Category: Europe

A trip to Spain with our teenage sons, to reconnect with long lost family in a small town in Valencia, meant a chance to visit Barcelona. I had been to this city as a student, but knew things had changed tremendously, and was eager to explore the Barcelona of 2018. We only had a few days, and luckily the apartment we rented was centrally located near the Passeig de Gràcia. It was a brutal heat wave in the middle of August — not the best time to visit — but we were pretty intrepid and refused to alter our plans too much. Europe in August is not optimal, if you want to to visit any popular sites, but there we were, accommodating two kids with varying summer job/ school schedules.

A drink with a mom friend, before we departed, enlightened me to a little Gaudi secret. She had been with her kids in June, and told me to make reservations to visit all the Gaudi spots in advance. I tend to like to wing it, but really didn’t want to to miss the Gaudi sites. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Barcelona, Culture, Europe, Family Travel, Museum, Spain, architecture, art

August is not the best time to visit Paris. This I know, but with two students in the family, both with summer jobs and vastly differing school start dates, it was the only time for us to make the pilgrimage to Spain. I also find it hard to schlep all the way to Europe and NOT visit France. So a few days in Paris to visit a close friend was a must. It was predictably hot, smelly and chock full o’ tourists. My friend asked what I wanted to do. I have all my favorite haunts, and I try to explore a few new spots each time I visit, but I said I really wanted to swim in public pools. I had read about some Art Deco renovations, and she was game. It was scorching hot, so it also was a really great midday pause between touring and a late afternoon siesta.

Jenny had researched a few pools and we settled on Piscine Pailleron, in the19th, an arrondissement I didn’t know that well. She chose this pool because it was hosting a public art exhibit called ‘Museum of the Moon’, an installation by Luke Jerram. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Culture, Family Travel, France, Paris, Sports, Swimming, health

Urban street art is omnipresent in San Francisco, where I live. I love living surrounded by colorful creations. The Mission mural tours are a must see on a visit to the city by the Bay, but it was great to see so much public art in Paris. On a recent trip, I logged nearly 20,000 steps a day, crisscrossing the city with my cousin’s toddlers in a double stroller. Murals, graffiti and inventive art pieces — some built into the edifices –  were a constant source of conversation and joy. Some political and others whimsical, I only snapped pictures of a few. This one of a balloon afro was along the canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement. The gorgeous mural by Vinie went up days before our visit. We stopped at a little playground park nearby, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off it whilst trying to keep track of the kiddos. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cafe, Europe, Farmer's Markets, Fashion, Food, France, Markets, Paris, Restaurants, Traveling with babies

I thought traveling to Paris — a city I know well and a language I speak fluently — would be easy compared to my trips to Bangkok and Guadalajara with my cousin’s twins. Surprisingly it was more challenging. The other two destinations were more affordable and, yes more foreign to me, so I had no expectations. The babies, toddlers now, are 22-months-old and each have a mind of their own, sleep less and are talking up a storm.

Jet lag horrors aside, it was a great trip, the weather in late September was glorious and our trip (a UN Climate Change conference my cousin was covering) coincided with Paris Fashion week. We quickly discovered the metro with a double stroller was a miserable option, so multiple days of hoofing it through the streets and occasional bus rides ensued. We were intrepid and covered a lot of ground, visiting classic spots like the Sacre Coeur, Jardin Luxembourg, Notre Dame, Centre Pompidou and the Eiffel Tower, as well as a quick tour of the Musée D’Orsay and my favorite small museum, the Musée Rodin. We spent time in the Marais District, walking the quays and sitting in cafes, but much of our time was spent discovering small playgrounds in the many manicured parks dotted around the city.

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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cafe, Culture, Europe, Family Travel, Fashion, Food, France, Museum, Paris, Traveling with babies, Urban Parks

As winter gives way to spring and wildflowers replace snowbanks in mountain meadows, I’m having alpine dreams. Those usually take me to Switzerland and the Jungfrau region, one of my favorite places in the world, but today I’m thinking about Germany. It’s been decades since I’ve spent any real time there, for no good reason that I can think of.

So what’s the best way to see the country? Car, bike, or boat? Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cycling, Driving Trips, Europe, Germany, Germany, Hike/Backpack

I saw the film Woman in Gold recently, a true story starring Helen Mirren as an octogenarian Austrian Holocaust survivor seeking to reclaim her aunt’s famous portrait. The title painting, called “Woman in Gold” for many years so as not to name her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, and to obscure her Jewish heritage, is now so well-known it is featured on fridge magnets and mugs.

I visited this painting and other Gustav Klimt works in Vienna’s Belvedere Palace Museum many years ago, lingering in front of my favorite works for what seemed like hours. At the time, I was obsessed with his protégé Egon Schiele and his early, untimely death from the Spanish flu at the age of 28 in 1918. Besides the music, Freud’s house, coffee and cakes, these paintings were what I wanted to see in Vienna. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Books, Cafe, Culture, Europe, Films, Manhattan, Museum, New York, WWII, art

The sharing economy seems to be changing how we manage fundamental parts of our lives. Companies like Uber, Airbnb and Zipcar are dramatically altering transportation, travel and our relationship to these services. It is not without controversy though, and it remains to be seen how we reconcile some of these very necessary services with other important factors such as insurance, safety, liveable wages and unionization, not to mention the housing cost crisis in many popular destinations here in the U.S. and abroad.

As 2014 comes to a close, and the U.S. economy strengthens, more and more “sharing” seems to be happening. Even in my little sleepy San Francisco neighborhood these free street libraries are popping up and the robust trading of garden harvests is bringing people together and making use of food that might just rot on the vine otherwise.

A recent article in the New York Times typified the small gestures of sharing that can make an impact on people’s lives. In Naples, and across Italy, the idea of paying something forward, albeit as minimal as a coffee, is  being revived and taking root. A simple anonymous gesture, paying for an extra cup of coffee for a future needy patron or simply as an act of kindness has a lovely aroma to it. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cafe, Culture, Europe, Food, Italy, North America, Pubs, Restaurants, United States

This year marks the Centenary of the start of World War One, often called the “Great War” or the “War to End all Wars.” It’s a sobering occasion in Europe, where so many lives were lost and where so many enmities still exist or have been rekindled of late. With tensions ratcheting up in Ukraine and Eastern Europe once again, perhaps lessons learned from WWI can help de-escalate the situation.

The last surviving WWI veterans have passed, and a number of wars have come and gone in the wake of what was, at the time, just called “The World War.” Europe is gearing up to commemorate the deadly conflict, a tightrope walk for sure, without opening up new wounds. Lessons from such a devastating global event reverberate today.

Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Battlefields, England, Europe, France, Germany, United Kingdom, World War One

When my daughters and I rode the chairlift to the top of the Passo Tonale resort this summer, it was easy to see that this would be a great place to ski. On the edge of the Dolomites in the Italian Alps, the area around Ponte di Legno is a dramatic series of limestone mountains, river valleys, pine forests and mountain meadows. It has ski resorts at the pass and right on the edge of town. That’s fine for winter activities, but this mountain terrain is also perfect for summer fun.

It wouldn’t be Italy if there wasn’t a town square where everyone congregates in the mornings and evenings. Ponte di Legno’s is known as September 27 Square (Piazza 27 Settembre) to commemorate a battle with the Austrians in 1917. The piazza straddles the River Oglio, literally. The river runs under the stone piazza, which joins both riverbanks in a seamless merger of cobbled lanes and shops. Outdoor cafes edge the central fountain and look out to the mountains dominating the horizon. We started all of our mornings there, being served every day (and in the evenings too) by the same reliable waiter. (He was always there. When did he sleep?) Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cycling, Europe, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, Italy, Ponte di Legno, Rafting, Travel

I remember being a student in Paris and having to wash my hair after a night out because of the ever-present smell of cigarette smoke. I got used to the constant odor and began to associate the particular smell of French tobacco with my splendid time as a student abroad. That has changed, as France has reduced smoking and banned it from many public spaces.

There is something quintessentially French, however, about lighting up in a cafe, and even though I haven’t smoked in years, I have to admit I’m tempted the minute I land in the country. Part of the reason smoking is mildly appealing in Paris is also the fact that cigarettes are inexpensive compared to the U.S.

In Russia, another European country with a strong smoking tradition, nearly 40% of the population has a nicotine habit, fueled in part by the less than $2.00 a pack cost. President Putin, a fitness freak and cheerleader for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, has just signed a law that bans smoking in all public places beginning in June of this year. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Air Travel, France, Olympics, Paris, Russia, health