Much too Slowly Down the Ganges


A Traveler’s Journal by Bernice Thieblot in India, Jan 17-Feb 4, 2013
(This journal is not illustrated, but Armand’s gallery of photos nearby can be accessed at the select or highly select level, as can separate galleries of signs and of our fellow travelers.)

Thursday, January 17, Baltimore to Dubai:
Six a.m. Ronnie drives us to Dulles for 10 a.m. Emirates flight, our first. Staff cheerful, plane fresh with soothing décor and lighting. Attention to detail: flight attendants’ lipstick perfectly matches crimson of little pillow hats. (So charming in seductive white demi-veils—wonder if they wear burkas at home?) I’m naïve about so much Arab culture; surprised that airline whose CEO is a sheik serves alcohol, free, even in economy class. Armand survives spill when hot cut of tea slips off attendant’s tray into his lap. Food excellent and, though seats are among worst on plane, flight is comfortable. I read Dr. John Sarno’s Healing Back Pain. Bottom line: only necessary to recognize role of anxiety and subconscious in pain, understand that back can’t be injured by normal activity, and carry on. Worked for Brier. Worth a try. Coughing and blowing still, but cold seems essentially over.

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The Trinidad Journal, Christmas 2012


Saturday, December 22, Baltimore/Miami/Port of Spain:

Up at 2:45. Louis picks us up for American Airlines flight departing BWI at 6:10. Purchase bag of snacks in airport: Lesser Evil Krinkle Sticks, baked with veggies from a real garden with real plants and sunshine and bunnies. On way to Miami, read Wall Street Journal “Review” sections Louis brought.  Arrive Piarco International Airport 3 p.m. local time. Immigration agent asks, “Why did you decide to come to Trinidad?” Told friend recommended, he says, “Tobago is better.” Pick up reserved minivan—normally cars not rented to people over 65, but Armand convinces Avis he’s an excellent driver and proves it by declining the extra insurance coverage. Interesting trip to Pax Guest House. Left-lane driving pattern, tight two-lane roads, no parking lanes or shoulders, casual drivers, busy market day, few traffic signals, fewer street signs.

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2012 Portugal: A Photographer’s Indulgence

Wednesday, April 4, Baltimore to Lisbon:

…Ronnie drove us to Dulles for short flight with noisy children to Newark and transfer to Lisbon. Slept few hours and finished “Cutting for Stone.”

Thursday, April 5 Lisbon:

Arrived about 8:30 a.m. and met Jim Zuckerman and his Javanese wife Indiana (“Dia”) after some time waiting for each other in separate cafés. Taxi to Corinthia Hotel. AJT discovered the $100 of small bills in his suitcase missing, likely taken in the same way he lost a nice camera to United Airlines baggage handlers on way from Dulles to Buenos Aires few years ago. Walked around neighborhood–austere modern architecture from 60s to present–and found café for vegetable soup, good Portuguese cheese and bread for lunch. Colder here than Virginia, and windy; hope we have enough warm clothes. Napped, then met other students–Steve (bachelor Main Line Philadelphia dentist), Margaret (from Georgia), Nicki (from San Diego), Dave, and Chyrisse (both pharmacists from Houston)–and Jim in lobby at 4:00 for orientation. AJT and I are the senior citizens. Fine dinner in hotel–good fish, veggies. (Idea: chocolate mousse studded with thick, salty olive oil potato chips). Got showered at table when Jim attempted discreetly to open contraband bottle of champagne brought by Nicki. Jim shared amazing shots from recent trips to Namibia, India, southern Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Southeast Asia; he’s more artist than documentarian or journalist. Lingered until almost 10; a congenial group. Early morning tomorrow, to depart 6:15 for sunrise shooting at Pena Palace in Sintra.

View Portugal Gallery

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2012 Columbia! The Only Danger (Almost) is You’ll Want to Stay

Friday, January 13, Baltimore to Miami to Bogota:

Leave with Ronnie driving for BWI about 8:30 to get American Airlines flight to
Miami; arrive there about 1; lunch at Manchu Wok; 4:50 flight to Bogota arriving 8:30. Language changes to Spanish in Miami airport, where AJT has photo taken with Juan Valdez, making promotional appearance at eponymous café. Catch up with magazines from home. From Town & Country learn Highclere Castle is allowing filming of Downton Abbey because they have a staff of 60 to support and the place needs about 12 million pounds worth of repairs; the Eighth Lord and Lady Carnarvon and their dogs look pleasant and approachable. Returning from men’s room just before our flight, AJT runs into two couples who were with us in Turkey and Greece in November–on their way back from Antarctica.

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2011 Turkey / Greece: A Dog’s Life

October 31, Monday, Baltimore to Munich:

Hallowe’en. About half of NCSDO in costume; Jiho documented with sidewalk photo. Finished packing–long process for 21 days anticipating mixed weather. Left at 2:00 with Ronnie driving. United flight from Dulles to Munich relatively comfortable with check-in upgrade to exit row seats. Slept few hours; arrived Munich about 6 a.m.

November 1, Tuesday, Munich to Ankara:

Big, shiny, shopping center of an airport featuring lots of high-end international brands. Novel: brand-sponsored smoking lounges, e.g, “Winston Smoking Lounge.” After about $20 worth of pastry and coffees, settled down to wait for 11:30 Lufthansa flight. Chatted briefly with few people who will be on our pre-cruise extension.

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2011 Ethiopia: Loose Connections

January 5, Wednesday, Baltimore:

Ethiopia getting closer. Dreamed last night I was driving car with no brakes—how much interpretation does that take?
Trying to be ready for worst–everything from moleskin to emergency blankets to Cipro to granola bars–knowing futility. (Promise of 25k/day walks on rugged trails @ 12,000 ft. in 30o temps has me spooked–that, and primitive accommodations.) New backpack good but made for someone bigger; get cobbler Alex to shorten straps, so don’t look like paratrooper. After dinner, to Trader Joe’s to get group treats for trip, and drugstore for meds for AJT’s blossoming cold.

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2010 France and the Family

September 4, Saturday, Baltimore to Frankfurt, Germany:

Ronnie came @ noon and (in black driving gloves and straw fedora over elbow-length dreadlocks) took us to BWI. Late arrival of Philadelphia flight meant rush to make connection. Read some of Michael Pallin’s “New Europe” about travels through former Soviet states. Slept only minutes–fortunately, AJT got a couple hours–arrive Frankfurt, chilly 5:30 a.m.

September 5, Sunday, Marseille to Beaune, France:

Breakfast paninis in airport, then 7:40 to Marseille, through baggage, Hertz Peugeot ($20/day) by 10:30 (4:30 a.m. in Baltimore). A7 to Avignon through rugged, chalky landscape lined with umbrella pines, Lombardy poplars, skyrocket junipers.

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2010 Mediterranean Journal, Part II Cruising the Eastern Mediterranean Aboard MSC Splendida

September 12, Sunday, Marseille, France:

We have no tickets for our Mediterranean cruise, as they were to have been sent after we left U.S.–and when we arrive, we find we’re not on the passenger list! All we have is passports, and Armand is unable to find working Internet connection to prove we’re booked. Finally, someone finds us on list of passengers who were to have boarded in Genoa–yesterday. Since we were booked from Genoa to Genoa, they say they are unable to make it from Marseille to Marseille. We can get on here, but we must leave in Genoa. (So, we’ll rent car in Genoa and drive to Marseille.) Since trip originated in Genoa, our 3,998 fellow passengers are mostly Italian–not French. Only a handful speaks English. While waiting for bags to be delivered to cabin, we tour upper decks, which are paved this sunny afternoon with sizzling flesh and plenty of it.

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2010 Guatemala Trip

February 5, Friday, Atlanta:

Up at 3 to leave for Guatemala. BWI, scheduled to close at noon for pending blizzard, was pandemonium at 5 am–and we underestimated our time by about 30 seconds, so our seats were sold to standby passengers. Only one flight per day from Atlanta to Guatemala City; Delta unhelpful. Rented Jeep and headed south fast. Met driving snow at I-81 west of DC, which turned to freezing rain somewhere south of Roanoke and regular rain around Charlotte. Little traffic; a few cars and trucks off in the ditch. Louis and his IPhone took care of new tickets for tomorrow (@$1,500 additional) and notifying trip leader Jim Cline. Rolled into Atlanta in heavy rain at 8 pm, did Ruby Tuesday salad bar for dinner, and stayed at Super 8 near airport.

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2009 Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, 2009
And Best Wishes to All for a Better New Year, 2010

There have probably been worse years than 2009, but Saints preserve us from another like it. Nevertheless, I promised Bernice that I wouldn’t whine any more than necessary, so with the exception of April (there is no way around the gloom of April), I’ll just hit the high notes. Also, I promise herewith not to mention the name of the Nobel laureate who is also our elected leader in a negative way, so whenever you see his name here in this letter, it will be accompanied by fulsome high praise for his works and to his glory.

On the other hand, I’m too dispirited to try to make this all bubbly and amusing, so you’re just going to have to put up with a straight chronology, trudging through season by season. I’ll include a picture for some event mentioned, but there will be more on my website, here:

When you visit the site, you can go to ‘Thieblots’ 09′ to see a number of captioned photos of the events of our year—more than I wanted to print out for the letter. (There are other galleries, too, if you have even greater interest or have too much time on your hands.) For those of you who remain paper bound, here’s the summary of our year, 2009.

Winter 09

Winter 09

Everybody says that Florida is the place to go when it’s cold, and we’re willing to take advice, so in January we went to visit Harold and Judy, their dogs and family, and also to see the Ringling museum and art gallery. (Ringling is pretty neat and probably worth the trip, even if you don’t have relatives nearby.) Bernice bought a fur chubby from an antique store for $25 that I think is swell. In February, after a side trip to the Philadelphia flower show, we were off to Japan to see the sights of Tokyo, the Japanese Alps (where we went to see the snow monkeys—cuter than envisioned), and then to Kyoto for, among other things, geishas.

Spring 09

Spring 09

My brother, Bob, died in April, and it’s hard to come up with any amusing visuals that would offset the gloom of that. Suzie, Aline and Harley, Maxine and Robert, and Bernice, Louis, and I scattered his ashes in May at his Baltimore County farm. Here are some pictures of the Taj Garage, his favorite modern folly, and I’ll leave it at that. Suzie had arranged a wonderful gathering in his honor at the Bar Library in May. If you were not able to attend that and are interested in a copy of his valedictory, one is posted on my website, or ask me and I’ll send it to you on paper.

Summer 09

Winter 09

Went to visit with Nina where she was, then, in Middleburg on a fancy estate belonging to the woman who co-founded Cisco Systems and amuses herself with large horses and old carriages. Bob and Pat Brier came down from New York for the Fourth of July, which we watched this year in Lovingston—perhaps the most home-grown parade in the country. Later, we dropped by for Ralph’s (Nina’s father’s) birthday party. Old office mate Bill Chernish and his daughter (my goddaughter) Sydney#8212;recently graduated from University of Chicago#8212;stopped in. We went shooting and did other stuff.

Fall 09

Fall 09

Our big event of the fall was a cruise to the Baltic (7 countries in 9 days) with 3,098 of our nearest and dearest friends. We now know all that is essential to know about Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallin, Gadansk, Oslo, and Copenhagen, having spent as much as several hours in each. (Actually, the cruise was fun, and well organized.) Surprisingly, our favorite place was Tallin, in Estonia. Other fall activities included Segway polo (that I may take up next season), a couple of photo classes, and dinner in Washington with Ed Meese while listening to Antonin Scalia—thanks to Suzie and Bob’s having supported American Heritage, the conservative think tank, so well.

General Catch-up

Bernice spent last spring becoming certificated as a Master Gardener and consequently has become expert on garden insects, plant funguses, and domestic chemicals. A.J. (Louis) continues to live with his dog, Milo, and cat, Bruce, in Towson, and continues to resist the temptation to add a female person to his domestic establishment, effectively keeping us out of the grandparent business. Nina has taken up a new job, again with horses, in North Carolina, and has also taken up with a new boyfriend, Jake, a world-class old-time fiddler and (from what we can tell) an all-around good fellow. My hydro power plant in Covington at last got on line this year to produce electricity—just in time for the bottom to fall out of the market. (Producers’ prices are now down to about where they were in 1975—2.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Maybe it will improve, with global warming, cap-and-trade, and all.) Bernice and I now spend Tuesday night through Sunday in Schuyler, and work in Baltimore only the first part of the week. It’s a pattern that seems to suit pretty well. We’ve decided to travel while we still can enjoy it and while the dollar continues to retain some value, so we’re off to the Caribbean right after the first of the year, then to Guatemala (with Louis) in February, the Mediterranean in April (also, then, to visit Maurice and the French half-family), and possibly Alaska and other places in the fall. So I have to say that this semi-retirement stuff ain’t all bad. – Armand