In any case, leaving Turin for the second to last leg of my journey this time around included a 2-day conference in Venice and while I liked the format, improvements could be made. The conference hotel was well located, only 250 meters form the train station, but the storms had headed in, so getting drenched with my luggage for the 5 to 7 walk was not fun and the food offered at the hotel was nothing special. The meetings I had over the next few days, were good for the most part, but too, too many. Almost 30 each day and no coffee breaks, so honestly, I am not sure I would attend such an event again. I understand everyone wants to have a meeting, but by the end of each day, I was, as I am sure many were, exhausted and by then I was on the 4th week on the road. The prize at the end, this past Friday, was meeting Rosa at the train station in S Lucia, and I took a local train across, dropped the luggage at the hotel and returned for her arrival.
The past 4 days, one in Venice, one in Gorizia and two in Trieste from where I am writing this post, were wonderful. Did we have ideas of what we wanted to do? Yes!! Did we accomplish them all? No, of course not, but that does not mean we did not do a lot and we had a wonderful time together, ate local foods and walked many a kilometer, on average, over 10 kilometers a day and our longest, the first day in Venice from the Jewish Ghetto to San Marco and many other back areas of Venice where we end up on the lagoon, away from the crowds. We tried squid ink pasta and other foods here and also included a walking tour of the ghetto where I actually learned something new. That is the ghetto comes from an Italian word getto, which means family, so the whole history is fascinating. In any case, we were off and running with 16 kilometers, yes, it is possible, even with how compact Venice is. Remember, she and I were together this summer and we did time here also.
As the rockers do and have a night here, and not there and have to keep moving on, that is what I did, and I was off to Valencia. At least I did not have an early train, but I had two trains and back to Madrid for my connection. They tell me that they are working on a new train route along the coast which would eliminate that, but I was too early as they said 2024 or 2025. In any case, I arrived and having never been to Valencia, it was a break to have two nights there and breathe, and so I did, first encountering my first hotel, where I was given a code to get it, the same for the room and no room key. Took a little getting used to, but it was a nice little boutique hotel and the people there very nice, when I met them the next morning when check in was completed at their little breakfast room. Oh, but this is about Hard Rocks and rail, and you heard about the rails, and yes, that night, met with a friend and colleague and joined me at you guessed it, the Valencia Hard Rock. Again, a wonderful experience, but Valencia has other foods, and other experiences, so my full day there included experiencing the Mercat Central and wandering around the city. I truly enjoyed my time there and barely scratched the surface, so I must return.
The longest, to that point travel day was from Valencia to Avignon, which was to be 3 trains, first to Barcelona, then a 2 hour wait and then to Montpellier and then to Avignon, but it turned out that the train from Barcelona to Montpellier, went on the Avignon, not Central, but to TGV. It cost me a taxi ride, but one less train connection and for that, I was happy. It was simply a travel day, and I was exhausted and ate right at the hotel which was fine with me. Yes, I would like to have explored, but I have been to Avignon, and I was simply using it for an overnight, which brought me to the day I did two Hard Rocks, yes two. First, having left Avignon on the train to Lyon, which was delayed and a regional, so no assigned seats and a 2 ½ hour train ride, and I am so glad that I was first on the train as by the time I arrived at Lyon, it was standing room only and with my luggage, it was crazy. Making a quick to Lyon, I was there in 2008, was about a 2 hour stop, storing my bags and returning to the station to continue. The folks at the Lyon Hard Rock were very nice. Thank you Vionliane and crew. I know crazy, but I had to make my rounds, so hopped a taxi and back to Part Dieu for my train to Nice.
When I left London on the 10th of November, I headed to Lisbon, a city I had not been in some 20 years. How, it has grown, but the heart of the city, was still intact. I had to also get rid of some demons from that time long ago, which definitely was done. I had a good meeting with a hotel sales manager, at a meeting I had a month prior in London, followed by an amazing lunch of some classic Portuguese fare. After, I wandered the city, waited until sunset and was not disappointed as the sun set behind the bridge which crosses the Tagus River. Afterwards, I enjoyed some food, where else, the Hard Rock and was treated like royalty, number 74 under my belt. I even ran into a gentleman from the UK, who, I had previously met at another Hard Rock. He remembered me, when I presented my card to him, and that is when he said, I knew we had met. In any case, it was a nice evening. The next day, more food, as I did a lunch foodie tour, my guide was Sara and my guide in Porto, and my waitress at the Hard Rock, Porto, also was named Sara. Popular name I guess. On this foodie tour, we spent much of the time in Alfama, and unlike my foodie tour in Porto, I was one of about 8, not the tour, so it was nice. Again a very pleasant experience, and one I can arrange for you.
My last morning in Lisbon was very special as I was able to reconnect with my friends Maria and Vitor. It was so nice, after so long and the couple of hours we had, enjoy catching up and enjoying breakfast together on a beautiful sunny morning overlooking the city. After which, I departed for Madrid, a short 45 minute flight, but with the turbulence, it was a bit hairy, but hear to tell you.
Once, I arrived into Madrid and my hotel, called the JC Chueca, a very different hotel, but after the stay, I would not do it again. While breakfast is included, they don’t start until 8:00 am and they don’t have a breakfast room, but contract with the restaurant next door. I ate there the first night, had paella and was totally unimpressed. Each morning, and there were two, they packed me a bag of stuff, and while I ate it, being hungry, it really was not edible. Also, the noise level was insane and, yes it was a Saturday night when I arrived, it was raining, but I would not repeat the hotel. Of course, they had a Hard Rock, not a café, but a Rock Shop, so 75 under my belt, and only the third Hard Rock entity, which had BOSTON memorabilia. The first in Boston, imagine that and then, this summer in Verona and now Madrid, so a very nice surprise.
My adventure across the pond has started and earlier in the week I was in London, essentially for business at the Global European Marketplace and it was, in my opinion a very successful show. It was very nice to connect and re-connect with people and renew partnerships which is what it is all about. Of course, a little fun as well. Not really, just wandering and had my obligatory fish ‘n chips, at a place near my hotel, but it was not even that good, and did not even compare to what I had in the east end a month ago, or when I have been to Brighton, but it filled me up and that was what was necessary. In any case, a good start to a month plus on the road culminating with my arrival in Italy.
After an amazing morning and afternoon, I also enjoyed a foodie tour called the Porto Progressive Dinner and my guide was a young lady named Sara, and it was a very pleasant evening. This was originally arranged through Eating Europe and for the record, I can arrange any of these experiences for you and I can vouch that they are authentic, so let me know. The history, culture, food, wine and beer over 4 of 5 stops was very nice and while I was the tour, it is generally, in high season 10 to 12 people, sometimes more, but being November, I was the only one, so it was more of a conversation, not just one person guiding another person, which I am quite sure, for her, was a bit uncomfortable at first, but in the end, you know, the old and the young lady, but she realized, that I enjoy a good conversation and it made the evening very pleasant. Again, any time you can get a chance to mingle with the locals and try their foods and learn about their culture, the better your experience is going to be.
Fortunately, I had other things to do, which included getting to the Hard Rock Café at Yankee Stadium, to add to the count, visiting my grandparent’s gravesite, a promise I made to them and to myself that every time I come to New York City, I would visit them, and I have kept that promise. I even wandered around the city, saw a street fair on 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) and as well as Bryant Park. And explored Times Square, just to get the vibe and stopped into the Hard Rock in Times Square where they were celebrating Pinotober for those who collect pins and while I have been there before, so I can’t add it, I had a chance to really see the memorabilia including one of Billy Joel’s motorcycle and Harry Chapin’s typed copy of W.O.L.D, and of course, much more. I also had a chance to visit with my aunt and uncle for lunch a local Romanian restaurant called the Romanian Garden in Sunnyside, where I am staying while here. It is a very diverse and active area of Queens, and the weather has been very nice, so people were out and about. Even saw a sign at one of the stores that the Powerball was a 1 billion dollars. Crazy thinking about that number. They bought two tickets, I did not.
Weathering the Storm with the Wandering Puffin