A Travellerspoint blog

Remembering Elvis, Memphis, and the Queens of Comedy


View The Music Legends Tour - April 2018 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Just a quick reference to this blog for when I read it later. I am on my second week being house bound trying to avoid the corona virus. Many people have posted online about all of the projects they have completed around their home. They have posted all of the wonderful meals they have cooked. Some talk about time bonding with family. Me? I have been sitting in my family room daily with the TV playing in the back ground. I have not bothered to change out of my sweat suits. My dog is gaining weight from sharing all of my snacks I have been eating while watching the TV. And I am finding that I am not really hating it. It's becoming my new norm. I have travel plans that we cancelled which is minor in the grand scheme of things. I collect coffee mugs when I travel. So to entertain myself I have been having my morning coffee in a different cup each day, and have posted a imaginary travel moment with the cup on Facebook each day. This morning I used my Memphis Music Hall of Fame coffee cup and traveled to Memphis. This immediately sparked some memories, both good and bad, from my visit to Memphis. My movie on TV is a little boring this afternoon so I decided to write a blog about my memories of the visit to Memphis.

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Larry with quarantined beard and Memphis coffee mug

We traveled to Memphis in April of 2018. This was part of our Music Legends car trip with our friend Gillian from England. We drove from our home in Baltimore south through the Smokey Mountains and had many fun music related experiences. To me personally Memphis was the least exciting part of our trip. To be fair to Memphis though we had spent three days previously in Nashville. Nashville is a city that is alive all day. The streets are busy. The honky tonks have life music playing non stop. And the streets stay full of tourists. We were expecting a similar experience in Memphis. But we arrived to find empty streets and empty honky tonks. Beale Street, which is Memphis's main entertainment street could not compare to Broadway in Nashville. In Memphis defence we did not get to spend any evenings in Memphis as our hotel was about fifty miles south in Tunica, Mississippi. But our days in Memphis found Beale Street to be almost vacant.

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An empty Beale Street in Memphis

Away from Beale Street there was still much to see and do. We spent some time along the water front. We visited the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid. That does not sound exciting but it was quite fascinating and well worth visiting. It sits on the bank of the Mississippi River. It is huge. At one time it was a basketball arena. And it is very impressive. It contains a hotel, a tropical forest with live alligators, and a beautiful bar at it peak with a deck over looking the river.

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We spent quite a bit of time exploring the pyramid. Much of this was spent enjoying the bar and some cool drinks of course. We had to take the worlds tallest free standing elevator to reach the bar. So that gave us one fun fact to add to our list of accomplishments.

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World's Tallest Free Standing Elevator

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Mark and Gillian surrounded by an aquarium at the bar

The bar is located at the top of the elevator. It has an over sized aquarium filling the area behind the bar. It was a beautiful place for a drink. There was a large glass deck outside of the bar with a view of the Mississippi River.

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Larry, Mark, and Gillian on deck at top of the pyramid

Of course if you are in Memphis one of the must see attractions is Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. I am a huge fan of Elvis. I believe Gillian also likes Elvis. But Mark on the other hand really has not opinion one way or the other on Elvis. So Graceland was kind of a non event for him.

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On the bus to Graceland - a less than enthused Mark in the middle

In the end Mark did enjoy the tour. But just not on the level that I enjoyed it. The house was a big tacky, dated and bizarre. But if you love the legend of Elvis you expect and appreciate this.

Graceland

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Elvis' Peacock Living Room

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The TV Room and The Famous Jungle Room

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Elvis Grave and Memorial at Graceland

Of course knowing me I had to take at least one funny selfie in Graceland. I found the perfect location going down the mirrored stair case into the Jungle Room.

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All in all the three of us did have fun touring Graceland.

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On a more somber note there are other historical sites to visit in Memphis that are not laughs and fun. We visited the Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr Memorial at the Lorraine Hotel. This was not a place for fun selfies or laughs. It is just one of those places you feel you must visit. It was very moving and heartbreaking to see the location of the murder of Dr. King. I am a child of the 60's and have emotional memories that will never leave me from the day of his murder. Seeing the location and the memorial brought all of those back to mind. It's a place to think. A place to show respect. And a space to feel no shame in shedding a tear.

The Lorraine Motel - National Civil Rights Museum

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You can actually walk through the hotel room 306 where he stayed. However the museum was closed the day we were there and I was actually kind of glad about that. I can not imagine the emotion of walking through that room. I don't think I could have walked into the room.

The Queens of Comedy

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Adele Givens , Laura Hayes, Mo'Nique and Sommore - The Queens of Comedy

One of the biggest highlights for Mark and I in Memphis was the chance to see the theater where the video The Queens of Comedy was filmed. For the uninitiated The Queens of Comedy is a wild irreverent hysterical comedy concert filmed in Memphis. The comedians on the show were Laura Hayes, Adele Givens, Sommore, and our fellow Baltimore favorite Mo'Nique. Mark and I own the DVD of the concert. We have watched it many many times and each time are in tears with laughter. Gillian had not really heard of The Queens of Comedy so we had to teach her all about it. When the ladies arrive in Memphis they drive across the Mississippi River on the Hernando de Soto Bridge aka The Big M. As the cross the bridge in their car the raise their hand and shout MemPHIS with the accent on the PHIS. So when we crossed the bridge Mark and I both yelled MemPHIS. This was not the only time we yelled MemPhis while in the city. We yelled at at any given opportunity in the city. Even from the top of the Pro Bass Shop pyramid. Just ask Gillian

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You must yell MemPHIS when crossing this bridge if you visit, just for Mark and I

We talked with a lady at the Memphis visitors center. We mentioned our love of The Queens of Comedy and she laughed. She asked us "Do you guys really remember that show? That was a long time ago." And then Mark quoted some jokes to her and she cracked up. She said to us you guys are real fans and then shared a joke she remember from the show also. Poor Gillian was lost to all of this but she is used to that. We lose her at least once on every trip and have to explain to her our enthusiasm.

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We talked with a lady at the Memphis visitors center. We mentioned our love of The Queens of Comedy and she laughed. She asked us "Do you guys really remember that show? That was a long time ago." And then Mark quoted some jokes to her and she cracked up. She said to us you guys are real fans and then shared a joke she remember from the show also. Poor Gillian was lost to all of this but she is used to that. We lose her at least once on every trip and have to explain to her our enthusiasm.

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Mo'Nique we did you proud in Memphis. We shared your jokes. We yelled MemPHIS. We educated Gillian about your show. You are our home town Baltimore Academy Award Winning Actress. We are you fans.

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Mo'Nique

If you travel to Memphis and you see the Orpheum give a big MemPHIS shout for Mark and I and our girl Mo'Nique. And if you come to visit us at our house we will play the DVD for you

One last suggestion

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One last fun note about Memphis. If you visit the Hard Rock Cafe you can see Shakira's bra. If you are a fan it's worth the journey.

Posted by littlesam1 19:24 Tagged tennessee mississippi_river graceland memphis quarantine pandemic beale_street shakira the_queens_of_comedy mo'nique dr._martin_luther_king_jr lorraine_hotel bass_pro_shop_pyramid elvis_presley self_isolation coffee_cup Comments (7)

Plagues, Epidemics and Memorials - History Repeating Itself

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Pestsäule - Plague Column - Vienna Austria

Travel is my passion, and taking photos of my travels is my favorite hobby. So when faced with social distancing and the threat of quarantine due to the COVID-19 virus, I find going through my travel photos and thinking of the beautiful places I have visited brings some sort of calmness to the madness all around me right now. With all of the attention focused on Corona Virus today, I found myself being led to photos I have taken of Plague Memorials in Central Europe.

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice Italy

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In the summer of 1630 and up until 1631 a wave of the plague assaulted Venice killing nearly a third of its population. As an offering for the city's deliverance from the plague the city vowed to build a church dedicated to Our Lady of Health, Santa Maria della Salute. The city decided not to dedicate the church just to the plague or a patron saint. They decided to dedicate it to the Virgin Mary who they believed was the protector of their Republic. I visited Venice in the spring of 2002. When I arrived in Piazza San Marco and walked to the water front of the Grand Canal this beautiful basilica dominated the horizon.

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Church of All Saints - Sedlac, Czech Republic

Two years after my visit to Venice, I traveled to Prague in the Czech Republic in 2004. I returned again in 2015. Both times I visited the Kostnice located in the village of Sedlac. The Kostnice is an Ossuary or Bone Church. It is named the Church of All Saints. In all of my travels this is truly one of the most fascinating places I have seen.

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The plague Column of the Virgin Mary Immaculate in Kutná Hora, Czech Republic

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Just a short walk from Sedlac is the village of Kutna Hora. Located here is a Plague Column. I have seen several of these through out Europe. This one was built as a reminder of the death from the plague of the early 1700's. There is a statue of Mary on top of the column as on many Plague columns. Many of these columns were built to honor Mary in hopes for protection from other plagues.

Trinity Monument - Prague, Czech Republic

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The Trinity Monument is another Plague Column in the Czech Republic. This one is located in Prague's Lesser Town Square. At one time there was a pillory and gallows here. So this square is historically associated with death. But now there is a monument here that memorialized the end of a disease that plagued the city of Prague. After the outbreak of the early 1700's was finally under control, the city erected this Plague Column.

Pestsäule - Plague Column - Vienna Austria

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The Trinity Column in Vienna is located on Graben, one of the main streets in the inner city. It is one of the better know Plague Columns in Europe. It was built after the great epidemic of 1679 and is one of the cities great pieces of art often compared to the work of Bernini in Rome. While I was in Vienna I was not worried about the plague. My luggage was lost and never arrived. So I was concerned with buying underwear in a city where I did not speak the language. I took photos of the monument without really knowing what it represented until I returned home and was doing research on my photos. At the time of the plague the Habsburg emperor Leopold I fled the city but vowed to erect a mercy column if the epidemic would end.

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.These churches and monuments were erected to memorialize the loss from the great plagues that challenged the western world in their time. They were also created to ask forgiveness for the sins they felt lead to these plagues and in hopes to protect their people from future epidemics. After the horrors of 9/11 we have build great monuments and displayed pieces of the World Trade Center in our major cities across the country. We have one here in Baltimore. In New York we have build a towering sky scraper complex to replace and memorialize the original World Trade Center. I am wondering tonight what will happen at the end of the current world wide pandemic. Will we be inspired to create art and memorial fountains to remember it? Will we learn from our greed and hoarding that is harming us now? Will our current leaders promise to build memorials to our sacrificies. Or will they build great monuments to themselves to brag about their self imagined great accomplishments in fighting this enemy? We will survive. We will recover. But will we learn from our mistakes?

Posted by littlesam1 18:11 Tagged prague vienna europe czech_republic pandemic kutna_hora covid-19 black_death plague_columns plague_memporials sedlac Comments (13)

2019 - The good , the bad, the ugly. Year End Review

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Each year on New Years Day I take time to reflect on the past year. Some years are wonderful. Some are uneventful. And some I am just glad to see be over. 2019 was one of those years. There were good moments. And then there were some bad ones. Nothing unusual about that. But the bad ones seemed to be overwhelming this year.

Mark changed jobs twice this year. The bank where he was employed was sold and he had to find a new job. This was a bad situation that worked for the best. He found a new job well before the bank finally closed so he was never really unemployed. He phoned me from work one morning and said to me I start the new job in two weeks. So lets plan a last minute trip before I start the new job. I am never one to turn down a chance to travel. Out of nowhere we decided to go to Milan.

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I love Milan. I had been to Milan once before in 2002. But many people are unimpressed with Milan. On my first trip even the woman at the ticket counter in the airport asked me "Why Milan?" So I was bit concerned Mark might be unimpressed also. But I had nothing to worry about. Mark loved Milan as much or even more than I do.

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Mark chilling at a ristorante in the Galleria in Milan

We also had the chance to take a train to Bergamo while in Milan.

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Beautiful Bergamo

Also on this trip I had the chance to return to my beloved Switzerland. And any year I can visit Switzerland is a good year. While in Milan we took a side trip to Lugano. It was definitely Switzerland but it also had a very Italian feel to it. It's right on the border of Switzerland and Italy. There is just something about Switzerland that captures my spirit even if they are speaking Italian.

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The beautiful Lugano Switzerland

Mark started his new job after we returned and it worked well for him. But then out of nowhere he received another job offer. The job had a good increase in salary and also was a much better commute for him. So after just a few months he bid farewell to the new job and started his adventure to a job in our neighboring county. And he really likes the job and everyone who is working there. Even though I have said this was not a great year for us, work wise it's been a great year for Mark.

Because Mark was in a new job we were not able to travel this summer. But don't feel bad for us. We spent every weekend this summer visiting local breweries in the Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia area. It was great fun. We were entertained every weekend. And we got to try both very good and some mediocre beers. But even mediocre beer isn't all bad.

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RAR Brewery - Cambridge Maryland

The year was going well. Mark was enjoying his second new job of the year. My daughter Katie was hired for a new position with a large increase in salary. And then the ball dropped. My daughter Danielle was made redundant at her job. She was completely unprepared. She was given a small severance package. And she remained unemployed the rest of the year. Then to add fuel to fire her wife was let go from her job also at the end of year. We are all hoping after the holidays are over they will be be able to find new jobs the first of 2020,

In November we were able to travel once more. Our friend Gillian from Manchester, England joined us for a week in Hawaii. It was Mark and my fourth trip to Hawaii. And once more we were overwhelmed.

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December found us with two more problems. My daughter had to have cervical surgery. She had to have a disc replaced in her neck. Then her boyfriend had emergency surgery two weeks before Christmas. To top all of this, Danielle and her wife were unable to join us for Christmas due to their job situation. We had a very uneventful Christmas missing Danielle and Andrea. We spent the morning on our Iphones with face time opening presents together.

We lost some dear friends this year. A beloved extended family member passed away on Christmas Day. We lost family members in Mark's family. And we lost a beloved little dog named Kobi who has been a part of our family for fifteen years. We have continued to watch Mark's Mom slowly fade away to the monster of Alzheimers. But we still have so much to grateful for. And we have a lot to look forward to in 2020. We are already planning some travel for February. I am assured Danielle will find new employment. I have a 50th high school reunion in mid 2020. 2020 you are the beginning of a new decade. We are counting on you to start of this decade better than the last one ended.

Posted by littlesam1 21:10 Tagged italy christmas hawaii switzerland milan Comments (4)

Hauʻoli Lā Hānau - Mai Tai's, Alex O'Loughlin and Another Bi


View Hauʻoli Lā Hānau - Another birthday in Hawaii 2019/11/12 - 2019/11/21 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Birthday morning on our rooms 9th floor deck at Aston Waikiki Sunset Motel

My husband Mark does not really care about birthdays. He does not particularly like celebrating his own birthday. It's just another day to him. But that is not me. I love birthdays. When the first day of November roles around I get very excited. That's because I don't only celebrate the day I was born. I celebrate the entire month. I usually jokingly label my photo's The Never Ending Birthday Celebration every year. Mark humors me and always goes along with my celebration month. He even goes out his way to make it special because he knows how much it means to me. Two years ago when I turned 65 he took me to Hawaii so I could climb Diamond Head on the my birthday. Hawaii has almost become our second home. We have traveled there four times in the past six yeas. It was such a thrill to stand on top of Diamond Head and take my photo on my 65th birthday. Now thanks to Mark, two years later I found myself back in Waikiki for another birthday.

We woke up early and the weather did not look good. Each morning when I woke up on this trip I looked out of the huge window and in our room to check the weather. And most mornings there was beautiful sunshine. On my birthday I woke up and looked outside to see a very dismal cloud cover.

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Oh well. I was not going to let it ruin my birthday. We had already had seven perfect days in the Never Ending Birthday celebration. So I was not going to get upset over a cloudy possibly rainy day. We were not planning on climbing Diamond Head this year anyway. But within the hour the sun started to appear and burn away all of the clouds.

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So I showered and got dressed in my Hawaiian shirt and prepared for the days adventures.

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My shirt almost matches that beautiful blue sky.

The first order of the day was a huge birthday breakfast. We love the breakfasts in Hawaii. I am not usually a breakfast person. But when I get out on the islands I love their huge breakfasts. We usually eat at one of two places near our hotel, either Cheeseburger in Paradise or LuLu's. Both serve huge delicious breakfasts. But I wanted something different on my birthday. So I told Mark and our friend Gillian, who was with us on this trip, I wanted to walk down Kalakaua Avenue to the Maui Brewing Company for breakfast. It was a good walk from our hotel to the brewery but I had seen photos of their breakfast and new it would be worth the journey.

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And I was correct. This was the best breakfast I had eaten on the entire trip. I had Banana Brûlée pancakes with macadamia nuts. The banana's had a crunchy sugar coating. The macadamia nuts were sweet and delicious. And the maple syrup was infused with an IPA beer from the brewery. The IPA was not to strong to take away from the syrups sweetness, it just addressed it perfectly. This was a great start to my birthday.

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Now that's a happy breakfast face.

We had turned in our rental the car the previous day so we could not drive any place outside of Waikiki. So my plans for my birthday were nothing like the previous year when we climbed Diamond Head. I had a few things in my head I wanted to do though. The big breakfast at Maui Brewing was the first thing and I was able to check it off as accomplished. My next goal was a birthday Mai Tai at the Hula Grill at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. In my opinion they make the best Mai Tai's in Waikiki. Later that evening I wanted to go to Arancino di Mare for an Italian meal. It's Hawaii, why not Italian? And finally I wanted to end the day at late night happy hour at Cheeseburger in Paradise. So nothing extravagant was planned. It was our last day in Waikiki. We were flying home the next day. So this plan was perfect in my opinion.

We left the brewery and walked towards Honolulu but we never actually got outside of Waikiki. We, or rather I had a major distraction. We did take some time for goofy photos. That should be of no surprise to anyone. I saw a tattoo parlor and thought it might have been fun to get a tattoo for my birthday while in Hawaii, but I really had not budgeted for that. So instead I just too silly photos outside of the parlor.

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I saw a tall condominium where I told Gillian that Mark and I could by our dream home. Gillian basically said dream on and let me know when you hit the lottery. I'll move with you.

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I still think one of the corner units by the upper pool would be an excellent investment. Maybe I can convince Mark this by my next birthday?

I then saw an interesting statue. It was not a memorial or religious symbol so I did not feel wrong for taking a funny photo with it.

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We then saw a pretty park and decided to cross the street and look at the flowers and trees in the park. As we entered the park we saw some white trailers in a circle. On closer look we realized they were dressing rooms and crew trailers for the TV show Magnum P.I. There were also signs directing you the from the trailers to the filming area for the show. We decided to follow the signs and maybe get a chance to see them filming a scene from the show. But here is the story. Every time Mark and I have gone to Hawaii I have always joked about running into Alex O'Loughlin who plays McGarrett on Hawaii Five 0 I am a huge fan of the show and have watched every episode since it started telecasting ten years ago. And Alex is a real fantasy for me. But each year we have not run into him or any of the crew filming his show. I like Magnum P.I. But it's not Hawaii Five 0. So seeing the trailers and maybe the cast would be fun but not the major thrill of Hawaii Five 0 or Alex.

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We followed the signs to the Outrigger Reef Hotel. This hotel is another one of our favorite bars with one of the best beach views in Waikiki. When we got to the hotel lobby it appeared the film crew was leaving. Then we saw two aids walking with Chi McBride from Hawaii Five 0!

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Chi McBride from Hawaii Five 0

I just stopped in my tracks and stared. So they were filming Hawaii Five 0 even though I only saw production trilers for Magnum P.I. My first thought was it's my birthday and I am going to see Alex O'Loughlin. But we never saw him. Apparently Chi was the last actor to leave the set that afternoon. So we continued on to the Reef Bar at the hotel. We did ask the bartender about the filming and he said it was not unusual to see it going on if you worked in Waikiki daily. Gillian told the bartender that I needed a drink. She said it's his birthday and I had just missed seeing Alex. The bartender laughed and asked me if it really was my birthday and I said yes. He mixed a mai tai and passed it across the bar to me. He said, "Here you go. Happy birthday! Compliments of the house!"

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Having to chill my brow at the thought of almost seeing Alex.

I jokingly told him I needed to chill. Being this close to Alex had me over heated. He laughed. Before leaving we decided to toast Hawaii Five 0 with a a Kona Big Wave. Kona is one of the beers that has product placement on the show regularly. The bartender then asked if we wanted one more. He said to stick around. Alex might be returning. We laughed and thanked him but we needed to move on. Their mai tai was good at the Reef Bar but it could not compare to my favorite at the other Outrigger Hotel's Hula Bar farther down the street. And having one there was my original plan for the day.

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Pretending I'm drinking a Kona beer with the cast of Hawaii Five 0

We thanked the bartender, tipped him well for his kindness and left the hotel. As we walked through the lobby we saw several big cars pull up in front on the driveway and we saw a lot of people getting out of them and heading into the hotel. It was the production crew returning! I was a bit preoccupied and looking all around when Gillian and Mark started yelling at me to turn around. They kept saying turn around, look behind you. And I turned and there was Alex, McGarrett in the flesh. He just walked past me. Wow...this was a birthday present.

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He was surrounded with production crew and they were trying to get him out to the filming location on the beach. He did wave and acknowledge some of the fans in the lobby. Mark and Gillian are both saying to me "Where's your phone! Get a photo!" Well I was just too excited. I did get my phone out and was trying to open the camera but I was all thumbs and he was gone before I could get a photo. But I didn't care. After six years and four visits I finally got to see a filming of the show. And it was on my birthday.

We left the hotel and headed back to Kalakaua Avenue. We did some window shopping at the high end stores that line the avenue. Then we eventually ended up at the Outrigger Hotel where the Hula Grill is located. You can try mai tai's all day, up and down Kalakaua Ave and you will not find one better than the one they make at the Hula Grill in my opinion. And after four visits in the six years I will admit I have tried them all. It was getting late in the afternoon. By the time we reached the Hula Bar we were getting hungry and also needed something cool due to the heat of the afternoon. I remembered how Gillian had mentioned my birthday earlier and I was given a free mai tai. So I decided to try it one more time. I mentioned my birthday to the bartender and voila! There was a complimentary mai tai sitting in from of me. And it had a smiling face on the glass as if to say Hauʻoli Lā Hānau Larry! (Happy Birthday Larry).

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I did need some lunch. I'd had two mai tai's and a beer on an empty stomach so far today. So I ordered shrimp taco's at the bar. They were an excellent fusion of Hawaiian and Mexican food.

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And then I ordered one more mai tai because they are so good here.

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So this had been a three umbrella day... so far.

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After lunch we returned to our hotel. We all needed to rest for a while. We had done a lot of walking and I had done a bit of drinking.

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After napping and showering Mark and I were ready to head out for my birthday dinner. We picked an Italian restaurant near our hotel. It was going to be something different from our standard Hawaiian vacation meals. We have several inexpensive Hawaiian shirts we have bought as souvenirs over the years. But on our last day we always save our dress Hawaiian shirts to wear. So we dressed up and headed out with Gillian to Arancino di Mare for an Italian dinner.

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It was the perfect ending to a very special birthday. But it still wasn't quite over. We decided to stop in to Cheeseburger In Paradise for their late night happy hour. It was near our hotel and had become our night cap stop on several nights. We had gotten to know the two evening bartenders, Andrew and Caleb very well. When we walked in Caleb laughed and told Mark and I that we had gone more Hawaiian than him. They are required to wear Hawaiian shirts and accessories while they are working. He said "Look at you two. The shirts, the kukui nut leis, and Larry you even have on the Makau fish hook necklace. I feel like I dressed down tonight." I used my birthday excuse once more to see what would happen. I told him we dressed up for my birthday dinner. He laughed. Then I told him I had been drinking free mai tai's all day. He said " but I bet you haven't had a birthday shot yet have you? " Gillian and Mark both laughed and told him that I had already had enough free drinks for one day. And then he asked me again if I wanted a birthday shot. And of course I said "Hell yes!" Jacob then made me a shot he called Hawaiian Gummy Bears and toasted my birthday.

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Everyone should have Hawaiian Gummy Bears for their birthday.

We ended up all smiles by the end of the night at Cheeseburger in Paradise.

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And still the night was not over.

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Our bartenders : Andrew and Caleb

We had learned from the bartender Andrew on a previous night that he was from Perry Hall, Maryland. Perry Hall is only about ten minutes from where Mark and I live. It was another one of those small world stories. After I finished my shot that Jacob had made for me, Andrew pointed to another man at the end of the bar. He was a local regular at the bar. Andrew told us that he was from Edgewood, Maryland and I should go say hello to him. So still in the happy birthday spirit I walked down to the end of the bar and said rather loudly "Hey Edgewood. How are you doing?" The guy looked at me like I was crazy and asked how in the hell did I know Edgewood, Md. I told her I had worked there for quite a few years at the US Army base. He laughed and bought me one last drink. . But you know what they say on the internet. Photo or it didn't happen. So then we took a photo together

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Making friends from Maryland while in Hawaii

Finally back in our hotel room. From the cloud cover in the morning, to the sunshine in the afternoon, to the darkness of night

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Hauʻoli Lā Hānau Larry. Happy birthday Larry. If you have to get old, this is the way to do it.

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The birthday is over. One last shaka "hangin loose" salute before the lights go out. And yes the lights did go out. We had a sign on our door telling us the hotel was to lose power at 11:30 pm until approx 4 am. for emergency maintenance. At least they left us a little survival kit.

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Mahalo (thanks) Gillian for joining us on this crazy adventure.

And a very big Mahalo to Mark for making it all happen.

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Posted by littlesam1 17:08 Archived in USA Tagged oahu hawaii waikiki birthdays mai_tai cheeseburger_in_paradise hawaii_five_0 mcgarrett alex_o'loughlin chi_mcbride @alexo'loughlin @chimcbride @cheeseburgerinparadise Comments (5)

O Solo A Roma - Day 8 - The Last Day - Arrivederci Roma


View O Solo Roma July 2016 on littlesam1's travel map.

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The colors of Rome are starting to fade behind me.

The vacation alone in Rome had been a wonderful experience. Although I missed Mark's company and regretted him not being there I will always be grateful he insisted I go. The lost maps, the evasive piazza's, the con artist, and my friend Aldo who owned the restaurant are all apart of the experience that was slowly fading into the past on my last day in Rome. But I still had big plans for the last day. I saved The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum for my last day. And it was the perfect way to finish the adventure.

From my research and also from friends who have visited Rome, I was told it would be difficult to get tickets to see The Sistine Chapel. I was told there were long lines and crowds. I was advised to book in advance before arriving in Rome. So I booked a tour through Viator for a tour of the Vatican Museum. And I was dreading it. I hate guided tours where you are lead around like a large group of lemmings behind a disinterested guide rattling on and on about every little nook and cranny sharing the most boring minute details. I would much rather just tour the museum on my own and read the signs and descriptions on the items that catch my interest. My tour that I booked in advance promised me I could "skip the lines" and avoid the crowds. Of course those tours are their own little mini crowds so I really don't know what you are skipping. I paid $35 over the internet for my reservation. I was booked for late afternoon. My last day in Rome was going to be spent with the thing I dislike most about traveling. Group tours.

I got up that morning and decided to walk down to the Vatican Museum entrance to see where I was supposed to meet my guide later that day. I didn't want to arrive and go to the wrong place and miss my tour. The web page where I booked the tour warned if you are late you will be left behind. It was only a couple of blocks from my hotel so it would not take me long. When I arrived there was no line at the entrance. The ticket office was open. There were people there buying tickets and going directly inside the museum. The entrance price was $17. Guess what? I decided to not worry about the losing the $35 reservation fee I had paid in advance. I just walked up to the ticketing area, not having to "skip any lines", bought my ticket, and was on my way to a morning tour of the museum and then my chance to see the Sistine Chapel. It was somewhat crowded inside and there were many tour groups who chose to skip the nonexistent lines. I passed by most of them as their guides droned on and on and then some self important person would take time to ask asinine questions. Oh I was glad I was not with them.

Everything inside the museum was beautiful. Even the stair case was a work of art.

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And by the stair case, for those of us who were not in a group following a droning guide to warn us, there was a sign letting us know not to fall on the stairs. How convenient.

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Could have been me....the guided tours.

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I passed the slow moving guided tours and continued my journey. The walls, the ceilings, every part of the museum was beautiful and a piece of art in itself.

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And then finally I arrived. Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. I had been wanting to see this ever since taking an 8th grade art class trip to see Charlton Heston paint the ceiling in the movie The Agony and The Ecstasy. I even wrote an entire blog about the experience of seeing the ceiling three years ago right after I got home.

Mark, who I wished was there, had told me he was not overwhelmed with the Sistine Chapel when he saw it was a teenager after his high school graduation. He warned me that it was just a crowded box shaped room with Michelangelo's God touching Man way up over head. As I entered the crowded box shaped chapel I was wondering what my experience would be. It was crowded. People were pushing to get inside. And I was only allowed a short time to take in the experience as the guards tried to keep the crowd moving.

And there it was. I was directly under it in the middle of the chapel and it was breath taking. All I wanted was one quick photograph, without flash of course. There were signs saying no photographs. But people all around me were sneaking out their cell phones and small camera's to get a quick photo. And I was not leaving without taking one also. I cautiously took my camera out of the camera bag. I lifted the camera just over my head for the photo and someone taps me on my shoulder. It was a security guard and he said no photos. I looked around and many others taking photos were being ignored. So I waited and when he turned his back I took the photo. And of course he caught me. He tapped me again and said firmly. Put the camera away...NOW.

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Just behind me was Michelangelo's final judgement and I really wanted a photo of that also. I snapped it quickly and then saw the guard looking at me from across the room. I showed him from a distance I was putting my camera away and then quickly made my exit.

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I don't know what I would have done if I had gotten into serious trouble with the guard. How would I explain long distance to Mark that I had been thrown out of the Vatican Museum because I didn't take my guided tour and I needed extra cash for a fine. Luckily that did not happen.

Leaving the museum the view of St. Peter's was beautiful and much different from observing it from front in St. Peter's Square.

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I left The Vatican and the crowds and the guards behind and had to chuckle to myself because I do tend to get into trouble when I am alone. It was extremely hot on this day and I need to take a break and cool down. There was a really nice little cafe just across the street from the museum entrance. I stopped in for something to cool to drink and then noticed they had watermelon on the menu. What a perfect way to relax and cool off and also take a silly selfie.

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So there I am with a quartered slice of watermelon, a mirror behind me, and my cell phone. I probably should have used that cell phone in the Sistine Chapel. I probably would not have been noticed at all.

I went back to my hotel to shower and get a change of clothes as it had been very hot and I was a bit sweaty. I put away my little white hat I had bought to wear in Rome and broke out my Baltimore Oriole's baseball cap. I was slowly preparing to return home. I went to lunch in the neighborhood and to my surprise I found a craft beer. I had not seen any craft beers the entire time I had been in Rome. So I was excited to get something other than a Peroni.

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My last lunch in Rome was a bit melancholy. I still had a dinner coming up later in the evening but something about lunch set me back a little. I started thinking about how much Mark and I had looked forward to this trip. And I felt awful that his father was ill and also that Mark had to stay home. I looked over at the empty chair sitting in front of me and took a photo. This was Mark's chair. And I ordered him a glass of wine and sent him a silent toast and a thanks.

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And then suddenly this typical tourist couple walked past me. I am sure they were part of one of the "skip the line" tour from the Sistine Chapel. And I just got the sillies. I had to giggle. So much for sentiment. Here is what I saw as they passed by me.

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I sure hope Jack didn't lose her.

I went out that evening for my last meal in Rome. I stayed in the neighborhood. I found a delightful little pizzeria named La Tavernella.

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One more glass of wine...

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...One more plate of pasta...

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...And one more Italian waiter.

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And the vacation was over. Arrivederici Roma!

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Posted by littlesam1 21:53 Archived in Italy Tagged italy rome michelangelo the_vatican the_vatican_museum Comments (4)

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