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It’s not often I make an effort to do touristy things with my kids, and it’s certainly less likely in my hometown of New York City. I had, however, balked last visit on an attempt to go to the top of the Empire State Building, I just could not stomach the cost and long lines. This visit, in August — the dog days of summer — I promised we would do one super touristy thing, and we opted for a trip to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

I had not been on this tour since the late ’70s and was thinking the boat ride would be pleasant and the breeze appreciated. Having booked the tickets online, I insisted the kids bring hats and water bottles and pack lightly. Of course, it’s one of the most popular attractions in the Big Apple, so the crowds and diversity represented were impressive.

Booking online saved us some hassle, as the will-call line was brisk. The boat was packed, and I almost felt like an immigrant in steerage. I was glad we had snacks and water, because they were pricey on the boat.

I have to admit, on a sunny day I was quite gobsmacked by the proximity of Lady Liberty, her majesty and the thought of generations of immigrants arriving on our shores. My younger son caught me tearing up a bit as we approached. I was mostly moved by the array of visitors from all over the country and the world.

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When I’m sitting in traffic, driving the carpool or taking out the mulch I dig deep and try recall the joyous and cleansing feeling I had spending five days in the snowy wilderness of the High Sierra. Between Christmas and New Year’s, my family joined another for a winter adventure that I replay often in my head; it really was just what the doctor ordered.

This is the first year in a long while the snow has been this deep and this good. The drought in California has taken a toll, and although hardly the most important problem caused by low, or no precipitation, the lack of snow has been hard for winter sports enthusiasts.

Thanks to Global Warming and/or El Nino, this year is different! The weather report seemed perfect. Clear skies for travel days, fresh snow upon arrival and one day of flurries. We packed our backpacks, pre-cooked our beef stew, waxed our cross country skis and prayed our old car could manage the mountainous trip.

It was cold, maybe 10-15 degrees when we arrived. The kids donned snowshoes, my husband I the skis and we tried to balance the weight in our packs. Our friend pulled the sled with much of the food. In the summer you can drive in to the house but in the winter the journey is part of the adventure. It’s only about a mile but you feel you’ve really earned it! Continue reading »

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When I lived in London during the downtrodden Thatcher era, the local pub was a sanctuary, a respite from the cold, foggy, dismal daily life, a life I now look back at fondly. I’m not much of a beer drinker, I much prefer wine, but who wouldn’t love the cozy warmth, the expected smoky haze and the watering hole atmosphere? Sure, it was more of a guys’ scene, I remember the blokes I lived with counting their pints, squeezing in a fifth one before last call, as I nursed my shandy: a disgusting combo of beer and “lemonade” (British 7-Up). They used to stagger home, while I fretted about who would make it without face-planting into a neighbor’s yard. OK, so the scene did get old after the novelty wore off, but I never tired of the yummy pub-grub and the feeling of camaraderie. Continue reading »

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Getting around Paris is fun. The metro is so easy to figure out, on time and goes nearly everywhere. In summer it can be hot and a bit stinky, but it’s almost a game using the maps or a Plan de Paris (a little book that has every neighborhood and metro stop, every street and bus line cross referenced and easy to find if you have your eye-glasses handy) to map out your trip. When I was a student in Paris I loved to jump on the metro, pick a random stop and then get out and explore. It’s pretty hard to get lost with a Plan de Paris, and I suggest all visitors buy one upon arrival.

Once you’ve traveled by metro it’s also great to get above ground. One of my favorite things to do is take the bus… any bus. Continue reading »

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