Top Ten Films of 2017

2017 was a rather unusual year for movies. For one thing, there were more good movies released than in most other years; I almost made my top ten list a top *twenty* list. (I still did, sort of. Read on.) For another thing, half of the top ten list could easily have been filled by comic book movies; no fewer than three did make the final list. For another thing still, there were many good movies but not many great ones.

The much anticipated “Blade Runner” sequel was every bit as good as I hoped it would be and in some ways better, but then again, it clocked in at almost three hours and I know it didn’t need to be that long. “The Last Jedi,” the eighth film in the “Star Wars” saga – ninth if you include the stand-alone sorta-prequel “Rogue One,” featured more action and more characters than 2015’s disappointing “The Force Awakens,” but it also had sequences that went nowhere and plot holes that didn’t make much sense. “Dunkirk,” that sure-to-sweep-the-Oscars WWII epic from “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” director Christopher Nolan, had several moments of cinematic brilliance, but also bombastic sound mixing, bland casting, and unmemorable characters.

GringoPotpourri’s Top Ten Films of 2017:

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Photo Locale of the Month – January 2018

As a Northern Hemisphere denizen, I cannot help but mention the weather in any wintertime photo locale post in which the location is in a warmer clime. After all, with bomb cyclones and polar vortexes having placed much of the U.S. and Canada in a deep freeze for the first week of the new year (even Florida had snow for the first time in 30 years!), it only makes sense to write about some place warmer.

For this month’s entry, that place is Granada, Nicaragua. This jewel of Spanish colonial architecture in Central America, Nica’s one time capital and the country’s most conservative city is one of the most vibrant towns on the planet. I can hardly believe that it was exactly one year since my visit.

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Three Days around Valle de Bravo

It was roughly 5.5 years ago that I started this blog, and six years ago to the month that I took my first of four, unknown to me at the time, exploratory trips to Mexico City prior to my moving there…a move that, in turn, led to the creation of this blog. As such, I thought I’d start 2018 with a post that hearkens nostalgically back to a wonderful extended weekend in Mexico. Where have the last six years gone?! Continue reading “Three Days around Valle de Bravo”

Photo Locale of the Month – December 2017

It is going on the last day of the year as I write this. And what a year it’s been! Weather in East Tennessee has been unusually cold of late, even for December, and I know that states to my north have it worse. Put it this way: I’m glad I don’t live in Minnesota right now.

As such, I wanted to feature pics from a place with warm weather 24/7/365. I immediately thought of Cuba, where I was just nine months ago. The island nation, which suffered heavy rains and flooding this past September from Hurricanes Irma and Maria yet recovered quickly, will be forever in my heart. And the grand seaside boulevard of its enticing capital city, Havana’s malecón, is the locale in question for this month’s entry…my last post of 2017.

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Holiday Decorations around the World

There hasn’t been too much winter chill in the air lately in East Tennessee, where daytime temps have been hovering around the 50-degree mark, only just turning colder a few days ago. Still, Christmas is less than three weeks away, and holiday decorations are up in force.

Though not a religious person, I still enjoy the spirit of the season, particularly the lights, the holly, and the trees. Combined, these decorations suggest a communal spirit of giving, and a general air of hope, something of which the world has been in short supply lately.

Here is a sampling of holiday decorations witnessed by yours truly during his travels around the globe. I shall start with cities that I once lived in, then move on from there.

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25 Great Travel Memories

Last month’s blog post, One Sentence on Each Country, received higher-than-normal readership. Thank you for checking it out, Loyal Readers. I wanted to expand upon that (don’t worry, just a short post this time) by sharing some of my favorite travel memories over the years. A few of these fall into the “profound” category. I am referring to things like seeing the mo’ai heads of Easter Island, or of gazing upon 8,000 Qin Dynasty terracotta warriors in Xi’an.

On the other hand, many of these memories are simple recollections of the little things that make travel so rewarding. For this, I am referring to failed, but somehow amusing, attempts at communication with Russian cabin mates on a train from St. Petersburg to Moscow, or of the literal hole-in-the-wall pizzeria that I stumbled upon in Salzburg, a place that somehow crisped my pepperoni pizza just right.

In no particular order, here are 25 Great Travel Memories:

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Photo Locale of the Month – November 2017

Earlier this week, a devastating terror attack took place in Egypt’s North Sinai region. A bomb was detonated inside a Sufi mosque, and as worshippers fled from the building in fear of their lives, they were shot from afar by gun-wielding ISIS types. At press time, over 300 people have perished and no one has claimed responsibility. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has declared three days of national mourning while world leaders have shown solidarity with the beleaguered Arab nation.

I have never visited the Sinai Peninsula, but I have explored other regions of northern Egypt, where the world’s longest river and the principal water source for countless African nations, the Nile, empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Situated on a jewel of Mediterranean shoreline just east of the Nile Delta, Alexandria is my favorite big city in Africa, and its crescent-shaped Corniche is the focus of this month’s photo gallery.

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Thanksgiving Reflections – 2017

My, what a crazy year this has been.

Thanksgiving is normally a time for introspection and reflection, for remembering everything that you have in your life, and for spending the day – or at least the afternoon – with friends and family.

I will be spending my Thanksgiving alone.

This is probably for the best.

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One Sentence on Each Country

Earlier this fall, the New York Times ran a contest that was right up my alley. The famous NYC daily took applications for a single travel writer who would spend 52 weeks – the entirety of 2018 – traveling around the world, spending seven days apiece in each of the newspaper’s 52 places to visit in 2017.

The application process was easy enough; applicants had to provide links to their social media accounts and to write a 500-word essay, but the competition was ridiculous. The job opening was posted for roughly 14 days; the paper received 3,100 applications in the first 72 hours alone!

I threw my proverbial hat into the ring, even though I had already visited many of the destinations in question, such as Stockholm and Puerto Escondido. Considering the competition, I know that I – along with every other applicant, for that matter – face an uphill battle towards job acceptance, but I would definitely savor the opportunity and believe that I can excel in the role.

In my essay, I wrote about how my having already visited 70 countries makes me the ideal candidate because, having traveled internationally every year since 2000 except 2014 and 2015, I am not only a seasoned traveler but a tireless one as well.

Will I get the job? Probably not. But the application process inspired to think back upon some of the places I have traveled to. I compiled a country-by-country list, and thought I would share it with you, Loyal Reader. Without further ado – and taking the definition of “run-on sentence” to new levels – here is one sentence on each country that I have visited:

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Photo Locale of the Month – October 2017

Last month’s photo gallery focused on the beauty of Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, part of three weeks spent exploring pint-sized Slovenia, which, in terms of value per square mile, features perhaps the most bang for your buck than anywhere else in Europe.

That trip was tackled onto the end of a thrilling African adventure that included safaris in Kenya and Uganda, and my summit of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, arguably my finest travel moment. But after all of that, I still wasn’t sated. From Slovenia, I embarked by train to see one last place, the Old City of Bratislava, Slovakia.

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