When we think of Brazil, we think of soccer, over the top Carnival celebrations, samba dance, Bossa Nova music, and unfortunately, lots of crime. The 21st century, however, has brought many changes to this giant of Latin American countries. These days, Brazilians are preparing for two huge international sporting events…The 2014 Football World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The motto for the Olympics is “live your passion.”
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.
The first time a friend suggested a trip to Sea Ranch, I had visions of seahorse cowboys and underwater rodeos. I soon discovered it to be anything but a SpongeBob SquarePants circus. It proved to be one of the most restful places I’ve ever been.
100 miles north of San Francisco, the drive takes a good three hours if you take time to gawk at the Oscar winning coastline. We often stop in Bodega Bay for a fish and chips or clam chowder lunch to break up the drive. This time, my seven-year-old discovered he gets carsick, and if you are prone to motion sickness this drive will surely bring it on.
Sea Ranch was a pioneering eco-community begun in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The connection between the landscape and the architecture is beautiful and certainly contributes to the serenity of the place. I dislike gated communities or housing developments in general, but this place really has captured the benefits of a uniform style with strong community ethos. The sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate wood-frame structures were inspired by the local ranches and are designed to cope with the weather and integrate well with the topography. Continue reading »
On a gloriously, sunny crisp clear day in SF, I started wading through our snow gear in preparation for a school snow trip to the Sierras. It must be mentioned that keeping snow gear up to date for growing kids is tricky, but I think I’ve got it all sorted and labeled. All this talk of snow and winter got me thinking about my own winter bucket list, winter adventures high on my “to do” agenda.
When most of the country is dreaming of beaches and sun, I’m dreaming of the white stuff. I love snow and all the fun one can have outdoors when the temperature drops and precipitation turns to flakes. Three unusual activities came to mind. One, visiting Sweden’s Ice Hotel, but I already posted about that one.
The second, skating Holland’s many canals has been a lifelong dream. Inspired by Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, skating the canals has become a rarity due to pollution and climate change. 2009 was a big year for canal skating and many Dutch citizens rediscovered their soul when they strapped on their skates two winters ago.
Do you know the way to San Jose? That Dionne Warwick song from the late sixties was playing in my head as we packed the kids in the car for our overnight in the South Bay. I have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area nearly twenty years and I think I’ve been to San Jose three times.
I had been itching to take the kids to the Tech Museum and my husband and I were intrigued by the Art Museum, so we decided to book a hotel room overnight and make a festive trip out of it between Christmas and New Year’s.
It had been raining for nearly two weeks, so we also had visions of a great hike if the skies cleared up. I called a close Cuban-American friend who knows San Jose well and happens to be a foodie. He was on it, and within half an hour recommended three eateries in the area, so I felt ready to go. Continue reading »
With arctic temperatures in London, and Paris brought to its knees by snow, New York City is looking like a good bet for Christmas this year. Ice skating in Rockefeller Center, the Fifth Avenue store windows, the Radio City Christmas Show or a ride around Central Park in a horse and carriage all rank high on the New York holiday must do list. If you add in a few snowflakes, the dream comes to life.
But for locals and people in the know, the way hipper attraction is far out in the bowels of Brooklyn. Dyker Heights draws more than 100,000 visitors each holiday season to ogle the over-the-top home decorations. Continue reading »
My cousin left for Cancun last weekend. She works at many UN conferences and was happy to be headed to a warm destination for the climate talks that followed last year’s ineffectual Copenhagen summit.
I recommended places on the Yucatan Peninsula for her to visit in her off time, such as the Colonial city of Merida, Tulum, Lake Bacalar, Uxmal or Valladolid near the Chichen Itza ruins.
A recent article in The Economist, entitled Tourism in Mexico, Can’t keep them away, began with “Sun, seas and severed heads.” Mexico, a country that counts on tourism dollars, has had a miserable couple of years, first with the swine flu, then the ongoing drug wars. More than 30,000 people have died in the last four years. Continue reading »
This morning as I read my New York Times, I noticed a full page ad for a Harry Potter contest to coincide with the release of the latest film in the series. My sons are such big fans and it seemed like a fun exercise to have them enter.
Getting sucked into a series of books can be a marvelous experience. You become so invested, almost intimate with the characters. Much to my surprise, I am completely taken by Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and have been burning the midnight oil as I gallop through the three books. I keep putting the reins on my reading because I don’t want it to end.
This summer, on a trip to the Pacific Northwest’s Olympic Peninsula, I insisted we take a 50-mile detour to visit Forks, Washington, home of the Twilight saga. Twilight is a series of four vampire, teen romance novels by Stephenie Meyer. It follows a teenage girl, named Bella, who moves to Forks, Washington and falls in love with a 104-year-old vampire named Edward Cullen.
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If you’ve ever read the children’s book Eloise or the young adult book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, you probably had fantasies about living alone in NYC as a child. I grew up in the Big Apple and was lucky to have parents who loved art and shared their love of music, theatre and fine art.
I fondly remember visiting the vastness of Metropolitan Museum of Art, marveling at the classics, journeying to Papua New Guinea and Egypt, giggling at the Greek sculptures and noshing at the, then, very fancy café with all the Upper East Side lady lunchers. Most of all I cherished the multicolored little button you get with admission, which I used to save in a jar.
Every time I return to Manhattan I make a pilgrimage to the Met, no matter what is showing. I bring my own kids and rush through, plying them with candy and promises of a ride on the carousel, much as my parents did.
Recently, on one of the hottest days of the year I had a few hours to make my manic tour of the museum. After a whirlwind visit to the American Woman fashion exhibit—that rocked as much as the original song and the Lenny Kravitz cover—we had about a half hour to kill. I was with a colleague who insisted we head up to the roof garden, a somewhat hidden and unknown asset to the majestic museum. Continue reading »