Grannies, Mushrooms, and Moon Landings

Here are answers to a few of your questions:

Question: What is the one place that you would never go back to?
Answer:I was recently in Orlando and couldn’t stop thinking how miserable I’d be if I had to write a guidebook chapter on that city.

Question: If you were taking your very spry, 73-year-old grandmother to Europe, where would you go?
Answer:Down the Dordogne River in a canoe, and then cap the day with a fine riverside meal — letting her enjoy the liver of a force-fed goose (explaining what it was to her later) with the finest glass of red French wine she’s ever had. While I don’t think I’ve ever ordered the most expensive bottle on a wine list, I love to be in a fine Italian enoteca or French restaurant and order the most expensive glass of wine…especially if I’m with someone who’s never had the experience.

Question: How much of your travels revolve around places you’ve never been before?
Answer:All of them…originally. Now I need to revisit places I report on to expand and update the coverage. While I like to think impressions and assessments made 20 years ago are still sound, things do change. (For example, Berlin is now much better than Munich. Tangier is no longer the armpit of North Africa, but a delightful city. And Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina is the best side-trip from Dubrovnik.) So, I need to stay focused on my beat (Europe — which I see as America’s wading pool for world discovery) and spend four months a year “working” there.

Question: What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten? Have you ever been served anything that you just had to refuse?
Answer:A hallucinogenic mushroom omelet in Bali was the weirdest (in a delightful way). I refuse energy drinks. I’ve never tried Red Bull or anything like that.

Question: What inspired your love of travel?
Answer: I realized I loved traveling in Europe when first dragged there by my parents — I was a 14-year-old schoolboy with a bad attitude. Things quickly changed. Watching the 1969 Apollo moon landing in Norway and celebrating it as a human as well as American achievement; being enamored by a beautiful blond German woman, and then seeing her reach for something on the top shelf and expose a shaggy armpit — and still being enamored; learning to enjoy mushrooms (non-hallucinogenic) in the home of aristocratic German piano-builders; gazing at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and not understanding how it could look like an ancient arch but be modern…and then learning about the French Revolution and Neoclassicism; witnessing a riot in West Berlin, and then seeing how effectively the German police and media bottled it up, making it a non-event on the evening news; collecting bottle caps for the fun design and the name of the city of the bottling plant. From that first trip, exploring and learning from Europe became my passion.

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