October 23, 2018

Lisbon. October, 2009

Before sailing into the port of Split. I asked my Croatian friend (and expert home baker) Marin to provide me with the names of some different kinds of Croatian pastries and breads so that I could have a farinaceous scavenger hunt in his hometown, an activity that combines two of my favorite things to do while traveling: hunting down local specialties and eating them. (Here are some finds from our earlier trip to Lisbon. Our time in Split was just as rewarding.)

October 22, 2018

Gloucester, MA. September, 2009

That smiling fellow on the right is our friend Marin. A Croat. Before Jay and I sailed into Pula, Croatia, I had considered asking him how to say a few simple phrases in Croatian, things like “hello” and “thank you.” But I worried that he might teach me words that were, well, naughty instead. Don’t you think he has a playful and mischievous look about him? (We did sail, language-less, into Pula, and then into Split, Marin’s hometown.)

October 21, 2018

Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy. October, 1980

Yes, there are pigeons in front of the major cathedrals and in the big squares in both Florence and Rome. But nowhere are they more dense than here in front of the Basilica San Marco. (This picture shows only a small fraction of them.) A lot had changed in the 25 years between my visits here. For example, you now can book your free ticket online to enter the basilica for one euro. Certainly worth it during the peak summer tourist months. Another welcome change, as in Florence, people who feed the pigeons are now fined for doing so. Bravo.

October 20, 2018

Caffé Florian, Venice, Italy. October, 1980

When you enjoy your coffee at the bar in Italy, it is relatively inexpensive. When you decide to enjoy it while seated at a table, it is more expensive. And when you decide to sit at a table at Florian, the fabled café here on the Piazza San Marco in Venice, it is most expensive. Even for Venice. Still, these ladies seem to be enjoying themselves, probably listening to beautiful atmospheric music from a nearby string quartet (either one at Florian or at Quadri, the competing cafe across the piazza; a six euro charge is added to your bill is the music plays while you’re seated.)

October 19, 2018

Venice, Italy. October, 1980

“See Venice and die.” Isn’t that what people say? Here I am, on my first visit to this magical city trying to prevent just that. Or pretending to be a Venetian blind. Or some other sophomoric photo op. When I took Jay there for his first trip, we had only three things on the agenda: Thing #1: Visit the Basilica di San Marco. Thing #2: Visit my favorite painting in the world, the Titian Assumption in the Frari Church. Thing #3: Find zaleti here in the city that first developed them. Oh, and eat. We accomplished everything on the list.

October 18, 2018

Watertown, MA. October, 2012

I love Halloween. And that year, as in the previous few, I wouldn't be at home for all the fun. (And I wouldn't be able to walk with my friend Vinny through his Waltham neighborhood, looking at the kids in costume, the houses decorated.) Instead, and I’m not complaining, Jay and I were in Italy, in the town of Portovenere, where my friend Antonio, whom I had not seen in 25 years, met our boat and spent the day with us. So I was happy to see that some of my Watertown neighbors had already started to put up their Halloween decorations, including this rather extravagant, inflated death coach. Illuminated no less.

October 17, 2018

Tucson, AZ. November, 2006

Issues and candidates. And endless television ads. “Critical analysis” from so-called experts. It’s too much even for me, who stopped watching television on Election Night 2000: First Gore was winning, then Bush, so this former news junkie went to bed knowing the outcome would be decided upon awakening. Guess what? It wasn’t. The whole Florida ballot mess. I decided I had had enough and haven’t turned on the TV since. Still, I can’t escape political posters, even some that make me smile like this one I passed on my traditional downtown walk in Tucson. (I thought Dean Martin was long gone.) Anyway, I’ve already absentee voted in the 2012 election -- for president, for senator, for local contests and ballot questions. And I’m happy to be leaving the country tomorrow, not back until Election Night. I will, I hope, miss the last three weeks of all this.