Tag Archives: travel

Bread. Alone.

When I carried a two pound loaf of Genovese style pannetone and a dozen bagels in a bag topped with a single bialy around the city, I knew I had to acknowledge how much I sincerely love bread. It might just be my favorite food group and it definitely would be my desert island wish. Truth be told, the thought of being sensitive to gluten makes me sick to my stomach. Yes, I love bread.

The best part of an early Thanksgiving is a bonus week of Christmas eating.

Let me counts the ways…

Italian holiday breads such as panettone at Christmas and pane di Pasqua at Easter. I love a bread that marks a holiday, what can I say?

Irish breads like soda bread and whole wheat brown bread lightly dusted with oats. With rough cut orange marmalade, please.

Croissants, particularly those that leave a petite souvenir of their presence in the form of scattered flaky crumbs and a glisten of butter on one’s fingertips.

Bagels and bialys, with whipped cream cheese to smear on, for the win.

Focaccia like the one you get in Genoa, tasting salty like the ocean and herbaceous from rosemary as you tear into it.

Challah, yellow with eggs and used in every single bread pudding and French toast recipe forever and ever.

Naan, stuffed with slightly bitter garlic and a tad oily.

The Placid Baker makes some damn tasty breads.

German fruit stollen, the city cousin to the more well-known, country style dark fruit bread that is the perpetual butt of jokes.

My own version of no-knead bread in which I tweak the recipe a tad by increasing both the salt and the yeast.

What’s your favorite bread? Where do you get it?

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Gratitude

Whenever I do that character strengths test, you know the VIA one , my top characteristic is consistently Gratitude. I don’t know, maybe it comes from not having much in life when I was a child,* but I do find that I have a deep appreciation for all the wonderful people, opportunities and things I have in my life. Below are a few which immediately came to mind on this cold Thanksgiving morning.

  • The sun that rises and sets each day with the ability to light up the sky in a new and magical way.
  • Layers of clothing and heat to keep my family protected from extreme temperatures.
  • Children who love to travel and are still willing, at times, to share adventures with me. On the occasions when they take off without me, I appreciate the confidence with which they approach the world, and the experiences they gain, almost just as much.
  • My brother for just being there – always.
  • Friends – those who I’ve known forever, as well as those who have joined my life in more recent years. Having such an array of people who share my interests, humor, and daily past times makes my life incredibly rich.
  • The women who have provided me with their wisdom, strength and advice when my own parents were unavailable. They have given me gifts for which I can never adequately thank them.
  • The men who have taught me what I want, need and expect from a relationship, even if it has been a lesson based upon what they could not provide. Special shout out to the one who makes me smile currently.
  • Chances to travel to new places as well as revisit favorites. There’s so much to see!
  • My crazy dog  and the fat cat currently living in my house, both of  whom always welcome and return my love enthusiastically.
  • A refrigerator and pantry filled with food, a state I never take for granted.
  • You, a person who takes time from your life to read about mine. Thank you for being here.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

*I’m not suggesting we were starving or homeless, there just wasn’t much security or stability in my life when I was a child.

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Things I’ve learned during my 52nd trip around the sun

  • Honesty is free, yet more valuable than pretty much anything else.
  • With each birthday, I feel more compelled to celebrate.
  • My dog is smarter than I gave him credit for being. Last week during an “intestinal bout,” shall we say, he opened the screen door to the back deck rather than literally lose his sh*t in the house. Good boy, Jeter.
  • It’s really hard to keep moving forward without ever looking back.
  • A relationship that is healthy, positive and satisfying sometimes seems like a lot for which to ask. Settling for less, though, isn’t an option.
  • Maybe I read too many Danielle Steele novels as a teenager, but just once it would be nice to feel like someone fought for me. Not literally, but by playing their A game consistently.
  • The more places I visit, the more places I want to visit. I can’t imagine a life without travel, or at least the desire to travel.
  • I have no idea what the future holds and I’m getting better at dealing with that uncertainty.
  • My sense of loyalty is strong. Example? I’ve had the same dental practice, ob-gyn and optician for nearly 25 years.
  • Finding a good therapist is almost as hard as scoring a new patient appointment within the next 18 months with a new primary care giver.
  • A Catholic funeral mass is incredibly comforting. The tradition, complete with words, music and incense, is proof that death has been a part of life for a very long time.
  • Working to have my outside accurately reflect my inside has been my biggest accomplishment this year. There’s still progress to be made. Isn’t there always?

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Filed under aging, Austria, birthdays, Czech Republic, Europe, favorites, Germany, Italy, love, musings, Observations, relationships, road trips, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Vermont

Overestimating competence

FFCCC1AE-BDF2-49B7-8366-4B377C314C1EIt seems that many of us believe we’re more capable than we are actually. Sometimes when I listen to a friend (or son) list their intended plan of action, I nod my head while mentally I’m shaking it. I know there’s no way it’s going to happen – the circumstances or conditions are never going to allow the plan to occur as projected because, in part, people neglect to factor in a random variable that can impact the process. 

An example:

Perhaps you know someone who has a child traveling, maybe in Asia. That’s a big continent, right? Could be anyone we’re talking about here. Anyway, this young person was asked by their parent to under no circumstances ride on, much less drive, a motorbike. They were just too dangerous, especially for a teenager who had barely an iota, if any of motor bike driving experience. Also, while it may have been many years earlier, the mother did still vividly recall this same child as a preschooler asking for a motorcycle. And a ramp.

No motorbikes, please.

So, predictably, the young man rented a motor bike because it was the most financially prudent mode of transportation and this kid was all about saving money. Because, of course, he hadn’t really saved enough money prior to departure and he was way over budget. Naturally, within two blocks of his destination, there was a bit of a chain reaction of quick stops and our motor biker failed to stop safely. There were damages – to a tail light, to a dominant hand, and to an adventurous guy’s sense of security.

It could have been so much worse.

Growing up and parenting are life long learning activities. We can always improve on how we’re doing and every single misstep or bad decision comes with a chance to do it better next time. To learn, both to listen and to figure out how to manage the unexpected situations we find ourselves in at times, isn’t easy.

As we get older, I think we start to develop a better understanding/acceptance of our capabilities, we meet our objectives more often because we’ve learned what we can realistically do and set goals accordingly. I don’t believe it’s a lowering of our aim, but rather a more accurate assessment of what we can really accomplish. As we experience and overcome life’s challenges our competence grows in knowing both what we can do and what we are realistically incapable of accomplishing. We get better at figuring stuff out and, hopefully, there’s less falling down and more cruising forward.

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The art of Vienna*

After taking in a fair share of dark history, when we hit Vienna I was ready to indulge in a little beauty. While I was in Salzburg, I had read something which said “go to Vienna for the art and Prague for the architecture.” Seemed reasonable to me until I arrived in Vienna and was so impressed with the beauty of the buildings. I couldn’t imagine Prague being more even more stunning, but that is a topic for another day.

The hop on/hop off bus tickets we had purchased had come with two additional attractions and a list from which to choose. My first pick was Belvedere Castle and it’s Klimt collection, reputed to be the largest in the world. I took the bus out mid morning and avoided any lines because of my travel “pass.”

The grounds were lovely but I headed pretty directly indoors, trying to avoid any crowds that might arrive as time passed. The museum itself was spectacular in terms of the decor and structure with high ceilings, beautiful floors and large windows, but I was there to see the Klimts and didn’t really pause for long. How were they? Completely as rich as you might imagine. You know I don’t know anything about art, but I felt a warm casualness about them. Not because they’re lacking in detail, but more due to the approachability of the works. To me, they tell universal stories and I just loved seeing them.

The next day I went to mumok, Vienna’s modern art museum. If I know little about art, I probably know even less about modern art, but I’m open to being educated. Because I overwhelm easily indoors with too much stimulation, I looked at what was “up” and opted to visit the 55 dates exhibit which had recently opened. The display featured 55 items from mumok’s permanent collection and I anticipated it providing me with a great overview, which it did.

There were some things which puzzled me, but that’s cool, while other pieces were mentally stimulating in a different way. André Durain’s Crouching Man particularly spoke to me, as did the Warhol’s of Mick Jagger. I felt pretty engaged by the display and continued my visit by checking out a political photography exhibit. Set up chronologically, it presented photographs which had contributed to the public understanding of political events and history. I wished the flow of the display had been more intuitive (at least for me) because I kept having to compare dates to remain committed to the chronology, but, that is a small complaint and probably my own fault anyway.

 

 

Vacation visual arts done. Next vacation post will be audible!

*just a smattering!

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History?

Terrace view

I mentioned that we had visited a number of historical sights during our July trip beginning with our excursion to Dachau. In Salzburg we took the funicular up to the ancient (700s!) Hohensalzburg fortress which was pretty interesting. The walk from the funicular stop to the very top of the hill was a good leg stretcher softened by a terraced cafe with a phenomenal view and a tasty local wine (gruner veltliner) cold and by the glass.

View from the cannon.

Liam and I split at the entrance to the fortress and went off on our casual, self guided tours. There was an animated presentation which provided an entertaining introduction to visitors, but I wasn’t there to take notes, I just wanted to walk around and take it in. I’d like to think I’m more an absorber than a consumer when it comes to travel. After about an hour of poking around in a mostly disoriented fashion, Liam and I met up and walked back down the hill to explore other parts of the city.

We planned a visit for the following day to the Salzburg Museum which had an exhibit about the rise of nationalism and Austria’s involvement with the Nazi party in the lead up to WWII. Liam and I thought that was a timely topic, so went to check it out. The exhibit was, as you might imagine, very dark. The items displayed told a story of complacency and resignation more than culpability and it bummed me out. Like I said, quietly dark. I couldn’t help but feel like our country is so fractured that we’re susceptible to the same thing these days. Dark.

Traveling in Europe, as an American, has always been an interesting experience. I’ve generally found that young people (those less than 14 or 15) were always very taken by Americans, loving our individuality and style, while those in the 20s and 30s looked upon us more as simple, irresponsible children. In my recent trips to Europe as a 50+ year old woman, the attention has once again morphed and it feels like I’m now being considered as someone who just might have something interesting to say. Maybe.Sitting in Charles de Gaulle airport, I didn’t feel interesting at all when the television displayed the president of the United States along with his tweet claiming himself as everyone’s “favorite president.” Mon dieu! His tweets make me long for the days of a maximum of 140 characters. The number of lies and exaggerations he fits into a single tweet are, as of yet, the only examples I’ve seen of his exceptionalism.

It’s a weird thing when you realize that you don’t have the words in English, much less French, to express how concerned you are about the direction in which your country is going or how much a display in an museum spooked you.

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Down by the river

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Salzburg’s riverfront

When I was traveling recently I was really impressed with the integration between city and river that I experienced in Salzburg and Prague. In both places the river was the center of the city rather than a divider and it felt very natural to make your way to the shore for walks, dining, shopping and art. So civilized.

We arrived back in Albany to a week of wet, humid weather. It’s been difficult to motivate myself to be active, but Jeter has gotten a couple of good walks and I remembered how much I enjoy running down by the river when the temperature is high. I’ve gone down to the Corning Trail twice the week and had really good runs, even with the humidity level through the proverbial roof, there’s always a breeze to be caught along the Hudson.

I couldn’t help but compare our Albany riverfront to the ones I really appreciated in Europe. People, we’re falling short…

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Prague’s Charles Bridge

In Salzburg, the river has a terrific running and walking trail, just like we do, but they also had a cool, independent market. It was a series of stalls and trucks offering unique items (most handcrafted), food, wine and coffee, fabrics and jewelry.  We could totally do something like that in Albany. In Prague the UNESCO site, the Charles Bridge, has vendors along its sides selling souvenirs, and art and there are musicians performing. Our Walkway could definitely host similar activities.

I’ve run down by the river for more than 25 years and I can tell you it is greatly improved in ways that the average person might not notice. On Friday, before I ran I had to use the portapotty and I prepared myself with a deep inhale of fresh air prior to opening that plastic door. It was unnecessary – the portapotty was remarkably clean. That’s new.

We’ve had some heavy rains and in previous years, the smell of the river after a storm that turned the water brown, would be downright offensive. There was a metallic, chemical odor that reliably accompanied the higher water levels, particularly, as you might imagine, across the river from the water treatment plant. The past couple of days? No odor at all. That’s better.

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Yesterday at the Corning Preserve

The wildlife down by the Hudson would have to be our greatest advantage over the much older, and better evolved, cities that I recently visited. I’ve had snake, bunny, woodchuck/beaver/mole thing, and deer sightings this year alone. Often they’re not really afraid of me and continue to nibble on the grass or stand at attention watching as I run by. It’s cool.

I spend a lot of my disposable income taking trips. It’s kind of a joke among people who know me. I’m sure I should be more conservative with my money and pour more of it into my house or my retirement, but traveling and seeing new things, even when they’re really old, is such a great investment. Seeing how other people do things is inspiring. 

What have you observed during your travels that you’d love to see replicated in your area?

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