All posts by Mike

THE INCOMPETENT TRAVELIR … what I know about travel and relationships

My wife once said this to my 23 year-old son about his budding relationships ….

“Before you make a commitment to the girl you think you might want to spend your life with you should travel together.  When you travel you replace the responsibilities and hassles that can weigh you down in every day life with the excitement of navigating through different cultures and foreign lands.  If you don’t get along in circumstances when you’re relaxed, happy and wide-eyed with wonder then you likely never will”.

The second and third sentences in that quote are actually my expansion of Jacki’s point.  Jacki doesn’t talk like that, especially to Nick.  She and Nick are on a less verbal mother-son wavelength that I can only try to reduce to writing.   Nevertheless I like to think that Jacki is, of course, thinking about our relationship when she says things like this and that would be heartwarming … if it were true.

Here’s my version of the theory about travel and relationships:  women will find out everything they need to know about men when they travel with them; therefore, traveling with a man allows a woman to more easily adjust to the stupendous compromises they must make when she actually has to live with one.

I should however point out that it’s on the woman if she is deceived in judging a man by how easy he is to travel with …  let’s bullet point a few examples of potential misunderstandings:

  • while traveling men frequently use separate restrooms so it doesn’t matter if they don’t put down the toilet seat,
  • while traveling men have to keep their all stuff in one small confined space, namely a piece of luggage, and not scattered all over the house,
  • while traveling men can’t spend hours watching ESPN.   In Thailand anyway.   Here it is important for the woman making the call on a particular man to take note of what he actually does spend hours watching while in Thailand.
  • lastly, travel is an enterprise in which you divide the planning and research and then the everyday decisions about where to go and what to do…  equally !        ‘ppllllpphhttt’  … ( whoops that was me spitting up orange juice through my nostrils).  The only thing I do in preparing for a trip abroad is pack my own clothes  …  using the helpful list Jacki gives me.    About packing:  Jacki’s luggage is a marvel of forethought and organization.  She employs plastic bags with air valves that you can sit on to reduce the volume of, say, the down coat she will bring to Maui just in case it cools off.  She also uses these little zip-around mesh containers that divide your stuff into alphabetical categories which fit like puzzle pieces into her luggage which she then organizes by country;   so if she wants her umbrella in Uruguay, there it is.       Me ?  What I pack depends entirely on the size of the luggage piece I choose.   I have two choices at my disposal:  the small gray one which holds just enough to go to the gym for the afternoon;  and the big maroon one which holds more than enough to invade Normandy.  I usually choose the big maroon one which I pack until it is full.  It will then weigh in around 75 pounds what with the dartboard and lawn chair I packed because I had the room.  I too sit on my luggage, not to economize volume but to get the zippers to engage.   Here is a packing tip for guys:  roll everything into tight balls as it saves space.  The only problem is that you won’t recognize your own clothing rolled-up because it does not look like it does at home stuffed into dresser drawers or piled up on the closet floor.  You will likely have to unroll it all find the Red Sox t-shirt you want to wear to the Louvre.   It is unlikely that you will then re-roll everything after you have opened your luggage for the first time; consequently for the rest of your trip the inside of your bag will look just like your closet floor, actually making things much easier to find.  The mess your clothes will be in after opening your bag the first time also makes it more likely you will leave articles of clothing behind unnoticed in various hotel rooms thereby lightening your load.   I call this organic packing.  You can learn more on my travel website as soon a Jacki gets it up and running.

Back to relationships.  While traveling women still get to make all the important daily decisions.  In a foreign land men must be completely okay with this concept because they generally have no idea where they are or how they got there;  and remember it’s your wife who knows where your return airline tickets are at all times and therefore how you are going to get home … to watch ESPN.

Disclosure: I am expanding this latter point to include all men even though I am referring to me because I believe I am generally correct

Before I leave this subject once and for all I offer these two photographs to support my conviction that the design of the Eiffel Tower was directly influenced by French Lingerie.


Now …  see what I mean !?

Read Julie’s post on travel as a “relationship test drive”!


THE INCOMPETENT TRAVELIR … ‘le rube’ eats out

I have several Grand Theories about things and one of them is that wherever the French have been in the world they transform the cuisine.  I have been to a few of those places:  Vietnam and Laos, the old French Indochina.   Thailand by association.  French Polynesia.  Montreal.   Even New Orleans.   All great places for food  …  and bread.   I would bet that if the French had invaded your home town a hundred years ago and then they were inevitably driven out by say, the local PTA,  you would nevertheless be left with three French restaurants and, for the next century, all the townsfolk would be walking around carrying baguettes under their arms.

I had high expectations of dining out in Paris.  It is true that every restaurant in which we dined was loaded with charm and ambience;  but really, anytime all the people sitting around you are speaking French while you eat, that’s ambience,  n’est-il pas ?

Here’s the thing about the food though,  if you’ve cleaned up your diet brace yourself to be confronted with the likes of  …  ‘confit’, duck preserved in it’s own fat then cooked in its own fat and served with potatoes cooked in the same fat;  or terrine, a cross between fruitcake and spam;  or cassoulet, a casserole stuffed with white beans and the meat of whatever on two or four legs happens to be wandering around the backyard.  And don’t even talk to my wife about foie gras and the latest outrage among foodies,  The Goose Inquisition.  This is Crusader food.   You actually are introduced to forcemeats.

The first French cookbook dates back to Louis XIV …. Le Cuisinier Royal so that you know I actually researched this.   Its revelation was the joy of cooking with pork fat.  It was then updated in 1712.  Not since apparently.

Lest you think I am le rube,   I know I am being flip and ignoring the refinements that followed from the influences of iconic French chefs like Marie-Antoine Caremel,  Escoffier  and, later, the nouvelle cuisine of Paul Bocuse.  The evolution was away from heavy sauces and more reliance on the natural flavors.   Americans like me, who keep on-hand an arsenal of stuff in bottles and shakers to dump on food before I taste it,  find nouvelle cuisine dishes …well, subtle.

“Hows your meal”.

“I don’t know  it tastes like … fish.”

“It is fish”

“How do you say    ‘Got any lemon pepper’ ?”

When you studied American history did you learn who George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s chef’s were  ?  The French know this kind of thing.


This is just the salad (yes, we started with the salad).  Looking closely you will see  two rounds of warm goat cheese (le chevre) , only slightly smaller than hockey pucks,  but much tastier  …  but then I ever eaten a hockey puck prepared by a French chef.


This is of course les escargot.  Notice anything missing ?  There are no pools of creamy garlic butter to sop up with your french bread.   Sacre bleu !  C’est un scandale !  My Aunt Helen (again) had a plastic tube of snail shells exactly like the ones pictured and she made her escargot just like this  …  with little spring loaded clippers to hold the shell,  but no butter.


Here’s a helpful phrase when you get your first look at the calorie-laden food as it arrives.

“Oh what the hell. We’re in Paris !”

You can also use this phrase when the bill arrives –  right after    “Holy Crap!”

THE INCOMPETENT TRAVELIR … I don’t know about you, but I never thought that much of the Eiffel Tower

From my luggage, recently back from Ibezia, I sprung my faux oil-skin belted trench coat inspired by the Pink Panther movies, which I will wear to the Eiffel Tower with my new pencil-thin moustache.

I don’t know about you, but I never thought that much of the Eiffel Tower. I actually grew up with the Eiffel Tower in my living room. When I was a kid my Aunt Helen brought back an Eiffel Tower statuette from Paris where she lived in the 1930’s, a time when the Nazis were in town. They hadn’t invaded yet, but they did come to shop, alongside, apparently, my Aunt Helen. Her mini-Eiffel Tower gift to us kids was silvery so right away the wrong color and it sat forever on our nic-nac shelf, tacky even to a six-year old. It was also boring and not fun to play with, so I never thought much of the Eiffel Tower. I should quickly mention here that my Aunt Helen was not herself a Nazi. Anyway it always looked to me like a big radio tower.

Now I have a somewhat different opinion. La Tour Eiffel is tall, elegant and beautifully proportioned; and while it’s a mass of iron, it appears light and almost delicate. From a distance the mesh of steelwork looks like ? I have to say it … fine lace and frill. Mssr Eiffel was evidently inspired by French Lingerie. The way the Tower gracefully flares at the bottom, it looks like it could stick out a leg and toss its head back. Kind of like … a Parisian woman .

This has to be the last of my posts on Parisian women. Next we move onto the Inquisition.

Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.

Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.

The Incompetent Travelir … in which I am censored

I am not allowed to write any more about the Parisian women. This is because I have been in Paris for three days and, because of my lack of focus on street signs and landmarks, I still can’t find the way back to our apartment on my own. I have to follow my wife. If you were watching us from behind I would be the guy who’s jacket sleeve is constantly being yanked to the right or left. I have to be steered on streets of Paris because they are populated with long-legged, skirt-wearing, flouncy-haired, shopping bag-swinging belles femmes. It’s not that I have been expressly forbidden from expounding on this topic, it’s just that my wife has this way of rolling her eyes that suggest I should reconsider a thing. This restriction makes it tough to go on here because Parisian women are pretty much all I have noticed since we arrived in Paris. Add to that, they’re everywhere.

Okay. I did notice Notre Dame Cathedral today and that was nice. Built from 12th to 14th century, it was a remarkable feat of construction because that was a time before power tools and after slave labor. The work of medieval society, unlike the ancient world, was done by its own people. This of course required money,  so to preserve the reverent experience of visiting Notre Dame and all the other magnificent churches you encounter throughout southern France,  you might not want to delve too deeply into the history of cash flow in the medieval Church.

I’ll do it for you.

Yes, it was a time of the kindly preachings of St Augustine, but also of nefarious fund-raising by, for example, church-commissioned ‘pardoners’. Check your old Cliff Notes for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, The Pardoner was the despicable guy.   Dispycable guye ?   Here’s a new word, or actually an old word lost in time:   SIMONY .    Simony is the selling of ecclesiastical favors like pardons for everything from gluttony to homicide … or the mother-of-all-pardons, salvation.   Heaven, you see, had a Treasury of Merit, according the robed snake-oilers of the period,  into which you could make deposits. Upon payment these pardons were reduced to writing, like receipts, assuring the ‘pardoned’ better seating in the hereafter.   Mendicant monks would sell you a feather from the wing of the Angel Gabriel or a piece of Moses ‘burning bush’.                              ‘Step right up !  Your legion of sins … the travesties visited upon the poor and downtrodden …  are herein forgiven.  Just show this parchment at the Gate”.

Mendicant. There is another good word you can use if you want to sound ‘medieval’. No one will know you don’t know what it means.

I dygresse. Unlike our Notre Dame, which is a football team and inflicts far less mayhem on its opponents than the medieval church did to its adversaries, the Paris Notre Dame was in particularly reverent form the day we visited. There was a Mass underway led by a younger priest, not a day over 80, who happened to be a mellifluous chanter. Standing under the same roof and on the same floor tiles as Kings, Popes and Crusaders, listening to the priest’s ethereal chant, I was so moved I almost jumped in line to receive Holy Communion. That would have been my first HC in 40 years, but then I remembered you are supposed to go to Confession first, which for me would go like this:

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It’s been 40 years since my last confession. You got a couple of weeks ? … and, actually, why don’t you go first ?”

I whispered my Communion idea to the rest of the group and I got this ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ look from my more catholicized sister. I passed on Holy Communion so as not commit blasphemy in the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

In conclusion, Notre Dame is a good place to take a break from watching Parisian women






I am, but we’ll get to that later


No travel story worth reading is going to be about an airline losing your luggage.   Try to interest listeners with a lost luggage story and be prepared  for everyone else’s lost luggage stories,  so let’s introduce this episode as the one in which we spend our first three hours in Paris shopping for French Lingerie.   I am herein capitalizing French Lingerie because it deserves to be.

It was United Airlines that lost our luggage but it was Lufthansa that made the offer to reimburse us for a day’s worth of clothes.   I am not sure why Lufthansa stepped in to cover United’s screw-up but it seems  the Germans do a lot of that these days.

Lufthansa having rescued us from UAL took us,  but not our luggage now on a vacation of its very own,  from Frankfurt to Paris.  Upon arrival we checked in with Lufthansa’s lost luggage agent, a  cheerful and pretty German girl who offered to buy us a few days worth of clothes; specifically;

“Ya.  Vee vill reimburse 50% for da outervear duht you buy   …  und  100%  for duh undervear”.  The girls and I exchange something-for-nothing raised-eyebrow smirks.  Personally,  I was okay with the prospect of wearing the same underwear for three weeks.  Why not, I do at home.  But the girls, my wife Jacki and my sister Carolyn,  not so much.   We check empty-handed into our apartment in the Marais district of Paris and  straightaway we are off  to a department store on the Rue de Rivoli.  It’s after dark by now and the sidewalks are crawling with supermodels with shopping bags.  Actual supermodels.    If one is going to step out onto a Parisian sidewalk for the very first time you might want to time your visit with something called Fashion Week,   a city-wide event that makes it difficult to walk in a straight line with all the head-turning.

I digress.  Back to the mission.  I am following the girls who have been given a free pass to shop for replacement underwear in Paris France.  Tres bien.   We find an unimposing department store that could have been a Mervyns, until you get to the second floor:  women’s underwear.   Now I admit I used to occasionally stroll through the girl’s underwear dept in Mervyns  on the way to … you know … Pep Boys.  But this was Paris and in Paris underwear is Lingerie !   The  second floor girl’s underwear department in this non-descript French grand magasin was a dazzling acre of lace and silk and strappy stuff decorating mannequins that you want to date.   In Mervyn’s would you see a lifelike plastic madamoiselle wearing, for example, a lace garter supporting one red stocking, one black, and a red feathered mask ?  Probablement pas !

The girls were studiously hunched over a bin of panties holding them up to the light for some reason.  I know why guys hold underwear up to the light.  I don’t what girls look for and I would have asked them but I was distracted weaving my way through silk and lace tableaux on weak knees like Scarecrow in the Emerald City.

My wife eventually bought $100 dollars worth of bras and panties which by the way I could have folded into my breast pocket and walked out with undetected.   In the meantime the store began to flicker its lights indicating we would have no time to get to the men’s underwear department for the free thong I was conjuring up for myself.  But that was ok, I was happy where I was and the girls were gracious about subjecting me to all this shopping.

“Thanks for being so patient Michael”

“Yeah sure. No problem.  Can we come back tomorrow ?”

Voulez vous avec moi c'est soir ?

Voulez vous avec moi c’est soir