April 30, 2014

Mykonos, Greece. October, 2011

The streets and alleyways of Mykonos are deliberately confusing. They were built that way to confuse invaders and lead them into blind alleys where they could be cornered. The same is somewhat true for modern tourists. Though so many of the paths lead to the sea, to small restaurants or cafes along the water, like this one, who can complain?

April 29, 2014

Mykonos, Greece. October, 2011

Just in case you forget what the O in Jackie O stands for, there are plenty of reminders from your hosts that the former American First Lady had a strong Greek connection. [My friends Lisa and Chris, also first ladies, are about to leave for Mykonos. For the next few days, you can be there, too.] 

April 28, 2014

Off Lesbos, Greece. October, 2011

This is as close as we got to the fabled isle as our ship sailed on toward Rhodes. Next time. (Dr. Blake, by the way, is not scowling. This is his attempt to say “cheese” as he does each time he’s posed for the camera.)

April 27, 2014

Istanbul. October, 2011

In between our lunch with our friend (and food blogger) Cenk and our magically unexpected visit to the Museum of Innocence, we stopped at this dessert shop that Cenk had recommended. Tough choices. There are the wonderful tulumba (extruded dough, fried and soaked in syrup) in the background. And here in the foreground, the baked and glazed quinces (which had just come into season) on the left, and on the right, ekmek kadayif, syrup-soaked bread that’s topped with kaymak (Turkey’s take on clotted cream.) A delicious compromise: quince with kaymak. And, of course, tea.

April 26, 2014

Istanbul. October, 2011

An outdoor dinner at Çiya, one of my favorite restaurants in Istanbul. Located on the Asian side of the city, it specializes in earthy, Anatolian dishes not likely to be found in the fancier restaurants. Seen here, evidence of the Turkish penchant for stuffing: stuffed chard leaves, stuffed peppers, stuffed eggplant. As well as a scoop of acile ezme (a walnut, hot pepper paste, which Nick loves so much that he’s taken it on as his Turkish nickname), some purslane in yogurt and some greens for good measure.

April 25, 2014

Istanbul. October, 2011

Istanbul, city of pushcarts. From some, you can buy steamed ears of corn or baked potatoes with an assortment of toppings, roasted chestnuts, fresh fish sandwiches. Or breakfast rolls and simit. From others, fresh produce, much of it from family farms or even city gardens. In this case, “super” walnuts, artfully displayed within a wreath of leaves. And in the background, some empties, and one with what looks like clothing. Or fish. Just ask the vendors sipping tea at that nearby table.

April 24, 2014

Habana, Cuba. February, 2012

The city’s main cemetery seems to stretch on forever and ever. Each pathway filled with ornate memorial statuary, Christian symbols, marble filigree. The day we visited, the skies were troubled, hinting at an approaching storm. Perfect weather for visiting this evocative place.

April 23, 2014

Istanbul. June, 2007

I love markets. And I especially love markets in Istanbul. Thriving, bustling and full of activity. This one is on the Asian side of the city, just up the hill from where the Bosphorus ferry lets you off. And two blocks from my favorite Istanbul restaurant, Çiya.

April 22, 2014

Istanbul. October, 2011

Say the word hamsi and residents of Istanbul are likely to smile. Knowingly. These beloved Black Sea anchovies have a short season, which, happily, always seems to correspond to my visits. This time, I was happy to introduce Jay to the pleasures of fried hamsi at a wonderfully casual outdoor restaurant along the city’s Golden Horn waterway...and then walk him through this fish market nearby to show him the local source.

April 21, 2014

Istanbul. June, 2007

Aya Sofya, the grand old (oldest) building in Istanbul was first a church, then a mosque, now a museum. It’s been around since the days when years were recorded in three digits. And, as the savvy traveler knows, it’s closed Mondays, EXCEPT for the first Monday of the month, when it’s not only open but also remarkably uncrowded, affording you the pleasure of inspecting its many treasures, like this one, in relative peace and quiet.

April 20, 2014

Boston. April, 2013

Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory. Packed. Each seat taken, people sitting in the aisles on the steps. (Those empty seats were held for “leaders” who filled them in when they returned from some fancy-pants dinner.) The occasion: a “Spring” program of Schumann’s Symphony #1 (titled “Spring"); Borodin’s ‘Polov’tsian Dances’; Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring.’ A thrilling evening with Hugh Wolff and the NEC Philharmonia. The place exploded with applause and shouts at the conclusion. Rightly so.

April 19, 2014

Watertown, MA. April, 2013

Oh, these all-terrain sport vehicles have become so popular these days. This day, April 19, 2013, the streets of my neighborhood were filled with armored vehicles like this, complete with gun turrets on top. All part of the manhunt for the Boston Marathon suspect loose in my quiet town, suddenly famous for a day around the world. And all this scary turmoil seen from inside my home, hearing the helicopters overhead, the climactic capture-prompted gunfire four blocks away, during this multi-town lockdown on a very tense Friday one year ago today.

April 18, 2014

Istanbul. October, 2011

Crossing the Bosphorus from the European to the Asian side of the city on a commuter ferry, these young Turks seem blissfully unaware of the monster cruise ship, one of many, making its way down the storied waterway into the Sea of Marmara and on into the Aegean. 

April 17, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

One of the great pleasures of each of my Tucson visits is to see what my friend Simon is up to with his public-art projects. For his current one, he and his creative partner Ben have come up with a poetry-based enhancement for the stops along the city’s new trolley system. Shelters will feature electronic displays that spell out poems by locals. And at the head of the line, this head, fashioned by thousands of Ben’s welded-together stainless-steel letters, that will “speak” a stream of more letters up into the back of one of the electronic displays. I can’t wait to see the final results of this work I had the pleasure of seeing in progress.

April 16, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

Downtown Tucson always seems be undergoing some kind of revitalization. But none more so than the one I witnessed on my most recent trip. New clubs, new restaurants, huge new buildings to house students, lofts, you name it. The streets downtown are all torn up to install tracks for the new trolley system that will connect the city’s far-flung neighborhoods, so driving is, well, a challenge. Fortunately, I love to walk. And one reason is because I find remembrances of Tucson’s past like this sidewalk entrance to a store long gone. Or was it a residence?

April 15, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

My friends Simon (right) and David, flanking my friend Gwen, neighbors in Tucson. Gwen has been buying up inexpensive properties for years, fixing them up little by little, renting or living in them. Seen here, her latest acquisition, a geodesic dome out in the desert. With a diameter of 24 feet, it’s her latest challenge to carve out a living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and sleeping loft for guests. But she’s up to it.

April 14, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

In loving memory of Abby Martinez. Memorials like this are not uncommon in Tucson. But this is the first I’d ever seen along my running route that follows the dry Santa Cruz riverbed. What happened, I wonder, to Abby Martinez at this peaceful spot? Or could it have been a favorite place of the deceased, now honored with this santa cruz?

April 13, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

In a town as sunny as Tucson, even a little shade is welcome. Seen here, some lacy enhancements that speckle the sidewalks on this bridge-in-progress over the Santa Cruz dry riverbed.

April 12, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

[Dr. Blake tells me he's tired of Tucson entries. Too bad. We're in beautiful Tucson for another week. Besides, how could anyone be tired of Tucson?] Thousands of people escape more bloom-filled parts of the country and head to the desert in a vainglorious attempt to avoid pollen, allergies. And waiting there to greet them, the palo verde, in bloom and fully loaded on just about every block. Or, in this case, along the dry Santa Cruz riverbed which serves as my early-morning Tucson running route before it gets too hot. Or too pollenated.

April 11, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

In vacant lots, in neighborhood traffic circles, just about anywhere, the cactus blooms as a welcome to spring.

April 10, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

For years I’ve run the path that follows the dry Santa Cruz riverbed each time I visit Tucson. But this is the first time I’ve brought my camera along. (Any runner knows how carrying something throws your game off slightly.) It was worth it because now I can enjoy and share some of the lovely sights that have buoyed me along on my solitary jogs. Here’s one vista, a pleasant one for me because it shows “the way back” after I’ve turned around at the halfway mark. Palo verdes, cactus and lots of dry dirt. But all of the critters (jackrabbits, roadrunners, quail, lizards, prairie dogs, coyotes) have gone into hiding because they’ve heard a runner approaching. Camera-shy.

April 9, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

Maybe it’s the warm weather that encourages such playfulness in Tucson. An example: Playground, a new club downtown. It’s got both indoor and outdoor lounges, an open-air cinema on the roof and, I’m told, a magic mirror in the ladies’ room that projects a video of Marilyn Monroe applying lipstick whenever anyone stops to check herself out. Presto! There’s Marilyn right next to you! Sadly, I didn’t work up the nerve to walk in and check it out. I probably could have. It’s Tucson.

April 8, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

Tucson is a city of surprises, of artists in streets and in studios, of cultures from both sides of borders. You never know what you’re going to find, but you always find something. Like this within Daniel Martin Diaz’s Sacred Machine storefront. After dinner at Cafe Poca Cosa, Simon and David and I went for a walk downtown during a late-April street festival...and found this secret shrine tucked away in the back of a crowded gallery where a pianist was playing Satie.

April 7, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

The sun is strong in the Southwest. And so are the shadows, turning parts of the city here into a variety of studies in black and white. An example: the calligraphic shadows cast by a pierced metal fence at the entrance to the Tucson Zoo. An asphalt Navajo rug.

April 6, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

My friend Simon is a public artist with remarkable work that stops passersby all over Tucson. And each time I come for a visit, I love when he takes me to see new installations that hadn’t been in place the last time I was in town. Like this larger-than-life sculpture outside the Tucson Zoo, honoring the newly arrived African elephants inside. Rusted steel planes welded together by his artistic partner Ben with tusks of chrome. Simon suggests, “Think Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’.” So beautiful.

April 5, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

Leaving the opening of my friends Simon and David’s gallery show, we passed this beautifully odd light embedded in the sidewalk. Simon told me that it’s solar powered, which makes sense in sunny Tucson. Yet another example of beauty found where you don’t expect it in this visually surprising town.

April 4, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

My friend David is an artist with discipline. For years now, he’s awakened earlier than most, let the dogs out, made coffee and then closed himself in his studio to work on his art. Sometimes he takes a small clay board and draws designs based on the circle. Here you can see several framed panels, each of which is made up of multiples of David’s drawings. Seeing so many of them grouped like this, covering an entire wall at his recent gallery exhibit was a real visual knockout.

April 3, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

My friends Simon and David moments before the opening of their dual gallery exhibition, ‘Action, Reaction.’ Simon is in front of one of his sculptures; David in front of one of his paintings. I’m happy I arrived early with the artists so I could see their works before the gallery flooded with people. I’m delighted for my friends, showing their work together in their art-minded town. Before the evening was over, they’d each sold a piece, with assurances of more sales to come. And after two hours...we all went out for Mexican food.

April 2, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

The desert sun is so strong, people here are grateful for any shade they can find. Such as this dappled path beneath a canopy of orange trees on the University of Arizona campus.

April 1, 2014

Tucson. April, 2013

My favorite place in Tucson for breakfast or lunch or (as happened this visit) both, is the Little Cafe Poca Cosa. The food is excellent. Ditto the attitude. And at each meal, I ordered the Plato Poca Cosa, which is the chef’s choice of three of the day’s offerings. At breakfast, this included a huevo ranchero, a chile relleno and some beef barbacoa. Lunch brought some beef colorado, some chicken mole and pork in some rich sauce. Rice, beans, chips, salsa and a salad with fruit and greens and whatever else they have that day. Marcela and Sandra welcome and chat and hug...and generously allow this gringo to practice his Spanish, even if he has to yell to be heard.