Category Archives: Travel

8th Annual Memphis Walk

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For eight years now (see here or here or here or here or here), Richie, Robert, and I have been doing this thing where we meet at the Mississippi River cobblestones at dawn during a Saturday in the fall and walk until nearly sunset, seeing a good chunk of Memphis at a relaxed pace through out the day. For this edition of the Memphis Walk, we were joined by John Christenson, with the goal of following urban rivers.

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This year, the Memphis Walk took us down Riverside Drive, past the finally-completed Beale Street Landing complex. I still think the cost of it was too high and time required for construction was too long, but at least it is here now and it is an impressive structure for visitors. I hope we are still using it 13 years from now, unlike the Pyramid. I’m sure we will still be paying for it then.

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We walked through the downtown River Arts Festival before it opened for the day. I saw nearly as many food stands as artist booths, but I’m happy to see a vibrant and active South Main District.

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Heading south on Main, you eventually come across one of my favorite companies in Memphis, at least in terms of the name. I love the winking screw lady…

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Continuing south, we entered the area around I-55 and Crump Blvd that features a number of abandoned warehouses. I’ve driven past many of them before, and this was our chance to really peek inside and really take in how large, and sometimes beautiful, they are. (I even startled a homeless person that was living in the first floor of one of them.) We also came across some gems, such as an old fire engine next to a diesel repair shop.

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There is also a huge recycling center in this area, near Kansas St at Wisconsin Ave, that I had never seen before.

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Eventually, we circled around past the French Fort Historic District, near the National Ornamental Metal Museum, and headed south again, bypassing the turn-off to President’s Island. All along the way, we could see cobblestone streets that had been covered up by multiple layers of concrete and then asphalt, which was gradually breaking up and revealing the original roadbed below.

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Seeking a way to get away from the industrial area and stick closer to the river, we walked through the Riverside Golf Course, which offered bluff views of McKellar Lake and the Riverside Bayou.

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Even while you are still in Martin Luther Riverside Park, you can see the steam? stacks of the Valero Memphis Refinery, just over the tree line.

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After passing the scrumptious smells of Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ on Highway 61 (also South 3rd St), we turned off into an interesting area, bisected by levees and raised railroad bed and bridges that exists just to the south of I-55 and north of Nonconnah Creek. This grassy area is highly maintained and contains several gas and other fuel pipelines, as well as (possibly) the rumored direct Valero fuel pipeline that goes directly to the Memphis Airport and FedEx.

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Most intriguing, there are a number of small farm operations in this area which look like something you would find in the most remote parts of the southern US, complete with horses, chickens, and other livestock. One appeared to have power run to it, while another did not.

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Here, we are standing at the intersection of Nonconnah Creek and Cane Creek, trying to figure out how to cross either one of them.

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Eventually, we found a shallow section of Nonconnah Creek and waded across, watching out for all of the broken glass in the creek bed.

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We found what must be the boyfriend of the screw logo lady when we emerged from the woods around Nonconnah Creek in a modern warehouse district. Those two should definitely get together.

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After a tasty and very filling meal at Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken and observing a minor car wreck, we headed toward Winchester Road and points east.

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The Airways Blvd at Democrat Rd area of Memphis has seen better days. At the Airways Transit Terminal, we just missed the bus downtown, so we called for a car from Uber, which got us to Bardog for a quick pint in less than 15 minutes.

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All in all, a fun and interesting way to spend the day.

Beach to Bullring in Barcelona

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Today, we started out at the Picasso Museum. In some ways, this has been a very Picasso-infused trip. From the 1890s as a boy through his death in 1973, he did his best work along the stretch of sea we’ve been experiencing the past few weeks. The Picasso Museum in Antibes explored his later work, especially pottery, while the Barcelona museum focuses on his earliest drawings, sketches, and paintings. Both are excellent, and I’m still not the biggest Picasso fan, I can definitely understand the genius behind some of the best art in the 20th Century.

Next, we headed down to the beach. I’m always going to be in favor of a beach that you can visit via subway. The Barcelona beach is exceptionally nice, a great place to stroll and take in the sea air.

The Barcelona Metro is the perfect teleportation machine to get around this diverse and busy city. Next up, we visited an old bullring that the Barcelonenos modified to be a surreal 5-story mall.

What a fun and unexpected city!

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Gothic Barcelona

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We started our first day in Barcelona at the must-see site for most of the 17 million visitors that visit the city every year, and as all of the other museums are closed on Monday, about half of that number descended on the Gaudi-designed masterpiece Sagrada Familia with us.

The church really is amazing and worth the admission price and crowds, but I’m not sure how “sacred” the place can feel with the crush of people all around. It has the feeling of a circus combined with an international photoshoot. I can’t imagine what it would be like in the real high-season, July and August.

We also explored Barcelona’s old gothic city, the marina, and Parc de Montjuic, with some tasty tapas on way back to the apartment. A fun day…

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Barcelona!

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Katherine and I just made it into the apartment in Barcelona, and this is the view from our window. This is a famous market but is under renovation this year.

Many thanks to Laura, Antonio, Guisey, Toy, Chicho, and Antonella for hosting us and putting up with all of our questions (in English, no less!) over the past week! It was sad to leave Sicily, but we know we will return someday.

Island Hopping

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Katherine, Laura, Antonio, Chicho, Toy, and I rented a boat today for a look around some of the other Aolian Islands. We visited Lipari and Volcano, as well as stay off of the coast of Salina, where Chicho and Toy caught our dinner. What a wonderful day!

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Panarea

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For a change of pace, Katherine, Antonio, and I took the ferry over to Panarea, a nearby island to Salina. We walked around, got some sun, ate a granita, hung out a a beach, and viewed an archeological site. Panarea is a beautiful place, much smaller than Salina.

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Wonderful Salina

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We are having a great time catching up with friends in Salina. A lot of relaxing going on here.

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Laura organized a tour of a local winery, which was very interesting. They also produce capers, using this machine.

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Otherwise, it has been a lot of sun, sand, cooking, eating, drinking, and just chilling. Just what we needed after France.

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Salina!

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Made it to Salina! First, a crazy Ryanair flight from Marseille to Catania (Sicily), then a wonderful lunch and car ride to Milazzo (thank you, Guisy!), and then a ferry ride to Salina, where we were greeted by Laura, Antonio, and the gang. Perfect!

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French Riviera

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We drove the rest of the Riviera coastal road to St. Tropez, which included much of the beautiful scenery you might imagine. Traffic was not as bad as I imagined.

All in all, southern France is a wonderland of experiences, from the quiet and meaningful, to the crowded and surreal, from the ancient and overloaded, to the stunning yet sublime. Prepare to be amazed, if you make it here. It is easy to see why this is the most visited country on the most visited continent.

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Antibes

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Our stop in Antibes included finding a beautiful beach, studying dozens of Picasso drawings and paintings close up at the Picasso Museum, walking the sea ramparts, wandering through a packed Provencal market, roaming more medieval streets, looking at the yachts of millionaires and billionaires, and getting as close as I’ll ever get to a St. Tropez tan.

Needless to say, we had a great time in Antibes and would recommend it over Nice as a base to see the Riviera hotspots. Nice and Monaco are only minutes away by train, after all.

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Nice is, Well, Nice

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On the way to our hotel in Antebes, we stopped for a few hours in Nice. I was pleasantly surprised; after hearing so much about the terrible French Riviera traffic, getting from Monaco to Nice was easier than expected. We would have never made it without Giselle, our name for our rented Skoda GPS.

We walked through the old town and the Saturday afternoon market. The rocky beach was a highlight, as was a beautiful, long, grassy park that runs through the center of the city. Nice is a little grittier than Monaco, but with families out enjoying some brief afternoon sunshine, it is also a little more down-to-earth, too.

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Monaco

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You know you are in a place full of stinking rich people when your photo of the Lamborghini and Ferrari is almost photo-bombed by a Bugatti passing in front.

Monaco is surreal, clean, packed with people and cars, vertical, over-signed, pretty, and, unfortunately for us today, wet, because it rained almost all of the time we were outside. (No hailstones, however, thankfully.)

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Apt and L’Isle-Sur-la-Sorgue

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We could easily spend another week here. Free of big cities for day or so, you start to relax in a deeper way, thanks to the winding roads of the Vaucluse region and the postcard-perfect scenes waiting for you at the next corner.

When we felt the need to people-watch, we ducked in the towns of Apt and L’Isle-Sur-la-Sorgue for an ice cream or pastis.

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Rural Provence

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One of the advantages of staying far out of town in Provence is that you can just run into relatively obscure things that you read about in books about the region. Not 100 feet from our doorstep on a short hike, we came across this borie, hidden in the trees. Bories are limestone slab buildings made without mortar, including a stone roof, and have been made in the region for 4,000 years or so. Today, they are sometimes used to store tools or for shelter during a storm.

Speaking of storms, we experienced four separate hailstorms in a one hour period. All of the cars in the area scrambled to get under whatever kind of protection they could find. The odd thing for me is that they lasted so long. I’m used to a few minutes of hail, but one of them went on for more than 20 minutes. The ground was an inch deep in hail around us, for a while, before it melted.

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