Doesn't the facade of this grand old hotel make it look like it could stand in for Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel? So regular and symmetric is it, that it's almost cartoon-like. Even with the occasional shutter inconsistencies. Nice.
January 30, 2016
I try to pass unnoticed when I'm taking pictures of friends at a gathering. Sometimes I get caught mid-moment, as I am here by my vixen-like friend Jillian. I also like that my pal Christian looks as if he's pausing with his nosh held in place, waiting.
January 29, 2016
Most tourists look up as they're walking through new cities. I tend to look down. Which is how I saw this business' mark on the curbside. Just that extra touch that makes walking through an Italian town such a rich and unexpected pleasure.
January 28, 2016
St. John's Co-Cathedral in the capital of this island nation is the glitziest church I've ever been in. Almost every surface is covered with gold leaf or fresco or some other embellishment. I love this wall that's adorned with Maltese crosses, laurel wreaths and other golden items. I'm not proud to admit it, but sometimes when I look at this photo, I'm reminded of a donut shop display. There, I said it.
January 27, 2016
January 26, 2016
I'm drawn to graveyards. And whenever I travel, I tend to search them out. This time I didn't have to travel far at all. The cemetery not far from my home has a compelling collection of stones, some fancy and indulgent. Some as plain as this sibling's simple plaque. Sister.
January 25, 2016
January 24, 2016
As I write this on a damp, cold and excessively rainy January day in Massachusetts, I look at the warmth of the early autumn light here in the Tucson desert. The sunset colors, the mountains, the cacti, the blue of the sky, all combine to say, "Come back."
January 23, 2016
The man I love has a birthday today. And rather than post a photo of him (almost assuredly eliciting an ungrateful "I look stupid"), I instead show you what his front yard looked like one year ago today. Throughout the day, the snow continued to fall, then turned to ice, increasing the number of no-shows to his big birthday dinner. Not a problem. The three friends who did show up had a good time. And there was more cake for everyone. No party plans this year, but still we'd prefer weather that's somewhat less threatening.
January 22, 2016
Among the many visual splendors of this fortressed Maltese city, the signage. A holdover from a more stylish era, there are beautiful commercial examples of such signs all across Valletta. This one, the grandly presented name of a rather modest barbershop.
January 21, 2016
January 20, 2016
Today is the feast of Saint Sebastian, my favorite saint. Even if he didn't really exist and is only mythical. Sebastian, you'll recall, was a Roman soldier who proclaimed his Christianity in defiance of the anti-Christian Emperor Diocletian. He is usually depicted in art as tied to a laurel tree and shot by many arrows (not the single, strategically placed one as seen here in a painting by the Master of the Greenville Tondo in Princeton University's excellent art museum.) According to legend, however, he was rescued from his tree by Saint Irene and lived long enough to confront Diocletian in person, whereupon Sebastian was clubbed to death, a martyrdom that lends itself less to artistic representation than an arrow-filled demise does. I learned only recently that the faithful of the Sicilian town of Tortorici, who claim Saint Sebastian as their patron, carry laurel trees on their shoulders through the town to commemorate his feast day with a big procession and festival.
January 19, 2016
On my way to the small port at the back of this town, I passed through many narrow streets that looked like this. The porched-in balconies that extend out over the street remind me of similar ones seen in Istanbul. Were they invented to let in as much light as possible on tight, dark venues like this?
January 18, 2016
These marble plaques at the University of Catania speak to a grander age. And a grander guest list. Italy's King Umberto (of the Galleria) and Queen Margherita (of pizza fame) along with Empress Alexandra of Russia. Plus Edward VIII and then-Princess Victoria of Britain. Not bad.
January 17, 2016
On my most recent visit to see Simon and David in Tucson, a story was circulating in the newspapers about student protests concerning this soon-to-open Mexican restaurant called Illegal Pete's. Simon explained to this gringo that to name a restaurant (or anything for that matter) after a suggested illegal immigrant, especially in a state like Arizona where this is a hot issue, is to court controversy. And boycotts. Later that same day, I passed this construction site, just a block or two from the University of Arizona campus. Bad decisions all around.
January 16, 2016
January 15, 2016
My beloved Cousin Bobby sent me some family snapshots a few days ago, including this one of his mother (left) and mine. My Aunt Myra and his Aunt Marie. His accompanying message for this photo: "Aunt Marie exuding the same sort of joie de vivre as Sandy in 'Sandy with Geese.'" I don't know. Their joie looks seems more vivre and genuine, mine more Vogue-inspired. Not sure who that photobomber is in the background or where this was taken. Doesn't matter, does it? It made me to happy to see these two looking so happy.
January 14, 2016
Not only are the streets here remarkably hilly and narrow, most of them maddeningly one-way, but imagine getting near your destination and encountering a traffic sign like this. OK, I guess, if you're looking for the public library or the sea front. Maybe less OK if you're looking for somewhere else. Share the road.
January 13, 2016
Star of wonder, star of light. Star of royal beauty bright. Look at how beautiful those dangerous thorns look on this amazing cactus. So beautiful that you almost want to get close and touch those inviting little starbursts. Not a good idea.
January 12, 2016
What's everyone looking at? The daily fish market here in the center of Catania, of course. Those of us down in the fray weave our way past mongers hawking their catch, slicing and chopping individual orders. Between the cutlery and blood down below and the spectators up above, it's hard not to think of some milder sort of gladiatorial extravaganza.
January 11, 2016
January 10, 2016
January 9, 2016
I was looking for an address and the listing I had earlier checked had no street number, only a name: Peter. What? When I finally got to the street, I soon learned that the houses all had names. Peter was one. And here is another one nearby with a lovely name.
January 8, 2016
It was 73 degrees here in the Northeast on Christmas Eve. Fifty degrees lower a few days later. No wonder everyone has a cold. As I write this, we are trapped in our houses due to a snowstorm yesterday that turned into rain overnight and then quickly froze as the temperature dropped 10 degrees in as many minutes. Everything is covered in ice, making even walking to my car (which is frozen shut) an impossibility. So it's nice to remember that two months ago, I was with my friend Simon in this beautiful dessert setting, wearing shorts and a T-shirt and feeling totally relaxed.
January 7, 2016
"Diet Week" ends with Dessert Course #4: Nick's panettone, seen here after the golden brown "mushroom" had been sliced open. A lovely light way to bring the full panoply of desserts to a close...and guests to their knees. Actually, after everyone had left and we were cleaning up (an annual ritual), Nick said, "Oh, I forgot to serve the torrone." Not a problem. (Nick's recipe for panettone can be found in his Great Italian Desserts.)
January 6, 2016
Continuing our "diet week" presentations of now-forbidden foods: Dessert course #3. Nick's platter of brownies and caramel crumb bars. It was at this point that guests started in with that foolish, "Oh, I couldn't possibly" nonsense...and then began to consume these by the handful. (The recipe for "Supernatural Brownies" is in Nick's Chocolate; the recipe for his "Caramel Crumb Bars" is in The Modern Baker.)
January 5, 2016
Dessert course #2: Nick's cookie assortment (along with a few samples from the treats his Greek neighbors brought over on Christmas Day.) The amaretti (left) were the best I've ever had, and I ate a shameful amount of them...and continued to do so during cleanup after all the guests left. And if you've got the time and patience to try Nick's checkerboards, you can find the recipe in his book, Cookies Unlimited.
January 4, 2016
Did I mention that Nick is a pastry chef? And so all of the guests were waiting for his annual bûche de Noël. And here it is. (Our friend Marco and I both quickly posted photos of this to Instagram. And while we were there, we checked out other examples at #buchedenoel. Want a good laugh? Go there and check out the other well-meaning attempts, one of which looks like the skyline of Gotham City.) Here's a link to Nick's recipe on his website.
January 3, 2016
January 2, 2016
When I used to swim at the Harvard pool, the first week of the new year was always the most crowded. All those new swimmers with their New Year's resolutions. After about a week, the attendance was back to normal. You understand. At least I do. I always tend to be on a diet as the year begins. And instead of eating food, I'm continually thinking about it. So this week here on SLS: meals. One meal in particular. My friend Nick's Christmas lunch-into-dinner. I was too busy eating the hors d'oeuvre to photograph them (Roberto's terrific guacamole, Nick's cheese cookies with pecans, his focaccia with onions, his salad of peppers/olives/capers), but here's the tomato soup that had everyone at the table ooohing and aaahing. (The weather here in the Northeast has been playing tricks on us: Christmas Eve it was 73 degrees. This soup did the same thing, delivering the taste of summer as calendar winter was just beginning.)
January 1, 2016
Happy New Year. I love this photo of my friend Miriam. She appears to be a no-nonsense type, when actually she is very much a nonsense type. Here she is at Nick's Christmas lunch-into-dinner party. Because Nick is a pastry chef, the meal ended with four (count 'em) dessert courses, some of which you're likely to see here in the near future. And speaking of the future...today marks five years of my posting daily blog entries, and I'm thinking of making some changes. Weekly entries? Photos transferred from Instagram? Occasional postings with no set schedule? Or keeping things pretty much as they are? Can't decide. Thank you to the daily readers who've been with SLS for the whole five years. You know who you are.