Graffiti Around the World

I am not sure why but my camera is drawn to record graffiti as we travel. Some of it is incredible street art while much is just a defacing of public and private property.

Historic fortifications, Vigo Spain
Housing project, Crete

I have developed some opinions about why some places are rank with graffiti while others are completely devoid of it. My first belief has to do with how attractive a place is along with a natural reluctance in most people to deface real beauty. The exception of course involves a subculture that sees destroying a places intrinsic value and even natural beauty as a form of expressing hatred for the very place where they live and even the people they live with.

My second conclusion involves regional and local authority. Some places are either overwhelmed by the task of trying to

Ho Chi Minh City

prevent or punish street vandals and do not think the vandalism rises to the level of a serious enough crime to warrant strong punishment. In these circumstances the result is usually a growing blight on the community where the locals just learn to accept the problem as part of life.

Stangeland, Norway

The counterpoint to that is a strong local government where punishment is quick and serious enough to cause potential “artists” to reconsider their chances of arrest, jail or worse.

Graffiti is not new but has been around for thousands of years. Examples of graffiti have been unearthed from ancient Pompeii and Rome. One of the most common forms has been for protest but more and more recently it seems to have no real purpose other than to desecrate.

There are places where graffiti has been channeled into a socially acceptable art form where artists are celebrated and whole communities get involved in decorating walls and fences.In addition to the above there are economies where tourism is a major source of income to the community and tolerance for graffiti has a serious economic impact.

Western Europe seems to be an increasing target for graffiti and many locations seem to be helpless to stop it. Unlike graffiti in many places in the world, the canvas in Europe has often become churches, historic sites and public buildings.

Quebec
Stangeland, Norway

Often modern graffiti is becoming less political protest and more an ethnic challenge. It is becoming more and more common in the West to see Arabic writing as a major element of graffiti from Greece to Norway to Quebec along with counter graffiti.

Vietnam

Interesting that there are places in the world that are virtually graffiti free. It is rare to see it in rural areas of America, or in cities in Australia and New Zealand. I can’t say I noticed any in Amsterdam which is a very permissive culture  nor in Singapore. In the case of Singapore it probably has to do with a very harsh criminal code and strict enforcement. Even the fine for not flushing a public toilet in Singapore is S$200.

Graffiti on graffiti…

Anyone else a collector of graffiti? Care to share your thinking on this? Love to see what you found and where. E-mail us at TheIntentonalTraveler@gmx.com

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Back to Barbados

This island is probably our favorite Caribbean destination. It is one of the oldest English outposts and has been an independent nation since 1966. It also has one of the Caribbean’s highest literacy rates and standards ofliving. . Its’ location puts it deep into the southern Caribbean and east out into the Atlantic so that its western shores are washed by the Caribbean and the east coast is famous for good Atlantic surf. Because Bathsheba, on the east coast, has nothing between it and Africa to block waves coming all the way across the Atlantic it has become the site of some major surfing competitions.

Beaches & Nitelife

Bajan Sunset

Geography places a majority of the activity and hotels on the west side of this island stretching from the northwest coast to the western south shore. Starting out on the northwest coast is Speightstown which features a couple of good places to eat and beach clubs and not far away is one of our favorite restaurants, The Fish Pot. From Speightstown south along the sea, you come to the high rent part of Barbados. This area is dotted with palatial estates and upscale beach properties. The center of this neighborhood is the Royal Westmoreland Golf Course and Sandy Lane Beach. The Sandy Lane Resort is a destination for celebrities and jet setters with upscale shopping at Limegrove Center nearby. Limegrove and the local area also feature a movie theatre, cafes and upscale restaurants. Traveling farther south you pass a

Bridgetown Docks

number of good beaches and then the seaport as you approach Bridgetown,. the capital. It is the island’s government center and features a number of restaurants and shopping including the major department store Cave Sheppard. Leaving Bridgetown and again heading due south you find another beach with good resort hotels along with the Garrison and Drill Hall areas. In the center of this is Harbour Lights, one of the island’s destinations for nightlife for tourists and locals alike.

Heading further south you will find resort properties with names like Hilton, Marriott and Radisson dotted along more great beaches along with many smaller local hotels. There is also a nice boardwalk that starts near Bridgetown and winds its way south for a number of miles. It’s a great walk with a number of cafes and restaurants. Near the end of the boardwalk is Rockley Beach. This is one of our favorite areas to stay. There are a number of places to eat from fast food (Chefette is Barbados’ own fast food chain featuring chicken) to upscale eateries, gift and beach shops and grocery and wine stores. The center of this is the Accra Beach Hotel which, while older, is a nice beachfront property. We have also stayed at Coral Sands which is very nice, as well along with several other smaller properties in Rockley. For dining check out Bubba’s Sports Bar, Mojo’s and the Tiki Bar. One of our favorite places in this area is Champers which is a good upscale restaurant overlooking the water.

A little way south down the coast again is the St. Lawrence Gap area, usually referred to as just “the Gap”, another neighborhood for restaurants, bars and nightlife on the island. There are a number of hotels in the Gap area but be warned that the party scene can be pretty loud late into the night. Following the coast out of the Gap you will find another stretch of great beaches with good resort hotels. We have had good experiences staying at Bougainvillea Beach and Coral Sands in this area as well.

Friday Oistin’s Fish Fry

Bathsheba, Barbados

Next comes the town of Oistin where everyone regularly goes on a Friday night for a waterfront fish fry. Oistin is a traditional Bajan fishing village and the Friday Oistin’s Fish Fry is an event that has been going on forever: fresh fish cooked amidst a carnival atmosphere. It is something not to be missed.

Next comes the airport area and after that is the Crane Beach and Crane Beach Resort. The area features cliffs with pocket beaches below and gets its’ name from a crane that was used to lift cargo up the cliffs in early days. The hotel is an excellent resort but somewhat isolated. If your intention is to relax and spend quality time with the family, sand and surf it is a good choice.

Getting Around

Getting around Barbados can be a challenge. There is public bus service and a number of tour operators but to really see the island it is best to rent a car. You need to be warned though, because the traffic is English drive or driving on the left. The roads can be narrow and unmarked and the island makes use of lots of traffic circles (remember that the traffic in the circle always has the right-of-way) that they call round-abouts. Also, the roads in some areas can be a maze where even Bajan friends of ours have admitted to getting lost.

Things To Do 

Do:

  • Visit the Barbados Historical Museum and the George Washington House
  • Take a sunset cruise
  • Go snorkeling or diving
  • Eat flying fish with Bajan hot sauce
  • Visit Harrison’ Cave and Hunte’s Gardens
  • Take a ride out to Bathsheba and the northeast island
  • Take the tour at the Mount Gay Rum Distillery

Don’t:

  • Cross a street without looking both ways (your instincts can kill you)
  • Wear clothes with camouflage pattern (it’s against the law)
  • Smoke in public places (it’s against the law)

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Savannah, Georgia’s Grand Lady

Jack Leigh’s 1993 image titled “Midnight.”

 

If Charleston is a Southern Belle than Savannah is the South’s Grande Dame. The city is built close upon the deltas of the Wilmington and Savannah Rivers at the confluence of the Savannah River and Little Back River. Traditionally, the culture of Savannah is rooted in the coastal “low country” just like its’ sister city of Charleston a hundred miles to the north.

Savannah Map from 1818

The city of Savannah, Georgia was laid out by James Oglethorpe in 1733 around four open squares. Each square was surrounded by four residential (“tything”) blocks and four civic (“trust”) blocks. Once the four wards were developed in the mid-1730s, two additional wards were laid out and the city grew out from this plan. Almost three hundred years later it is those squares (http://www.savannah.com/savannahs-historic-squares/) that make Savannah so unique and attractive.

East River Street

James Oglethorpe was a British soldier, Member of Parliament, and philanthropist, as well as the founder of the colony of Georgia. As a social reformer, he hoped to resettle Britain’s poor in the New World. Savannah was the beginning of his Georgia colony. The charter allocated each family a city plot to build a house on along with a larger garden plot outside the settlement proper and an additional large farm plot farther out into the countryside. The inner city design was originally intended to allow for defense from the Spanish to the south and the native tribes around the area.

The SCAD Theatre

Today it doesn’t matter if the plan was a result of genius or luck or centuries of dedication, Savannah is one of the world’s most beautiful, walkable and livable cities. It is home to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) which is a dominant force in the culture of the city. Be sure to make time to visit their gallery and museum and ShopSCAD .

Savannah is also one of America’s most historic cities having played major roles in the colonization of America, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. It is also known for food, ghosts (there are dozens of haunting legends as well as tours) and a vibrant lifestyle. When people think of this city they usually think of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the birdgirl statue, cemeteries and grand steepled churches.

The Fountain in Forsythe Park

The last time we visited Savannah was a year ago in August, during the heat of summer. We came back in November and the weather and temperatures were glorious. We spent most of our time touring on foot, taking time for frequent stops to shop and snack. While walking along the river late one afternoon we decided, for old times sake, to stop into The Charte House for happy hour. In addition to good happy hour drink prices and snacks we were pleasantly surprised with an order of fried green tomatoes, some of the best we have ever had.

Crystal Beer Parlor

While strolling around the outskirts of the historic district we stopped for lunch at Crystal Beer Parlor, a local treasure on West Jones Street. Located in a former grocery store the “Crystal” is Savannah’s oldest restaurant, dating back to 1933. Its’ menu features solid American fare and an extensive beer list including a nice selection of local brews.

Market Square

On a previous visit to Savannah we took a walking “Famous & Secret East Side Food Tour” which was the most fun we’d had for lunch in a long time. We started at Smith Brothers Butcher Shop  and visited a half dozen spots for everything from tea and sweets to gyros. One of the stops was at Angel’s Barbeque, which had garnered a reputation for some of the best barbecue and homemade sauces in Savannah. We enjoyed delicious pulled pork sandwiches. I’m glad we stopped at that time as the owners, Andrew and Alieen Trice, have now sold the building and retired. To some this amounts to a tragedy.

If you are spending a day doing a walking tour of the city, a popular lunch idea is to stop by Smith Brothers Butcher Shop and order a sandwich to-go or pick up some items for a picnic in one of Savannah’s many squares.

For an introduction to the flavors of the city one should consider a number of dishes that the city is known for like low country boil, Shrimp and grits, Crab Savannah, oyster roast, crab cakes, beans n rice or red beans, fried green tomatoes and for dessert look for Georgia Peach Pie or cobbler, pecan pie and pralines or gophers.

Some must have treats in this historic city are legendary Leopold’s Ice Cream , Savannah’s Candy Kitchen for pralines or gophers, Southbound Brewing Company  for a tour and samples and one of Savannah’s popular and eclectic coffee shops.

 

 

Historic Charleston, South Carolina

A Southern Road Trip Part One: Charleston

We started our November road trip in Charleston, South Carolina with a stay at the Barksdale House Inn, a beautiful bed and breakfast located on George Street in the historic district. It has been a number of years (actually a few decades) since we last visited and, while it is hard to believe that a city, which is over two and a half centuries old, can change a lot in that time, it really has.

The restaurant scene here has simply exploded. A wide range of culinary styles are offered with special emphasis on the “Low Country” recipes of the region. Seafood is featured in Southern dishes like shrimp and grits, oyster stew and she-crab soup. We stopped into Pearlz for happy hour at the bar and ended up turning it into dinner. Afterwards, walking back to the B&B, we finished the night by picking up pralines at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen of Charleston. The next day we sampled and purchased cookies from Byrd’s Famous Cookies and also stopped for lattes at a local coffee shop of which Charleston has more than a few.

There are a large number of high-end retailers that have moved onto King Street creating a unique shopping venue in the historic district. Another mecca for tourists and visiting shoppers is the city market on East Market Street. The market stretches for a number of blocks east from Meeting Street with both indoor and open-air buildings. Stalls include local food sellers, crafts, jewelry, art and a limited amount of clothing. There are also a number of stalls featuring traditional Gullah hand-woven sweet-grass baskets which are unique to the region.

The Gullah are the descendants of African slaves of various ethnic groups who live in the Low-Country regions of Georgia and South Carolina, in both the Coastal Plain and on the Sea Islands. They developed a Creole

language, the Gullah language, and a culture rich in African influences which makes them distinctive among African Americans.

Other big draws to Charleston are the Colonial and Federalist architecture and the revolutionary and civil war historic sites. Good ways to see the town are with narrated horse-drawn carriage tours operated by several different companies or walking tours which can be self-guided or with a tour company.

A B&B In Charleston, South Carolina

Barksdale House Inn is  a comfortable B&B in a historic house built in 1778 located in the heart of old town Charleston, SC. This Inn offers 14 rooms with private baths, complimentary breakfast, newspaper, free wireless internet access and off-street parking. We visited Charleston, South Carolina recently and really enjoyed our stay at this B&B.The rooms are beautifully decorated, the bed we had was comfortable and the shower had plenty of hot water. The staff is friendly and efficient and on weekdays they put out a really nice continental breakfast (on weekends they offer a full breakfast) and an afternoon tea each day for their guests. They also allow you to leave your car parked at the B&B until 2:00 pm on the day you check out which allows more time for shopping and sightseeing.

Caribbean Character

Mahogany Bay Village Roatan Port
Roatan, Honduras

Many years ago on a Caribbean cruise we stopped in Roatan, Honduras. Our ship docked at a commercial pier only a short walk into the small town of Loma Linda. We went shopping in the local market, bought some ground coffee and a tee shirt, visited a local leather shop where they did everything by hand. On the way back to the ship children skipped along with us and locals set up craft stalls in their front yards.

A few years latter we again stopped in Roatan on a cruise but things were much different. We docked at the new cruise ship pier in Mahogany Bay. Across a bridge from the dock is a well-equipped resort beach area and just a short walk down the pier is the shopping village featuring all the usual stores, Diamonds International, Del Sol etcetera. The area was clean, modern, attractive but except for the sales staff the only other people there came off the ships. It was hard to tell if we were in Honduras or Sint Maarten.

Mahogany Bay cruise beach area

Theme parks treat you to wild animals, high-speed excitement and tastes of foreign lands and we appreciate that it is all part of a carefully orchestrated consumer experience. This experience is designed to be attractive, stimulating, clean, safe and above all else fun. It’s what makes people want to come back. As millions of people travel by ship or plane to Caribbean ports and resorts do they give much thought that they are taking part in a similar process?

Cruise Village Costa Maya, Mexico

Making tourists happy is big business and it has everyone playing to get a share of that dollar. Island governments go to great lengths to keep visitors safe and happy, telling their friends and coming back. Island resorts function very much like theme parks where the attractions are sea, beach, food and fun. The cruise industry offers ships that meet these same objectives but they are also faced with the need to make port calls. Over the past twenty years the cruise lines have done a lot to shape the on-shore experience of their customers on these Caribbean islands.

Georgetown, Granada

The first and obvious addition is the cruise lines creation of private islands. These are isolated locations where the cruise ships offer beaches, water sports and cookouts in a perfectly controlled environment. In the Caribbean these include Disney Cruise Lines – Castaway Cay, Bahamas, Holland America Lines – Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, Norwegian Cruise Line – Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, Princess Cruises – Princess Cays, Bahamas and Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay, Bahamas and Labadee, Haiti.

Cruise port Sint Maarten

Next are the new cruise ports, usually developed with the help of private companies, local governments and the cruise industry. In the most inclusive form they include Sint Maarten, Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, Roatan in Honduras, Sub Base St. Thomas and the port onGrand Bahama Island. In 2005 a private company with financial support from the government developed Port Zante to accommodate the big cruise ships visiting St. Kitts. Similar facilities where developed in St. Lucia, Curacao and St. Vincent with development planned for Belize and several other ports in the future.

Many passengers on cruise ships usually see the islands on arranged destination-focused tours. Unfortunately they completely miss the real Caribbean and spend their time shopping in the same stores on different islands that include

Cruise dock and shopping Cuzumel, Mexico

Diamonds International, Del Sol, Columbian Emeralds, Cariloha, Little Switzerland and others.

Basseterre St. Kitts

All-Inclusive resorts aren’t really much different from the cruise ships at giving us a feel for an island and its people. Their intent is to provide virtually everything the guest could expect or want in a relatively isolated location. They even arrange tours in much the same way as the cruises. There are also destinations where the entire island has been mostly overwhelmed by Western style and culture. Grand Cayman, Sint Maarten and Aruba can be characterized that way.

If the focus of your trip planning is turquoise water, sun and sand, water sports, entertainment and good food and you don’t really have an interest in island culture and history that’s fine. After all those are the things that have made the Caribbean the destination it is. But if you would like to spend some time exploring Caribbean life, that option is available.

Snack shop Tobago
P1000180
Yacht Haven near the cruise docks, St. Thomas

Fortunately a number of the larger Caribbean destinations have cruise facilities near to larger towns that can offer some insight into the real character and lifestyle of the island. In Curacao the ships dock very near to Willemsted and in St. Thomas many ships dock at Havensight with a nice walk or short jitney ride into Charlotte Amalie. In Antigua ships dock on the waterfront of the capital, St. John. The area near the dock has been developed to offer shopping and restaurants but most of the city is a working West Indian environment. All opportunities to look around, try a local restaurant and talk to people.

NOTE: While most areas in the Caribbean are safe, just like in Europe or America there are places that should be avoided. While we have almost always felt safe we would be cautious in areas of Trinidad, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. In the case of Jamaica every effort is taken to provide a safe environment at the major resort areas as well as major tour destinations.

 

Cedar Key, A Piece of Old Florida

If you travel west on Florida State Road 24 from Gainesville to where the road ends, you find yourself in a bit of old Florida. Out in the middle of nowhere on Florida’s northwest coast is the little village of Cedar Key with its’ population of around 700.

A post office named “Cedar Key” was established here in 1845 and by 1860 Cedar Key became the western terminal for the Florida Railroad, connecting it to the east coast of Florida. The town grew as a result of the railroad but in the late nineteenth century when shipping terminals and a railroad line where built in Tampa, the town got passed by.

At the start of the twentieth century, fishing, sponging and oystering had become the major industries but, when the oyster beds played out, the town became primarily a draw for sport fishing. It probably looks much now the way it did sixty years ago but, behind the façade, there have been some changes. The town now has a thriving art community and attracts tourists to the galleries and shops and fishermen to the Gulf.

We made our first ever visit to Cedar Key in July of this year and, while the town has its’ appeal, summer is not the time to go as a good deal of the town is actually closed. When we went looking for a cup of coffee in the morning we simply could not find anything open. The town has a few coffee shops and a donut shop and they were all closed for vacation when we were there. There are only a few hotel/motels in town and none of them received much in the way of inviting reviews. The one we chose, The Beach Front Motel, was basic and nowhere near a swimming beach.

You arrive in the town as Florida 27 turns into D Street. It crosses 2nd Street which is the main thoroughfare and offers a number of nice shops. If you turn left on 2nd Street and in a block make a right on C Street you will find yourself heading toward the Gulf and Dock Street.

Back in town at the corner of D and 2nd is Tony’s Seafood Restaurant which is famous for award winning clam chowder. That was where we went for our first meal and we were not disappointed as the chowder was remarkable. You can also take some cans home with you or mail order later. If you are looking for white tablecloths and atmosphere in Cedar Key you’re probably going to be disappointed.

Along the waterfront on Dock Street there are a number of gift shops and five or six restaurants worth considering. We tried Steamers Clam Bar and Grill which offered a fairly extensive menu including lots of fresh seafood in both small plates and entrees. They also featured a nice selection of local craft beers and a full bar.

Cedar Key is not the sort of town you just discover since it is so far off the beaten track. There is very little in the way of a beach to draw people and nothing like a resort area vibe. Unless you are into fishing, it’s hard to think of a reason why you would spend more than a day here. There is one recommendation we would make, however. If you are spending time in north central Florida say near Gainesville, Cedar Key is an excellent choice for a day trip. It is less than an hour and a half drive. It has a character that reminded us of the Florida Keys thirty years ago – a laid back place with good seafood, fishing and salt air.  The town has a vibrant art colony and the galleries and craft/gift shops are worth perusing. Also, in winter when more things are open, we were assured that we would find more to make a trip off the beaten path worth the time.