Tulips and daffodils, cherry blossoms and birds galore, the charmingly decrepit Central Park of my youth is now ancient history, as I learned on a recent trip. Defunct buildings are now sparkling hotspots like the Boathouse, refashioned and refurbished as a posh eatery with 19th-century Parisian charm.
Civilized cafes have sprouted up and scary bathrooms are well lit and clean, even the carousel seems perkier. Just a few years ago I took my kids on it, and an ex-con type was running the controls. The merry-go-round went so fast I feared my toddler son would fly off. Continue reading »
Tonight, my seven-year-old made origami cranes for the children of Japan. Tomorrow, at school is a bagel breakfast to raise money for those in need, following the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.
It is also cherry blossom season, here in San Francisco, in our nation’s capital and of course in Japan, a rite of spring and a life-affirming, annual natural event. As I wheeze through the days full of blooms and pollen I stop to think about the brutality and generosity of what we call Mother Nature.
Traditional custom this time of year in Japan is to picnic under the cherry blossoms with friends and family. Sake, poetry and karaoke often accompany a spread of bountiful treats. This year though, as the country mourns, many are avoiding conspicuous consumption and opting to forgo the annual ritual, or to tone it down considerably. The elderly mayor of Tokyo has erected signs to ask residents to avoid the spring fun as a show of solidarity for those suffering in the northeast of the country. Mother Nature, or the force in nature, whatever you want to call it, can be so cruel and so glorious. The cherry blossoms are beautiful, fleeting, and fragile…like life itself. There is poignancy this year, but certainly the pink blossoms offer a small glimmer of hope, that life goes on.
With all of the uncertainty shaking up the world right now (hasn’t it always been this way?) in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Japan, and recently in Egypt and Tunisia, you begin to wonder where you should travel these days and what places you should avoid. The renowned author of many novels and travel books, Paul Theroux, has an answer: go just about anywhere.
He wrote in a recent New York Times essay that if you’re willing to put up with some discomfort and able to be flexible with your movements, the rewards of travel in troubled places are enormous. Such travel can show you the utter stupidity of much human conflict and the inspiring ways people manage to live their lives.
And isn’t that ultimately why we travel? To understand life on our planet and see how others express their humanity?
Rough travel can be, well, rough, and sometimes the lessons learned come only in retrospect, but they are lessons worth learning, now and in the future.
Even in season, Kailua is pretty deserted during the week. During the weekends locals descend on it, but otherwise, the long crescent beach is almost empty. It has astounding views at every step; there are ancient craters and an endless horizon to watch, with an occasional whale pod to discover if you stare long enough during the winter season.
What I like about Kailua is the absence of high-rises. This ultra exclusive beach area has no resorts or monolithic condominiums — just houses, some of which are mind-bogglingly expensive, others, more modest — but still more expensive than most of us can even imagine affording. Still, the whole feel of the place is casual. This is not a particularly showy stretch of houses and most are not hidden behind forbidding walls. Continue reading »
I had coffee this morning with Nikki Rose, old friend and fellow San Francisco transplant who’s spent most of the last decade in Crete, her ancestors’ land. Her specialty? Cooking!
Since 1997 she’s worked to conserve Crete’s cultural and natural heritage through her own version of a slow food movement, engaging more than 40 small business and individuals in “Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries” to offer visitors a taste of traditional Cretan cuisine. Ingredients come from local organic farms, and chefs put a modern twist on the old cuisine so there’s always a tasty surprise.
Her programs have received sustainable development awards from the likes of National Geographic, and she’s booking tours for the summer. Visit artisan food producers, organic farmers, rural communities that have been inhabited for 4,000 years, and take botanical hikes in the land of the Minoans. Explore ancient sites, too.
And of course, eat well.