Test-kit tour of the UK

Pulteney Bridge, Bath
Pulteney Bridge, Bath

Once upon a time, I planned a trip to England.

Three postponements later, I was finally able to set off. Traveling internationally during a global pandemic required some additional measures. In total, I took three COVID-19 tests—one within three days of flying, one upon arrival in London, and one within three days of returning home.

The first I took at a local pharmacy; the second, at a test station within Heathrow Airport; and the third, in a hotel room using an online test kit. All were uncomfortable. All were quick.

In England, wearing masks was mandated on public transport, such as trains and the Tube. Elsewhere, they were optional. Few of the British wore them.

At the time of the trip, eighty percent of England’s population over the age of twelve were fully vaccinated (compared to not quite sixty percent in the United States).

Due to travel restrictions, foreign tourists seem to be curiosities in England. At Waterloo station, I asked an agent to validate my rail pass. He seemed fascinated by it. “I haven’t seen one of these in two years,” he said.

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Olympic proportions

Quileute River
Quillayute River

Near the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula, four rivers converge to form one.

They are the Bogachiel, Calawah, Sol Duc, and Dickey, and, when flowing together, they compose the Quillayute. At the village of La Push, Washington, the Quillayute River empties into the Pacific Ocean.

La Push, with a population of two thousand, is home to the Quileute tribe, the river’s namesake.

The tribe’s original territory covered the western half of the peninsula, from Mount Olympus to the seacoast. Traditionally, the Quileute were skilled whalers and seal hunters. After signing a treaty in 1889, the tribe was forced onto a one-square-mile reservation.

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Memories of Africa (Part 3)

Bwabwata National Park, Namibia

Bwabwata National Park

In the fall of 2011, my daughter and I traveled to Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. To read “Memories of Africa (Parts 1 and 2),” please see the previous two posts.

The rock that moved

The rats in our tree house were quit tolerable compared to Penny’s uninvited visitor.

Penny, a teacher from Canada, is a member of our tour. Last night, she left the Ngepi Camp lodge after dark and walked back through the woods to her tree house. Hers was the last one on the trail. When she arrived, she noticed a large gray boulder—one she had not remembered—blocking the steps.

Then, the rock lifted its massive head and opened its jaws. A hippo!

She ran back to the lodge. Trompie and Lucas, a local guide, returned to help. Lucas suggested they throw pebbles at the hippo to scare it away. Initially, the beast seemed confused.

Then it charged. Continue reading

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Memories of Africa (Part 2)

Etosha National Park, NamibiaIn the fall of 2011, my daughter and I traveled to Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. To read “Memories of Africa (Part 1 of 3),” please see the previous post.

Lion porn

The next morning after breakfast at Toshari Lodge, we headed back to Etosha. At eighty-six hundred square miles, Etosha is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. Its grasslands sustain an abundance of wildlife, including several threatened and endangered species, such as white and black rhinos.

We stopped first at the Ombika waterhole, where a pride of eleven lions lounged in the grass. No other animal dared venture near the water.

We drove slowly through the park, stopping frequently to take photos. Numerous zoos could be filled with the multiple species grazing in the savanna—elephants, zebras, giraffes, ostriches, wildebeests, kudu, oryx, black-faced impala, springbok, spotted hyenas, black-backed jackals, bat-eared foxes, and warthogs.

As we drove, Trompie spotted a large male lion hiding in the shade of a tree near the road. A minute later, he excitedly proclaimed that a cobra was in the tall grass near the lion. Continue reading

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Memories of Africa (Part 1)

Zebras, EtoshaWhile my travel plans (and probably yours) have been suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m sharing an account of a trip I took with my daughter, Allie, in the fall of 2011.

The trip was her idea. After teaching high-school English for four years in the Bronx, she was between jobs and somewhat burned out. She was looking for an adventure to reinvigorate her outlook.

“Dad, do you want to go to Africa?”

When offered a chance to share a travel experience with my daughter, I didn’t think twice. “Of course, Allie.” Continue reading

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Going Dutch

Open-Air Museum NL
On a day I was traveling through the Netherlands by train, I saw thousands of farmers blocking a major road into The Hague with their tractors.

Later I learned their caravan was sixty miles long. Many of the farmers waved red, white, and blue Dutch flags, as they protested a government livestock policy.

A sign read No Farmers, No Food. The Netherlands exports more food than any other country in the world except the United States, making Dutch farmers a powerful lobby.

Land managment in the Netherlands is historically esteemed. Approximately one-fourth of the country lies below sea level. Thus, the name: nether means low-lying.

To improve their lot, the enterprising Dutch engineered complicated drainage systems, involving dikes, canals, and pumps driven by windmills. They claimed their country by reclaiming it from the sea.

Remarkably, the Netherlands, with all of its farmland, is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Its seventeen million citizens live in an area the size of Maryland.

I spent most of my time in Holland, which is a region within the Netherlands. (Holland and the Netherlands are not two names for the same country.)

The Netherlands regularly ranks high in per-capita income, quality of life, and happiness. Proud locals boast, “If it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much.” Continue reading

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Afoot in Flanders

Bonne Chiere Mill, Bruges BE

Bonne Chiere Mill, Bruges

YearTripper is not a food blog, but Belgium begs the exception.

Where Belgium’s rivers drain into the North Sea, mussels are both plentiful and popular. Over sixty thousand tons of them are consumed annually. Most restaurants sell them by the kilo (just over two pounds).

The shellfish are steamed in Belgian ale or white wine, onions, celery, garlic, herbs, and butter. Mussels are usually served with fries, in a combo known as moules frites.

Belgians claim they, not the French, invented french fries. Thank Americans for the misnomer. Supposedly, fried potatoes were first introduced to American soldiers in Belgium during World War I. As French is one of Belgium’s three official languages, the soldiers nicknamed the dish “french fries.”

Ever since, the wrong country has been getting the credit. Continue reading

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