Tales from the road: Sorrento where the sky grieves with us

We arrive at Hotel Regina, a jewel box by the sea in Sorrento, where a two day day storm of infinite beauty and fury commences. Andy’s cold also begins its furious, dripping journey.

We are holed up in our glass encased room, only leaving for meals during merciful breaks in the torrential rains, lightning and thunder. Three of five meals are at Taverna Abruzzo in the harbor, both the best and closest restaurant to us as we are now well past tourist season and many places are closed. By our last supper, the owner is plying us with gifts of prosecco , fortified wine and limoncello. We stuff ourselves with pasta and clam sauce and fresh grilled sea bass.

What do we do all day in our room with a sea view? We take photos of the changing sky over Mount Vesuvius: The clouds, the rainbows, the sudden darkening skies before the clouds split open.

Watching the variable sky is vastly more interesting than surfing the few English language channels in Europe that only offer a steady diet of news; BBC America, CNN, Bloomberg,  Euronews. Not one hotel offers any English language entertainment and we cannot take any more mewling and puking news media. We are so done with pundits and polls and politics. The skies of Sorrento echo our tears and frustration.

We do, however, discover that our slow  internet supports  playing Ted Talks, podcasts and later we  expand to webisodes of “comedians in cars getting coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld., particularly enjoying the one with President Obama. I also read the extraordinary book “Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver and write this blog post. A. strums his portable guitar.  The days and the storm pass slowly.

Despite our plans, there would be no visit to Pompeii or Herculaneum on this leg of our journey. No drive to Positano or along the Amalfi Coast. No ferry to the Isle of Capri. There will just be rain outside our Sorrento windows and sniffles inside.

Yesterday, our last day, was a hard traveling one of trains and connections toward Rome where we end up stranded at a hotel near their airport. There is nothing else nearby.

A. is still sick so we eat at the hotel and retire early for our 4 am wake up call to begin the long flight home.

Before we turn out the light, we catch a youtube segment of Saturday Night Live. It is the opening with Kate McKinnon in her Hilary white suit singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelulah” in a moving elegy to all of our shared grief over an election lost.

It’s been a long, strange ride this trip and we are ready to come home.

Tales from the road: Milan style, shopping and EXPO

   Above: Sacred and profane side by side in Milano

Milan is the perfect place to imprint all the experiences of our journey through northern Italy. We arrive by train to a bustling, stylish metropolis full of contradictions.

After settling in our b&b, Room Inn, tucked behind gates in a hip area of downtown jammed with bars and cafes, we walk to the Duomo to see the number one Milan attraction, the white church with its dozens of gorgeous Gothic spires. But first we passed through another kind of church– the unbelievably glitzy church of wholly consumption– a gallery of high end shops under arcaded roofs and packed with global shoppers. I stood at the corner of Louis Vuitton and Prada dumbstruck that there could be such a paean to shopping right next to the holy see. It was surreal.

Following  a quiet dinner of local specialties near our place, we tucked in early. Thursday was to be a marathon of eating, learning and eating at Milan EXPO 2015— a world’s fair dedicated to food and water sustainability, biodiversity and feeding the world. If that sounds dry you can’t imagine the global spectacular we experienced.

From around the world, countries showcased their cuisine, culture and food/water technologies in architectural exhibitions by their most creative architects and artists.

The US and Israel showed innovative vertical farms as part of their exteriors, showing how water and space can be conserved. The mammoth Russian exhibit showed off the scale of their country in gorgeous exhibits but they totally wowed us with generous samples of black bread crowned with tender smoked white fish.

We had lunch in Morocco, sampled raw cheeses in the slow food/biodiversity exhibit and were wowed with creativity in the Spanish pavilion and a remarkable musical performance in the Argentina showcase. We ended the day in the UNESCO exhibit where everything we saw came together. There IS enough food to feed our planet if we conserve, improve farming methods, reduce waste and cherish our biodiversity of plant and animal species.

We walked 10 miles that day following wherever our eyes and ears led us. What an incredible visual and cultural feast with crowds from around the world sharing this special space. It seems just right that Italy should host an EXPO dedicated to food. After all, it is a place where eating local is their heritage and pride in every region. It is also the home of the Slow Food movement that has swept the world.
Vertical farm

 Moroccan exhibit hall

 Russian smoked fish

 Raw cheese tasting

Newspapers may be dying but long live the New York Times

New York, New York. Newsroom of the New York T...
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This Sunday’s New York Times reminds me anew of all the reasons I love my Sunday morning newspaper. There were so many articles this week that captured my imagination, my emotions and my heart.

Lately, I’ve been quickly skimming the political articles and vitriolic news headlines knowing that they could easily ruin my day because Sunday is my one escape from our all news, all the time media environment.  Instead, I luxuriate in the little human stories that I might otherwise miss or never discover when relying on online news.

Here’s a few I’d recommend to you:
Main News Section: With No More Cowboys Taking Vows, Monastery Quits the Cattle Business. As a lifelong urbanite, this was an intimate trip into both the monastic life and farm life. These dual tough callings were shared through the eyes of  76 year old Brother Placid Gross, He is an archetype we too rarely see.– strong, silent and devout.

From the Sunday Styles section: Maybe it’s Time for Plan C. So many women’s magazines glamorize the career-switcher or re-inventor who trades in a conventional job for a thrilling new life. This article reminds us of the reality facing most entrepreneurs including long hours, low pay, uncertainty and no benefits. It’s not all cupcakes out there, girlfriend, when everyone wants to be a chocolatier or wedding planner.

Also in that section, Through Books, A Grief Allayed. How one woman read a book a day to recover from the loss of her beloved sister.  Her blog readallday.org attracted many others to share the volumes that saved their lives or gave them new meaning.

From the Sunday Review: I Won’t Have the Stomach for This. How likely is it that you’d enjoy reading an article about a woman with stomach cancer? But this wonderful essay about the last weeks before surgery when the author and her husband ate gustfully and lovingly along the East Coast, savoring great meals as though they were their last (it was hers) was such a delicious journey of love, lust and gluttony. The good news is she can still eat…but in ladylike tidbits.

In the same section A brief interview with Anthony Bourdain of TV’s “No Reservations” was a little slip of a delight . I want to check out his music picks and Twitter faves.

In the Travel Section: After 500 Miles, Hitting a Wall. I read earlier about writer Bruce Weber’s plan to recreate a cross-country bike trip of his youth as a 57 year old. Now 500 miles into the journey, it was both hard and heartening to catch up with him. The road has forced him to pare down both his possessions and ambitions as summer heat and aging flesh took their toll. My favorite quote: “Moving forward is the cure for all ills. Keep pedaling.”

I save the Sunday Magazine for last, holding off till late day. The New York Times is the central structure of an unstructured Sunday. And I like it that way.

Why I love L.A.

Randy Newman and I have something in common. We love Los Angeles. Actually, I love “my” L.A. Just spent a long weekend visiting old friends and favorite haunts. The city never disappoints. Arriving Saturday afternoon, I rented my car and cruised up Sepulveda Blvd. to  Brentwood to girlfriend 1. My first L.A. request….take me to the beach!  We found spot to park right across from a beach just north Santa Monica. The late afternoon light hummed off the shimmering waters. That night we cruised down Wilshire to walk right into Roy’s Restaurant for a fabulous fish dinner. Then off to the Hayworth Theatre downtown to see “Just Imagine,”  a musical tribute to John Lennon told through the Beatles music. Great nostalgia( and band).Sunday with girlfriend 2. We took our favorite “walk & talk” from Beverlywood to Beverly Hills, catching up on each other’s lives, loves and careers. Lunch at Native Foods, a vegan restaurant in Culver City where I loved the “taco” salad and the Moroccan bowl. Super tasty, filling and fresh. Then on to one of my favorite walks, Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. This eclectic, artsy street is always re-inventing itself. This trip it was all about chic casual restaurants &  cute shops decorated with hip elan. I didn’t buy anything but felt sensorily sated by the array of wares.  I could definitely live in Venice if I ever moved back. Monday, I took a hot yoga class at TheYoga Collective in Santa Monica. I was expecting reggae music but not the heat lamps throughout the studio. But I powered through sweating like crazy but with that special post workout high yoga always brings. Then on to girlfriend 3.  We spent a long afternoon sharing conversation, creative challenges (she’s a talented photographer) and one last long walk on the beach, this time near the Marina Del Rey jetty. I can’t get enough of the Southern California coast when I’m here. It’s so restorative. The sun was shining all weekend. I so miss the L.A. sun. Its brilliant warmth elevates my mood and outlook, making me feel all things are possible. No wonder this is a city of creative dreamers. My L.A. isn’t about the Hollywood scene, the beautiful people, the outrageous mansion or over the top gourmet or retail spectacles. My L.A. is about good friends, dappled beaches, cute little neighborhoods, long walks and healthy food. And lots & lots of sacred sunshine. What a glorious getaway.

Oh, ye of little faith…my spring wildflower lust has been satisfied!

Saturday, we took our third outing in pursuit of spring wildflowers and Eureka! we found them.  I confess we spend very little time in the East Bay but the reviews on Sunol Regional Wilderness were consistent. There were great wildflowers to be found. So we decided to journey way out to Fremont/Livermore area.

My expectation was that we’d be hiking in dry chapparal surrounded by brown mountains. Instead, after four miles of country road, we arrived at a gorgeous wilderness park offering  mountain and canyon views, a river and breathtaking scenery.  We took the Canyon View Trail to the top, walking a well kept trail which was blooming with wildflowers of many colors, sizes and shapes from wild yellow sunflowers, to purple flowers to orange poppies. Every turn of the trail had new surprises. At the top, we turned down to “little Yosemite” following the siren call of a noisy waterfall and fast-running stream. It was a perfect place to picnic had we known.
For our return route, we took a simpler path back along the river, enjoying the contrast of scenery but also the wildflowers, rock formations and trees all along the trail banks.

Sunol Regional Wilderness is worth a day trip. There are hikers who go back country for days into the Sunol-Ohlone Wilderness but the park also offers easy campgrounds for overnight stays, afternoon barbecues and all that outdoor living we love so much.

Had we gotten an earlier start, we would have gone exploring the Livermore wine trail…but we’ll leave that for another urban expedition. Right now, my soul and my camera are full of wildflower imagery. It was a great day!

Canyon View Trail- Sunol

Sunol wildflower hike this weekend. Maybe the 3rd time is the charm.

After two weeks of spectacular scenery on my hikes but a paucity of wildflowers, I’m giving it one more April try. Have done my due diligence on google and it looks like the Sunol Wilderness Area in the East Bay is my best bet.

In case you want to get your wildflowers on, here’s a few resources I found about the hikes and flora promised.

Sunol Regional Wilderness

Weekend Sherpa itinerary

And I found this video on YouTube.  Gonna get me some wildflowers this weekend!

SFGirlbyBay: Field trip to an eclectic design blog

Today’s field trip is to sfgirlbybay, a San Francisco-based blog that celebrates “bohemian modern style.” It’s always fun to visit as there’s fashion, furnishings,  art, craft, flea markets, guest blogs and more all curated by Victoria Smith. She’s worked for some of the best fashion, food and shelter magazines so she has a finely honed yet eclectic sensibility that perfectly fits our city by the bay. Her blog has won loads of accolades and readers sopop on over and give it a look.

A recent post focuses on Swedish Chic and I especially love the collection of posters like the one pictured here.

One of the things I love is that she takes weekends off and returns inspired from her travels and explorations. I’m jealously thinking that’s a great idea after blogging non-stop as part of my postaday2011 pledge.