Thursday, October 24, 2019

Galway Ireland a Pleasant Surprise

Galway on the western Irish coast is one of the most picturesque towns that I have ever been too.  Sitting on the River Corrib on Galway bay it basks in the light of a seaside village.  Usually, a jumping-off point to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, but Galway is special in its own right.  Know as the cultural center of Ireland.  It leans on its medieval Norman influences.  A University town with 2 significant schools that has a population of around 80,000 souls.

We take the train from Dublin to Galway, and we are there in around 2 hours.  When you leave the station, you walk out to Eyre Square, which contains John F. Kennedy Park.  During Kennedy's visit to Ireland, he gave a speech here, proudly proclaiming his Irish roots.  Believe me, the residents of Galway remember it to this day.

From here it is a short 5-minute walk to our hotel on Quay Street, which is a pedestrian-only street lined with bars and restaurants.   The Residence Hotel is a clean boutique hotel that is close to the harbor and all the action. This is party central, where Irish from the countryside come to dine and drink at the many fine establishments.  While here, we will visit the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.  Then spend our nights in Galway walking its quaint streets and eating at its excellent restaurants.

One of our more rememberable dinners was a walk out of the old town through a typical Irish neighborhood to a seafood restaurant called Hooked.  I had read somewhere it was voted the best seafood restaurant in Galway.  This is all I needed to make the mile walk there.  A small, austere place with some great food.   On the way home, we walk by the Galway cathedral.

Our time in Galway was in complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of Dublin.  It had that small-town Irish feel to it, yet it simultaneously felt worldly.  From here, it's a bus ride to Cork, and as far as Ireland goes, a different universe.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Some Great Places in East Tennessee other than Gatlinburg

For a lot of people going to East Tennessee means going to Gatlinburg.  If you enjoy it, keep going, but personally, it not my vision of a vacation.  Although we are going there for the Christmas Parade in December, let’s say it wasn’t my idea. Sometimes you have to do things for the people that you love.

On a recent trip to East Tennessee, we visited some fantastic places.  These places might be a good change of pace and might even be more relaxing.  Just some words about the Tennessee State Park System, they have some great campgrounds, cabins, and sights to see.  All at a reasonable price.  We also completed 4 American Volkssport Association (AVA) 5 Kilometer walks, sponsored by the East Tennessee Wanders.  Click on the links for more information. 

Oak Ridge, Tennessee - The Secret City that was created in the middle of the Tennessee woods to jump-start the Manhattan Project. Established North of Knoxville to develop the nuclear weapons that were dropped on Japan and then develop America’s nuclear energy program.   Plenty of museums and parks devoted to those accomplishments. 

Rogersville, Tennessee - The second oldest town in Tennessee.  Davie Crockets' parents, who helped establish the city in 1775, are buried here.  Yes, that Davie Crockett who died at the Alamo.   The colonial downtown is on the National Historic Registry, contains the state's oldest post office and second oldest courthouse.

Seven Island State Birding Park - One of the newest additions to the State Park System.  Located at a bend on the French Broad River just east of Knoxville.  The trails on the bluffs have magnificent views of the Appalachian Mountains.   The paths drop down into the river flood plain and provide an excellent opportunity to view wildlife. 

Fort Louden State Park - Established by the British in 1756 during the 7-year war.   It was a crucial site in the organization of the Cherokee Indians, to help fight the French and the Creeks.  While walking through the recreated Fort, you can imagine the frontier life at the time.

Rock Island State Park - It has a great campground and cabins, but the show here are the waterfalls.  At the confluence of the Caney Fork and Collins Rivers where they spill into the Great Falls Gorge.  The first set of falls, the Great Falls is located below an old cotton mill.  The second falls, and the most magnificent, Twin Falls, was created when the Caney was dammed, forcing water through limestone caverns, creating a rush of water forced out of the side of the Gorge.  It is something to see.

We live in a beautiful and history-filled state.  Tennessee has a lot to offer, get out there and see it.  Plus, you only live once, and these things can’t be missed. 

Curtis Anderson, the Wandering Soldier, is a retired Army soldier who has a motorcycle addiction and loves to travel. Anderson and his wife, Terri, live in Clarksville. He can be contacted at

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Toronto a Foodies Town

This last summer, we went to Toronto for different reasons; the Hockey Hall of Fame, the CN Tower, but what we discovered was something much different.  Even though we enjoyed these things to our surprise, Toronto has some great food.  I would say for a city its size some above-average food.  What was impressive was the quality and availability.  Everywhere we went, there was a good restaurant or coffee shop.  Heck, the downtown food court felt like a collection of high-end gourmet restaurants.

Part of the reason for this excellent food culture in Toronto that it has a European feel to it.  Like food in Europe, it feels fresh and locally sourced.  Driving into Canada, you do notice is the lack of billboards and the overall cleanliness.    If you can't go to Europe because you are afraid to fly, go to Canada.  Now back to the food because I'm getting hungry.

The food scene in Toronto is anchored by its two city markets, St. Lawrence and Kensington. St. Lawrence Market is the old English market in the city downtown.  This traditional indoor market in a large building screams English with its vibrant seafood, butcher shops, and bakeries.  Kensington Market, a bohemian collection of streets and shops west of Chinatown, is an eclectic collection of food and culture from all over the world.   All food on the planet has a residence at Kensington.  These two markets opposites in nature come together to drive the culinary culture in Toronto.

As for the meals, they still linger in my mind, like an out-of-body experience.  There was a vegan Chinese restaurant where the tofu tasted like steak.  The gourmet sandwich shop with the deli quality roast beef piled high.  The Smoked Fish with fresh bread and antipasto.  Then the numerous Chinese fusion/curry dishes that we had that were so unique.  It’s going to be hard to eat at an American Chinese Buffet after this for sure. 

So, get your passport and drive to Toronto and eat this food. You will be a better person for it, and your taste buds will thank you.  It must be done before you die; there are no excuses.