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Tim Boxer

Travel

Nina Boxer

IRAN
The Word On The Street:
Where Are The Americans?

S
EVERAL months before the June elections, and the protests, I walked the streets of Tehran. In Hassan Abad Square two burly men approached. I bristled, expecting confrontation.

"Are you Russian?" they asked gruffly. "We donít like Russians. Are you American? We love Americans."

Reassured that Iím an American, they embraced me and posed for pictures.

I walked around snapping photos of elderly men lounging lazily in the square and black clothed women shopping in narrow open-air shops.

Ayatollahs on high
Ayatollahs on high
Traffic police
Traffic police
Tehran cityscape
Tehran cityscape
Bumper to bumper
Bumper to bumper
American Embassy
American Embassy
School child
School child
Howís the weather?
Howís the weather?
In the Bazaar
In the Bazaar
Buying yarn
Buying yarn

Synagogue
Yousef Abad Synagogue

The people I met were invariably cordial and friendly. Some professionals would greet me with a smile, bow slightly and exchange cards. Once my driver got lost and stopped a white-uniformed traffic officer. The cop peered into the car and came face to face with an American seeking the way to a synagogue. He pointed in the right direction, then broke into a wide smile for my camera.

Many people revealed a connection to America. The caretaker at the Yousef Abad Synagogue, a retired boutique owner, told me proudly that his daughter and son-in-law live in Brooklyn. A tour guide talked about his annual trip to visit his daughter who works at a hotel in Las Vegas. The manager of a hotel in Tehran said the owners are three brothers, two of whom reside in Minneapolis.

At the First International Tour Operators Convention in Tehran, which I covered last November, the vice president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaee, emphasized the importance of tourism to the development of the country.

He called upon the 132 travel agents from 42 countries to engage in his bold vision of "peace and friendship for all people." He added, "Tourism is very important for global security. Iran is ready to serve, to help love and friendship materialize." This from a member of the regime!

I read in the local English newspaper that a reigning cleric in the holy city of Qom criticized Mashaee for his friendship with Israel.

In Esfahan, I marveled at the grand mosques and shops bordering the imperial Imam Square, the second largest square in the world (after Beijingís Tiananmen). It was nightfall. A young man emerged from the darkness.

"Do you want to buy a tablecloth? I own the shop over there."

I looked over my shoulder. No one around. I felt nervous.

"Where are you from?"

"New York."

"I havenít seen an American in six months. I want Americans to come."

All this happened on streets bedecked with stern images of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, promising "Death to America."

In Tehran I thought I saw a ray of hope when I spied an American flag on a light pole. I couldnít believe it so I went for a closer look. It was the Stars and Stripes, all right, but with these words scrawled over it: "Down with America."

I stood across the former U.S. Embassy, now a base of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, gazing at the graffiti-smeared walls proclaiming the inevitable victory of Iran over America. I wondered how many people pay attention to the hate generated by the mullahs.

These days, with Iran in turmoil, the voices of the people I heard resound in my ear: "Where are the Americans?"

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Tim and Nina cut up on the Boardwalk
Tim and Nina cut up on the Boardwalk
Daytona Beach Promises
Fun And Excitement

T
HE closest we came to driving at NASCAR happened on a visit to the Daytona International Speedway. With no effort at all the cheers in the stands and the roar of the engines were ringing in our ears as we tooled around the sleek race track.

Okay, so we rode in a tourist tram with a couple dozen other people, but it was exciting just to be on the inside track for a backstage experience. Good thing they werenít racing that day or we would have been toast.

We came to a stop in Victory Lane, where NASCAR champs are awarded their trophies. We visitors posed for souvenir pictures. www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

Daytona Beach is also known for its Biker Block Party the first Saturday of every month. Hundreds of motorcycles take over the streets. The third Saturday of every month is Cruisiní Destination Daytona when the town pulsates with music, food and auto displays.

Surf and sand and sun
Surf and sand and sun
For culture in Daytona Beach we went to the Museum of Arts and Sciences (www.moas.org) on the Tuscawilla Nature Preserve. Of you stay off the nature trails and stay focused on the museum you may notice the 13-foot-tall Giant Ground Sloth that was discovered nearby in 1965. Donít worry, this baby is 130,000 years old, so it wonít even frighten you, but it was awesome to see.

There are exhibits of African ritual art, Chinese works, and the Cuban Foundation Museum Collection donated by President Fulgencio Baptista in 1957, two years before he was bounced by Castro.

We saw the 1948 Lincoln Mark 1 Continental convertible which took Chapman and Susan Root on their honeymoon. His Root Glass Company in Daytona Beach was the largest Coca-Cola bottler in the 1950s.

We were thrilled to enter the Jackie Robinson Ballpark. It was March 17, 1946, when Robinson took the field with the Montreal Royals for spring training against their parent club, the Brooklyn Dodgers, making it the first racially integrated baseball game ever.

Now home to the Daytona Cubs, a minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, the park has an interesting exhibit highlighting Robinsonís formidable career.

Bubba Gump for grub and fun
Bubba Gump for grub and fun
By now tourists are famished. We saw them cruise the Ocean Walk Shoppes for grub. We peeked in at Bubba Gump where "life is a like a box of chocolates." Or like a frat house. Everyone was having a heck of time, with some customers actually getting up on the table and singing for their supper. You have to see it to believe it. www.bubbagump.com.

An excellent option for upscale eaters is the Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, which is where we were staying. This is luxury dining under the creative supervision of executive chef John Suppan.

The Hilton is luxury lodging on the beach. Manager David Barone oversees 744 guest rooms, cabanas and suites, health club, spa, pools, business meetings, and kidsí activity center. www.daytonahilton.com.

At breakfast we watched people converge on the Old Spanish Mill and Griddle House for unusual self-service. They sat at tables with hot plates built in, and made the batter, which they poured into pans and griddled their own pancakes. They loved the communal spirit. At least they didnít have to do their own busing, too. The restaurant is located in DeLeon Springs, 30 minutes west of the city. Phone 386 985-5644.

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Inside IranTravel Guides

}Inside Iran takes you on an engrossing adventure into a country that is in the news constantly. The amazing photographs of Mark Edward Harris show you in vivid detail the everyday life of the Iranian people. Having traveled and photographed in 80 countries, he has developed a sharp eye for whatís interesting and fascinating on the street and in the lives of the people. The full-color photos in this handsome coffee table volume are satisfyingly absorbing. Chronicle Books, 208, pages, $35.

}Moon Las Vegas covers it all: shopping, recreation, lodging, sightseeing, restaurants and, oh yes, gambling. Among the topics covered in the Essentials section are Getting Around, Conduct and Customs, Health and Safety. Whatís not covered is how to leave with a small fortune. If you figure that out you can write your own ticket, I mean book. Avalon Travel, paperback, 323 pages, $17.95.

}Mexico is Lonely Planetís little fat book on (almost) everything you need to know when youíre headed this way. From the Maya temples in the jungle covered Palenque to the Caribbean waters at Playa del Carmen, this hefty little guidebook, the 11th edition, will see through many of the marvelous sites and attractions of Mexico. A nice touch is the greendex, a list of the editorsí picks of ecofriendly places, such as the Mexico City Hostel with energy efficient facilities. Lonely Plant, softcover, 1056 pages, $26.99.


 
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