Tag Archives: 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!

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

Lisbon Love

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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.

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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

Eating up Barcelona

image.jpegIt’s been amazing how quickly I’ve adjusted to Barcelona’s late night schedule. I can only explain it as a magical alignment of being an early person and having the advantage of a six hour time difference. Whatever the reason, it’s working for me and I haven’t struggled at all with this temporary life of sleeping until 10:00 a.m. and beginning dinner at 11:00 p.m.

We’ve been doing our best to try new things and eat as much traditional food as possible. For Griffin this translates to jamon, while I’m more inclined to sample as much seafood as I can get in my mouth. Here are few particularly tasty items we’ve enjoyed – and one we determined was not for us.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Europe, Food, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

The wisdom of Antonio Banderas

imageAfter spending my first day in Barcelona, I can say I understand exactly what Antonio’s talking about. This place just stimulates the desire for languid pleasure and beautiful people and food are everywhere.

With blue skies above our heads and cobblestones below our feet we wandered around quite a bit yesterday. When it came time to eat, we approached the task of finding a restaurant with an attitude of nonchalance. It all looked pretty good and we were willing to try something new. For Griffin, it was a plate of meat for a late breakfast. He shared a bite of the brightly colored and flavored sausage, but gobbled the rest, saying that the tiny ribs were his favorite but everything on the plate was delicious and cooked perfectly.image

For dinner, which we began eating at 11 p.m., we wandered into a neighborhood spot that contained only 6 tables, although it appeared that the large table filled with either regulars or family, may have been a couple of small tables pushed together. Not being able to read Spanish wasn’t really a problem because we wanted traditional fare – jamon and paella.image

The ham was phenomenal and buried any other ham I’ve ever had. It was sliced beautifully thin with the perfect meat to fat ratio. It was tender, yet firm and had an overwhelming rich flavor of butter. Fantastic. The paella was exactly what I’ve always imagined paella to be – presented in a beautiful low pan and served to us at the table, it was an eye pleasing medley of shrimp, langoustine, mussels, slivers of squid with rice and small bites of red pepper. The fish was mind blowingly fresh and the shells on the shrimp were incredibly tender as we picked them up with our hands to suck every single morsel of deliciousness out.image

Good food was had and the wine I sampled – an intense rose in the afternoon and a simple white of unknown origin with dinner, was pretty damn good, too. From what I observed as we walked around, it seems that romance and sensuality is very much present with young and old couples showing affection and passion freely. Good sex seemed a distinct possibility. As for me, there was good sleep in the form of an hour long nap and a longer overnight rest. Antonio Banderas, and Spanish people in general, are on to something. Viva Espana!

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Filed under Eating, Europe, Food, Observations, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

New York in Bloom, 2016

You know with a last name like “Lilly,” I love me some flowers. If you share a similar appreciation for things which bloom, this is your lucky weekend. get yourself down to the New York State Museum and inhale some of the gorgeousness that is currently on display. $5 gets you in and helps to support the museum’s after school programs benefiting children across our fair city.  Here are a few images to help your interest blossom!

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Events, favorites, Flowers, Local, Recommendations, Uncategorized, upstate New York, winter

Taking tips from bartenders – Motown Mondays at the 5 Spot

kom-nashville-2015-poster_webHaving a good guide book when you visit a new city is generally not a bad idea if you’re looking to become familiar with where to eat or shop. Making friends with a bartender or two, though, is an even better idea if you’re interested in hanging out where the locals do. Case in point – the excellent tip we received from Kenneth at Husk about where the cool kids go on Monday nights – East Nashville’s 5 Spot.

Now, we really didn’t know all that much about Nashville when we decided to make it our girls’ getaway destination. We certainly didn’t know anything about East Nashville. Well, it seems that this area east of the Cumberland River is an upcoming neighborhood populated, as we learned from our Uber driver, with hipsters. This isn’t my assessment, just what we learned from the locals, my friends. I have to say, judging from the facial hair, plaid shirts and smart spectacles, it seems a pretty valid conclusion.

We arrived at the 5 Spot somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00, it’s kind of blurry. We anted up $5 a piece and joined the healthy crowd inside, already nodding our heads to the music and the scene. This was not a place for posers – just a whole bunch of people who wanted to have fun and dance. I love a good dive bar and this place has the vibe down – a little gritty, a lot dark with cheap beer and a small back “patio” to escape to when the need to cool down trumps the need to boogie down. If this place was in Albany, I’d make it my home away from home for good, clean fun.

This might be a fine time to note that I DO NOT dance generally. I’m not sure if it was the pre-game shots of Maker’s Mark, the anonymity of being a stranger or just that damn Motown beat, but I couldn’t quit moving on the dance floor. For three roughly mid-century girls, we were spun around with enthusiasm by an array of partners, but there wasn’t any handsy gropping or grinding going on. It was just about the music and dancing without any aggressive, cruisy bullshit. It was ultimately the perfect girls night out. The 5 Spot on Monday night is a game changer when it comes to the Monday blues

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Filed under friends, Music, Nashville, Recommendations, travel, Uncategorized, vacation