Thursday, October 31, 2019

European Travel Tips

European Travel Tips

Luggage, clothes, and laundry

I know it’s difficult to travel with carryon luggage only. There are lots of advantages. If you’ve ever arrived at your destination to find that your luggage is in Cleveland, you’ll know what I mean. You can use public transportation to get to and from the airport. Recently in Rome, the taxi rate to the city was around €40 while the airport bus was around €8. Traveling with one small carryon makes it so much easier to board airplanes, buses, and trains. In most of Europe, it’s not unusual to see people on the Metro, buses, trams, and trains with their luggage. Lots of companies like Columbia make high quality travel clothes that can most of the time dry overnight. I always pack a small bag of laundry detergent, clothes pins, and some kind of small clothes line. My feeling is that you’re traveling too fast if your clothes don’t have time to dry. Many cities now have automatic laundromats but they have a tendency to be small and expensive.


Everyone should have a packing list on their computer. Here are some items you might want to add to your list. Create a small medical kit which might contain, pain medication, antibiotic cream, bandages, cold/flu medication, and antacids. Remember that most of Europe uses 240 volts instead of the US 110 volt system. I learned the hard way by frying my WaterPik in Barcelona. Not only that, they also have different shaped electrical plugs. First start by googling the country or countries you plan to visit to determine what kind of electrical adapter you need. Next, check all your devices, shaver, electric tooth brush, phone charger, hair dryer, etc. to determine if they are designed for dual voltage. You might see something on them like this: Input AC 100-240 volts. These devices can be used in Europe with the appropriate electrical plug adaptor. If you insist on bringing a 110 volt only device, you will need to buy a voltage converter. I have a Ravpower multi-charger. Once I plug in this charger using the appropriate electrical plug adapter, I can charge my iPad and iPhone and other dual voltage computer devices. If You forget your adapters, most small neighborhood stores and hardware stores sell adapters.


I’ve traveled in Europe extensively for the last several years. I’ve been thinking about some of the differences between US and European culture. Tipping which is common in the US in not common in Europe. In some counties, a service charge will automatically be added to your bill. 

Don’t expect a free glass of ice water in restaurants. Usually water is an item that needs to be paid for. Sometimes the water costs as much as a glass of vin ordinare. Don’t be surprised if you’re charged for the basket of bread on your table. The good news is that generally you can linger for hours at your table. The waiter won’t bring your bill until you catch his attention and pretend you’re writing on your hand. Generally, the special of the day is written on a blackboard near the entrance to a restaurant. The budget meal is three courses, a starter, a main course, and dessert. Usually it’s indicated where wine or an other beverage is included.

I think Americans my be the only people in the developed world who don’t eat with their fork in their left hand and their knife in their right hand. European don’t cut their food and then change the fork from their left hand to their right hand. The fork is also turned with the tines down. When a European pauses eating to have a sip of wine, they place their fork and knife face down on the edge of their plate. When a European finishes eating, they place their knife and fork parallel and face up in the center of their plate.  This is a signal to the wait person that they have finished eating.
In Europe, it’s not unusual to pay to go to a public toilet. Some have a place to deposit a coin and some kind of turnstile. Other restrooms might have an attendant collecting the money.


Most major cities have an underground or subway Metro system. Maps of the system are generally displayed at the entrance to a subway. There’s a secret to getting on a train going in the right direction. The trains and the platforms are generally marked with the last stop on the line. You need to check on the map to see what the last stop is so you can go in the right direction. In most cases, this is also true of buses. Most buses have some kind of machine that you insert your ticket for a time stamp. Failure to time stamp your ticket could result in a hefty fine if an inspector comes on board. Google maps works quite well in most major cities even if you’re walking. I recently followed step by step directions of Google maps from my place in Transvere, Rome to the Parthenon.
Most European flats have very secure front doors and most residents double lock their doors when entering or leaving their flats. Many residents have washing machines but few have dryers. Most building have a courtyard where close lines on pulleys are used to dry clothes. Also, almost everyone has some kind of folding clothes drying rack in their flat.


If you don’t speak a foreign language, don’t let this discourage you from traveling. The good news is that English has become the universal language. Most Europeans speak several languages including English. Most wait staff in Europe understand a number of languages. It never hurts to learn, hello, good day, good bye, please, and thank you. I had an occasion recently to use Google translate. My host in Rome only spoke a few words of English.  Google translate was fabulous. You can download the language you want and it won’t require an Internet connection. It’s amazing how well we can communicate through gestures. It’s a little like playing charades!


If you’re your traveling on an organized tour, all your accommodations are generally included. I prefer to travel independently which means arranging a place to stay. There are lots of options to a hotel, VRBO (Vacation Rentals By owners), Home Exchange, a number of different hospitality arrangements by profession such as teachers, etc. My choice is Air B&B. You have an opportunity to shop around online. You can use filters to see only listings within your budget, or child friendly listings, etc. You can also see reviews by previous travelers. You can also ask to only see listing available during your travel dates. You won’t see the exact address but you will see a general area where the listing is located. Using Google maps you can get an idea of where it’s located. You can also use Wikipedia or google to ask for lists of different neighborhoods. Do you want to stay in “Beverly Hills,” or the Hipster arty neighborhood. Many Air B&Bs have special discounts for longer stays from one week to one month or longer. You can also generally determine if the host actually lives there or is just running a self operating rooming house. Also you can get a general idea of what a place looks like from photos. You’re able to pose questions to the host before making a commitment to rent. This is also an opportunity to interact with a local person. You will also have the option to cook meals.

Internet and cell phones
Most of us can’t imagine going anywhere without our cellphones. Your cell phone will work in just about any country through a system called data roaming. Unfortunately this system can be horribly expensive. The first thing to do is contact your provider and ask them what plans they have for foreign travel and what are the limits of data. Many people with an unlocked phone purchase a local SIM chip with a data package. Some people just keep their phone in Airplane mode and only use Wi-Fi. The iPhone 10 & 11 has an e-sim mode where you can have a data package and still be able to retain your US number. Check out GigSky.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Apple: Takes a Lickin’ and Keeps on Tickin’

I recently fell into the bay fully clothed while trying to fasten a line from a boat to the dock. Only my pride was injured. My iPhone XR and Series 3 Apple Watch only required a rinse with fresh water. I didn’t even have to turn them off! My hearing aids required flushing with fresh water, a quick spray with canned air, and left overnight buried in rice. The next day they worked fine. The only casualty was my glasses that disappeared in the murky water.

I’ve never had any Apple device get submerged in water so I was really impressed with their performance.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Barcelona 2017

I’m trying to play catch up with my blog. I know this is dated but I wanted to post it.

Here I am back in Barcelona. I think this is my third or fourth time. I arrived on May 13 after a 26 day cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's, Brilliance of the Seas. We left Tampa, Florida on April 17th and made stops in Puerto Rico, Ponta Delgada (Azores), Malaga, and Ibitha. We arrived in Barcelona on May 1 and I stayed onboard for another 12 day cruise of the Mediterranean with stops in Livorno, Civitavecchia, Salerno, Venice, Ravenna, and Kotor, Montenegro.

I've rented a room in the Sant Antoni neighborhood of E'xample.

"The Eixample is characterized by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues, and square blocks with chamfered corners (named illes in Catalan, manzanas in Spanish).[2] This was a visionary, pioneering design by Ildefons Cerdà, who considered traffic and transport along with sunlight and ventilation in coming up with his characteristic octagonal blocks, where the streets broaden at every intersection making for greater visibility, better ventilation and (today) some short-stay parking space. The grid pattern remains as a hallmark of Barcelona, but many of his other provisions were ignored: the four sides of the blocks and the inner space were built instead of the planned two or three sides around a garden; the streets were narrower; only one of the two diagonal avenues was carried out; the inhabitants were of a higher class than the mixed composition dreamed of by Cerdà.[2] The important needs of the inhabitants were incorporated into his plan, which called for markets, schools, hospitals every so many blocks. Today, most of the markets remain open in the spots they have been from the beginning."

I've stayed in this area on previous visits. I like the wide tree lined sidewalks. The neighborhood is full of small bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

My Book List

My Current Reading List

I'm a big fan of BookTV ( BookTV is sponsored by C-Span. Every week end, authors give lectures about their new books. I'm always tempted to order their books from my local library. I don't always get around to reading them all.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Armchair Sailing

I have a done a bit of sailing in my life. I've sailed extensively in the Mediterranean, including Greece, Italy, Turkey, and the former Yugoslavia. I've also sailed the Caribbean, including the British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Bay Islands of Honduras, Belize, Granada, St. Lucia, and the San Blas Islands of Panama.

I recently discovered a new phenomenon (to me), sailing vlogs on YouTube. A number of people (primarily couples) have started posting their sailing adventures online. Most of them are members of Patreon which allows some of their ardent viewers to contribute money to their ventures.

Each vlog represents the particular sailors. Different type of boats, different personalities, and different lifestyles provide a wide ranging view experience.

You can locate most of these vlogs by searching their name on YouTube

Here's a partial list:

S/V Delos

Sailing La Vagabonde

Ran Sailing

MJ Sailing

Sailing Doodles

My Current Book List

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Zentangle Redux

An homage to Catalunya created using an Apple Pencil and Procreate on an iPadPro 10.5" model.

I've been doing my version of Zentangles since September of 2013. You can see earlier posts, "Do You Like to Doodle," September 13, 2013 and/or More Zentangles, October 1, 2013 for basic information about Zentangles or visit (click here).

Original Zentangles are created with black ink on 3.5" square paper cards. As I've mentioned in the past, I started out right away with 6" square cards.

In recent years, I've started to add color to my Zentangle creations. I've added color through the use of a combination of color pencils, gel pens, and colored markers. Digital podcasts show their best when displayed on a computer screen. The other options for prints is a color printer or sending the file to a photo service such as Costco Photo or Wal-Mart Photo.

I acquired an 10.5" iPad Pro recently. I also purchased an Apple Pencil (stylus). I explored several drawing apps that I thought might lend themselves to creating digital Zentangles. I finally settled on Pro Create. 

Procreate lets you generate high-caliber artwork at a blistering pace using a robust layering system, stunning filters, and thousands of importable brushes. Plus, Savage Interactive's super-intuitive app supports pressure sensitivity and Apple Pencil—as well as iCloud Drive and a seamless video recording of each brushstroke—so sharing your work is incredibly simple.

At the end of this post, I've listed all of the features of this great application. And how much does this  app cost you ask, well how about $5.99! The Apple Pencil will only work on iPadPros, both 9.7", 10.5" and 12.9" models. Procreate will also work on iPad 4th generation, iPadAir, and iPadAir2. You can actually use your finger to draw with Procreate on non-pro models. The other alternative stylus for non-pro iPads is the Wacom Bamboo Sketch. This new $80 stylus which has pressure sensitivity is similar to the Apple Pencil will work on older iPads and iPhone 6 and above. It will also work with a number of popular IOS drawing apps.

Apple Design Award winner and App Store Essential – Procreate is the most powerful sketching, painting and illustration app ever designed for a mobile device. This complete artist’s toolbox helps you create beautiful sketches, inspiring paintings, and stunning illustrations anywhere you are. Procreate features ground-breaking canvas resolution, 128 incredible brushes, advanced layer system and is powered by Silica: the fastest 64-bit painting engine on iOS.

Create a canvas and start painting with any of Procreate’s exclusive dual-texture brushes. Use the immediately responsive smudge tool to perfectly blend colour with any brush in your library. With Procreate’s incredibly high-resolution canvases you can print your artwork at massive sizes. Experience the revolutionary selection, transform, and perspective tools built exclusively for multitouch and finish your illustration with stunning cinema-quality effects. Procreate’s powerful and intuitive interface always puts your art in focus.
With a deep range of professional quality features, Procreate has all the power a creative needs.
• Feature Highlights- Optimized for iPad Pro and Apple Pencil- Massive Ultra High Definition canvases, up to 16k by 4k on iPad Pro 12.9"- Powered by Silica: the fastest 64-bit painting engine- Stunning 64-bit color - Deliciously responsive 64-bit smudge sampling - Multi-threaded; optimized for iPad’s multiple cores - 250 levels of undo and redo- Continuous auto-save—never lose work again - Connect a keyboard to use shortcuts for advanced features- Advanced Quick Menu for rapid interface interaction
• Breakthrough Brushes: - Packed with 128 beautifully made brushes- Game-changing dual textured brush system - 35 customizable settings for every brush - Create your own custom Procreate brushes - Organize your brushes into your own custom sets - Import custom brushes and export your own
• Advanced Layering System:- Layer your artwork for precise control over individual elements- Stay organized by combining layers into Groups- Select multiple layers to move or Transform objects simultaneously- Access 17 layer blend modes for professional compositing
• Color Without Compromise: - 64-bit color for greater accuracy- Fill your art seamlessly with ColorDrop- Exact ColorDrop fills with Reference Layers that won’t damage your line work- Input RGB or hex values for exact color matching
• Dramatic Finishing Effects:- GPU accelerated for optimum speed - Perspective Blur (exclusive to Procreate)- Gaussian and Motion Blurs- Sharpen and add Noise - Hue, Saturation, Brightness - Color Balance, Image Curves, Recolor
• Groundbreaking Video Features- Relive your creative journey with Procreate’s time-lapse replay- Broadcast your process live with your favorite streaming service- Record everything in real time and share it to any connected service
• Sharing and Workflow Integration: - Import or export Adobe® Photoshop® PSD files- Export to AirDrop, iCloud Drive, Photos, iTunes, Twitter, Dropbox, Google Drive, Facebook, Weibo and Mail- Export as layered native .procreate file, PSD, transparent PNG, multi-page PDF or web ready JPEG