Countries With the Most Travel Friendly Passports

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Countries With The Most Travel Friendly Passports

I’d rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff.” Anonymous

I used to think that the USA had the best passport. We could go almost anywhere but we do need an awful lot of visas. The Henley Passport Index periodically measures the access each country’s travel document affords. The ranking is determined on the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. It is based on the exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association, which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information. Here are the top countries starting with the best passports to have. We are not number one. 

Japan retained its top spot as the world’s most powerful passport in 2019 for the second time in a row with access to 190 countries.They believe it is due to strong security regulations, economic security and international reliability. They are good guests.

 Singapore is in second place with 189 countries. People from Singapore are welcome almost everywhere.

South Korea is in third place with 188 countries.The Asian countries are dominating this category.

Germany and Finland are in fourth place with 187 countries. Germany has given up its  previous first place ranking. (Finland)

Denmark, Italy and Luxernbourg rank fifth with 186. No one expects trouble from this group.  (Italy)

France, Spain and Sweden are next with 185. They are independent, they don’t usually break anything and they are quiet. (Spain)

Austria, Netherlands, Switzerland and Portugal are behind them with 184. I feel very welcome in these countries so I understand why counties like them.(Portugal)

Belgium, UK, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Canada and USA rank eighth  with 183. Brexit has not yet impacted the UK score -nor has our President changed ours. (Greece)

Malta has a  score of 182. This tiny independent,European Union country has a very attractive passport to many people.Wealthy individuals seeking secondary citizenship for security, have their eye on Malta, which doesn’t impose taxes on their worldwide income and assets and applies only a flat 15 per cent tax on money brought into the country. 

Czech Republic follows with 181. It is doing very well for an ex Communist country.

Lithuania,

Australia, Iceland, New Zealand and Lithuania jointly share the eleventh position with access to 180 nations. (Iceland)

 The findings suggest that visa free access is improving in the world. The last time I went to Brazil I needed one. This time I do not.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Best Book Stores In The World

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Best Book Stores In The World

“It is clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying, and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down.” Agatha Christie

I love traveling. Some things I don’t mind skipping out on. Base jumping is always a pass. Art and Architecture is always in. I wish I had more time for fashion. But there are few things more tragic than knowing I strolled through the streets of a far off city and walked right past a book attraction I may never get the chance to see again. This collection of bookstores includes many I have seen and some that got away. I write this blog with a hint of regret as I am moving and once again I have to narrow down my collection of books.

Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France

This independent bookstore on Paris’s left bank was originally founded in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, and became a popular gathering space for famous writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound and James Joyce. It might seem strange for an English-language bookstore to have such an important place in the history of literary Paris, but many notable English-speaking writers gathered in the City of Light during the 1920s to work on their craft. These writers and artists became known as the ‘Lost Generation’ and Shakespeare and Co was at the center of their world.  In the 1920s, this was not only a bookstore, but also a lending library. Another reason Shakespeare and Co is so well-known in literary circles is for its famous sleeping facilities. There are over 10 beds in the bookstore that have offered a place of rest to young writers since the 1950s. The present-day bookshop isn’t the original shop which was shut down by the Nazis during the French Occupation in World War II. It was reopened at its current address in 1951. In 1981 the owners daughter, named Sylvia after Sylvia Beach, runs the bookshop and is a wealth of knowledge about the history of the building and the writers that have passed through this famous door.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Teatro Grand Splendid  was built in 1919 as a theatre for top-tier tango concerts. What a wonderful name for a theatre. Tango legends such as Carlos Gardel, Francisco Canaro, Roberto Firpo, and Ignacio Corsini performed here. In 1929, the theater underwent its first transformation to become a cinema, with the distinction of being the first in Buenos Aires to show sound film. Its latest transformation is the El Ateneo bookstore. The painted ceiling, detailed balconies, and stage are all intact. The private boxes are now small reading rooms. The stage is a café. The shelves fit perfectly around the theater’s original shape. The book collection is pretty standard and mostly in Spanish. It is an amazing place to buy a book or have a coffee on the famous stage.

Livrario Lello, Porto, Portugal

Once upon a time Livraria Lello was an old beautiful book store. The Lello book store was built in 1906 in Porto, Portugal by the Lello Brothers (Antonio and Jose). Their book store is one of the most ornate book stores in the world, mixing Neo-Gothic and Art Deco elements. Carved wood ceilings, a stain-glass roof, an undulating, opulent red staircase, and even a built-in wheel-barrow on rails for moving the store’s 120,000 books all make the Lello seem like a bookstore out of some fantasy-world. One day some lady named J.K. Rowling lived in Porto while working on her first book. You might have heard of it- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Livraria Lello is reputed to have inspired parts of Hogwarts. Since then, it has been inundated with Potter fans from around the world wanting to catch a glimpse and selfie of the bookstore’s interior.

Cook And Book, Brussels, Belgium

A unique restaurant that is also a bookstore… Or a bookstore that’s also a restaurant? The huge bookstore is located on the outskirts of the city. There are different bookstore entrances divided by themes. In the literature themed bookstore, the books are hanging from the ceiling and most of the books for purchase are in French. The cucina themed section has cooks behind the lunch bar and books filled in the salad bar. There are nine different bookstores and two restaurants. Be careful when hunger hits you while you’re caught in the middle of a good book reading. Bringing a book to the table while eating means that you’ll have to pay for the books and whatever else you consumed at the table.

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy

This bookstore is close to St. Mark’s Square and opened in 2004. The name translates to “bookstore of high water” due to the store being plagued by Venice’s rising waters, which regularly flood the floors of the shop each winter. To combat the issue, the bookstore’s owner, Luigi Frizzo, piled all of the books into waterproof bins, bathtubs, canoes, and even gondolas in order to protect the literature. Books are everywhere possible and seem to have taken control of the space.

Selexyz Dominicanen, Maastricht, The Netherlands

This location of the Selexyz chain of bookshops occupies a thirteenth century Dominican church. The glorious interior is massive and includes an eating area.To maintain the integrity of the space, the architects built vertically, which means the three-story bookstore is not only impressively imposing, but also outfitted with neat walkways, staircases and elevators. A Frescoed vaulted ceilings soar over the book browsing activity.

Carturesti Carusel, Bucharest, Romania

Literally translated as the “Carousel of Light” in English, Cărturești Carusel is situated in a restored 19th-century building in the very heart of Bucharest’s Old Town. It has six floors, over ten thousand books and a bistro on the top floor. Built in the 19th Century by the Chrissoveloni family, the impressive columns and spiral staircases were once the headquarters for their banking dynasty. A few decades later, it was transformed into a general store. In the 1990s the structure had become unstable and the building was abandoned. It was later restored and opened as a bookstore.

Barter Books, Ainwick, UK

Barter Books in Alnwick is the most magical place for book lovers. It was opened by Mary Manley in 1991 and is now one of the largest second-hand bookshops in Europe. The store is situated inside a Victorian railway station which is a beautiful building with so much character. Those with a particular interest in the station’s history and architecture can take a walking tour. There are books everywhere and comfortable chairs, sofas, fires and even a train running on tracks above your head. Amazing quotes join bookcase to bookcase and there are beautiful murals to enjoy.

Livraria Da Vila, Sao Paulo, Brazil

The front door of Livraria de Vila is made of revolving bookcases. Once you get inside, you’ll notice books on every surface – on shelves from floor to ceiling, on nooks and crannies, and even on shelves carved into holes between each floor. In fact, this bookstore seems to be made of books.

City Lights,San Francisco, USA

As a reader, City Lights is one of my favorite bookstores. It is heavily associated with the Beat movement and its writers – Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and store co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The big story behind the store is the obscenity trial surrounding Ginsberg’s Howl And Other Poems, which City Lights published and sold in 1956. I wasn’t a huge fan of the poem but it was deemed obscene and the poem went on trial. Lawyers were interrogating academics over the literary merit of a graphic work. City Lights grew to occupy all three floors of the building with an outstanding selection of world literature, poetry, and progressive nonfiction that is as significant today as it was in the ‘50s. City Lights gives us a physical reminder that ideas and words will always be challenged because they are powerful. Of course I bought a copy of Howl.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Best Libraries In The World

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Best Libraries In The World

“I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library.” Jose Luis Borges

Libraries are not just stern places where loud conversations – even accidentally – are greeted with cut-throat looks from the opposite side of the reading table. Libraries are full of stories and anecdotes waiting to be uncovered. Their architecture and interiors are often unexpected and sometimes even astonishing.

 National Library, Beijing, China

The National Library of China is the largest in Asia and one of the largest in the world  What makes it even more special? Its collection of cultural and historical literature is vast with more than 24 million books. If you’re not after literature or a place to read, then its collection of manuscripts and inscriptions may tempt you. Among its collections are manuscripts from Song, Shang, and Ming dynasties, stone tablets known as Xiping Stone Classics, tortoise shell inscriptions, and many ancient Chinese writings.

Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Founded in 1592, Trinity College is the oldest university in Ireland. Built between 1712 and 1732 the Old Library is the University’s earliest surviving building. The library houses Ireland’s National Treasure which is the Book Of Kells sacred manuscript created by Celtic Monks in about 800 AD which features the Four Gospels of the New Testament. It is decorated with metallic gold Celtic style writing, symbols and stunning artwork. Walking through the doors of the Long Room is suddenly overwhelming. IT is a 65 meter long gallery housing about 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books under a jaw-dropping barrel-vaulted ceiling.The weather being famously unpredictable in Dublin makes the library is a great place to stay dry.

Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This is Brazil’s most important library, a Neoclassical treasure trove chronicling the country’s history in more than nine million items. A highlight is the Teresa Cristina Maria collection: a 22,000-strong photo series, depicting key Brazilian events and notables. 

Joanine Library at University Of Coimbre, Coimbre, Portugal

Coimbra’s university, founded in 1290, is Portugal’s oldest and most distinguished university. The Baroque library was built between 1717 – 1728 and houses about 40,000 books which are – in part – protected by bats (bats eat moths). It is really impressive  The library is a Portuguese National Monument and is one of the oldest of the university.

Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève, Paris, France

Located opposite the Pantheon is the historic public library Sainte Genevieve. The steps have become somewhat famous after Woody Allen chose this location for his film Midnight In Paris.The vast collection of the Abbey  Saint Genevieve was in need of a home and it took seven years of construction in 1839 by architect Henri Labrouste. The public university library now holds around two million books and documents and the magnificent cast iron ceiling of the two story reading room is breathtaking.

National Library of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic

The National Library of the Czech Republic is part of the Clementinum, a massive complex of historical buildings that also holds the Astronomical Tower (a weather center since 1775) and the Mirror Chapel, a popular setting for classical music concerts. Regularly named one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, this Baroque marvel dates back to 1722. this The largest hall of the library is also the most impressive. Featuring a balcony with a highly ornate railing and stairs, the Library Hall is decorated in rich golds, mahogany woods, and ceiling frescoes by Jan Hiebl. The beauty is in the original details: the labels on the bookcases have been there since the 1700s and none of the features (including floors or wood trims) have been replaced since the library’s creation.The Library Hall is also home to some of the oldest books in Europe.

The Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark

The Royal Copenhagen Library known as the Black Diamond juts over the canal. The interior boasts a huge ceiling fresco and canal views. The permanent exhibition, Treasures in The Royal Library, currently includes a Gutenberg bible, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s notes, and Hans Christian Andersen’s diary.

Bibleoteca Vasconcelos, Mexico City, Mexico

This library was designed by Alberto Kalach and the construction was completed in 2007. Inside, instead of plain white walls and carpet, you’ll see transparent walls, mismatches floors, balconies and pathways, and books, lots and lots of books.

 The Library Of  Alexandria, Alexandria,  Egypt

The ancient library of Alexandria was built by the order of Ptolemy ll in the third century BC. It contained 700,000 books and was the greatest library in the world at that time. This was the first public governmental library in history. Any scholar such as Archimedes who studies in the library of Alexandria had to leave a copy of his writings in the library. This was one of the reasons the library was rich with books, researchers, and studies that were contemporary at the time. There were many theories as to how the library burned -one was that it was Julius Caesar. Centuries later, Hosny Mubarak made an international architectural design competition to build a library on that site.  The prize was sixty thousand American dollars which was won by Snohetta, a Norwegian architectural firm. The oval shape of the library from outside is a symbol of the continuity of life. The library is surrounded by a great wall that was made out of Aswan Granite and it contains writing and inscriptions in 120 languages. The objective of the new library is the same objective of the old library: to act as a public research library and to support the people of the Arab world and the Middle East to retain their old position as scholars and researchers in different fields of science.

NY Public Library, NY, USA

The New York Public Library  which opened in 1911  by combining the collections of the Astor and Lenox Libraries with a $2.4 million trust from Samuel J. Tilden that was given to, “establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York.”It was the largest marble building in the United States and  home to over one million books.The Beaux Artes building is located at Fifth Avenue and 42nd St. Two stone lions guard the entrance. Though originally named Astor and Lennox,  Mayor Fiorello La Guardia renamed them Patience and Fortitude during the Great Depression.

Fly safe,

JAZ

The American Half Smile

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The American Half Smile

“Peace begins with a smile.”Mother Teresa

I’ve perfected it. It is known around the world as the American half-smile.  It is a smile that does not reach your eyes. It is faking kindness for a second to be considered a polite person.

I grew up in New York where you don’t have eye contact or smile at anyone – just in case they suddenly have the urge to lunge at you, steal your money and slit your throat. I had to learn the half smile when I moved to California. It is a dead giveaway that you are American. Most cultures do not have this.

In China, Russia, and Eastern Europe , people don’t smile on the street. It is impolite to show emotions in public to strangers. Smiling at strangers make others question your motives or your sanity. 

Before  the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese authorities wanted to get more people to smile . Their approach was to encourage Olympic stewards to clench a chopstick between their teeth to develop their smile muscles.Russian border guards were also instructed to be less intimidating and smile more to be more welcoming to visitors. The  French tourist authorities also occasionally attempt similar measures. In Norway and Finland they say when  a stranger on the street smiles at you, he is insane, drunk or American.

 When I was younger and spending a summer on Mykonos, I moved into a house with other people. I immediately introduced myself. I was going to be living with them. “You’re American yeah?” said the very cute Australian guy.  “Yes, I guess you can tell by my accent.“ He replied that only an American would walk into a room and introduce themselves to everybody.

Studies blame our friendliness on the immigrants. They say that countries with less homogenous populations learn to smile and get along with all different kinds of people. 

Also Americans love their white straight teeth. By and large, the American dental care is far superior to most countries. Not everyone in the world flosses. We flash our smiles  around like the Amex cards that a few non-American businesses take. Un-naturally white, perfectly straight-toothed smiles have “U.S.A.” written all over them.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Working On My Bucket List

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 Working On My Bucket List
 “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a plane ticket.” unknown Truthfully, anywhere in the world that I have not been before is a bucket list place for me. Life is short and we have to remember to live it to the fullest. Sometimes I visit places that should have been on my list but I did not know till I got there. Most of them come from books I have read throughout my life. I want to experience a place in the way an author has. My list makes me stop and think of what I want to experience in this lifetime. Having a bucket list gives you hope. There are places on the list I may never go to but the goal of a bucket list is to never finish it. The best lists are constantly changing. So, start writing. Machu Picchu, Peru  Moia, Easter Island, Chile Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain  – soon Camino De Santiago, Basque region, France and Spain – soon Canary Islands, Spain Faroe Islands Grand Canyon, USA Angor Wat, Siem Reap,  Cambodia Ferry from Gibraltar to Morocco (which i think doesn’t go anymore)  Auschwitz, Poland Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey Pizza in Sicily and Naples, Italy The Algarve in Portugal Church of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain Greenland Punta Del Este,Uruguay Bahia, Brazil Medellin, Colombia Ushuaia, Argentina Tigers Nest Temple, Bhutan Taj Mahal, India Terracotta Army, Xian, China Faukland Islands Boulder Beach, Capetown, South Africa Gorillas, Rwanda Viet Nam Borneo Sri Lanka, Nepal. Ethiopia Fly safe. JAZ  

My Top Ten Desserts In The World So Far

My Top Ten Desserts In The World So Far

“I am starting to think that maybe memories are like this dessert. I eat it, and it becomes a part of me, whether I remember it later or not.” Erica Bauermeister

When the mood for dessert strikes, I am there. I consider it a necessity not a choice to try desserts when I am traveling.  There isn’t a problem in the world that a good dessert can’t make feel a little better. Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.

Pastel de Nata – Portugal

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Baklava – Greece

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Red Velvet Cupcakes – USA

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 Semolina Halva –  Turkey (nice with fresh fruit)

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Black Sesame Ice Cream – Japan

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 Malva Pudding  (poeding) – South Africa

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Sweet Sticky Rice With Coconut Cream and Mango – Thailand

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Dulce de Leche –  Argentina ( on ice cream, cookies, cake, bread)

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 Fresh Acai  and Tapioca Ice Cream – Belem, Brazil

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Mango Pudding – Hong Kong

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Fly safe, JAZ

My Selfie, My Life or People Taking Selfies Around The World

My Selfie,My Life or People Taking Selfies Around The World

“I will go so far as to say without Instagram, there may never have been the word, ‘selfie.”

Ken Poirot

What happens when almost every phone has a built in camera?  There are a lot of people taking selfies. Is it a sign of being self absorbed or self reliant? Either way for some people, no day is complete until the selfie is posted.

Netherlands

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France

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South Africa

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USA

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Australia

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Brazil

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Japan

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England

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Turkey

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Norway

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South Korea

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North Korea

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Fly Safe,

JAZ