"I travel for travel's sake: the great affair is to move".  

I believe Longfellow said that.   I remember it was printed along with other famous quotes about travel on the side of my Banana Republic "safari boot" shoebox.   That's old B.R., before the Gap bought it out and the clothes were made for travel in a real jungle and not the metaphorical urban one.  

That quote, along with the clothing, has become part of my personal religion.   I believe travel is the best way to broaden one's mind.   I was privileged to have parents who thought so and in childhood through their patronage and in adulthood as my meager funds allow, I have managed to see a good chunk of the planet, laying claims to three continents (four, if you count Curacao on the South American plate, but that's stretching a bit ).   For my own memory and for the possible amusement of others I offer this brief journal.   Certainly not every trip is listed and none in the detail I would like, but it is a start in documenting what I consider one of the greatest reasons for living.

Pre 1986.  
Most of the continental United States, western Canada, many trips to Arizona and Washington DC.

Scandanavia, 1986.  

My first European trip, made with my parents and grandmother.   We were there to pick up the white Saab 900s which would figure so largely in my life years later, and to spend the first two weeks of its life touring the countryside. Starting at Saab headquarters in Gothenburg we went through Malmo on the way to Denmark, passing through Odense and on to Jutland for Copenhagen, seeing Legoland, the birthplace of my childhood obsession, and Tivoli gardens.   Norway was my favorite with its rocky beaches and quaint seaside fishing towns, specifically Arendal.   Oslo made a great impression of modern Europe.

The Cayman Islands, 1987.
One word: snorkeling. For a week. I recall the place being heavily populated by Texans. It was infact my first brush with British colonialism: The beginning of a beautiful friendship.

United Kingdom, 1988.
By the time we mounted this trip, again with my grandmother living in Georgia, I was of a number of years to be firmly confirmed in my admiration for the Realm. My conduit of love was the excellent British programing of our local (Fort Worth, Texas) PBS station. I had formed, with my best friend and fellow "Hitchhiker's", towel-bearing cohort Jeff, the PCCC, The Parker County Cricket Club. Our pitch was my scabby but generously perportioned front yard and our 11 (more like 8) was drawn among school friends, who had even less idea how to play the game than we did. We had mail-ordered bats, balls and pads from the Middlesex Club jsut after I had brought back my first bat from this trip. But I digress. Thanks to the miricle of television I had seen the urban Britian of "Eastenders", "Doctor Who", "The Avengers" and "Monty Python's Flying Circus", The Pastoral England of "All Creatures Great and Small" and various "Masterpiece Theater" dramas, and even the beautiful countryside of Wales embodied in the Portmerion depicted in Patrick McGoohan's "The Prisoner". I also had many vivid pictures in my mind of the bleak, breathtaking English midlands from my early love of the novels of Thomas Hardy. Suffice to say I was not dissappointed with my experiences on the trip and a 50 pence piece obtained in change from purchacing a "Daily Telegraph" at the newsstand at Edinburgh Station is to this day my constant companion as a fob on my keyring. We started out of Manchester (home of my high school beloved, The Smiths) through the Lakes District wherein lies besides the beautiful scenery, a jewel of a town Windemere, then on up to Edinburgh which saw a splendid few days strolling Princess Street and taking in the Park, then by train again up to Inverness, which seemend a northernmost outpost. Perhaps most memorable of the trip was crossing the famed 'water splash' of James Herriot's "All Creatures" series, of which I had read all, in the Yorkshire Dales, and over the Firth of Forth Bridge, "That monument to Scottish ingenuity."

Barbados, 1989.
The first of two trips, both staying on the northwest side of the island, at Settler's Beach and Glitter Bay, respectively. Our accommodations were out of a Victorian novel about the Realm, with pane-less windows covered by louvered shutters, grass mat floors and rattan furniture. Memorable moments include 'seeing the cricket' at the community pitch, playing amateur botanist conducting my survey of poisonous trees unique to the island, and one singular event of being chased down the street while on bicycle in a not-at-all touristed part of the island by a small boy yelling after me to buy ganja.

Nova Scotia, 1991.
Second to Wales on my list of most beautiful places. We made it over to Prince Edward Island as well into 'Anne of Green Gables' country. It's a land that can be both rugged and bleak like the Scottish Highlands and green and lush like the heart of Ireland. The trip was filled with quaint towns, rocky beaches and rollicking car ferries.

Alaska, 1995.
A cruise down the coast from Anchorage to Juneau then on to Seattle. My general comment about this trip is that once you've seen one huge chunk of ice fall into the water you've seen them all. We did have a nice float-plane trip into the interior. The end of the trip saw a one-night stay in Seattle, where I darkened the door of that branch of "Lark In the Morning", the Mendacino-based ethnic instrument shop. It was here that I acquired one of the jewels of my instrument collection: a Spanish Laud, a fine example but at the insignificant cost of $250 including a hard-shell case. The reason for the low cost was, supposedly, because it was an experiment made by an otherwise established maker. The lacquer finish on the top was cracked in appearance but not to the touch. Not a discouragement. It was a tiny shop virtually bursting with instruments. A paradise. I picked up several books on totem carving on this trip after being exposed to many fine examples. I intend to make more of a study into this

Greece and Turkey, 1996 .  
With friend Anna and her parents.   Being invited to partake in the annual "Chem nut" owner's appreciation trip, Anna's father being a South Georgia farmer and a major customer of the chemical company.   Anna and I made our own itinerary and managed to cover Athens, Delphi, the island of Aegina, which saw the most splendid day moped-ing up to one of the best preserved Doric temples by sunset, ending the trip by continuing on to Istanbul for a few days and taking in the Princess's Islands.    In Athens, while bouzouki hunting in the Agora markets, we had an interesting encounter with the supposed cousin of Jack Kevorkian ("Dr. Death" of early 1990's infamy), who's instrument I purchased after a comedic exchange of broken English, proving that music or traveler's checks are the universal language.   Standing on the spot where Saint Paul delivered the "Unknown God" sermon at the Acropolis was a particular thrill for me.   The thousands of pilgrims that came before me had worn the rock to a glassy polish.   Istanbul saw Oud hunting in Sultanahmet being caught in student demonstrations at the University and and my claim to having set foot in Asia.  

Salt spring Island, British Columbia, 1997.  
A small island off the coast of Vancouver Island in the Strait. I spent a week with my parnets on this tiny island at a 'spa' which constituted mostly of a-frame cabins overlooking the rocky coast. One fine day saw a biking tour of the northern half of the island, past grazing fields and whitewashed churches and barns. We were there during a local arts festival in which the artist's studios were open for visitors and we were furnished with a map to seek out these Hobbit-like abodes. I remember a couple who had re-created a Provencal cottage and garden as the setting for their dry-goods pattern-making. The sight and the scent of the masses of heather will remain with me. And the bright red floral tablecloth we bought from them is a fixture on my family's sunday afternoon lunch table. We also saw a drum maker, a ceramicist, and a jewelery maker who's workshop was a small shed made out of twigs. The most treasured moments were spent with a local harp maker, Lawrie Neish. I suspect I reached him by phone and he consented to pop by our cabin and share his experiences with us over a glass of whiskey. We sat on the front porch overlooking the water at dusk and were regaled with stories of his interesting life. I include here a short bio, lifted from North Creek Press' "Pacific Northwest Crafters of Small Harps in the 1970s ". The passage gives a glimpse of this entertaining personality:

"A native of Scotland, Lawrie Neish has been making harps for nearly fifty years. He continues to make both Celtic and pedal harps, as well as rebuilding pedal harps, at his home and workshop on Salt Spring Island, just north of Victoria, B.C. By the early 1980's, Mr. Neish had made harps for several prominiant performers, and became well established in his harpmaking business, assisted by his son who also became a harpmaker. In a recent email, Mr. Neish comments: "Briefly I have been making instruments since 1958 and simple arithmetic will tell you I started young and am getting long in the tooth into the bargain. … I still give my instruments a lifetime warranty regardless of who owns them. However the lifetime being mine, it is not worth as much as it was in the seventies. My harps are scattered far and wide in North America and Europe."

I recall that he was quite proud of a lever system he invented, and had patented, but he seemed most interested in running the local playhouse these days. The end of the trip saw a one-night stay in Vancouver, a very European city.

Ireland and Wales, 1998 .  
A family history trip to Leap castle, ancestral home of the O'bannons.   Where I met the present owner, Sean Ryan, "the most famous whistler in Ireland".   Later continuing on by myself to revisit the quaint Rowen, near Conwy, Wales, a discovery from the '88 trip, seeing also Portmerion, and concluding with a two-day shopping spree at the Early music shop in Bradford, outside of Manchester.

I came across an email my father copied me on which he sent to a friend contemplating a trip to Ireland. He did some great internet legwork finding sites for some of the places we visited, which I repeat here as well as for his own ammusing outline of the trip:

"Our conversation today got me to reminiscing about our trip to Ireland in 1998, and I found websites for some of the places we visited. [If the cc'd list has anything to add, have at it.] We flew into Shannon airport and rented an Avis Toyota van (diesel, straight shift, RHD) for careening about those country lanes while driving on the wrong side of the road.

The castle that Deb's family (the O'Bannons) used to inhabit in Co. Offaly near Birr in the center of the country:
http://www.leapcastle.com/. Leap (pronounced Lepp) was owned by the O'Carrolls but their sub-clan the O'Bannons lived in it several hundred years ago before they all emigrated to the colonies. You can visit the castle but not stay there. If you want to stay in a castle in the area, try http://www.kinnittycastle.com/website/main.htm. That's where D.J. played a jam session in the Dungeon Bar while Deborah carried on an animated conversation with an inebriated local farmer. We also had dinner in the castle's dining room.

The dairy farm B&B where we stayed just outside Birr: http://www.minnocksfarmhouse.com/. Nice accommodations at a reasonable price. The cows' bells wake you in the morning as they go from the barn to the pasture, and signal the cocktail hour as they return that evening.

The school on the way from Birr to Leap castle where Deborah visited for a day with her mother [and Granny?] (while D.J. and I went back to the castle for a photo op and some Irish moonshine from the owner): http://homepages.iol.ie/~batespd/. Did I mention that Granny was 95 when we made this trip?

Great places to eat in Birr: http://www.elyocarroll.com/restaurants.asp#24. We had a great dinner at The Thatch.

Those links have other links to the Birr/Offaly area. We also visited a castle in Birr at which a huge old telescope from the 1840s was set up on the grounds: http://www.birrcastleireland.com/new/index.htm?mainFrame=http%3A//www.birrcastleireland.com/new/main.htm.

Then we went to the west coast of Ireland near Doolin, Co. Clare, in what is known as the Burren area: http://www.feniansirishpub.com/doolin.htm. Check the links for this Irish pub to other interests in the area. A great local attraction are the Cliffs of Moher: http://home.flash.net/~gkeating/cliffs.htm

We first stayed at a B&B that I can't remember but then moved to this hotel: http://www.aranview.com/, after D.J. split off for his trip to Wales and England. Deb's mother and Granny stayed at the hotel while Deb and I took a day trip to the Aran Islands off the coast of Doolin: http://www.visitaranislands.com/.

If you get to Wales, here is a great place to stay: http://www.tirycoedhotel.co.uk/. It's near Conwy on the north coast and a very nice place. We stayed there during a previous trip to GB and D.J. went there again on this trip. Check out the castle at Conwy, but don't get a parking ticket like I did while we were having tea and scones in a local cafe. "

Italy, May 2003.  
After a lifetime of hearing about my Italian lineage, not to mention for being the birthplace of most of the art, music and architecture I love, Italy was on the top of my travel destination list.   And when I got an invitation to join my friend Gina and her father on their own family history trip I decided I had waited long enough.   The Lamantias hail from Sicily, so that was the focus of the trip.   We did pass through Guzzo and Consolmagno country, outside of Napoli, but I was the guest on this trip and was happy to save my family history for the next trip.   My agenda was taking in the splendid southern countryside and seeking out as many archeological and architectural finds as could be obtained.   Traveling by the seat of our pants without reservations, bouncing around in a hatchback Opal, we made our way from Rome, stopping in Pompeii and Sorrento before crossing onto Sicily.   We made a pretty good run of the island, save for the eastern coast.    Especially memorable was being invited into the home of the Lamantia's in Termini Imerese, having a home made Sicilian lunch, a guided tour of the town and evening meal with the immediate family.   My college Italian was useful if not superlative.   Later on the island, Taromina turned out to be the greatest find with its jewel-like shops and terraces overflowing with vibrant flowers.   A stop in Tivoli to view the gardens brought us to the finest accommodation on the trip, a 10 th c. monastery acquired by a noble family in the 16 th c. and converted to a hotel by that same family as recently as the 1980s.   Surrounded by a grove, we had a commanding view of the Tivoli valley with Rome twinkling in the distance at dusk.   Finally Rome brought me face to face with years of study: standing in the pantheon was almost a homecoming.   The "mouth of truth" was most exciting for having my hand at the same place as Audrey Hepburn's.

Scotland, August 2005.  
Shannon and I planned the trip very shortly after meeting in the Stone Mountain Pipe Band. Little did we know that it would be our engagement. We were going to Edinburgh for the Pipefest, marching with the Atholl Highlanders of Stone Mountain, Georgia. By the time the trip cam 'round I was well and truly smitten. On the first full day of the trip I proposed to Shannon at The Northern Bar Pub next to the Botanical Gardens in the company of our good friends and travel companions, Pam and Evan. Evan is the pipe major of our band where we met so has, in a way, been with us from the beginning. We wound up doing more touristing than piping, but the piping was an experience not to be forgotten. When all was tallied we found we were part of 10,000 pipers and drummners marching on Holyrood Park. Walking the streets and making the rounds of the pubs, playing and enjoying a jovial town. It was also the Fringe festival and an International Festival. The town was absolutly streaching at the seams. After breaking with the rest of the band we journied on our own to nearby Pearth to meet with my family Laird, Rhodrick Moncrieff. We had a lovely day tromping the grounds and enjoying Lord and Lady Moncrieff's hospitality, who were agreeably down to earth. Back in Edinburgh briefly, I kept a pre-set appointment with the Edinburgh University Musical Instrument Collection Curator to view and make a casual study of the Stainsby Jr. oboe, the same one of which I have a copy by H.A. vas Dias. Later in the trip, I got to introduce Shannon to Portmerion, Wales. The village and woods were resplendant as I remembered and doubly enjoyable being able to share with my fiance. We visited Oxford for a bit of business for me to view the da Salo cittern in the Ashmolean Museum. We ended the trip with a few days in London. "Taking in the cricket" at Lords fulfilled a childhood dream of mine, while I imagine the fashion collection at the V&A was of more interest to Shannon. London also saw 221b Baker Street, Harrod's and the Tower of London. Website with pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/18095716@N00/

Key West, July 2006 
Shannon and I had a really relaxing time on our honeymoon among the ghosts and turtles, wreckers and pirates. It was a non-stop flight from Atlanta and a taxi ride to the Gardens Hotel and we never set foot in a vehicle for the remainder of the week. Our hotel was set in two acres of what felt like tropical rainforest dotted with quaint Bahamian-style bungalows. We were delighted to find that the hotel came with its own turtles. Two very large Aldabra tortoises named Thelma and Louise "because they like to get out on the road alot" Outside the walls of our island retreat we had an array of sightseeing, shopping and dining which included the Mel Fischer museum, the shipwreck museum, where I got my first and possibley last opportunity to play a conch shell (from the highest point in town, no less, atop the museam's reproduction watch tower), the butterfly house where we had a close encounter with a very intimidating moth. There was even a superlative second hand bookshop awaiting us. Throughout the trip we debated the cultural and legal ramifications of crossing the water over into Cuba. It was tempting.

Road Trip, 2009 
The lean economic climate and the desire to explore this great country of ours couldn't have merged at a better time. The impetus for this trip was a wedding in Little Rock and the recent relocation of our friends Billy and Cecilia to St. Louis (two days before we arrived). I have a new appreciation for the farmers of this nation after driving through the gloriously monotonous Heartland. We struck out from Atlanta and made Tupelo in time to see the Elvis Birthplace (I'm more early Elvis, if you know what I mean, so we skipped Graceland later in the trip) making Memphis by night. Since I insisted on not making reservations (to be kooky and spontaneous) it became nighttime and we had no room at the Inn. But getting a hold of a Beale Street-area tourist guide, we called every hotel within walking distance as we sat comfortably in front of the fountain in the Peabody lounge sipping fizzy drinks. [Tourist tip: pretend you're staying at the fancy hotel by using their bar as your personal office]. We had two days to take in Sun Studio, barbecue, Gibson Guitars and the Cotton Museum (more interesting than you might think) all as I replayed Jim Jarmuch's Mystery Train in my mind. We did not see the ghost of Elvis. Or even Joe Strummer. From Memphis we headed to Little Rock, overshooting it for an afternoon to tour the Spas of Hot Springs. We had a great evening with Shannon's highschool friends in North Little Rock's Cregeen's Irish Pub, where homebrewing was discussed in-depth. From Little Rock we went up (along side) the Mississippi through St. Gerrard where there was a great historic Catholic Church where we had the royal tour by a Sinatra-listening-to caretaker, and the afternoon in St Genevieve, where we got up close to French Colonial architecture. A couple of days in St Louis saw the 1904 World's Fairgrounds, The Arch, the Louis and Clark Museum and generally hanging out around the quaint college neighborhood of our friends. All along the trip we had Americana experiences which Shannon tracked down online for us to get the full road trip experience. We saw Metropolis, Illinois, home of Superman. We saw the world's biggest catsup bottle in that same state. We saw the worlds largest banjo in New Athens, Illinois. We drove for a time on Route 66 outside St Louis and we saw Chester, Illinois, the Home of Popeye. Our journey back home took us through a clip of Kentucky, Nashville, where we revisited some faves from a previous trip like the Union Station, and finally Chattanooga. The most memorable moments were actually the non-attraction stretches of farmland where we would drive for hours and only see cornfields, train tracks and "farming communities" which is one way you could term the occasional cluster of buildings and silos that occurred at crossroads. Cutting through these landscapes at 60 mph is one thing, but I continually had the desire to pull off to the side of the road, get out and tromp over the drainage ditch and into the field to photograph crops with the macro lens. That's the real experience for an urban Southeasternerr: standing in a field that streaches to the horizon in every direction and listening to the corn rustle. Not a pine tree in sight.


DJ Betsill

Atlanta, Georgia

July 2009







My money shot of St. Micheal's in Charleston, S.C.


At the "Valley of the Temples", Agrigento, Sicily


"La Isola Bella", Taromina, Sicily. I had a delightful lunch at an outdoor cafe overlooking the island.


Hit and run photography through an open door. When I travel I try to get discrete slice-of-life pictures whenever possible. This local is getting a shave with a straight razor, in Syracusa, Sicily.


Delphi, Greece. This was the vantage point for my sketch of the site. Did I leave the iron on?


The central tower of Leap castle, on an overcast day. CO. Offlay, Ireland

The belltower at "the village" of Portmerion, Wales. My favorite place in the whole world



"But the fairest view was obtained by looking northward towards the dense group of mountains which buttressed the front range, facing towards Rubeho. It was the home of the winds, which starting here and sweeping down the precipitous slopes and solitary peaks on the western side, and gathering strength as they rushed through the prairie-like Marenga Mkali, howled through Ugogo and Unyamwezi with the force of a storm. It was also the home of the dews, where sprang the clear spring which cheered by their music the bosky dells below, and enriched the populous district of Mpwapwa. One felt better, stronger, on this breezy height, drinking in the pure air and feasting the eyes on such a varied landscape as it presented, on spreading plateaus green as lawns, on smooth rounded tops, on mountain vales containing recesses which might charm a hermit's soul, on deep and awful ravines where reigned a twilight gloom, on fractured and riven precipices, on huge fantastically-worn boulders which overtopped them, on picturesque tracts which embraced all that was wild, and all that was poetical in Nature"

-Henry Morton Stanley from 'How I Found Livingstone'