Monthly Archives: July 2018


The Evel Knievel Museum is in Topeka, not Butte, Montana, his home.  A total tribute to this once famous daredevil who attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon at Twin Falls, Idaho, on a motorcycle, it’s wildly popular and has been opened only one year.  My impression is that its sponsors hope to turn Evel into a 21st century Elvis.

Evel was a master at self-promotion and a money magnet. The display of the products he endorsed is huge. He bragged about the 33 million dollars he earned.

The most popular place in this amazing attraction is the 4-D Jump Experience. “It’s so real!” one man exclaimed as he did it followed by several wows.


Shopping Australian-Style: The Queen Victoria Mall

Australians still love to shop in malls and arcades.   Three of its eastern cities have elegant, stylish shopping centers that double as tourist attractions.  The star of them is Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building.  Almost across the street from it is the also worth-seeing Strand Arcade that ends at the ever-crowded Pitt Street Mall, which gives access to Westfield Sydney.  Westfield contains many upscale shops and inexpensive-for-Sydney restaurants.   Melbourne has the Block Arcade and the Bourke Street Mall that Where Magazine calls this city’s “true retail heart”.    Brisbane, another city where public shopping seems to be a daily, required habit, has the Queen Street Mall and the baroque Brisbane Arcade.

Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building has seen its 100th birthday, fills an entire downtown block, and has 5 floors.  The lady it is named for would be comfortable shopping there now because it remains elegantly Victorian.  The only store she might not understand is The Art of Dr. Seuss.  She would certainly appreciate its clocks, especially Chris Cook’s Great Australian.  It features 138 figures and 33 scenes from Australian history.  Captain Cook’s 1770 landing is to the left of the map of Australia.  My favorite figure is a boy dangling a chain.  A sailing ship continuously circles this clock’s exterior and passes just above him.   The other exceptional clock is  Neil Glasser’s Royal Clock that shows scenes of English royalty like King Charles I’s execution.  You can see the Queen Victoria Building for free unless you buy some souvenirs and have cake and coffee in style.   Pierre Cardin called the Queen Victoria Building  “The most beautiful shopping Centre in the world”.  He would know.

Melbourne’s Block Arcade opened in 1892 on Collins Street. It contains more than 30 great shops, but its longest lines are waiting to get into the Hopetoun Tea Rooms, one of this arcade’s original businesses.  You can have an English tart with your tea (there are 20 to choose from) in a classic Victorian setting.

We walked through but didn’t shop in the Brisbane Arcade when we took a walking tour of this Queensland city.


Jump In

I mentioned an article by Chris Reynolds who advised travelers to step out of their comfort zones on trips.  This is often rewarding. Some of his suggestions are common sense, like “Make eye contact and start conversations”.  Others are not:  “Go to church…or temple…or mosque” and “Make ear contact”.    They got me to thinking of what I personally would add, and I quickly came up with 5 to add to his list.

Talk to the hotel concierge or the person who checked you in.  This has gotten us upgrades, advice on what to do locally, cultural enrichment, etc.  Always talk to your seat mate on any flight too.   One time the woman sitting next to me was taking home a rescued cat that had been gassed in a local riot in Istanbul.   On our recent trip to Australia our seat mate turned out to be a successful writer of teenage fiction and an actor.   He gave us one of his books, which both Ruth and I liked a lot.  You won’t know anything about that traveler who is going where you are unless you introduce yourself and/or start talking.  If they aren’t interested in conversation, you’ll quickly know, and such exchanges have a way of stopping naturally, often after a brief exchange.

Go to the local visitor center and ask about attractions that aren’t in guide books or the local literature.  If nothing else, you’ll get some local perspective and/or learn about an interesting, perhaps temporary event that is gong on in their town and welcomes outsider participation.

People at an attraction that you have chosen to see might have interests like you, so talk to them.  I was looking at a painting one time and the man standing net to me asked if I could estimate its worth.  As it turned out, he had a Picasso that he had bought many years before and was seeking advice on selling it.

Talk to people in restaurants.   Good conversation openers are the weather, that old conversation starter, and where they live.  We had lunch in a museum cafe in Athens at a communal table and learned a lot about what it was like to be living in Greece now with all the financial difficulties and migrant issues.  People are often willing to talk about what is happening in their country from their perspective, and I marvel at how many people in foreign countries speak English well.