Say what you will about his politics, former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is one tough dude. The 79 year old made headlines this week when he was filmed kiteboarding just off Buxton, North Carolina. While he didn’t get any air time – you kind of need wind for that and it was in short supply when the video was shot – he had no trouble holding his own and surprised the boat’s captain, who called him a “strong man” for his age. Tres cool for the man an unnamed politician referred to as “Dino”, for ‘dinosaur’.
The best time to enjoy the Mona Lisa is just before closing
Adventure comes in all sorts of interesting places and situations. For those of us who’ve done the Louvre in Paris, we know that just making it down one corridor is enough to wipe out all but the most intrepid traveller. But to catch a glimpse of La Gioconda, better known as the Mona Lisa, well, that’s a whole new world of craziness.
The situation: late one Friday evening, early October, in Paris. I’m at my hostel and realized, courtesy of Lonely Planet, that the best time to do the Louvre is in the evening, within an hour of closing. And if you want to do the Venus de Milo, or la belle prize, Madame Mona Lisa, an hour before the museum closes, on a Friday night, is your best chance of getting close to the lady with the beguiling smile.
So that’s what I did. No line up to get in (you’ll easily wait an hour during the day, or more in summer), and I knew exactly what I was looking for. It’s a bit a trek, from the main entrance, to the Denon wing, where she waits, in the Florentine area of the Louvre, with lots of stairs. But the signs are there, guiding you the whole time. There’s a long hall. Go down it, then, maybe a quarter of the way down, look to your right, and you’ll see this:
The crowds thinned out after a while. And dog gone it, before I left at about 7:45, there were only a dozen of us or so…a perfect moment to have a brief moment with Mona.
Bottom line? If you want to see the world’s most famous painting, go in the evening, even 20 minutes til closing. Know exactly where it is in relation to the main entrance, hustle a little, and with a little luck, you may even have her all to yourself.
What would you do to survive if your demise seemed like it might come within two days, alone and with no one to know of it?
American mountaineer and now motivational speaker Aron Ralston knows that a little more intimately than some of us would ever care to imagine. His story, as you might know, is chronicled in the 2010 movie 127 Hours starring James Franco, in which we learn of his adventure, accident, and what he did to survive. An amazing movie that will make you cry and wince in the same scene. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about…
For those unaware, Ralston was hiking through Blue John Canyon in Utah and had just separated with some other hikers when he fell into a narrow ravine with his right hand wedged under a boulder. True to the name of the movie, he spent the next 127 hours trapped, in limbo, not knowing how to free himself of the 800 pound rock that later took 13 men, a winch and a hydraulic winch to remove.
Well, what would you do if your death seemed imminent between a rock and a hard place in a lonely canyon with no one around?
If you haven’t seen the movie, time to watch it. I’ve attached the real Aron Ralston video to this blog post, though you won’t really appreciate it unless you know the context. And if you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what happens next. An amazing tale of one man who really, truly, with all his soul, knew his time wasn’t up.
A good read at Gadling.com that outlines the dos and don’ts of voluntourism. That’s the term for folks who travel abroad to help their fellow man (or creatures). In other words, responsible travel.
As the article states, the vast majority of people who volunteer abroad say it’s an overwhelmingly positive experience. Indeed, it’s a chance to give back to the planet and bring good to the world. Lord knows, we need as much of that as possible. And it’s a growing movement; the world over, more people shun a traditional holiday on the beach and swap pina coladas and bikinis for work clothes and a burning desire to make a difference.
Interested? There’s an etiquette to it. Consider the following, courtesy of Gadling.com:
Voluntourism Dos and Don’ts
Overstate your skills and abilities
Make commitments you can’t keep
Expect a free ride just because you are working
Forget your priorities: In voluntourism, ‘tourism’ comes second
Your homework. Look for transparency about how your fees are being used
A deep self-evaluation of your motives and expectations before voluntouring
Plan to stay awhile. The longer you stay, the more effective you can be
Try it at least once in your life, no matter your age or experience level
And some specific places where you can volunteer to make a difference:
Wanna boost your sex appeal? Get a kayak. Wanna take it even beyond that? Grab a plane ticket. A recent Australian poll conducted by tour operator Inteprid Travel found that 56% of singles on Aussie dating site RSVP.com.au would prefer a dude or gal with some of that sexy wanderlust mojo. Adventure junkies took the lion’s share of the sexiest travellers allotment, followed by culture buffs at 16%. Favored destination? Tuscany gets the nod as the “perfect first date”, Paris a close second in the ‘come here to stroll and be sexy’ department.
Yup, travelling’s one of the sexiest hobbies out there. Admit it, travellers are haawwwwwt…
Mark and Bopper AKA Kentucky are two good men on The Amazing Race 20
To Mark and Bopper, both from Kentucky, on the Amazing Race 20, who gutted it out on principle and did it for their families and for their team mates. Two best friends who know what it’s all about and who brought me to tears with their courage and their loyalty during their recent leg in India. Me to you, I salute you both.
Art and JJ of the Amazing Race 20 have proven more than once that nice guys finish first
Now that I’ve whined about the evils of television for the MTV Generation, recent proof that there is indeed such a think as responsible television, and proof that love of one’s fellow man, continues to pull through.
Case in point, two weeks ago, during episode four of the Amazing Race in Turin, perrenial first place winners Art and JJ – both American border patrol officers – once again won their leg of the race, this one being in Turin, Italy. Their prize? Five grand a piece. And when last place runners Mark and Bopper finished the leg, and the border patrol boys saw the spirit of the good natured country boys from Kentucky, and that one of them was running the race so he could care for his daughter, well, Art and JJ hugged the last place Kentucky team and said they’d donate half of their winnings on that leg of the race to Bopper’s daughter.
If you’re an Amazing Race fan, like myself, and you watched the episode, it was pretty hard not to shed a few tears. I think it’s comforting to know that responsible travel teaches us as much about ourselves as it does about the world we inhabit. It’s easy to hurt but it ain’t so easy to help. And when you help a man, you bring good into this world.
Love thy neighbor. That’s what it’s all about folks.
You might wonder why that feat was until recently something that had yet to be conquered. Well let’s see…crocodiles, really big snakes, men with machetes, really nasty insects, corruption and generally about a million ways to curl up and die. Not to mention the length of the river, which at 3,000 miles, is one of the longest rivers in the world.
His journey is as fascinating as the river he travelled. And, considering the troubled history of Congo, thanks in no small part to 18th century imperialism, the river itself tells a story, of the people of the region and the land to which it belongs. Harwood documented his record-breaking travel along the Congo River in his book Canoeing the Congo. There’s a video here that tells some of his story.
In a world of complex and sometimes rocky relationships amongst us humans, is there anything more pure than the love between a dog and his master? This story brought me to tears.
Two weeks ago, a 68 year old Chinese man, Lao Pan, passed away. He lived alone with his little yellow dog in a small house in the village of Panjiatun, China. Upon his death, the villagers noticed his dog had mysteriously vanished. Well he hadn’t vanished…he’d just spent the past seven days by his master’s grave. Without food. The villagers noticed the dog’s loyalty and tried to coax him away from his master’s side so he could eat. But he wouldn’t budge. The villagers, so moved by the dog’s loyalty, are bringing him food at his vigil, and a permanent kennel is in the works, so he can remain with his master.
This isn’t the first dog to display such loyalty. Hachiko, an Akita owned by a Japanese professor, would faithfully greet his master at Shibuya train station in Tokyo in the 1930s. Then, when his master died at work, the dog showed up to meet his master, and returned every day for the next 14 years at the same time, faithfully waiting for his owner. His statue now stands just outside the spot where he waited each day, and Hachiko became an inspiration to the entire nation.
And Greyfriar’s Bobby was a little Skye Terrier in Edinburgh who valiantly stayed by John Gray, his master, also for 14 years after his master’s death. Gray was buried in an unmarked grave. Yet little Bobby found the spot where his master lay and left only for food. Gray’s friends and the kindly graveyard curator looked out for the pooch, feeding him and housing him on cold nights. But he’d always return to his master’s grave. And on his death, was buried close to his master.
If you’re a dog lover like me you’ll want a hanky when you watch this video. In closing, I leave you with the inscription on Bobby’s headstone:
“Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”