Now that many feel safer, vacation and business travel have resumed in a big way. Do you feel safe now? Would you resume traveling? The following ran last year on SERENDIPITY as restrictions began to be lifted.

Suppose the pandemic was past us. Suppose travel restrictions were lifted. If you could go anywhere at all, where would you go? Where would your sense of adventure lead you?  Would it be around the world or around town? Perhaps for you, it would have to be domestic. You could go to St. Louis and see the Gateway Arch and the mighty Mississippi River.  You could go upriver to Hannibal, Missouri, and see Mark Twain’s home. From there you could head east to Springfield, Illinois, and see Abe Lincoln’s wonderfully preserved home, maintained by the National Park Service.

Gateway arch

You might have one of the great wonders of North America in mind. So you could head north of Buffalo, New York to Niagara Falls and ride the Maid of the Mist right up to the Falls, or you could climb down the cliff to a point where the water will fall between you and the land. On your way home, you can stop in the Anchor Bar, home of Buffalo Chicken Wings. Yes, that’s the place that started what is now a full-blown food craze.

Galena Illinois, “the town that time forgot”

If this does not suit your taste, perhaps you would run up to the northwest corner of Illinois and stop in Galena, the “town that time forgot.” You can walk through the mid-1800s. You can stop at the place of speeches by Abraham Lincoln (1856) and Stephen A. Douglas (1858), or visit the home of President U.S. Grant. At this time of year, you could travel down to the Mississippi River, just west of Galena, and, with any luck at all, see the proud American Eagle. The very sight of the bald eagle, waiting to come down from the cliffs to fish, will make the trip worth it. Although you may have to go further inland to the Great Plains during summer to see them.

Seeing a rainbow over Germany from France

If Europe is your adventure you can fly to Frankfurt and go on to Stuttgart for museums and festivals. You can cross the Rhine to visit Strasbourg, France. You can visit the magnificent ancient Notre Dame Cathédrale de Strasbourg or the ancient castles of Alsace. There are vineyards and wine festivals and if you like, you can visit the Statue of Liberty in Colmar, France. It is in the middle of a busy traffic circle so you have to run fast and dodge the cars if you want to get over to it.

Cathedral selfie

If Germany or France is not on your list, how about London?  It is one of the great international cities. In 1777, author Samuel Johnson, writer of an early English Dictionary, spoke words that are still true, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  A few days or even a few weeks are not enough for the sights of London.

Approaching St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

Why do I bring up all these travel ideas?  It is because I am thinking of a recent journey. Some of my friends may say, “Did you go there again?”  Between Delta and Omicron, I traveled to the northeast of France. It was the eleventh time my trip ended up there. In 2010 we made a trip to Stuttgart for an Oktoberfest-type celebration, then on to France.  In the summer of 2013, I went with some friends to Paris, and then on to Strasbourg. In 2012 I met my friend in Baden-Baden, Germany so we could fly together to London for the Summer Olympics, then we went back to France. Last year I made it all the way to Selestat, France. My friend met me in Strasbourg and we traveled from there. These many trips were halted by the pandemic. That helped me to realize how precious all this traveling has been.

Good wine and good friends, the best destination
With good wine and good friends, the best destination

For all of these adventures we had some specific ideas in mind, but each time we did much of the trip spontaneously. When I reflect on these journeys, I realize there really was no “destination.” I could have been going anywhere. We dreamed and we went, but it didn’t matter where. The ultimate destination was never a place. It was a culture, an experience, and friends. Some adventures were new, and some were familiar. We enjoyed the trips, large and small because we were doing them together. Every stop was fun, every place was exciting, and everywhere was new, even if we had been there before. It was because I was with my friend.

We have been together on all the adventures I have mentioned above and more. Of course, we often set off to see great sites or experience great things, but they were made special by the fact that we shared these adventures. So I might fly to Frankfurt again someday and take the bus to Strasbourg. Hopefully, the pandemic will not strand us where we are today. Destination Friendship is still calling my name.

See also: “The Enemy of Ignorance,” rjptalk, March 4, 2023.


Travel can open up the mind to so many things. Where would you like to go? What would you like to experience? The following appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

When I was working for a freight forwarder in the nineties, I had an air export job at the corporate building. One day the senior vice president of operations asked me if I had a passport. “No,” I told him. “Well, you better get one,” was his response.

Like many Americans, I could not imagine why I would want to leave the continental US. “Why should I go somewhere else when there is so much to see here,” I might say. That would just be parroting what I had heard so many say as I grew up. It’s true, of course. I will never see the whole country. I never knew that I should still go beyond our borders.

By the time I had applied for a passport, I really had not seen a lot of the US. My parents went on some ultimately unpleasant car trips when I was young, and I can not remember seeing much of the country then. When I was trying to make a living and not rely on help from my father, I neither had the time nor the money to go anywhere. I was content with seeing the regional points of interest.

Since the head operations guy and part-owner of the company did not sound like he was making a suggestion, I got my first passport in early 1992. Each year he would send someone from the Corporate International group on the Sabena Airlines Familiarization tour (Fam Trip). It was more of a week-long social event than work. We landed in Brussels and went to Bruges. The group later went on to Spa. From Bruges the VP wanted me to make a side trip to Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Okay. I was going to a foreign country and then would find my way to another foreign country to meet a foreigner. I knew no other languages and couldn’t imagine this would go well. Frequent travelers in our group were able to advise me. There were enough English speakers in Belgium and The Netherlands to help me along my way. I saw cultural differences, but we were all pretty much alike.

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.” ― Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”

Having not gotten lost, kidnapped, imprisoned, or any other imaginable horror non-travelers might tell you, I was ready to take to the skies again. That passport has stamps from London Gatwick from a Northwest Airlines “Fam Trip,” and Mexico City from a Mexicana “Fam Trip.” I won a trip to Italy on Alitalia Airlines and took a comrade from work to Milan, Rome, and Florence. The European countries had not yet adopted the euro when I was there. England never adopted the euro. Italy still had lire. Mexico was changing from the old peso to the new peso. We figured it all out. There were other trips to London (Heathrow) and Mexico (business).

In London with a friend

“Life is a journey, not a destination” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

At my next employer, I was asked one day if I had a passport. “Yes, I do!”  It was my second passport in fact. They were looking for someone to carry a small package to Paris for a well-known manufacturer. I hurried home, threw a few things in a bag, grabbed my passport, and hurried back. The shipper was charged enough for a business-class ticket. This was the way to travel! That second passport also has stamps from Customs at Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, and London Stansted (our Olympics 2012 trip). I made it from Frankfort to Strasbourg several times to visit my close friend.

London Olympics

“Don’t listen to what they say, go see” – Chinese Proverb 

My current passport has stamps from Frankfort and Paris from my various trips to Alsace, France. It also has a London Heathrow stamp. Yes, I have been to all three London airports. I also traveled to Montreal. One year I had to take a few days of vacation in December or lose the vacation days. My young friend in Colombia learned this on one of our SKYPE calls. “Come to visit me. I want to see you. Please. I like you so much. Please.” I never had the desire to go anywhere in South America, but my friend was persistent and I decided to be adventurous. I went to Medellin two times. I used some of the vacation pictures in a series of short stories about an American visiting a handsome South American.

John and I, Colombia at Christmas time

“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

Right before the pandemic started to close everything down, I applied for a visa to go to visit a friend in St. Petersburg, Russia. I never got the visa and fear I will never get to go now. We have had many visits via computer. In the breather between Delta and the surge of Omicron, I made one more trip to France. I am not sure there will be any more international travel for me.

Gate to historic Selestat

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

With the pandemic dragging on through a second entire year, I have spent time traveling on my computer. Many groups offer virtual tours to various places on the globe via your computer, for free or for a small fee. I have chosen to experience other cultures through their movies and television. This has taken me all over the world.

I have been to Argentina (My Best Friend), Germany (You and I), Israel (Snails in the Rain), France (Hidden Kisses), and other places for movies, plus a variety of countries through YouTube and Amazon Prime short subjects. Television series have taken me to China (Dive) and Thailand (Bad Buddy). What have I learned from all my travels?

“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view”― Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”

We are all alike. We want the same things. We want health and happiness for ourselves, our family, and our friends. Governments may hand us a distorted view or corrupt some of their citizens. Mostly, though, we are the same under our different shades of color and various features.

“So shut up, live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.”— Jack Kerouac, “Desolation Angels”


Thai performers Ohm Pawat and Nanon Korapt held a Fan Meeting in the Philippines. It was a good opportunity to travel Halfway Around The World to visit with a friend and see the show. Following are a few pictures captured with my camera and with my Phone (Motorola G5).

Click on any picture to go through the larger versions of each picture.

See also: “A Trip to Manila,” photo gallery, “rjptalk,” Sunday Night Blog, February 4, 2023.


An opportunity to meet a friend and see a show in Manila came up on short notice. So I booked a flight to the Philippines to escape the Midwest cold in January and see something new. Here are a few pics from my camera and phone.

To view the full size of each picture, click on any one and take a journey through. For more about this trip, visit SERENDIPITY today, “Halfway Around The World.”


Not long ago we reviewed Paris, Je t’aime, about the neighborhoods of Paris. The following originally appeared on SERENDIPITY.

Paris, je t’aime, by Rich Paschall

Paris is divided into 20 neighborhoods or arrondissements. They are numbered with the 1st Arrondissement being in the center of old Paris.  From there, they spiral out in an ever-widening circle until we get to number 20. The 1st Arrondissement is also known as Louvre. I guess we do not have to tell you what famous museum is located there.

When we would arrive in Paris at Charles de Gaulle Airport, we would take the train to Gare du Nord. The location is convenient and not far from the center of the city. You can find hotels here at a much more reasonable rate than Paris Centre. Gare du Nord is near Gare de l’Est if you should be headed toward the East of France or even out of the country.

Gare du Nord – 10th Arrondissement.

It has been my good fortune to travel to Paris four times. I do not like the long plane ride from O’Hare International airport to Paris, but I always found the visit to the city to be worth it. Over several trips, we managed to see the major tourist stops.

Eiffel Tower – 7th Arrondissement.

With an excellent metro system, it is easy to find your way around Paris. Each of the neighborhoods is well served by public transit so there is no need to hail a cab or use your rideshare app.

Taking the Metro

Most movies set in Paris will stick to the most romantic areas. You will see locations along the River Seine. You will find the Eiffel Tour or Arc de Triomphe in the background. You may see the Jardins des Tuileries or Jardin du Luxembourg. Moves prior to 2019 may include Notre Dame Cathedral.

Notre Dame – 4th Arrondissement.

Imagine a movie that would include all of the neighborhoods of Paris. What if you get get a postcard from each? That is the ambitious idea behind the 2006 film, Paris, Je t’aime. Some of the world’s biggest stars and best-known directors came together for this anthology. There was to be a short film set in each of the neighborhoods. They were to have different directors, writers, and stars. This may sound like a bit of a crazy idea. Anthologies of this type often do not work.

These vignettes are strung together by scenes of the Paris neighborhoods. Most of the episodes are of course in French. A few are in English. You will also hear some Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic in the stories.

First, we find French director and actor Bruno Podalydes looking for a place to park on the Paris streets in the 18th Arrondissement, Montmartre. He notices that the women passing by all seem to be taken, then…OK, I decided on no spoilers.

Steve Buscemi is featured in a bit of a comedy sequence directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It plays out at a metro stop in the 1st Arrondissement. The episode is titled Tuileries.

Bob Hoskins, Nick Nolte, Elijah Wood, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Magie Gyllenhaal, and a long list of European and American stars appear. Ben Gazzara, Gena Rowlands, and Gerard Depardieu are in a scene together in the 6th Arrondissement, aka the Latin Quarter. It is directed by Depardieu and Frédéric Auburtin.

Gus Van Sant directs a scene in the 4th Arrondissement, La Marais. A young man tries to strike up a conversation with another young man who does not seem to know what he is saying. You will know what everyone is saying thanks to subtitles.

The film is available to buy or rent online.  A few of the scenes are posted on YouTube in their entirety. The film runs for two hours and is only 18 stories. Alas, the 11th and 15th Arrondissements ended up on the cutting room floor.


Travel gives us the opportunity to visit new places and cultures. On my last European trip, we actually found a couple of stops that featured bread. Seriously! The following travel news appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.

Unique stops in Alsace, by Rich Paschall

On my past trips to Alsace, a region in northeast France, we have always found time to visit some of the interesting buildings and unique attractions the area has to offer. The most recent trip this year was no exception. As always, I stopped into ancient churches. I always marvel at how they built such structures without modern equipment. On the other hand, some of these buildings took hundreds of years to complete and have undergone frequent restorations. In one of the churches, we sought permission to go down to the crypt. A caretaker opened the gate and we visited someone who may have been important in a previous century.

Being in wine country meant we found our way to some wine cellars. With a local vineyard owner as my escort, I am certain to get to taste the wine producer’s product. Despite my many trips to the wine-producing region, we never seem to run out of winemakers to visit. After this year I can cross off a few more.

Gate to historic Selestat

I was staying in the historic section of Selestat. Just walking around the area is a trip back in time. It was hard to lose track of time with church bells ringing throughout the day. Sainte Foy and Sainte Georges are literally one short block apart and can be heard throughout the old section of town.

Just a short walk from where I was staying was a museum I had passed on previous trips but never found time to stop in. It was expanded in 2018 with additional exhibits and videos and we definitely had to stop this time.

La Maison du Pain d’Alsace

The House of Bread
La Maison du Pain

Yes, it is the House of Bread. Of course, it is more than that. It seems the history of bread making and French bakeries go together. You can find out more about the bread-making process than you thought was possible. From the earliest times, people have been making bread. Here you can see the various utensils used over the centuries in the fine art of making something we all eat.

Located in a building that was the Bakers’ Corporation in 1522 are various levels of exhibits you can wander through at your own pace. The woman at the front door checked our health certificates and made sure we were wearing masks before allowing us to enter. A small fee sent us forward to learn about bread. There was an elevator if you did not care for the winding staircase that would lead you up to the next level.

This is not a short tour if you want to see all the exhibits and video presentations along the way. We stopped to watch a video on harvesting wheat and making bread.  It was in French so I could not follow much of it. I did not care because it was a large museum and we had a chance to sit.

On the way out, you will of course have to go through the bakery where you will find up to 18 different types of bread and plenty of French pastries. I resisted all temptation on this stop since we would have plenty of opportunities to gather sweet treats elsewhere.

Maison du Pain bakery creations

Le Palais du Pain d’Espices.

Le Palais du Pain d’Espices

“What is better than a House of Bread?” you may ask. The Palace of Gingerbread, of course. Fortwenger has been making gingerbread creations in Alsace since 1768 and has six locations throughout the region. We went to the location in Gertwiller where the store is really a palace and museum. Due to its small house-like facade, we were surprised at the overall size of the store and museum.

Again we were greeted with a surprising array of interactive displays. A history of bread making was on display again, and we saw the many devices used throughout time to cut the spiced bread into various shapes.

As we walked through the various rooms, we found plenty of gingerbread men and gingerbread houses. In fact, we found a whole village populated by Santa and his ginger elves. It was a delightful tour that took us past the kitchen where bakers were hard at work. Since it was nearing the end of November when we visited, we noticed a lot of St. Nicholas gingerbread being prepared for the holiday. Other forms were being artfully decorated for the Fortwenger stores and outlets.

This time it was necessary to take some gingerbread with us. Aside from Christmas, it is a good treat, especially with coffee I think.  In the Middles Ages, people believed that gingerbread would scare away demons. I can’t say I found any of the gingerbread men to be very scary, but if you think that works, go for it.

Gingerbread store


Last year when the world was in the grip of a global pandemic, I discovered my trip planning need a “Mulligan.” The following appeared a year ago on SERENDIPITY.

Do-Over, by Rich Paschall

Friendly games may be a reason to bend the rules a little. After all, you and your friends may not want to search the woods for your lost golf ball. You may also resist the temptation to fish a ball out of the water. “Mulligan” will be your friend in time of need, but only if you are playing for fun. Usually, you will ask if it is okay. There once was an orange golfer who took many Mulligans without even asking, but I digress.

Sometimes we get the opportunity in life to do something over. Your teacher may have called you out when you were little for doing a bad job on an assignment. “If you don’t want a bad grade, I will give you the chance to do this over.” How many students were saved by understanding teachers?

If you want to eat, try again.

Life is not always that way, of course. You do not always get the chance to do things over. Your boss at work may not be so forgiving. If you screw up a project on the job, you may get the opportunity to do it again. On the other hand, you may get invited to take your talents elsewhere.

Artistic endeavors may often give you the chance to do something over. If I write a truly awful short story, let’s say, I can usually just start again or employ major rewrites. If something slips through, Marilyn can send it back to “do-over land.” The days of her fixing my errors have ended, methinks, and I must do over my mistakes.

If you sit down to draw your local landscape and it does not come out the way you want, you can sit down tomorrow and start over. Some things are perfect for do-overs. Other stuff isn’t.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Pencil Drawing

Relationships don’t always fall into the category of a do-over. In fact, you may not want to start again with a previous mate. It works for a few people, but most folks shy away from starting again with the same mate.

When you look back on your life, you will see many things you wish you could have done again. Since there are no mulligans in life, many find their past full of regrets. If you had it to do over, would you spend less time at work? Would you make more time for family? For travel? For adventure?

Chicago O’Hare International airport

Many do not take the opportunity to call for a “Mulligan” even when Mr. Mulligan is standing right next to them.

Seize the chance. Start again.

Recently I mentioned that I wanted to take the opportunity at least one more time to visit my friends in France. The question was “To Travel Or Not To Travel.” It’s a serious issue in this era of the global pandemic. I found I needed far more planning than I normally required. I detailed the new obstacles I faced when I asked “So You Want To Travel?

I was unsuccessful in planning the trip in what would have been enough time earlier in the year, so I decided to call for a Mulligan. I looked at all the problems that made my first effort a failure and decided on a do-over.

“A new attempt or opportunity to do something after a previous attempt has been unsuccessful or unsatisfactory. – Merriam-Webster”

My French health Pass arrived. My German entry papers are filed. My ticket is ready. Since I am not an “immunized” football player, I even found the time for the all-important COVID-19 booster shot.

Eat local, drink local

My friends have planned all the things we have not done on any of my previous visits. This isn’t s a “do-over.” It’s a new adventure. The trip planning needed a do-over. but the vacation will be fine.

Frank Sinatra had a number of “do-overs” in his long career. This song was adapted by Paul Anka and Sammy Cahn.  Perhaps if I am going to France, I need this version:


We have not been out for many adventures in recent years, so we decided to take a few days to visit downtown Toronto. Our main objective was to see the Boston Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays (7-1) and we also added a few more stops in the area.

Click on any picture above to go through the larger version of each picture in the gallery.


A Photo Gallery

On a recent trip to France, I stopped at two unique museums in Alsace. Both had to do with the history and the making of bread and gingerbread. I recount the trip on SERENDIPITY today. Here are additional photos for you to enjoy.

Click on any picture to go through the larger size photos.


You may have read on SERENDIPITY recently that I was planning a trip to France for the first time in two years. It was canceled because we could not get the necessary papers. It seems these trips now take much more advanced planning.   I will try again before the year is out. Meanwhile, we can revisit some highlights I had posted before.

Along the French and German border, a photo gallery

It’s time for a new adventure to France and Germany so I thought I would revisit a few of the pictures from the last trip.  I have made similar trips in recent years to sites in the Alsace region of France.  The reason for these trips is not just the scenery or historic sites.  It is something even more important.  This was explained on SERENDIPITY in “Where Would You Travel?”

The last trip went from Chicago to New York with a five-hour layover.  I explained to my friend that spending a vacation with him was the only reason I would spend 5 hours at JFK airport.  From there it was on to Frankfurt, Germany, and a two-hour layover waiting for the Lufthansa bus to Strasbourg, France.  The bus arrived near the Strasbourg train station two and one-half hours later.  There my friend collected me for our trip back to his town.

You can go to Paris and connect by train to Strasbourg.  The trip is just as long and I did not believe the connection would be as easy.  Now there is a train from Charles De Gaulle airport direct to the Strasbourg station which means I would arrive at the same spot.  They did not have this train until recent years so perhaps it is a better way to go.  I let price and connection time determine which airport to use to go to Alsace.  Another time it was American Airlines to Frankfurt via Charlotte and a return on Aer Lingus via Dublin.  All of this is on a British Airways ticket.  I guess there is no good explanation for how the travel industry sells us airline tickets.

Click on any image for a larger view and go through the gallery.