Who says you can’t go home again? I just did and am here to testify that though it was a bit strange, it was more than wonderful to return to the place I lived in 41 years ago. Planning my recent trip back east where I would be staying with family and two of my oldest and dearest girlfriends, I decided to start off my trip by staying in a hotel for a few nights. After checking the rates in our two favorite New York hotels, The Regency and The Surrey and catching my breath I decided to look at a few other options.
My husband and I have become huge fans of VRBO and through it we’ve rented great vacation houses in Hawaii, London and San Francisco to name a few. The house in Kauai we rented several summers ago was spectacular. Seriously we lucked out big time. But getting back to NYC, I combed the VRBO listings and didn’t find anyplace I felt like staying in. Those that looked good were either too big or in neighborhoods I didn’t know, or just looked like what it was: someone else’s nice apt but not mine! Then I remembered that a friend had once mentioned that she’d stayed in a lovely Bed and Breakfast in NYC. What the heck, with nothing to lose, and possibly hundreds to save, I googled B and B’s in Manhattan. Quell Surprise! Welcome to a whole new way to go! I had plenty of options to scroll through and scroll I did!
With renewed enthusiasm, scrolling, smiling, practically drooling, something caught my eye. Wait! I know that room! I know those windows! Backing up for a closer inspection, my enthusiasm turned into awe. I stopped and enlarged the picture of the room. That was my apartment! Decades ago, four to be exact! I read the name of The B and B, the 1871 House. The name confused me, but knowing those windows, I clicked onto the 1871 website.
This June, we sold our Lambert’s Cove home in Martha’s Vineyard, and now, it's August, and we find ourselves across the Island in an enchanting ship captain’s home (yes, it has a Widow’s Walk) on Tower Hill overlooking Edgartown Harbor. Goodbye Breathtaking Sunsets – Hello Gentle Sunrises!
Being in someone else’s home with so many personal touches is a new experience for me, and it has taken me at least two weeks before I began the exploration of personal effects: Family photos of towheaded children proudly displaying recently caught fish, water colors from local artist, Ray Ellis (who at one time owned the house), ship models, A 12 foot Herreshoff and Boston Whaler anchored by their pier, 19th Century Currier and Ives prints – one of which is too current for comfort! - and hundreds of Noah’s Arks seen in toys, rugs, chairs, paintings and sculptures. Its’ ghosts speak of wondrously happy summer days and Scrabble/Monopoly nights!
I’m an Anglophile. The names of my sons say it all. Oliver and Barnaby. It wasn’t on purpose, but I accidentally copied Tom Stoppard, who happens to have two kids with the same names.
I was, however, copying my friend Robin and her husband Gene, who, last year, had gone to London, then chunneled it to Paris. Sounded great. Had to try it too. Anyway, I needed a London fix. It had been too long since I’d seen my old friends. From Robin, I wanted the names of restaurants as well as her hotel in London. She raved about the hotel, but I nixed it because of the location. I like to be in the thick of things -- to be able to walk straight out into the action.
Robin warned me to book Ledbury restaurant immediately. I’m tech-challenged, and although the website listed an open reservation, I couldn’t make it work. Then, in the weeks before our trip, Ledbury was awarded a Michelin star and it was suddenly booked many months in advance. I’d been hearing a lot about the great new dining explosion in London. Figuring Ledbury wasn’t meant to be this time, I moved on to book a few other highly recommended restaurants.
When you board an airplane and walk past the first-class passengers settling into their double-wide seats, it’s difficult to avoid feeling like a second-class citizen. The issue isn’t only personal space. As the curtain closes behind the lucky few, you know the crew is preparing a nonstop feast for those with plenty of disposable income.
You can almost see the French cheeses and crackers on a tray with glasses of bubbly Champagne, an opulent first course meant to stimulate the appetite before a gourmet entree — chateaubriand, perhaps, or line-caught salmon with roasted asparagus. If you listen closely, you can hear the flight attendant whispering to leave room for the hot fudge sundae with fresh whipped cream and toasted almonds.
In coach, nothing is free. Sure, for now the sodas, water, and coffee are still complimentary, but if you’re hungry, have your credit card ready. Alaska Airline’s cheeseburger with chips is a relative bargain at $6, but Delta charges $9.49 for their hamburger and $10.99 for one of their wraps, and a vending-machine-type sandwich or salad is $9.99 on American Airlines.
You’ll do a lot better if you brown bag it and pretend you’re on a picnic.
A long time ago, I made the choice to remain single. I really did not want to deal with relationships and I was genuinely happy to take life’s journey on my own. Little did I know that the Universe had a completely different plan for me. I met my (now) husband on September 12, 2012 at a wine tasting in Beverly Hills. Fast forward a year, and he proposed on September 12, 2013. Keep going… we got married April 12, 2014. Why does this matter? Well, it leads me into this restaurant… Boragó.
My husband and I have always had South America on top of our lists for travel. So when we planned our wedding, we planned it specifically to coincide with the wine harvest in South America. (If you’re a wine-o and you know it, clap your hands!) So April was an easy choice. Before we went on our honeymoon, we did our research and made sure we hit up the top restaurants. So begins the story of Boragó… a progressive restaurant in Santiago, Chile that collects its ingredients only from a 150 km radius of the restaurant.
Most of my travel is food focused. I’m headed somewhere to meet people who make interesting food tied to a place and to taste that food. Over the past decade I find that the line between vacation, educational junket and personal exploration has blurred. If I travel with food friends then we tend to be like dogs searching for the same tasty bone to turn up. It can get weirdly competitive or punishingly about the next bite even when enough bites have been had by all.
When I started traveling as a kid I wandered. Often I traveled alone, free to choose this road at that speed to stop and see this thing, sink into the culture of that place and eat those dishes. They were my decisions at my pace. No “have to” or “can’t miss”, just wandering and discovery. I miss those days. Of course time tends to be an impediment. I don’t have an extra five or six weeks to spare anymore, so focus is to often at the root of today’s travel.
But, recently a friend (who loves to cook, but is not a foodie) took possession of a long sought shack on the beach in the Pacific Northwest of Costa Rica. She was taking the first trip back to see how the beginnings of rebuilding the shack were going and to install her 21 yr old son for a two-month stay as “remodeling supervisor”. Would I come along?
We knew nothing about Fado other than that our friend, Mark Miller, who had lived in Lisbon for a year and basically planned our recent trip to the city, said it is "a must". He promised great food from a host and hostess who will treat us as family and sing traditional Fado songs. "It will be a long night," he warned, "but still you must go to Sr. Fado." He then added, with a touch of a smile, that he should make the reservations. Sr. Fado is hard to get into but over Mark's year living in Lisbon, he and the owners had become close. He called. We were in.
Sr. Fado is owned by Duarte and Marina Santos, though "owner" hardly describes everything they do. It might be better to say that Duarte and Marina Santos are Sr. Fado. Duarte is the front man, meeting the guests, serving the food and bussing the plates. Marina is the cook. Eating at Sr. Fado is like spending a perfect night in what could be a modest Portuguese home, while eating traditional Portuguese foods and hearing its traditional music.
When we entered the restaurant we were greeted with both warmth and a touch of skepticism. "Do you have a reservation? The restaurant is fully booked," was the first thing we were asked by Duarte. (As the night progressed we more than understood his cautious approach as we saw Duarte turn away at least a dozen walk-ins before the last reserved tabled filled, at which point he simply locked the door.) Yes, we had a reservation, we assured Duarte. In fact we were the friends of Mark's. "Mark's friends!!" he beamed. "Marina, Mark's friends are here" he called into the kitchen. Then the hugs.
We were married in the garden of my parent's home in Palm Beach and then hurried to a Norsea 26, the small sailboat my wife had purchased before our marriage, waiting at the dock on Palm Beach's Lake Trail. Nothing in the City of Light could promise to be more luminous than our island home.
Wild parrots, raucous and fast, lived in Palm Beach also. They had moved here from the south and formed a colony. When they landed at night in a park or neighboring tree, it was like emerald rain. I would go to Kay Rybovich's clapboard house along the Intracoastal Waterway in the early morning for coffee when I was growing up. She and her husband John had owned a marine works, and made fishing craft for Hemingway; Kay and John would motor them to Cuba, and she told me about fishing with the author and of marlin and swordfish that rose from the sea like gods.
Ann and I clambered aboard her boat, and lazed north. We stayed close to shore. If there were great shadows in the foliage and the shadows were silver and wet in the morning from brushing against leaves, they were Florida black bears. When they lumbered from their feeding place, spoonbills burst above the trees.
Recently I visited one of the U.K's most celebrated cities and there enjoyed the old and the new in hotels and cuisine. I must admit I do try to find little known places where grace and charm can still be enjoyed, and the passion of chefs is translated into wonderful food. Edinburgh is a truly lovely city. Glorious buildings abound built in grey stone and there are many townhouses which have been converted into elegant hotels.
The Howard is one of the Edinburgh Collection Hotels and offers luxury accommodations unparalleled in Edinburgh. Besides providing traditional Georgian pampering with your own dedicated butler service, each one of the eighteen individually characterized rooms uses the finest of fittings, fabrics, paintings and antique furniture and features exquisite body care items, thick white cuddly towels and towel coats – you know all those things that make you feel pampered and cared for! Of course for the techies, there are e-TV, DVD, video, games and hi-fi systems.
Downstairs you can enjoy high tea and, a little later, cocktails in the warmth and comfort of the Drawing Room with its wood burning fire, deep comfy couches and armchairs in deep golden hues. Breakfast and dinner are served in 'The Atholl', the small, elegant restaurant which is the original dining room of this once private residence built in 1820 – naturally it has been renovated but a mural painted in 'Watteausque' style at that time still survives.
So I had some time to kill in Europe before my boyfriend (now husband) was to join me on our first international adventure. While I "knew" French from high school and college, I was not proficient or confident enough to spend two weeks by myself in a country where I could not really understand or be understood. I could kick my wine-loving self now, but c'est la vie. England was too expensive as a solo traveler, so I decided to go to Ireland.
I didn't know much about Ireland, but it looked beautiful, the people had a friendly reputation, the food wasn't too weird (I was a picky eater back then) and most of all they spoke English. Plus the train system was so extensive and affordable I could see the sights without having to drive on the wrong side of the road - though I would consistently try to get in the passenger / driver side when I was over there, much to the cabbies irritation and my embarrassment.
While this was many years ago, these are a few things that have stuck with me from that trip.
1) Nature can't reach that distinct color of green - and it is unparalleled - without it raining…a lot. Like everyday. Not ALL DAY, every day, but for some time every day. It was nice coming from a place where it rains maybe 15 days a year. You don't see that color in Southern California EVER. On the flip side of that, 70 degrees is a perfectly acceptable temperature to sunbath as long as it's sunny. I was wearing a jacket, the Dubliners were as naked as they could get away with in a public park. I guess you have to take your sun worshipping when you can get it.