SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Palo Alto in his rear-view mirror, Keith Orchard and the Fam headed down Highway 101 in their SUV, Santa Barbara-bound. They were off to vacation with two other families, take in the cool ocean breeze, soak up the city's chill vibe and catch the city's annual wacky and weird Solstice Parade, at which a city councilman dons a jester's hat and the mayor presides atop a "Game of Thrones" float.

The first morning at the Spanish language school I proved just how much I needed to be there.

NOVATO, Calif.-Most museums discourage the tactile. They encase their treasures in hermetically sealed Lucite, post all-caps "Do Not Touch" signs, have blue-blazered guards hovering nearby, lest these valuable artifacts be sullied by contact with the unwashed masses.

Breathtaking beaches and classic seafood shacks. Quaint villages and postcard-perfect lighthouses. Whale watches and dune rides. Art galleries and summer theater. Cape Cod draws millions of tourists each year, including a sizable number of Connecticut residents, and there's no end to the area's charms.

"Yep, I've seen a lot of changes," says 88-year-old Virginia Strasser.

First, the out-of-state license plates came to the upper reaches of the Yurok Indian Reservation, followed by dump trucks of fertilizer and heavy equipment that punched roads into tribal land.

Stepping quietly through the dimly lit 12th-century cathedral in the small Spanish town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, I looked up to the ornate mausoleum in the rear and caught sight of something you don't usually - well, never - see in a church: two white chickens pecking around in a Plexiglas hen house.

When considering a mermaid's career, one doesn't tend to ponder the occupational hazards.

At first I thought it was too early to look ahead at the new attractions coming to U.S. theme parks in 2015, but then I realized a number of big rides have already been announced and many more are already in the planning stages.

Tour guides not only should be knowledgeable but also able to convey information in a fun and engaging way. This skill comes more easily for some than others, but PA Brew Tours guide Tom Labanc has an ace up his sleeve - decades of experience as a high school social studies teacher in Pittsburgh.

We stood on the edge of the precipice, stunned momentarily by a sign we had not anticipated when we arrived for our long-planned plunge into the Gorges du Verdon, the French version of the Grand Canyon near Provence.

On a recent five-week journey to that incomparable sub-continent, India, I stayed at fourteen different accommodations.

The following editorial appeared in the Miami Herald on Monday, July 14:

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