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.


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


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.


Music For The Highway, by Rich Paschall

Did you skip vacation this year?  Flying to your destination may have seemed like a scary choice. With increased crowds, traveling through airports and on airplanes may not seem as safe as pre-pandemic. Perhaps you should opt for a road trip instead. There is still time and the fall colors await you. Are you ready to “See the USA in your Chevrolet?”

When I first became friends with my favorite French guy, who was here on a business internship, we took some road trips to see America.  We would gather up our favorite CDs for the highway and head off in musical style.  In subsequent years he has returned for even more adventure.  You probably plug your phone into a USB port and listen to a playlist.  I guess we are just old-fashioned.


Photo Credit: Marilyn Armstrong

Among my friend’s favorite American songs was a tune by America (the band), A Horse With No Name.  He knew it well before he arrived here, and I happened to own America’s Greatest Hits.  I thought it interesting a young French guy knew this 1970s song.  We had an odd collection between the two of us each time we headed out, but America was always included.  Certain songs now go with those great highway memories.

You may have your favorites.  Perhaps you and your friends have all taken parts for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  Maybe you have other sing-along tunes.  There are so many individual tastes for what might make good road music, that you would think I could not come up with a top ten.  Ha!

Indeed it was difficult to settle on a list but I finally had to narrow down this favorite grouping to songs that mention roads, streets, highways, or cars.  We’ll save the other up-tempo tunes for another time.

It’s just like Summertime and The Heat Is On.  Hop in your Little Red Corvette, 409, or Little Deuce Coupe and Shut Up and Drive.  Whether you are cruising down Electric Avenue or traveling the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, just stay On The Sunny Side Of The Street and you will soon be able to say I’ve Been Everywhere and I Get Around.  No need to sing the Basin Street Blues, we have your road tunes.

10.  Route 66.  There was a popular song, recorded by many, named (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, but the television series did not want to pay for it and commissioned another.  I picked the Nelson Riddle instrumental.

09.  Penny Lane.  Yes, the Beatles hit is in my ears and in my eyes.

08.  Takin’ It To The Streets.  The Doobies Brothers, 1976. Michael McDonald wrote it and was the lead singer.

07.  Drive My Car.  Yes, it is another one by the Beatles.  They’ve got the Beat, you’ve got the car.

06.  Rockin’ Down The Highway.  The Doobie Brothers hit the list again with another high-energy tune.

05.  Lake Shore Drive.  “There ain’t no road just like it, anywhere I’ve found.”  “Just slippin’ on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound.”

04.  On The Road Again.  You can’t hit the road without Willie.

03.  Radar Love.  OK, it does not have a road or car in the title, but it is unmistakably a road tune.

02  Ventura Highway.  This America tune is among the ones I always heard on the road with my best friend.

01.  Take Me Home, Country Roads.  This John Denver composition is one of the great sing-along songs.  I think I sang it once or twice or…

Click on any title above or listen to all of them on my playlist here: Road Music.

You might also need our summer tunes playlist:  The Summer Wind.

A version of this article appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.  


A Return to France, by Rich Paschall

When you have been to Paris, you will likely hope that you can return someday. It is just a little sprinkle of magic that the city puts upon tourists and part-timers. There are no cities in America with old neighborhoods that somehow retain their special ambiance like the ones in the City of Lights.  I had been to Paris before. Recently we returned again.

Now for a little moment of truth. Since my ultimate destination was Strasbourg, I would have been tempted to go via Frankfurt as I had done the year before. However, my young friends wished to go to Paris. One had been there with me before. For the other, it was a new adventure. How could I say no?

Return to Paris

When traveling there are a number of sites you can use to book your airline tickets. It is wise to shop around. The old rules about when to buy just do not apply anymore. Airlines are using sophisticated algorithms to price tickets.  Prices are not changing every Tuesday as the old advice believed. Now they can change daily, even more often in some cases.

We were going to use low-cost passes for the trip, but with two weeks to go, I decided it was too risky. I purchased round trip tickets for a direct flight from Chicago to Paris.  I used Skybooker.com. I also had a comparable offer from ASAP Tickets. Airlines are willing to discount if they feel they can not sell 80 percent of the seats. Empty seats are lost revenue. The plane is going anyway so they want to get what they can. Our flight had a few empty seats.

When we arrived at Charles DeGaulle airport in Paris we took the train from the airport station to Gare du Nord in the city. The train does leave from the airport, but trust me. It is a LONG walk to the train once you get your luggage.

Gare du Nord

For the convenience of our brief stop in Paris, we took a hotel near the train station. This meant we could walk to the hotel once we arrived. If you plan it well, you can also be near another major station, Gare de l’Est. This is important for the next part of the adventure.

If your stay in Paris is brief, where would you go? My friends felt there was only one stop for a night in Paris. We headed to a nearby Metro station and took the train to the Eifel Tower. We found a nearby plaza and the view that many picture takers had located before. You have certainly seen such pictures, but it is a much grander site when you take it in with your own eyes.

Eifel Tower

We were present for one of the sparkling light displays that you can see at night. That was something they did not have the first time I was in Paris. In fact, many things had changed. Now the streets are filled with sidewalk vendors trying to sell a variety of trinkets. Most of them have miniature (and cheap) Eifel Towers. Some even light up. They must be selling well for so many vendors to be lining the streets on a rather cool evening.

The other surprise was the plaza where the Tower is located. When I was there about 15 years earlier, the plaza was open. Now it is closed off by what I would take to be bulletproof glass. There are limited entrances where you will go through metal detectors to go in. I guess that is a sign of the times.

We Also Have Strasbourg

After a night in Paris, it was a short walk to Gare de l’Est for a trip to Strasbourg. I purchased and printed our Rail Europe tickets before we left Chicago. The nonstop train is popular and we did not want to get shut out. If you avoid going in the height of Rush Hour, you can get your tickets for a few euros less.

Gare de Strasbourg

In front of the train station is the tram stop. From there you can go just about anywhere in the city. Our next stop was actually the suburb of Illkirch right alongside the city to the southwest.  In Illkirch we made our first ever arrangements at an Airbnb. Our host met us at the train station so we would not get lost on a very short trip to the apartment. The large apartment had two nice bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a modern kitchen, and a large living room. Apartment City in Strasbourg would have been more expensive for a small place and for a hotel… Well, let’s just say this was the best choice. We bought provisions at the nearby supermarket and hosted our own wine and cheese party. My friend from Selestat, France joined us for a mini-vacation in the city.

If the Eiffel Tower is the must-see stop in Paris, the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg is the place in Alsace. We took the tram back to the closest stop at Place Kleber and wandered over to the magnificent Cathedral.

Place Kleber

When you have reached the plaza, you just have to look up and around to find the cathedral. Then you head off in that direction. If you look behind me to the left, you may spot the statue of French Revolutionary war hero Jean-Baptiste Kléber. Few may realize that he is actually buried below the statue. Well not all of him, his heart is in an urn in a chapel in Paris.  Seriously.

We also visited the neighborhood known as Petite France. Here you will find buildings preserved from the 16th and 17th centuries. Previously it was a neighborhood filled with tanners and millers and other trades of the era. Now it is home to restaurants, shops, and well-restored homes. This historic area of the city has been designated a World Heritage Site.

Petite France

As I have explained before, the reason for travel is to enjoy adventures with friends. It is also to visit with friends. In this case, it was both. For the tenth year in a row, I visited my friend in France. We have been on many adventures together here, in France and other countries. We always believe there will be another adventure soon.

French feast

In case you missed the reference at the beginning:

This post originally appeared on SERENDIPITY.

See also: “A France Vacation,” Sunday Night Blog, rjptalk.wordpress.com, March 8, 2020.
The Grand Est Region“, SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, October 20,2019.
Alsace Adventure,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, January 6, 2019.
April Love or April Fool?” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, April 7, 2019.


A Return to France, by Rich Paschall

When you have been to Paris, you will likely hope that you can return someday. It is just a little sprinkle of magic that the city puts upon tourists and part-timers. There are no cities in America with old neighborhoods that somehow retain their special ambiance like the ones in the City of Lights.  I had been to Paris before. Recently we returned again.

Now for a little moment of truth. Since my ultimate destination was Strasbourg, I would have been tempted to go via Frankfurt as I had done the year before. However, my young friends wished to go to Paris. One had been there with me before. For the other, it was a new adventure. How could I say no?

Return to Paris

When traveling there are a number of sites you can use to book your airline tickets. It is…

View original post 973 more words


Plan Early

You may not have been able to travel in 2020 due to the pandemic, but it is never too early to look forward to your next adventure. Like many others, I missed out on my vacation. It was particularly disappointing because I had made a visit to France each of the previous 10 years and was looking forward to going again. There is so much to see in the Grand Est region where my friends live that I always look forward to this vacation. Sometimes I get to make other trips, but I always make sure I get to Alsace.

Petite France, Strasbourg

Sophie Voyages

One of the advantages I have in my travels is a friend who lives in the region and knows the best stops, not just the typical tourist stops. Of course, you must see Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg and Petite France but where else should you visit?  May I suggest a tour guide? I would have missed so much if I did not have friends to show me around. In fact, there is so much to see that we always discover new places each time I go.

Cathédrale de Strasbourg

Sophie Voyages is a new concept in the Tour Industry created by 2 Alsacians in 2020.” They are ready to welcome tourists, and 2021 should be a good year as people start to travel again. Knowledgeable in the history of the region and experienced in the tourist industry means they can provide you with an exciting adventure when you visit Strasbourg, the home of the European Parliament.

Place Kleber

The central square of Strasbourg is Place Kleber. As you can see, I am giving a thumbs up to the restaurants, shops, and beautiful sites of the region.

You can visit their website in English HERE.  Find them on Facebook HERE.

By the way, this is not affiliate marketing. I get nothing for mentioning this to you. I know them and discovered many great places because of their friendship.

See also: SophieVoyages.com
Alsace in Pictures, rjptalk.worpress.com, January 6, 2019.
Alsace Adventure, SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, January 6, 2019.


For each of the past ten years, I have gone to visit my friend who lives in the Alsace region of France. We can not go this year, but we have our memories until the next time. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY and more memories.


Today we are off on our latest adventure to Alsace. On this trip I will be joined by my frequent travel companion Lewis and a friend of his. We are going by way of Paris, as Lewis wishes to see this great city again. After our brief stop over we will be off to Strasbourg and a visit with my best friend there. We will try to bring back great travel news and pictures, but in the meantime here is a look at one of our past adventures.

A Visit to Strasbourg by Rich Paschall

Just across the Rhine River from Germany, in the northeast corner of France, lies the capital of the Grand Est (East) Region.  It is the largest metropolitan area in Alsace and home to the European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union.  Because of its central location in Europe and proximity to Switzerland and Luxembourg…

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Cell Phone Pictures

Most of our London pictures were captured with a camera, but we got a small number by phone as well.  It was not possible to get good quality pictures by phone just ten years ago, but technology has changed rapidly.  The camera pictures are still better but these are fun, especially if you want to make a quick upload to social media.

Click on one of the pictures to get the larger size and go through the gallery.

Stop in at SERENDIPITY for more on our London trip: “Heathrow Express.”