A recent October trip to Yosemite and Mariposa County, CA followed a huge rain storm. The robust waterfalls thundered all around and the scenery was more striking than I had remembered from my last trip at the end of July. Autumn colors enhanced the spectacular vistas and there was a crisp feel in the air. Not more than 50 yards from the trail two rutting male deer banged their antlers together putting on a great show. I had packed for winter; fleece, down jacket, hat and gloves. It was in the 70’s and I was in a sweat during the day; the weather can be so changeable. I was stressing before I left, worrying about whether I needed chains or not for the drive up; instead I swam in the hotel pools and applied sunscreen liberally.
My first night I spent at the Tenaya Lodge, right outside the park. The Tenaya had the feel of a Park Lodge, animal heads on the common room walls, giant beams and an outdoorsy style, but was considerably fancier than a rustic lodge. The bed was big and comfortable but unfortunately I slept poorly due to the altitude and a late night specialty coffee (decaf) that I suspect had more alcohol in it than I could tolerate. Elk was on the menu (which my kids were excited about) and I would love to take my family back to explore all the Lodge’s offerings.
The Pacific Islands of Fiji have been once again suspended from the Commonwealth following yet another coup. The political instability in Fiji is constant and most certainly affects tourism. I have been to Fiji twice, once for work and once for pleasure, although both trips were amazing and equally pleasurable! I dream of the endless blue waters, legendary scuba and snorkeling, magical waterfalls and the incredible cuisine; a mixture of native tropical fare infused with Indian spices. These spices were brought to the islands by the many Southeast Asian Indians who came there to ‘work’. The melange in the cuisine is tantalizing but the ethnic tensions between the natïve Islanders and the Indians was palpable when I was there and part of the polical and social strife today. This is the thrid time Fiji has been suspended from the Commonwealth. For up to date information check out the US State Department site.
Bastille Day is next week. This is a special day for me, not because I passionately studied French History or married a Frog, in a previous life, or even because I count being at the Bi-Centennial Celebration in Paris in 1989 as a peak life moment, but because my eldest son was ironically born on July 14th, 1999. I have so much baggage and history with France and French Culture. The love/ hate relationship still teeters more towards love but I can’t deny I get a bit gleeful when there is bad press, the French are exposed as hypocritical or in some way there is de-mythologization of some aspect of the coveted culture. I get a lot of mileage out of my stories of living in France; much like the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnick, I always found humor in the little things. The hilarious scene at Disneyland Paris buffet where diners swarmed a waiter delivering a bowl of bread to the buffet before he could even reach it. The fact that my friend was served mussels and spicy merguez sausage as the first post-operative meal in the hospital or the fact that before my marriage I had to get a ‘Carte de Concubinage’; a card stating that I was his concubine… I could go on. So today I open up to the Yahoo Page with the lead story: “French Tourists Seen as World’s Worst: Survey”. So apparently, according to this survey, done by Expedia, the French, despite their rumored savoir faire, were declared the most arrogant, cheap and worst at foreign languages of all global travelers. Continue reading »
Last week I was invited to a friend’s rental house in Inverness in Marin County, on Tomales Bay, surrounded by Point Reyes National Seashore, with my five-year-old. We left the house at 7 a.m. to maximize our visit, stopped at House of Bagels (the best bagels in SF) and bought loads of yummy stuff and headed over the bridge. The sun was shining and I was so looking forward to spending quality time with my friend and her family.
Inverness is a small village named after the Scottish town and there is so much to recommend it. Continue reading »
Who doesn’t love a good cupcake, those perfect hand held mini/maxi treats. Growing up in New York, in winter, my best friend and I used to wear earmuffs. I’ll never forget when one, somewhat inebriated “bum” (as we used to call them) asked me “What’s up cupcake?” I knew I looked like a cupcake wearing the big furry cupcake-like muffs. I also liked the reference.
Now, as a mom I have become somewhat of a cupcake connoisseur, both as a baker and a consumer. My older son was such a cupcake fan I would make them for each birthday. We have a picture of him just about to bite one at his party for practically each year of his life. They are displayed in frames on our fridge to this day.
Every time I go home to visit my mom in NYC, I have to hit Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street in the West Village. I often claim the kids really would LOVE to go, but in truth, I look forward to the pilgrimage and I am not alone. Usually there is a line around the block. Since it opened in 1996, Magnolia has been featured in Sex in the City, The Devil Wears Prada and Saturday Night Live mock rap which is hilarious, among other shows and films shot in the Village. Continue reading »
I like city driving; not freeways, but I can handle the Marin route out of San Francisco. So, I have made the trip to the Healdsburg area in Sonoma County three times in the last few months. Recently, for a birthday party at a lovely B & B called the Gipson Bed & Breakfast, owned by an old friend and his wife.
I had been to the same spot last summer for an epic 50th Russian Dacha birthday party, where many guests camped and a Russian BBQ ensued with a zip line, trampoline, bubbles, pool, jacuzzi and pogo-sticks for the big and little kids and of course shots of vodka and blinis for the hearty adults. This time it was for a five-year-old’s party, the daughter of my friends, the innkeepers.
Healdsburg lies at the crossroads of three of California’s most famous wine growing appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and the Russian River Valley. It is surrounded by more than 60 wineries and is a favorite Sonoma Wine Country destination. Continue reading »
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I was driving to work yesterday and heard a compelling report on NPR about the R2I phenomenon. R2I is short for “Return to India,” the story of so many who have perhaps studied and lived in the U.S. for many years and have now decided to return home. For many, it is the pull of the aging parents or maybe the desire to bring their knowledge and expertise to their homeland. There is no better time as the U.S. economy declines and the Indian economy continues to be robust.
With recent elections and the distractions arch-enemy Pakistan is facing, many Indian ex-pats are packing up their Silicon Valley, New Jersey or Dallas digs and heading home. According to Sandip Roy’s NPR report, web sites offer advice on everything from who’s hiring in Bangalore to how much gold you can bring home. Dubbed “a brain drain in reverse,” many of these folks jumping on the R2I train are in their mid–thirties, with families and higher degrees. When they return, despite their heritage, many experience a culture shock. Continue reading »
We were invited to a friend’s cabin in Bear Valley, California a few weeks ago. It was the last weekend for skiing, with ideal spring skiing weather. It was so warm as we drove up I couldn’t quite imagine that I would be on the slopes the next day. We stopped for an early dinner on the way, in the town of Murphys, a cute gold town hotspot. We had yummy tacos on a balmy spring evening at Firewood café and soaked in the warmth of the early evening sun
The next day we did wind up downhill skiing at the family friendly Bear Valley Resort. It was the first time in 12 years for me, even though I cross country ski a lot, and the first time, ever, for my two boys. On the Sunday our hosts suggested a walk in the Redwoods. I had no idea they were so close! This spot is nestled between Gold Country and Mountain ski resorts; what an amazing destination! Then I found out that where we were staying was just a stone’s throw from one of the premier Redwood Forests in Northern California. I’ve lived in San Francisco for more than 15 years and I have only visited the Redwoods a handful of times, and not in a long while. It was awesome. Continue reading »
There is always a dilemma, do you spread the word about a great place or keep quiet so others don’t intrude. Well it’s too late for Marin County’s Tennessee Valley. Any given weekend will find hordes of joggers, hikers, seniors, horseback riders and families hiking the trails of this Bay Area gem.
Nestled in Tam Valley, a part of Mill Valley, this spot is easily accessible by San Franciscans and Marinites alike. Over the years we have taken hard core hikes with friends, leisurely walks with visitors from out of town and quickie visits to get fresh air and bask in the beautiful scenery. If I were a visitor from abroad or out of town, this would be a great day trip to get a flavor of the tremendous wealth of the Bay Area hiking scene. Continue reading »
Have you ever had Mandarin Islamic Chinese food? Did you know there are an estimated 20 million Muslims who live in China? These questions percolated as my taste buds marveled at the unusual combinations of lamb, cumin and other spice mixtures that seemed so new to me. I was first taken to Old Mandarin Islamic by a mom on my son’s soccer team. It was a rainy fall day and the boys and spectators were soaked and chilled. The hot pot beckoned, and I was up for an adventure. Way out in the Sunset district in San Francisco near the beach, this small hole in the wall offers not only a unique culinary experience but a geography and culture lesson in Chinese history. I returned this Sunday to pick up takeout and once again I was blown away. Signs in Arabic welcome the diners as well as the Chinese Sabado Gigante-esque/ quasi American idol show playing in the corner on the big screen TV. Familiar was the standard Chinese restaurant decorations, but unusual were the plaques with sayings from the Koran (I assume). Of course there is no pork on the menu and the lamb is Halal. It seems like the whole family is cooking in the back kitchen and you can see them in action as you traipse through to go to the restroom. The hot pot is a fun diner participation dish, much like fondue or Korean BBQ. Continue reading »