October 30, 2014
October 29, 2014
My friend Marin grew up in Split, his family still lives there. So when Dr. Blake and I were heading there on our first trip to Croatia, naturally I asked my friend for advice. “Go to the fish market,” he advised. He knows me. A little bit of a walk from the produce market, it occupies a charming gazebo-like building all its own. Here’s a very small sample of the day’s catch that was on offer.
October 28, 2014
Why does fruit look and taste so much better in Europe than it does in the United States? A rhetorical question. We all know the answer. Look at these beauties. You can almost taste them. As I write this, I’ve just tried once again to buy a good-tasting pear here in the US of A. No luck. Rock hard when I bought it, mealy a few days later. Oh, how I remember the juiciest of pears that Jay and I bought in the central market of Málaga two years ago, telling the vendor that we wanted pears that we could eat that very day. He selected two perfectly ripe ones for us that remain in memory. [Update: My Croatian friend Marin tells me that the sign says, "Sweet. Fresh. Thin Peel."]
October 27, 2014
It doesn’t take much to get Dr. Blake all teary. One of the many things I love about him. In this case, it’s not hard to understand. Our sailing ship leaving Venice with the Piazza San Marco in the background. The perfect end to wonderful first-time visit for him to this splendid city. The prospect of two weeks on a Windstar cruise. And the “sail away” music (schmaltzy as it is) playing over the ship’s sound system as we approach the Lido. Basta.
October 26, 2014
The public television station where I worked for 23 years recently held an employee reunion. I had no desire to attend. In fact, I had a desire not to attend. Why? Well, mainly because the people from back then that I want to see, I do see. Same with my colleagues from my years at “the most respected name in sound.” In fact, some of them I’ll travel thousands of miles to see. Like my beloved friends Ted and Eileen with whom I connected on a recent trip to the Grand Canyon State. From Tucson, I took a morning bus to Phoenix, met my friends for lunch, then took the bus back to Tucson. What a great day. And, more to the point, what great friends.
October 25, 2014
October 24, 2014
October 23, 2014
Of course, my eye is drawn to the grey goose, the one who doesn’t follow the crowd. I remember this day as being hot and humid, thunderstorms troubling the skies, then sun turning the atmosphere into that of a steam bath. The occasion was a pig roast with lots of laughs by so many other “grey geese” in attendance. To see how much I enjoyed the day with my friends Mike and Brian, just look up to the top of this blog page and see the photo that Mike took.
October 22, 2014
As I’d never been to the big outdoor market in the Anglophone section of Montréal, I decided to give it a try. A bit smaller, a bit more reserved, a bit more expensive. I don’t need to go back. I much prefer the Marché Jean-Talon in the Francophone section of town, especially as that market borders Montréal’s Little Italy neighborhood, a good location when you’re looking for food. (Our visits to this wonderful city are always in late October, prime pumpkin time.)
October 21, 2014
I think the most beautiful canals in Venice are those that are far from the crowded tourist haunts. Let others aim their smartphones and cameras at the Grand Canal. I prefer the out-of-the-way finds like this one, discovered around a corner during an aimless stroll.
October 20, 2014
Every once in awhile, Dr. Blake drops his “scientist” front and acts silly. It’s at those times that I love him most. One example: We came across this creepy giant pumpkin in Montréal’s central market and couldn’t resist a photo op.
October 19, 2014
October 18, 2014
What is it about this that lets you know it’s in the Southwest rather than, say, New England? The play of light and shadow? The dryness apparent? The appreciation of mud colors? This bridge is toward the end of my Tucson running route. I always like reaching this point, knowing it will soon be over.
October 17, 2014
Those of you who read all the credits at the ends of films or even TV programs may have wondered exactly what certain terms might mean. “Gaffer” is one. “Best Boy” another. But I’m here to explain “Craft Service.” It means snacks. I’m not kidding. Here is the craft service table for the video shoot we worked on for Bose headphones in Los Angeles a few years ago. Look at that spread! Coffee, of course. But also a full panoply of munchies that ranged from whole-food healthy to unashamedly junk. And so nicely lit, too. Those West Coast folks take their craft service mighty seriously.
October 16, 2014
Talk about a niche market! We were amazed at how segregated certain stores are in Istanbul. This photo is from what we called the belt-buckle neighborhood. As we climbed the hill to the Suleymaniye Mosque, we saw some two dozen stores selling nothing but these items. Right next door to one another. A similar phenomenon occurred when we came across the plexiglas neighborhood.
October 15, 2014
A Ukranian colleague of Jay’s had told him that Odessa was like Gloucester (MA) only with an opera house. So, of course, we had to find the opera house. And we did. But the real treat was hearing a remarkable tenor practicing an aria with his teacher on piano behind this window at the back of the building. It sounded like Verdi; Otello was on the schedule for that night. But whatever it was, it was magical. It’s unexpected moments like these that make travel so wonderful and remain so vividly in memory.
October 14, 2014
We had just arrived at the Suleymaniye Mosque, atop Istanbul’s highest hill (as Dr. B is quick to remind me), when from out of the stone courtyard emerged this wedding couple. We saw them several times during our visit to the mosque, posing for photos in various locations. What struck me the most was how the bride adapted the limitations of the hijab or chador to her bridal gown: long sleeves, hair completely covered, only a small opening through which her face is visible.
October 13, 2014
October 12, 2014
We arrived in Monaco on a national holiday, November 1, All Saints Day, La Toussaint. Much was closed...but not the market. And there are few markets we attend where we don’t admire the artichokes. Here Dr. Blake points them out for your approval.
October 11, 2014
One of the reasons I’m smiling here in the tiny town at the southern tip of the Cinque Terre is because my beloved friend Antonio, whom I had not seen in some 25 years, drove from his home in Lucca to meet our ship when it docked for the day. A great day, a great friend. He even took this picture. Grazie, Antonio.
October 10, 2014
We always try to hit the local market first thing when we hit a new town. And this little Black Sea coastal town of Amasra was no exception. We came upon the pazar by accident and were amazed by the number of vendors selling their local produce, their homemade breads and cheeses, honey and preserves. But nothing amazed us more than the size of these cabbages. Are they sold by the pound, do you think?
October 9, 2014
The biggest surprise and the biggest delight of our recent Black Sea adventure was our visit to Odessa. After countless naysayers had decried our plans to stop in Ukraine, given the recent uprisings in the eastern part of that country, we disembarked in the harbor, climbed the Potemkin Steps and were treated to a beautiful, sophisticated city that suggested Paris in the 19th century. Pink, turquoise or lemon-colored buildings with white Wedgewood trim. Charming and lovingly tended parks with fountains and kiosks. People enjoying themselves and their city, like these schoolkids happily on their way home on a Friday afternoon.
October 8, 2014
In Sunset Boulevard, aging screen star Norma Desmond reminds us that Valentino said there’s nothing like tile for a tango. Well, here in Istanbul’s hidden-away Rüstem Paşa Mosque, this aging screen star says there’s nothing like legendary Turkish blue Iznik tiles for an Ottoman photo op.
October 7, 2014
Without a doubt, the grimmest place I’ve visited. Buildings disintegrating, people secretive, everything still showing the shockwaves from decades of Ceaușescu totalitarian rule that eviscerated this once thriving land. As Dr. B and I were walking along the city’s main thoroughfare (pictured), a man asked us what time it was. And as we answered, two plainclothes policemen suddenly came over, showed us their IDs, aggressively asked for our documents and pummeled us with questions. Why were we talking with this man? Were we buying drugs? Were we tourists? How many days were we staying? Which hotel were we in? How much local currency did we have? Were we buying cocaine? They checked our arms for drug tracks. They checked our passports, counted our few euros, and finally let us continue with a warning that it was dangerous to speak with people on the street. As we slowly recovered from this unpleasant interrogation and were saying how scary it was, we realized that we were missing fifty euros. Con men.
October 6, 2014
The Potemkin Steps, fabled in legend and in song. And, perhaps most famously, in cinema. These are the steps down which a runaway baby carriage careens after the child’s mother is shot in the most famous scene of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. (A scene referenced or parodied in dozens of later films, including Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, Woody Allen’s Bananas, even Laurel and Hardy’s The Music Box. Click here for the original and some spinoffs.) We, of course, had to climb them. But we were careful to avoid the young men with huge hawks that they’d try to put on your shoulders for picture-taking purposes. For a fee. Later in the day, I saw others with monkeys trying to do the same thing. No, thanks.
October 5, 2014
Walk a few blocks in any direction in this small town and you’ll find yourself at the original ramparts that protected Kotor from aggressors for centuries. One minute you’re surrounded by cafes, crowds and commerce, the next this peaceful change of pace.
October 4, 2014
5:30am. Here comes the sun, so welcome on a winter’s day, a menacing threat when it’s up this early on the fifth day of a brutal July heat wave. Temperatures in the mid-90s with humidity indexes so high that triple-digit heat advisories were called every day. I’m up early to run before it gets any hotter.
October 3, 2014
Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to read without proper light, that it would ruin your eyesight? And besides, there’s so much beauty to look at here at twilight, quayside on the Giudecca Channel, with the church of Il Redentore in the distance, why would you want to read anyway?
October 2, 2014
This Roman city is built of white marble, white stone, white everything. Arrive early if you can before the tour buses fill the place with, well, tourists. Like us. Fortunately we like walking the back alleys, tunnels, passageways that others avoid. And so we’re able to see the parts of town where the residents live. Like this.
October 1, 2014
The Wind Surf anchored in the outer harbor of this dazzling city and shuttled us into port on small motorized boats. Not only did this allow us to approach Dubrovnik as so many have since antiquity. But it also allowed the Wind Surf to lower its “sports platform” and let its passengers (like us) swim, kayak and waterski in the welcoming beautiful waters of the Adriatic that you see here.