Flying Swiss? Do Not Forget Your Swiss Army Knife!


Swiss Airlines
P O Box 8302 
Zürich, Switzerland
I have enjoyed flights on Swiss in the past, but this was the first time I have flown with them in several years. The online check-in was easy enough and I received a pdf of my boarding pass, but it was not available for download in Passbook unfortunately. I had to take a screenshot of the email on my crappy iPhone to make sure that it would be available come boarding time.
 
Check-in and boarding were easy enough at the Florence (Italy) Airport, but things went downhill quickly after that. We were delayed by an hour because of winds, so they say, and delays at Zurich Airport. Only having about an hour and a half from my original departure time until my connection departed, I scurried through the unfamiliar airport looking for my gate until I found it just as the plane was about to depart.
 
I had similar problems on the way back from Malaga to Zurich with my aircraft being delayed nearly an hour and a half. Fortunately, I had two and a half hours before my next departure this time. By the time I found the gate, they were announcing that the aircraft had been changed because of a maintenance issue and they needed six people to stay behind because the new plane was smaller than the first.
 
After being bumped from my Swiss Air flight to Florence and put up in a hotel far from everything with terrible food, the €10 olive tapenade I bought in Duty Free in Spain was seized during security screening the next morning. The woman in front of me, however, was allowed to keep her Swiss Army Knife (that exceeded maximum length and had 10 blades) and take it in the plane with her. 9/11 terrorists used box cutters to hijack four aircraft, but Zurich Airport security thinks it is OK to take knives onboard while seizing olive spread. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous as we finally took off knowing that anybody or everybody in the plane could be carrying an actual weapon … scary!
 
The positives of my experiences were the friendly staff, the free quiche, wine and chocolates in-flight, the relatively new aircraft, and the €250 I received for voluntarily interrupting my trip on the way home, upgrading their rating from 1 Bomb to 3 …
 
CombatCritic Gives Swiss Air 3 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better









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Title: Flying Swiss? Do Not Forget Your Swiss Army Knife!

 
Key Words: Swiss, Air, Airlines, airline, Zurich, Switzerland, Malaga, airport, plane, knife, security, delay, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide
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Il Pizzaiuolo: This "Pizza Maker" Does It The Traditional, Neopolitan Way … Delicioso!


Il Pizzaiuolo
Via dei Macci 113R
50122 Florence, Italy
Near Mercato San’Ambrogio
Phone: +39 055 241171
 

I wrote an extensive review in 2012 on Il Pizzaiuolo, so I will not bore you with too many details or flowery prose. Leave it to say that in parts of Italy, Rome and northward, good pizza is hard to come by. Most visitors do not realize that this is authentic pizza napoletana (not “Napolean”, he was the squirt of a French dictator), equaling some of the best pizzerias in Naples (Napoli), the home of pizza and the best in the world.

Just around the corner from the wonderful Mercato Sant’Ambrogio and a five minute walk from Santa Croce, Il Pizzaiuolo has only around 15 tables, so the place is small and hard to find a seat after 8pm. Beside pizza, they have starters, pasta, meat, and fish dishes, but pizza is their specialty. On this visit, one of many in the past, we decided to try their frittura (€8 – fried things), including arancini di riso (rice balls), croquette di patate (potato corquettes), and montanare (fried pizza dough with a little tomato sauce). Their were just two of each (six pieces total) and a disappointment compared to what you would get in a Naples pizzeria for the same price (€8 gets you 25 pieces of the same). They were good, but there should have been more or it should have been much cheaper (€3 to €4).
I had a Neapolitan classic, pizza con salsiccia e friarielli (fior di latte cheese, sausage, and broccoli rabe sauteed in olive oil and garlic – €10) and it was wonderful. My wife’s pizza quattro formaggio (four cheeses – €8) was also excellent with loads of mozzarella, gorgonzola, ricotta, and provola cheese. As is usual in pizza napoletana, the dough was thin and chewy, only crisp enough to hold the toppings without getting soggy and with little splotches of burnt crust from the fiery wood-fired oven. Perfetto!
 

My only complaints, other than the women’s toilet being rather filthy on this visit (my wife told me, I did not see for myself) are the fact that you can only get wine by the glass or bottle, no liters or half-liters and that the prices are a little steep compared to Naples, but those are small discrepancies when you are eating un’oltima pizza napoletana (excellent Neapolitan pizza) in Northern Italy!

CombatCritic Il Pizzaiuolo 8 Out Of 10 Bombs … Bombs Are Good!

 

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Title: Il Pizzaiuolo: This “Pizza Maker” Does It The Traditional, Neopolitan Way … Delicioso!


Key Words: Il Pizzaiuolo, pizzaiuolo, pizza, pizzeria, Naples, napoletana, Neopolitan, Florence, Italy, Firenze, restaurant, ristorante, menu, Sant’Ambrogio, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, review, guide

A Wonderful Pasta Factory Tour In A Historic Villa Seized By The Nazis During WWII


Pastificio Chelucci
Food Tours, Pasta Factory
Via di Valente, 7
51100 Pistoia, Italy
Phone: +39 0573 42011
Prices: € € € € 
 
 
Hand-crafted pasta since 1912, the owner Giuseppe has been in the family business since 1950, is extremely friendly and informative, and made us feel welcome for our free, private tour.
 
During World War II, the Nazis took over the building, a villa, making it their headquarters in 1942. The family had to walk for two days to Florence while the Germans occupied their home. Once the Nazis fled from Allied Forces in December 1942, they returned home to Pistoia and were the first pastificio (pasta factory) of 36 in the area to resume operations after the war. They are the only remaining pastificio of the original 36 in Pistoia.
 
 
The factory has been automated since 1950, but the pastas are still dried the old fashion way and hand packed. In fact, Giuseppe’s sweet 94-year-old mother Dina still processes and packs the maccheroni by hand from time to time. The same machine from 1950 is still being used today. They have numerous varieties of pasta, including their signature pastas like “Quasimodi”, made with only Tuscan flour from the Pisa area and their secret ingredient, pure local spring water. They recently unveiled a pasta in the shape of Pinocchio characters called “Le Bugie” (“the lies”), the result of a scholarship competition in the local schools.
 
 
The factory employs only six people, but they produce a wide variety of pastas using old family recipes and processes. The small river behind the factory once spun the turbines beneath the building which allowed them to resume operations so quickly after the war. Special drying units maintain constant temperatures between 32 and 35 degrees Celsius (90-95 Fahrenheit), ensuring that the pasta does not break, reducing waste, and resulting in quality products. Pastas take from 24 hours to six days to dry depending on the shape (versus two hours for mass produced brands).
 
 
The bronze pasta forms used to give the pastas their various shapes result in a special consistency not found in mass produced brands (De Cecco, Barilla). Their pastas take much less time to cook (5 minutes versus 12-15 minutes for comparable mass produced pasta) because the pasta from the brass forms allow the boiling water to saturate the pasta instead of cooking it from the outside. The water they are boiled in also has much more starch then that of the mass produced brands, allowing the water to be used to better thicken sauces before serving.
 
The valley in which the villa sits is quiet, green, lush, and much cooler than smoldering Florence, so it was a breath of fresh air, literally, after a month in 100 degree Florence and its wall-to-wall tourists. The temperature and humidity in the protected valley setting creates the perfect environment for making top-quality pastas. Giuseppe is working on adding a small gift shop and cafe, culinary demonstrations, and possibly pasta making and cooking classes in the near future, but in the meantime a tour of their operation is a must if visiting Tuscany (I have also included it in my article: Top 19 FREE THINGS TO DO In And Around Florence) and tell him CombatCritic sent you!
 
CombatCritic Gives Pastaficio Chelucci Tour The Coveted 10 Bombs Out Of 10 … IT’S THE BOMB … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 
 
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Title: A Wonderful Pasta Factory Tour In A Historic Villa Seized By The Nazis During WWII
 
Key Words: Pastificio Chelucci, pastificio, Giuseppe, Chelucci, Pistoia, Florence, Firenze, Italy, Toscana, Tuscany, pasta, factory, tour, travel, value, review, guide, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Andre’s "Cozy B&B" (Airbnb) … Close To Center, Port, Stations, and Restaurants


Andre’s “Cozy B&B” (Airbnb)
Near Malaga’s Main Train/Bus Station
Malaga, Andalucia, Spain
Prices: € € € € 

Close to the main train and bus stations, and just a 15 minute walk from Old Town Malaga and the port, this accommodation was “as advertised”. Andre, short for Andreina, was very welcoming, friendly, and helpful, explaining about the apartment, breakfast, and her three simple rules when I arrived.


The room I stayed in was very small with hardly enough room to pass the bed to get to the window, but it had everything I needed (comfortable double bed, wardrobe, TV, fast wi-fi, ceiling fan) for my short stay of two nights.


The apartment itself is small, but has everything needed. Breakfast is included (make it yourself) and Andre had a nice selection of coffee, teas, and light breakfast options as well as unlimited access to the kitchen and refrigerator. The single bathroom (for two guest rooms) is also small, but the shower is large with plenty of hot water and shampoo, towels, soaps, even sunscreen were provided. If you plan on going to the beach, pack your own towel as Andre does not want her towels leaving the apartment.

In all, for $30 per night (including Airbnb fees), the room was a very good value and I would recommend staying with Andre if looking for an inexpensive option in the heart of Malaga.

CombatCritic Gives Andre’s “Cozy B&B” 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Are Better! 






Title: Andre’s “Cozy B&B” (Airbnb)

Key Words: Airbnb, cozy, B&B, room, apartment, Malaga, Andalucia, Spain, downtown, old town, old, town, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide

Decent Tex-Mex In Spain … Que Paso?


Mexicano Tex-Mex
Calle Jose Maria Torres Murciano, 12, 
29603 Marbella, Spain
Phone: +34 952 866 680
Web: www.MexicanoMarbella.com
Prices: € € € € 


I saw this place on Yelp and could not resist after 2 1/2 months in Europe and NO MEXICAN FOOD. The first time I went, they were closed as it was just after 4:00pm and they did not open for dinner until 8pm (Spaniards eat late). I found myself in the area on my last full day in town, so I meandered past and sure enough they were open. 

It was about 2pm and the place was empty. It is nicely decorated inside, looking like many of their stateside cousins with sombreros and other colorful decorations adorning the walls. The owner speaks very little English, having resided in Rhode Island for a year, and his employees speak even less, but in this part of town, most of their customers are locals. A nice young lady soon arrived with some complimentary chips and chili con queso, looking like it likely came from a Tostito’s jar.

I had to try the guacamole (€5.40 – $5.85), usually a clear indication if the place is authentic or not and I have to say it was not bad. Fresh avocados mashed with onion and a little diced tomato (not very traditional) in a deep-fried flour tortilla bowl sitting atop a small lump of cold mashed potatoes. I was not sure why the potatoes were there other than to keep the bowl of guacamole from moving around, but the guacamole was pretty good, needing just a little more garlic and salt. The quality and quantity were pretty “average” compared to many stateside Mexican restaurants, and the chips were decent.

They had no combo plates and my Spanish is rudimentary at best or I would have tried a few different things, so I went with the taco plate (€7.50 – $8.10). The three taco shells looked like any other pre-fab version, not unlike many restaurants in Lawrence, Kansas where I hang out, so I cannot fault them for that. With no rice or beans, €2.50 a pop is a bit steep, but the tacos were not bad either. Containing something more resembling chili con carne than ground beef, the only other ingredient was melted cheese except for a small amount of pico di gallo on the side of the plate. Having saved some guacamole and the little bit of lettuce beneath it, I had everything I needed to compliment the tacos. The lady even brought me some salsa picante, a fiery green concoction that was very good. The tacos were a bit greasy, but the shells stood up to the moisture well and did not fall apart like many places I have been.
I also had a Negro Modelo beer (€2.90) and a tinto de verano (€1.30), so the drinks were very well priced compared to the food, which was a tad pricey, but not as bad as the many tourist traps in Marbella. I ended up paying around €15 plus tip (after my 15% discount), not that bad for a starter, main, and two drinks. The service was excellent and the staff very friendly as we attempted to bridge the communication gap.


CombatCritic Gives Mexicano Tex-Mex 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better … With An Extra Bomb Included For Effort!

Menu


As always, you can read my reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor 

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube







Title: Decent Tex-Mex In Spain … Que Paso?

Key Words: Tex-Mex, Mexicano, tex, mex, food, menu, Marbella, Spain, Malaga, taco, enchilada, burrito, guacamole, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide

A Little Slice of Bordeaux On The Costa Del Sol


Le Bordeaux
Avenida Antonio Belon 26 
29602 Marbella, Spain
Phone: +34 952 85 80 49
Website: Le Bordeaux
Prices: € € € 


A nice couple from Bordeaux, Christine and Marc, come to Spain, open an aptly named French restaurant, and turn out some excellent, authentic cuisine using only the freshest ingredients and voilà, you have Le Bordeaux.

I love French food and in my part of the world, French restaurants, particularly good French restaurants, are hard to find. So when I spot one, I always check out the menu. Stopping to view the menu by the door one evening, Marc was very friendly and helpful, explaining why the mussels were not available (the weather is too hot) and that he only serves escargots when he can get fresh snails, so I told him I would come back.

It was July 14th, French National Day, the equivalent of our 4th of July when I did, so Christine told me that Marc had escargot available for the celebration. After bringing me the French equivalent of tapas, four small pieces of quiche, Christine took my order. Escargot (€8) as a starter, beef tenderloin with Bordeaux mushroom sauce and hand cut French fries with Bearnaise sauce (€19) for my main, and  a bottle of Bordeaux Superieur  Chateaux Bel Air 2009 (€16.50).

The escargot, six of them, were perfectly cooked, tender and succulent in the buttery garlic sauce inside each shell. Accompanied by the soft, warm French bread, I was able to soak up every last bit of garlic butter. The only problem being that Christine had forgotten to bring me the small escargot fork to pry the snails out of their shells, so my starter was temporarily interrupted … oh well, c‘est la vie.

My steak and fries arrived shortly thereafter and having fasted throughout the day in preparation for a feast, I was slightly disappointed by the size of the cut of meat, six ounces at most. The presentation was nice and the sauce delicious, a creamy mushroom sauce albeit disappointingly lacking in mushrooms. There were just three and quite small at that. The meat was tender, juicy, and cooked perfectly “medium” as I had ordered. The potatoes were plentiful, crispy and hot and the Bearnaise sauce a nice accompaniment. 

Finally, the wine was wonderful and at just €16.50 (less than $20) a terrific bargain. A deep red, it was fruity, dry, and light as a good Bordeaux should be and an excellent addition to a very good meal.

Not exactly cheap at €43.50 for my dinner, the meal was a good value. Fresh, quality ingredients professionally prepared in one of my favorite cuisines, my meal at Le Bordeaux was quite enjoyable and I recommend you try Christine and Marc’s little slice of Bordeaux on the Costa del Sol.
CombatCritic Gives 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better! 




Menus


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Title: A Little Slice of Bordeaux On The Costa Del Sol

Key Words: Le Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, French, Marbella, Spain, Malaga, Costa del Sol, costa, sol, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide, menu

Spain’s €6 Burger Puts Carl’s Jr’s $6 "Thickburger" To Shame


New Burger
Calle Camilo José Cela 12
29602 Marbella, Spain
Phone: +34 952 867 817
Facebook 
Prices: € € € € 


This review will be shorter than most because there is not a lot you can say about hamburgers other than this was one of the best I have had in quite a while! Who would think that one would find an outrageous burger joint in Spain?

I would not have known New Burger even existed had I not peered down an alley next to another restaurant while strolling down the street, but then I saw their sign. The young man at the counter, the owner’s son, spoke excellent English and was very helpful. He even bought me a beer!

Beside hamburgers, they have a range of items including bocadillos (sandwiches on a baguette – €3 to €5.80), “normal” sandwiches (e.g. club, tuna), salads, combo plates, crepes, and more. I ordered the “Doble” (double cheese burger – €6) with bacon, an order of patatas fritas (French fries – €1.80), and a glass of San Miguel beer. With my beer, I received a complimentary plateful of wonderful green olives as is the tradition here in Spain … tapas … Ole!

The fries came out first, thin, hot and crispy, just the way I like them. The burger arrived five minutes later with two beef patties, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and some of the best bacon I have eaten. Not your garden variety store-bought bacon, but slices of fresh bacon lightly browned and tender with little fat. All of that on a fresh bun, not the hamburger variety we are used to in the States, but more the consistency of a soft baguette. Where most burgers this size and juicy would fall apart half-way through, this bun held the contents together nicely until the last bite. I was a little sad after taking the last bite, it was so good.

All tables are outdoors, several under a covered patio next to the kitchen and many more scattered around the large terrace. There were several tables available when I arrived around 8:45pm, but less than 30 minutes later the place was packed – on a Monday night!

The only complaint I have was that the size of the order of fries was a bit small at nearly $2 a pop, but otherwise I was a very happy camper, paying less than €11 for an incredible meal. Inexpensive meal options are a rare commodity in Marbella, so New Burger was literally a breath of fresh air and an option you should not miss if in the neighborhood.

CombatCritic Gives New Burger 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better! 






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Title: Spain’s €6 Burger Puts Carl’s Jr’s $6 “Thickburger” To Shame

Key Words: New Burger, new, burger, Marbella, menu, French, fries, bocadillo, Spain, Malaga, Andalucia, Andalusia, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide,Camilo José Cela

Inexpensive Drinks, Complimentary Tapas, Friendly Service … What More Could You Ask For?


El Tapy
Calle Madre de Dios, 42
29012 Malaga, Costa del Sol, Spain
+34 605 234 441
Website: eltapy.es
Prices: $$$$

Inexpensive drinks, complimentary tapas, friendly service … what more could you ask for? The appropriately named “El Tapy”, located near Picasso’s boyhood home on Plaza Merced (Merced Square) in the northern portion of Málaga’s “Old Town”, is much larger than it appears from the street. There is a maze of several large air conditioned rooms as you meander your way toward the kitchen in the back. 

Menus are on the walls and the table with cheap drinks (draft beer €1-€3 and tinto de verano €1.20) and array of Spanish foods to choose from. I ordered a tinto de verano, a refreshing summer drink (hence the name) with a mix of local red wine, sparkling lemonade, and a slice of lemon. When it arrived, the waiter also brought a small plate of paella as a free tapa. A drink and a plate of food for €1.20 … unheard of!

I made the mistake of ordering the Patatas Bravas (sliced potatoes in a spicy chili sauce – €4) and Chorizo Rojos (red Spanish sausage – €5) before my next drink (and complimentary tapa)
arrived, this time an Ensalada Rusa (Russian salad, aka potato salad). My sausage and potatoes were soon delivered, the potatoes, too much to eat for one person, and the sausages (3) were very good, but when my next drink arrived (the tintos are quite small by the way), it was accompanied by another free tapa, this time two large marinated chicken wings.

By the time I left I was stuffed, but the bill for four drinks (two tintos, two cervesas), three tapas, potatoes, and sausages came to a little over €16, quite cheap for the amount of food I received. The food was decent, the portions fair, and the prices reasonable.

CombatCritic Gives El Tapy 7 Out Of 10 Bombs … Bombs Are Good!






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Title: Inexpensive drinks, complimentary tapas, friendly service … what more could you ask for?

Key Words: El Tapy, tapy, tapa, tapas, bar, Malaga, Spain, food, menu, beer, tinto de verano, tinto, verano, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide

Excellent, Authentic Andalucian Food And Music … For A Song!


El Rincon De La Ribera
Calle Camilo José Cela 4
29600 Marbella, Spain
Phone: +34 684 31 89 81
Website
Prices: $$$$
Anna, the bartender at Claddagh Irish Pub in Marbella, turned me on to this new Spanish restaurant just around the corner. She told me that they had good, authentic Andelucian cuisine, excellent wines, and reasonable prices and she was absolutely right!


There was what I would call a “Mariachi” group on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant strumming four guitars and singing familiar songs I have heard many times in Mexican restaurants in California and Texas. I was told that they are called “Tunos” in Spain, but these four gentlemen were much more talented than any Mariachi group I have ever heard. The guitars and voices were melodically synchronized, rendering four part harmonies unrivaled by some of the best barber shop quartets I have heard. They performed non-stop from 9:30pm until nearly 11:30pm when I finally left for my room and they were superb.













The waiter spoke English reasonably well, suggesting wines, starters, and a main course. Nothing I ordered was on the menu. He first brought me a glass of Tempranillo, a dark, robust Spanish red wine with hints of oak along with a “tortilla”. Not the Mexican variety tortilla we expect in stateside restaurants and supermarkets, a tortilla in Spain is an omelette made with eggs and potatoes, resembling a very thick piece of quiche the size of a slice of pie. The tortilla de patatas (€2.50), two slices actually, were light yet savory and delicious.


Anna had recommended the Gambas al Pilpil (€9), an Andelucian specialty with prawns baked in a sauce of olive oil, garlic, and chili peppers accompanied by fresh bread for dipping. The ceramic dish came to me still bubbling with 12 small shrimp, slices of garlic, and a few diced red chili peppers. The fresh sliced baguette easily soaked up the decadent garlic infused oil, raising my cholesterol level by several hundred points. I have to admit that this was one of the best dishes I have had in quite a while.


The service was impeccable, attentive and friendly, always there when needed but not suffocating. I had no idea how much the check would be when it arrived and when it did, I was shocked! Just €16.10 (less than $18) for three glasses of wonderful wine, s starter and a main course,  while enjoying excellent, traditional Spanish melodies – what more could I ask for? Unfortunately, my wife was unable to accompany me on this trip, but even still, this was one of the most enjoyable, affordable dining experiences I have had in quite a while and I will return before leaving Marbella … sorry honey!


I always hesitate before giving the maximum score to any establishment, but I honestly could not find a fault to deduct even a single “bomb”, hence … 

CombatCritic Gives Rincon De La Ribera 10 Out Of 10 Bombs … More Bombs Are Better … It Is “THE BOMB”!




Listen to authentic Spanish “Los Tunos”, the grandfather of Mexican “mariachis”, as I did the night I dined there …


Menu







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Title: Great, Authentic Andalucian Food And Music For A Song

Key Words: Rincon De La Ribera, Rincon, Ribera, Andalucia, Andalucian, Spain, Marbella, Malaga, restaurant, food TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, menu, guide, gambas, Pil

Dalai Lama … Here I Come: My Journey To Enlightenment


My journey began with a two hour flight delay in Kansas City, so I had to scramble to get a seat that would get me to Frankfurt in time to catch my connection to Delhi the next day. The United Airlines gate agents worked quickly and professionally and before I knew it, I was booked through Washington DC, arriving in Frankfurt three hours before my original departure time. Frankfurt being Frankfurt, that should have been enough time to make my connection.

I am staying in Delhi for four nights (three really because I arrive at the hotel around 2:30 AM (0230 hours), taking a flight to Dharamsala on November 1st for the beginning of my Journey to Enlightenment. I hope to get a feel for New Delhi (and Old Delhi) while there as we will be returning in a couple of months to to the “tourist” thing.

Once in Dharamsala, I will be volunteering with the Tibetan refugees teaching English, studying Buddhism and yoga, and working on forgiveness, a skill I have yet to acquire in close to six decades on this lonely planet.

I will be sharing my Journey to Enlightenment here on my blog, including stories, video, and photos, as well as my YouTube channel, CombatCritic TV. Please feel free to follow me on my journey where I hope to educate, inspire, and document the trip of a lifetime. FOLLOW ME to TravelValueTM.

Key Words: Dalai Lama, dalai, lama, India, Delhi, New Delhi, Dharamsala, Dharmsala, yoga, meditation, Buddhism, enlightenment, journey, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, guide, review