Escapes: Keep the fire for travel burning

Escapes: Keep the fire for travel burning

Greetings on day 4,232 of lockdown. Oh, wait, that’s not correct. It just feels that way.

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I am the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. My colleagues and I are hard at work trying to bring you the latest.

There’s more news than ever to keep track of, so let’s get to it. Just remember, this isn’t forever, but you have to know what’s out there before you can step back into the world of travel. Keep the fire going, but don’t fan the flames just yet. And if you make it to the end of this newsletter, there’s an End paper that has nothing and everything to do with the life we’re living now.

Looking at the future

Mary Forgione and I gazed into experts’ crystal balls to see what lies ahead for cruises and for road trips. It’s part of our series looking at how parts of the travel industry — Christopher Reynolds wrote last week about hotels, and I wrote about commercial flights — will come out the other side.

Lost money on travel?

Michele Breslauer planned to fly to Toronto and back this month, but the airline canceled her flight. The airline is supposed to, under Department of Transportation laws, refund your money. The complicating factor: She had bought her ticket through an online travel agency, and no one is keen on giving her money back. Find out how a California law may help her in this week’s On the Spot column.

Art for a story about not getting your airline refund.

(Photo illustration by Steven Banks / Los Angeles Times; Getty / Apple)

‘I am so bored’

I’m not; I have about four years’ worth of deferred home repair projects awaiting me. But if you need to get out, Christopher Reynolds continues his yeoman’s work of telling you what’s open and what’s closed around the Southland.

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Don your mask

Major airlines will require you to wear a mask, many beginning this month, a trend that JetBlue started and others have continued, Hugo Martín writes.

Is it too early to start thinking about travel?

There’s no law against thinking. But L.A. County health experts are saying, “Not so fast.” For now, it’s only essential trips, Christopher Reynolds writes. His article will help you avoid running afoul of the law.

National parks are reopening

But not all of them, Mary Forgione writes. Some of our favorites are still on the do-not-visit list, and because non-essential travel is discouraged, you may need to wait a while before you embrace our California icons.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Rock formations in Utah’s Bryce Canyon, which is starting to reopen.

(Jason La / Los Angeles Times)

What we’re reading

Guess what’s the busiest airport in the world. Atlanta? London? Beijing. All wrong. On April 25, it was Anchorage, Liz Hund reports for the Points Guy. Everybody’s going to Alaska to get away from coronavirus, perhaps? Nope. The answer is far more mundane, especially if you consider its position in one aspect of flying.

You don’t have to be a foamer — that is, someone who is inordinately fond of trains — to enjoy this Afar piece by Chris Colin. The article, from 2013, is about a nostalgic trip aboard a luxury train in Southeast Asia. Ordinarily I don’t make a habit of reading 7-year-old articles, but somehow in this time, it feels like a hug from the past as the writer describes the luxury along with the emotional discomfort of it and rues (I think) the lack of an Agatha Christie-style murder.

We had you looking up to the sky a couple of weeks ago, thanks to stories about stargazing. Now we want you to look up again, this time during the day, and become a cloud gazer. In an article for Atlas Obscura, Jessica Leigh Hester writes about the art and science of staring at the fleeting shapes, which have their own fan club, called the Cloud Appreciation Society. No fancy equipment required, but you must agree to keep your head in the clouds, figuratively speaking.

 Newport Beach

Newport Beach, in a happier time.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

What could also be on your reading list

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Your letter in this newsletter. Write to us and tell us what you think about anything, but you might want to give it some context. One letter I received this week said only, “Stop with your stupid doom and gloom stories! Yellow journalism.” I wasn’t sure what made this reader unhappy, and he didn’t respond. If you have any insight about this or anything else, write to

End paper

We will celebrate our moms this weekend, some of whom are still here, others who have left us.

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of my own mom, who lived more than nine decades and had a chance to do some traveling as a forced participant (what my father called “traveling” was actually moving) and, later, as a person who was curious about her world.

One of my greatest pleasures was sharing some of my favorite places with her. We had lived in Hawaii, but since she had never been to the other islands, we took an intra-island cruise in which she had a chance to fly over the Kilauea volcano.

She’d always wanted to traverse the Panama Canal because “we read so much about this engineering feat” in schoolbooks. We did that too, on a cruise complete with David McCullough, Pulitzer winner and author of “Path Between the Seas.”

She was astounded by the Grand Canyon and enraptured by birthdays celebrated in New York (magical at Christmas) and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

But it was perhaps Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada, that meant the most to her. She always loved gardens, and during our very gentle walking tour, she had to stop and sit down several times. I was worried about her; at the time she was 83. I asked whether she was OK, and she said, “Yes, I’m fine, but I am just overwhelmed at all this beauty.”

Her face told me that was true. She lived another 15 years, so I concluded it really was the beauty.

Not long before her death, I visited her in her assisted living residence, as I did several times a week, and I took her outside to the garden. She was her best self in such settings, even though dementia had stolen much of her memory.

As we sat in the shade of the giant pines, she grabbed my hand and said, “Seeing you is the best part of my week.” I just smiled. Then she said to me mock-sternly, “You’re supposed to say, ‘Mom, seeing you is the high point of my week too.’” To which I replied, “Mom, that goes without saying, so I didn’t say it.” She snorted and said, “Smartass.”

As I sit in my office, I am struck by the vase of roses on the shelf, next to a picture of her, my sisters and me, and by a clock that’s a remembrance of a trip to Ireland (she might have winced that Belleek is in Northern Ireland, but she would have loved the clock) that she financed after her death.

With permission, we scattered some of her ashes in a spot below the Sky Road on the Connemara Peninsula in western Ireland.

Among my photos of that trip is this quote by philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “Some day after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tide and gravity, we will harness for God the energy of love; then for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms and those who act as moms; thank you for being the fire in our lives. And remember, no matter where you are, be safe and well, and when one day we are free to travel again, we will be here to welcome you home.

The view from the Sky Road on Ireland’s Connemara Peninsula.

The view from the Sky Road on Ireland’s Connemara Peninsula.

(Catharine Hamm / Los Angeles Times)


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