I just spent seven jam-packed days of nostalgia and appreciation of the ever-evolving city of New York. The weather was perfect, the spring blooms at their peak and that dazzling mix of old world and high tech chic on display everywhere.
I try to make it back to New York at least once a year, usually for events, this time my epic High School reunion. I often travel solo but this time my companion was my nine-year-old. There was so much I wanted to share with him and narrowing down our plans was painful…and true to how I roll, the best things happened serendipitously.
We walked by the West 4th Street Courts just a block from my mom’s apartment, a famous spot where Lew Alcindor played before becoming the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an iconic public court where legions of other basketball greats have shot hoops over the years. Tucked in the the back are handball courts — I had forgotten about the New York obsession with the game. A tiny pinky ball, perhaps a glove and a wall, that’s all that’s needed. The sport, now called “American Handball”, is a big draw for beach goers, but as I traveled the city I was surprised to see so many courts in every borough. My son was fascinated and wanted to play. A player at W. 4 Street let him on the court to give it a try and he was smitten. The guy even gave him a ball — I LOVE NY. Continue reading »
Since before the economic meltdown we have been planning a trip to Spain to explore my husband’s roots and revel in all that is Spanish soccer. I know a number of people who have traveled recently to debt-stricken European countries including Spain, Greece, Ireland and Iceland. Prices are still high, but most raved about their trips and Spain has stood out as a fabulous place to visit despite the nearly 25% unemployment rate. Food in particular has been a big draw for many, fueled in part by Anthony Bourdain and other shows on the Travel Channel.
Clearly, visiting struggling countries helps to boost their economy. For a place like Greece, it might well be how they can dig out of such a deep hole, promoting all that is so appealing when life for locals is so hard. So, when I read a recent New York Times article entitled “The Country Beckons Spaniards as Jobs in Cities Grow Scarce,” it was interesting to think about how long periods of strife can dramatically change the travel landscape.
I remember rolling in to sleepy Spanish villages, practically drunk on olives and olive oil and even sleeping under an olive tree one hot day. The small towns, just awakening from years under Franco, were still very old world, so authentic and charming. Spain of course has modernized quickly over the last 20 or so years, but much of the growth was isolated in the big cities and towns.
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 »
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 »
I was recently in St. Louis and was pleasantly surprised about how spiffed up it has become. I attended Washington University there in the ’60s, and pretty much confined myself to its lovely campus. St. Louis itself was considered unwelcoming to us undergraduates.
No longer. Forest Park, the green spine that connects Washington University and the suburbs to the downtown area, has been beautifully reclaimed and in a space 60 percent bigger than New York’s Central Park, visitors and citizens can jog and bike along groomed trails and boat in large waterways.
One excellent excursion is to bike up to the famous Gateway Arch that was built to celebrate St. Louis’s colorful past as the provisioning place for western expansion. The arch, designed by renowned architect Enno Saarinen, is awesome. Continue reading »
Washington DC is a city built to serve government and tourism. On a recent trip with a group of French executives, the conversation flowed on the bus as we traversed the city. Designed by a Frenchman, the Mall reminded them of the Tuileries, the Washington Monument of Place de la Concorde. We were to do DC in two days, and although the Smithsonian alone could fill a week or more, I do feel like I got a great flavor for Inside the Beltway.
A visit to Mount Vernon on a stormy day launched the dizzying schedule. I opted for a breath of fresh air with a view of the Potomac, a tour of the house and a walk to the farm. George Washington was quite green (which I learned is a term in French that means an older, quite virile man, not ecologically minded) and in his own way farmed and recycled with an eye on the future, employing crop rotation and mulching much of his waste. A lover of rivers, he situated his house so the view from the porch is masterful and remains unmarred. Continue reading »
Williamsburg, Brooklyn never had pretensions to compare itself with its famous namesake city in Virginia, but local residents are putting a quirky twist on the idea. Perhaps it’s the recession, maybe just a pendulum swing away from commercialism, whatever it is you can count on this neighborhood to be ahead of the curve when it comes to trends.
My sister moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn from Manhattan more than 15 years ago. She shared a cute 1BR apartment and paid a fraction of Manhattan rental rates. Ownership of a yoga studio, a marriage, and two kids later, she still lives in Williamsburg, but now in a loft overlooking the Williamsburg Bridge. The area has changed, from a bustling Eastern European immigrant crowd, to hipsters and artists… to hipsters and artists with kids.
I left New York before Williamsburg became one of the cool hotspots, and every time I return I marvel at the reinvention of the neighborhood. Continue reading »
It’s almost sundown on the eve of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar; Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I was thinking about years past and how I’ve spent the day. In NYC, schools are often closed. Mine was never closed because it was an International school and if they took off one holiday they would have to take off everything: the Swedish King’s birthday, Diwali, Chinese New Year. I am not religious and my husband likes to say I am Jew–ISH, which suits me fine but I do feel connected to the heritage on my dad’s side.
I have never been to Israel, but would love to go some day. The Israeli city of Tel Aviv would be my first stop. Tel Aviv sounds like such a vibrant city and since, so often there is bad news coming out of the Middle East, I thought it was a good time to bring up the 100th birthday of this bustling metropolis. This pulsing city of more than 1.5 million is the most liberal in Israel, full of artists, gay bars, high-tech companies and Bauhaus architecture. Tel Aviv is called the Barcelona of the Middle East, a hip city, with trendy restaurants and night life which, despite the ongoing political conflict that is never far away, has a lot to offer visitors. Upcoming anniversary events include:
* International Art Biennale (ARTLV) (9 September – 9 October), showcasing contemporary works in dozens of exhibitions.
* The Green Festival (17 October), dedicating of the Green Route along the Yarkon River and a centennial bike ride.
* Fashion Week in Tel Aviv Port (19-22 October).
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 »
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 »