Tag Archives: travel

Deutschland on the Hudson

Last week I was lucky enough to host my Uncle and Aunt. They were touring New England in that wonderful way that tourists seem to do, but most Americans don’t, visiting cities and sites scattered around multiple states and racking up more than 2500 miles on their rental car.  Because of my crazy schedule, we didn’t spend as much time together as I would have liked, but we did get around a little over the weekend. Saturday was Oktoberfest in Albany and we had a great time checking out the Seen downtown.  My family definitely liked Wolff’s Biergarten – especially after seeing their team’s competition being dealt a loss, and were entertained by the crowd and the activities.

Sunday we did a driving tour on the other side of the river with stops at Golden Harvest for cider donuts and some spirits sampling, Olana, and Hudson for a walk about.  One of the coolest coincidences was my finally meeting, after nearly a year of placing orders electronically, one of the people who distills the applejack we use at Lark + Lily .  Turns out that Derek lived in Stuttgart when he was a student and it was a joy to hear he and my relatives speaking German together.  I think we can all appreciate a little bit of home when we’re on the road and this was a perfect dose of familiarity for my family.

It’s always hard to see far away family go, but Quinn and I are excitedly looking forward to meeting up with them again next spring when we’ll travel to Germany to visit. I bought our tickets last week and our loose itinerary includes three nights in the Black Forest, two nights in Nuremberg and four nights in Berlin.  Bis dann!

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Filed under Albany, beer, family, Germany, Local, road trips, upstate New York

Taking my guests for a ride – cab service in Albany

imageTuesday night we had a number of diners who were decompressing after Day 1 of the NYS Bar exam. It’s always interesting to meet and talk with young attorneys from literally around the world who are seeking credentials to practice in my home state. A table of six the other night really stood out in my mind. The group consisted of  Brazilians and Argentinians and they were full of life and appreciative of the hospitality we bestowed upon them. They loved our patio and enjoyed the cocktail of the month and our pasta special and it was great to witness their relaxation.

As they were departing Lark + Lily, they were talking about football. You know, soccer. I mentioned that Albany has a terrific soccer bar, Wolff’s Biergarten, and suggested that they might enjoy visiting there after the second day of the exam. One of the men quickly responded that he planned to come back to my place the next night – and he did, bringing four different test takers with him.

After their meal, we were talking together and they related some stories about their experiences taking cabs in Albany. If you’ve ever taken a cab around here, you know what’s coming next… They were completely shocked by the condition of the cab (“the car looked like it had been in a bad accident”), the rudeness of the drivers (“this is how we do it here. I don’t know what it’s like in your country”) and the practice of picking up passengers all around town (“I used my map app to confirm that we were going around in circles rather than directly to my hotel”). Yes, indeed, welcome to Albany, the Capital of New York State.

I agreed with their assessment and apologized for the wretched cab service available in my city. I noted that it is on par with what I would imagine would be present in a third world country. Laughing, they said that they represented 3 third world countries and that their service is far superior to ours. Wow.

When they were getting ready to leave, they asked if the Biergarten was nearby. Could they walk there? I explained that it was some distance from the restaurant and that the walk might be a little ambitious. Seeing the disappointment on their faces, I immediately made the sincere offer to give them a ride. Their disappointment changed to astonishment. “Really?,” they asked. Absolutely.

My friend, who had just arrived, and I piled them into the car and gave them the 10 minute tour of our city. We drove down Washington Avenue to State Street and then across Broadway, filling them on the architecture and history of what is a lovely, lovely city with shitty, shitty cab service. While I completely enjoyed giving them a ride (I’ve been the recipient of many kindnesses myself while traveling and was happy to return the favor), it sure would be nice if visitors and residents of Albany had available quality transportation. Until then, I’m just glad I have a station wagon.

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Filed under Albany, Lark Street, Local, Observations, politics, Rant, Restaurants, soccer, travel, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Declaring independence

imageAs the summer approached I knew it would be unlike many previous years. I skipped Mountain Jam in favor of some necessary downtime, passed my inside seats to DMB at SPAC on to someone else, and resigned myself to not sharing a Cape house with Aloysius for two weeks. It’s a different year, but I’ve learned to roll with things.

I’m probably so ok with the prospect of a new summer because a friend offered me the chance to crash their family vacation in Wellfleet for a few nights. The extra bedroom, complete with twin beds, they had available was the perfect consolation. Not wanting to leave my kids feeling left out, I quietly made plans for 3 nights of adult time with a friend. I was excited by the idea of childless beach time, a real novelty for me.

Unfortunately, a situation arose which prevented my friend from sticking with our plan. After some consideration, I decided to see if perhaps my youngest son might want to skip town with me; it just seemed self indulgent for me to go solo. Call it mom guilt. So, I asked him and… he declined, leaving me feeling guilt free and ready for a little serious downtime.

I’ve never been to the Cape without being tethered to another and my mind is racing at the thought of being able to set my own pace. I’m bringing my bike and hope to ride to the beach, take a couple of runs and wander around Provincetown without a care in the world.  I’m kind of eager for some time away on my own.  Of course, I’ll miss my loved ones but it’s just a couple of days really.  It will be rejuvenating.

I’m thinking of it as (an extended) Independence Day.


Filed under Boys, Cape Cod, friends, road trips, Uncategorized, vacation

Pieces of summer

I’ve booked the first of our mini family vacations and I’m kind of excited about going somewhere new. Once the Cape thing fell apart, I consulted with my crew and Toronto came up as a potential destination. After a moment of insanity when I actually considered doing Cleveland, Niagara Falls and Toronto, I got real and settled on Niagara Falls and Toronto. Despite the appeal of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that 7 additional hours in the car would just break me.

None of us have ever visited Canada beyond Montreal and I’m looking forward to seeing a new place. I mean, life’s all about that, isn’t it? I’ve booked the hotels, all in Canada, but beyond that we’re completely open. It seems that we must do some sort of boat ride at the Falls, right? Do any of you have a recommendation or do we just go with Maid of the Mist? My oldest son is set on visiting the CN Tower and Casa Loma in Toronto, so I’m thinking it might make sense to buy this city pass.  I’m sure we can fit another attraction or two in from what’s included and it sure would simplify things. Simple is what I need right now.

Seeing that Toronto has a Chinatown and we have a tradition of having Peking Duck in Chinatowns in 6 cities in 3 countries on 2 continents, so far, I’m sure one of our meals will be Chinese. What other foods should we sample? Our location looks pretty central and I’m hoping to park the car and either walk or take transportation to most of the sights. Any tips for that?

My next task is to organize a little getaway for August – I’m thinking maybe a cabin on a lake for a few nights. Feel free to make recommendations – dog friendly, if possible. Jeter deserves a little vacation, too!


Filed under Boys, Eating, family, ideas, road trips, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Sometimes life isn’t a beach

5f29a6a7e27014926b505f9d7a663911For the first time in 18 years I don’t have summer accommodations booked for Cape Cod. After last year’s trip, which took a lot out of all of us despite the great house and nearly all good company, and buying the restaurant which kind of put a new limit on the length of time I can be out of town, I had decided to wing it for Summer 2016, thinking I would keep my eyes open for maybe a last minute cancellation or other opportunity. Spontaneity is something I’m working on.

About 2 weeks ago I started getting antsy about not having a plan in place so I consulted with Aloysius and we both started looking for a suitable property. We were confined to a single week of the summer and despite that limitation, we found a house. Well, actually, two houses. Unfortunately, the owners of the first property, after responding that the house was indeed available for our desired week, seemingly dropped off the face of the earth never to be heard from again. House number two went even further – I paid a deposit, including a Jeter fee, and entered the dates on my calendar only to hear two days later that the house owners planned to occupy the place during the week we needed, thus, voiding our contract. Back to square zero…

So, now what to do? It seems that maybe the Cape isn’t meant to be the spot of our family vacation this year and I’m taking our lack of success as a sign from the universe to take a break from our usual summer destination, Wellfleet. The boys and I are talking about checking out some new places – perhaps a couple of days in Canada or a trip down to Mystic or egads, even the Jersey shore. I wouldn’t be opposed to a cabin in the Adirondacks for 2 or 3 nights, maybe on a lake? We’re thinking a couple of 2 or 3 day trips rather than the regular 2 weeks in a single area.

How about you? How is your summer shaping up? Any ideas to share with me about slightly offbeat, semi-low budget family destinations? We’re open – let me know!


Filed under Aloysius, Boys, Cape Cod, family, favorites, friends, road trips, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Lisbon Love


Home, sweet home

After more than 20 hours on a bus (actually, 3 buses) we arrived in Lisbon as darkness fell. There was a failed connection with an Uber driver and an eventual cab ride with a driver who could not locate our desired address and instead dropped us off at the bottom of a formidable hill and advised us to simply walk an unknown distance until we located #4 Beco do Mirante. We wandered down a street so narrow that it felt more like an extended driveway than a road, before encountering a mound of trash and a gang of street cats taking their evening meal. We turned around and started over, eventually stumbling upon our home for the next three nights and being warmly welcomed by Renata, our AirBandB host.

It was not an auspicious start.

Despite the less than positive beginning to our stay, Lisbon absolutely captivated me. The view from our flat, both from the front and rear balconies, was memorable, with a beautifully lit dome filling the night sky when we arrived and the rising sun glowing over the river greeting me in the morning. The architecture was remarkable with many of the building facades tiled in dizzying patterns to whose charm I could never imagine becoming immune. 13131683_10154099899137889_3291232505187124338_o

The sounds of Lisbon included barking dogs and cooing pigeons and Fado music. Of the three, I preferred the pigeons. The sidewalks are made from small, rough cut stones which are surprisingly slippery even when dry and the narrow streets wind about with complete disregard for a more modern city’s commitment to a grid pattern. The hills are impressive and I felt no guilt about not running when I instead happily walked for hours up and down and around and about.

Portuguese people are handsome – both males and females. Dark hair and eyes and golden brown skin dominate. The men are more direct with their attentions than I had expected, dispelling any stereotypes I previously held about aggressive Italian or Spanish men. These guys were open about their admiration without being threatening.  If I were younger I might have found it intimidating, but, at my age, I’ll take it as a compliment.


Look at that tile!

The wines, (with decent rosés  selling for 2 euro a bottle in the corner grocery store), and sangria we sampled were tasty, as were both the red and white ports we tried.  The traditional custard tart, pastéis de nata, was a delicious treat any and all times of day and there were other baked goods, including a bread studded with chorizo and ham, that were also excellent.  The meals we had were not quite on par with the food in Barcelona, but there weren’t really any bad dining experiences.  I could not find the fish stew I had imagined, but it gives me yet another reason to go back.

Breakfast with meat bread front and center.

Breakfast with meat bread front and center.

This is a place I definitely want to revisit.

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Filed under Europe, Observations, Portugal, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

Sketches of Spain

imageHave you ever listened to this album by Miles Davis? It’s one of my favorites and sets the mood for so many things – a romantic dinner, a quiet conversation, time alone with your special someone. Add it to your playlist and thank me later, ok?

Now that you’ve got that going, let me share some of my impressions of Spain, or more accurately, Barcelona.

  • The dogs here are rarely on leashes, although their owners always seem to have one slung over their shoulders. The dogs are very well behaved and never run into the street or approach strangers even when a stranger is missing their own dog and more than willing to give a pat.
  • Fashion observations: women wear tights and stockings far more than at home.  They also rock tight, little leather jackets, while people of all ages have those super light down jackets in a rainbow of colors. Happily, I haven’t seen a single pair of Uggs.
  • Far too many people smoke cigarettes, just like in Paris.  The only other unpleasant aroma has been a vague sewer smell that wafts around in a mild, yet noticeable way.
  • Speaking of smells, it’s weird – the Mediterranean doesn’t have that briny smell that announces its presence like the Atlantic.  There’s no “sea air” that I could discern.
  • Children seem to be very well loved here.  Parents are affectionate and attentive without resorting to that helicopter approach which is so prevalent in the U.S.
  • Everyone has either a scooter, a bike or a soccer ball.
  • Scarves are oversize and wound repeatedly around the necks of both men and women.
  • Running seems to be a pretty big activity here and I got lucky with a boardwalk of sorts and parks super close to our apartment. I ran every day.
  • Chefs use a generous amount of salt and pastry is far more delicate than I imagined.
  • I’d like to come back here again.


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Filed under Europe, Food, musings, Observations, running, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation