All Packed Up And Nowhere To Go, Or, What if the Hokey Pokey IS what it’s all about?

Photos by Jan Behmer Text by Steve VandeGriek Copyright April 1, 2021

Plans evanesce.

Late October, 2019. We were packing to go to France for a month, in part so Janet could tour the early Christmas markets. Then she fell and broke her shoulder. End of that plan. We unpacked.

Spring, 2020. A good surgeon and a lot of rehab later, she was ready to try another venture. Spain for Semana Santa. It was still the good old days when “If We Were Going” was entirely up to us. We began packing. Then the virus boomed into being and scotched everything. We unpacked again.

Summer, 2021. We’re pandemically still not going anywhere. So we’re planning a trip to somewhere we’re not going anyway, and packing accordingly.

Picasso said that art is the elimination of the unnecessary. So it is with the art of packing. The art becomes the art of unpacking. Nothing is going, so everything goes. You put your passport in, you put your passport out, you put your passport in and you shake it all about. You do the – anyway.

Erma Bombeck’s first commandment on this subject – “Thou shalt not travel with anything that thou cannot carry at a dead run for half a mile and store under thy seat.”* is a bit Spartan, but worth entertaining with a grain of salt.

Packing to fly to a place you’re not flying to doesn’t require much restraint, or even much specificity. My wife is reveling in shoes. And best of all, there are no TSA worries. Carry on all the liquids you want. I’m carrying on my nail clippers. This pandemic nonpacking packing can be liberating. Takes you all the way back to the pre-9/11 travel of yesteryear.

Prior to convincing Janet to pack light. She had her xxxxxxx knitting in one of those bags.

I’ve always been a fierce advocate of the art of packing light for flight – carry ons only. It’s a hard habit to break, but what the hell, maybe I’ll get into that shoe thing, too. Huaraches for the Mexican coast. Mukluks to hike the Arctic. Uggs chukkas to roam the streets of Bratislava. We may be virtually gone awhile.

Over the decades we had a long locational wish list. Some we got to, some we didn’t. In recent years we’ve had to necessarily whittle down the remaining list to a short one. It’s even shorter now. And it contains a few favorites we’d like to go back to. For the moment we can return to those and more in pictures we’ve taken and stored. Packing accordingly. Shod in slippers.

* Chapter One, “When you look like your passport photo, it’s time to go home.” (Also worth a thought.)

Loire Valley, Side Trip from Paris Honeymoon. Just getting started together.

…A SECOND GO.

Fritschi Fountain, Lucerne

Lucerne
The Dying Lion – Lucerne

Milan Cathedral

Countryside seen from the train – Milan to Lugano
On the train from Milan Back to Lugano with a new Italian haircut

St. Peter Cathedral with Merry-Go-Round! Geneva

Gondola up Mont Blanc
Looking down on Chamonix from Mont Blanc.

Barcelona
Barcelona
Peniscula

Nice breeze off the Mediterranean.

Ever Since

AUSTRIA

Austria, from a room with a view.

Salzburger Dom

A rare block in Salzburg without a Mozart reference.
The Court Church in Innsbuck
Mutters. Step out your back door and hop on the train.
Linz, Austria, where Hitler spent much of his youth. He’s been replaced by some spectacular Wienerschnitzel.

Lake Wolfgangsee
Sankt Wolfgang on Lake Wolfgangsee
Golden Ball Sculpture – Kapitelplatz, Salzburg
Glass Art in Freistadt
We thought about it.
Where to Next?
Nothing to Wine About

SCOTLAND

Guarding Edinburgh.
Churchyard in Dunkeld
Sunday Roast
Run aground in Anstruther.
Edinburgh at Twilight
Miserable spot.
Dunkeld High Street, Hotel on the right….
The River Tay behind the Hotel
Depends on your definition. The birds like it.
The Campbell Sisters – Royal Academy of Art
On the Road Again
Of Course, People Do Go Both Ways

                     

                         

                         

BELGIUM

Christmas in Brussels.
An aforementioned Christmas market.
Bruges
Christmas Eve in Bruges
Brussels in the Night Lights
Gluwein and Tartiflette – Breakfast of Champions
It’s Good to Be the King
And Then One Foggy Christmas Eve…
Brussels

PORTUGAL

Lisbon’s Bairro Alto with a Long View
Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jog
Faro in the Algarve
The World Cup was Everywhere. Obrigado.
It’s a party. Faro
Lisbon’s Castle of St. George at sunset, just before a million bats swarm up out of it.
Hieronimas Van Aken Bosch – Tentacoes de Santo Antao
Henry the Navigator in Belem
Bridge Designed by Eiffel over the River Minho from Tui in Spain (below left) to Valenca do Minho in Portugal (below right)
Museu da Marioneta
Celebrating St. Anthony’s Day
River Tagus
Fly Away, Stupid Birds
Our Cozy Room in Estremoz
The Western Hilltop Towns Look East and Guard the Spanish Frontier.

Santa Justa Lift Going Up to the Carmo Convent

CZECH REPUBLIC

Prague
Pilsner over Prague
Outside the Marionette Museum in Prague. I’m the third one from the right.
The Puppet Meister and his creations, Punch and Ju,-er, Janet.
Cruise on the River Vlatava
Venison at the Deer Hotel
Huh?
Thereisenstadt
In Remembrance
You’ve gotta get up pretty early in the morning to see it like this.
Old Town Square

SPAIN

Seville Cathedral
Spyglass view of Segovia

Pre-Pot…..
… and Post-Pot
Real street art in Madrid, yeah, yeah, yeah

Ronda. Oldest bull ring in Spain. Before the bull entered.
And after.
Where’s the Beef?
Toledo
Rascafaria, Former Convent, Now a Hotel (They Should Get a Room)….
…In the Guadarrama Mountains
At work in Madrid on casual Friday.
Not us, but we’re close.
I can’t find Basil anywhere.
This little piggy went to market, and got invited to star at Botin in Madrid, said to be the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world. He wishes he’d gone wee wee all the way home.
Religious Procession in Seville
The tombs below the Monasterio de Leyre
At the Prado
Catedral de Leon
Puerto del Sol, Madrid
The small town of Zafra, east of the Portuguese border, maintains a strong Moorish vibe.
Olite
Ancient Key Hole with a view of a carved door in Sos de los Reyes Catolicos
Catedral de Siguenza
Estremadura – Rustic, Eerie and altogether Magical
Jamon y Aceitunas
Festival Day in Leon – Trad y Mod
And Further South, Vestidos de Flamenco in Sevilla
Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Playing Twister with a twist in Santiago de Compostela
Who the hell ARE those young folks? Must be something in the Spanish agua.
Autumn vines.

ENGLAND

One of London’s Many Parks in Spring.
Wordsworth’s Village…
…In the Lake District
Fish and chips feast.
York
On The London Eye…..
…..And the View
York. Found Another One.
Janet is a compulsive wedding crasher.
Who’s guarding who?
Down the Pub
Wolsingham
Diana’s Garden
Queen’s Horse Guards

Graveyard at Church of St. Mary and St. Steven
Evensong in Durham Cathedral

MEXICO

Zacatecas
Hacienda Soltepec
Hotel Courtyard in Tlaxcala
Santa Oso Guarding the Plaza in Huamantla
Museu Nacional del Titere, Huamantla
Catedral de Taxco
Funeral Procession from Catedral to Cemetery
Into the sunset with Columbus in Puerto Vallarta
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel
……. but a good cigar is a smoke. Blame Kipling.
String band in Mexico.
Chiles en Nogada
Mueso Mural de Diego Rivera – Mexico City
International Dance Festival in Zacatecas
Chips!
Sitting in with the band. Puerto Vallarta
Candelaria en Oaxaca
Puppet Wolves Fight in Mexico City
Adding insult to injury.
Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City
Rafael Coronel Self-Portrait – Zacatecas
Mariachis in San Miguel de Allende
Social Protest in Mexico City’s Zocalo
Zacatecas
El Popo Erupting
Wedding Day in Huamantla
Cecina
Robert Brady Muesum – Cuernavaca
Hotel La Casa Azul
Looking for Work in the Zocalo
Quinceanera
Fok Art Museum , Mexico City
Cholula
Puebla
Queretaro
Piggy Bank Vendor on Break
Icon Shop Window, Queretaro
Muchisimos Sombreros
Beaming Bride
Seis Moles
The Lost Ones
Taxco
Street Performer
Christmas Breads for Three Kings’ Day

FRANCE

Wine on the Vine
Sacre Coeur, Monmartre
Giddyup.
At the Louvre. That damn Pyramid throws everything out of whack.
Ducking a downpour in Paris in my ruby slippers.
Honfleur
L’Eglise de St. Eustache, Paris
At a different time of year this field of lavender inspires purple prose.
Dawn in Auxerre
Dawn in St. Chinian
Christmas in Colmar, Alsace
Olympic training in Alsace.
Laigne at the end of December
Jet Lag Dejeuner
Sunday Morning at the Bastille Market
Don’t Ask.
Pantheon
The Lady and the Unicorn at the Musee de Cluny
We never pass up a carousel, no matter how small the horses, even if they seem to be groaning, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
La Campagne
The spire before the fire.

CODA

Now click your heels together three times and say, “There’s no place like home”. You eventually realize this – after a long trip, or a long lifetime of trips. Even after a long journey through decades of photographic souvenirs – some of them so pre-digital that they’ve acquired a time induced sepia cast. As have we.

Re-tripping through thousands of travel photos, we were re-apprised of certain evolved themes and recurrences.

Carousels

We don’t even remember the genesis of this compulsion, but we never do not give in to it.

Vast French Sunflower Fields

‘Nuff said.

Puppets

From just cute to representational to Elm Street eerie.

Driving through the Spanish countryside

It can change spectacularly every fifty miles. And eventually a parador will appear. And goats.

Medievalism

Oozed from somewhere into our DNA.

Museums

Pride of place. The gamut from hole in the wall niche kitsch to the inimitable D’Orsay and the Prado.

Paris

Janet’s favorite dot on the planet. Repeated repeatedly. I have generally loved it, too, only occasionally not so much. I can no longer walk her alluring streets all day long, but we’ll always have Paris. We didn’t, we’d lost it, but – oh for f—- sake, Bogart begone. And the cathedrals.

Cathedrals

Janet has a passing religious tic. I have none. But magnificence it magnetic. The Art. The Music. The Structure. Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance variations still stand, from England to France to Germany to Spain to Italy and eastward. Beyond their tactile assets, they breathe out an inherent humanistic aura, humbling and reflective. It’s embedded in the walls by centuries of collective human endeavor and sacrifice. The politics they engender aside, in here peace predominates. As a regular respite during long city rambles, in between the masses and the masses, these spaces are open, uncrowded, quiet and out of the weather. Caveat – there is no beer here.

Bars

Well. When a cathedral isn’t handy, what’s a weary walker to do?

Pandemic aside, foreign travel inevitably becomes more difficult than it used to be. Bodies don’t do what they used to do, and do more of what they once didn’t do. This entails a few more things to pack. Our old reliable budget transport and accommodation options aren’t as available or comfortable as they once were. The twenty first century’s proliferation of tourism has triggered barriers to standing unshoved in front of the Mona Lisa or walking alone at sunrise right into the circle of Stonehenge, as I did many years ago. Breathing room in Prague’s Old Town Square or Madrid’s Plaza Mayor is a distant memory. Yes, the hordes have a right to be there, as we have the right to miss their absence, and the world is not going to change in our favor. But we did have our day.

Not that we’re quitting. We have a few re-visits still in the hope chest, if and when the pandemic allows them in a safe and comfortable fashion. And whether we go or not, the planning goes on. It’s half the fun and well over half the time involved.

In the meantime, photographically re-acquainting ourselves with cherished places is affirming. Times like those we bear now are the reason we took and kept these souvenirs.

And also, as we wind it down, there’s a lot to be said for home time with all those non -travel standards: rejoining a favorite book, and an affectionate squabble over a specious Scrabble tender, and the DVR in front of your recliner, and making your own martinis and your own bed.*

I would have added “walks on the beach”, but then it would read like a centerfold profile.

2 thoughts on “All Packed Up And Nowhere To Go, Or, What if the Hokey Pokey IS what it’s all about?

  1. Wow! Just a beautiful trip down memory lane for the two of you. I now understand why you were so excited about doing this photo and writing venture. I enjoyed thoroughly ❤️

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