When I travel, I like to get away from the crowd. Group excursions are not for me. Instead, let me roam into outlying neighborhoods, places I’m not likely to hear any English being spoken. Don’t fence me in. Unless it’s a beautiful fence like this wrought iron one that I came across while getting lost in my wanderings through Rhodes.
June 29, 2013
Oh, my. Someone’s got an attitude. Whenever I see a suggestive visual like this one, I try to imagine the backstory. What happened to provoke this? I remember once, as a child, seeing a perfectly tri-folded newspaper, carefully secured by an elastic band, on the roof of a neighbor’s house. I wondered how it got there? Some overstimulated paperboy whose enthusiasm threw off his aim? Now, decades later in this tidy tourist town, this. What?
June 28, 2013
June 27, 2013
June 26, 2013
Amazing the things one finds in the strangest of places. Especially if you have the incentive to look hard enough. Have no idea what the Greek sign on the right in this hospital courtyard says. But the double-alpha sign on the left means pretty much the same thing in every language.
June 25, 2013
Wouldn’t it have been nice to enjoy a scrubbin’ and massage here at the Turkish baths in Old Rhodes? Alas, a sign indicated that the hammam was closed for renovations...and the joint looked as if it had been closed for centuries. Maybe not such a bad thing, as I know how to ask for a scrub and a massage in Turkish, but in Greek, no. So I’ll continue to re-live my memories of indulgent sudsy rubdowns and soakings at three historic Turkish baths in Istanbul and one in Edirne.
June 24, 2013
You can get away with bright colors in warm, seaside climates. Back home in relatively dull New England, not so much. And while I’m always tempted to bring some of this flash home with me whenever I’m in Tucson, Morocco, Turkey or here in Rhodes, I’ve learned (through experience) to resist. It reminds me of Fran Lebowitz’s advice not to get a haircut when you’re on vacation, especially (in her case) when you’re away from New York City. Still, these bags were pretty eye-catching.
June 23, 2013
After a wonderful Black Sea cuisine lunch with Istanbul blogger Cenk, Jay and I went to a dessert shop he’d recommended to try the quince dessert available only at this time of year. On our way out, we saw this tray of another mysterious specialty. It looks like it might be some kind of noodle-based treat with waves of ground pistachio and “moments” of pomegranate seeds. Pretty, but what is it? Cenk, if you’re reading this, please tell us what this is, OK? Teşekkürler. [For Cenk's kind reply -- and recipe link! -- click on Comments below.]
June 22, 2013
When in Istanbul, it’s good to have a geographic reference point that can guide you even when the streets become jumbled and complicated. Ours: the Galata Tower, high enough to be seen from most places. Like the deck of our ship about to leave the Istanbul dock. And just to make sure you see it, here’s Dr. Blake providing the good guidance for which he’s become well known.
June 21, 2013
Before I went to the City of the World’s Desire, I learned that there were packs of friendly dogs that roamed the city at will. As a runner, I was a bit apprehensive. And when I was running there, I did run into some of these groups of dogs, none of which seemed to pay me the slightest attention. I’m told that in Istanbul, people don’t keep dogs as indoor pets, but they take care of certain dogs who live outside in public places. Like these two, sleeping peacefully in Galata Square as crowds pass by and drop, as seen here, a bit of cracker.
June 20, 2013
Turks love to stuff vegetables. Peppers, eggplants, zucchini, grape leaves, cabbage, Swiss chard, anything that will hold a stuffing and even things that won’t. Those red peppers (or are they tomatoes?) in the back have been dried and are sold by countless vendors. Ditto those leathery things on the right: cored and dried eggplant skins. When stuffed and simmered in liquid, they come back to their original softness and flexibility and taste so, so good.
June 19, 2013
How quiet Taksim Square looks in this photo from six years ago. This is the same square that’s currently ground zero for the protests now shaking Istanbul, all of Turkey actually. East meets West here, too. Burger King on the right with its hamburgers and upstairs roof terrace. And Kosem Bufe right next to it with its own Turkish-style burgers in big rolls, soggy and warm in their steam-cabinet displays. Today, a different scene.
June 18, 2013
Islamic religious art tends to avoid the figurative. Images of Mohammed especially are discouraged. (A recent film project in which an actor portrayed the prophet was the subject of much controversy and many threats.) But what it may lack in terms of portraiture and human representation, it sure makes up for with geometric design and curlicues wherever possible. Look at these windows in the Grand Mecidiye Mosque in the Ortaköy neighborhood just north of Istanbul -- the repetitive “prayer rug” pattern in the carpet, the subtle use of gold enhancements to outline architectural details. Adding to this important mosque’s visual charms: it’s situated directly on the shores of the Bosphorus, affording beautiful views both inside and out.
June 17, 2013
As I write this, police and protesters are battling not far from where this picture was taken exactly six years earlier. A country in transition, taking its cue from other fed-up nations nearby over the past few seasons. How different on that morning, Nick and I visiting Istanbul for the first time, enjoying our first Turkish breakfast in a tiny square currently filled with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons.
June 16, 2013
June 15, 2013
My friends Simon and David have, in their large menagerie, two whippets. Willy the bully; Ama the preyed-upon. Willy, among his many routines, sometimes drags his blankie around with him. So I just couldn’t help draping him and taking this photo. He didn’t seem to mind one bit. Attention whore.
June 14, 2013
Oh, look at my friend Simon. So youthful and boyish. Why, I almost hesitate to point out that this photo was taken 26 years ago. It was my first visit to what has become one of my favorite places in the world. To visit two of my favorite people in the world, my friends Simon and David. If things go as planned, you’ll be reading this just after I've visited them again, this time upon the occasion of the opening of a dual show they’d mounted at Tucson’s Temple of Music and Art. How lucky am I to have such wonderful, talented pals.
June 13, 2013
I’ve mentioned here before how I feel my soul open up each time I visit Tucson. The light, the colors, the space. I remember after my Massachusetts-raised friend Simon had moved here to the Southwest, I asked him if he didn’t miss the sea. His answer: “The sky compensates.” Yes.
June 12, 2013
I suspect that my interest in visiting cemeteries -- in Mexico, in France, here at home -- may be linked with my attraction to the Day of the Dead shrines that appear in Mexican communities at the very beginning of November. Like this one here in a small shop in Tucson, home to a large Mexican-American population. Photos, objects that the departed used to love, sweet bread, even shots of liquor adorn these extravagant shrines. Also models of skeletons, often made from sugar. I love that this is a day to remember, speak to and have fun with memories of loved ones no longer with us. And I love that the passion displayed is so different from the general mien of my New England home and neighbors.
June 10, 2013
All smiles I was, standing here on the five acres that Jay and I had bought with a hope that we’d build a retirement home on it. Well, I’m retired now. And Jay is about to be. And we realize we don’t have the energy or inspiration that we once had to undertake a massive project like that. Just clearing the protected Saguaro cactus according to exhaustive regulations seems mind-boggling. And so, our land is up for sale. And, perhaps, may even be sold by the time you read this. [It is.] I am reminded of something a wise friend once told me: Just because you like something, doesn’t mean you have to own it. Fortunately, my Tucson friends Simon and David welcome house guests. For now anyway.
June 9, 2013
Garlic, onions, some hot peppers. No wonder I was drawn to this produce stand at a small street market here in the port of Rome. They’re the very ingredients that I use most often in my home cooking. And having this photo was worth the amusement of the nearby vendors, chuckling at the crazy Americans taking pictures of themselves with vegetables.
June 8, 2013
A little out of focus, but that doesn’t interfere with the memory of this great salad at an outdoor dinner here at Da Gildo in Trastevere. (One of the recommendations our friend Sylvia had given us, all of them winners.) The salad was, as the owner told us, molto semplice. Simple indeed: shaved pear, arugula, Parmesan slices, a little oil. Basta. We still talk about this memorable dish and have tried (unsuccessfully) a few times to recreate it here at home.
June 7, 2013
I was wondering this morning if teenagers still use the term “going steady.” Or has that become passé, replaced with something more current of which I’m completely unaware? Do teenage boys give a ring to their steadies, rings which the young girls wear on chains around their necks? The rituals of my elementary and high-school years that seemed so important and weighty at the time. Do they still exist? I wonder if these Roman teenagers lined up on a school trip in the Piazza Navona even have words for such behaviors. Or do the Italians, with their characteristic combination of casualness and intensity, simply assume that “going” means “going steady”?
June 6, 2013
Whenever I travel to a place that has the ruins of an ancient civilization, such as here in the Roman Forum, I think about all the people who’ve walked these streets before, centuries before, 2,000 years before. Whatever else these thoughts may do, they always make me feel “right sized.” Just as when I try to imagine the vast, limitless expanse of the universe. The concept of an infinite universe scares me. Walking in the ruins of the Roman Forum, not far from cafés and pizzerias, doesn’t.
June 5, 2013
It was Dr. Blake’s first visit to the Eternal Città. So I wanted to make sure I brought him to all the must-see spots. Keeping in mind his dislike of heights and crowds. (It was a holiday weekend and the city was packed with tourists.) First stop: My favorite building in the whole wide world: the Pantheon. When I lived in Rome back in the 1980s, I’d stop here regularly, just stroll in and marvel at the dome, the niches, the floor. Now...there are restrictions on how to enter, how many people are allowed inside, cordons holding back the crowds, guards yelling for people to keep quiet.
June 4, 2013
Picnic lunch in Rome. You can have just so many meals in restaurants before you want something simpler, something less fussy, more casual. Ecco! Some cheese, some bread, olives, figs, pears and a bottle of wine. A sunny place to sit down. A good friend. More than 30 years later, I can still remember how warm the sun was, how terrific those rosette rolls were.
June 3, 2013
Could this be my favorite taxi stand in the world? One where a local denizen seems to be hailing down a car for you? In the gardens of the Villa Borghese, high above Rome’s bustling Piazza del Populo, Dali and I strolled early one morning, alone to play among the statues. Well, almost alone. There was a chatty young woman who was demonstrably and lengthily explaining some crisis to a friend as they passed by. It was then that Dali gave me another Italian vocabulary lesson: chiacchierone.