Travel Tuesday: Looking At The Dutch Tulips

Visitors tiptoe through the tulips in Dutch virus test, wrote Mike Corder recently for the AP, documenting the opening of the famed Keukenhof Gardens for a lucky 5,000 people. It is one of hundreds of public venues that the Dutch government has allowed to reopen under strict conditions to evaluate whether rapid testing can safely help the country ease coronavirus restrictions amid rising levels of vaccinations and warmer weather.

This is a gift. It feels great today. It is beautiful weather anyway … but to walk through the tulips is fantastic!

Corder quotesWritingBerries blogger Berry de Nijs, who shared the following picture on her WritingBerries Facebook page. Dank, Berry!
Dutch blogger Berry De Nijs posted this photo of the tulips in Keukenhof Gardens after her recent visit.

On May 5, 2019, we were scheduled to spend the day at Keukenhof Gardens when our cruise ship stopped in Amsterdam for the day before sailing on to Norway to complete a three-week cross-Atlantic voyage. We had missed the brief tulip season when we were in Amsterdam 2018, catching glimpses of the flowers only at the floating market during our week-long stay, so we’re really looking forward to seeing the 7 million tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and myriad other flowers meticulously hand-planted throughout Keukenhof’s manicured lawns by a small army of gardeners.

Photo by Jane Kelly Amerson López, 2018

But, through one of the zillion of timing miracles that allow me to tell you this today, we were not among the tulips on May 5, 2019, when I fainted on an Amsterdam sidewalk. We were outside a pharmacy getting medication for my husband’s bronchitis. Quick response by EMTs had me in an ER within minutes just as my heart stopped. I had ruptured an undiagnosed aneurysm. OLVG Hospital’s expert intervention sealed the leak, but I would be in the ICU for six weeks as my body struggled to survive, and another six weeks in the gastroenterology unit as I slowly regained movement of my wasted limbs.

I celebrated my one-year anniversary back on my feet. But this year as I commemorate surviving and recovering, I am even more grateful to have been spared breast cancer, to be vaccinated, and to be the least interesting patient in my doctor’s roster.

There’s a whole lot to look forward to, maybe even tiptoeing through Kukenhof one day, while living in each moment.

Politics Monday: Of Course We Need a Vaccine Passport

Travel is ticking back up, and with it talk of a vaccine passport, writes New York Times reporter Claire Moses. It’s not a new idea — inoculations against yellow fever and other diseases are already required for travel to certain countries. Growing up in the Foreign Service, my diplomatic passport was twinned with a passport-sized yellow vaccination booklet.

Opposing on grounds of personal freedom

Like everything else pandemic, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has politicized the notion of a vaccine passport, using the cover of “personal freedoms” to prevent their use.

…vaccination passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy.

Governor Ron DeSantis

Suing the feds to release cruise industry

And there’s a weird twist to this position, because the return of Florida’s cruise industry, in dry dock since March of last year, is dependent on the concept of a vaccination passport. DeSantis cares so much about this key business that he has sued the Biden administration to release the CDC’s hold. Does his left hand not know what his right hand is doing?

It’s just such a bizarre, mixed signal.

Peter Ricci, director of hospitality and tourism management programs at Florida Atlantic University, quoted in Wendy Rhodes, The Palm Beach Post, April 12

Prolonging the pandemic

He’s fighting for the liberation of unvaccinated people to spread germs as they please in the middle of a worldwide pandemic — one that appears to be surging again. By preventing Floridians to distinguish between who is vaccinated and who is not, DeSantis is telling us to be content with prolonging the pandemic.

The Editors of The Palm Beach Post

Florida leads the country in the number of COVID variant cases, which are 50% more contagious and 64% more deadly. On March 21st, Florida’s deaths surpassed two million. Two million souls are nothing more than data points. You won’t hear this from the state’s confident governor.

I think things are going well.

Governor Ron DeSantis
Pulitzer Prize winner Clay Bennett, Washington Post News Service, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Travel Tuesday: How to travel the world without leaving home

Today, I’m sharing some great photos and posts from British blogger Rebecca Ruane, who writes to inspire others to travel and to be more adventurous at home. Her recent series combines those two ideas for a perfect pandemic getaway.

Kirk and I have chosen to take a week off to celebrate our one year anniversary. To make it feel special we’ve planned a week of travelling the world from our home!! Each day we will visit a different country, eating foods and drinking drinks from those countries, as well as trying different activities we feel are linked to these countries.

Rebecca Ruane, blogger, Rebecca Travels the World

France

Croissants for breakfast, Tuna Niçoise for dinner, and From Paris With Love to end the day. To see all of this très bonne journée, click ici.

Greece

Mezze of hummus, stuffed vine leaves (Dolmades), tzatziki, halloumi, olives and flat breads, and cleverly creating instant Greek pottery out of terracotta and markers! To see all of this fun day, click here.

Mexico

Nachos for lunch, churros for a snack, and do-it-yourself tin art. For recipes and how-to instructions click aquí.

India

Day four of Rebecca’s week was India. Take-away from a local restaurant brought them , and Rebecca shows how to draw your very own mandala. See how-to’s here.

Origami art kit turns first-timers into paper folding experts.

Japan

Soy milk donuts, dumplings and origami. For more on Rebecca’s day walk down memory lane in Japan, click here.

China

Bao buns for breakfast, egg fried rice for dinner, and Tai Chi in between. To see all of Rebecca’s day-at-home-in-China, click here.

Italy

We actually wanted to get married in Tuscany. Logistics of getting married abroad meant we decided not to but we were lucky enough to find a venue in the UK which embodies the Tuscan feel. Therefore our wedding day still had an Italian feel with the wedding breakfast being Caprese salad, Italian meats and bread followed by lasagna and then tiramisu.

Rebecca Ruane, for more on Relaxing in Italy, click qui..

New York City

New York City’s daylong homage began with all American pancakes and peanut butter and ended with pizza and Goodfellas. Check out all of Rebecca’s Big Apple day here.

Adventures and experiencing new things are the key to life no matter how far you travel for them!!

Rebecca Ruane, blogger, Rebecca Travels the World

Travel Tuesday: Listen to the Longing for Pandemic-Prohibited Travel in this Song by Novelist Kazuo Ishiguro

One of my favorite podcasts is NPR’s Fresh Air, in which host Terry Gross interviews all kinds of interesting people — writers, scientists, singers, film stars. Much like the PBS NewsHour and CBS Sunday Morning, Fresh Air almost always expands my mind, enriches my brain, or opens my heart. Sometimes, it’s all three. If you are not yet a subscriber/viewer, back up and click on those links before you read any more.

Seriously, do that.

Thanks for coming back. So, one of Terry Gross’ most recent guests was Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, the Nagasaki -born, London-raised novelist whose works include Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, and who won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature.

…who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.

2017 Nobel Prize for Literature press release.

I’d not heard Ishiguro interviewed before, so was surprised by his English accent and stories of his British youth. He was a sort of celebrity child singer of church music and thought he’d be a singer-songwriter in his youth, and “voice” continues to inspire writing.

I take enormous inspiration from listening to singing voices. I love to listen to Stacey Kent, whom I write lyrics for. There’s something almost impossible to capture in words about the quality of the singing performance.

Kazuo Ishiguro speaking to Terry Gross on Fresh Air

Terry concluded the interview with Stacey Kent’s I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again, lyrics by Kazuo Ishiguro. The song is sweet and the message is one so many of us feel very deeply, thirteen months into this pandemic. I wish I could go traveling again …..

Barry Goldstuck on YouTube, lyrics and images for Stacey Kent’s “I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again,” lyrics by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.

Travel Tuesday: How Germany Guarantees the Memory of the Holocaust, Giving America A Roadmap for Addressing Slavery

German prosecutors charged a 100-year-old man with 3,518 counts of being an accessory to murder on allegations he served during World War II as a Nazi SS guard at a concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin, authorities said Tuesday. This case is a vital reminder to the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia, said Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

David Rising, Associated Press.

In his recent article for the Associated Press, reporter David Rising wrote about the coming trial of a former guard at the Sachsenhausen death camp outside Berlin. The accompanying photograph reminded me of our somber day at that camp, the Berlin Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the Berlin Wall during our Baltic cruise in 2017. Here is some of what I wrote about that day in words that mean even more today. Germany’s acknowledgement of the Holocaust through restoration of that awful past gives America an example for acknowledging slavery in order to move ahead.

Acknowledging the Holocaust

“After decades of denial, a reunified Germany slowly but firmly turned to look at the horror of the Nazi regime. The effort is meant to ‘guarantee memory.’ Twenty-five years have gone into the restoration of Sachsenhausen’s original buildings, design and artifacts. 

“The Berlin Holocaust Memorial is an unavoidable block-wide grid of unmarked slabs of grey stone laid out like coffins, soaring over death-shadowed canyons in the center and emerging into the ongoing life of daylight.

Acknowledging Slavery

“We too have a shameful past: slavery. Emancipation did not lead to freedom, and we’ve allowed slavery to morph into accepted behavior in this country. Jim Crow. Lynching. Segregation. Discrimination. Incarceration. Death at the hands of the police. Indeed, Nazis and Klansmen march in support of racism under the cover of the First Amendment, and statues of the Confederate military are defended as ‘heritage’ to be protected. It’s a heritage built by slaves and defeated in the Civil War. True freedom and liberty are yet out of reach to persons of color.

“What if, instead of ignoring objections or tearing Confederate statues down, we found a way to lay out the full story, to force ourselves to look at our own dark past? Let’s talk about why we had a Civil War, and what has happened since. Until we can force our country to stare down its horrific past, we will never be free of it.”

Whites Own “The Conversation”

In an article entitled In a nation founded on whiteness, how to really discuss it AP reporter Deepti Hajela explores the challenge.

This mess has been from the founding of this country. This mess has been in our soil. It’s in our soul. It’s everywhere, and we’ve never really completely decided that we will look at it.

The Rev. Susan Chorley, First Parish of Norwell

Are white people willing to confront and have a conversation about the extent to which white racial prejudice and white racism, and the desire to maintain white power in the United States, is part of our political process?

Asheley Jardina, Duke University

Travel Tuesday: No, That’s Not Sewage Spewing Out of That Pipe!

A few weeks ago when we were among just a handful of people enjoying the beach at Boynton Inlet, a couple of pale visitors from Minnesota wandered by, camera in hand. After we’d established that I, born in St. Paul, had roots — a word my South Dakota father pronounced “ruhts” — in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the man looked down the beach, where a waterfall of sandy water was spewing from a long pipe.

That’s not sewage, is it?

Minnesotan tourist

Absolutely not, I answered. It’s part of sand dredging. I kept meaning to look that up, because I really wasn’t at all sure about my answer, other that feeling pretty offended by the presumption that Florida was throwing crap into these turquoise waters.

Boynton Inlet. Photo: Jane Kelly Amerson López

What a relief, then, to read an article in The Palm Beach Post that assured me that I’d been right. The pipe is part of a sand transfer plant installed in 1937 to restore the natural movement of sand down the beach interrupted by the man-made Boynton Inlet.

In 1937, the sand transfer plant at the South Lake Worth Inlet, also known as the Boynton Inlet, was built to take sand from the north side and feed it through a pipe that attached to the bridge over the boat channel to the beach on the south side.

Kimberly Miller, The Palm Beach Post
The little house is the sand replenishment plant. It vacuums up sand from the north side of the inlet and pipes it out on the south side. Video: Jane Kelly Amerson López

It’s slurry.

My new word, thanks to Kimberly Miller at The Palm Beach Post

The beaches in the northern reaches of Palm Beach County — in Juno and Jupiter — have been undergoing their own sand project. The changes in the landscape made it feel foreign, almost lunar, when we visited in February.

Travel Tuesday: Picking Up Plastic at the Beach

Mondays are recycling day in our Palm Beach County neighborhood. I used to take take a certain level of satisfaction in filling our blue bin with plastic, just as I make sure our daily newspapers are in the yellow paper recycling bin. Then, I saw Plastic Wars on Frontline and understood that we were sold a myth, a feel-good story created by the plastics industry in order to overcome public resistance to using its product.

Recycling hasn’t worked

The reality is, for all the ads and promises over the years, it’s estimated that no more than 10% of plastic has ever been recycled.

Laura Sullivan, Frontline “Plastic Wars”

The sobering reality gave me a different perspective on the plastic I saw on the seashore this morning, where some (socially distant) beachgoers were picking discarded plastic out of the tangled seaweed.

Beachgoer picking up discarded plastic on Boynton Inlet Beach

a plastic industry invention

Making recycling work was the plastic industry’s way to keep their products in the marketplace.

RONALD LIESEMER, Council for Solid Waste Solutions, 1988-2001 (in Frontline, “Plastic Wars”)

To sell more plastic

Coming up with ways to have their product perceived as more recyclable and more environmental makes their product look better. They want to sell more plastic containers.

COY SMITH, Former board member, National Recycling Coalition (in Frontline’s “Plastic Wars”)

Reduce, reuse, recycle

For the last 40 years, the conversation in this country has been about the recycle part of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” It was not an accident. It was created. It was manufactured.

David Allway, Senior Policy Analyst, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (in Frontline’s “Plastic Wars”)
One beachgoer’s collection, including barnacle-covered flip flops

More plastic than ever

And yet despite the backlash, the industry that makes plastic is expanding. The U.S. is now one of the world’s largest plastic producers, and the industry is investing tens of billions of dollars in new plastic plants.

Laura Sullivan, Frontline “Plastic Wars”

Be careful! Not everything that looks like plastic is man made. The shoreline was full of Portuguese Man-Of-War jellyfish, whose blue and purple gas-filled air sacs help them travel. They almost outnumbered the litter.

Travel Tuesday: Experience Skating on Dutch Canals

Trapped between the winter storm and high pressure to its east, South Florida stood out like a chili pepper on nationwide temperature maps Monday-a red hot poker against the cooler hues of blues and purples.

Kimberly Miller, The Palm Beach Post

Skating is back in holland

Anne’s skating video

While we are basking in beach weather, a polar vortex has dripped down on much of the United States and Europe, sending temperatures plunging. However, while others shiver indoors, the Dutch have rejoiced in the return to skating on canals.

My friend Anne, one of the dear nurses who cared for me as I recovered from a near-fatal illness in Amsterdam, wrote me to share the joy of recovering this national winter sport.

For the first time in more than 10 years we really had a winter!!! I was skating today on the canal and thought of you. I wanted you to taste a little bit of our Dutch culture. 

Anne Berkhout, OLVG nurse

Ice is not good everywhere

Anne’s klunen photo

When ice skating is your national sport, it stands to reason that the Dutch would have terms for all the related activities.

This picture of us crawling on our knees is called “klunen” in Dutch. If the ice is too weak, you have to go by foot or knee so that you don’t fall through the ice.

Anne Berkhout, OLVG nurse

But when you DO fall through the ice, you become a Twitter sensation under the hashtag “Ice is not good everywhere.”

Perhaps we’ll skate together

Maybe someday you can see this with your own eyes and skate with us!!

Anne Berkhout, OLVG nurse

My ice skates, which I wore for many winters in upstate New York, are in my Florida bedroom closet, so who knows? It’s Anne’s passion for life that I treasure. So many enthusiastic, tall, smiling people are certainly something I’d love to experience again.

However, I also hope that Anne can someday join us around our lanai fire pit under the palm trees.

Travel Tuesday: How to Pretend You’re At The Beach

Stephanie Rosenbloom of The New York Times recently wrote about how to pretend you’re in Hawaii, including watching surfing live cams and making your own shave ice.

I’m going to add a little beach experience from right here in South Florida, where, if we time it right, my husband and I can catch some rays, fresh salty air, and brain-clearing breezes without breaking pandemic protocol. Here are shots of our favorite get-away, the shoreline of Juno Beach and Jupiter.

Sending you warming spring air and color to ease the northern bleak winter!

Travel Tuesday: How to Pretend You’re in Cartagena

Carnival Corp. lost more than $10 billion last year as the pandemic swept the globe, but said this month that it would have enough cash to survive through 2021 even with no revenue.

Dee-Ann Durbin, Associated Press

My husband and I discovered cruising when we retired to South Florida, where getting to the Caribbean waters is as simple as driving an hour or so to Fort Lauderdale or Miami. However, between the pandemic and my very narrow miss of dying while crossing the Atlantic in 2019, we are unlikely to cruise again. For now, my travel blogging will be by armchair as I look back on places we visited by cruise ship.

A couple of weeks back, The New York Times helped us visit the world from our couch with books, movies, and food. Sebastian Modak wrote about Cartagena and the magic realism of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. All of which got me to looking back at 2016 stop in Cartagena — city that I’d last visited as a child when my family lived in Colombia — during a Holland America Panama Canal cruise.

Here is a photo journal from that trip. Put on your sunglasses, turn your heat on high, and come with me to these Caribbean ports of call. Enjoy!

Walls and houses from the colonial era still dominate old Cartagena

We met a man in Cartagena who was making his living by letting people hug — and be hugged by — a sloth. My husband became quite taken with this dear, and we later saw his relatives hanging out in Costa Rica.

We spent a day entering the Panama Canal, sailing halfway across the isthmus to Lake Gatún, before turning back around to exit at Colón.

We enjoyed a beautiful day in the mountains of Costa Rica at a coffee and hazelnut finca.

As is so often the case, our best memories of this trip are the people we met, including this congenial and genuine Costa Rican farmer.