I don’t speak french, but I know all about joie de vivre. We found it in Paris last summer, in the midst of a general strike, only hours after historic flooding, and just months after a devastating terrorist attack. We heard it in the animated chatter of proud Parisians, smelled it wafting from their sweet […]
This gallery contains 1 photo.
My favorite photos often happen randomly, a quick shot and the amateur hope that my camera will translate accurately all that my eye thinks it sees. A perfect example happened on a late summer afternoon in Machu Picchu. I glanced over and saw two of my kids sitting on a grassy edge of the Andes, […]
This gallery contains 4 photos.
Friday night, I fought through a wicked cellphone scrum to take my own series of blurry Sheryl Crow concert pics. I joined the crowd in belting out the chorus to several of her Grammy-winning songs. I held my own phone aloft (horizontally, of course, for Pete’s sakes, have we learned nothing?), to record a lovely […]
This gallery contains 2 photos.
On a 21-hour travel day that saw me roll through five busy airports, I wore my “You are Beautiful” T-shirt and observed. I left yesterday from Fort Lauderdale airport where I saluted the resiliency of this great country. I flew to O’Hare, drove to General Mitchell to catch a flight west, enjoyed a quick layover […]
Evidence of Ernest Hemingway’s demons remains scratched into his bathroom walls and, for a moment, I had to look away.
A journalist, then novelist, whose honest exploration of the human psyche (most often his own) earned him both a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize, Hemingway courted specific details for his characters.
I like details too, so I turned back and observed.
Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Cuban home, still looks as though its celebrated resident might lumber through its perfectly preserved rooms. His typewriter rests, waist high on a book shelf, with easy access to a pacing author.
Trophies from his big game hunts decorate the living room walls. American magazines from 1959 still fill the rack. Though empty now, his swimming pool looks as inviting as it did back in 1957 when Ava Gardner reportedly swam naked in it. Up and down the walls on either side of his bathroom scale, Hemingway’s meticulously recorded weight, scribbled there with various pens, still hints at a troubled mind.
Hemingway wrote both For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea while living at the house, before a crippling bout of writer’s block stole his words.
“Can you imagine a writer with his talent unable to write a single word?” asked the docent who gave us a tour.
Back-to-back plane crashes left both Hemingway and his fourth wife Mary Walsh Hemingway seriously injured though not, as had been widely reported in 1954, deceased. He spent some time at Finca Vigia locked in his bedroom, recovering from injuries, drinking Mojitos and reading his own obituaries.
Reconstructed with care, Finca Vigia offers a telling look into one of America’s most talented and troubled authors.
This gallery contains 12 photos.
A good Cuban cigar (is that redundant?) takes time. It begins in an oxen-plowed field, grows carefully in the Caribbean sun, and reaches harvest stage nine months after careful soil preparation. A good Cuban cigar requires curing, sorting, stripping, and fermentation. Hand-rolled, hand-cut and hand-packaged, a good Cuban cigar waits, fat and sassy, for a […]
An old Polish expression says, Nie chwal dnia przed zachodem slonca (Don’t praise the day before sunset.)
We’re a pessimistic lot, we Poles.
But, we knew as soon as we set our chairs under a green and gold tent in Hofa Park, that Sunday would be sublime.
A fresh breeze rustled the tarp, the new dance floor smelled of sawdust, the polka band sounded like a party and the cool priest never broke a sweat (which is more than I can say for myself after a turn or two around the floor.)
The father among our little party, Vince, who’d been talking about the St. Stanislaus Parish Festival for months, had a great time.
He kicked up his heels with a polka band, wandered through rows and rows of vintage tractors, cheered on an old school baseball game, and enjoyed a giant piece of caramel apple pie.
We saw another father, the holy kind, preside over a Polka Mass, then offer a blessing to the farmers, then bless each tractor with a spray of holy water, then make his way to the dance floor to socialize with parishioners and guests, all while layered in robes and vestments.
“How do you stay cool under all of that?” someone asked Fr. Patrick Gawrylewski, OFM.
“I just don’t think about it,” he said.
In short, our second trip to the tiny but fascinating town of Hofa Park turned out to be just as enjoyable as our first. We can’t wait to go back.
This gallery contains 4 photos.
Katherine’s magic spreadsheet took us all over Paris, through parks bustling with happy children and uninhibited lovers, into cool bookstores and sweet patisseries, across flooded rivers and ancient cobblestone, to five-star restaurants and delicious street vendors. But, the best gift her research brought us, unwrapped itself in Le Baiser Salé, a Parisian jazz club. Cynthia […]
Most days, Paris really does smell like a warm croissant — buttery, flaky, rich — and we enjoyed every delicious bite.
In our short time there, we found our way to 22 spots bookmarked by our most Excel-lent guide, Katherine.
Her glorious spreadsheet brought us to nearly every arrondissement in Paris — a slam poetry reading, a gypsy jazz concert, a cooking class, a très chic clothing store, a crepes restaurant, a falafel house
We walked 19 miles our first full day, drank tea on the Champs Elysees, lit a candle in Notre Dame, posed with tourists on the grounds of the Louvre, shared charcuterie and a bottle of wine.
Over and over we crossed the beautiful, swollen Seine River. We took a day trip to Giverny and Versailles, and then spent four hours seeing all that beauty captured on canvas at Le Musee d’Orsay. We toured Victor Hugo’s house, then traced his walking path through Luxembourg Gardens.
We ate a croissant every morning (pistachio was my favorite), and sipped a little wine every evening, tasted escargot, coq a vin and two different kinds of soufflé, and hilariously chatted as well as we could.
“What are you doing here?” asked the timid Norbert, who’d been forced to keep our company when the bar owner barked this at him: Are you afraid of American women? No? Then move over and let these ladies sit with you!
“We’re tourists,” Katherine replied.
“No,” Norbert said. “What are you doing here. There’s an English speaking place right up the road.”
Eventually, poor Norbert warmed up to us.
Our cooking class with the très beaux Chef Eric taught us the fine art of French flirting and how to crack an egg, but that’s a post for another day. I became obsessed with Claude Monet and that’s a post for another day. And, thanks to Katherine’s research, we discovered a young French jazz singer who blew us away and that’s a post for another day.
I snapped a few (hundred) photos. At the risk of making you feel like you’re trapped at a dinner party viewing our vacation slides, I’m sharing a few…
This gallery contains 4 photos.
I’m not sure what the statute of limitations is on high school exchange program rules, but I have to assume that after nearly 36 years, I’m in the clear. So here’s my story: I did not behave myself in Guatemala when I spent five weeks there during the summer between my sophomore and junior year […]