Friday, October 31, 2008



Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tales of Telluride

Telluride creates a space in your head unlike any other place I have ever been.  And that is just the Skiing. Telluride is a  god-like creation of majestic peaks, backcountry heli-skiing, awesome front side diamonds, remarkable cuisine and a fairy tale like town that rocks as hard as it entertains.  The Devil Dog LOVES Telluride, and since winter is approaching, and since I teased it several posts ago, heres a little look at the awesome treachery and mountain adventure that is Telluride.

Above you can see the ridiculous back country peaks that are the staple of heliskiing.  This picture is actually taken from the helicoptor as we swooped in toland on a nearby peak.  On the peak.  At the very top.  And then the helicoptor goes away. And there is only one way down...and thats down.

But I digress, because the terrain at Telluride Ski Resort itself is equally challenging and stimulating. Above we see the view from the top of the mountain. This is the top of a run that leads to the legendary front side diamonds.

Below is the snow on the bough of a tree.

And this is what you see when you get off the lift at one end of the top of the mountain. But this is no ordinary mountain top.  On my last trip there we had over three feet of snow over 4 days, creating a true wonderland of vertical delight.  The front side diamonds were especially amazing, Milk Run in particular.

This is an aerial view of the INTERMEDIATE slopes on the back bowl area.  
And this is the back country looking down from halfway down a run in the wilderness.

There's little left to a mans life after the exhilaration of a quintessential ski adventure. Thats the feeling the Devil Dog always gets in Telluride.  Winter is coming. Can you hear the snow?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Kipahulu is truly at the end of the road, some 15 miles further on from Hana, on the far side of the island of Maui, on the far reaches of the backside of Haleakela volcano, a place of infinite beauty, unspoiled paradise, and where Charles Lindburgh went to escape from it all. The Devil Dog understands intrinsically wherein lies the unbelievably powerful attraction. Hana and Kipahulu are the intimate connection to all that is real about Hawaii.

Lindburgh lived here in Kipahulu for years, died here, and is buried here, in a simple cemetery of Palapala Hoomau Church, notable for its stain glass Hawaiian Jesus, complete with Alii cape, seen below. In the picture above we see the ocean view from the cemetery grounds, a view that Lindburgh saw every day from his home next to his good friend, Sam Pryor (a founder of Pan American Airway), who convinced Lindburgh to come here to live in the 1950's. Pryor and his 5 pet gibbons are buried not far from Lindburgh in the church cemetary.

The views are amazing, as is the drive. You could not be more remote, more removed, a simple 2 lane blacktop twisting through dense jungle over one lane bridges and past waterfalls alongside a brilliant Pacific Ocean, with occasional farms and pastureland dotting the exotic unspoiled landscape. Below are a group of horses lounging in an oceanside pasture not far from Palapala Hoomou Church, paradise for all in a land the Devil Dog cannot forget.

Oahu's North Shore

Speaking of Oahu, it is also  the home of the North Shore, 10 miles of the most spectacular beaches and legendary surf spots on the planet.  The Devil Dog grew up on Oahu, spending 9 idyllic years of my youth here, and one of the most amazing things is how the North Shore has remained, with minor exceptions, virtually intact from the way it was 30 or 40 years ago. Above, two surfers ride the same break at Epukai Beach Park, better known as the Banzai Pipeline. In the winter the perfectly tubed waves here can reach 20 feet and more.  

At Waimea Bay, when the surf is down, the locals amuse themselves by diving off the large rock at one end of this picturesque legendary beach.  Waimea Bay itself, seen below, is a stunning beach park where the winter off shore swells can reach 30 and 40 feet.

And at the end of the day there is nothing like a Hawaiian sunset, where the couple below enjoy the last rays of the sun at Waimea Bay. The North Shore is an epic destination and one the Devil Dog never tires of revisiting, no matter how many times he may go there.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Aerials over Oahu

Speaking of Hawaii, the Devil Dog has  always been a big fan of taking helicopter rides while in the islands, if only to get amazing views of unforgettable scenery which can be seen in no other way.  Sometimes its fabulous to see major landmarks and traditional attractions from an aerial view, as on a recent trip to Honolulu, on Oahu.  The amazing thing is how well you can see from the sky, and how remarkable familiar sights can be from a different perspective.  Above we see the USS Arizona resting on the bottom of Pearl Harbor with the gleaming white Arizona Memorial straddling its decks. Over 1600 American servicemen remain entombed in this living reminder of Pearl Harbor and WWII.

Below is the brilliant pink landmark, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the symbol of Waikiki Beach since its opening in 1926. A magnificent 5 star luxury resort, the Royal Hawaiian retains the charm and phenomenal location of another age that has made it the epitome of comfort and timeless accommodation.
Just past the Royal Hawaiian, in the  early morning light, lies the iconic glory of Diamond Head crater and the ring of luxury condos at its base.   Its an amazing view of a legend from the sky, and part of what makes Oahu an indelible destination even when too many pass it by to see the outer islands of Maui and Kauai.  We will explore the charms of Oahu further in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hana holidays

With winter approaching the Devil Dog thinks back to last year about this time when he was in the Hawaiian wonderland of Hana, Maui, as isolated andbeautiful a place as you will find anywhere on the planet.  Hana breathes with an authenticity and remote charm that can only be found in rare and special places.  A lone swimmer (above) challenges the surf at Homua beach, what James Michener called "the most perfect crescent beach on the planet". (Michener is half right - Homua's doppelganger is the beach in front of the Mauna Kea hotel in Kohala on the Big Island).  

One of the lovely parts of Hana is the luxury resort Hotel Hana Maui (owned by the people who brought you Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur) which sits on a wide expanse on open acreage on a bluff over the ocean (as seen below), with its famous Sea Ranch Cottages settling in like a village of bungalows over a surging sea and a black sand beach.
But above allelse Hana is the place at the end of the road, 45 miles of a twisting two lane blacktop with dozens of one lane bridges, stretching to literally where the road ends, just a couple miles down a steep and winding trail that leads up  to Waimoku Falls, the gem of a waterfall at the top of the trail above the Pools of Oheo, widely known as the Seven Sacred Pools.  

In the week ahead we will take a deeper look at Hana, easily one of the most beautiful places on the planet, before heading off to Kona in two weeks time for the Kona Coffee Cupping competition pitting the finest boutique coffee farms from Honaunau and Holualoa against each other to see who will be the greatest Coffee Chateau of the year.  

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Series of Canards

And we don't mean a pack of lies. No the Canard the Devil Dog refers to are the various forms of fowl we encountered at different times during our trip (and we don't mean the well dressed ducks in the glass cases at the central market in Dijon). In Essoyes (above) a little girl watches the ducks in the river at the center of town.  At the Abbey de Fontenay (next two pictures) we ran into a group of fowl in the parking lot who clearly were comfortable ducking the traffic.  

We thought the the old school look of the sepia tone picture above was a fittingly archaic depiction of the ducks on this ancient property, while they were actually quite colorful, and not terribly shy, as we see here.

Meanwhile, back in Essoyes we ran across these two geese who took one gander at us and began pleading for their freedom, or asking for food, or begging us to boycott Foie Gras.  We weren't sure what their message was but they were certainly not shy about delivering it.

But it all comes back to our little girl on the edge of the river in Essoyes trying to decide what she wanted for, or fowl. As long as she learns she should never tell a canard, but be content to merely eat one. Ohh, the humanity.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Churches of Troyes

The Devil Dog seems to keep coming back to Troyes as we go through our pictures fromour recent trip to France, not least of which is because Troyes has so many different captivating looks and attractions, not only the multiplicity of half timbered homes and buildings, but beautiful cathedrals  as well, three of whom are on display here.  Above is the stunning Basilica St. Urbain, just across from the Rue de la Republique.  Below is the singular one towered Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, just through the alleyway from our hotel, the beautifully restored Maison de Rhodes.

One of the great details on each cathedral are the gargoyles that adorn the outer structural walls, frequently doubling as waterspouts.  Below is a lovely cherubic gargoyle on the side of the Basillica St. Urbain.

Perhaps the most beautiful interiors of any of the churches was at the church of St Madeline, where a large stone arch crosses the pulpit, a relic of the 15th century separation of  monks and commoners that has been torn down in numerous other cathedrals from the same period.  The continued restoration of the town of Troyes is a tribute to the preservation of a different time by integrating the ancient architecture and buildings into the modern age while retaining the beauty of its initial grandeur. 

With Ski Season coming up...

The Devil Dog loves a good mountain slope and last winter I found myself at Steamboat Springs Colorado, one of America's great ski destinations and the home to more Olympic ski atheletes than anywhere else in the states. Above is  a shot of Storm Peak on a brilliant sunny day. Below is a picture of a lone skier coming down Sunshine Peak.

In the middle of Vagabond Run is a teepee rest stop where families frequently gather to rest while the young uns take a scalp or two.

Outside of Steamboat Springs is the legendary Strawberry Park Hot Springs, a lovely old school hot springs noted for its rustic character and variety of soaking pools.

Riding up the lift to the top of Storm Peak after a hefty snow storm we lookout across the piling drifts at the top of the mountain. Steamboat Springs is a fabulous adventure, and with a new ski season upon us, the Devil Dog thought he would warm up your taste buds with a sample of the winetr wonderland that lies ahead of us.  Next week, a flashback to Telluride.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Triple View of a Troyes Quartet

As you come out of the a street of Troyes and come into the main square at the center of town your eye is immediately drawn to a quartet of half timbered houses across the square, set next to each other like a column of soldiers. 

They bear a remarkable resemblance to the row of ancient homes in Bergen Norway, and indeed they both date from the 14th and 15th century, sway to the beat of gravity's slow moving forces and angular decay, are brightly colored...and the Devil Dog couldn't resist putting a tryptych of picture together of our favorite quartet of homes in Troyes.

The Lost Angels

In between the ramparts of ancient far flung destinations, tropical islands, snow capped mountain peaks, meandering river systems, distant fields of glory, hillsides of epic vineyards, coastal extravaganzas, and the intrepid comfort of the run of the mill 5 star hotel, the Devil Dog retreats to the sunny climes of Los angeles, suburban Sherman Oaks to be exact, where he plods through his day surrounded by The Compound, the eminent domain that doubles as sanctuary, reflective conclave, and where he can retreat to that most exclusive of LA haunts, The Garden Bar, a club so exclusive the Devil Dog cannot even reveal where it is, except to say that not even Lindsay Lohen or Paris Hilton can get in, where fountains gurgle in the quiet evening stillness and a gentle rock garden leads the way to the outdoor platform bed beneath a canopy of trees.

Rest is a luxury, and as we know, there is no rest for the wicked or the weary, and being neither, we kick up our heals, indulge ouselves, and put our legs up in comfort, sipping a fine Sonoma Pinot Noir, and enjoying the wonder of  non-thinking until we saddle up for our next Hawaii.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Origin of the Devil Dog

It has come to my attention that the term Devil Dog is a reference to the tenacity of the US Marines in combat during the battle of Belleau Wood during World War I. This astonishing lack of knowledge on my part is both ironic and somewhat comforting.
The nickname Devil Dog was bestowed on me by my compatriot in arms Francois deLay du Pompideau (thats the two of us above in the middle of the vineyards outside Puligny-Montrachet, dapper in our bicycle helmuts) during our recent trip to France in the region of Champagne and Burgundy, which, by coincidence, is right near the famed battlefield of Belleau Wood. Francois bestowed this honorium on me in apparent reference to my ongoing willingness to tread with oblivious ferocity into any thicket or encounter with an eagerness bordering on recklessness, with a smile on my face and a bottle of wine in my hand. I took the nickname as a compliment, as travel should always be indulged with a fervor for the adventure that lies at hand, leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of inhaling all an experience has to offer without trepidation or concern.

Upon returning to Los Angeles after a raucus and honestly, quite fabulous week in the company of my compatriots, and with our nicknames now fully ingrained in our conciousness, I embraced the name and began my Devil Dog Travel blog unaware of its origins or pre-existing history until a couple of days ago. Well shame on me for having been unaware of this nugget of history....but

Now that I know the antecedents of the name I am proud to honor both the sacrifice and tenacity of the US Marines in that fateful battle that turned the tide of WWI, and also in recognition of the sacrifice and fervor of all Marines in serving their country in battle ever since, especially in these times, with our nation at war. I use the term to denote a traveller willing to engage any situation with unabashed joy and conceptual abandon. It is fitting that the nickname that coined the phrase for this blog came from the same region of France where the label was first coined, and while I cannot begin to reach the depth of honor and sacrifice that it is meant to imply towards the US Marines who served and fought and sacrificed in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, and who serve today....I am honored to have adopted the nickname...if quite by accident....and whatever meaning is implied, I mean no disrespect by my appropriation of the term.

But now that I do know its origin I have a new found respect for the double edged sword of its use....fearless warrior on behalf of the United States, and intrepid traveller seeking the outer reaches of joy in all journeys across the planet. I in no way compare my efforts to these brave men who have gone before and serve now, but I honor their integrity with my inadvertant but somehow appropriately sly use of their banner as a tribute to them and as an exemplory vantage point of how to approach the adventure in life that lies before all of us. Semper Fi.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Its a DC kind of thing...

With all the intensity of the political campaigns and the global economic meltdown consuming our every waking moment, the Devil Dog is in Washington DC this week visiting family and friends and taking in some of the sights. Personally, I have always believed DC to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet, with an archetctural style and panache that has long led me to call it the Acropolis on the Potomac, with the Lincoln Memorial doing a pretty damn good impression of the Parthenon. While the iconic images of the Capital, the Mall, the Washington Monument and the usual tourist spots are undeniably amazing, and never fail to leave you slackjawed in its presence there is a lot to DC beyond the usual.

My two favorite restaurants in the DC area is the Blue Duck Tavern in the Hyatt hotel at 24th and M streets, with the absolutely most fabulous crab cakes in the city (Chesapeke Bay backfin crab), and in the Virginia suburbs about 10 miles out of the city is Peking Gourmet, a chinese restaurant that exceeds all limitations of reality. Chinese restaurant you say...well let me tell you a story.

Peking Gourmet began 40 years ago as a tiny one room restaurant, gradually expanded into larger quarters and now occupies most of the building it is housed in. Sometime during the Reagan years it became THE Chinese restaurant of the political establishment, with Vice President Bush being among its most prominent regular diners. When he became President it became a virtual motorcade watering hole, and it never looked back, being a bipartisen magnet for senior Democrats and Republicans alike. Its not the politics...its the food. Szechuan Beef Proper (a deep fried beef with honey, sesame seeds and carrots) is its signature, as is the baby garlic spouts (grown on their own farm in Loudon County) with chicken, and the incredible Kung Pao Jumbo Shrimp.

The joke is the Devil Dog has been coming here since the 70's, long before it was chic, and long before it was consistently rated the best Chinese in the DC area by Zagat. It is still owned by the same family, some of the waiters have been there for thirty years or more, and it never loses its quality or epic atmosphere. For me its just my local Chinese restaurant that got taken over by the big wigs across the Potomac (whose pictures with the owner, Robert, adorn every inch of the walls), but I never fail to eat there whenever I'm in town. Kam Pai...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Au Revoir to all that....

It was a lovely week in France, and the source of constant enticement and invigoration as we traveled like a group of provacatuers from Paris to Reims to Troyes to Chateau Bligny to Champagne Drappier to Essoyes to Les Ricey to Abbey de Fontenay to Dijon to Beaune and through the vineyards of Burgundy, back to Paris and then home again to Los Angeles. The Devil Dog is enthralled with the high wire and forward motion of life on the road, made all the more scintillating with the company of a ragged gang of co-conspirators, chief among them the aforementioned Francois deLay Du Pompideau (second from right below).

Many many incalculable thanks to Maison de la France and their spectacularly efficient den mother in chief Katherine Johnstone (far right above) for making this an amazing journey. Whenever one is traveling in France it is essential to check out their website .

Our travels on Air France's phenomenal business class made the 12 hour flight from LA to Paris and Paris to LA a dreamlike experience, fully reclined in a sumptuous sleeper seat, pampered like nobility and enjoying the fruits of a fine nights rest only to awake a continent and half a world away. Whenever one travels to France it is alwasy good to check out . One of the architectural and structural joys of this trip is the space age accomodations of Charles deGaulle Airport, your futuristic gateway to the France we all dream of.Specific information for the intrepid traveller through Champagne and Burgandy should be sure to check out and when making arrangements or searching for information. Extra credit for joy and enthusiasm goes to our local guides, Sarah Flook in Champagne (seen above in the photo) and Veronique Beigenger in Burgundy.

We dream of France when we are not there, and feel like we are in a dreamlike state when we are. So many amazing moments with more to come...many more to come.......

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Eternal Paris

Part of the joy of travel is returning to places you have been before and still being enthralled with what you find there. It is the true sign of a great destination that regardless of how many times you come back you are still in awe, still have that "I have to pinch myself to believe I'm actually here" feeling. I ALWAYS get that feeling in Paris, whether I'm there a day, or a week, or simply passing thru Charles deGaulle Airport.

On the Devil Dog's recent sojourn through Champagne and Burgundy, which you have read endlessly about in recent posts (and which I never tire of extolling), we began with a brief stopover in Paris, by brief I mean less than 24 hours. Sad, yes, but not so sad, in that it gave me a chance to walk some of my favorite boulevards and breathe in the energy of the "City of Light", knowing I would return again and again.
Paris is irretrievably lovely, fatally beautiful, and unrepentent in its sublime enthusiasm. We were staying at the Marriot Le Parc Trocadero, quite near the Arc de Triumphe, a very nice hotel with an expansive courtyard surrounded by a series of wings of the hotel in separate buildings where the rooms were. I arrived in mid-afternoon, and immediately set off to walk through the 8th arrondisment (district) to some of my favorite places.
I spent the first 5 days of my honeymoon in Paris, and have been back numerous times in the ensuing 14 years. My favorite shopping street is Ave Montagne (whose isn't), where the most luminous names in fashion have their flsgship stores- Dior, la Croix, Prada, Yves St Laurent, Gucci....all but Thierry Mugler, whose store was closed several years ago (and whose fashion empire now exists only as Angel perfume and its assorted sub-products) . Also on Ave. Montagne is the exquisite Plaza Athenee Hotel, one Paris's finest hotels. (seen below)

In my earlier trips I had eaten at a Chinese restaurant in the area, had always loved their curry chicken, and was on a quest to find it. I knew it was somewhere obscure, and continued my search through the warren of streets, past familiar sights and lovely buildings, until I found it, tucked away on Ave de la Rennaissance, a totally non-descript place, but it was open (and empty) and the same old woman who waited on me five years earlier was there. My compatriots later chided me for searching Paris for Chinese food at one obscure run down restaurant, but let me tell you, the curry chicken was still fabulous, and there is nothing like finding a piece of memory and discovering it was still as good, and as quaint, and as irrepressable as you had remembered it.

The Devil Dog makes his way through the maze of streets to the amazing Four Seasons George V Hotel, on Ave. George V, and has a cocktail in the bar while the pianist plays Green Day's "Wake me up when September Ends". Then I walk up to the Champs d'Elysee and past the Arc de Triumphe back to my hotel. In a matter of hours I had retraced my steps of many years and felt like I was truly back in Paris, with the warm familiarity of being away but somehow feeling "home" again.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rue Le Chat

The Devil Dog was intrigued by the cat head inscribed in wood at the top of a wooden beam overlooking what appears to be little more than a  narrow alley. Pulling back further reveals it as being the signpost signature of one of the famous sights in Troyes.

We had mentioned the Rue le Chat in the previous post, a narrow street so named for the numerous perches for feline creatures to sit in wait for the numerous pigeons that co-habitate in the eaves along the alleyway. As if to accentuate the point, during the day as we passed thru we saw numerous shredded feathers.

As you can see from the picture below it is not much to speak of, very narrow and a little scary, but all my feline friends say its a delicious spot to hang out.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Cat Man of Troyes

So the Devil Dog is trundling out of the Magdeline Cathedral in Troyes when ambling down the street, just beyond the infamous Rue de Chat (Street of Cats, a narrow alley between half timbered homes where cats would hide in the rafters waiting for pigeons), is this gentleman from Croatia with a large cat wrapped around his neck like a living fur piece.  He babbled with the confidence we have seen often from the eccentric and extroverted about the cat being bred from a strain of Persian cats, how rare and exotic it was, and how he was from Croatia, without elludicating us as to how he ended up here in Troyes, where he is clearly a regular fixture.

The cat, throughout this exercise, lolled about his neck, adjusting its slumbering posture, and standing up at one point to stretch, but never leaving its position wrapped around his shoulders. We noticed at that point that his flannel shirt that served as a cat carrier was virtually shredded in places from the cats claws clinging to its perch.

The cat seemed happy enough, the unnamed man seemed thrilled to have an audience, we all took pictures and marveled at how content the cat seemed to be, before we wandered on to our next destination, leaving the Cat Man of Troyes talking to himself, as he went in search of the next clutch of visitors to stop and engage.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Cavalcade of Cars (in Aspic)

During my recent trip to the Champagne and Burgundy regions of France we saw a number of particularly interesting cars that stood out for one reason or another (like the vintage Renault above) and which we have drawn together into a pictorial theme. My favorite is this next one, during a bike ride from Beaune to Puligny-Montrachet, as we approached the center of the village of Mersault this MGB convertible was stalled on the side of the road, the hood up and a damsel in distress stylishly dressed as she stood watching our bicycle column whizz by.

Earlier in our trip, in Troyes, we saw this car parked very snuggly and had to wonder how the driver was going to get out of this tight spot.
Finally, in Les Ricey, as we walked through the tiny village in the morning we saw this symbol of the classic French car industry, the stylish Trabant, circa 1970, with a design unchanged since the 1950's.