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Eric: Template
In Search of Heroes: Britain
By Nancy & Eric Anderson
Photography by Authors

ll countries have their heroes -- romantic figures from bygone days who lived and often died with such spirit and style that, centuries later, they still form the fabric of stories whispered at bedtime to starry-eyed children.

Some heroes are easy to find: The names of Joan of Arc and Nathan Hale, for example, span the world. Then there are others -- persons who parade through a past so amorphous it could take a lifetime to locate concrete evidence of their achievements. American tourists who do not have a lifetime but only a vacation better start in Britain where people speak their language. The visitors will be asking lots of questions.

Each British county has its legends. The lives of some heroes are well-documented, but facts about others have been lost in time. And now we are lost in time, standing in William Blake's Britain, walking on "England's mountains green." The view is seaward to where a towering bluff thrusts into a foaming ocean. This is King Arthur's country, and his very presence surrounds us here in Cornwall, a part of West England quaintly removed from present-day Britain by its geographical remoteness and its local superstitions.

Tourists often confuse King Alfred -- an English ruler who died about AD900 and whose reign is quite authenticated -- with Arthur, a folk hero who probably lived about the sixth century, but was glamorized by later poets and writers.

Much of the Arthurian legend, handed down for centuries, is unsubstantiated. Nevertheless, it is the stuff that makes the blood tingle, especially that of two pilgrims standing on a 700-foot cliff at Tintagel Head, braced against a stiff sea breeze and looking down on the boiling Atlantic below, the savage rocks and the remains of what might have been King Arthur's castle.

It was logical to build a castle at this virtually inaccessible site. The fury of the sea made attack from that quarter impossible. Indeed, the peninsula on which the fortress stands today is about to become an island. The cliffs which used to support the great drawbridge already have disappeared -- torn away, literally, by time and tide. Tintagel Head now lies at the water's edge, like a huge aircraft carrier putting out to sea. One day it will indeed sail away, carrying the remnants of one of England's most fascinating and controversial castles into eternity.

Confusion, not Arthur, reigns here today. There's no doubt the castle exists, but it probably was built by Reginald, Earl of Cornwall, in the middle of the 12th century. Arthur lived six centuries before; indeed mention of him first appears in print in the Historia Britonum, compiled about AD685.

A few miles inland, the river Camel winds peacefully past the little village of Camelford, which the poet Lord Tennyson called Camelot. One mile north of town is a spot unknown to tourists that may be more authentic than any part of the Arthurian story. The road over the river takes a sharp cant and here in AD542 Arthur's armies defeated the forces of his nephew Modred, who was killed in the battle. Here, historians tell us, 60,000 gathered, "sparks flew out, spears shattered, shields broke, shafts snapped ... the Camel was in flood with measureless blood." Here, too, in Slaughterbridge, it is believed Arthur was mortally wounded and, some say, laid to rest.

alleged spot where King Arthur was mortally wounded, Slaughterbridge

And here is the very essence of the search for heroes: One hundred yards above the bridge, amongst a tangle of green ferns and stinging nettles, lies a great granite stone the size and shape of a coffin, backed into the river bank as if it were a mausoleum. Forget the local belief that this is the tombstone of a Celtic chief killed in battle AD825. Forget popular opinion that Arthur is buried in Glastonbury. Forget the common conviction that Arthur never really lived, much less died.

Instead, remember the spot where the river runs silently, as if in reverence. Nothing else moves, except a few dragonflies darting amongst the sweet-smelling mint that grows on the bank. In the intense, deep shade, day seems night and time stands still in Camelot.
Somehow, it seems right to regard the stone at Slaughterbridge as marking Arthur's grave. If he lived at all, it was in a simpler time, not in the era of silken gowns and flashing armor romanticized by Tennyson.

Let us leave Arthur there, where the river Camel whispers by as if telling the world about the exploits that rocked England.

To the north, in central Scotland, lies another grave - this one better detailed -- of a man as colorful as a Cornwall king but of a later century -- Rob Roy MacGregor.

While scholars ask, "Did King Arthur really live?" and agree that if he did, his exploits were glorious, they know for a fact that Rob Roy MacGregor was a real person who died at an old age in 1734. What they don't know is whether he was a man of adventure or simply a scoundrel.

The answer does not lie in his modest resting place at the Braes of Balquidder, amongst the heather-clad hills of Perthshire. In that place, there is only peace and serenity. The land slopes down to the lake beyond the small parish church; Highland cattle, goats and horses feed on the lush grass. Occasionally, the animals glance up as they graze, catching sight of a rabbit scampering amongst the buttercups or a field mouse hiding from a sparrow hawk soaring in the updraft near the tops of the cliffs. Or they gaze at strange humans who wander amongst the tombstones and finally say, "Here it is. Here's the grave."

MacGregor lies in the shadow of a ruined church, a heavy granite block protecting his remains, family members beside him. It's all as peaceful as his death in an armchair by the fireside -- a surprisingly uneventful end to so wild a life. MacGregor was a cattle dealer from the northern part of the Highlands. Life was bleak, the land barren and the weather miserable. This gave the Highlanders a common cause -- they stuck together to survive and, regarding the Lowland Scot as inferior, they often saw him as a means of survival.

Rob Roy MacGregor drawing and grave

MacGregor was a resourceful man with a reputation for occasionally making off with Lowland cattle. He attracted the attention of a powerful landowner, the Duke of Montrose, who saw in MacGregor's skills a chance to increase his own considerable wealth. Montrose put up the money for MacGregor to buy cattle, securing the loan with MacGregor's house and land. But when his drover absconded with the money, MacGregor was left with unpayable debts. Montrose seized his partner's property and declared him an outlaw; MacGregor was on the run for the rest of his life.

He retaliated by raiding Montrose's property every chance he had. He became a colorful local character, then a national hero -- Scotland's last rebel against authority. His exploits were sounded all over the country. He would hold up Montrose's rental agents as they collected from tenants, then force the wretches to write receipts for the tenants. He would slip money to poor farmers about to be evicted by Montrose's men for non-payment of rent, then rob the estate agents as they left the cottages. Several times he was captured, but he always managed to escape by his own resources or the kindness of sympathizers

A statue honoring MarGregor stands near Stirling Castle. Both it and the grave site are easily accessible from any of the small towns along the river Earn.

Today, the East Midlands of England are hardly the place to look for romantic heroes: This is industrial England with a vengeance. Nottingham is a fairly hard 140-mile drive up the motorways from Heathrow Airport, yet there's much to see and admire in what 700 years ago was one of England's largest wooded tracts, Sherwood Forest. Nottingham tries hard to get on with business and ignore its past: Those hand-painted Gothic letters on the whitewashed wall may proclaim "The Oldest Inn in England," but two streets away, the corner grocery flaunts a fluorescent sign that screams "Cheapest Booze in Town." Nottingham, of course, is known not so much for the price of its alcohol as for the cost to its onetime sheriff of trying to suppress a legend that still lives today: The story of Robin Hood.

bronze statue of Robin Hood facing castle, Nothingham, England

His bronze statue faces the castle. His bow is drawn symbolically at the gatehouse. The arrow waits the statue's bidding. "Actually, the statue's lost its arrow more than 50 times," says a guide, instantly breaking the spell. "Tourists, drunks, schoolboys and vandals have helped themselves over the years -- it's said if you could break down a few doors in town you'd sure find dozens of those arrows."

Did Robin Hood live? If so, who was he? Are the stories true? Who can tell? Some say Robin Hood came from the aristocracy and was really the Earl of Huntington; some claim he came from yeoman stock. Some say he was born in Locksley in AD1160 and lived 87 years. And some say there is a grave where a man named Robin Hood was buried in AD.. 1247 at Kirklees Priory, in the Calder valley near Huddersfield, Yorkshire, a long march to the north. So they say.

Rob Roy and Robin Hood were called many things but never "patriots." Our last two heroes were surely that although they lived and died more than three and a half centuries apart.

The statue of Sir Francis Drake stands high on Plymouth Hoe on the coast of Southern England. The harbor is much visited by Americans because the Pilgrim Fathers sailed from it in September 1620 in their 180-ton Mayflower. But the date that put Sir Francis Drake into both battle and English legends was earlier, namely July 1588: The signal fires flared along the coast as the long-expected Spanish Armada was sighted in the English Channel. The Spanish fleet was the most massive in naval history. Drake was playing in a game of bowl atop the cliff in Plymouth. His opponents drew his attention to the bonfires announcing the onset of war and Drake famously gave the reply that has emblazoned him in British history textbooks: "There is plenty of time to win this game and to thrash the Spaniards too."

statue of Sir Francis Drake, Plymouth Hoe, Southern England; portrait of Sir Francis Drake

The English had better ships and better leadership. They also had the notorious British weather on their side and a confused enemy who sheltered for the night in Northern France. As the gale raged the English sent fireships downwind. They broke up the Spanish fleet. The fury of the storm sent the Spanish Armada into the North Sea and around the north of Scotland where many ships sank.

The Armada put another historical comment into history too, that of the English Queen Elizabeth I whose Speech to give heart to her troops at London docks on the approach of the Armada included: "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too." "The weak and feeble woman" had just ordered the beheading of her cousin the year before. She at the moment is the 6th longest-reigning British monarch although her namesake, Elizabeth II, is now the 3rd longest.

Drake had a checkered career. In 1577 he was the second man in history to circumnavigate the globe (after Magellan) and as a privateer with his Queen's blessing he became the scourge of the Spanish silver trade galleons - and a wealthy man. Drake, however, failed to destroy the remnants of the Armada and ultimately died in his monarch's disfavor.

The history of the statue reflects this. The public donated only £513 in 1881 for the statue and what finally went up was a replica of another raised by the wealthy Duke of Bedford in the nearby town of Tavistock.

The world is not necessarily kind to heroes.

wax figure of Sir Winston Churchill, London

Winston Churchill found that out, too. The pugnacious man who defied Hitler in World War II at a time when Britain stood alone against the strength of Germany was in a way Britain's secret weapon. His oratory skills not only encouraged his nation but F.D. Roosevelt himself. Churchill's first speech as British Prime minister reiterated that of Teddy Roosevelt that he had nothing to offer but "blood, toil, tears and sweat." And as France surrendered and Britain prepared for a German invasion in 1940 his voice rang out over the radio to the world:

"We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills -- we shall never surrender."

Albeit, the statues of him across Britain show his bulldog strength and his passion for his country. He is perhaps Britain's last real hero.

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Tell Eric what you think of his article.
In the meantime, here are some of the feedback we have already received:

Hey Eric and Nancy! As a fellow Traveling Boy journalist, and as a confirmed WW2 aficionado, just wanted you to know how much I loved your story on Arnhem. Really great stuff, and truly brilliant riveting writing.

I’ve been there twice and covered it on my KNX radio show when I was on LA radio, and your story and evocative photos brought back a ton of wonderful and poignant memories. This could have been an amazingly brilliant military operation – as you both know – that might well have ended the War in Europe maybe a year earlier. However, allied misreading -- and in my view disregarding certain aspects of the situation in Holland -- plus the fact that they dropped the paras over 3 days and not in one huge assault at night (and not in the day as they did) doomed the mission to failure.

Your clever words and great photos brought all this graphically to life, and it should be required reading for anyone interested in any aspect of WW2, and certainly should be read by today’s teenagers. Again Bravo and well done!!!!

John Clayton
Travel with A Difference

We just couldn't leave your website before saying that we genuinely enjoyed the high quality information you offer for your visitors... Would be back frequently to check up on new stuff you post!


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What a fantastic write-up!

I could almost copy and paste most of your narrative verbatim as it reflects our fantastic experience with Fantasy Cruises almost to a tee. It was truly one of the greatest vacations my girlfriend and I have ever experienced.

Mike Richard, Editor,

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One of my dreams is to go to Alaska by way of cruise. This article very much intensifies the longing for that dream to come to fruition. I simply cannot wait much longer. And I will never again be able to think of a waterfall without picturing myself "nosing up" to it. Thank you for this intriguing, virtual journey.

Sandra Mines, Seattle, WA

Thank you for writing, Sandra. Alaska really is a wondrous place. Re "Nosing up" to a waterfall: we have a different article up at Physician's Money Digest on the same cruise (Small Ship Cruising: Alaska by the Back Door). The third last set of images there shows a crew member filling a jug of ice water from a waterfall while standing in the bow of the ship! Best wishes. Get there! To Alaska one day.

Eric & Nancy

Loved your photos from Alaska! Because I am the Director of Sales & Marketing for Westmark Hotels, I am up in AK and the Yukon quite often to visit our hotels and staff! But your pictures were so enjoyable-love to see the "real" Alaskans!

Heidi Howeiler, Seattle, WA

Hi Ms. Howeiler, That was kind of you to write and yes, you do see real people in Alaska, don't you? Alaskans always remind us off rural Texans or Australians in the isolated Red Centre of their country: hard working, sensible, rolled-up-sleeves people with no affectations. We love your Westmark hotels and we take our hats off to the person who started your company, Chuck West. What a great guy!

Eric & Nancy

Enjoyed your realistic and practical comments on Provence. Always wanted to go there ever since reading Peter Mayle's 2 books on Provence. But the two times I went to France, time was always short, so we spent our days in Paris. And now you say, it is losing its unique charm to tourism. (Sigh). It's always a choice between sharing beauty, and keeping it hidden. The world lurches on. Thanks for your thoughts.

Dette, Iligan City, Philippines

Hi Dette, (Would love to see all your waterfalls), Thank you for writing. Provence is busy in the tourist season but it hasn't lost all its charm or the quirkiness Mayle talks about in his book Provence A to Z. It's still a place to visit. Appreciate hearing from you. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

What a great article, especially regarding Louis XIV. I was not aware there was a contemporary account of his execution. It was fascinating. Thank you!

Celtic fan, Nashua, MA

Dear Celtic fan, Thanks for writing. I didn't know about the account of his execution either till I stumbled upon it. Sad to think that the French revolutionaries thought they could be both judge and jury. We are lucky to have a more elegant system today. Thanks for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nancy and Eric,

Enjoyed reading your article on Santa Fe, NM. I was in AZ travel nursing in 2008 and 2009 and made it to Santa Fe. Took a lot of pics and really loved walking around the old town while I was there. Hope to be able to take the wife there in the future.

Brett Eidson, Soso, MS

Hi dude! Nice to see your site. It's beautiful. My congratulations.

New York

Hi New York, Thank you for writing. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

Hi! Your web-site is very interesting and I want to tell G'night.

New York

Dear New York,

Thank you for writing. Glad you find the site interesting. We are here for you. Keep visiting.

Eric & Nancy

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This is all genuine. I will return to scan.


Hi Keflavik, Thank you for writing. We are happy you will return.

Eric & Nancy

Good article.

On Behalf Of Diane, Port Ludlow, WA

Thanks for writing from Port Ludlow. We hear that's a beautiful place. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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When I was hurt in a boat accident my life would be changed totally. I really don't post much but thanks for the good times I have here. Love this place. Long time lurker, thought I would say hello!


Dear Miami, Thanks for writing. It's nice to hear from you. Hope you are getting better. Glad you get some good times at Traveling boy. Good luck.

Eric & Nancy

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Dear friends,

My name is Adelina. I am a 22 years girl from Italy. I was looking for a free translation software and I found one. Program's name is Babel Fish and it supports 75 languages. I installed it but I could not understand how to use it. I am not a computer expert. Can someone help me please on how to run this.The link is here : I thank you very much for your help.

Adelina, Celaya

Adelina, I didn't want to download it but I saw examples online. It seemed easy. You select the page you want translated, copy it and paste it into the box. You then click on the button to translate. You may have to do one page at a time. You can also use Google to translate a page; that's what I do because I don't want to load too much software.

Eric & Nancy

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Amiable brief and this mail helped me a lot in my college assignment. Thanks you seeking your information.

WordPress Themes, Gray Mountain

We are glad to have been of help. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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What's up everyone? Great forum. Lots of lovely people. Just what I need. Hopefully this is just what i'm looking for. Looks like I have a lot to read.

Spanish John, Benidrom

Encouraging to get your feedback. Glad to hear from you. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nice dispatch ( - and this enter helped me a lot in my college assignement. Thank you as your information.

Gray Mountain

Hi Gray Mountain,

Thank you for your comment. Your email reminds us all at TravelingBoy how important it is to be accurate in what we write. Good luck with your studies and have a great life.

Eric & Nancy

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Hello people, I just signed up on this splendid community forum and wanted to say hey there! Have a wonderful day!


Hi Jacksonville, We are pleased to hear from new readers at TravelingBoy. Your feedback encourages us all to do better. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

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What a fascinating bit of Russian history you wrote about! How sad to learn that 100,000 churches were reduced to create skating rinks and such during the revolution, after seeing the photo of the interior of a magnificent church filled with art! War is so devastating on so many levels! The art of their culture is so beautiful as is shown in the image of the painted box! Thank you,

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

Dear Yoka,

Thank you for writing. Nancy is originally Lutheran and Eric is a dour Scot, more used to the frequently cold and often cheerless churches of his native land so we were both overwhelmed to see the beauty of Russian churches. It was kind of you to write, Yoka.

Thank you,
Eric & Nancy

Interesting observations.... Very informative and thought provoking. Questions.... What would be the best way to get from Moscow Airport DME to boat dock? taxi? prearranged limo? prepaid Viking Tours transfer? Any idea on cost and travel time for taxi or limo or Viking Cruise pickup from airport to boat? We shall be flying to Moscow on our own. Do you happen to have an address for the river boat dock that Viking Cruises uses in Moscow? I would be nice to Google map the situation. Thanks,

Robert Hopwood, Ottawa, Canada

Hi Bob,

Excuse the delay; we were on a trip. I do understand your question and will try and get you an answer. The Viking river dock in Moscow was for us in the north part of the city but once we were on the boat it was an easy ten minute walk to the Metro station that had us downtown within 30 minutes. I'm a lot more relaxed at the end of a trip than at the beginning and therefore I always feel taking the cruise-line sponsored trip from the airport to the dock makes sense: What starts right usually ends right.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Hi Bob,

I’m back with more information. The river port’s address is Northern River Boat Station Leningradsky Prospekt, Khimki. If you Google that you will see it is about 15 minutes’ walk from two Metro stations. .

I spoke to Nancy at customer relations at Viking Cruises at the new LNR Warner Center in 5700 Canoga Avenue, Woodland Hills, Calif.

She was very helpful and advises you to take the Viking transportation service. She is biased, of course, but she’s right. Moscow DME airport is 40 miles away on the opposite side of the city, at least two hours driving time. The airport has no Metro station; you’d have to take the Aeroexpress train to Paveletsky station then change to the Metro and go to Rechnoy Vokzal station then take a cab to the port. A cab all the way from DME would cost at least 2000 rubles (more than $70). That’s less than the $60 each that Viking would charge…but…I think you’d be ill-advised to do it on your own. Why start the trip where the potential to screw up is so likely? Moscow taxi drivers are as dishonest as most tourist city cab drivers and probably yours won’t speak English. I think the address in Russian is


I strongly discourage you from economizing on this and doing it on your own. Buy the transfer and save money somewhere else.

We have other Viking Volga web articles up at and at

Good luck. Great show Canada’s putting on for the Olympics!

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Reseller Hosting, London

Hi, Is it Britni Freeman?

Thank you, we think... We suspect your comments are valid. In fact we think all of us writing for TravelingBoy are starting to get into the swing of things and do a better job -- and your encouragement spurs us to do even better. Thank you for writing. Have a good 2010,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Dear Nancy and Eric

Thank you so much for the wonderful article on statues in Europe. Statues are my favorite art form and your descriptions were delightful to read - knowledge and fun together. I do still wonder about that foot in Rome...

Peggy - Pasadena, CA

Hi Peggy,

Thank you for writing. We appreciate your comments. We used to be critical of people who can't identify the persons on statues in foreign cities -- until one day a tourist stopped us in our own San Diego and asked us, in vain, for details on a statue we'd never noticed before! We wonder about that Roman foot too. If Eric had stood any closer he'd be in his typical foot-in-mouth position.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

I live in Santa Fe and see and delight in it every day, but your writing makes it sparkle even more. How nice to see Santa Fe through your eyes. Great photos!

Cynthia Whitney-Ward - Santa Fe, NM

Dear Dr. Anderson:

I have followed your writing career for as long as I can remember, and I think the thing I enjoy the most about your travel writing is the sense of joy and discovery that leads the reader to anticipate ever corner you turn in your travels.What a delightful traveling companion you are, and I know have always been, with that wonderfully eternally youthful joie de vivre...I wonder:do you feel that East, West, home is best? And where IS that place you have never been, but want to go most of all,yet? Bring we, your devoted readers ever along!

CAT -- San Diego (Scrips Ranch), CA

Dear CAT,

Thank for taking the time to write to You are very kind. We don't know that travel writers make the best companions; we suspect they may be obsessed with getting the best photograph or may monopolize the guide with questions so that others don't get to ask what interests them. What place is best? Well, it may be fun to sit in a rickshaw in Beijing or try to master the Metro in Moscow, but -- as you imply -- it is good to get home after trips.

Home is as comfortable as a pair of old shoes and home for many of us fortunately contains family.

We've never been to Easter Island and may have missed the boat (no pun intended) there. The island is losing its innocence; we've seen that happen at Machu Picchu or, closer to home, at Lake Powell in Arizona. So maybe the best travel advice is: Go when you are fit and healthy, before rising prices make a destination inaccessible -- and before hordes of tourists ruin any destination's mystique.

With best Holiday Wishes from Traveling Boy,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

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What a fantastic primer on New York City. I think you have really captured its essence with this exciting overview of its offerings. Well done!

Gillian Abramson - New York

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You describe a city on wheels - er, wings - and an absolutely perfect way to travel. SHOWERS & FLOWERS! Amazing! I love that your passion for all-things-aviation comes through in this story about an almost unbelievable airplane. Thanks for breaking the news in such an engaging way!

Richard Frisbie - Saugerties, New York

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Enjoyed your blog on Romania. Noticed you called Bucharest "The Paris of the East." I wonder, is there any city not called "The Paris of something." I've read San Francisco is 'the Paris of the West,' Buenos Aires 'The Paris of South America,' and even Tromso, Norway 'The Paris of the Arctic.'

Terry Cowan - Fresno

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Hi Terry,

Thanks for writing to TravelingBoy. And thanks for educating me; I didn't know that about Tromso, didn't even know there was a Tromso. I heard Bangkok called the Venice of the East when I was there and, in two weeks, I'm heading for the Venice of the North, St. Petersburg, Russia.

It does become a bit silly, doesn't it? But we are originally an immigrant nation that was Eurocentric. Maybe it gave our forefathers confidence even courage when they took old names, old ideas to the New World with them. I know I feel nostalgic if I drive around Ontario, Canada and see all the British place names.

I appreciate your email. Thank you for writing.


Eric -

Enjoyed your article on Madrid. I noticed that you find it superior to Rome. Most of the Spanish folks that I meet seem to prefer Barcelona. How would you rate that city?

Samuel K

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Hi Samuel,

We loved Barcelona although driving around the city was surprisingly complicated as our maps were inadequate. The cathedral had scaffolding around it so I couldn't get the pictures I wanted but we found the architecture fascinating and the Picasso museum rewarding. We were anxious to get on the road to Costa Brava and didn't have more than a couple of days in Barcelona.

Thanks for writing.

Great article on Madrid. I've heard there is a rivalry between the people of Madrid and Barcelona. In which city are the people friendlier? How about for hipness? I noticed you were Scottish. I felt a similar thing in Scotland, with a Glasgow v. Edinburgh vibe.

Santa Monica

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Thank you for writing to TravelingBoy, Gary. We found Barcelona friendlier.

Maybe that's because it's not the capital and it's not so busy either. Maybe it's because the Gaudi architectural influence is pervasive and -- to both its citizens and tourists -- comforting. Maybe it's because Barcelona is the gateway to the work of artist Salvatore Dali, and his spirit catches us. (I don't know much about art but I've seen a lot of Dali's work enough to think he never took himself too seriously and often painted tongue in cheek. Maybe fun people spring for fun places?) Hipness? Madrid is more formal and dressy but Barcelona, I believe, is more hip maybe, again, because it's more fun.

Your points about Scotland are valid. It's more than a joke. The Glaswegians are more down to earth. I think we see it here in the belief that if you had a flat tire in Middle America passers-by would be more inclined to stop and help than perhaps New Englanders.

- Eric

Dear Eric,

I liked the article. As I read it, I was wondering how you as a physician were influenced by Hippocrates. What influence did this historical figure have on the practice of medicine beyond the obvious 'oath.' Why is Hippocrates considered to be such a paragon of medicine? DWA - San Pedro, CA

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Dear David,

Thank you for writing to

Hippocrates is revered because he believed his duty was to the individual patient, not to the community at large. This is a very important premise. The Romans, whose empire followed that of the Greeks, achieved much in health matters by emphasizing clean drinking water and personal hygiene, and created great national works like aquaducts and public baths but wealthy Romans apparently preferred Greek doctors as their personal physicians.

Hippocrates is also respected because he brought intellectual thought to diagnosis. He taught his students to use their five senses in assessing patients and was openly critical of the junk science of his day as practiced by the priest-physicians who preyed on the fear and ignorance of the ill persons who came to them.

It is true that not all medical chools today require graduating doctors to take the Hippocratic Oath but most conscientious physicians base their lifetime commitment to the practice of medicine on the life and teachings of that one man.

Or so I think. Perhaps if we knew more about our heroes they would seem less heroic. But in Hippocrates' case he did leave a record of his thoughts and some of his principles are today as strong as ever.

Thank you for writing, it is appreciated.


Stay tuned.

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