GULLIBLE TRAVELERS. (Chapter 2) “My Grecian Formula”

No, I am NOT referring to the brown shoe polish that I occasionally use on my hair!   I’m referring to the travel plan that I designed for our Grecian voyage.  I wanted to make sure that our (semi) sober captain brought us to all of the neurotic, I mean exotic, islands that were worthy of a stop.  Sailing around the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas is serious business, matey.  By the way, have you noticed that no one disappears in the Bermuda Triangle anymore?  What’s the deal?  Maybe the Triangle is full.  Hey, did you know that Isosceles was a Greek mathematician?  (He was not a square guy, if that’s what you were thinking.)

Stavros is the most common Greek name in use today, but since I overate during my entire stay in Greece, our colleagues re-named me “Starve-ros.”  (I was always starving)  Last week I mentioned the delightful food tour we took in Athens, but I neglected to mention the names of the chefs.  If you dine in or around Athens, you might bump into Sue Vlaki, Philo Dough, Shish Kay Bobbie, or Lou Koumades.  (All wonderful folks, as their names imply!)

So, after 3 glorious days in Athens, we stumbled aboard our modest sailing vessel, the Titanic II, and set off for the enchanting village of Nafplio.  This stop was quite interesting, and the village is considered to be one of the most romantic places on the Peloponnese coast.  I actually hitchhiked into town and had a funny experience.  The gent who picked me up told me that he was surprised that I got into his vehicle.  After all, he said, he might be a serial killer.  I told him that I wasn’t worried.  What were the odds of two serial killers being in his car at the same time? (We didn’t chat much after that remark.  Not sure why.)

Anyway, if you go to Nafpilo, you must make time to see the Corinth Canal, which is close by.  (The canal dates back to 600 B.C.  It’s four miles long and 70 feet wide, and was carved out of sheer rock!)  Before the canal was built, the ancient Greeks had to sail all the way around the Peloponnese Peninsula, which added about 185 nautical miles to their voyage.

Another wonderful excursion would be a trip to the Epic Theatre of Epidaurus.  As the name implies, this is a very old Greek theatre, constructed in the 4th century, and famous for its marvelous acoustics.  This marvelous structure held up to 12,000 spectators and is the best-preserved theatre of ancient Greece.  (I’m not sure, but I think Epidaurus was the goddess of childbirth.)  As you can see, I’m a little rusty on my Greek mythology.  I do remember some of the big names…  Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty and love.  (Hermaphroditus was her rather confused and conflicted brother.)  Apollo was the god of music and arts, and the owner of a theatre in Harlem.  Hermes was the god of travel, but he contracted some sort of STD.  Zeus was the head man, and the author of many highly-acclaimed children’s books.  (His most famous work was “The Greek Who Stole Christmas.”)

Do me a “fava,” as they say in Greek kitchens… don’t repeat any of these bad jokes to your children!  I have always believed that raising kids is like a walk in the park.  (Jurassic Park!)  Anyway, I must take my leave, as my bagel is ready and I am very hungry this morning.  (I think it was all this talk about food!)  I do hope you enjoyed the humor about the Greek gods and goddesses.  I was going to tell a few jokes about chemistry, but I never get a reaction.  (Come on, you never heard that one before!)

     Well, please have a wonderful week.  If you would like to see some more photos of Athens, you can scroll down and feast your eyes on some lovely scenes.  And speaking of feasts…..   Sesame bagel here I come!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

GULLIBLE TRAVELERS. (Chapter 1) “Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts!”

Books By Stephen G. Yanoff

Well, as you can see from the above blog title, we are off on the second leg of our round-the-world cruise.  (The second leg cost an arm AND a leg!)  Nevertheless, our Mediterranean voyage has now become (semi) immortalized in its own book… “Gullible Travelers.”  If you recall, the first book was titled “Innocence Abroad,” which was a rather clever reference to Mark Twain’s book, “Innocents Abroad.”  (His book was not as funny as mine)  Book number two is a similarly clever reference to Jonathan Swift’s classic novel, “Gulliver’s Travels.”  (His book was not as funny either)

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, we shall begin in Athens, Greece, the ancient metropolis that gave the world democracy, mathematics, philosophy, and hummus.  (The hummus was the most important, as it produced the world’s first musical trio…  Pita, Paul, and Mary.)

Being something of a poet, I have always been impressed…

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GULLIBLE TRAVELERS. (Chapter 1) “Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts!”

Well, as you can see from the above blog title, we are off on the second leg of our round-the-world cruise.  (The second leg cost an arm AND a leg!)  Nevertheless, our Mediterranean voyage has now become (semi) immortalized in its own book… “Gullible Travelers.”  If you recall, the first book was titled “Innocence Abroad,” which was a rather clever reference to Mark Twain’s book, “Innocents Abroad.”  (His book was not as funny as mine)  Book number two is a similarly clever reference to Jonathan Swift’s classic novel, “Gulliver’s Travels.”  (His book was not as funny either)

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, we shall begin in Athens, Greece, the ancient metropolis that gave the world democracy, mathematics, philosophy, and hummus.  (The hummus was the most important, as it produced the world’s first musical trio…  Pita, Paul, and Mary.)

Being something of a poet, I have always been impressed with the works of Homer.  (His brother, Jethro, was also a fine poet.)  Homer was a great baseball player, and as his name suggests, he led the league in home runs.  All right, that was a bit of a stretch.  Homer, as you might know, was the author of two epic poems, the INVALID and the ODDITY.  (Both are required reading at my alma mater, Dodge City Community College.)  They are fascinating poems, but not very humorous.

Upon our arrival in Athens (we flew in from Rome) we checked into a swell joint near the Parthenon.  The Parthenon is a former temple, but they never hosted bar mitzvahs there.  This temple was dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, courage, and feta cheese.  Our lovely room at the Grand Bretagne Hotel overlooked the ancient ruins, so we immediately requested a better view.  (Who the heck wants to go to Greece to look at old buildings?)  The staff were very accommodating, but I don’t think they understood my American sensibilities.

Half the population of Greece lives in Athens, and that would be about 5 million folks, give or take a few Spartans.  I actually love this city, and for good reason.  The food in wonderful, the people are gracious, and the history is simply overwhelming.  (Almost as cool as the Alamo!)  We spent a full day at the National Museum of Greece, which is a “must see” location.  Again, most of the items on display were old, but we still managed to enjoy our visit.  (By the way, don’t touch any of the ancient vases.  They’re very breakable.  Just saying.)

Thanks to my brilliant daughter, Rebecca, we booked a food tour of the city, and this turned out to be one of the most interesting days of the trip.  Our lovely guide escorted the four of us around Athens, stopping every five minutes for some delectable morsel.  We also got to peek around the old markets and sample some goodies there.  If you go to Athens, I would definitely recommend this excursion.  (I had tzatziki coming out of my ears, but I loved every minute.)

Incidentally, do you remember me mentioning Keats and his relationship to Rome?  Well, believe it or not, his famous contemporary, George Gordon, Lord Byron, had a fascinating connection to Greece.  In the summer of 1823, Byron left Italy, eager to help the Greeks in their fight for independence.  While attempting to raise a regiment (with his own funds) he contracted a fever, and died on April 19, 1824.  His body was taken back to England for burial, but he still idolized by Greek scholars and students.  (Byron wrote many wonderful poems, but my personal favorite is “She Walks in Beauty.”)

And speaking of beautiful things…  I now have a major publisher looking at my first two history books, THE SECOND MOURNING and TURBULENT TIMES, for re-publication under their own imprint.  (Something not uncommon in the realm of non-fiction.)  I shall keep you informed of my progress!  They are also interested in publishing history book number three, GONE BEFORE GLORY.  (The complete tale of William McKinley’s amazing life)  Wish me luck!

Well, time for breakfast…  I do hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season, and I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year!  Have a great week!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Merry Christmas to all you good boys and girls out there in Santa’s Blog-Land and Sunday Joke-a-Thon!  I wish nothing but happiness and good health for all 100,000 of you crazy blog followers who keep putting up with my lame travel jokes and old Milton Berle comedy routines!  I will be taking a few weeks off to finish my biography about Santa Claus.  (It’s actually more of an “elf-help” book.)  So lest I forget, HAPPY NEW YEAR, too!   We’ve shared another great year together, and 2019 will be even better.  (Not my jokes, just the year!)

Thank you for your continued loyalty and support.  May God bless you and your wonderful families!  See you next year!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

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