H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 48: French colonial architecture in Panama City

Hello everyone! Less than three weeks from today, I will be auditioning for the television quiz show “Jeopardy!” That audition will take place in central Pennsylvania. However, today’s featured image comes from a place that’s much more distant from my home base of New York; it takes us to Panama City, Panama.

In that capital city’s historic district known as the casco viejo (old city), you’ll find some French colonial architecture. Yes, I said French, not Spanish. :) It’s a legacy of the era in the 19th century when France had undertaken to build what eventually became the Panama Canal. (The French ultimately pulled out of the project, and construction of the canal was taken over by the United States under the energetic leadership of President Theodore Roosevelt.)

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With details such as wrought-iron balconies, these buildings are more than a little reminiscent of New Orleans’s French Quarter. This photo was taken during my visit to Peru and Panama in November and December, 2013. By the way, Panama City was also the location where I had my all-time greatest karaoke experience!

Do you like European colonial architecture?

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You can go home again: Revisiting my early childhood in Cleveland

10356504_mThe distance between New York City and Cleveland, Ohio is a mere 405 miles, as the crow flies. But when I journeyed between those two cities last month, I traversed more than the space between them on the map. I also went back in time.

In July 1973, when I was three years old, my family moved from Champaign, Illinois to University Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. There we remained for approximately two and one-half years. In January 1976, about two months shy of my sixth birthday, we relocated to New Jersey. I would grow up in the New Jersey town of West Orange (graduating from West Orange High School), and would attend university and law school in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC, respectively. Then I would settle in New York City, where I’ve resided ever since. For over 38 and one-half years after my family left Cleveland, I didn’t return there.

On a weekend in August 2014, I finally made it back to “the Cleve.” Before that weekend was out, not only would I have a fun time exploring the city; but I would make it to my childhood home in University Heights! Needless to say, karaoke would be involved in the festivities as well. :) Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 47: a temple carved into a cave in India

Hello on the last full day of summer in the northern hemisphere! This week’s featured image comes from India. From the city of Mumbai you can take a ferry to Elephanta Island. That island’s big attraction is a series of five temples that are chiseled into caves. Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, the rock carvings date back well over one thousand years. The caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here’s a glimpse inside one of them:

cave temple in Elephanta

Despite the name of the island on which these temples are found, there are no elephants; but as with seemingly every other temple site that I visited in India, I saw abundant cows, goats, monkeys, and dogs hanging out on the island.

This photo was taken during my trip to India and Sri Lanka in March and April, 2014.

Would you like to explore these caves?

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Karaoke in Ireland: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

Me with Jimmy JoyceAlthough I’ve sung karaoke in 35 countries as of this writing, there’s a handful of nations that I’ve visited without singing while inside their borders. Perhaps the most surprising place to end up on that short list is Ireland. I mean, it’s a fun country, right? Not to mention that it’s a land with a rich musical heritage. But that musical tradition doesn’t yet seem to have translated into abundance of karaoke — at least in the capital city of Dublin, which is the only Irish locale that I’ve visited to date. Although I’ve now been to Dublin on two separate occasions — most recently, at the start of 2014 — I have yet to sing into a microphone on Irish soil. Many of my posts on this blog concern the circumstances of how particular countries were added to my World Karaoke Tour; however, this article will recount how Ireland failed to become a part of the tour.

Visit no. 1: the early ’90s

Over 20 years ago, Ireland became the third foreign country in which I ever set foot (after the United Kingdom and Canada). That trip occurred between late December 1991 and January 1992, as I rang in the New Year in Dublin. Two indications of just how long ago we’re talking about: I hadn’t yet even entered law school, and Bill Clinton had yet to be become President of the United States. (My enrollment in Georgetown Law, and Clinton’s first Presidential election victory, would both occur during the ensuing twelve months.)

Back then, karaoke wasn’t really a thing yet in most parts of the world outside of East Asia. I myself had just taken up karaoke singing during the preceding year while living in New Jersey; and my aspirations to go global with my new avocation lay many years in the future. Looking back from 2014, I have no idea whether any karaoke venues even existed in Ireland in the early 1990s; but in any event, I made no attempt to search for any during my initial visit to that country. Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 46: a space shuttle in Los Angeles

As I write this, I’m on a plane from Cancun to Chicago, on my way back to New York. I just spent the weekend at TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange), an amazing conference where travel bloggers connect with the travel industry and with each other. But that long weekend in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula was only one of several fun journeys I’ve been on in recent months. For example, a couple of weekends earlier, I made my seventh visit to Los Angeles.

A highlight of this particular trip to Southern California was seeing the Space Shuttle Endeavour. One of three surviving space shuttles that have flown into space, it is now on display at the California Science Center:

endeavour

The other space shuttles (Discovery and Atlantis) are on display in Chantilly, Virginia and Cape Canaveral, Florida, respectively. In addition, the Space Shuttle Enterprise, a prototype that did not actually slip the surly bonds of Earth’s atmosphere, can be visited in New York City. I previously checked out the Enterprise in August 2012.

Would you like to go into outer space?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 45: the monkey temple in India

Hello, yeah, it’s been a while! At the beginning of this week I got back from my epic trip to India and Sri Lanka. And this week’s featured image comes from that journey. Just outside the Indian city of Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan, there’s a temple complex known as Galtaji. Dramatically situated in a mountain pass, the site is commonly referred to as the “Monkey Temple” (Galwar Bagh in Hindi). The reason for that sobriquet has to do with the hundreds of rhesus macaques that run around on the temple grounds. A couple of those resident simians can be seen here:

monkey temple

This photo was taken in March 2014. Incidentally, monkeys are not the only form of wildlife that abounds at Galtaji. Plenty of cows, goats, pigs, and dogs also roam the sacred precincts. (I found monkeys, cows, and stray dogs to be pretty ubiquitous in the parts of India that I visited, even in urban downtowns.) But it’s the monkeys that were especially adorable.

Have you been to, or would you like to visit, India?

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 44: the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Hong Kong

Happy Friday, and happy Pi Day! I leave for India just one week from tonight! Anyhoo, our featured image this week comes from Hong Kong, and a Buddhist temple called the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (also known as Man Fat Tsz). Despite its name, the temple is not an actual monastery as no monks reside on the premises. On the grounds of the temple you can find a total of 12,800 statues of Buddha in various styles, sizes, colours, and poses. Some of the statues stand outdoors, while others are installed in various temples, halls, and pavilions. Here are just a few dozen of the statues that you can gaze upon at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery:

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One of the highlights of a visit to this place is the walk that you take to get from the entrance to the buildings of the monastery: an uphill stroll along a winding path lined with golden Buddhas. Continue reading

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Exploring the fascinating home of the Explorers Club

The urban jungle of New York City may be the last place that you’d associate with exploration and adventure. But on Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side, you’ll find the international headquarters of the Explorers Club. Since the club’s founding in 1904, its members have included some of the most distinguished voyagers and scientists on the planet; and the club’s townhouse is a celebration of their derring-do as well as their dedication to the advancement of human knowledge. In October 2013 I was privileged to attend an event at the historic townhouse.

What is the Explorers Club?

Members of the Explorers Club (EC) are at the cutting edge of making new discoveries about not only our world, but the universe. According to the club’s website, the EC boasts 30 chapters worldwide and draws members from a total of 60 countries. (It’s been reported that worldwide membership numbers approximately 3,000 hardy souls.) Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 43: magnificent columns in an Egyptian temple

I hope you’re all having a great Friday. Earlier this week I celebrated my birthday, and I’m looking forward to another year filled with adventure!

This week’s featured image comes from a country that’s synonymous with adventure: Egypt. Specifically, it’s a photograph taken at the Temple of Hathor — a Greco-Roman temple complex in Dendera. The portion of that temple known as the Large Hypostyle Hall contains columns that are approximately 50 feet high:

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Although parts of the temple date back to the third century B.C., the Large Hypostyle Hall was added during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who ruled from 14 A.D. to 37 A.D. (It’s believed that earlier temples also dedicated to Hathor were built on the same site as early as 4,000 years ago.) Hathor was a deity worshipped by the ancient Egyptians who was typically depicted with bovine features. She was the goddess of love, joy, and motherhood.

This photo was taken during my trip to Egypt in September 2012. Dendera, the location of the temple, is about 50 miles from Luxor.

Are you awed by grand structures like this that were built thousands of years ago?

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 42: a Russian palace to rival Versailles

Hello everyone, and another happy Friday to you! This weekend I’ll be attending the New York Times Travel Show right here in New York City. I’m excited to learn more about potential future destinations for my World Karaoke Tour, and to reconnect with some of my favourite people from the travel world!

While I look forward to the travel show and related festivities, it’s time for me to share with you a photograph from travels gone by. Today’s featured image comes from the Russian Federation. Peterhof Palace is a spectacular complex of palaces and gardens on the Gulf of Finland, 19 miles from St. Petersburg. This is what its main building looks like:

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof was laid out in the 18th century by Peter the Great, who used it as his summer home. In its opulence it’s been compared to the great French palace at Versailles. An easy day-trip from St. Petersburg, Peterhof can be reached from that city via a 40-minute hydrofoil ride down the Neva River. The reason everyone’s back is to the camera in this image is that the folks in attendance were all watching a show marking what the palace’s website described as the “celebration of opening fountains.” (In front of the main palace is a cascading series of fountains.) That celebration included fireworks and martial music. When I set out for Peterhof on the day of my visit, I had no idea that such an event would be taking place; it was really nice to stumble into it and experience such a festive atmosphere.

This photo was taken during my trip to Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova in May 2013.

Do you enjoy visiting grand palaces like this one?

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Touring the Panama Canal

This year marks the centennial of the Panama Canal. With its opening in 1914, seagoing transit between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was radically transformed. Before “the trench” was dug, ships seeking to cross the Americas needed to circumnavigate South America — a time-consuming journey of 8,000 or so miles that included the rounding of that continent at the treacherous Cape Horn. The canal, however, is just 48.2 miles long and can be traversed in complete safety in 10 hours or less. It was a stupendous achievement, and in 1994 the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized it as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. (The other works named to that list include the Channel Tunnel; the CN Tower; the Empire State Building; the Golden Gate Bridge; the Itaipu Dam; and the Netherlands North Sea Protection Work.) In November 2013, I experienced this modern wonder firsthand. Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, Week 41: a Mediterranean villa in Miami

Happy Friday! This week I obtained my Electronic Travel Authorization for Sri Lanka, which will officially permit me to enter that country during my planned visit to India and Sri Lanka this spring. I’m still working on obtaining my entry visa for India; the application process for that document is much more complicated.

Our featured image this week comes from a city much closer to home for me: Miami, Florida. In Miami you can find a remarkable Mediterranean Revival villa that was built in the early 20th century. It’s called Vizcaya Villa.

The villa at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

The house was built for James Deering, a wealthy industrialist. It was actually used as his winter residence; he already had homes in New York, Chicago, and Paris. Inside are numerous furnishings imported from Europe, some of which were centuries old when acquired. Today the villa is part of a complex called Vizcaya Museum & Gardens that offers public tours. In addition to the house itself, the estate includes some elaborate formal gardens that are also well worth checking out.

This photo was taken during my visit to Miami and Miami Beach last weekend.

Would you like to have a winter home like this?

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Country no. 32: a man, a plan, a karaoke bar in Panama

My singing appearance on a Friday night in Panama City was probably my most enjoyable evening in the history of my World Karaoke Tour. Yes, it may even have surpassed the amazing times I’ve had behind the microphone in such cities as Paris and Frankfurt. :) Here’s how it went down:

I’d flown from New York to Peru on Copa Airlines, the flag carrier of Panama, and in fact had a layover in Panama City’s airport when I initially flew to Lima. For the return leg of my trip, I’d decided that rather than just change planes in Panama again, I would take advantage of the opportunity to spend a weekend in Panama City. Among other things, I was eager to take a boat ride on the Panama Canal, one of the engineering marvels of modern times.

Another consideration, of course, was that a multi-day stay would make make it possible for me to do some singing while on Panamanian soil. :) Peru had just become the 31st country in which I’ve sung, and now it was time to increase the total to 32! I didn’t waste any time taking care of business; on my very first night in Panama, I went to a karaoke bar called The Green Room in Panama City. Continue reading

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Country no. 31 on my World Karaoke Tour: doing it my way in Peru

During some recent overseas appearances on my World Karaoke Tour, I’ve tried to perform songs that relate, in some way, to the country in which I find myself. For example, who can forget that time I sang “Walk Like an Egyptian” in Cairo? Or my decision to include “Back in the U.S.S.R.” on my setlist in Moscow? Conversely, although more than 20 years have passed since I sang in Vienna, I still regret passing up the chance to sing “Edelweiss” in that Austrian capital. Giving a shout-out to my host country is a unique opportunity that I like to take advantage of when I’m “on tour.”

When I visited Peru in November 2013, I took a slightly different approach. Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 40: a llama at Machu Picchu

Happy Black Friday! I just checked in to my hotel in Panama City. Tonight I aim to find a place to sing karaoke in this town, and tomorrow I will tour the Panama Canal. But before I get to those things, I would like to share with you an image from earlier in this trip, when I was in Peru. One of the highlights of my Peruvian journey was my visit to Machu Picchu, a 15th-century Incan city that was carved into hilly terrain in the jungle. After the Spaniards conquered the Incas, the city was abandoned, and became lost to the world until it was discovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911.

When you go to Machu Picchu, it’s common to see llamas; along with their close relative the alpaca, llamas are iconic animals in Peru. Here’s a llama that definitely wanted me to document her while I was photographing the ruins below her:

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This photo was taken just a few days ago. Have a great weekend everyone!

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