You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
~ Dr. Seuss
The world opened up again in 2022. When most countries reduced and/or eliminated their COVID-era restrictions, people all over the world were out and about once again. I was one of them. By my estimation, I traveled close to 50,000 miles on planes (31,000 on planes alone), trains, boats, and cars. I get a little tired just thinking about it, but I would not change it for anything.
One thing I strive to do is learn something new each time I travel somewhere, even if I have been to a place before. . . even if I grew up in that place. . . especially if I have *never* been there before. Here are 10 things I learned from my travels in 2022.
January—New York City
I love New York. Who doesn’t, really? I hadn’t been there is more than 10 years when I went to a meeting at the Javitts Center in January 2019. On my walk to the center, I saw the Vessel (above left). Located in Hudson Yards, a former train yard on the city’s far westside, the Vessel is 16 stories high (150 feet) and has 154 flights of stairs (almost 2,500 steps), and 80 landings.
Because there have been four suicides at the Vessel, its upper levels remain closed to the public (as of this writing). You can visit the lower-level base, though.
We lived in Nashville for 14 years, and I have to say the city has changed dramatically since we originally moved to the metro area. In 2009, the population was roughly 615,000. By 2022, the population had doubled to 1,294,000.
When we first moved to Nashville, I did not like it. The more I learned about the city, though, the more I liked it. One thing that did not change was Nashville’s place in history. Most people do not realize that students from Nashville’s historically Black colleges were instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t want to tell the story here, but the nonviolent protests of students forced Nashville to desegregate…the first in the south to do so. You can read more about it here
I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and I remember studying Youngstown history in grade school. Founded by John Young in 1797, grew quickly. Discovery of coal and growth of the steel mills made Youngstown an attractive destination for European immigrants—including my grandparents. I have always loved the ethnic feel of Youngstown and admit to missing it in other places we’ve lived. It’s hard to explain to someone who did not grow up there, but while Youngstown had neighborhoods of Italians, Slovaks, Irish, Greeks, etc, the people melded together somehow to create an atmosphere I have never found anywhere else.
I want to point out, in particular, the menu from a restaurant we went to while in Ytown. Note the mix of Mexican, Italian, Greek, and other sandwiches. I especially love the fried bologna and fried peppers and eggs, sandwiches of my childhood. Those are not sandwiches you will find on menus in most cities. And, say what you will about Italian restaurants elsewhere, but Youngstown restaurants offer the best Italian food around.
Being a travel writer has its benefits, and experiencing new places and restaurants or cuisines ranks at the top. My first trip last year was to the Tri-Valley area in northern California. About 35 miles east of San Francisco, the Tri-Valley area is one of California’s oldest wine regions. There are 55 wineries in the area. Why knew?
While a bad sinus infection cut my trip short, I was able to try Burmese food for the first time. Burma! Burma! occupies a large space in a Dublin shopping center. Not the most adventurous eater, I was a bit nervous about trying Burmese food. I shouldn’t have been. Our host ordered a number of typical dishes—tea leaf salad, eggplant, samosas, curries, etc—so we could all try different dishes. I have to admit it was all pretty delicious.
May found me on another press trip, this time to York, Pennsylvania. I was undergoing physical therapy after breaking my ankle, and the therapist happened to be from the area. “Why would you take a press trip there?” he asked me. The food, dude. The food.
While the area is the “snack food capital of the world,” the beautiful York area is a foodie-lover’s paradise. Our press trip focused on food in the area, and we visited breweries, pubs, wineries, taco stands, tea rooms, markets, fine dining restaurants, creameries, and more. I can tell you this: The food was fantastic, and you can, definitely, eat too much.
There is no way I could ever share photos of everything we tried, but let these photos entice you.
July—The Rhine River
At times, Mike tires of my obsession with Italy. He says he doesn’t, but he has mentioned traveling to places other than Italy. We got a great deal on a cruise this year, so we floated from Amsterdam to Basel on a Viking ship. We had been to Amsterdam for one day some years ago, we decided to stay a couple of extra days so we could explore more.
Similar to Venice, Amsterdam sits on more than 11 million poles that hold the city up. There are about 60 miles of canals, and 1200 bridges cross them. There are more than one million bikes in the city, four times more than the number of cars. In 2020, the government spent 120 million euro on the bike infrastructure; the majority of the money went to adding 38,000 parking spaces for bikes.
Fun Fact, #1: There are parking structures just for bikes in Amsterdam.
Fun Fact #2: Depending on whose statistics you believe, city workers pull between 12,000 and 25,000 bikes from the canals annually. Moral of the story: Don’t drink and pedal.
Mike grew up in London, Ohio, a small town about 25 miles west of Columbus. Founded by Patrick McLene in 1810-11, London is home to about 10,000 residents today. The city was home to a great number of emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland, including Mike’s ancestors.
We have fun telling people that we’re driving to London and watching the confused look on their faces until they remember we’re talking about London, Ohio. So, how did it get its name? There are two theories: The first is that residents named it after London, England, since so many were from the British Isles. The second is that the London Company surveyed the land and bestowed its name upon it.
During the 2012 Summer Olympics (in London, England), Nike featured towns named “London” in an ad ambush. The one-minute London, Ohio, spot featured the town’s water tower, wrestling team, fire department, and more.
This year, I took friends to a few places that were new to me. While I’ve been to the Amalfi Coast, Naples, and Sicily before, I had not explored the south much. Historically, southern Italy has been the poorest area area of the country. Think about this for a moment: Prior to unification in 1861, there were fewer than 120 miles of railroads in the south. The northern regions, however, had about 1440, more than ten times the south. This is part of the reason the northern industrial triangle (Milan, Genova, Torino) was able to grow significantly faster than the southern cities.
All of that, of course, is no secret. What I didn’t know, however, was that in Calabria (the toe of the boot), the ‘Ndrangheta (the Calabrian Mafia) is still going strong. In existence since the late 18th century, the ‘Ndrangheta deals in everything from drug trafficking and extortion to money laundering and political influence pedaling. The ‘Ndrangheta was behind the olive oil scandal in 2016. They bottled inexpensive olive pomace oil, and labeled it, sold it, and exported it as extra virgin olive oil. You can read that story here.
This makes me so sad.
Ah, Paris. If you read me at all, you know that it is not among my favorite cities to visit. I do like the city, don’t get me wrong. But, I put it in the same category as Rome, Florence, and Venice: Large. Crowded. Noisy. Over-run with tourists. Overly expensive. We ended up going there at the end of our Italian adventure because we wanted to avoid going through JFK on our way home. Seriously. Even adding in the train fare from Milano to Paris, it was cheaper than flying home from Milan or Rome. Best of all, we were able to fly from Paris to Miami and Miami to Tampa, thus avoiding the hell-hole we know as JFK.
But, back to what I discovered while in Paris this trip…. My favorite part of Paris is the cafe life, and there is no shortage of cafes in the city. Paris is home to more than 7000 cafes today, although at its height, there were 45,000.
By the way, there are almost 124,000 bars in Italy.
2023 has so much in store for all of us. I can’t wait for my adventures to begin.
Happy 2023, we will travel with you again soon, God willing! Ciao!
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