As we were sailing out into the Sea of Marmara, leaving Istanbul with a view of Topkapi Palace above us, I asked Jay to pose like Melina Mercouri in the opening scene of the great film Topkapi, and this is what I got. Then he asked me, “Who’s Melina Mercouri?” Fair enough. (To get an idea of what I was hoping for, click here.)
June 29, 2014
Breakfast was never important when I was growing up. So it was hard for me to get into the habit even as an adult who knew better. Most days, my morning meal is usually a modest bowl of yogurt with sliced banana, some raisins, maybe some almonds. But what is it about being on vacation that makes breakfast so much more of a feast? On the Wind Surf, as we sailed from Istanbul through the narrow straits past Troy and Gallipoli and into the Aegean, Eggs Benedict seemed like the right choice. With the traditional two-croissant garnish (one chocolate.)
June 28, 2014
June 27, 2014
Oh, those Turkish pastry chefs! They can take a few basic ingredients, reshape and enhance them, and come up with a rich roster of different desserts. Here’s one man’s take on filo (or yufka) dough, pistachios and syrup. The dough is shredded, then wrapped up to make a nest for the nuts, the whole then soaked in syrup. Mmmmm-mmmm. Just one of more than a dozen varieties available at this bakery in an alleyway behind the city’s Spice Bazaar.
June 26, 2014
When I climbed up to the Acropolis and made my way to the portal of the Parthenon, all I could think of was the Steichen photo of Isadora Duncan in the same spot. That was my inspiration. Alas, the execution relied on the photo skills of a kind stranger whom I asked to snap the picture. Click here for the inspired original. (If I look particularly happy today, it's because June 26 is a big day for me. One year ago today, the US Supreme Court happily handed down its monumental ruling on marriage equality. And 32 years ago today, monumental in its own way, the long-locked portal to a sober life opened for me. Hallelujah!)
June 25, 2014
The (partial) remains of our outdoor dinner at Çiya, one of my favorite restaurants in Istanbul. On the Asian side of the city, this great place attracts a diverse crowd of locals as well as tourists who’ve read or heard about its Anatolian offerings. I’d been there twice before during my first visit to the City of the World’s Desire, but this is the first time Jay had eaten there. I was happy to see that he retains his membership in the Clean Plate Club, International Division.
June 24, 2014
Hamsı. The Black sea anchovies fabled in legend and in song. Here they are on sale at the Galata fish market. And you can have them lightly battered and fried up just steps away at one of the many casual “restaurants” set up along the waterside. No fuss, no muss, just real good eating. (Alas, our next trip to the City of the World's Desire will not fall within hamsı season. But we've never had a problem finding good food in Istanbul.)
June 23, 2014
I love our town’s Memorial Day Parade. In spite of the fact that my perspective on the military may not be aligned with that of most of the participants. Whatever. I love the Blue Belles Twirlers. I love Miss Maria’s School of Dance. And I love these two brass players whom I especially look for each year. But what’s up, guys? Did you have a quarrel or something? You’re not side-by-side as in previous years. To see them at their parade-quality finest a year ago, click here.
June 22, 2014
Because of my town’s lockdown in April 2013 as law enforcement agencies carried out their manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, there was a heightened anticipation about the year’s Memorial Day Parade one month later. And it was justified. Much larger and longer than other parades in previous years. And with a greater military presence. Like these guys. Hello, Sailor!
June 21, 2014
On Sunday, they were still tightly closed buds. On Monday, boom! The peonies had opened overnight, lush and extravagant. So huge and full are they, it’s almost an embarrassment to love them so much. But Manet did, too, so I’m in good company. Happy official summer.
June 20, 2014
You learn a lot about a country by looking at the food people eat. In Cuba, I only saw tourists engaged in any “fine dining.” Even in this privately run restaurant in the South that catered mostly to tour groups, lobster and shrimp were easily available. But then in Miramar, a relatively upscale neighborhood of Havana, I was told in a small coffee shop frequented mostly by habaneros that there was no flan available one night because no eggs had arrived that day. A chicken sandwich? Nope, no chicken, either.
June 19, 2014
Throughout Havana, throughout Cuba, we saw many, many people engaged in activities aimed at generating a little income. Mostly selling homemade food items to tourists. A woman in Cienfuegos selling almond cookies from her living room window. Another selling homemade meringues from a cardboard box she rolled through the streets on a small cart. And these two guys selling their croquettes from a window that gives onto one of the main pedestrian streets in Old Havana.
June 18, 2014
The older buildings here in Old Havana carry reminders that the city was a favorite American playground up until the Revolution in the late 1950s. Still, with the number of English-speaking tourists who fill the city, it’s always good to provide a translation from the Spanish. Even if this location isn’t a drug store anymore.
June 17, 2014
Ensaimada. A tradition on each of our trips to Barcelona. When Jay was 9 years old, and his cartoonist father moved the family from New Jersey to Mallorca, ensaimadas were the daily breakfast served at their waterside hotel. Now, many years later, the memories surface with each bite of the ubiquitous Catalan pastry, this one purchased at Barcelona’s central market, La Boqueria.
June 16, 2014
One of our favorite places in Barcelona is Jai-Ca, a small neighborhood bar and tapas joint where we are often the only non-natives. Displays of fried seafood (fresh anchovies, baby squid, etc.) as well as other tapas are there for your selection. Jai-Ca also offers a full kitchen for made-to-order items like octopus Galicia-style and broiled razor clams, both of which are superb. The Catalan owners are charm itself, welcoming and willing to engage in practice conversation with even the most halting of visiting gringos. This autumn Sunday at 4:30pm, an ideal time to visit.
June 15, 2014
Every Sunday morning, rain or shine (in this case, rain), this band meets on the steps of the cathedral and plays the lively music to accompany the folks who come to practice their region’s folk dances on the plaza in front of them. They’ve been doing this for years. And the dancers range from their teens to their 90s. Nice.
June 14, 2014
The Palau de la Musica Catalana is one of the moderniste gems of Barcelona. Sure you can just walk into the lobby here and marvel. But the real way to immerse yourself in its mad splendor is to attend a concert in the fanciful interior of its main auditorium, giant roses climbing up the proscenium, a kaleidoscopic stained-glass undulating ceiling.
June 13, 2014
Let it rain, let it pour. A little shower isn’t going to faze these folk dancers who gather informally each Sunday morning outside the cathedral to dance the Catalonian sardana, to practice their traditional steps, handing them down to the next generation. And the next.
June 12, 2014
Who is she? Does she live here the apartment that overlooks Barcelona’s bustling Plaza Real? Bustling on a Sunday morning anyway, when the square is taken over by the weekly coin and stamp market. These guys are serious. Though this young woman seems to be blithely taking in the scene, unconcerned really, her colorful togs a foil for the understated formality of her surroundings.
June 11, 2014
Everywhere you turn in Barcelona, every hidden alley leads to equally hidden plazas, music and art. You can’t tell the scale of this wire sculpture that we came upon in a small plaza but it rose some 35 feet, allowing passersby to walk beneath and among its twisting. Which we did.
June 10, 2014
Music everywhere in Barcelona. Especially nice when it’s guitar music. And even nicer when it’s traditional and touched with un poco de flamenco, as this man’s music was outside the cathedral early on a Sunday morning, the sounds echoing through the stone alleyways of the old city.
June 9, 2014
Within a small chapel inside Barcelona’s cathedral...Saint Rita, patroness of bakers, behind bars. Her legend, sort of, is that she was the bread baker for a despotic ruler, probably Roman. When she put the loaves into the oven and knelt for prayers, she became so devotionally involved, lost in prayer for hours, that the loaves had surely overbaked, burned, and she would consequently be put to death. But wait, it seems that angels had removed the bread and all (including Rita) was miraculously saved.
June 8, 2014
Outside the cathedral this Sunday morning, a small orchestra was playing on the front steps and older people were folk dancing. In spite of the light rain. Inside the cloister of the cathedral, around the central pool, this feathery sight, ducks (or are they geese?) who welcome such weather.
June 7, 2014
June 6, 2014
I don’t know why, I just like this photo. Our sailing yacht in the distance. These barefoot kids on a pile of dried up seaweed. The color of the sea. The wind. The bleached-out sky. The red of the little girl’s outfit. All the colors of the French flag.
June 5, 2014
A beach town off season. Never mind that the attendants put out those lounge chairs. These Europeans respect the calendar and its “end of season” rules. I’ve seen it in Italy. I’ve seen it here in France. In Spain, not so much. Anyway, most of the folks here in Cannes this day seemed like tourists, more eager to pose for photos on the steps of the Palais des Festivals than to put their toes in the Mediterranean.
June 4, 2014
Splendid. What a great word. And what a beautiful, old hotel here in the seaside, cinema-centered town of Cannes. One of a handful of “great ladies” that house the celebrities (and businessmen) who come to wheel and deal at the film festival each year. So elegant. So French. How nice it would be to have one of those balconied rooms looking out over the Mediterranean.
June 3, 2014
Every year on June 3, I try to reproduce (within reason) the Turkish breakfast that Nick and I enjoyed on our first morning in Istanbul on June 3, 2007. Each year it’s a little different but still honors the spirit of the original. Here’s the five-year anniversary entry. And here’s the original 2007 breakfast.
June 2, 2014
I’ve long gotten over my suspicion that once word gets out about my travel plans, all of the countries on my itinerary quickly decide to start major construction projects and send all of their important paintings out for restoration. Still, the coincidence of the appearance of scaffolding and the time of my arrival is higher than average. So I was happy to see this compromise in a church being restored in the old city section of Cannes. The protective barrier cloths that hang on each side of the church interior feature photographs of what you’d see if there were no construction happening. Nice touch.
June 1, 2014
I am always amazed and touched at the importance Europeans place upon flowers. Especially southern Europeans. Each market seems to offer a wonderful variety. And I love watching people carrying their flower purchases home with them. I’m surprised each time when I see again Roman matrons carrying their flowers with the lower stem ends in their hands and the blossoms pointed downward toward the pavement. Just the opposite of how we tend to carry flowers here.