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.
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 »
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 »
The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are coming to a close and I must say I have an Olympic sized hangover. I have stayed up way too late, too many nights, watching even preliminary runs and way too much commentary.
The 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics was also a Canadian affair. It was the last Olympics where Cold War rivalries played out on the world sporting stage. It was the year of the Jamaican Bobsled team and Eddie the Eagle, the courageous Scottish everyman who soared in the ski jump, or at least gave it his best.
For Olympic nerds, like me, it was the year of the Battle of the Brians in figure skating where the American Brian Boitano won the gold. I remember most of all the amazing scenery, Lake Louise and the stunning aerial photography of the Canadian Rockies. A two-hour drive from Calgary, Banff is to Calgary what Whistler is to Vancouver. Continue reading »
Every year around this time we hear railing against the commercialization of Christmas, and the exhortations to shop and buy and give do get tiring, but they’re nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around a long time, since the Middle Ages, as the many Christmas markets across Europe attest.
The oldest, in the French city of Strasbourg in Alsace on the German border, has been active since 1570. Georgia Hesse, in the San Francisco Chronicle, ably describes the appeal of such markets and the particular draw of Strasbourg, where visitors stroll the lanes where Goethe, Gutenberg, and Albert Schweitzer once wandered.
Many markets last through New Year’s Day and some even run through the Epiphany on January 6, but others close up shop on Christmas Eve, so hurry, time’s running out.
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 »
If you talk to a French person and say you lived in Lille… most say “I’m sorry”. That was the reputation this gritty Northern manufacturing city had years ago. It is the fourth largest metropolis in France and sits at the crossroads between Belgium, Britain and France. My ex-husband was from a small town outside the city, and we lived there for a few years while I taught English (or American) to top execs from Renault, Auchan, Peugeot and various other big French companies. He had to work through his military service scenario and I thought why not—I spoke French, loved the culture and was ready for an adventure. There was tremendous charm to Lille, a great mix of Flemish and French culture. We often went to Bruges and Brussels, the North Sea and England. I was in love and didn’t realize how provincial France, outside of Paris, could be. Continue reading »
I saw him moments after descending from the bus before boarding the boat for the Temple of Philae in Aswan. It wasn’t the white stubble of his beard and close cropped gray hair that caught me. It wasn’t his erect posture in the flowing galibeyah gown or his flashing eyes or the smooth texture of his brown skin. It was the white cotton shirt in his hands.
Simple embroidery decorated the shirt pocket. A buttonless slit ran from near the pocket to the collarless neckline. Cut like a t-shirt but elegant in its whiteness in the desert sun, the shirt flapped like a flag in his brown fingers. Continue reading »