The Quinquagenarian Traveler: Five Must-Do Items in London

London abounds with choices, from museums to cruises to spots for tea. Here are five must-do items to make your next trip more pleasurable.

  • Tea at Claridge’s. This venerable hotel offers an incredibly gracious tea, including Champagne, finger sandwiches and – if you attend during Wimbledon – pastries shaped like tennis balls.Tennis Ball Pastry
  • The Wallace Collection. Armor and swords mingle with paintings and furniture in an elegant three-story building.
  • Churchill War Rooms. See not only the space where World War II strategy was hatched but learn about arguably the greatest historical figure of the 20th
  • CityCruises. Relax while a witty tour guide shows you buildings both historic and modern along the Thames River
  • Uber. Not as nice as London’s spacious cabs but much cheaper.

The Quinquagenarian Traveler: Four Great Spots in Santa Barbara Area

IMG_2354-2The bougainvillea at San Ysidro Ranch.

A few days in Santa Barbara and its environs can brighten the heart of any Chicagoan tired of an endlessly rainy spring.

Here are four spots worth visiting:

San Ysidro Ranch – The honeymoon spot of John and Jacqueline Kennedy, you can’t beat the setting – rose gardens, beautiful bougainvillea and hummingbirds darting around. The Montecito gem survived last year’s mudslides intact.
Petit Valentien – The small Santa Barbara restaurant serves Ethiopian cuisine for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. I recommend the platter of two meats (try the spicy chicken) and four vegetables on a circle of Injera Ethiopian flatbread, a perfect meal for two.
Les Marchands – A vibrant spot in Funk Town, I suggest the wild boar lasagna.
Sanford Winery – The elegantly constructed tasting room in Lompoc offers a great selection of whites and reds. In the vineyards, set graciously in the Santa Rita Hills, the original Pinot Noir vines planted in 1973 are now 60 feet deep.

The Quinquagenarian Traveler: Three Reasons to Visit Falmouth on Cape Cod

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The Maui Mats are a blast at Old Silver Beach in Falmouth.

1) Liam Maguire’s. An array of beers is on tap (try the Cape Cod Blond); the Woods Holier Burger with portobello mushrooms is an excellent choice. You may even be able to hear a guitar-strumming entertainer at the Irish pub.

2) Old Silver Beach. The sand bar stretches out for at least 50 yards, making it a perfect spot for kids. See who can stay standing on the floating Maui Mats – large enough to fit at least half a dozen youngsters.

3) Falmouth Commodores. Aside from Major League Baseball, the sound of wooden bats has almost disappeared. But it’s still audible at the home of the local squad in the Cape Cod Baseball League, where greats such as Sid Bream and Tino Martinez played.

Back in the Day with Lakers GM Rob Pelinka

After covering Rob Pelinka’s high school basketball career, the new general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers shared his thoughts about being a sports agent with me in 2004:

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What prompted you to become a sports agent?

Funny thing is, when I was in law school, I had no plans of pursuing a career as a sports agent. As a matter of fact, I had a perception of agents as being slick and pushy. Those are both characteristics I never wanted any association with.

However, I had established some connections through my basketball playing days and Michigan law school days that led me down a path into the sports business. I have been pleased to find that you can become successful in this business without taking on the negative characteristics that are often associated with it.

The part of the business I enjoy the most is the mentoring relationship I have with my players and their families. When I can use the sum of my legal, business, basketball and life experiences to help guide and direct my players into making wise choices, that is a very gratifying feeling.

What’s it like being an agent for Kobe Bryant, one of the best-known basketball players on the planet? How tough has the last year been?

Kobe is one of the most focused and determined people I have ever met. I have incorporated a tremendous amount of strategy for how he approaches the game of basketball into how I approach business and negotiations. The model is incredibly successful, as he has shown by holding the mantle as the best player in the game. My relationship with Kobe has been one of the most rewarding relationships in my life — a true blessing.

The majority of people have an image of sports agents based on the movie “Jerry Maguire.” What parts of the movie accurately portrayed the life sports agents lead?

The part of that movie that resonates the most for me is the passion in which the title character poured into his clients lives and successes. I can really identify with that part of the movie. I think clients can tell when you have deep and real concerns for them. The lifestyle of an agent is very demanding, since you always have to be there when a client needs you. So sacrifices need to be made. But when those sacrifices are made for the betterment of another person’s life, it is worth it. As an agent, I am really there to serve my clients needs. That is what is all about — service. I think that part of the business was portrayed in the movie.

What are the pros and cons of working as a sports agent?

The pros are the lifelong relationships of trust that you build with your clients. You truly fight battles together and grow strong together. Those relationships have become very much like a brotherhood for me. I enjoy going through the hard times with my guys just as much as the times of prosperity. I think true character in a relationship is built when you face adversity with someone.

In this business, you realize that athletes are not invulnerable to the real trials of life. They need support just like anyone else. While it is always great to celebrate the headline, multimillion-dollar deals you get for clients, it is also great to support a client when he is going through a professional or personal hard time.

The cons are the unfair assumptions hoist upon you by outsiders that think all agents are fast-talking and greedy people. That is an unfair bias that comes with being in the business. But you come to realize that your true reputation is defined by what your friends, clients and those people you work with — those people who really know you — by what they think of you. That is really all that matters in the end.

You played on one of the most famous college basketball teams of all-time at the University of Michigan. What was that experience like for you?

It still amazes me to think that I had the opportunity to play in three NCAA Final Fours and to be a member of the 1989 NCAA Championship Team. Growing up in Lake Bluff, my dream was to always play ball for Northwestern. I was blessed with so much more. I will forever have great memories of playing for those teams. There is just nothing like March Madness, cutting down the nets in the Final Four and hearing that song “One Shining Moment” play. Those are some of the best memories of my life.

What’s your most prized sports possession and why?

You would think it would be autographed jerseys or championship rings. But really my most prized possessions are the hand-written notes I have got from my players, from college coaches, or NBA general managers that have let me know that I have made a positive influence on their life. I save those, and they mean the most by far. After all, I feel like when you can use your life to bless the life of another person or to make their life better or more understandable, that is the ultimate payoff.

The Quinquagenarian Traveler: A Whirlwind L.A. Sports Marathon

Thirty-six hours. Two NHL games. A college football rivalry battle. Two boys dressed in   shorts. One convertible.

Thanksgiving weekend was a sports feast for the males in our family (excluding the dogs). The three of us flew in from Chicago to watch the Blackhawks prevail in Anaheim before falling by a goal in Los Angeles. In between, my alma mater USC and stalwart Adoree’ Jackson dismantled Notre Dame before our eyes.

Standout memories include:

— Watching the Blackhawks pre-game practice from the second row in the Honda Center, surrounded by hundreds of like-minded fans. Ducks backers were as hard to spot as the team’s retired jerseys (grand total: one).

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Blackhawks fans (two fresh out of a convertible) swarmed the plexiglass at Honda Center.

— Sitting not only in a section but a row that actually won a prize announced at a major sports event (chocolate popcorn at the Staples Center).

— Why it’s important to be prepared for potentially bad weather (see: ignore L.A. rain forecasts for events at the uncovered Coliseum at your peril).

When the sun shone, we splashed around the pentagon-shaped pool filled to the brim at the Marina Del Rey Hotel. The three-story white structure, renovated to perfection a year ago, featured patios connecting to artificial grass where the boys played shinny. At the restaurant Salt, kid-friendly menus included awesome hamburgers for dinner, and sitting outside let us watch sailboats rock nearby while the stars danced above. .

On the flight home, live NFL games appeared on our Virgin America TV. We didn’t need the NFL in L.A. (and the NFL didn’t need L.A. for decades), but it was the perfect way to end a whirlwind sports marathon.

The Quinquagenarian Traveler: Horse Sense in Charleston

For years I had torn out magazine articles and filed a collection about why I should visit Charleston, S.C. If there were a linchpin among the myriad pieces, it would consist of one word: charm.

Unfortunately I found little during the first viewing of the decidedly Southern city (South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, and the Civil War began at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor). But that changed the second day of my visit as I took that most touristy of choices: a horse-drawn carriage ride.

It is the only way to efficiently see Charleston and to learn about it. For an hour, one passes antebellum houses, some with welcoming double staircases and many of which double as museums. Churchyards are dotted with gravestones, some from the 17th century. The Four Corners of Law is a special intersection, featuring a church, U.S. Post Office, city hall and county building — otherwise known as hail, mail, jail, and bail.

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The elegant U.S. Post Office at the Four Corners of Law.

Lest one think the historic streets must be lined with horse manure, be heartened that drivers are required to drop a marker wherever a horse goes to the bathroom for a worker to clean up.

My magazine articles perhaps got me too excited about the charming attractions of a surprisingly large city (population near 100,000), but at least a slow-paced carriage ride opened my eyes to some of the beauty in town.