Category: Europe

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.

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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

Marseille is France’s biggest port, second largest city and the European Capital of Culture for 2013. This distinction is up there with being named Olympic host, and the rough and ready city on the Mediterranean is taking it seriously. The town known for shipping, crime, immigrant unrest and poverty is taking the opportunity to re-brand itself as an appealing seaside tourist spot.

Marseille is building on it’s southern ties to North Africa and is remaking  the harbor area into a car-free and pedestrian-friendly promenade. In classic French fashion, the city has designated ten new cultural sites, many located in renovated structures. A museum was once France’s Ellis Island, where immigrants were processed, and an abandoned tobacco factory is being refashioned as a Contemporary Arts Museum focusing on the Immigration theme. New buildings are popping up too, with public finance we Americans can only dream about. The desire to change the crime-ridden image to cultural hotspot is a tricky balancing act, paying homage to the immigrant culture without whitewashing the colonial past.

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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Culture, Europe, Festivals, Museums

As we rolled through the holidays into 2013, I’ve been having daydreams of the Swiss Alps. A few years ago I took my family there in the summer and found the most extraordinary playground on the slopes of the Matterhorn. We spent a blissful day picnicking, hiking, and watching the kids enjoy the slides, swings, ropes, and other playground paraphernalia, all beneath a backdrop of that amazing mountain.

More recently I hiked with friends in the Jungfrau region, basing ourselves in Mürren on the flank of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, what has to be one of the most scenic settings on earth. At other times I’ve explored Geneva, Lausanne, Luzern, St. Moritz, Gindelwald, Appenzell, Chur, and other places, but I’ve never been there in winter. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Cross Country Skiing, Europe, Skiing, Snowboarding, Sports, Switzerland, Switzerland, Travel