H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 55: the house that Thomas Jefferson built

Cheers on a Sunday afternoon. Just 3 days now until I leave for Rome, the latest stop on my World Karaoke Tour! But first things first; I have this week’s featured photo to share with you.

Today’s image comes from Charlottesville, Virginia, a town about 116 miles southwest of Washington, DC. Charlottesville is best known for being the home of the University of Virginia (UVA), which was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson — the third President of the United States, and a great polymath. Also in Charlottesville, Jefferson built a remarkable house, which he called Monticello. (Technically, the Monticello name, which means “little hill” in Italian,” refers to the entire 5,000 acre plantation on which the house originally stood. Today, the property includes 2,500 or so of the original acres)

Typical of Jefferson’s genius, he was self-taught in architecture, and he modeled the design of his home after drawings by the great Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio. (In turn, Palladio had been heavily influenced by the architecture of ancient Rome, and the design of Monticello is considered a superb example of the Classical Revival style.) Monticello was completed in 1809, after 40 years of planning and construction. Here’s what the end result looks like:

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This photo was taken during my visit to Charlottesville in June 2008. As you can see, the property has been exceptionally well maintained and preserved by the private foundation that runs it. Monticello, together with the nearby UVA campus, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. By the way, you can also take a tour of the house’s interior.

Do you like visiting historic homes?

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A golden temple and a remembrance of spilt blood in Amritsar, India

IMG_20140325_160016_965_1No one seems to know quite how many temples there are in India, but an accurate count would surely reveal numbers running into the thousands. However, it’s difficult for me to imagine that any of those religious houses could be any more beautiful than the main pavilion of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. I was there during my trip to India that took place from March to April of this year. (Earlier during the same trip, India became the 33rd country on my World Karaoke Tour when I sang in New Delhi.)

A city of about 1.1 million people (ranking 34th in population among India’s cities, per the 2011 census), Amritsar is situated in the Punjab state in northwestern India. Its airport makes it very accessible; I flew there round-trip from New Delhi, a journey with a flying time of about one hour (and my return flight from Amritsar to New Delhi on Air India was my first time flying on a Boeing 787. It was a beautiful and comfortable plane.) Like most of the rest of India, Amritsar is also easily reached via passenger rail service.

The main purpose for my inclusion of Amritsar on my itinerary was my desire to see the Golden Temple, although while in town I also visited a non-religious site of historical significance, as you’ll see. In addition, I’ll tell you about a unique day-trip opportunity from Amritsar. Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 54: a Dutch windmill

Greetings on this Sunday afternoon. This evening I’ll be attending a meetup here in New York City in which attendees will tell stories about their travel adventures. But I also like reliving my travels here at H-Bomb’s World Wide Karaoke! With that in mind, it’s time for another picture drawn from one of my previous trips.

This week’s featured image comes from the Netherlands. Before I visited Amsterdam, one of my top goals was to see a traditional Dutch windmill. I accomplished that during a day trip that took me to Zaanse Schans, a village in North Holland that abounds with windmills and traditional workshops. While my tour group was being subjected to a boring demonstration at a wooden shoe factory, I slipped away to get more photos of windmills, including the one that you can see here:

windmill

This photo was taken during my visit to the Netherlands that took place from August to September, 2004. To get this shot, I had to overcome my fear of heights and climb a nearly vertical ladder to the loft in an adjacent windmill.

Has a photo opportunity ever motivated you to overcome your fears?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 53: the colourful skyline of Hong Kong

Namaste! Are you following this blog’s Facebook’s page yet? If not, you can just go here and click on the “like” button! That way, in addition to being apprised of new posts and other developments here at H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke, you’ll see unique content such as photos from my travels that only appear on that Facebook page! Right now, the page has slightly more than 1,600 likes. Can you help me get to 2000?

Okay, with that out of the way, it’s time for a new featured image! Our photograph of the week comes from Hong Kong, which I named to the “Honourable Mention” list in my recent article about the cities I would most like to return to. Every night, the skyscrapers of Hong Kong’s business district present a sound and light show called “A Symphony of Lights” in which they’re illuminated in ever-changing colours, while searchlights and laser beams dance in the sky — with the whole thing synchronised to music. Here’s a snapshot in time from that sound and light show, looking across Victoria Harbour from the waterfront promenade on the Kowloon Peninsula — and as you can see, the buildings were looking particularly festive for the holidays when I went because I was there immediately after Christmas.

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And as a bonus, here’s a video that I took of the Symphony of Lights show, so that you can see and hear what I experienced!


The photo and video footage aboe were taken during my trip to Hong Kong that took place from December 2009 to January 2010. During that trip, China (of which Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region) became the 15th country on my World Karaoke Tour.

Do you like watching sound and light shows when you travel?

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L.A. story, part 2: cities of the dead in the City of Angels

P1040854A common pastime for tourists in Los Angeles is to drive past the homes of celebrities. One of my cherished activities during my own trips to L.A.. has involvedĀ a twist on that concept: visiting the current residencesĀ of people who are rich, famous — and dead. As you might expect given the association of the city with show business, several area cemeteries include large concentrations of former stars from the entertainment field. I’ve been to two of those cemeteries so far: Forest Lawn, which is located in the town of Glendale; and Hollywood Forever, which as its name implies is situated in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles.

This post is a sequel of sorts to my article from December 2012 about offbeat attractions that I found in Los Angeles. Below, in part 2 of the series, I recount my excursions to a pair of the L.A. area’s “cemeteries to the stars.” As those visits took place in 2012 and 2013, it has obviously taken me a while to get around to writing about them. However, be warned: death waits for no man. Continue reading

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Places that captured my heart: the top 5 cities that I long to return to

8079727_mWhen I venture forth from my home base of New York City, I tend to prioritize visiting destinations that I’ve never been to before. It’s my goal to explore as many different places on the planet as I can (and, along the way, to sing karaoke wherever in the world I can find it). If I had my druthers, I would travel as often as possible to the spots that I most enjoyed in the past, while constantly adding new locales to my itinerary. Due to time constraints, however, first-time destinations tend to win out when I’m planning my next holiday. There are few overseas cities that I end up getting to more than once. But some metropolises have made such an impression on me that I’m fervently hoping to find a way to spend more time in them. This post is about the five global cities that I would most like to return to.

Note that in compiling this list, my focus was on international travel, and accordingly I only considered cities outside my native United States. I’m certainly always up for going back to American locations such as San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Chicago, Miami Beach, and Seattle; but that’s a discussion for another day.

This post was written in response to a challenge by Arnab of the blog Travel Andy. Anyway, here are my top 5!
Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 52: a mural of Mandela in Belfast

Hello on a cold Sunday in New York. Today was this city’s annual marathon. I don’t participate in those races myself; running 26.2 miles is far beyond my capabilities. But as I traditionally do, I cheered on some of the runners from the sidelines. (The marathon’s course runs along First Avenue in the Upper East Side, the neighbourhood where I live.)

Now that I’m safely inside my warm apartment, it’s time for a new photo of the week! This week’s featured image comes from Belfast, Northern Ireland. In Belfast, which until recently was riven by strife, a “Wall of Injustice” contains murals depicting various perceived injustices around the world. One section of that wall includes a mural showing the great Nelson Mandela, the first South African President after the crumbling of that country’s apartheid regime.

Mandela mural

The text on the mural quotes Mandela as saying, “In my country we go to prison first and then become President.” (Of course Mandela was imprisoned for over 27 years, including nearly 18 years served on his country’s notorious Robben Island, prior to being elected President in 1994.)

This photo was taken during my visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland that took place from December 2013 to January 2014. Now that peace has finally come to Northern Ireland, Belfast is newly ascendant as a tourist destination.

Would you be interested to visit Belfast?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 51: a river view in Prague

Greetings on another fine Sunday. So, last weekend I was supposed to be auditioning for the American quiz show “Jeopardy!”; but on the night before the tryout, after having already arrived at the hotel in Pennsylvania where it was to take place, I came down with a stomach flu (medically described as a norovirus). That type of ailment is never a pleasant thing to experience, but in this case the timing was particularly subpar. :) Given how I was feeling as well as my desire not to expose others, I had no choice but to postpone my audition. The staff of the show was understanding; a producer told me that I’ll be rescheduled for another audition slot as soon as possible, probably within the next few months. So I’ll still get my shot soon enough!

In the meantime, there’s lots to do. For example, it’s now time for another photo of the week! This week’s featured image comes from Prague, Czech Republic. It’s a view across the Vltava River that bisects the city, looking towards Prague Castle and St. Vitus’s Cathedral. The view is from the city’s Old Town district, just north of the famous Charles Bridge.

Sunday on the Vltava

This picture was taken during my visit to the Czech Republic in June 2006. Sadly, the Czech Republic is one of only four countries that I’ve been to without singing karaoke (as opposed to being one of the 35 countries in which I have managed to sing). So I’m just going to have to make it back there sometime!

Would you like to be riding one of the pedal boats in this picture?

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Country no. 35 on my World Karaoke Tour: singing in the Dominican Republic’s oldest karaoke bar

dominican_flagFrom swashbuckling pirates to beaches gleaming with white sand, the Caribbean is replete with both dramatic history and natural beauty. Yet until this year, my world travels had never taken me anywhere in that 1 million square mile region. For shame! Finally, during Memorial Day weekend in 2014, I made my long-overdue first foray to a Caribbean destination: Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. And it was there that the country often abbreviated to “DR” became the most recent addition to my World Karaoke Tour.

Getting to the DR proved a more arduous journey than expected for a trip that only involved a four-hour flight. My departure out of JFK International Airport on Friday night, May 23 was delayed — first due to thunderstorms passing through the New York City area, and then due to the need to wait for the pilots of my aircraft to arrive at the airport. You see, due to the initial weather-related delay, the crew that had originally been assigned to my flight would have exceeded the FAA’s permissible limit of working hours for one day if they had gone ahead and piloted the plane. So my fellow passengers and I from JetBlue Flight 810 had to wait for a new captain and first officer to make their way to JFK. As a result, my flight, originally scheduled to depart at 9:00 pm, didn’t end up pushing back from the gate until close to midnight. We landed in Santo Domingo at about 4:00 a.m., and I finally got checked in to my hotel at about 5:30 a.m.

Of course, the important thing was that now I had arrived; and the next night I would be able to do some karaoke!

Karaoke: chanting in Kantabar

The venue for my Dominican singing debut was a tavern called Kantabar. Run by the husband-and-wife team of Steven (who owns it) and Anais (who manages it), Kantabar was the very first karaoke venue in the Dominican Republic. It’s been in operation for some 20 years now. Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 50: a waterfront plaza in Venice

I hope you are having a fine weekend, wherever you’re reading this from. My latest news: I’m just a few days away from putting a deposit down for a trip to North Korea! I know it’s a controversial destination, but it promises to be a very interesting tour. In the meantime, I have a new picture of the week to share with you. This week’s featured image comes from the incomparable Italian city of Venice. It shows a plaza called the Piazzetta San Marco.

Bella Venezia

On the left side of the frame is the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace); on the right is the Libreria Sansonvino (a building erected in the 16th century as the state library, which the great Renaissance architect Palladio once described as the richest and most ornate building ever constructed). Dead ahead are the famed columns of San Marco and San Teodoro; and in the background is the Lagoon, with the island of San Giorgio Maggiore partially visible across the water on the left.

This photo was taken from the balcony atop Basilica San Marco. It was taken during my visit to Italy in August 2004. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 10 years now. I really need to get back!

Have you been to Venice? If you’ve been there, do you miss it?

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H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 49: an elegant arch on the Mississippi

Happy Sunday! Last night I applied online for a Cambodian entry visa. I’m now just three months away from visiting Angkor Wat!

Today’s featured image, which comes from St. Louis, Missouri, is of a landmark that’s much more modern than a 12th-century temple complex. St. Louis’s iconic structure is the Gateway Arch, the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Completed in 1965 and rising from the west bank of the Mississippi River, this stainless steel-clad arch was conceived by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. Although it was controversial when chosen as the winning entry in a design competition, in my opinion the shape of this monument (mathematically described as a catenary curve) has proven to be graceful and timeless. Here’s a view of the Gateway Arch, together with the downtown St. Louis skyline, as seen from across the mighty Mississippi.

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This photo was taken during my visit to St. Louis in July 2014. By the way, you can go to an observation desk at the top of the 630-foot-high arch. That’s an experience in itself, as it involves riding a special elevator system that was ingeniously engineered to ascend in a curve.

Do you like the appearance of the Gateway Arch?

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Country no. 33 on my World Karaoke Tour: sinking my teeth into India

hbomb in delhiTwo days before I flew to India, I had a wisdom tooth removed in New York City. That emergency dental procedure was obviously unanticipated during the time, months earlier, when I was making the travel arrangements for my 2 1/2 week trip to India and Sri Lanka. When I arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport in the Indian capital of New Delhi, I was still suffering intermittent mouth pain (and the soreness would continue to crop up periodically for the rest of the trip). Because I was recovering from oral surgery, and because there are certain precautions that any traveller to India is advised to take, I was carrying a small pharmacy around in my daypack: painkillers; an antibiotic to protect against the risk of infection; anti-malaria pills that my travel doctor had prescribed for me; and Cipro, another antibiotic that I would take if I were to contract the intestinal ailment that’s affectionately known as “Delhi Belly.” (Spoiler alert: I did indeed succumb to Delhi Belly before the trip was over.) But the presence of an open wound in my mouth didn’t prevent me from singing karaoke at my earliest opportunity after landing in a new country! Additionally, one of my trademarks when travelling is to seek out quirky museums; and I found a suitably offbeat one in Delhi.

(A note for my fellow geography geeks: Before I knew any better, I used the terms “New Delhi” and “Delhi” interchangeably. That usage was in error. New Delhi is actually a section of the much larger megalopolis of Delhi. New Delhi’s population is a mere 300,000, give or take, while the complete expanse of Delhi (which is also known as the National Capital Territory of India) harbors nearly 18 million residents at last count. However, New Delhi alone is the capital of the nation and contains all of the governmental institutions. Both the karaoke bar and the museum that are discussed below are located in New Delhi.)

Karaoke: Bringing the sounds of Billy Joel to India

My Indian karaoke debut took place at a joint called Harry’s Karaoke Lounge Bar. Harry’s is on an upper level of a sprawling shopping mall, and while the rest of the mall was deserted on a Sunday night, Harry’s was hopping. Continue reading

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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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