I walked down a weaving stone path in the medieval town of Edinburgh, Scotland. My mouth watered as I was in search of the famous local Italian market, the Valvona & Crolla. I bypassed charming historic stone cottages and whimsical mom and pop shops, until I found myself staring upward at cluster of tall modern buildings. There were business men at work in these buildings, toiling trouble and plotting the eventual world take over, no doubt. As the road curved and my jaunt slowed and I searched step by step for safe footing, my eyes caught sight of a large roundabout intersection and a pile of stores lining each side of the street; I continued forward. Trying to take in each sight, sound and interesting detail, I mistakenly passed by my targeted destination. Once I realized this, I looked back and began to jog, backtracking to the light grey storefront. Painted above the doorway were the words “Valvona & Crolla, established 1934.” My heart leapt and my stomach gave me a lustful growl.
A gloomy fog had ascended from the north as I drove from the south, along highway 61. The morning started as a clear, beautiful October day in Duluth, with the passing of seasons visible upon every tree. The night was chilly and the day was tolerable, but “there’s certainly nothing else like Fall in Minnesota,” I found myself believing.
I had been living in Saint Paul, three hours south of here, and I had to leave. I needed to escape the monotony. I’m not one for staying put in places for too long and I had overstayed my welcome. Freedom along the open road is a thing that is often overlooked by many disconcerted hearts. Driving toward no particular destination and only your thoughts to keep you company is relaxing to the tempestuous and seemingly engulfing swirl of everyday life.
Rustic and strong; an immoveable force - that is how I would describe the remnants of the Fort San Felope del Morro or simply once known as the Morro Castle. I strolled at a leisurely pace taking in every detail, letting the ruins speak to me, as though they were time-capsuled memoirs from centuries ago. A historic site of fortification and savior, which is impressive in its own right. Two large sections still stand from what once was the fully fortified city of (Old) San Juan, Puerto Rico. The pair face out toward the Caribbean Sea, like a warning to all who aimed to conquer. It was built in the 16th Century, playing the role of the island’s saving grace, as it saved the rule of the island from treacherous and rogue pirates time and time again.
Sometimes I have bright ideas like walking an hour from the Cataño Ferry to the Bacardi distillery. I walked along the ocean, through some dodgy neighborhoods, passed a cemetery and then finally arrived to Casa Bacardi an hour later. I was covered in sweat by the time that I was greeted by the grand entrance lined with gold lettering, and centered by a security booth mounted in between the streets. I received a strange look from the guard as I explained I was here for the tour - apparently not many people walk freely around in Puerto Rico. He pointed out that I was almost there, I just needed to proceed through the gated entrance and to the left near the parking lot. His accent was thick, but comparable and just as I expected, bad spanglish.
Craic (pronounced KRAK) is a term for fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.1
It was a rainy grey day in Belfast and I arrived several hours later than I had anticipated. Too much of a smooth black elixir in a comfortable Irish pub with a handful of wonderful strangers stalled my arrival. I planned to head out of Belfast immediately to tour the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede and the town of Bushmills. However, since I must be off to Scotland in the morning, I’m left with no choice but to skip everything.
With some lingering resignations of the night before, I set off from the train station and flagged down a taxicab. I offered the man additional fare if he would be willing to take me on a tour through some of Belfast’s delicate history. He was the perfect guide, thorough and passionate, while as knowledgable as any local who had lived through the mayhem that took place from around 1969 to 1994. We toured rebuilt bombing sites, original war murals, the art-laden peace wall and other various historic sites along the way.
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Even though I had now have acquired plans, I continued at a leisurely pace, taking everything in. A few blocks away, I was serenaded into a fantastic mood by a lone street-accordionist. He bobbed and swayed back and forth, spreading mirth through his festive melodies. He was a large dark skinned fellow, dressed in white and red pinstripes with a black rimmed hat. He had black pants and shiny grey shoes with suspenders completing his authentic ensemble. I stood, transfixed and happier than I had ever felt. I was bewitched for what seemed like ages, until the sticky cool touch of the melting gelato reached my fingertips.
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