Monthly Archives: August 2020

Towns Named Bristol

There are 40 places in the world with the name Bristol, but it is not easy to find them. Many have been absorbed into large cities, like Bristol, Pennsylvania. It is now part of the Philadelphia area, and was named after the Bristol in England. The largest Bristol in the world, a city of 463,000 people, is the one in Great Britain.

There is reportedly a 2nd town in Great Britain with the name Bristol, but it must be small and inconsequential. The city of Bristol in southwest England near Wales, which has been around for about a thousand years, dominates. Its name comes from an Old English word meaning “the place at the bridge”. Bristol has castles, bridges, and churches to visit; but its most popular attraction seems to be Brunel’s SS Great Britain. This very historic ship saw service from 1843 until it was retired in 1933. It has clearly been restored and put on display in Bristol. This vast steamship is referred to as the grandmother of all modern ships and was so important that Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, launched it.

Bristol is such a common name that 2 states have 2 Bristols. Pennsylvania is one of them, and the other is Wisconsin. 27 of the 40 Bristols are in the USA, but most of them are quite small. The one in Nevada has become a ghost town. The main Wisconsin Bristol has become part of Kenosha. The other must be a speed bump sized place. I have been through the Bristol near Kenosha but have no memory of it, not a good sign. The US Bristol I am most familiar with is the city that straddles the border between Tennessee and Virginia. Its combined population is about 43,500. I don’t know how it was named, but I do know that the 2nd name considered was Paradise. It has several attractions, but my favorite is a museum called The Birthplace of Country Music. Ruth and I went there and really liked it when we couldn’t get into Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. This has become one of the more popular national parks, and the businesses around it, mostly owned by Dolly Parton it seems, are causing major traffic congestion. There is also a fairly large Bristol in tiny Rhode Island. Its most popular attraction appears to be Linden Place, a mansion built in 1810 by a seafaring slave trader. Bristol, RI was also named after the city in Great Britain.

There are 2 Bristols in Italy and 2 in France; but the Bristol I am the most amazed by is the one in Albania, an unusual place to have a town with this name.


Wild Encounters

Our travel lives have been full of animal sightings. Ruth & my first encounters occurred in Texas where we saw wild road runners, armadillos, and an extremely photogenic javelina near Big Bend National Park. The photo I took of it is long gone.

I should not have stopped to take its picture. But I did. Also called collared peccaries, javelinas are small but can become vicious and bite humans. I did not get very close to this wild critter and was completely surprised to see it along the road so I stopped and snapped. While traveling since, we have seen too many animal attacks on humans to be risk takers. In Tierra del Fuego, for example, we were warned not to have any contact with wild animals in a national park. I sat on a bus watching as a man attempted to feed a grape to a wild fox. The fox bit him.

Javelinas look like pigs. They are very adaptable herbivores. There are frequent dry seasons where they live, so they dine on prickly pear pads to survive. They live about 7 years in the wild, are widespread, and become aggressive when threatened. Pet dogs are often attacked. They are common in popular tourist places like Sedona, AZ.

On our last trip to Australia Ruth and I went to Kangaroo Island where we saw many sea lions on a beach. We kept our distance and were warned not to speak loudly because they are both protected and endangered. Fewer than 12,000 of them remain in 42 breeding sites in South Australia. We were lucky to see them in this seaside animal sanctuary.

We were also lucky in Costa Rica last year to see several Panamanian white-faced capuchin monkeys. Having lunch in Tortuguero National Park, we heard noises on the roof above us and discoverd that several monkeys were up there. They live all along the Gulf Coast side of this Central American country. Normally insectivores, these cute little animals also eat fruit, flowers, and birds’ eggs. I was wary but lucky to get to take photos of them as they scampered about. Capuchins have great physical strength, I learned later, and can be aggressive.

We also had a close encounter with a caiman along a river on our way to this national park. They are normally not aggressive. Caimans live along rivers in Central and South America and are fairly common. Caiman Crocodilus is often confused with a young alligator. They are not to be coddled. There have been 43 human attacks over a five year period. These attacks were mostly not fatal.

Ruth’s favorite animal encounters have been with koalas. She has had 4 of them. In Sydney’s Taronga Park Zoo she held one. Near a lighthouse on the Bass Strait west of Melbourne we saw several of them in a tree. One sleepy-eyed koala became curious and crawled down a branch to check Ruth out. We visited koala sanctuaries near Brisbane and on Kangaroo Island.


Cowboy Caviar

Because of COVID, Ruth & I have been cooking more. Homebound and hungry, we have tried many new recipes. One of the better ones appeared in The New York Times last Sunday. We tried it immediately and liked it a lot. It has a very clever name in our opinion, Cowboy Caviar, and is a very old invention. A dietician named Helen Corbitt created it when she moved to Texas in the 1930s.

For the dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Kosher salt and black pepper, at least 1/2 teaspoon each

For the salad:

3 plum (also called Roma) tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced

1/2 red onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)

One 15 ounce can of black beans, rinsed

One 15 ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 diced red pepper

1 seeded and diced jalapeno pepper

1/2 cups chopped cilantro leaves

1 large green onion, chopped

Make the dressing in a medium bowl and whisk with olive oil. Set aside but use all of it when tossing.

Put the rest of the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine before adding salad dressing and stirring. Refrigerate 2 hours before serving. I cheated by using about 1/2 tablespoon of Spice Islands bottled cilantro instead of chopping fresh. It didn’t seem to affect the taste, but I promise to use fresh cilantro when we make Cowboy Caviar again. We will because it is both nutritious and delicious.


Five Lakes to See

Lakes are better to see while traveling than rivers. They are often more majestic sights than free-flowing streams. I like natural lakes better than dammed lakes. Lakes behind dams frequently have a manufactured look that natural lakes lack. Below are 5 of my favorites. The 1st 3 are in North America and the other 2 are in Europe. All were produced by nature, not engineers.

My favorite North American lake is in Canada. There is nothing more pleasurable than to rent a canoe and explore it with a paddle in your hands. I’ll never get over my first look at Lake Louise. Its stunning beauty is a visual masterpiece of nature. Its breadth and depth are not diminished by the old-fashioned hotel adjacent to it. If anything, the Chateau enhances all and seems like an innate part of the landscape. If nothing else, have lunch there after cruising or walk up to the teahouse. A trip from Banff including Lake Louise up the Icefields Parkway to, at least, Jasper is an unmatchable travel experience.

Lake Tahoe is a scenically splendid freshwater lake and worth a trip all by itself. At over 6,000 feet above sea level, Lake Tahoe is usually a cool-climate experience. In fact, the last time we were there it snowed to add to the enchantment. It’s also more than 1,500 feet deep in places, which makes it kind of eerie but more accessible than much smaller but comparably grand Crater Lake. Spring and fall are especially recommended for visits. We were last there in early November, and Tahoe was at its best.

Lake Superior is my favorite Great Lake. A drive up Highway 61 from Duluth to Thunder Bay, Ontario, is a highly recommended trip if done in the summer or before the end of September. There are many delightful stops along this road. The largest of the Great Lakes, Superior contains 10% of the Earth’s fresh water. It’s not as deep as Tahoe but pretty close. Many ships have not made it across Superior because it’s big enough to create large, destructive waves. A fishing paradise, there are 78 species of fish below its surface. Duluth, MN has many attractions; Thunder Bay not as many but still some that are worthwhile nearby.

France has a large number of natural lakes. One of my favorites is Lake Annecy which is long, thin, and about 90 miles south of Geneva, Switzerland. Known for the quality of its water fed by high mountain springs, Lake Annecy has a number of medieval aspects, ancient chateaus with water views, challenging trails to hike, and is a favorite take-off place for paragliders. Another favorite is Lake Leman. Geneva is on it. One time I invited a French gentleman to dinner in Geneva. He declined with this comment, “There will be almost nothing on your plate and it will be very expensive.” Geneva has that reputation. I prefer Lausanne and getting to it.


Five Places to Go

Despite rumors that some popular ports and some big cruise lines will remain closed until 2022, the cruise business is beginning to show signs of recovery. There is pent up demand for cruises despite the fact that many cruisers got stuck on ships for a long time when the pandemic first hit. People seem to love this form of travel and many can’t wait to resume this type of travel despite the risks.

Ruth and I are not planning a cruise in the near future. Many potential cruisers report that it’s not the cruise they fear but getting by commercial flight to the departure site is the issue stopping them. Our first trip after COVID begins to fade will include one or more of the following five destinations.

Colorado Springs. We almost stopped in this city we have not visited for years last summer when we were heading for an underrated attraction with great hiking possibilities called Paint Mines Interpretive Park. Most of the scattering of visitors we met while there were spending vacation time in Colorado Springs and had come to Paint Mines for the day. Our main incentive is that our son unexpectedly moved to Denver in 2020, and he tells us about his frequent jaunts to Colorado Springs. We would like to revisit some of its old attractions like Pike’s Peak, the US Air Force Academy, and the Broadmoor and check out some of its newer or at least yet-to-visit spots like the figure skating hall of fame, the only one of its kind in the world.

Temecula. We almost went to this California city south of LA last year with a growing reputation, but we liked Paso Robles so much that we lingered there instead. We know the area around Temecula from past visits to Ruth’s Aunt Edna in nearby Fallbrook, where she and her husband operated an avocado grove. Temecula’s population has fairly recently topped 100,000, and its 40 or so wineries are up and comers. With fires raging in the Napa and Russian River Valleys, Temecula is getting more attention. It’s Old Town sounds like fun.

Tucson. We had planned to spend a day in this Arizona city last year with a list of new attractions to visit when we went to Phoenix, but we never made it there. So far in 2020, the virus has kept us from going anywhere, but a friend recently announced that she is buying a home and moving to Buckeye soon, so we have a new incentive to revive interest in Tucson.

Hot Springs. We lived in Missouri and visited beautiful Arkansas often, especially Crystal Bridges and the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, but we have gone through but never stopped at the urban National Park in this resort city. I was not aware that this state has 6 other national park sites besides Hot Springs even though we have been to and liked its Fort Smith National Historic Site when we went to Oklahoma. We have always found value in National Park facilities despite our experiences with overcrowding.

Oakland. We have skirted but never been to this California city in the Bay Area. The fact that my brother now lives there is our incentive to check it out.