Hilton Head


Hilton Head Island – the “low country” home of the famous movie stars, vacation retreat of U.S. Presidents – but I shall always remember it as the place where the police tried to arrest me for driving a Honda in a neighborhood where there are only supposed to be Mercedes.

This has happened to me now twice: in HH, and in the Hamptons on Long Island – an occupational hazard of having friends who number among the mega-wealthy!

From war to peace


I’ve often wondered when and how historical military structures transition from things of war to things of tourism.  Maybe the border between Pakistan and India, or between North and South Korea, are examples of this today?  Still military in nature, but increasingly visited by tourists.

At any rate, the Castlegrande in Bellinzona has long since passed over into the tourist realm, as the grassy ramparts below show.



India’s glimpse into Europe’s past: the “Little France” of Mumbai


One reason I love India so much: India provides an amazing glimpse into the history of Europe.

Shown here are the Dhobi Ghats, or clothes washing area, of Mumbai. What 99.99% of most tourists don’t realize is that Europe had these places, too, and you can find a picture of one in my recent blog about Petite-France. Today, the washing area in Petite-France is covered in flowers and lined with street cafés; but a few hundred years ago, clothes were washed in segments along the river: the clothes for the rich people upstream, and the clothes for the lesser privileged downstream. So what you see above is likely much cleaner and nicer than what it would have looked like in France!

My biggest gripe: Europe evolved slowly, and these old places were slowly transformed and retained. In India as in the U.S., the high-speed of big urbanization means that interesting cultural places (such as the Dhobi Ghats) are often developed right out of existence.



Indian Tales 1: Shopping in Dehli with an Auto Wallah


During my first trip to Dehli, in the middle of the hot summer, an auto rickshaw driver was surprisingly honest with me: he asked if he could drive me to a store for tourists, because he would receive a 100 Rs “commission” from the owners for each tourist he delivered there. It was the “off season,” he said, and he needed the extra money for his family.

I have NEVER seen such honesty and openness from an auto wallah before!

So I made a deal with him: he would drive me to as many of these tourists stores as he could: I’d shop for a few minutes then buy nothing and leave, he’d collect 100 Rs from each store we visited — and at the end of the day, we would split the proceeds 50%/50%.

After a few hours we hit nearly 15 different stores, my voice was hoarse from 15 repetitions of the question “Do you have any little paper maché elephants made in Kashmir?” and his pockets were full of money!  Because I didn’t need the money but wanted the fun, I then told him he could keep it all, because he was so honest and open.

He was really happy with this, and we spent another 2 hours in which he took me on the best auto tour of Dehli anyone is ever likely to get, even stopping to drink tea with his other auto wallah friends near this great big stone arch-thing.

Motto: The people who want to take advantage of you can often turn out to be very nice people – and sometimes you can have a lot of fun by turning the tables and taking advantage of the system itself!

When backs are better than fronts – 2


Continuing Part 1 of the series, this is the Rheinbrücke Konstanz (or Rhein Bridge at Constance).  Today nobody gives this bridge much thought  – but hundreds of years ago, after you paid a sizable toll, this would have been your gateway from a dangerous, lawless outside to the safe and Disney-Land-like city of Konstanz.

The armies of tourists that descend upon Konstanz rarely if ever cross or even see this bridge, much less the best part: a hidden alleyway underneath the far side of the bridge (just visible in the top picture), where there is a collection of stunning graffiti artwork painted on the walls.



The Grande Île of Petite-France


This is a different view of the island in a recent blog post, but taken from a different angle.  An interesting bit of trivia is that the various bridges (only one is shown here) are known as the pont couverts (which is French for “covered bridge”), even though the covering has been gone for quite some time.

I don’t want to violate any copyrights or trademarks, but if you want to see a really impressive set of photographs of this area, just click here.