Beyond the sleek Silicon Valley exterior, there are many small towns with plenty to explore in this California region famous for technology.
If you’re looking for a getaway, outdoor fun, sun, and maybe some wine tasting, the small town of Los Gatos is a great choice. Set in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, this affluent hamlet, with a Victorian downtown, is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of urban living. As you drive into town, you pass Netflix headquarters, and you realize, this is perhaps where the 1% live, a notion that was confirmed at the stylish Purple Onion Café, where at 10 a.m., the place was hopping with expensively clad moms chatting and nibbling, post workout. The Illy coffee and yummy breakfast items made with cage-free eggs, local produce, and freshly baked whole-grain breads were tantalizing.
For lunch, a traditional Irish pub with Americanized pub grub, was a more down home option. C.B. Hannegan’s was bustling with business folks and families; the outdoor garden was so pleasant and portions big enough to share. The beer choices were impressive and International, with 15 on draught. 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.
The next stop was Kusadasi, one of the most popular seaside resorts in Turkey and gateway to Ephesus, a world treasure, and a place I visited many years ago. I don’t remember seeing Kusadasi then but it is retail central, with an attractive harbor walk full of restaurants, jewelry and carpet shops. I gather, however, locals find it noisy and miss the far more humble fishing village it used to be.
We didn’t stay long. With a quite lovely and articulate guide to help us understand Ephesus we drove for about a half an hour to join the hordes at the ruins. Note to self: remember last time you were here? It was unbearably hot. New note to self: it was unbearably hot this time too. Pick new season next time.
Well, you might reasonably ask, if it was so ridiculously hot, and you’ve been there twice, why would you go again? The answer, oddly enough, is that even though we are talking about a city created by the ancient Romans, the place keeps changing. Continue reading »
We sailed to Turkey and I found the port at Bodrum to be a nice surprise. I hadn’t been to this city before and didn’t know what to expect. What I got was a luxury development, a town that increases tenfold in the good weather months (which is just about everything except January and February) and, because it is on the Turkish mainland, has become a destination resort for urban Turks and world travelers.
The port is about a seven euro (or 16 lira) ride from the center of the city. The road into town goes by what looks like a lovely hotel with a smashing view (Diamond of Bodrum), good looking apartments and condos, and settles down into a bustling, clean commercial center that is a short walk from the historic castle in the harbor.
Pulling into Rhodes is at first glance disappointing. The island has a big population, it’s the fourth largest Greek island, and the first thing one sees are big collections of condos and other modern buildings. This is kind of startling after Mykonos and Santorini have become your models for Greek islands.
However, as the boat turns to dock in the harbor abutting the medieval part of the city Rhodes Town comes into view, and it satisfies. The medieval fortress walls are impressive and the castle behind it is visible from the water. It’s “younger” than the ruins we have been seeing—and vaults us into visions of knights rather than Greek Gods. It’s actually refreshing to see a whole new kind of city. Continue reading »
There may be no equal to Santorini as a romantic destination. I looked forward to seeing this island most of all because of how breathtaking I thought it was when I sailed into the caldera fifteen years ago.
Sometimes my memory exaggerates places — but in this case, not a bit. Santorini, seen by sea, is totally compelling. By day, it looks at first like snow is dusting the mountain — by night, it is a mass of twinkling lights, and you half expect everyone to break into dance and song a la Mama Mia. Continue reading »
I had been having worse and worse sore throats and then finally it got intolerable. My voice was two octaves lower than normal, and while the Lauren Bacall effect had its charms, pain in swallowing and being unable to sleep did not. So early in the morning I went to the ship’s doctor, with, I have to admit, a little bit of attitude.
I don’t know why I expected the ship’s doctor to be primarily a “say ah, and take an aspirin“ kind of person—but I did. I am happy to say, I was very wrong. He gave me a thorough physical and did a blood test which he analyzed while I was still in the office. I left loaded with effective medicines—and a new respect for the Azamara’s medical program.
Then I was off to Mykonos—an island I had not visited before. The small island has become popular for its beaches and its liberal attitudes. I was surprised, for example, when the first postcard place we went into after getting off the tender had erotic gay and heterosexual postcards. Shows you how out of touch I can be. Everyone else knew that Mykonos is gay and sex friendly, and we found adequate proof of that when we went on a bus ride, and then a boat ride to Paradise Beach and several beaches past that. Continue reading »
This is a new stop for me — I had never heard about this part of the mainland, but it is an important area of the Peloponnesian Peninsula. The postcard entry for boats is seeing the Bouts island fortress — young by Greek standards, old by mine. The little island was built in the fifteenth century and has seen a lot of conflict in its day. Now it looks charming — a description I am sure would insult it’s builders. I gather that it was converted into a hotel for a while and then abandoned. It would make a fabulous place to stay.
We had coffee on our balcony and as far as romance goes — I would say do anything you can to get a balcony — and use it. Just sitting out there in the morning — taking in the view and taking time to get rid of the morning fuzzies — is centering. It helps that the coffee on the Quest is dark and delicious. Continue reading »
The ship that will take us around to the mainland of Greece and Turkey and to the islands of Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes carries about 700 lucky people. It’s a new line but loading went smoothly and we were delivered to our cabin with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of nice touches. There was the cold towel, and the cold champagne when we entered and the assurance that our luggage would magically appear in our room. (It did.)
The ship looks a lot like a Four Seasons inside — elegant dark wood, curving staircases — it’s easy to forget this is a boat. The cabin itself was lovely but somewhat narrow and the shower did not speak romance to me. Happily, we were upgraded to a suite (low on the hierarchy of suites that Azmara has but a huge improvement over our previous cabin). The suite has everything I want in a cruise room — a private balcony with room enough to eat and lounge and a bathroom that two people can use without elbowing each other in a territorial power grab for sink space. Most important to me: there is a tub and a shower two people could use together if they were inclined to do so. Continue reading »
The boat will board in Athens, so we came a day early to see a bit more of the city than I’d ever allotted time for. I’m glad I did. Many people are told to skip Athens, and while I understand that the city is gritty and the traffic can be horrendous, that advice is wrong. (I say this even though we had a tough time getting to our hotel because several streets were blocked off because of a one-day strike).
Still, Athens not only has the Acropolis and Parthenon dominating the skyline of the old city, but the old city itself is a worthy destination for romantic moments. Continue reading »