In 2001, I created a TV travel series, Location Vacation - filming where movies were filmed around the world. While it’s not yet coming to TV, it’s coming as a segment of my weekly “Been There, HAVEN’T Done That” radio show on the Salem Radio Network. (Yes, it’s based on this eponymous JAX FAX travel column, since 2010.)
Here’s a confession. I love leftovers. Not food, buildings - World’s Fair leftovers. The most famous examples of World’s Fair leftovers aren’t really “buildings” but monuments that have become symbols of their cities: Paris’ Eiffel Tower (1889), Brussels’ Atomium (1958), Seattle’s Space Needle (1962) and the New York’s Unisphere (1964). The less famous leftovers are entire pavilions leftover from other World’s Fairs.
If you’d rather spend time sightseeing than shopping, you can buy the most unique souvenirs you can’t get at home, can’t get online, and can’t get anywhere else in the world than the destination you’re visiting. And the price ranges from $12 to $20. They’re in hundreds of cities on six continents so you don’t even don’t have to waste precious time and money hunting for a store - which is almost on every corner. This souvenir is portable and even found near the departure gate at many airports. It’s very practical - you can use it at every meal. And unlike candy, you can enjoy it without gaining weight.
It makes the perfect gift - especially if your aim in gifting is to show-off where you’ve been. And the “giftee” will know you actually bought it on your trip.
When tourists think of new museums constantly opening, they think of Washington, DC, and the Mall. When they think of Colonial American Cities, they think of Colonial Williamsburg. One city travelers should think of more often is Philadelphia with its four great new 21st-century world-class museums.
The only thing I like less than airport security is shopping.
Here are my painless shopping rules:
While I usually recommend unknown buildings around the world; unknown museums, unknown palaces, unknown churches, even historic restaurants and hotels, now it's my turn to recommend the architectural feature that links them that's there for everyone to see. Unlike other frequently bypassed sites, you don't walk past them everyday, you walk on them, Great Sidewalks.
When sightseeing, there’s an important architectural feature very few people ever notice - the FLOOR. When earthquakes struck ancient Greece and Rome, walls and roofs crumbled, but the one thing that survived from Delos to Herculaneum to Pompeii were the mosaic floors. Many mosaics have such fine workmanship that you’d think they’re paintings.
There are many great palaces near Paris, just a day-trip away. However, if you want to see a completely furnished French palace, you must visit the Palace of Compiegne. Compiegne is so “undiscovered” that the official website is in French. Compiegne’s history ties in to Versailles and even Vienna’s elegant Schoenbrunn Palace. It was the meeting place of Europe’s royalty.
The great town of Potsdam (near Berlin) has numerous palaces built over many centuries. The most famous Potsdam Palace is Sanssouci, Frederick the Great’s 18th-century Rococo “Pleasure Palace.” The translation of “Sanssouci” does homage to its purpose, “Without a care.” It rises on terraced vines which from a distance look more like a cascading fountained-formal garden. While it’s delicately magnificent, it’s only a delightful appetizer to much grander, more historic and more substantial palaces scattered throughout massive Potsdam Park, worthy of a entire day’s exploration.
In Rome’s Borghese Gallery (paraphrasing T.S. Elliott) men and women come and go seeking out Michelangelo and other great masters of painting and sculpture. Visitors enter and exit through the front, without even bothering to walk around the entire building, and miss three unique formal gardens. That’s a shame. Visitors miss an aviary on one side. But above all they miss a magnificent rear-formal garden with fountain and statues (as seen in Three Coins in the Fountain), which is a great place to rest.