March 31, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

One man’s meat is another man’s poisson, as the saying goes. And while I don’t find this woven, recycled plastic-bag embellishment to the chainlink gate much of an improvement, someone must.

March 30, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

All along my running route through the Menlo Park section of Tucson where my friends Simon and David live: dogs. Some as lazy as the desert weather. Some yappy. Generally, the smaller they are, the feistier. Fortunately this owner has his pup(s) behind a rather formidable wall (I hope) and warns the passerby with this ordinary sign posted on an extraordinary cutout door. In the interest of full disclosure, Simon and David have three dogs...two cats (three, counting the feral one who visits the greenhouse to eat) and two Indian parrots (with six eggs in a nest at last look.)

March 29, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

You see them all over town. Personal shrines to honor loved ones now gone. Some through self-inflicted abuse of some kind. Others who’ve been the victims of violence, targeted or random. Some from disease or natural causes. Whatever the reason, the visuals, such as this one here, speak of the love carried by those left behind. And despite the riot of color and ornament, very solemn.

March 28, 2014

Barcelona. November, 2010

I’ve always known that this fascinating city offered a heady mix of both the sacred and the profane. But that was brought home to me visually at the entrance to this apartment building on the Carrer Petrixol, a chic, small alleyway leading out of the Barri Gòtic neighborhood. The devotional niche complete with floral tributes. The disappointing graffiti sprayed on the wooden doorway next to it.

March 27, 2014

Barcelona. November, 2010

Readers of this blog know that I love manhole covers of many lands. This isn’t one. It’s an impostor, a plaque in the sidewalk outside the excellent pasty shop Escribà. And not only does it contain text in the intriguing Catalan language, but look at all those little dingbats or icons or whatever they are. A scale, some tools, a loaf of bread. Fascinating.

March 26, 2014

Barcelona. November, 2010

A little bit of this and a little bit of that. Tapas rules as a great way to try everything here in Barcelona’s Eixample neighborhood. And nowhere does it rule with more flair than here at Tapas 24, one of our favorite places that we try to visit each time we’re in the city. Our most recent stop in the Catalan capital was only for a few hours as we moved from train to cruise ship. Fortunately Tapas 24 is open for all three meals a day, and hours in between, too. Seen here, slices of roast pork and the remains of our tempura vegetable plate. Mmmmmm.

March 25, 2014

Istanbul. June, 2007

Let’s guess. I think it’s telling men to put their cigars in the ashtray rather than in the urinal. How about you?

March 24, 2014

Istanbul. June, 2007

The Kadıköy market on the Asian side of Istanbul has a remarkable assortment of things for sale -- produce, home-made syrups and potions, wigs, eggs, olives, kitchen gadgets, the list goes on and on. And one day a week, antique sellers join the fray with their negotiable wares. This makeshift display of children’s outfits caught my eye.

March 23, 2014

Istanbul. June, 2007

Yellow and lavender striped T-shirt with grey plaid pants. He’s either completely off the wall or completely fashion forward. Somehow it seems to work, though, if you’re a bead seller here in Istanbul’s Kadıköy market. And look at the shirt on that guy in back, brushstrokes or something.

March 22, 2014

Istanbul. June, 2007

Look at all those tomatoes here in the Kadıköy central market on the Asian side of Istanbul. It’s a huge market, selling produce, clothing, kitchen equipment, wigs, cosmetics, you name it. I like the expression on the guy holding the paper as he watches the sporty woman examining his offerings. What do you suppose he’s thinking?

March 21, 2014

Istanbul. June, 2007

Who takes pictures of garlic? When it’s as beautiful as this, I do. Some, I guess, find that strange. Like the people who looked at me snapping away and smiled here in the central market of Istanbul’s Kadıköy neighborhood. But really, doesn’t that homegrown garlic look great?

March 20, 2014

Watertown, MA. April, 2013

Yes, the days begin to get longer, the temperatures (barely) rise, shoots of familiar plantings start to appear. But for me, the real indication that Spring is coming in is the quality of light, the angle of the sun, the shadows falling in places they’ve not been all winter.

March 19, 2014

Stoneham, MA. March, 2013

Each year at this time, we have the battle of the saints. For the Irish, Saint Patrick’s Day is March 17. But two days later, Saint Joseph takes center stage. And nowhere is that stage more apparent than in Italian-American homes. Specifically Sicilian-American homes, and specifically those homes’ kitchens. Such as this one in the home of my friend Paul. His mother’s cooking cannot be beat. Seen here, just some of the delights we enjoy in this annual event: frittatas of potato and asparagus, pasta with breadcrumbs, sausages. Preceded by a never-ending antipasto, followed by fruit and zeppole pastries. Oh, maybe just one more bite.

March 18, 2014

Dubrovnik, Croatia. October, 2012

Dr. Blake is not a fan of heights. Or of descending stairs. Especially stairs without hand railings. And so I was on my own this afternoon in Dubrovnik, a multi-leveled city with many unrailed staircases throughout. Here’s one of them, a magnificent set of steps that lead from the main town square up to the main cathedral. Or down, depending on your starting point.

March 17, 2014

New York, NY. July, 2011

On the hottest weekend of the year, how cool is this guy? I had to stop and tell him how much I liked his outfit. As my late friend George would have said upon seeing this color combination, “History of sherbet.” (I wonder if he's wearing those pants or any other bit o' green today.)

March 16, 2014

Kotor, Montenegro. October, 2012

Just to give you a better idea of how the tiny town of Kotor clings to the narrow shoreline at the base of its protective mountains, here’s a photo I shot as our boat was leaving the small harbor as the sun set. Of course, the surrounding mountains cause the sun to “set” earlier than in other places.

March 15, 2014

Kotor, Montenegro. October, 2012

The town of Kotor clings to a small strip of bayside coast, huddled at the foothills of some mighty impressive and forbidding mountains. Fortified by walls and ramparts built from stone from those mountains, it was only penetrable by water, thus providing a safe, if cramped, haven for centuries. The town itself is also built from stone, as seen here in one of dozens of small squares that appear suddenly as you follow alleyways and turn corners throughout the day.

March 14, 2014

Kotor, Montenegro. October, 2012

I was surprised to see death notices like these here in Montenegro. Until then, I’d only seen them in Italy, mostly in the south, Naples, Sicily. Look at these examples in various languages and alphabets. Even in this age of Facebook and Twitter and whatnot, still an effective way to let neighbors know of a loved one’s passing.

March 13, 2014

Kotor, Montenegro. October, 2012

Kotor is a compact little town, nestled at the foot of some impressive mountains, crowded onto a few square miles along the coast. It almost looks as if the mountains are advancing, glacier-like, forcing the tiny town into the bay. And it’s also a strange mix of the primitive and modern. For example, this functional looking old building...complete with satellite TV reception and air-conditioning (or at least some cooling apparatus.) 

March 12, 2014

Kotor, Montenegro. October, 2012

The smaller the town, the more likely it is you’ll find homemade products at the local market. Like these cheeses we came across in the tiny market of tiny Kotor. Also produce from family gardens and home-cured batches of many different kinds of olives. Fortunately Chef Klaus from our Windstar cruise also found small markets along our sailing route, and so we were treated at lunch and dinner with local specialties with delightful frequency.

March 11, 2014

Messina, Sicily. October, 2012

The other day, I met a man from Sicily at my local Watertown, MA, bus stop. When it turned out he was from Messina, I just said one word, arancini. He almost melted, then began to speak about his upcoming trip home for two months when “mama will cook for me.” It’s always nice to meet someone with shared eating experiences. Here’s one of the two arancini I’d bought in my walk through Messina, brought back to share with Dr. Blake at lunch on the boat. When we learned that a British couple we’d befriended had never had one, had never heard of them, we gave them the second one and their world widened.

March 10, 2014

Madrid. November, 2013

I have never met my Facebook friend Indira, a Cuban woman now living in Madrid, but she has infallibly recommended some wonderful places to me both in Havana and in her current hometown. Like Melo’s Bar in the Lavapiés neighborhood. “Por ultimo, te sugeriria, para comer algo genia, un sitio repleto de gente, pero donde ponen las mejores croquetas de madrid y unas 'zapatillas gallegas' de lacón y queso de tetilla de morirse.” And, yes, it was filled with people, had the best croquettes in Madrid...and the “zapatillas gallegas” (a half of one is shown above) of ham and tetilla cheese were indeed “to die for.” It was so good, we ate here both nights we were in Madrid last November. Muchisimas gracias, Indira.

March 9, 2014

Messina, Sicily. October, 2012

When we stopped in Messina in 2011, I arrived at the municipal museum eager to see the two Caravaggios inside. Closed Wednesdays. But this time, my stop in Messina (not on a Wednesday) allowed me to see the gloriously restored paintings, beautifully displayed for the first time since their restoration. Here’s the Raising of Lazarus. Magnificent.  And I was the only one in the gallery. Perhaps the only one in the entire small museum. Except the guards, who were all outside in the courtyard smoking during my entire visit. Sicily.

March 8, 2014

Monaco. November, 2012

It shouldn’t be surprising that churches in coastal communities have ornamentation that speaks to saintly protection of boatmen and fishermen. Here in Monaco’s huge cathedral (where Princess Grace was married and now lies buried) this saint carries the protected craft out of harm’s way. Even in my small fishing-centric town of Gloucester, MA, the beautiful Portuguese-neighborhood church features a statue of the Blessed Virgin cradling a ship in her arms.

March 7, 2014

Málaga, Spain. November, 2013

I suppose it’s not much different from duck confit. But somehow these bowls of pork products, covered with what I’m guessing is flavored pork fat, just seemed so off-putting to me in a way.

March 6, 2014

Madrid. November, 2013

There’s a wonderful little walkway that takes you from the base of the busy Paseo del Prado up into the peaceful Parque del Retiro. I’d pass along it each morning as I was heading out for my run in the beautiful park. The passageway is lined with booksellers. Here you can see one earlybird vendor just opening up his stall for the day’s business.

March 5, 2014

Málaga, Spain. November, 2013

Three years ago, on a visit to Málaga’s mercado central, Jay and I bought two of the ripest, juiciest pears we’ve ever had in our lives. We ate them in a park near Picasso’s birthplace and dripped juice all over ourselves. So good, European fruit. Especially ripe pears, which are so hard to find in the US of A. (The ones here, I find, are either rock hard or mush.) So on a return visit, we found the same vendor and told him that we still remembered the pears he’d sold us on our last trip. And we wanted the same, pears to be eaten “today.” He reached into a basket behind his display and came up with two beauties, offering them for us to feel. They did not disappoint.

March 4, 2014

Civitavecchia, Italy. October, 2012

It’s always good to have an exit plan. Whether you’re James Bond or just a tourist like me. I hope the exit isn’t through that little hole. Paging Lewis Carroll. (I took this photo to honor my friend Nick’s Italian nickname, Uscita Sottopassagio, a sign seen in many an Italian train station to indicate that the exit is via an underground passage, a sign that many Italians ignore as they blithely walk across the tracks.)

March 3, 2014

Portovenere, Italy. October, 2012

Even though it’s cloudy and gray, the seacoast off the Cinque Terre still fascinates. The color of the water. The forbidding cliffs. Jay and I sailed into this small town on Halloween and happily met up with my friend Antonio whom I had not seen in some 25 years. As he knew the town (he lives an hour away in Lucca), he led us to some lovely spots. Like this one.

March 2, 2014

Habana Vieja, Cuba. February, 2012

How glowing and majestic this restored building in Old Havana looks. Situated squarely in the most touristed part of the city, it makes the crumbling blocks of humble apartment houses where most of the Habaneros live look even more run down.

March 1, 2014

Centro Habana, Cuba. February, 2012

Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. In spite of initial resistance from the Socialist government, the efforts of some Habaneros to get sober continue to thrive here in Havana’s inner city.