We sailed into this colorful port on an off-season Sunday because the seas were too rough for us to navigate the waters of our original destination, Capri. It was a sleepy, restful place. Hardly anyone on the streets. Remarkably silent except for a dog’s barking from time to time. I look at this pastel waterfront vista and wonder what it must be like in high season, filled with vacationers, these buildings bathed in full sun.
July 30, 2013
There’s no denying that this emblematic tower can be beautiful, hypnotic or corny, depending upon how you look at it. When I returned to Paris after the passage of more than 30 years, I was amazed at the light show of up-and-down twinklers that had been added to M. Eiffel’s structure since the time of my last visit. You could actually hear the crowds gasp as the thing started to glitter for about 30 seconds. I loved it. As I write this, my friend Donna is in Paris, visiting her daughter who’s part of a six-month fellowship there. I know they’re both charmed by the city, the tower, the lights. I can hear them gasp. [As it happens, they came home complaining the city was dirty, only the old people dress well, etc. Oh, well.]
July 29, 2013
One thing I observed early on during my first visits to Spain was the Spaniards’ love of design. Almost an excess of design. If something can be made, make it. Then push it a bit further. Take, for example, a simple stone and mortar wall like this one at the Convento de Santa Teresa in Ávila, the lady’s hometown. Embellish that mortar just a little bit by pushing small stones into it at regular intervals. Something so basic nudged into something remarkable and beautiful.
July 28, 2013
What are these? Three guesses. If you guessed that they were plaster molds used to make marzipan fruit in a town known for that ubiquitous almondy confection, you’re correct. Just before we left Palermo, Nick and I visited a man whose occupation was making just such plaster items. (He also made some decorative flourishes like tiny plaster shelves with Corinthian-column-like supports, of which I brought home two.) But these are his specialties. Look at the variety: corn, eggplants, lemons, tomatoes, even a pig’s face. Once the almond paste is forced into the molds and retrieved, the shapes are painted with food colorings and sold at what seems like every other storefront in town.
July 27, 2013
Part of the joy of travel for me is the planning, the preparation, the research. Sometimes it’s so thorough that I feel as if I’m returning to a place even when it’s my first visit. (I remember arriving in Istanbul for the first time and experiencing a wonderful déjà vu sense of a possible past life in the City of the World’s Desire.) As I write this, we’re aiming toward a visit to Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands. I’ve read that the town’s central market has a Central American feel to it. If it’s even the slightest bit reminiscent of my trip to Cuba, what could be better?
July 26, 2013
Well, yes, I suppose Dr. Blake could be called “El Brillante.” Sometimes. But this photo is an homage to the wonderful bar/cafe of the same name near Atocha station in Madrid. Home, they claim, to el mejor bocadillo de calamares de Madrid. And who are we to argue. It looks as if our travel plans this coming fall will bring us to Madrid again. And I admit that one of the first things I thought of was the home of Madrid’s best calamari sandwiches. And how many times we’d be able to enjoy them in our two-day stay.
July 25, 2013
Who goes to IKEA to eat? We do. Or we did this night. Marin and James both were jonesin’ for the fabled ribs at the Swedish shopping emporium. And I was jonesin’ for the pleasure of their company. I had the Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam for the low, low price of $3.99. The boys each had ribs ($6.99) with cornbread and french fries (for Marin) and broccoli/potato “medallion” (for James, seen here.) And then, as is always the case, we walked through the store and picked up a number of items we had no idea we’d needed.
July 24, 2013
Arriving in Tangier is somewhat of a shock if you’re not prepared for it. And, frankly, even if you are. The aggressive “guides” wanting you to employ them. The hawkers of trinkets. The beggars. The mystery of signs in the slippery Arabic alphabet. All of that. But the appeal of Morocco is enough to balance. The colors. The curves. Light and shadows. Alleyways that dead end in small squares, such as this one in the old medina. We had only a brief taste of Morocco last time. But we’re headed back for more soon. Better prepared? We’ll see.
July 23, 2013
This bulletin board, simple as it is, reminds me that people are pretty similar wherever you go. These postings are on a wall in the Mercado de los Angeles in the southern Spanish town of Almería, but, aside from the language, they could be anywhere: people looking for work, looking for tenants, offering their services to clean, to provide elder care. For me, I wish I knew more about the posting in the upper right that announces SUBLIME.
July 22, 2013
A noontime stroll along the Giudecca backshore on our last morning in Venice. The fog that rolled in from the Adriatic was atmospheric and decorative rather than inconvenient. And it didn’t stop that punter out there on the water. Foggy and monochromatic or sunny and radiant, Venice is such a visual treat that it’s hard not to be taken by it.
July 21, 2013
When Supreme Court hearings were taking place last March concerning the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg elicited some laughs when she said that diminished marital benefits of same-sex marriage made it a “sort of skim-milk marriage.” Ginsburg was in the majority when the Supremes ruled DOMA unconstitutional on June 26, 2013, and the decision becomes final today. Whole-milk marriage equality for many now. Let’s keep moving toward thick and supportive Turkish-yogurt marriage equality for all soon. Onward.
July 20, 2013
This is my friend Chris, relaxing on his boat in the middle of the lake on which he grew up. We’d all climbed aboard for a ride during a party he was hosting at his childhood home. I like the late-afternoon light in this photo, the pleasure in my friend’s face...now if he’d only ditch the cigarettes. (Today, Chris hosts us again at his lakeside home. A tireless advocate for equal rights for all, Chris played no small part in the fight that led to the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act by the Supreme Court. The Court’s decision that DOMA is unconstitutional becomes final tomorrow. Thanks, Chris.)
July 19, 2013
No, you’re not seeing things. Yes, that’s a real windmill smack dab in the middle of Montmartre. An archaic holdover from when mills were functional rather than decorative. Built in 1622 and operating to grind flour until the 19th century, the Moulin de la Galette has been painted by such neighborhood locals as Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, Utrillo and Picasso. Over its history, the building has been an open-air café, a music hall, television studios and a restaurant. It is now in private hands.
July 18, 2013
I’ve always been attracted to the faded, worn and damaged. The crumbling colonial buildings in Central Havana. The sunbleached colors of abandoned houses in the Arizona desert. Judy Garland. And this door here on the isle of Milos. Blistered and ravaged, its peeling layers suggest a more beautiful past. Those panels below the windows almost look as if they were the result of brushstrokes in a painting by, say, George Nick. And I love the little peephole torn in the corner of the curtain. Deliberate?
July 17, 2013
July 16, 2013
Look at these beautiful zucchini here at a street market in the port of Rome. Why is it that Europeans know how to respect their vegetables? And that Americans fall way short in that respect? Artichokes? European markets are filled with them, spectacular and fresh with their long stems still on them. Zucchini? Newly picked, unblemished and appetizingly green, they come with the flowers still on them, just waiting for some home cook to stuff them with cheese, batter and fry them. These garden-grown zucchini were selling for one euro per kilo. About $.60 per pound.
July 15, 2013
I love libraries. Love everything about them. The books, the quiet, the patrons, the characters they always seem to attract. I’m somehow amazed when I think back to how many libraries I’ve visited in my travels over the years. Miami Beach? Las Vegas? One of the most amazing ones was the spectacular new library in downtown San Francisco. A gleaming steel and glass beauty. But, given the great sense of community in that north California town, a respect for the past. And so, rather than toss out all those entries in the old card catalogue when they switched to a computer database system, they papered some of the walls with them, resulting in a number of pretty amazing and inspiring mosaics. Imagine a whole room whose walls look like this.
July 14, 2013
July 13, 2013
July 12, 2013
Oh, look how Dr. Blake gets into the “jumping picture” swing of things here in his driveway after coming back from a snowy run. Shorts, of course, no matter the weather. At least in those days. Taking a car up the driveway at that hilltop house required more deft maneuvering when the snow was deep. A fast approach from the road, then no lifting your foot from the gas pedal, and with luck you’ll make it. Although sometimes the car would only get halfway up and we’d have to leave it, secured in place, and climb the rest of the way.
July 11, 2013
July 10, 2013
July 9, 2013
My friends Dali and Vinny, just after a visit to the Getty Museum, get back into the funky swing of things with this jumping picture outside a popular seaside club. The Getty has since moved, Dali has left us, and I wonder if the Screaming Clam is still thriving.
July 8, 2013
Dr. Blake and I, jumping at the water’s edge during a Herring Cove Beach sunset. This silhouette shot was taken by our friend David, a distinguished photographer who kindly snapped it for us. I remember how terribly hot and humid this evening was. And no sea breeze. Still, we had enough energy to leave the ground for a brief moment. As we plan to do again today.
July 7, 2013
Frequent readers of this blog will not be surprised when I say that I love artichokes. At home, at friends’ homes, in restaurants. Steamed, stuffed, fried, grilled, whatever. (When I drank, I used to enjoy the artichoke-based aperitif Cynar.) I even like just looking at them in markets, photographing them, whatever. And look at these beauties, fresh artichokes from Québec. As I write this, I have just come home from Russo’s, my local, fantastic produce market, where artichokes today were .49 per pound! I bought six. They are “frost-kist,” meaning that the tips of their outer leaves may have some evidence of the effects of the cold. No problem. I find that artichokes, like Brussels sprouts, taste even sweeter once they’ve been kist by the first frost.
July 6, 2013
July 5, 2013
What is it about potatoes that makes me love them so much? Could it be my Irish heritage? Or the fact that there is so much variety both in colors and shapes as well as in preparation? Jay and I have recently been savoring garlicky olive-oil mashed Yukon Gold potatoes with chives from our garden almost every Saturday night. Or warm potato salads. Or roasted with garlic and rosemary. When I was with my father in Ireland, we were at dinner one night and as we ordered, the waitress asked me, “Boiled, mashed or french fries?” When I hesitated, she smiled and said, “I know. I’ll bring you all three.” I almost asked her to marry me.
July 4, 2013
Raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, oh, my! And a few trays of tomatillos thrown in for good measure. The patchwork displays of fruit at Montréal’s central market are so much more beautiful and respectful than I see elsewhere. But where did those out-of-season berries come from? (This photo was the closest I could get to a red-white-blue market-based array for today’s holiday.)
July 3, 2013
My friend James laughs at me because I refer to cauliflower as “a royal vegetable.” I first heard this in an Indian cookbook. Because cauliflower easily takes on the flavors of items it’s cooked with, it finds favor (perhaps royal favor) in Indian cuisine. It’s also beautiful and colorful, as evidenced here in Montréal’s main open market, a must-stop on every trip we make to this wonderful city.
July 2, 2013
Some of those peppers look lethal, no? But which ones? The red? The green ones? Or how about those mild looking yellow or orange ones? Russian roulette. This display in Montréal’s central market looks like it could be from south of the border rather than north of it.