Lisbon, Portagul

Another guest blog by my daughter, Allison Malecha. A recap of the second part of her summer trip to Spain/Portugal.

Lisbon, August 2015

Last year, I went to a personal finance workshop sponsored by the startup LearnVest, thanks to a cousin who is a client. The part that stuck with me was a lecture by a Harvard professor who spoke about happiness. He discussed a survey where children were asked a fairly standard question: What do you want to be when you grow up? The children responded in expected ways: a doctor, a lawyer, a what-have-you just like my mom/dad. But the professor was not completely satisfied with these answers. The children had named career goals, professions. They had not said: “When I grow up, I want to be happy. I want to be fulfilled.” They had not been taught that these were things worth striving for.

New York, where I live, is a city where most everyone is trying to be something, or someone. We are future writers, hedge fund managers, ad agency executives, Nobel Prize winners. When I arrived in Lisbon, I had the feeling that perhaps, there, a few more children might wish to be happy when they grow up. To be fair, I spent three days in the city, and one of those days mostly on a sad little ferry back and forth across the Tagus. But the air had a different quality, people’s faces were more prone to smiles, and I felt, even looking up the three flights of dirt-studded white stone stairs up to our street, inexplicably, deliriously happy.

Lisbon is not counted among National Geographic’s “Top 10 happiest cities” nor was Portugal named one of the Top 20 happiest countries in the recent United Nations World Happiness Report. It is entirely possible that my perception of the place is more attributable to the fact of being on vacation than to the place itself.

We didn’t have the most obvious start to what turned out to be the highlight of the my Spain/Portugal trip. My travel mate and I missed our train to Lisbon. We were coming from Porto (Portugal) with tickets purchased online and sent to my Brooklyn mailbox. It turned out that we had bought vouchers, not tickets, and the ticket collector was kind enough to tell us so—4 minutes before the train’s departure. So I waited in the 20-minute ticket line and we caught the next train. My first experience of Lisbon was running through it, a backpack slamming against my spine and a camera drumming my chest as we followed the blue dot on my friend’s iPhone to the front door of our Airbnb. We were about to make our temporary landlord late for a work meeting, but she gave us a tour: roomy bedroom, a kitchen of mint-green cabinets, a corner bathroom with gas-lit hot water, a washing machine and clothing lines out the window, a fifth-floor view onto, on one side, a church courtyard, and on the other, a view of the entire red-roofed and white-spired city. She pointed out the square where we would find the train station to take us to Sintra. She didn’t look a bit like she was already late to somewhere else.

My friend in our Airbnb kitchen.

My friend in our Airbnb kitchen.

The Sao Cristovao Church, on our street.

The Sao Cristovao Church, on our street.

The view from our Airbnb apartment.

The view from our Airbnb apartment.

That night we zigzagged our way to Mesa de Frades, a place my friend had recommended to me to listen to live fado, a type of folk music specific to Portugal. We arrived at 10:40 and were told to come back at 11. We made a few loops on the cobblestone streets and returned to be seated in two extra chairs pushed up to a four-top, where a middle-aged couple and their in-laws had just finished dinner. A hush fell over the tiny, mural-wrapped dining room as the restaurant door was pulled closed and the musicians positioned themselves in front of it: a mandolin player, a guitarist, and a singer. All younger than I expected, quick to laughter in the moments between songs. But what happened during those songs was pure magic—not a single fork tine scratched, no iPhones lit up, no one whispered. The brunette clasped her hands in front of her and lavished her voice upon the room: rich and mournful, resonant without the help of a microphone. After the first set she was replaced by an older vocalist, with a deeper, more dexterous voice and a leopard-print poncho, clearly recognized by some in the room. My travel mate and I walked home afterwards in a bit of a trance, not yet wanting the spell to be broken.

One of the many tiny, beautiful cobblestoned streets on the way to Mesa de Frades.

One of the many tiny, beautiful cobblestoned streets on the way to Mesa de Frades.

Mesa de Frades, Lisbon.

Mesa de Frades, Lisbon.

Our first full day in Lisbon we rented bikes from bike Iberia (word to the wise: budget bikes are exactly what they sound like) and hopped onto the Poetry Bike Lane, which was more of a series of pedestrian paths and sidewalks and parking lots than a bike lane. It also left the poetry up to the riders but hugged the broad and glittering Tagus all the way to historical Belem. Things got dicey when we wheeled our bikes onto the aforementioned ferry. We missed the stop we were supposed to get off on, so instead of a beach, we found ourselves staring at a large hill with only one way to go: up. We narrowly avoided turning onto a freeway and I was close to tears after my gear got off track, but even this misadventure had a happy ending—on a long, winding downhill back towards the (correct) ferry port, self-made wind in our hair and a vibrant palette of green and blue before us. Back on the bike lane, we made our way to the Monument to the Discoveries, a striking mass of carved stone aimed out toward sea, and ended at Belém Tower, with a pit stop at the sumptuous National Coach Museum.

Along the Tagus, Lisbon.

Along the Tagus, Lisbon.

A pit stop along the Poetry Bike Lane for sardine sandwiches and beer at Sol e Pesca.

A pit stop along the Poetry Bike Lane for sardine sandwiches and beer at Sol e Pesca.

A happy ending to an unintentional detour.

A happy ending to an unintentional detour.

Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon.

Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon.

In front of Belem Tower, Lisbon.

In front of Belem Tower, Lisbon.

On our last evening, I stood in our kitchen slicing chorizo and ladling olives into a bowl. My friend took her glass of port out onto the balcony and called me over. A crowd was gathering around the church steps, and two chairs appeared from somewhere. A mandolin player sat in one, a guitarist in the other, and the singer stood behind them—an impromptu fado concert to send us on our way.

Fado graffiti near our Airbnb.

Fado graffiti near our Airbnb.

A plate of incredible grilled octopus at Solar 31.

A plate of incredible grilled octopus at Solar 31.

 

Madrid on a budget

This summer found my daughter and a girlfriend of hers taking in the sights and sounds and flavors of Spain and Portugal. This post is a recap of their time spent in Madrid. A testament to the abilities to eat well and live well on a budget.

Madrid: a real-life grown-up vacation by Allison Malecha

View of Madrid from Tartan Roof (completely worth the 4 euro entry fee).

View of Madrid from Tartan Roof (completely worth the 4 euro entry fee).

During college, the Barcelona-Madrid duo was popular among the study abroad crowd. The general post-trip consensus was: Barcelona—so fun! Madrid—so much art! (but kind of boring.) This year, as I was planning a trip with a friend who’d traveled around Spain the previous fall, I was a little skeptical to only have Madrid and (in Portugal) Porto and Lisbon on our itinerary. But from my first morning in Spain’s capital city, I loved it, and I soon realized that my priorities weren’t to “go out” or meet fun new people. I do enough of that in New York. I felt tired. I wanted days spent walking along gorgeous old streets instead of sitting at my desk; evenings full of cheap, delicious food, even cheaper, more delicious wine, and comfortable conversation; and a bedtime several hours before dawn. Madrid was happy to provide.

We upgraded from college hostels to an Airbnb, and stayed in a spacious second-floor apartment that doubled as a gallery space for the artist-owner. Mixed media sculptures and moody paintings on the walls. Tea sachets and little bowls of brittle biscuits on the kitchen counter. Fresh, not-entirely-absorbent towels neatly folded in the bathroom. An Ikea-outfitted space right near the center of everything.

Our beautiful Airbnb in Madrid.

Our beautiful Airbnb in Madrid.

My traveling partner and I are both serial snackers, so we easily slid into the eat-and-mosy-and-eat-a-little-more pattern of tapas dining. Tapas (derived from the Spanish verb “tapar,” to cover) are strongly associated with Spanish cuisine in general, but the tradition originated in the southern region of Andalusia, and is not as deeply ingrained in the north, where Barcelona is. In Madrid (Spain’s belly button geographically), many dishes are offered in either small-plate portions (the traditional tapas) or meal sizes (“raciones”), but why have one when you can have four (or five or seven)? We consecrated the beginning of our first morning in the city, a Sunday, with slushed sangria and huge hunks of toast topped with iberico ham and olive oil-soaked octopus from El Capricho Extremeno. My traveling partner taught me her favorite Spanish word, “bacalhau” (cod), and I fell in love with saying it too—the way the l opens into the h. At some point in the day, we stopped for bacalhau with a smear of olive oil on toast and a less-than-two-euro glass of house vermouth on ice at Bodegas Ricla, operated by a mother and her two sons. We ate 2-euro (lightly, barely, beautifully fried) calamari sandwiches just off the scaffolding-smothered Plaza Mayor and a 15-euro skillet of luscious paella at La Barraca. We did the traditional food-march along Cava Baja: vino tinto and queso at Tempranillo, vino tinto and jamón and teeny sardines at Txakolina, vino tinto and tomato-rubbed toast at the place across from a place that ran out of empanadas. For good measure, we ate a plateful of salty ham, with pork haunches hanging all around, at Museu del Jamón. The menu prices in Madrid are reasonable, cheap even, but at each tapas place, with each drink, you also get a freebie of sorts: a tea plate filled with dry sausage slices and pretzel crackers, a dainty wedge of manchego on toast, or patatas bravas (which we never actually got, but apparently they’re everywhere). By bedtime, we had inevitably consumed a small pig and a loaf or two of pure carbs.

From El Capricho Extremeno.

From El Capricho Extremeno.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid.

Seafood paella at La Barraca in Madrid.

Seafood paella at La Barraca in Madrid.

Museu del Jamón.

Museu del Jamón.

Pre-dinner reading break around the corner from La Barraca, Madrid.

Pre-dinner reading break around the corner from La Barraca, Madrid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To let our stomachs settle, we saw art. Goya, Velázquez, and the deliciously imaginative Bosch at the Prado. A Vogue-sponsored exhibit of waifs in saturated states of dress and undress, in gilt Versailles halls and algae-wrapped bathtubs, in the basement of the Thyssen-Bornemisza. Paintings made melancholy by age and a gorgeously show-offy staircase at the Cerralbo. We rode the glassed-in elevator and played a high-brow version of I spy with the Reina Sofia’s Salvador Dalí paintings (. . . a Hitler mustache . . . . a swarm of ants . . . two tiny humans on the horizon).

"Vogue, Like a Painting" exhibit at the Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

“Vogue, Like a Painting” exhibit at the Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

I started day three with a 9 a.m. run through Retiro Park (the full Spanish name translates to “park of the pleasant retreat”). Un-hungover, ready for another day of flexing our legs and stomachs and consuming all the wonderful culture of a grown-up city.

Vermouth and vacation reads at Café de Ruiz, Madrid.

Vermouth and vacation reads at Café de Ruiz, Madrid.

Books (creative), books (travel), books (journal)

To continue on the path attributing the affect my father had on my life, I would be remiss to omit the two most major influences he had on me – reading and writing. I am lucky enough these days that I can travel on a regular basis, to see and experience all that our amazing world has to offer. But for most of my childhood years my travel came in the form of reading. The public library was my portal to destinations near and far, real and make-believe.

My father gave my daughter and I matching nightgowns for Christmas - "So many books, so little time"

My father gave my daughter and I matching nightgowns for Christmas – “So many books, so little time”

Reading wasn’t just about pretty illustrations, or interesting tales, or something to fill my hours. But a way to be transported to a different location, a new world, an enchanting culture. Reading brings the meaning of escapism to a whole new level – via creative travel writing. I think so often when people read, they may get so caught up in the story line they don’t appreciate the setting.

Think of Gone with the Wind – set in the deep south on beautiful plantations. Or The Thorn Birds set in the Australian outback. Or The Sound of Music set in the hills of Austria. Reading was the catalyst that in later years would entice me to a love of traveling the world around us. My father and I were/are not big chit-chatters. We would spend hours sitting together, not saying a word, our noses in our respective books. In my early years I climbed on to his lap with a book every chance I got. Initially so he could read to me; then when I got older I either read to him or we read our own books. It was just a very special bonding time.

The expansive veranda on the backside of the main house at Magnolia Plantation was built as one of the most modern homes of its time back in the late 1800's.

The expansive veranda on the backside of the main house at Magnolia Plantation was built as one of the most modern homes of its time back in the late 1800’s.

And then he carried that tradition on with his grandchildren, and even had the chance to do that with his great-granddaughter before he passed on. The pictures of he and my daughter sitting side by side reading are priceless. And her love of reading has undoubtedly lead to a deep love of travel for her. As I write this, she is off to Spain and Portugal for nine days – wondering how she was going to manage bringing all of her reading and writing materials. Most girls worry about managing their travel wardrobe.

Great-grandpa reading to his great-granddaughter.

Great-grandpa reading to his great-granddaughter.

Grandpa, once an English and History teacher, sharing with his granddaughter one of his favorite historical novels.

Grandpa, once an English and History teacher, sharing with his granddaughter one of his favorite historical novels.

Now before I go on a trip, I head to the closest book store and buy up every book I can on my intended destination. In the past that meant mainly guide books. But in the last decade or so, travel writing has taken off and now it is common to find a creative non-fiction account of so many of the major destinations. And with the success of these books are coming more books about the hidden gems of travel. Books are being lauded as much for their setting as their thematic content – and not just being cast into a certain genre. I find it rare that I pick up a book that doesn’t create in me a desire to visit the area it is set in, and experience the culture, the people, the visuals that inspired the writer to create a story utilizing all of these aspects of a location.

Many of favorite travel books are:

Anything by Bill Bryson – A Walk in the Woods, Neither Here Nor There, At Home

Anything by Frances Mayes – Under the Tuscan Sun, Every Day in Tuscany, Bella Tuscany

Brad Newsham – Take Me With You

The Best American Travel Writing – an annual anthology of short travel stories, with guest editors

The other element of the influences my Dad had on me – is writing. My father journaled every day for nearly 40 years, and probably long before that at some level. But he saved his journals from his decades of writing in them, and bequeathed them to me in hopes of reading through them to either write his life story, or pick and choose from his experiences and memories to create a fictional depiction based on a certain part of his life. So looks like I’ll have plenty of writing material to work from in the coming decades – many from some amazing travel experiences he had while in the military and as an adult who had a similar love of culture and golf and all the amazing places both can take you. Now if I only I can decipher his writing!

Grandpa reading to Eli, while looking out of Lake Superior on a beautiful spring day - which he will journal about early the next day.

Grandpa reading to Eli, while looking out of Lake Superior on a beautiful spring day – which he will journal about early the next day.

I have not been the best at daily journaling, but where his influence on journaling has taken hold is journaling where I travel. I try to find a small chunk of time every day while traveling to jot down my experiences of the day – or using the long flights home to relive the whole travel experience. Utilizing the 5 senses to fill my journal with reminders of what stood out to me in what was special about the place I was visiting. Journaling captions to go along with the pictures I take has also become a big part of remembering a place so that when I am ready to write a post I am not lost looking at a picture with no recollection of why I took it.

Journaling sitting riverside in the Rocky Mountains of Big Sky, Montana.

Journaling sitting riverside in the Rocky Mountains of Big Sky, Montana.

So next time you are stuck as to where you want to travel to, pick up a book and see if that doesn’t get your travel juices flowing! Or better yet, take the book with you on your travels to enhance your existing travel experience.

My daughter reading on the steps of the Paris Opera House.

My daughter reading on the steps of the Paris Opera House.

Husband reading on the patio at the Charleston Inn on Martha's Vineyard.

Husband reading on the patio at the Charleston Inn on Martha’s Vineyard.

My daughter reading while waiting for a massage at the Glenmere Mansion in New York.

My daughter reading while waiting for a massage at the Glenmere Mansion in New York.

"Don't bother us, Eli and I are reading!"

“Don’t bother us, Eli and I are reading!”

My daughter reading on the steps of the Paris Opera House.

My daughter reading on the steps of the Paris Opera House.

My husband reading while looking out over the 18th green at Pebble Beach.

My husband reading while looking out over the 18th green at Pebble Beach.

My daughter reading at the base of Low Library on the Columbia University campus.

My daughter reading at the base of Low Library steps on the Columbia University campus.

My daughter reading in a Parisian cafe' - oh there's that glass of wine!

My daughter reading in a Parisian cafe’ – oh there’s that glass of wine!

Italy: architecture, food and history

For years the Tuscany region in Italy sat at the top of my bucket travel list. Photos, articles, books, movies continued to feed this desire. And when “Under the Tuscan Sun” was released in book form, and then in an incredibly enticing video depiction in movie form, I was hooked. To date, I have only had the pleasure of visiting Italy once, and sadly never made it to the Tuscany region – but I will get there one day!

Happily, my years have been filled with travel that has fulfilled my travel interests and desires, if not always my exact bucket list. This world we live in is full of hidden gems that deserve equal narration in comparison to the major highlight destinations like Paris, Rome, London, Montreal, Dubai and so many more. But there is a reason, many reasons, these major destinations have earned the reputation of becoming must see places.

Several years ago my mother, daughter and I took off on a 14-day European excursion with Trafalgar Tours via train and bus, that took us through many of Europe’s iconic locations. We started in London, and made our way through Brussels, Cologne, Zurich, Venice, Florence, Rome, Pisa, Monaco, Nice, Lyon and finished up in Paris. A great experience and way to see lots of places in a short amount of time, to help you decide where you might want to go back for longer visits.

Six of those days were spent in Italy. The diversity from northern Italy to southern Italy is as diverse as northern California to southern California. The diversity begins with food: creamier/buttery pasta sauces with some tomatoes in the north, to spicier red pasta sauces in the south. The myriad of the Venice canals sit in stark contrast to the Umbria countryside rolling with ancient grape vines and groves of olive trees, to the free-flowing Mediterranean along the rocky coast of Naples. The inland cities of Milan and Florence exude a higher fashion sense to go with their more formal attitudes, stand in contrast to the more laid back attitudes and lax fashion sense along the Mediterranean cities. The architecturally used colorful natural stones stand strong along with the robust fashion of the north country, in contrast to the earthy subdued limestone and travertine architecture of the south where so many more buildings stand in ruin.

A spicy red sauce pasta served up in a southern Italian town.

A spicy red sauce pasta served up in a southern Italian town.

But even these ruins stand as examples of historical architecture that is seen very little anywhere else in the world. Architecture that has stood the test of wars, environmental decay, man’s negligence, lack of funding – but yet they still stand strong and continue to be a major tourism pull. And a highly coveted design style. The rustic elegance that is achieved by not forcing perfection into what nature made, and honed only slightly by man’s manual tools, are looks that are heavily sought after, and hard to replicate.

Our first induction into Italy was Venice. Not a bad way to start! We began encamped at St. Marks Square where we took in the views of the expansive canals jutting out in every direction, with gondolas lined up to take you to one of the 117 islands. Or down one of the narrow inland canals bringing you nose to nose with amazing architecture like the Bridge of Sighs. Creativity reigns in Venice with visionary mask makers and master glass blowers. I display examples of both in my home today.

The Bridge of Sighs, in the background, spans one of the inland canals in Venice.

The Bridge of Sighs, in the background, spans one of the inland canals in Venice.

Our introduction into Italian cooking was a full-on experience. We took a large gondola over to Burano Island, which is lined with brightly colored pastel houses, to enjoy a seven-course lunch of fresh seafoods, homemade pastas and breads, olives and everything else you think of when craving Italian food. Upon our return to St. Mark’s Square we saw all the outdoor tables in the square had been removed and walking risers installed. Feeling perplexed, we stood with other tourists waiting for the show – the show was high tide that comes in and covers St. Mark’s Square for minimal time and then recedes and life resumes like nothing had ever happened.

Next it was on to Florence. Ah, Florence – land of exquisite leather goods at amazing prices – I think I bought 8 pairs of gloves – red, blue, black, brown, lined, unlined, zippered, unzippered. I stood with mouth agape for eons looking at the colorful architecture of the Duomo (Florence Cathedral) – stones of lush forest greens, soft mint greens, with deep blood reds infused into graying whites make up the structure. Michelangelo’s David, one of the world’s most reproduced and famous statues, stands in all its nude glory in the Accadamia Gallery. And what a treat to watch most every Italian dressed to the nines, going to work, going shopping, stopping for an espresso, heading to lunch or dinner. No occasion was too small or too big to “be seen.”

The Duomo in Florence, showcasing the locally mined stone used to build this beautiful cathedral.

The Duomo in Florence, showcasing the locally mined stone used to build this beautiful cathedral.

No trip to Italy would be complete without a visit to the iconic city of Rome. We needed two full days to tour structures that make Rome exactly that – iconic:

Colosseum – replete with costumed gladiators standing guard at the gates and more than ready to take a picture with you for a few euros; a structure so massive you stand in awe to think of how it was built, so many centuries ago. Close your eyes and imagine the stands filled with patrons watching gladiators fight or the chariot races – kings and queens on one side, peasants on the other.

Trevi Fountain – It was here I finally understood the energy level of our tour guide, Eliana, who speaks 5 languages and herded her 32 charges from multiple countries through 9 countries in 14 days with such fortitude. She grabbed my arm and we ran across the street from the highly ornate marble Trevi fountain to her favorite Italian espresso caffe’. As I began to sip my espresso Eliana giggled and said,”No, slam it like a shot of whisky!” After that boost we took our coin change and she showed me how you stand with your back to the fountain, throw a coin over your left shoulder with your right hand and make a wish.

Tucked in the middle of residential and retail buildings, the Trevi Fountain has not lost its lustre as a tourist draw.

Tucked in the middle of residential and retail buildings, the Trevi Fountain has not lost its lustre as a tourist draw.

Catacombs – definitely not for the faint of heart (or tall people), but an amazing site to see the size of these ancient people and intellectual engineering of these unending funeral tunnels. We visited the Catacombs of Domatilla, built beyond the only subterranean basilica, are the oldest (2nd century), largest (9 miles of tunnels) and the only catacombs to still hold bones.

The Vatican – this independent state within Rome encapsulates everything that is Italian culture – architecture, art and Catholicism. We spent a full day on the grounds: standing in a 3-hour line to bare witness to Michelangelo’s iconic ceiling murals in the Sistine Chapel; tried to absorb the immensity of St. Peter’s Basilica – the anchor of Vatican City; and finish up with an Italian gelato on the Spanish Steps.

St. Peter's Basilica bathed in the light from the setting sun.

St. Peter’s Basilica bathed in the light from the setting sun.

Our final stop in Italy landed us in Pisa. There are no words or pictures that can truly convey this anomaly of architecture finished in 1372. It defies all logic how this tower not only was built with this much tilt (where were the inspectors?) – because of being built on ground that was softer on one side; but that it never fell over prior to being stabilized in the 20th century. The 4 degrees of lean may not sound like much, but I didn’t step up to the front of the line to check out the view from the top.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa. What else is there to say.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa. What else is there to say.

Betwixt and between these amazing cities lay the Tuscan hillsides, with their long cypress lined driveways leading up to magnificent villas just waiting for visitors to come sit on their verandas to relax with a glass of Barolo, nibble on estate grown olives and almonds, while reading a favorite book. Hopefully my next trip to Italy those visions will come to fruition.

(A special thank you for the use of pictures from “A Portrait of Italy” by Dwight V. Gast)

Happy Trails in the New Year of 2015!

After a relaxing and fun-filled holiday season, I am refreshed and re-energized for another year of blogging! Travel plans are already underway for Canada, Spain, South of France, Alaska, Montana and Cape Cod. And if I know my family, there will be more additions to that already great list of travel destinations.

According to an article in todays New York Times, What a Stronger Dollar Means for the Economy, the Euro is trading at the lowest it has in 9 years – which means a strong US dollar for travel to Europe. So there may be a need to add an extension to the list of European locals.

The start of a new year is a time to think forward, make resolutions, plan. But it is also a time to reflect on the year we recently gave closure. Revel in the highlights, learn from the lowlights, and be grateful and happy for all of the new memories made to savor in the years to come. My nephew and his girlfriend started an in person chat session at our New Year’s Even gathering asking everybody what their personal highlight of 2014 was and what their family highlight of 2014 was: my personal highlight was accomplishing the one year anniversary of my travel blog – and still going strong; my family highlight was flying my kids home to surprise their father for his 50th birthday.

For myself and my travel forays, 2014 was a year that saw me sticking closer to home. Which is something I intend to build on. All corners of the US and points in between behold scenery to rival any place outside of the US and I plan to make a concerted effort to add a few of these amazing locations to my 2015 travel bucket list.

I live within a 6 hour drive of some of the most incredible rock formations showcasing some of the most vibrant colors – swirling red and tan sands, stoic red rock, and azure blue watering holes. Inclusive of the Grand Canyon, The Wave, and the Sedona Red Rocks. So add Arizona, Utah and New Mexico to that growing travel list.

I will also take the opportunity to continue to expound on features I implemented in 2014 – i.e. monthly restaurant reviews and writings by guest bloggers. I plan to expand my ‘Favorite Author/Artist‘ section by adding links and writings of several favorite travel writers, and artists of all genres, I have begun to follow over recent years.

For now I am off to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I will share the beauty of one of the most remarkable large cities in the world – where the waters of the Pacific Ocean flow into the Salish Sea on the west end of the city and the mountains of Whistler provide a dramatic backdrop to the North.

Happy New Year and all the best to my readers for a great 2015!

Happy New Year! Cheers to a great year ahead in 2015!

Happy New Year! Cheers to a great travel year ahead in 2015!