Category Archives: family

Albany XXX

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Amsterdam

What’s up with that title, right? Is it porn? Extra large? Nope…Roman numerals – thirty, as in thirty years since I first moved to Albany.

In August of 1988 I was 21. I moved here knowing not a single person, other than Mary Panza who I was lucky enough to meet when her roommate tried to seduce me find me an apartment in his role as a real estate agent. The summer of ‘88 was hot, so damn hot. There was a heat wave that was unrelenting. I traveled to England and the Netherlands in July that year and I loved every day of dreary, damp weather we experienced abroad.

That first trip to Europe changed my life. It opened so many doors and windows and made me a traveler in a way I had never imagined. I had met a guy on the ferry on my way back to London and was acutely aware that he was great, but that the timing was not. We did, however, make some lovely memories and everyone should know the excitement of a long distance romance. When a man flys into jfk, hops into a rental car and drives to Albany to spend 2 days with you…well, you feel kind of special. I hope you know that feeling.

Albany charmed me from my very first visit when I found my way to Lark St.and enjoyed a fancy brunch at The Beverwyck. Once I got a handle on the size of the city (it’s always felt small to me, initially a disappointment but ultimately an asset), and began connecting faces and names, history and legend, I settled in with interest and made a life here.

Albany has witnessed my greatest joys. I got married here, right in Washington Park on a picture perfect Sunday afternoon. I own a house and pay taxes in the city and appreciate the privilege of both of those being possible because of the education (and degrees) I received from SUNYA. My children were born here and are students in the city school district and, while the education they receive may not be as immediately impressive as the high test scores and college acceptance rates of the suburbs, I do know my sons have learned a lot about getting along with people who don’t necessarily look or think like they do. Lessons in life count too.

I started running, an activity I never could have imagined I’d love, while a student at UAlbany and have run thousands of miles around this city.  I’ve learned to write and take photos and have been lucky to share some of my passions with an interested audience.  The opportunities here have been limited only by my own level of competence.  It’s been so cool, really.

Albany, though, has also been the setting for some of my saddest days. There are places around this town that are absolutely haunted for me – spots that I do my best to avoid because of the personal ghosts. The news, both domestic and international, that I’ve witnessed while living in Albany, has left an imprint as well. Princess Diana dying, the towers falling, the children murdered in whatever most recent school shooting…I can tell you exactly where I was for each of those breaking stories. I’ve shed a lot of tears in this town. Believe it.

After 30 years, I love Albany more than ever. The happiness I’ve known in this city that receives credit for how easy it is to get to places “to which you really want to go,” has far outweighed the heartaches I’ve experienced. I’m not sure what the future holds, (once I hit my 30 years teaching, who knows?), but these three decades have been the most productive, challenging and exciting times of my life and I wouldn’t have wanted to live them anywhere else.

Thanks, Albany xx

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Reflections on Summer 2018

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  • My travels have taken me new places and I am so appreciative of the memories I made and the food I ate and the wine I drank and the friends I hugged.
  • Cape Cod without children is like shared custody following the end of a marriage/relationship – a dirty little secret in all the best ways. (Credit to LGP for the custody thing)
  • Summer is a time for me to take on larger household chores, such as organizing and weeding out extraneous stuff that can weigh a person down. During these tasks I always stumble upon things I find interesting – like my journals from the early 90s.
  • One of the most important parts of summer, for me, is spending time with people I don’t always have the luxury of seeing. Pool dates, lunches and nights out with friends, have made Summer 2018 exceptionally special.
  • Being reminded of past heartbreaks and lessons learned can be really comforting. I think that every relationship that I was in that “failed” was followed by a much better personal situation. Sky’s the limit. Full steam ahead.
  • It’s been a hot summer and I’m fortunate to not have to work in what have been extreme temperatures. I’ve been able to accept the heat without needing to fight it. Night runs have been tremendous and I’ve mastered closing up the house to keep it cool during the daytime. It’s summer. I like when the seasons perform as expected.
  • In the last week or so, I’ve encountered a number of work friends and a couple of students. Seeing them reminded me what the very best part of my job is – the people with whom I’m lucky enough to work.
  • There are some ways in which I feel like a different person, as if I’m evolving into a new, hopefully best, version of myself. Some of it originates with physical change – different hair, new car, but more of it comes from having been through a lot emotionally and feeling a little less naive. Currently doing my best to retain and refocus “wonder” as a word of future possibility instead of rear-view second guessing.
  • Authenticity is topping the list of new words in my vernacular these days. It appears above catfishing and intentional mind fuck, not just for alphabetical reasons either. Authenticity deserves its own damn blog post. Stay tuned for that.

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Raindrops on roses 🎼

When I travel I try to keep my options open with regards to activities and attractions. My ultimate goal on vacation is to have unstructured time to explore my locale, not to have a schedule, so I generally book a single thing per day and fill the rest of my time with whatever happens to inspire me.

The impetus to visit Salzburg was my son’s fondness of The Sound of Music, so I reserved space for us on the Fraulein María bike tour, TripAdvisor’s #1 outdoor activity in Salzburg. Our tour began at about 9:30 when we met our guide, Kata, near Schloss Mirabell. She explained what we should expect (3.5 hours, approximately 10 miles and plenty of singing) and we began our adventure. The ride itself wasn’t particularly challenging beyond the fact that the bikes are heavy and the route unfamiliar. Our group was lots of fun and it was obvious that a number of them were big time fans of the classic movie, but, I believe Liam had them all beat when it came to familiarity with the story and music. He knew all the answers.

Frau, fraulein, whatever.

My own knowledge of the movie is scattered and I intend to rewatch it with my new perspective on what was accurate and what was mere Hollywood sleight of hand. The ride was a wonderful way to explore areas of Salzburg that we otherwise might not have made it to and I would definitely recommend the tour for anyone going to that beautiful little city. The ride isn’t overly difficult, but there are a couple of semi-challenging hills and bringing water is a must. You wouldn’t want to not be able to belt out Edelweiss due to a dry throat now, would you?

 

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Filed under Austria, beauty, biking, Boys, Europe, Exercise, family, Flowers, ideas, Recommendations, Summer, travel, vacation

Riding that train

Most of my recent trips to Europe have been with my uncle and aunt, which means that I haven’t had to really deal with transportation once I hit the ground. Our primary means of travel has been by auto and I’ve only had to buckle up and sit back. Easy.

This trip has been quite different but surprisingly almost as effortless – Europe knows what they’re doing when it comes to transportation. Aside from our inner city travels, also fairly priced and convenient, we’ve traveled between 4 cities in three countries and it has been a piece of sachertorte.

In an increasingly frequent leap of faith, I opted to not book any tickets in advance. I’m not sure if there were any financial consequences to that decision, but I found the prices for tickets to be reasonable, even a bargain when you factor in the quality of the trains. I’ll get to that, but first the prices: from Munich to Salzburg (for two without any discounts) was 31 euro, from Salzburg to Vienna 53.80e and Vienna to Prague via Linz was a combined total of 68e. I think that converts to about $185 give or take a little, a deal when you consider it would have cost us almost $170 for two to travel from Albany to NYC on Amtrak.

The ticketing process is super simple. I downloaded the Trainline EU app when I was in Munich and set up an account. Searching for tickets is easy and you can choose which criteria is most important to you – time, price or speed. Most of the time I went with what was direct and cheap. There definitely were faster trains at higher prices, but our longest journey was a total of 6 hours when we went from Vienna to Prague. There was a nearly one hour layover in Linz, though, to factor into that. It was actually a welcome bonus for us because we had sufficient time to pick up some food for the trip from the Spar market in the bahnhof.

Other advantages of train travel? Well, there’s the pleasure of stretching one’s legs and walking around rather than being crammed into a car. Pit stops for bathroom breaks are unnecessary since the train has WCs available and speaking bathrooms, the bathrooms on the trains we were on were cleaner than 90% of the bathrooms I encounter at home. Immaculate, well stocked and modern with automatic water, soap dispensers and hand dryers. The contrast with what I’m unfortunately accustomed to on trains in New York, is dramatic. Eating and drinking is also a comfortable option with many of the seats set up in little booth arrangements.

The train stations are so pretty…

In addition to comfort, there are amenities such as power outlets and WiFi on most trains. I was a bit bummed that we didn’t have WiFi on our lengthiest trip, but the friendly guy sitting near us said it was a good introduction to the difference between Austria and the Czech Republic. I can live with that since the ride was scenic, my legs could be extended and I had the cutest little table to eat my grocery store lunch upon.

…and quaint!

One final advantage – I don’t seem to suffer from motion sickness while writing or reading on a train. If I were in a car, I wouldn’t be able to relax and bang out a few posts. Reasonably priced, reliable, clean, comfortable and scenic makes European trains right on track.

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Filed under Austria, beauty, Czech Republic, Europe, family, Germany, Observations, Recommendations, Summer, travel, vacation

Smitten with Salzburg

B72CE3D0-3C28-478F-8CA4-3B2E81DDB72DAfter spending a couple of hours becoming familiar with Salzburg’s historic and beautiful city center, I returned to the flat and collected my son. There was so much more to experience! We didn’t really have a plan, but I wanted him to see this picturesque city and there seemed to be plenty with which to keep ourselves occupied without the need for an itinerary.

We traced my earlier footsteps and went along the river where vendors were set up displaying and selling their artwork, artisanal food items, clothing, jewelry and crafts. While there was nothing that I was interested in enough to commit to carrying it home, there were lovely items available and the quality definitely seemed high. Continuing past the market, I shepherded Liam to the tourist office so he could collect brochures and, after some consultation, we decided that the funicular to the Fortress Hohensalzburg was a must do. Twenty minutes, and about 22 euro, later we were on top of the city.

8A1E4474-351D-4A0E-9E04-BC6162F71D07The views as we walked up to the castle were fabulous and as we went by the cafe’s terrace an open table near the vista beckoned. Sitting there in the sun sipping on a glass of gruner veltliner was a perfect moment that I hope to never forget. The castle itself, open since 1077, was great. The video presentation which told the history of the fort was really well done and the artifacts and limited furnishings were tremendous. The torture devices on display were interesting, but, for me, it was all about the view.

 

We walked down to the city center rather than taking the funicular again, and sought out a spot for lunch. I had a craving for trout and we came across Restaurant Elefant that offered a wonderful seasonal preparation with a simple brown butter and chanterelle mushrooms. It was really fantastic, perfectly cooked and fresh as hell, as was the simple green salad that I had also ordered. We finished with a local speciality that Liam had noticed, the Salzburger Nockerl, a raspberry and meringue dessert that was massive, yet fairly light. We were unable to finish it, but I’m glad we splurged on something we had never before tried.

 

It was about 4:30 when we finished lunch and I was ready for a nap or another glass of wine. Since I needed wanted to run that evening, I went with the first option. Liam was interested in a Mozart musical thing that began at 8:00, so we returned to the flat where I settled in for a power nap and he relaxed a short while before leaving solo to see his performance.

My run is a whole ‘nother post, mostly just visual, but just to give you an example of why I am so smitten with this city, I’ll tell you this – as I was running back north after covering a few miles on the east side of the river, who did I literally run into? My son. How crazy is that? I paused to chat with him for a moment and we made a plan to meet after I showered. I ran the rest of the way home with a huge smile on my face and anticipation for yet another round of gelato. How can I not love this place?

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Moments in Munich

Spending 48 hours in a city like Munich, especially when the weather is outstanding, is practically criminal. I should be embarrassed by how little I actually learned about the city or how to navigate my way around it. I concluded, though, that I do better with that sort of thing when I travel solo. If I have someone else willing to study maps and figure out directions, then I have more time to sit outside, drink beer and people watch. That’s really what I’m there for anyway.

Without a doubt, the most important part of my stay was the time spent with family and a friend from many years ago. Catching up on the last year or 26, was just awesome. Isn’t it amazing how there are people we don’t see for months or even decades, yet the connection and comfort with one another remains? Life lesson: that soul filling is worth every effort it takes to travel and connect with those kind of people in your life.

We did do a few traditional tourist things beyond consuming beer and pretzels, though, such as…

Lots of walking around the city center. The buildings are beautiful, the streets are cleaner than a New Yorker can imagine and there are bright flowers everywhere you look.

We watched Croatia beat England while we sat at a sidewalk cafe with a television monitor and a diverse and fun group of soccer fans. C0A0E0C4-442D-469F-8620-06E69A883AA3

I ate gelato, more cheese than I typically eat in a month, and a terrific white wurst served with sweet mustard. For the train ride out of town, I picked up a falafel sandwich which was dynamite, if a bit messy. I neglected to eat any pastry or cakes. Personal fail.

We spent a good part of one day visiting Dachau, but that’s another post. After that excursion, I was left wanting little more than warm sunshine and cold beer. My son went to visit Bayern-Munchen’s stadium while I indulged myself and he seemed to really enjoy the tour he received and his independence to go do something of interest to him.

C2D7DD47-A497-44D5-8DDE-19292D6488F9Our last morning and early afternoon was spent hitting a couple of spots – the BMW museum and Olympic Stadium are in the same area and we checked both of them out prior to leaving for Salzburg. For me, one engine looks like another one so I may have under appreciated the more mechanical aspects of the tour, but the cars were pretty and BMW does own Mini these days so I’m practically a shareholder, aren’t I? We didn’t really have the time to commit to a stadium tour, but did walk around the Olympic Park and saw the memorial to the athletes from the ‘72 games.

62DB0B5A-C584-47A8-9041-C49E151DB1CAWe finished with a walk through the Englischer Gardens and a last weisse beer for me. I did no shopping, nor did I splurge on any spectacular food or experiences, but I boarded the train feeling richer from my time spent in Munich and confident that one day I’ll be back.

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Filed under beauty, beer, Boys, Europe, family, friends, Germany, Observations, Recommendations, relationships, Summer, travel, vacation

Scattered

I’m feeling scattered. The end of the school year brings lots of activities that (often delightfully) disrupt my work days and my personal life has taken a positive turn which has caused unexpected, but very much appreciated reverberations. Summer is looking really good and I’m so ready for it.

My middle son’s upcoming trip to Thailand has been my focus recently and I’ve spent very little time working on my own trip to Europe this summer. Gathering the necessary documents for his required visa has taken some work and I’m constantly checking in with myself and him about what is his responsibility and what I should be taking on on his behalf. It’s a balance that is kind of new – next stage parenting, I suppose.

My oldest son and I will be visiting Munich, Salzburg, Vienna and Prague. Other than Munich, which I visited in 1992, I haven’t been to any of those places before and I’m pretty stoked. The big stuff is done – a plan to meet with family, our accommodations, an outing or two, but I haven’t even looked at details such as transportation or scouting out where we’ll want to eat or what sites we won’t want to miss. I think we’ll be winging it. Suggestions are welcomed.

For a period of time next month, all three of my children will be on different continents. I’ve been trying to process this fact ever since it occurred to me a couple of days ago and I’m still not quite there. Wow. How did I/we ever get lucky enough for this to even possible much less accurate? It’s amazing to me and I don’t take it for granted on any level.

Somehow, I have children who are comfortable and excited by adventure. They are interested and curious about history and people and the world we live in and that prompts me to be so very proud of them. I appreciate that the experiences I’ve cultivated with them have been influential, but it certainly isn’t all due to me. These upcoming trips were inspired by Anthony Bourdain (Thailand) and the Von Trapp family (Austria) and I can’t tell you thrilled I am that my sons are eager to collect their own memories of places around their world and that sometimes I get to be a witness to their wonder.

Scattered isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you think about stars and seeds. Here’s hoping that summer 2018 brings light and new life to each of us.

 

 

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