to post something every couple of days.  Some photos and anecdotes.  Should be fun.  Though I’m not bringing my laptop, just my iPad, and WordPress doesn’t work so well on that little unit.  I may need to steal away to an Internet cafe here or there to do my thing.  We’ll see how it goes.

Oh, and if you want to take a look, I just launched a new website which will be the hub for all my work as a writer/author.  It’s pretty simple:  Still not exactly what I want, but it’s getting there.

Just a thought.

Another Wild Adventure

So, I finally took the bull by the horns — or the fish by the fins, as will make sense in a minute — and posted another of my brother Scott’s remarkable life experiences, this tale describing when he was longline swordfishing off the Atlantic seaboard and encountered an unusally large school of ocean sunfish.  These Mola mola’s are one of the largest fish in the sea, outsized only by three sharks: the whale shark (number one biggest creature on the planet), its slightly smaller cousin, the basking shark, and the great white shark of Jaws fame.

And don’t be fooled by the photo here, that diver is floating right next to the Mola.  They’re really that big.  Freaky big.  The biggest on record over 5,000 pounds big.

So, who in their right mind would ever want to ride on the back of one?

Yeah, my brother Scott would.  Check out his story at the Tales of My Brother website.

Just a thought.

Miss You, My Brother

So, I’m in the air again today, brother Scott, this time a quick one day turn around to New York City, rebounding home tomorrow.  You always told me, especially in those last months and weeks and days, how you envied my travels.  My gallivanting to hither and yon, seeing new sights, tasting new foods, experiencing new . . . experiences.

Well, I’ll get into Newark around 3:30, pick up my rental car, then head toward Queens and my Comfort Inn.  I’ll find a FedEx Office nearby and print the copies that I need, then seek out a place for dinner with a few craft brews on tap.  I’ll bring my Kindle and read a few more chapters of Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies.  You’d like this one; it’s a CSI-ish search using the evidence of history to find the origins of cancer.  Yeah, the roots of the Big C, that foul slayer of thee.  At some point tonight I expect I’ll hoist a pint to you, perhaps coaxing the imbibers around me to join in.  “To Scott, my brother.  My elder.  Gone now two years.  Slàinte.”

And I’ll rise at dawn and greet my audience at 8, do my thing until noon, then aim my way back to Newark and home.  Good times, eh?

I’m not sure I told you enough, Scott, in those final days, that for all my cities and miles and points and free drinks in first class, I envied you more than you could have ever envied me.  I think about it often.  Every day, in fact.  And because of you — in honor of you — I’ve slowed myself down a bit.  Given myself that chance to smell the roses.

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Defending the Belt

So, my son-in-law is in Dublin, Ireland, this week prepping to defend his MMA heavyweight title belt in a Saturday 5-rounder against challenger D. J. Linderman.  Mike “300” Hayes (as in the gladiator movie) is the husband of my elder daughter, Meghan, and fights for the London-based Mixed Martial Arts organization Cage Warriors.  They’re basically the British equivalent of UFC or Strikeforce and stage their tournaments everywhere except the U.S.  Mike won his belt in Dubai back in March with a technically gorgeous inverted triangle and kimura. (Jiu-jitsu talk there.)

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Hand Out vs. Leg Up

So, just before Christmas five months ago I loaned $50 to a group of women who sew things. That’s them to the right.

They live in Cuidad del Este, Paraguay, and together they call themselves, Mujeres Virtuosas – that is, Virtuous Women.  My micro-loan was a small portion of the $3,225 they had requested to purchase fabrics, thread, needles, buttons, and other supplies as they strive day to day to give their families the basics of a worthy life without hardships.

Last month they repaid my loan in full.  That’s right; my $50 was back in my account, as was the other $3,175 into other loaners’ accounts. And 6,800 miles away in Cuidad del Este fifteen women are on a self-supporting path to a better life.

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Blood Red Road – A Review (Loved it!)

So, I’m walking through an airport a few weeks ago, right at the height of the Hunger Games hype, and a book cover caught my eye.

I had read the HG books a year ago when a teacher friend gave me some sci-fi/fantasy recommendations, and like most everyone else I read them back-to-back-to-back in virtually one sitting.  Me in the Stratolounger, cans of Diet Coke scattered about, Doritos dust smearing the buttons of my Kindle.  “Just a couple more pages, honey. Seriously . . .”

Which means that while most others were reading the real books in prep for the movie, I’d already been there-done that and needed at least something even vaguely reminiscent of a Katniss fix to tide me over until HG movie D-Day.  And this one looked promising.  Just before boarding my flight I downloaded it to my Kindle and began reading soon after the 10,000-foot chime.  And yeah, I was hooked after a couple of paragraphs.

Here’s my in-a-nutshell no-spoiler summary:

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