INNOCENCE ABROAD. (Chapter 10) “When In Rome… “

… Do as the Romans do!  Which means, eat plenty of pasta, drink lots of Chianti, and speak with your hands.  No problemo!  Our motley crew arrived in the port of Civitavecchia at 6:45 a.m. on Sunday, shortly after sunrise.  As a reminder, we left Venice 10 days earlier, and began our high seas adventure in wonderful fashion.  (Our clothes were clean at this point!)  We all loved Venice, but be aware… the streets are often filled with water.  (Just saying)  In any case, we hired a driver in Civitavecchia (Franco “The Flash” Farengetti) who safely drove us to Rome and only broke the sound barrier three times.  During the first leg of our extended voyage (Venice to Rome) we sailed 1,700 nautical miles, mostly on water.

The game plan called for a 3-day stop in Rome, which gave us plenty of time to re-visit some of our favorite haunts.  First stop was the Vatican, which was nice, but it needed a woman’s touch.  (Not happening!)  Just to be contrary to ordinary, we decided to stay at a most unusual boutique establishment…  The Inn at the Roman Forum.  As the name suggests, the hotel is built adjacent to the Roman Forum, which is where a lot of the action took place.  (When it came to Caesar, you were either forum or against him.)  Our charming quarters were built directly over an ancient pathway to the Forum, and we were allowed to explore the ruins to our heart’s content.  Very cool, especially for an amateur archaeologist like me.

Whenever I go to Rome, I walk a lot, and this visit was no exception.  Our hotel was in the southern section of the city, but we walked up to the Spanish Steps (and further north to Borghese Gardens) not once, not twice, but three times!  Each outing was a least 5 miles, but I’m glad we chose to walk.  (The more you exercise, the more gelato your body can absorb.)  OMG, did we mangiare!  I am now convinced that I was a gladiator in a previous life.  (Or maybe the owner of a gelato stand.)  The only thing I didn’t like about our hotel were the towels, which were large and fluffy.  They were very difficult to fold up and hide in our suitcases.    And speaking of packing…..  I told my wife NOT to bring anything she didn’t really need… so she left me behind!
Rome is often called “The Eternal City,” but now that it’s overrun with tourists, they are contemplating a name change.  (I suggested “The Infernal City.”)  While walking about, I remembered the old saying:  “Rome was not built in a day.”  (It just looks like it!)  Streets and roads start and end without warning, and one wrong turn will bring you to the Trevi Fountain, the “pickpocket capital of the world.”  In order to outsmart any would-be thieves, I kept my gelato in my pants pocket.  (Have you ever heard of crotch chill?  Horrible malady.)  Nevertheless, we had a marvelous time in Rome, highlighted by a wonderful visit to my favorite poet’s house…. John Keats.

Mr. Keats was one of the “Big Three” poets of the early nineteenth century.  (Along with George Gordon, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley)  For Keats, truth was beauty, and beauty was truth.  Sadly, he died from tuberculosis in Rome on February 23, 1821.  I suppose his best two poems are “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale.”  Visitors to Rome can find his villa at the bottom of the Spanish Steps.  (Most of the decor is not original, but it’s still a fascinating place to wander around in… and there’s also a resident ghost!)  If they sold gelato, it would be a perfect spot.

So what else is new?  Well, we celebrated the Princess of Portugal’s birthday on Friday.  Yours truly sprang for a lobster festival in her honor, and had I thought to bring my wallet, it would have been a perfect evening.  And speaking of perfect evenings…..   Last night the birthday festivities continued with a GALA dinner at the lovely home of Mr. & Mrs. Talbott, the un-official ambassadors of the Texas Hill Country.  Ms. Barbara’s home was beautifully decorated with all sorts of Christmas items, and as always, the food and wine were simply incredible.  We did not exchange gifts, but my wife managed to steal a couple of silver spoons and one knife.  (Luckily, on the way home, we came to a fork in the road, so we had one complete setting.)

Lest we forget, Christmas is right around the corner, and there is still time to order your complete set of the “Adam Gold Mysteries,” or if you love history, you might want to order a copy of THE SECOND MOURNING or TURBULENT TIMES.  These books would make a truly memorable gift, and the royalties would allow me to continue a life of unbridled decadence and obscene pampering.  (Hey, if it was good enough for Keats, it’s good enough for me!)

Stay tuned for more travel adventures, because after 3 days in Rome, we flew to Athens and took a 7-day cruise around the Greek islands.  (Eat your heart out, Keats!)  I will be sharing our adventurous exploits in future blogs… so be here or be there.  (What?)  Never mind, just come back.  Have fun shopping and  don’t get stuck in traffic.  (Traffic is AWFUL this time of year in Austin.  The other day I was passed by an abandoned car!)

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

*****  Photographs attached.  (no extra charge)

 

 

 

 

INNOCENCE ABROAD. (Chapter 9) “La Dolce Gaeta!”

Si, I realize that the term is “la dolce vita,” but today we are making port in the lovely town of Gaeta, Italy.  (“The Jewel of the Lazio Region”)  No problemo, let’s proceed.  This charming seaside port was founded in the 4th century B.C.  The town itself is positioned high atop a cliff, which gave the Romans a birds-eye view of marauding invaders, and more importantly, the arrival of any Carnival Cruise ships.  Like other outposts, Gaeta was continually invaded by Gothic, Lombard, and Saracen powers.  Fortunately, none of the invaders packed properly, so they were forced to return home for clean underwear.

In today’s world, Gaeta functions as a fishing village and a much-desired port of call for the burgeoning cruise industry.  High above the water sits a charming “old town,” and further up looms the Aurunci Mountains.  (From this vantage point you can actually see Naples.)  Notice I said “Naples,” NOT “nipples.”  (No nude bathing allowed!)  I only digress into sexual discourse (Notice I said “discourse,” not you-know-what!) because of the romantic vibes of this lovely port.

These “romantic vibes” were highlighted by a charming coincidence aboard ship.  Two of our dear shipmates (John & Helga) fell madly in love in Gaeta during their youth, and they returned to reminisce about a very special time in their lives.  Despite their obvious class and refinement, they kept making out in the ship tender and on land.  (The authorities had trouble separating them until I recommended a splash of olive oil.)

Gaeta has a number of lovely churches, and one of the best is the Capella d’Oro.  (Golden Chapel)  Another charming structure is the Sanctuary of the Holy Trinity at Montagna Spaccata.  If peace is not your thing, you can visit the mausoleum of Lucius Plancus, the military mastermind who served with Julie Caesar.  Lucius (who had a gorgeous sister named Lucious) stood next to Emperor Julie when he crossed the Rubicon.  (I understand there was no going back.)

After satisfying our intellectual curiosity (which took 3 minutes) the wife and I walked along the Bay of Gaeta and dipped our toes into the water.  The main beach was actually quite nice, and stretches for about two miles, most of it along golden sands and expensive villas.  If you’re into volleyball, you might want to visit San Vito beach, which was filled with young athletes.  (This is also a good spot to observe thong-clad maidens… so I’ve been told.)

By the way, did you know that they now have an Italian airline that flies out of Genoa?  It’s called Genitalia.  (I also have a joke about “Florence,” but I’ll save it for another post.)

So what else is new?  Nothing.  Just kidding, I’ve been quite busy working on my new history book.  Due to popular demand (my mother) I am writing a book about the life and tragic death of William McKinley.  My tentative title is “GONE BEFORE GLORY.”  I picked this title because McKinley was assassinated before he could accomplish great things.  If you enjoyed THE SECOND MOURNING and/or TURBULENT TIMES, you will love this book.  The true story of his life and death is absolutely fascinating.

Well, time for breakfast.  Sometimes I hate to get up in the morning.  It keeps me awake the rest of the day.  To be perfectly honest, I can be lazy.  I don’t even walk in my sleep.  (I use Uber)  Some interviewer once asked me how long I’ve been out of work.  I told him to check my birth certificate!  Hey, I’m starting to sound like Rodney Dangerfield!

If you get a moment, check out my travel photos!  Have a wonderful week!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INNOCENCE ABROAD. (Chapter 8) “Spontaneity Takes Planning”

Buongiorno!  Today it is my pleasure to welcome you to lovely Sorrento, the Jewel of the Amalfi Coast.  (Another jewel!)  They call this area a coast, because that’s all you do… coast.  OMG, what a relaxing place to park one’s fedora!  The gorgeous town of Sorrento is built upon the Tufa Terrace, a limestone cliff that overlooks the Bay of Naples.  The town dates back to around 400 BC, and was founded by the Phoenicians.  (Who might be related to the Venetians or their medically advanced cousins, the Physicians.)  In any case, it fell into Roman hands during the 1st century BC, prospering until around 79 AD, when there was a slight eruption of some kind near a place called Pompeii.  (Sooner or later I have to use my lava lamp joke!)

By the way, our ship dropped anchor VERY close to Mt. Vesuvius, which is the only active volcano on the mainland of Europe.  (Lucky me)  From here it is an easy trip to the ruins of Pompeii or Herculaneum, which are both fascinating.  If one wishes to keep “coasting,” they could also go to Capri and visit the famous Blue Grotto.  (Or the poorer spot called the Blue Ghetto)  Capri was once used as a weekend retreat for the Roman emperors Augustus, Tiberius, and their active Senate colleague, Stimulus.

For those of you who like to keep count, Mt. Vesuvius has had major eruptions in 1631, 1794, 1906, 1929, and 1944.  During those times, La Dolce Vita became La Leaving Pronto.  Despite the (semi) frequent eruptions, Sorrento was invaded and/or occupied by the Goths, Byzantines, and Normans.  (That guy Norman really got around.)  The Amalfi Peninsula finally became part of Italy in 1860 — just in time to became a tourist mecca.

So what makes this area so special?  Well, for one thing, it’s perched upon the Tyrrhenian Sea, a lovely body of water.  And speaking of bodies…  Naples is the birthplace of Sophia Loren.  Naples is also the birthplace of pizza.  Those wonderful folks have given the world two hot dishes!  Other notable attractions include a host of churches, museums, and high-end shops.  This is the place to come if you’re looking for embroidered works or wood-inlaid boxes.

As a former master diver and certified water baby, I made a bee line for Via Marina Grande (below the cliffs) and rented a boat for the day.  The wife and I loaded up on some life-saving essentials (wine, cheese, and bread) and set out for a lengthy boat ride to Positano.  Naturally, we never reached our destination.  Why?  Because our captain (me) kept stopping in every little bay on the coast.  After we dropped anchor, I went for a swim, which took some time.  (The hard part was climbing back into the boat without spilling any Chianti.)

If there’s any prettier place on earth than the Amalfi Coast, I haven’t seen it.  The combination of tall limestone cliffs, crystal clear water, and that heavenly Italian sun are simply mind-boggling.  (Even without wine!)  And speaking of wine, we returned to Sorrento before it got dark and joined some lovely folks for dinner at a place called La Basilica Ristorante.  As the name implies, the restaurant is adjacent to a beautiful old church.  Mama mia, what pasta!

Before I close today, I’d like to wish all of my Jewish blog followers a most Happy Hanukkah.  If you wish to assure a spot in heaven, you might want to purchase 8 copies of my new book, TURBULENT TIMES.  (One copy for each night of Hanukkah.)  As you know, I have friends in high places, and I would be more than willing to put in a good word for you.  (My Christian blog followers can skip purgatory for 6 books!)  Think about it.  That’s all I’m asking.

Finally, like many of you, I was very saddened to learn about the passing of our former President, George H.W. Bush.  I had some minor dealings with the Bush family during my early days in Texas, and I will always think of them fondly.  As an amateur historian, I can almost guarantee that history will judge Mr. Bush in a very good light.  R.I.P. Mr. President… and thank you for your service.

Well, if you have absolutely nothing else to do, you can scroll down and take a peek at my photographs of Sorrento.  (There are several nude shots.)  Just kidding, I forgot to pack my telescopic lens!  (No jokes, please!)

Have a wonderful and safe week!  Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

HOLIDAY HIATUS…..

In order to assist with the metabolic digestive process of my loyal blog followers, I shall dispense with this week’s blog post.

Please join me next Sunday for another thrilling travel adventure…

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, Y’ALL!

Gobble, gobble, and love to all…

Doc Yanoff

 

 

 

INNOCENCE ABROAD. (Chapter 7) “Go West Young Man!”

I don’t know if Horace Greeley ever sailed across the Ionian Sea, but he was right about heading west.  We left Greece late at night and sailed to lovely Taormina, Sicily, “the Jewel of the Ionian Coast.”  Taormina was made famous by Jay and the Americans, who sang about the place back in 1965.  Of course, I might be confusing the Taormina with “Cara Mia,” but you get the point.  (OK, that was a bit of a stretch!)  Anyway, the town is quite charming, and it attracts many celebrities.  (I got Sicily Tyson’s autograph.)

The town is right beside Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest volcano, which is still quite active.  (I will skip the jokes about “Lava lamps” and “going with the flow.”)  The observant German writer, Goethe, once said, “To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.”  Rather a bold statement, but mostly true.

The area was actually settled way back in 4,000 B.C., but none of the original inhabitants are still alive.  Once pasta was perfected, the place was invaded by the Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, and Saracens.  (Hey, what the hell happened to the Venetians?  They finally missed a place!)  In recent history, 1860 to be exact, Garibaldi established the island’s alliance with mainland Italy.  Most historians (myself included) peg the founding of Taormina in 358 B.C.  Everything was relatively peaceful (if you liked your relatives) until 902 A.D., which is when those damn Saracens invaded and leveled the existing town.  (They had anger issues, and too much free time.)

Nowadays, Taormina attracts the equally destructive cruise ship crowd, but is still home to a number of well-known writers and artists.  I’ve never lived there, but a guy named D. H. Lawrence spent 3 years in the town.  (1920-1923)  The best part of the town is the incredible view (hundreds of feet above sea level) which overlooks the Ionian Sea and the ancient village of Naxos.  (A Greek enclave that has some impressive ruins.)  During our visit, we rented some beach chairs and umbrellas and spent the afternoon swimming, eating, and drinking.  (What else is new?)  All in all a great stop, and very intoxicating, if you know what I mean!

So what else is new?  Well, my lecture and book-signing in Dripping Springs was quite pleasant and well-attended.  I held court at the Treaty Oak Distilling Company (Another “intoxicating” place!) which produces some very good adult beverages.  The distillery occupies about 30 acres of the Texas Hill Country, and they give tours (and sell samples) of their products.  (Bourbon, whiskey, gin, and vodka!)

Just up the road is another complex that produces alcoholic cider, which is definitely an acquired taste.  (Cider does not “appeal” to me, which might be the “core” of the problem.)  All right, enough apple jokes.  In case you’re interested, I was peddling my two history books, THE SECOND MOURNING and TURBULENT TIMES.  Sales were brisk, and so was the weather.  Next time we go indoors!

Well, my friends, I must leave you now.  I am off to a barbecue and beer festival in Bastrop, Texas.  (Just outside of Austin)  I hope you have a wonderful and happy week, and we shall meet again next Sunday…..  in Sorrento!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

INNOCENCE ABROAD. (Chapter 6) “Going For The Gold!”

I know what you’re thinking… there he goes again, writing about Adam Gold and those clever mystery novels.  Well, you’re wrong.  I’m referring to gold as in gold medals.  (i.e., the Olympic Games)  I used to refer to our sweet ship as the S.S. Minnow, but now that we’re in Greece, I’m calling it the S.S. Minoan.  Today we are anchored off the coast of Katakolon, which lies in the western part of the Peloponnese Peninsula.  In about an hour (after we digest those stuffed grape leaves) we are off to OLYMPIA, the site of the Olympic Games!  The ruins at this particular location are very well preserved, and I’m not talking about those older folks on the Tauck Tour bus.

Olympia is where the present-day Greeks light the Olympic torch (viewed by billions on T.V.) and it is quite fascinating.  I met a Greek chick who is still carrying a torch for one of the athletes she met during the last games.  Must be hard to become an “old flame.”  In any case, this was truly a great visit, and due to my previous archaeological experience (and a modest bribe) I got to help out with a current excavation project.  (Photos attached at bottom!)

One of the best preserved sites was the Olympic stadium, which held about 40,000 spectators and a few hundred hot dog vendors.  (Actually, they were serving Gyros.)  Men AND women participated in the games, (the sporting contests, that is) but the women had to be married.  Why?  Because all of the athletes were naked!  (Seriously)  One of the photos below shows the bath tubs that the athletes used to soak their  weary muscles.  Notice how small the tubs are?  These ancient athletes were slightly over five feet tall.  (This figure does not include any type of “shrinkage.”)

In case you’re wondering, the entire olympic site used to be dominated by the temple of Zeus, with the temple of Hera nearby.  (Both sustained serious earthquake damage over the centuries, plus some vandalism by various ruffians.) According to Greek mythology, Pelops, the king of Peloponnese, was the founder of the Olympic Games.  However, the stadium I previously mentioned, has not been used since 393 AD.  (For those of you who do not have an archaeology background, allow me to explain that BC means “Before Christ,” and that AD means “After Dat.”)

I felt a little guilty when I left the Olympic site.  I thought about the amazing athletes who spent countless hours perfecting their bodies, lifting weights, and training for marathons… and there I was, back on ship, trying to lasso the television remote with my phone charger.  Pathetic.  I run my mouth a lot, but that’s about it.  (I thought growing older would take longer!)

So what else is new?  Well, last week we celebrated Dr. Max Talbott’s 39th birthday.  (Max is my former neighbor and cousin.)  Instead of going to Taco Bell (my suggestion) we all drove out to the Steiner Ranch Steak House for a wonderful meat-fest and a concert by the Bellamy Brothers!  Fortunately, Max and his lovely wife, Barbara, were paying.  (I left my wallet home again… by accident.) The food, music, and company were great, and we wish Cousin Max many, many more years of happiness and good health.  Max was tempted to start going to the gym again, but I told him to grab a beer, sit down on the couch, and just wait until the feeling passed.  Good advice, eh?

Incidentally, speaking of books (What??) I am happy to report that among the best-selling books at this year’s Texas Book Festival, were two brilliant history books written by yours truly.  Copies of TURBULENT TIMES and THE SECOND MOURNING flew off the shelves.  (during strong winds)  At other times, my reps just sold the books.  In any case, both books were quite popular with the attendees, and if you did not find an autographed copy, just drop me a note and we will arrange something.  (CHRISTMAS is right around the corner, and these books would make fabulous gifts!)  The royalties would also help me pay for my upcoming trip to the Caribbean, which is vital for my continued mental health!

Next week’s blog post will take us to Sicily, so stay tuned!  By the way, our first stop in Sicily was under Mt. Aetna, which is currently sliding into the sea!  (No kidding.)  Check out the volcano article on CNN or YouTube.  Quite amazing.  I’m glad I left when I did, but I forgot to buy a lava lamp.  Maybe next time.

Have a safe and prosperous week… and don’t forget to vote for me!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

INNOCENCE ABROAD. (Chapter 5) “It’s Greek To Me.”

Tradition tells us that the Greek island of Corfu is the island where Ulysses was washed ashore.  My question is this:  What the hell was General Grant doing in the Ionian Sea?  I thought he was in the Army, not the Navy.  Oh well, I guess he was welcomed with open arms.  After all, the island of Corfu has been invaded (and occupied) by the Romans, Normans, Sicilians, Venetians, (there they are again!) Turks, French, Russians, and the British.  Oops, I forgot the Italians and Germans.  All of these foreign influences have made the island quite interesting, which is why some folks call Corfu “The Jewel of the Ionian Sea.”  (Lots of jewels in this part of the world!)

Of course, like most islands, Corfu has an “old town,” filled with new souvenirs that are mostly authentic fakes.  Way up top, sits the Old Fort, built by those damn Venetians, who apparently never stayed home.  The big “cash crops” are sponges and ceramics bearing Greek god images.  (i.e., Hercules,Achilles, and me.)  The best dishes, in case you go, are Sofrito  (veal with garlic and vinegar),  Bourdetto (white fish), and Kalamarakia (fried squid).

Our party did a tour of Old Town and then drove across the island to one of the famous beaches.  The beach was lovely, but the water was a bit chilly.  By the way, if someone says “Corfu,” don’t say “God bless you.”  (They didn’t sneeze)  All in all, this was a fun stop, and one of those small islands that few tourists get to see.  (You’ll note that Corfu is on the WESTERN side of Greece, which gets a lot less traffic than the Mediterranean side.)

As usual, the best part of the voyage was meeting some of our fellow shipmates, and on this occasion we really hit the jackpot.  Two days before we landed on Corfu, we met Miss Helga and Dr. John, a fantastic couple from Naples, Florida.  Helga is a beautiful and talented former interior designer, originally from Cape Cod.  (Personally, I’ve never seen a cod wearing a cape, but I guess it’s possible.)  Her hubby, Dr. John was an imminent heart physician, now retired.  The four of us (and a few interlopers) shared many joyful moments, and as you might imagine, we spent a great deal of time drinking and laughing.  As they say, the best ship is friendship!

Speaking of great friends, I would like to thank the lovely and talented Princess of Portugal (and her husband, Baron Lee) for hosting a spectacular feast last night at their villa in Round Rock.  The Princess made the MOST delicious version of coconut chicken curry that I ever tasted.  (along with Indian vegetable pies, great wine, and the BEST port I’ve had in a long time!)  Thanks also to Countess Connie, who brought the port all the way from Portugal, via France to the USA.  (Gluttony is such a great vice.  Sloth is nice, too.)

By the way, I just read that the creator of autocorrect passed away.  Restaurant in peace.

So what else is new?  Well, my Internet went down this past week and I had to spend some time with the family.  They seem like good people.

The Texas Book Festival is here in Austin this weekend, and I’ve been quite busy signing autographs, conducting lectures, and asking rich-looking women for their phone numbers.  (For research purposes!)  The rain has finally stopped, and our weather is sunny and warm.  This should help book sales, although after Texas lost to Oklahoma State last night, the natives will be depressed.  If you’re downtown this weekend, look for me, and if we see each other, please ask for my autograph in a very loud voice.  (That damn Stephen King is sitting next to me, and he thinks he’s hot stuff.)  Thanks.

Well, I must run.  My fans will be disappointed if I show up, I mean, don’t show up in a timely fashion.  I shall leave you with this departing thought:  Despite the old saying, “Don’t take your troubles to bed,” some wives still sleep with their husbands!  (Just saying)

Have a safe and sweet week.  Love to all,

Doc Yanoff