Up early to run on our first morning here in the university town of Coimbra. Such fog. Spooky. It lessened somewhat. Then faded away to bright sunshine. “Fog at 7, sun by 11,” as the Gloucester fishermen say, many of whom are from Portugal.
November 29, 2014
When I entered the art museum here in this Galician town, I was expecting something more, well, Spanish. Old and Spanish. Instead, there was an installation (shown here), and an exhibit of American photographers (Starn Twins, Mark Morrisroe, et al.) and a portrait of John Waters’ star Cookie Mueller. Another moment in my lifelong series of unrealistic expectations.
November 28, 2014
This pilgrim destination is close to Spain’s northwest Atlantic coast and delights in fresh seafood. Among the most fabled dishes, Pulpo al la Gallega. Octopus, boiled, served with potatoes. Also served grilled, also with potatoes. Dr. Blake and I had it both ways. More than once. So good.
November 27, 2014
Pilgrims have been trekking from the French Pyrenees to this Spanish town for centuries. And they still do it. Here’s a group, recently arrived, dropping their bags and walking sticks to gather in prayer and thanksgiving outside the big cathedral at the end of their journey.
November 26, 2014
The stark vistas from the hilltop fortress of Segovia made it clear why Ferdinand and Isabella had chosen this spot for their castle. You could see for miles in every direction. And so could their lookout guards way back when. Fortunately they let Columbus approach, as this is the place where he sought their backing to sail to the New World.
November 25, 2014
Dr. Blake may have thought I was crazy, wanting to arrive in Segovia as early as we did. The fast train from Madrid got us there in 30 minutes, just as the sun was inching above the horizon. But later that morning, when the dozens of tour buses, filled with hundreds of tourists, descended upon the small town, I think he saw the wisdom of my ways.
November 24, 2014
November 23, 2014
Meet my friend Rich, a guy who gave up his number-crunching job to do what he really loves: painting. After working hard at his craft for years now, he recently had his first solo show at the DeLuca Gallery in Provincetown, and lots of his Boston friends headed down for Rich’s premiere. He is the sweetest man, an excellent artist, and it was great to be there to wish him well. (I could not resist telling him the story of saucy Tallulah Bankhead’s suggestive telegram to prim Ethel Barrymore on the night of one of Ethel’s Broadway premieres: “A warm hand on your big opening.”)
November 22, 2014
My friend Nick recently had to move from his Greenwich Village apartment that he’d occupied for 33 years. There were 153 boxes to move to his new apartment in Brooklyn, and when I headed down to help him unpack at the end of September, I didn’t know what to expect. I loved his new neighborhood. And even better, he loves his new neighborhood. It’s got a real hamish feel to it, lots of ethnic shops and restaurants (including the wonderful Turkish place, Hazar) and just feels like a place where people treat their neighbors like, well, like neighbors. Here’s a Bay Ridge view of the Verrazano Bridge, not far from Nick’s new place.
November 21, 2014
I first read about this early Sunday morning market in my Istanbul friend Cenk’s blog several years ago and I’d been jonesin’ to go ever since. So Dr. Blake and I set the alarm, woke up and took a taxi to this section of the city that sees few tourists. Farmers and other vendors drive eight hours from their villages in the Kastamonu Black Sea area of Turkey, hauling their homegrown produce and home-baked breads. It was funky and fine and just what we were hoping. From this vendor, we bought that flat bread stuffed with a chard-like vegetable and took it back to our hotel to include with our breakfast. So good.
November 20, 2014
Cafeteria. Rosticceria. Briocheria. Patisseria. All these (and their variants) we were accustomed to from earlier trips to Italy, France and Spain. And it wasn’t too hard to make the leap required by the Catalan language. But sandwitxeria? Good luck pronouncing that.
November 19, 2014
November 18, 2014
The fabled La Boqueria, though filled with stalls (and tourists), is not the only market in town by a long shot. A short walk east, just beyond the cathedral, brings you to the Mercat Santa Caterina, a calmer, more neighborhood-y market where you can find just about anything you’re looking for. Even charcuteria spelled with a Catalan X.
November 17, 2014
November 16, 2014
Communal biking has caught on in so many cities now (including Boston and New York), that it’s caused me to remember that several years ago Barcelona was the first place I’d seen such a novel endeavor. Happy to see it continuing to thrive on a recent visit.
November 15, 2014
On a 1972 visit to the French Riviera, I remember having a grilled dorade meal at a tiny, family-run restaurant overlooking Monaco’s harbor. Long gone that lovely restaurant, and the stretch of seaside street where it lay is now super-developed into high-rise, pricey real estate. But the dorade lives on, or maybe lives isn’t le mot just. Here are some on offer in the central marché in Cannes seen on a more recent Riviera visit. Sauvage no less.
November 14, 2014
After we’d signed up for our now-annual Windstar cruise, we learned that it was (somewhat embarrassingly) called “Glitter and Glam of the Riviera.” This photo of Dr. Blake against the lights of Monte Carlo may explain why. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is glitter, which glam.
November 13, 2014
I had last been in Monaco in 1972, 40 years earlier! No wonder I was so disappointed that the place had become so developed and built up. Disney-fied to a certain degree in its clean and precise regularity. All of it conveying extravagant wealth. Look at this pretty harbor tucked away in a private cove behind the royal palace. These folks don’t want their yachts mixing with the general riff-raff of the main harbor. Oh, I shouldn’t think so.
November 12, 2014
November 11, 2014
Our ship had to skillfully maneuver its way through the many islands and peninsulas that shelter the bayside harbor of Kotor. But we didn’t have to worry about that. As the navigation was in the capable hands of our Wind Surf captain, all we had to do was enjoy the sunset views.
November 10, 2014
The tiny market in this tiny waterside town featured many family vendors with relatively small amounts of their home-grown produce. Like this offering: braids of garlic, a few dozen chicken eggs, and those spotted eggs from what, quail maybe?
November 9, 2014
Smile. It’s the night of the All Souls Procession, Tucson’s annual extravaganza, held on the Sunday following All Souls Day (November 2.) Artists, musicians, fire jugglers, acrobats and just plain old folks turn out for this townwide parade. And that’s just where I am today as you read this. Happy to be back in this madness with my good, mad friends Simon and David. (For another look at the Procession’s 2006 fiery finale, click here.)
November 8, 2014
November 7, 2014
November 6, 2014
November 5, 2014
Brrrrr. It may be chilly November now. But my friend Chris seems right at home here on a sultry summer afternoon. What is it about water that beckons us to jump right in? And what it is about friends in the water that calls us to take a photo with lots of ripples and reflections. In this case, I like both the friend and the photo. And now that I think about it, have you ever seen a photo of someone in the water who wasn’t looking happy?
November 4, 2014
An early morning market in October in Pula, our first stop in Croatia. So close to Italy (and with borders shifting so over the years, it retains much of its former Italian and Roman ties), most vendors mercifully spoke some Italian. Look, for example at the pomodor sign on the tomatoes. And while you’re at it, look at those mushrooms the kind lady is arranging.
November 3, 2014
Europeans take their bread much more seriously than we Americans do. Look, for example, at this variety at a Croatian bakery on a Monday morning. And as it was late morning, much of the stock had already been snapped up. But not, mercifully, all.
November 2, 2014
Early morning in Pula, our first stop on our first trip to Croatia. So close to Italy and the former Yugoslavia with shifting borders over the years...but one thing is certain. This town was Roman at one point. Temples, theaters and other ancient buildings still provide reminders. Like this scene in morning autumn sunlight.
November 1, 2014
We sailed into Monaco on November 1, All Saints Day, a national holiday here (as well as in France, Italy and Spain.) At one end of the harbor, an amusement park had been set up. And it may be Monaco, it may be in French...but there’s no escaping Coca-Cola.