Visiting NYC, what I miss most is nature, not something I thought about as a kid. On a recent trip back home, I had a few things I had to do. One key spot on my must-see list was to visit New York’s new-ish High Line. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken to greening the city, opening many small median parks, closing streets to traffic and planting lots of trees.
The High Line, an elevated garden built on an old freight railroad line, runs through Chelsea and the Meat Packing district, which, like most of Manhattan, is now upscale. When I was growing up, this area was treacherous, true meat packing was going on as well as other nefarious activities. Today, the neighborhood is bustling with fancy shops and the new High Line is a treasure to behold. 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 »
A recent October trip to Yosemite and Mariposa County, CA followed a huge rain storm. The robust waterfalls thundered all around and the scenery was more striking than I had remembered from my last trip at the end of July. Autumn colors enhanced the spectacular vistas and there was a crisp feel in the air. Not more than 50 yards from the trail two rutting male deer banged their antlers together putting on a great show. I had packed for winter; fleece, down jacket, hat and gloves. It was in the 70’s and I was in a sweat during the day; the weather can be so changeable. I was stressing before I left, worrying about whether I needed chains or not for the drive up; instead I swam in the hotel pools and applied sunscreen liberally.
My first night I spent at the Tenaya Lodge, right outside the park. The Tenaya had the feel of a Park Lodge, animal heads on the common room walls, giant beams and an outdoorsy style, but was considerably fancier than a rustic lodge. The bed was big and comfortable but unfortunately I slept poorly due to the altitude and a late night specialty coffee (decaf) that I suspect had more alcohol in it than I could tolerate. Elk was on the menu (which my kids were excited about) and I would love to take my family back to explore all the Lodge’s offerings.
The Pacific Islands of Fiji have been once again suspended from the Commonwealth following yet another coup. The political instability in Fiji is constant and most certainly affects tourism. I have been to Fiji twice, once for work and once for pleasure, although both trips were amazing and equally pleasurable! I dream of the endless blue waters, legendary scuba and snorkeling, magical waterfalls and the incredible cuisine; a mixture of native tropical fare infused with Indian spices. These spices were brought to the islands by the many Southeast Asian Indians who came there to ‘work’. The melange in the cuisine is tantalizing but the ethnic tensions between the natïve Islanders and the Indians was palpable when I was there and part of the polical and social strife today. This is the thrid time Fiji has been suspended from the Commonwealth. For up to date information check out the US State Department site.
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 »
Last week I was invited to a friend’s rental house in Inverness in Marin County, on Tomales Bay, surrounded by Point Reyes National Seashore, with my five-year-old. We left the house at 7 a.m. to maximize our visit, stopped at House of Bagels (the best bagels in SF) and bought loads of yummy stuff and headed over the bridge. The sun was shining and I was so looking forward to spending quality time with my friend and her family.
Inverness is a small village named after the Scottish town and there is so much to recommend it. Continue reading »
Who doesn’t love a good cupcake, those perfect hand held mini/maxi treats. Growing up in New York, in winter, my best friend and I used to wear earmuffs. I’ll never forget when one, somewhat inebriated “bum” (as we used to call them) asked me “What’s up cupcake?” I knew I looked like a cupcake wearing the big furry cupcake-like muffs. I also liked the reference.
Now, as a mom I have become somewhat of a cupcake connoisseur, both as a baker and a consumer. My older son was such a cupcake fan I would make them for each birthday. We have a picture of him just about to bite one at his party for practically each year of his life. They are displayed in frames on our fridge to this day.
Every time I go home to visit my mom in NYC, I have to hit Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street in the West Village. I often claim the kids really would LOVE to go, but in truth, I look forward to the pilgrimage and I am not alone. Usually there is a line around the block. Since it opened in 1996, Magnolia has been featured in Sex in the City, The Devil Wears Prada and Saturday Night Live mock rap which is hilarious, among other shows and films shot in the Village. Continue reading »
I like city driving; not freeways, but I can handle the Marin route out of San Francisco. So, I have made the trip to the Healdsburg area in Sonoma County three times in the last few months. Recently, for a birthday party at a lovely B & B called the Gipson Bed & Breakfast, owned by an old friend and his wife.
I had been to the same spot last summer for an epic 50th Russian Dacha birthday party, where many guests camped and a Russian BBQ ensued with a zip line, trampoline, bubbles, pool, jacuzzi and pogo-sticks for the big and little kids and of course shots of vodka and blinis for the hearty adults. This time it was for a five-year-old’s party, the daughter of my friends, the innkeepers.
Healdsburg lies at the crossroads of three of California’s most famous wine growing appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and the Russian River Valley. It is surrounded by more than 60 wineries and is a favorite Sonoma Wine Country destination. Continue reading »
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I was driving to work yesterday and heard a compelling report on NPR about the R2I phenomenon. R2I is short for “Return to India,” the story of so many who have perhaps studied and lived in the U.S. for many years and have now decided to return home. For many, it is the pull of the aging parents or maybe the desire to bring their knowledge and expertise to their homeland. There is no better time as the U.S. economy declines and the Indian economy continues to be robust.
With recent elections and the distractions arch-enemy Pakistan is facing, many Indian ex-pats are packing up their Silicon Valley, New Jersey or Dallas digs and heading home. According to Sandip Roy’s NPR report, web sites offer advice on everything from who’s hiring in Bangalore to how much gold you can bring home. Dubbed “a brain drain in reverse,” many of these folks jumping on the R2I train are in their mid–thirties, with families and higher degrees. When they return, despite their heritage, many experience a culture shock. Continue reading »