by Marcel Proust
“Discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
by Marcel Proust
One of my husband’s hobbies is checking out reasonably priced flights and hotels. I am the lucky recipient of the great deals he finds, for which I am very thankful. One evening while sitting at his computer, he asked if I wanted to go to Singapore. For a short window of time United Airlines had affordable business class tickets and he found a luxury hotel for a competitive price. Bingo! Before I knew it, we had booked a vacation to Singapore. Maybe it had something to do with my one-day layover in Singapore en route to Bali in 1992 or watching the recent movie Crazy Rich Asians.
Anyway, I asked myself several times what the heck was I doing to embark on a 16-hour trans-Pacific flight and why Singapore. I was questioning my very sanity. But in the end, I am so glad I did because we had a great time and enjoyed the many cultural layers of ethnicity. Singapore is much more than the sum of its numerous attractions. Singapore is a wealthy city state in southeast Asia, adjacent to Malaysia. Different ethnic and religious groups live together in harmony and peace and seem genuinely happy to be where they are. The country is known for its transition from a third-world country to a first-world country in a single generation. It places highly in the key social indicators concerning education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety and housing. When it comes to safety, we never once felt that we were in any kind of danger. I have never seen a cleaner subway than in Singapore. And you can use the restrooms, which has not been the case in any other country I have been to including the USA. I’d rather pee in my pants then go into a restroom in the subway in New York, Frankfurt or Paris. I realize that Singapore is a flawed democracy, with harsh sentences and limited free speech. Maybe I am just naive because I am not familiar with the nuances of the culture. But I liked what I saw and enjoyed this friendly city with its happy and helpful people.
Our outbound flight was pleasant because we went nonstop from San Francisco to Singapore. United’s new Polaris class is fine, and adequately comfortable as I could turn my seat into a small bed where I could stretch out with two pillows and two blankets. Since we flew at night, I was able to sleep for six hours and watched three movies. I loved Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Our return flight was turbulent and not as comfortable. The new 787 Boeing airplanes are sleek airplanes, and the air circulation system seems to have been improved. However, everything seems to get smaller to add more seats. I miss the old 747 jumbo jets.
We arrived at 6 am, and after checking into our lovely hotel, walked to the Botanical Garden. The 184-acre garden opened in 1859 by the Agri-horticultural Society and was an important center to cultivate plants, especially the rubber tree. I could spend days there to enjoy the tranquility of this lush tropical garden. The garden is free to enter and became a Unesco World Heritage site in 2015. There are 10,000 different species of flora can be found in the garden.
The orchid garden is in the forefront of Orchid Studies and has been a pioneer in the cultivation of hybrids. Visiting heads of state and celebrities have orchids named after them.
This is the orchid named after Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. She is one of my favorite politicians at the moment.
There are several different restaurants located in the park. The corner house is a one-star Michelin restaurant. There are two other restaurants in the garden that are more casual. I didn’t eat in either, but I enjoyed a wonderful cup of ginger tea. It was the best I ever had, made with ginger from the garden.
And then there are the Gardens by the Bay, spanning 250 acres of reclaimed land. It has a fantastic futuristic design that would take days to explore. It is an enormous botanical garden, located right by the waterfront of Marina Bay, consisting of three parts: Bay South Garden, Bay Central Garden, and Bay East Garden. Like most tourists, we concentrated on the Bay South Garden with the Super Trees, Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome
The Cloud Forest Dome is absolutely amazing. It has the world’s tallest indoor 35-meter waterfall which descends through a mist-filled, temperature-controlled cloud walk and treetop walk. Both my husband and I were taken by this marvel of engineering and plant life that ranges from tropical highlands to ferns and hidden floral gems with an abundance of orchids. It is a jungle built on concrete that makes you feel like you are in an alien and surreal world.
Next to the Cloud Garden is the Flower Dome. It is the largest glass greenhouse in the world. Here you will find plants from the Mediterranean and semi-arid subtropical region. We took a little break in the California Garden and felt at home.
There is so much more to see and experience in this uniquely designed outdoor space.
We also decided to visit the ArtScience Museum which had an interesting light exhibit. I am interested in that because my niece is an architect in light design.
And then there is Singapore’s iconic hotel called Marina Sands with the world’s largest infinity pool on the roof, a casino with shopping and eating until you drop. We decided to visit the rooftop bar and had a Singapore Sling while enjoying the view, although we were not allowed in the pool since we were not guests of the hotel. I was going to go to the Raffles Hotel for my Singapore Sling, but unfortunately it was closed for renovations
Our hotel, the Saint Regis, felt like an old-fashioned luxury retreat in a very busy world. I was always happy when the doorman greeted me with a smile. I know I could relax, go for a swim after being immersed in the humid climate of Singapore. Almost every afternoon, I treated myself to a wonderful hazelnut dessert and at night we had a drink at the Astor Bar admiring the original Picassos on the walls. What a life! Oh, and let’s not forget the breakfast, with an astonishing variety of international dishes that made it difficult to choose. Every morning, I ate my fill.
On a late Sunday morning, we decided to take the local bus to Kampong Glam, an area with an eclectic blend of history, culture and a trendy lifestyle scene. It is a vibrant district, one of Singapore’s oldest urban neighborhoods. “Glam” is a local term for glamorous and “Kampong” derives from the Malayan word kampong which means “compound.” It’s a buzzing neighborhood with locals and tourists alike. The streets are lined with generations-old heritage stores, independent boutiques and craft shops. There are many local culinary delights to discover in this area, unfortunately I didn’t try any. Haji Street is the in most popular street visited by tourists. This is the only street where graffiti is allowed and you will find the trendiest boutiques and shops. We also liked the surrounding area, which I thought was more authentic. It was so interesting to observe the local culture here with its diverse lifestyle.
Singapore is a paradise for foodies. People are obsessed with their food and have a strong opinion on where and what to eat. I concentrated on the local food, even though they have everything else. It would take months to write about eating in Singapore. Each culture has their own specialties and for most of the population, they are affordable due to the Hawker Centers in town.These food stalls are true melting pots where you can share good, affordable Chinese, Indian, or Malayan food in one place. It is here where Singaporeans from across income levels and ethnicities gather to eat with dedicated purpose. Everyone has their own opinion on where to get the best chicken rice, chili crab, or other ethnic dishes. You will find pages and pages of recommendations.
I followed the advice of a New York Times article and ate at the Hawker Chan, a Chinese eatery in Chinatown. It was awarded a Michelin star in 2016, and I don’t know why. The chicken rice was very good, but the place had no resemblance to any Michelin-starred restaurant I have ever been to. Michelin stars are earned based on food, service, and ambience, at least that what I thought. Somebody, please explain this to me. I had a delicious Banh Mi sandwich in another stall at a different Hawker Center, which I thought was just as good.
We also enjoyed a great Chinese meal in the huge Marina Sands complex during a torrential downpour.
Unfortunately, because of the humidity and tropical climate, I could not eat a lot. I saw some fantastic food that I wanted to try, but it I didn’t have the necessary appetite to do so. Everybody recommended to try the chili or pepper crab, a specialty of Singapore. My husband and I shared one outdoors overlooking the Singapore River. It was delicious, as we picked out the live crab that was imported from Alaska.
One early afternoon we took a 45-minute boat tour on the Singapore River which was pleasant.
Was Singapore worth the trip? You bet it was. It was an interesting experience with many choices and lots to see. I travel because it gives me the opportunity to observe another culture and enjoy watching people. It makes me more humble and I hope gives me more understanding. I always learn something new. And I love mingling with the locals and in water falls on hot humid days.
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.” Thomas Jefferson
Paris is all about walking and finding new treasures. There is so much to see and learn. I enjoyed reading The Most Beautiful Walk in The World by John Baxter, an Australian who used to give historic walking tours. It is a wonderful book, even if you don’t go to Paris.
But my trip was almost over before it had begun. We had taken a taxi from the airport to the hotel. The taxi happened to be a mini-van, and as I got out, I twisted one foot on the cobblestone. As I was falling down, the taxi driver scooped me up like a bird and saved me from injury. I’m glad I had given him a good tip. From then on, I wore tennis shoes instead of sandals. Traveling isn’t for the faint of heart, but the kindness of strangers can make it easier.
On my last night in Paris, I was strolling through the small streets of Saint Germaine back to my hotel and I felt like I was in a Woody Allen movie. People were sitting outside enjoying the warm summer night, and the store windows were full of beautiful tasteful displays. I didn’t want this to be my last night in Paris. I wanted to stay just a little bit longer listening to the saxophone player, keeping this feeling of serene beauty and ambience of the City of Lights.
It had been hot the four days we were in Paris, but not as hot as in previous visits. And our hotel had air conditioning, which made all the difference in the world. Our hotel was in the middle of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris. This Bohemian part of Paris used to be home to many artists and intellectuals. It is so easy to get off the beaten track and end up in hidden lanes admiring 17th-century architecture. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you end up in a charming secret passage and don’t want to leave, or continue to the Latin Quarter or Notre Dame. There is always something that makes me feel like I belong there.
Our hotel was right around the corner from the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is being restored at this time. There are many famous cafés within walking distance, so you can pretend to be Hemingway, Jean Paul Sartre or Simone de Beauvoir sipping a pastîs, an anise-flavored drink which is also one of my favorites.
Our four days went by so fast. On a hot Saturday morning, we decided to visit the Musée Jaquemart-André. This hidden gem of a museum is a treasure, located on the boulevard Haussmann. It is home to a huge collection of art, furnishings and sculptures collected by banking heir, Edouard André, and his artist wife, Nélie Jaquemart. During their lifetime, they transformed this beautiful mansion into a museum housing their extensive art collection. We enjoyed the visit very much as we didn’t have to fight the enormous crowds at the D’Orsay or the Louvre. But I regret not having tea at the café.
We also signed up for the Opéra Garnier tour, which was over-crowded and too hot. But nevertheless, I got to set foot into this beautiful building. Maybe one day, I will get to see a performance. It’s a stunningly beautiful building and I recommend the tour.
Do to the heat, we preferred our restaurants to have outdoor seating, since most places don’t have air conditioning.
Years ago, we ate with a young friend at Le Procope, a legendary restaurant in the 6th arrondissement open since 1686. We decided to revisit this restaurant and had a delightful lunch. But it was hot and had no air conditioning— but neither did Thomas Jefferson when he ate here over 200 years ago.
We also had another delightful lunch with friends from the States at Le Grand Colbert, which everybody loved for the fantastic food — and air conditioning. The architecture and design of this place is as great as the food and ambiance. Click here to read more about the Grand Colbert on a previous post.
We left on a Sunday morning on a train to Zürich and and returned to Paris the following week to catch our flight back to San Francisco the next day. When we arrived at the train station from Zürich, we had our last meal at the LeTrain Bleu, an iconic restaurant in the Gare de Lyon. The restaurant is decorated in a sumptuous art nouveau style. The food is excellent and the surroundings are spectacular—and authentically French. If you go, have the Rum Baba for dessert.
I hope I get another opportunity to visit Paris again, and enjoy it as much as I did this time. Click on the buttons below and read about my other trips to Paris.
Aloha and welcome (e komo mai) to the Island of Oahu. Most people stay in Wakiki when they visit Oahu, known for its legendary beautiful beaches, high-rise buildings and endless shops. Waikiki is the playground of the Pacific. What I like about Wakiki is that you can explore it by foot or take THE BUS, a great public transportation system. If you are over 65, take your Medicare card and you can ride the bus for $1. Hawaiian people are friendly and will always help you find the right bus. Think of Waikiki as a giant shopping mall where you can go in every store and try on whatever you want. But if you don’t want to shop, there are gorgeous beaches where you can avoid the shopping frenzy and watch a classic sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
Sometimes, within just a few steps, you are transported back in time 100 years. Two of those places on the strip of Wakiki are the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Moana Surfrider. Both have modern towers attached, but in both hotels there is an older, original part. The Royal Hawaiian is hidden between high-rise towers, but I find it to be an oasis of old-time charm. Walking through the lobby and outside grounds is a must for me every time I am in Wakiki. I have stayed in the old rooms several times and enjoyed it tremendously. Their bar on the beach is a favorite spot to have a mai tai and to watch the sunset. When you stay at the hotel, you are greeted with their famous banana bread (get the recipe here). You can buy it now at their coffee shop.
At the Moana Surfrider Hotel , you can sit in a rocking chair and watch the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. Go upstairs in the lobby and look at photos of the old Hawaii.
We have driven around the Island several times and stayed in different hotels on different sides of the island. During this last visit we decided to relax and stay put, go swimming every day, and eat good food.
I love to go for early morning walks, leaving Waikiki and going into residential areas. I admire the old houses with their interesting doors. I might take a yoga or tai chi class on the lawn of the park.
Oahu is home to a diverse population which put their stamp on the architecture, food and way of living. Whenever I visit the islands, I enjoy watching the hula dance which is being performed by old and young everywhere. This classic Hawaiian dance is being taught to young children, who perform it often and very beautifully. It always brings me joy and I like to dance it myself when I am alone. The hula is a Polynesian form of story telling, brought to Hawaii by a woman named La'ila'i in the 6th century. It takes a lot of love and commitment to master it.
Let's go back to the beach where I swim in the warm, clear blue Pacific Ocean every day. I don't go in far, because I am not a good swimmer. No one teaches you how to swim when you grow up on a farm in northern Germany. But I do like floating and having the waves caress me. I feel safe, and it is such a pleasurable experience.
For our first dinner we choose The Eating House, a restaurant by Roy Yamaguchi, who pioneered bringing local Hawaiian food to the local restaurants. I often eat at his other restaurant called Roy's in Honolulu. At the Eating House I had a Royal Hawaiian cocktail which was the best one on this trip.
Iron Chef Morimoto has two new restaurants in Waikiki. We ate at the casual Momosan Waikiki on the patio. It has wonderful small plates like tetsunabe pork gyoza with a ginger scallion sauce that is flambeed with sake at your table. My duck confit small bites were out of this world. My husband had the noodle dish that they are known for. They also have pig ears on their menu, but I decided to pass on that one in spite of good reviews. You can also order take-out and have it at the beach.
I used to have lunch at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room in the Ala Moana Shopping center, but it is now closed. Instead, I had a wonderful and reasonably priced dim sum at the Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant on the 3rd level of the shopping center. I enjoyed every bite and didn't need to eat again the entire day. The waiting lines are long since locals eat here.
Marukame Udon is a well-loved casual place where they make their own noodles. It is my friends, Susan and Jim's, favorite place. There are always very long lines and people absolutely rave about this place.
There is so much more to Honolulu, like downtown Chinatown, which is a treasure for foodies. For me, it is more interesting than San Francisco. I have taken some food tours on previous visits, but not this time. There is the Bishop Museum which is a museum of history and science. On previous visits we went to the Doris Duke Shangri La home and enjoyed the tour. The Queen's Iolani Palace is steeped in Hawaiian history and is worthy of a visit. I have not yet been to the Honolulu opera but have heard it is fantastic.
This was my happy place this time—the infinity pool at the Sheraton Wakiki.
Here is a photo of me five years ago and another one of me now. Still happy.
Mahola and I hope to visit again. Aloha.
I will always love Paris even though every time I return it seems to get a little bit noisier with more tourists. But that is just the way it is. So, it is important to stay away from the masses by finding passages or side streets that are less traveled.
We walk and walk and walk , in-between we take a break on a bench or in a cafe , resting and watching the people.
It was still August when we arrived and many of our favorite restaurants were closed but we discovered some new places and had some wonderful meals. We had our first dinner at
Le Grand Colbert where the oysters were great. It was a pleasant evening with a satisfying meal. We slept well on our first night. This is the place were the the mesmerizing birthday cake scene in “Something Gotta Give” was filmed
The next day we had dinner at the old Brasserie Le Dome Cafe in Montparnasse. This is a fish restaurant and I understand their Sole Meunier is outstanding but we shared a plate of fruits of the ocean ( plateau fruits de mer) with a nice bottle of muscatel. .
Near Le Halles is E. Dehillerin, my favorite kitchen store, a heaven for foodies. You want a mandolin specifically for slicing truffles, they have it. Whenever I am in Paris I have to go to this iconic store where Julia Child bought her copper pots. They have everything and more and they will ship. I still use my crepe pan I bought twenty years ago.
Another night we ate at La Fontane De Mars which is a retro style bistro with an old fashion ambiance. The cuisine is traditionally bistro style food . The menu is vast with daily menus on the blackboard. I especially enjoyed my Floating Island Dessert ( Ile Flottante) . President Obama and his wife dined here.
On a hot Sunday we took the RER to Versailles and enjoyed the beautiful gardens. Here we had a nice lunch just outside the garden
After returning from Burgundy we spent the last day of our trip in Paris . Dropping our rental car off at the airport was not an easy task but we managed. We took the RER into Paris and did some shopping at Lafayette, they have a wonderful food section. I bought some herbs and tea for my friends at home and some food to take back to our hotel at the airport to have a picnic in our room while we were getting ready for an early departure. While downtown Paris we ate lunch at an outside cafe and did some more shopping at Ladurée, an upscale bakery specializing in macarons which my girlfriend in Santa Cruz had requested.
The Burgundy is region of France world-renowned for its outstanding wine and food. It is the end of the rainbow for people who appreciate food and wine. This works out splendidly for my husband and me, as he loves great wine and I love great food. For many years, when I would visit my parents and family in Germany, my father would give us his car and we did a week or two exploring Europe. On an early trip, we stumbled upon the Château Bellecroix and stayed in their smallest room in the turret, lugging our suitcases up the stairs and smuggling in wine bought in a store. Living in a real chateau is such a great experience. It was fun and still is today, although now we prefer the ground floor. From this quiet and tranquil place, we visited all the great wineries and fantastic restaurants. By the way, this place is for sale.
My husband loves Chassagne Montrachet, where he shows me the Grand Cru vineyards . As good as the wines are, they have equally good restaurants. While my husband drooled over the wine, I asked the sales girl for recommendations of some good places to eat. She pointed out a cute little outdoor restaurant called La Cabone, which is run by the same woman who also owns a new restaurant called Ed.Em. I didn't eat in either one and wish I had, because we went on to visit Beaune and had a very bad meal. After being disappointed, I ended up in a nice patisserie with a great piece of a hazelnut chocolate dessert and an espresso. .
For the next two days, we relaxed at the Bellecroix and decided to have dinner on Friday night and a Sunday lunch at two totally different restaurants. In early years, the Bellecroix offered a great dinner. My husband proclaims they had the best foie gras, which the cook made himself. Unfortunately, the Bellecroix had closed its restaurant in January and the owner recommended a place in Rully, a nearby village. This place offers French country cooking at its best. My husband and I both loved our meal. Don’t expect anything fancy (because it isn’t), but boy is it good. I had snail raviolis served in a creamy cheese sauce. Both of our main courses were delicious with a great sauce and I had a delicious crème brûlée .
If you want a three-star spectacular and very expensive experience, make a reservation at the Maison Lameloise in Chagny. It will cost you a sack of gold, but you will experience French food and culture at its best. I can only describe it as a sensual sensation with flavors exploding in your mouth, an art form unto itself. It's not so much about the meat or the fish, but what it comes with it—the work and creativity that the chef puts into every single little detail. It is a culinary experience one never forgets in the hallowed temple of French cuisine.
The Sunday market in Chagny is large and a lot of fun. It sells live feathered animals of all sizes.
On this trip, we visited Dijon for the first time. Dijon is the capital of Burgundy and right away mustard pops into our minds. But Dijon is about so much more than just mustard. This quaint town in the northeast of France has a rich cultural heritage, with beautiful vineyards surrounding it—one of four official French cities of gastronomy. We stayed in a cute modern hotel called Vertigo. The staff was super helpful and friendly and the rooms were high-tech. We stayed for two days and never got into the car.
The first night we ate at the restaurant, bistro DZ’envies, a trendy restaurant with a canteen feel where chef, David Zuddas, will satisfy your culinary desires. And you don't need to dress up. We sat outside next to the Les Halles of Dijon’s market and enjoyed a remarkable meal.
The second night we ate at L’Oiseau Des Ducs, a restaurant with a Michelin star. This is part of the Bernard L’Oiseau chain and lives up to its reputation. Here we had the menu dégustion. When you order this menu, you get to sample small portions of the chef’s signature dishes. The food was wonderful with subtle flavors.
I hope I have the chance to visit this beautiful region of France again.
My recent trip to New York was a very special trip. The Cabrillo Symphonic and Youth Choirs performed at Carnegie Hall. My girlfriend, Diane sings in the chorus. It's not every day that I get to watch a friend perform at Carnegie Hall, I had to go and I am so glad I did. The chorus performed the New York premiere of a beautiful piece written by the composer Erik Ešenvalds called “The Long Road,” part of his masterpiece, “Sunset in my Hand: Ancient Voices of the Wild Pacific Coast.” It was a touching and memorable experience for all involved.
My solo trip unfolded without any hiccups, other than the moment when I almost lost my wallet in a taxi. When you take a taxi in New York make sure you ask for a receipt as you enter the taxi. This way you can track down your driver in case you leave something behind.
I took the red-eye special from San Francisco and arrived in NYC early Saturday morning. Upon checking in my hotel stored my luggage and after a large cup of coffee I was ready to go. My girlfriend’s sister and her daughter took me along that day. This was good because I was super tired and not always able to function properly. We got half-price tickets at the TKTS on Time Square for a matinee and saw “A Doll’s House: Part 2” by Lucas Hnath. The play picks up after Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House" concludes. Even though I nodded off just a little bit in the beginning, eventually it got my full attention. What I liked about this play is that nobody was stereotyped as good or bad, although everybody was right and everybody was wrong.
I also saw “Little Foxes” by Lillian Hellman with Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon (from “Sex in the City”), and Richard Thomas, who was John John in “The Waltons” TV series from years ago. The acting in this play was superb. Another play I thoroughly enjoyed was "Present Laughter" starring Kevin Kline.
I saw “The Little Foxes“ by myself. After getting my program autographed by the actors I had a wonderful light Japanese meal at Natsumi around the corner from the theater. The edamame dumplings were outstanding.
The first night I had a charred octopus appetizer puttanesca-style with fingerling potatoes and a bell pepper vinaigrette at Bonoit Bistro near my hotel. Food was not the focus of this trip. We ate twice at the Brooklyn Diner because it stays open late and is near Carnegie Hall. I enjoyed their BLT crab burger and Kugel noodle
I enjoyed wandering around Central Park, eating a hot dog , and appreciating New York City. On my last day my friends and I spent the day at the Metropolitan Museum.
Even though I had planned to go the MoMa, I didn't make time for it, but I did have a refreshing drink and appetizer at Moderner, a great restaurant next to the MoMa. Altogether, it was a wonderful trip and I am glad I decided to go. Read more about New York on my other post from last year.
My niece and her husband live in Lüneburg, an historical, attractive and livable town located about 31 miles from Hamburg. Lüneburg is located between the Elbe river and the Heathland. The Heathland or Heide (as it is called in German) is rural area with heather, juniper and farm houses covered with straw-thatched roofs. Lüneburg was not destroyed during the war and has retained its medieval character. It is one of the prettiest towns in northern Germany and dates back 1000 years. Lüneburg was once a very wealthy town thanks to its salt industry, which was the gold of the Middle Ages. In the town, you will find old magnificent buildings in northern German gothic style, and narrow alleyways. The old city hall was built in 1230 A.D. and today is still the city hall. I always enjoy my visits to Lüneburg because I get to spend some time with my niece and her husband. On previous visits, I have gone to the Salt Museum and water tower.
After Lüneburg, my niece and I spent three wonderful days in Berlin. We arrived on a Friday and my niece invited two of her friends to enjoy the evening and have dinner together.
I am a creature of habit and like to stay in the Mitte (the new center of Berlin). From here, I can walk to Museum Island and one of the opera houses. Unter den Linden is one of the main streets with the Brandenburger Tor and many more attractions. Our hotel, The Westin Grand Berlin has a grand lobby with a bar where we met my niece's friends for a drink. Then we went to a very "in" and super cool restaurant called Crackers for a wonderful dinner. The menu is diverse, fresh and modern. Someone on Trip Advisor described this place as a cool hip spot with stylish food, I agree! I had vegan ravioli with a hazelnut sauce that was delicious. I like going out with the younger generation and enjoy listening to their stories.
On Saturday, we had a lazy morning and did some shopping in the afternoon. We had lunch at Galeries Lafayette, a French department store. They have a wonderful food section. In the evening, we went to the "Komische Oper," which is next to our hotel and saw Der Jahrmarkt von Sorotschinzi (translated as the Fair at Sorochyntsi), an opera by Mussorgsky. The chorus was fantastic, with some Ukrainian folk tunes that are incorporated into the opera. There is additional music composed by Rimsky-Korssakov. The lineup of folk archetypes includes a drunken father, a daughter, and a stepmother's aphrodisiac baking. She makes dumplings to keep her lover and has a bizarre encounter with an oven-ready turkey.
A wonderful weekend goes by fast. On Sunday, we strolled along the Spree River visiting some open-air markets and the Alte Nationalgallerie at Museum Island. Museum Island is now a UNESCO world heritage site and I always enjoy a visit to one their beautiful museums. The Old National Gallery shows a collection of Neoclassical, Romantic, Impressionist and early Modernist artwork. You will find many famous names in this beautiful gallery like Cezanne, Renior and many more. This gallery was designed by Fridrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia in the 19th century, who dreamt of creating a "sanctuary for art and science".
My favorite painting in the gallery is the "Little Princess of The Heath", die Heidenprinzeßchen by Fritz von Uhde. The little girl reminds me of myself, I like her attitude.
What else is a girl to do when she sees some beautiful hats that are handmade by a local artist? Support the local artist of course! Soon, it was time to say good bye and this good bye was easy, because we knew we would see each other again in May in California.
Whenever you are in Germany, try the curry wurst, a sausage slathered with ketchup and sprinkled with curry and paprika powder. Read more about Berlin here.
Several decades ago when I first immigrated to the United States, I spent my first night in New York City. I was afraid of and fascinated by this amazing metropolis. While living on the East Coast, I visited a couple of more times but never stayed overnight. My first real visit was in 2002, when my husband and I stayed for a week. The wounds of September 11 were wide open and the city was slowly recovering. After that, there were several more visits.
We arrived after a 5-hour flight from San Francisco. The flight was not pleasant, but I managed to get through it by reading Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Our book club chose this fascinating book for our next meeting. After checking into our hotel, we found a small French restaurant in our neighborhood and had a pleasant meal. It was nice to watch the locals and tourists alike.
I packed this day full of outdoor walking activities because there was a tropical storm warning for New York. We took the subway to have a cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho. Imagine a marriage between a croissant and a donut. If you like to learn more, click here. The lines were not long and we walked out with our boxes of goodies 10 minutes later. Of course, I had to add a salty caramel eclair to my bag. The cronuts only made it to the next bench in a little park, where my husband and I inhaled them. They were delicious.
Having to walk off some extra calories, we continued walking to Washington Square and then took a taxi to Eataly where we had lunch. Eataly is a foodie's paradise. If you want Italian crafted eats, you will find it all: fresh house made pasta, cookbooks, homemade gelato, great prosciutto and a strong cup of Lavazza expresso. There are several restaurants to choose from. We had lunch at the fish counter. I had a tasty octopus salad and my hubby had the best little flatbread ever (they called it a pizza). It was divine, filled with mozzarella and then topped with clams. The couple next to us ordered delicious looking grilled razor clams and oysters.
In the afternoon, we walked the High Line, a linear urban park built atop a mile-and-half-long stretch of abandoned railroad track. This is a great walk where you can catch a glimpse into the private lives of the New Yorkers from above. We had dinner at Rue 57, a restaurant with memories for us, as we have eaten here on every visit. This time we enjoyed an outside table, where we ate a small meal.
I went to Brooklyn to visit my blogger friend, Suzanne. She has a wonderful blog called a ”apuginthekitchen.com". We had a nice lunch in one of Brooklyn's neighborhood cafes and then went to the local flea market. It was fun to feel like a local. Thank you, Suzanne, for the lovely tour. For dinner that night, I made a reservation at Daniel's Boulud Bistro BD Moderne:www.dbbistro.com/nyc/” It was the best meal we had in New York. The service, the attention to detail, and the food was all outstanding. I didn't take any photos. because I wanted to enjoy this wonderful meal. For a starter, I had beets whipped with goat cheese, gooseberries and pickled shallots. For the main courses, my husband had duck confit with creamy polenta and I had braised Spanish octopus. It was the most tender octopus I have ever had. It was a perfect 10 as far as I am concerned. Our dessert was a molten chocolate fondant and the restaurant surprised us with a complimentary raspberry tarte. The whole meal was a real treat. I hope to go to more of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in the future.
It was Sunday, and with no rain or tropical storm in the forecast, we walked through Central Park and up Madison Avenue with all its fancy store fronts to the Guggenheim Museum. I love the layout of this museum and the collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art. I am sorry I didn’t make it to the new Whitney. We walked back to our hotel through a street fair and I had a German hot dog. It was good, but I have had better. In the evening, we went to the Broadway show The Book of Mormon. We both enjoyed it.
It was Labor Day and we decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on the pedestrian walkway. It is a wonderful stroll with awesome views of lower Manhattan and the New York Harbor. While walking to Brooklyn, I was thinking of lunch at the River Cafe. But because it was a holiday, they had finished the brunch menu and we couldn't get in. We took the ferry back to Manhattan and walked along Wall Street. We decided not to go to the 911 Memorial because they were too many people. Instead, we took the subway to the Chelsea Market. Being a holiday, it was so crowded that my husband and I could not enjoy it. We had a late lunch (or early dinner) at the Spotted Pig. We ate at the bar sharing a hamburger and french fries, which were delicious. For dessert, we walked to the BIG Gay Ice Cream shop to have a sundae. This is a very trendy place and the line was long. In the evening, we went to another Broadway show. We saw Aladdin, which is a fabulous Disney production. Disney remodeled the New Amsterdam Theater back to the days of the Ziegfeld Girls with its unique architecture and art nouveau style. I truly enjoyed my evening.
We decided to take it easy on our last day. We did a little shopping and my husband got to pick a restaurant for lunch. We had a huge lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant. This historic seafood place is located in the lower level of the Grand Central Terminal and has arched tile ceilings in a vintage setting. The restaurant serves two million bivalves a year. I love to watch the oyster stew being cooked. I am sharing a recipe for the oyster stew from Ruth Reichl’s blog on my home page.
My girlfriend's son Max prepared a list of his favorite restaurants in New York. Thank you Max, this list got a lot of approval from locals.
Edie and the Wolf
Big Gay Ice Cream
Uncle Boons Thai
Dominique Amsel Bakery
Xian Famous Foods
The Spotted Pig
Rouge et Blanc
Mission Chinese Vince Giordano at the Iguana Club every Monday and Tuesday night
The wedding and party was such a wonderful experience. I will post about it later when I get better photos. During that time, my husband and I and the groom’s parents and their relatives stayed in a family-owned hotel in a nearby little town called Hardegsen. Neither the New York Times traveling section nor Rick Steeves have been there.
After the wedding, my husband and I drove south to a town on the Rhine river called Breisach. Breisach is in the upper Black Forest across from Alsace Lorraine. It was just right to overnight there and continue to Grindelwald the following day. Breisach is a small historical town, perfect for any history buff.
The way to Grindelwald is beautiful, but driving through Basel with a car is always a challenge, with too many tunnels and always some construction going on. We were happy when we reached Grindelwald, our destination. Our little apartment at the Kirchbühl was waiting for us and Frau Brawand, the owner, gave us a warm welcome. We settled in for our six days in Switzerland.
The first day, we took the cable car to First, a mountain top with gorgeous views and a popular hiking area to a lake called Bachalpsee. There is also a thrilling cliff walk that is spectacular. Leave it to the clever Swiss to build something like this.
Another day we took the cable car to the Pfingstegg, a 10-minute cable ride up the Wetterhorn with great hikes offering unique views of Grindelwald and the glacier. There is a playground for children and a summer toboggan run. Grindelwald is the perfect spot for a family vacation. Everybody will forget about their devices and games when they are in the high alpine country. The Swiss introduce their children to hiking in the high country at an early age, just like the French teach their children to enjoy good food.
We also took our favorite cable ride from Grund to the Männlichen. Sitting in the gondola, you feel like flying above the tree tops and cow pastures with gorgeous views around you. This is something that will take your breath away. Once you reach Männlichen, you have a great place to eat and drink and a fun playground for young children. My man and I had tea and waited for the clouds to disappear before we began our walk to the Kleine Scheidegg, my favorite hike in the Swiss alps. The wildflowers had started to bloom and I was in heaven. As we got to the end of the walk, the Eigner north wall popped up between the clouds, while in the valley below was Grindelwald.
Once we reached the Kleine Scheidegg, there is a train junction for the Jungfraujoch. We took the train back to Grindelwald, although there is a spectacular hike around the Eigner, but we were too pooped. But before we took the train back, I had a piece of delicious apricot tart at the old Hotel Bellevue.
My husband, bless his heart, ran the Jungfrau marathon twice in past years, which starts in Interlaken and ends at the Kleine Scheidegg. My husband and I both had some sort of stomach virus. Thank God it was only for a couple of days. So we had very little to eat during that time. We left Grindelwald and drove to Riquewihr in Alsace Lorraine in France. This is a very touristy but cute little town. I did a little shopping by buying some linen that was spun nearby. This time, we had a great meal at a Grape D’Or . The food was great but the poor waitresses had far too many tables to serve. It was impossible to take care of that many people. I know, because I was a waitress when I was a student.
From Riquewihr, we dropped our car off in Frankfurt, Germany. In Frankfurt, we enjoyed a river cruise on the Main River. I also bought tea and some German spices. When in Frankfurt, I always go to the Freßgass (little street to “gorge”). This street is commonly regarded as Frankfurt’s culinary main street. I always buy something at Ebert Feinkost, a butcher shop that has great take-out food that you can eat outside on benches. The Grüne sauce is fantastic.
I arrived in Frankfurt and took the train to Göttingen. I always buy my train ticket ahead of time through the Deutsche Bahn, which is easy and saves a lot of money. I always give myself an extra hour so I don't have to rush. The Frankfurt Airport has fast train connections at the Fernbahnhof and another station for the regular trains. I usually have a little snack above the Fernbahnhof. There is a wonderfully relaxing upstairs area in the station where you can chill out from the long flight until your train departs.
After a two and a half hour train ride through the German countryside, my brother and one of my grand-nephews picked me up in Göttingen. At the end of March, spring had not yet arrived .
Once at my village, I got to say hello to my family and friends. The next day, my girlfriend and I had a wonderful time together. We did the things we had to do to prepare for the long Easter Holiday. Easter in Germany is a three-day holiday. Good Friday is a holiday and the Easter itself is celebrated on Sunday and Monday. It was a lovely day. My niece arrived and we went into “getting ready for the wedding mode.” On Saturday, she picked out a dress and she and her boyfriend met with several people to make arrangements for the June wedding. I spent Easter Sunday with my dear girlfriend and her family and another friend of mine. We all went to the Easter Fire (read more about it). On the Easter Monday, my entire family had lunch at my brother’s house. We had leg of lamb with scalloped potatoes and red cabbage. Two of my family members are vegetarians, so I added my eggplant spread. All the food was eaten. After that we went for a long walk in the countryside and then stopped at a restaurant to have coffee and hot waffles with fruit, whipped cream or ice cream. We needed umbrellas when it began to rain, but that didn't stop us from having fun.
The next day my niece and I left for Munich. Munich has changed, especially the area I stayed in, which was near the Railroad Station (Hauptbahnhof). I would not recommend this location but would choose something closer to downtown. It was okay and it had a tram to go downtown, but I did not feel comfortable at night. The highlight of our Munich visit was the opera (Staatsoper) to see "Turbot" by Puccini. It was a modern production that occasionally used 3D glasses. We had fun.
Our plans changed because both of us had nasty colds. My niece went home a couple of days early so she could rest for a busy work week ahead. Despite our colds we managed to see the most important parts of Munich and had a good time. The only foods we craved were hot soups. I found a delicious rich chicken soup at the Viktualien Market and a Thai restaurant at the Marienplatz.
After my niece left, I continued to explore Munich. My blogger friend Karen from Back Road Journal had recommended several places to eat in Munich, one of them being the Orlando House where I had Bavarian tapas, Weißwurst, with creamy sauerkraut, a veal patty with delicious lentils—and it only cost 14 Euros. The guy next to me was local and savored every bite of his meal. This restaurant and a one-star star Michelin restaurant nearby is owned by Alfonso Shuhbeck, one of Germany’s top chefs. He also has a shop for spices, a tea shop and an ice-cream shop in the same area. He pretty much owns the whole block. I enjoyed going to the spice shop and brought back some spices
Not just foodies, but everyone should go and visit Dallmayr, the largest delicatessen business in Europe with a 300-year history. The motherhouse in the center of Munich is amazing. Even though it is always crowded, it is fun to look at the wonderful pralines, chocolates and everything else. My niece and I had lunch there. I brought back too many sweets.
How to get around in Munich
You can buy a subway ticket for the number of days you need one. My niece and I bought a 3-day companion ticket and it covered the U-Bahn, subway, tram system and buses. You can’t go wrong. We bought our tickets at the hotel.
I took a hop-on/hop-off bus tour and enjoyed the sights .
Places to see
Marienplatz, Munich's main square at the heart of a lively pedestrian zone
The Viktualienmarkt, an open-air market
The Lenbachhaus, a modern and contemporary art museum with works by Klee, Kandinsky and the Blue Rider movement.
The Alte Pinakothek, Bavaria’s best painting gallery, with a wonderful collection of the masters from the 14th - 19th century.
There is also the Neue Pinothek and the Pinothek of the Moderne
The English Garden, the largest city park on the continent.
Nymphenburg Palace, the summer residence of the Bavarian monarchs. King Ludwig was born here. The palace is surrounded by beautiful park gardens. Check the calendar for special events.
The Frauenkirche and several other churches.
If you like cars, do not miss the BMW-world and museum
There is the horrible history that all Germans (including me) have to live with, the Nazi era and the killing of 6 million people. The Dachau concentration camp is a powerful museum and memorial of that time. It is located near Munich.
After Munich, I ended my trip by visiting a friend from boarding school that lives with her husband in the Odenwald near Frankfurt. We had a lovely day in Michelsstadt, an old medieval town, and before I knew it I was sitting in the plane going home.