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Bye Bye Bologna

It is too soon to say I miss Bologna, because so much of Bologna is still in the front of my consciousness. I still feel the energy from the street below my window ( I’m the fifth story apartment with the lights on in two windows).

I still smell the strong coffee and bombolone at Terzi.

My mind walks through Piazza Maggiore to Simoni for a drink and I recall Kajo, the manager, calling out to me as he has a cigarette before starting work.

I’m still getting WhatsApp messages from Ela and Giorgio and Christain and Frederico. It is too soon to be sad about not having pasta for every lunch and dinner.

My last week has been very local Bologna. Nick was here one last day and he went to mass with me at the Cathedral.

He isn’t Catholic but he speaks Italian so he was able to tell me afterwards that the homily was about all people having an important place in the world. Something so evident in my daily life here in Bologna.

Afterwards we know exactly where our place should be. We head for Trattoria Giampu e Ciccio.

As we approach, the owner calls out , “Ciao San Francisco!”. He had met me at Nonna Rosa a few days before and remembers me. His grandfather started the restaurant and there is a picture on the wall which translates to his grandfather having won a baby beauty contest.

They fit us into a crowded dining room and his wife Paula suggest we start with the Crostini com friggione ( toasted bread with onions and tomatoes soup).

It is fresh tomatoes cooked down for 5 hours with onions to make a delicious topping for the warm bread. Along with caprese we have Passatelli ( pancetta, arugula, and lemon) and the most delicious lasagna.

Once again Nick is very bad and orders chocolate cake dessert with marscapone.

In the afternoon Nick and I stroll around Bologna and check out the Prendiparte Tower, a medieval tower turned into a bed and breakfast.

Later we visit a hard to describe modern art exhibit. We enjoy it even tho the guard as we entered made a sign to us like it was “crazy”. After one more coffee Nick must leave. After meeting Nick for the first time in Berlin 9 years ago, I have seen him in Copenhagen, Umbria, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Amsterdam, and we even hiked Yosemite together two days before the pandemic started in 2020.

I know we will connect again before too long.

I return to my place and I am happy to hear my neighbor the opera singer practicing away upstairs. He had introduced himself to me as Greg from Rochester, NY. Turns out he is a famous tenor and one of the most accomplished singers on the international opera stage today. He is appearing in two operas in Bologna this summer. Luisa Miller and Otello. Everyday I hear beautiful music from him when I’m in my apartment.

Later I try Ela’s suggestion of pizza at Altero. It is delicious but I ordered way too much.

The next day I am up early and I’m determined to walk to Le serre in Giardini Margherita. It is hard to describe this amazing space. It was born of an abandoned greenhouse. A non profit Kilowatt put it back to life. There is a co-working space, a vegetable garden, a bistro called Vetro, an outdoor movie screen, and a very cool bar. People are working and playing all around me.

I grab a salad and just sit and absorb this fantastic space. I lament why we don’t have this type of set up in all our parks.

I head back, as friends of mine from Sonoma have a daughter studying in Florence and she is coming for a visit. Stella arrives and I take the opportunity to introduce her to Bologna. After a while we stop at Simoni where of course a table is always available for me and after ordering drinks, little appetizers are sent over as a welcome gift for Stella.

I tell her about Le serre and she is interested, so for the second time that day I am in the park.

After aperol spritzes at my place we head to Trattoria Giampu e Ciccio again and sit outside.

Time flies and before long Stella must literally run for the last train back to Florence. It is great fun to be the “local” introducing Stella to Bologna.

The next day I am to meet Giorgia and her friend Alessandro. When I arrive at the appointed spot I am surprised to see Giorgia is in a car.

She has borrowed her mother’s car to drive outside the city to a famous breakfast spot called Gino Fabbri. Just when I thought pastries could not get any better she introduces me to these amazing Calzones and sweets. We have long conversations about careers, life and love and the time flies.

Giorgia ask if we would be ok going to a local butcher shop with her. Of course. Little did we know we would spend hours in the shop without buying any meat, but drinking lots of champagne and eating until we thought we would bust. Let me explain. Giorgia met Teddy the owner when he came to her wine bar in Bologna. He had a shirt on saying Teddy the Butcher. When she admired it, he simply took it off in the wine bar and gave it to her. A friendship was born.

Teddy is there with his sister Maria and their shop Macelleria Teddy is known for the highest quality of products.

I look around and since I love to cook I can attest that what is in the case are beautiful cuts of meat. At first we mill about while customers come in for their steaks and sausages. Teddy dutifully fulfills the orders.

All of a sudden, Teddy has a bottle of champagne on a barrel and pours us all a glass.

That is followed by bringing out more champagne and the mortadella which is followed by aged parmesean cheese. Pretty soon Teddy’ s nephew Alessandro has arrived to work/drink champagne and Teddy makes us sandwiches as other family members arrive to join in the fun.

No matter how much I eat and drink, everyone says “You must have more”. Teddy also insist on giving us all tshirts saying Macelleria Da Teddy ( the butcher Teddy). I really feel like I must be in a movie. I can’t imagine having this must fun at any butcher shop in America.

Back in the city I’m trying to decide how to spend my last night. It is tempting to go hang out with the Simoni crowd, or with Christain at the Gallery, or even to see if Greg the opera singer needs a wine break. In the end I decide I just want to quietly walk through the city. I head down Via Santa Stefano and just people watch. At one point I come to a beautiful chapel in a courtyard that I’ve never seen.

It’s called Cappella del S. S. Sacramento. I tiptoe in and see a few people in this tiny chapel singing.

It is so touching. Walking on, I see a door that says Ancelle del S. cuore di Gesu. I push on the door and see this beautiful little church in the dark.

These are so pretty and I never noticed them before today. I’ve been here a month and I haven’t even scratched the surface. I end with a glass of wine in the park and contemplate how soon I can return to beautiful welcoming Bologna.

I really appreciate my readers and their many comments. It makes it like a conversation. If you want to comment, all you have to do is go back up and click the title of the post and a comment box will appear at the end of the article. You don’t have to sign in to leave a comment. Hope you do!

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La Dolce Vita

It always happens around week 3. I now know my way around logistically and can slip down back alleys to avoid the crowds. I know shopkeepers and restauranteurs and baristas. They call out to me when I pass by. Here is Lorenzo at my everyday 8 am coffeehouse Terzi.

I can easily grocery shop, buy stamps, get my hair cut, nails done, go to mass, and arrange for take out if I want it. All this inevitably leads to a growing thought in my mind……maybe I should move here! It happened in Melbourne. It happened in Montréal. It happened in Vienna. It happened in Amsterdam. You get the picture. But nowhere has this been more on my mind than Bologna. It truly is la dolce vita…the sweet life!

My new report starts with last Sunday morning when I get up early to take pictures of the city waking up. Turns out some people are up way before me as there is a marathon race in the city.

The route is right by city hall and the other early risers are couples getting married at city hall. Lots of couples. But unlike in the US where getting married at city hall means the couple and maybe two witnesses, each of the weddings I saw queued up had hordes of celebrants in the queue with them.

I cross over and see that mass is about to start at the Cathedral of Bologna. It’s a beautiful Baroque church constructed on a site where a cathedral has stood since 1028. I take my place and I’m astonished to see the large number of celebrants of the mass.

I have in mind the Michelin restaurant Osteria Bartolini for after mass and I am not disappointed. It is well known for its seafood so I go for the Taglioli al Ragu blanco di pesce….pasta with a mixture of white seafood in the sauce. The restaurant is gorgeous inside and also outside with a large garden to sit in.

Having had a large lunch, dinner is a perfect time to investigate one of Bologna’s four speciality sandwich shops that I’ve yet to try. There is Tigellino,Piadeina, Murtadella and Mortadella Lab. This one, Murtadella, sells a classic mortadella sandwich with burrata and arugula.

Monday I’m invited to tour the Università di Bologna campus by the delightful Vittoria. A gorgeous campus and beautiful views of the city. I mean it’s no Purdue …but it is beautiful.

I want to go to the Teatro Manzoni tonight to hear the Filarmonic. There are two featured performers, one playing the violino and the other the violoncello and it is rare to have this combination in this type of performance. Getting the ticket is hilarious. I go when the box office opens. They have a good seat, but they won’t sell it until one hour before the performance and I need a certain type of mask which I don’t have and they tell me I must go to the pharmacy and buy it. I do and I have dinner at one of my nice local places waiting for the hour before.

I come back 65 minutes before the performance and the ticket is no longer available( how did it sell if they only sell one hour before?) Ok I choose another seat which is fine. And now they are just handing out the required masks to anywho doesn’t have one. Ok. Why did I have to go buy one? I take my seat and there is a man next to me who tells me he has decided to come to Bologna for a month from Liechtenstein where he is a lawyer. Woah that is quite the coincidence I tell him. He says he has never done such a trip before and his only problem is he can’t figure out where to eat. Well maybe I can help I say…I have this thing called a blog with lots of restaurant ideas for Bologna. “How nice”, he says, “but I don’t read blogs.” Ok. I turn slowly away. At intermission there is no drinks, no food, nothing. Just people going outside to smoke. And guess how many stalls there are for the ladies bathroom…one! While everything so far about this night has been odd, the performance is quite good.

Tuesday I decide to get my nails done and I have discovered quite a posh salon near me. I find out they do it quite differently here. Instead of sitting in a chair and putting your feet in a water bath, you are on a recliner and they bring the bath up to you. Happy with my nails, I see if I can schedule a haircut. Yes they can do it shortly. I do my best to describe what I want to AB, that’s the name of my stylist, and I am super happy with how it turns out.

I head out to MAST, a modern art museum on the edge of town. It is a fascinating photography exhibit that explores the interface between photography and technology. It is funded by a nearby tech company and it is sleek and elegant in every way When I got tired of the exhibits, I was offered coffee on the patio. Everything is free here!

Back in the center I remember that Mortadella Lab is back from vacation and I head over to stand in line with the masses. No line! People must have forgotten they reopened. A picture perfect piled high mortadella sandwich.

Since I’m feeling lucky, I see if there is the usual line at Cremeria Santo Stefano. I’m lucky there too! I go for the fragola and limone.

It is a good thing I had these warm up food laps, because my friend Nick has now arrived by train from Verona and good eating is his speciality.

First stop is an aperol spritz and charcuterie at Simoni, where I know everyone who works there.

A tour about town allows Nick to get reacquainted with Bologna, although balloons in the Basilica are quite new.

We have a little rain shower in the afternoon. Come evening we head to Enoteca Al Risanamento in the university section of town. Octopus, sardines, and tuna salad are accompanied by several different local wines. Our waitress Giorgia is coincidentally friends with Giorgia from Enoteca Italiana which I discussed in my last post. Same name,wine bar..how funny.

Thursday we have an outing planned out of town, but first we visit the Pinacoteca, the National Gallery of Bologna. It is located in the former Jesuitical Novitate Convent and the building and the art are stunning.

Now we are on the train to a tiny town called San Giovanni in Persiceto just 20 minutes away. We walk from the train station thru the deserted town and come to our destination Osteria del Mirasole. We sit in the garden and Gary and Ricky help us choose delicious starters of a rare Culatello di Nero Parmigiana and an onion baked with pate inside.

Then comes tortellini alla panna and tagliatelle all ragu. As far as I can understand the cream in this dish is a closely guarded secret of the restaurant and not found anywhere else in the region. They have their own cows apparently.

We finish with a chocolate torte with marscapone cream. Seriously, it was Nick not me who insisted on dessert. Maybe.

All the while we are getting great wine suggestions to go with the food. It is a really lovely afternoon!

Back in Bologna we stop by the seven churches (Basilico Santo Stefano) and stay until we are shooed out at closing time by a sweet elderly gentleman. We get shooed right over to Ruggine bar for cocktails with our favorite bartender Alessandro before ending up at my home away from home pizza place, The Gallery. Once again Christian sends over drinks and we are very good and order a salad and one pizza to split! So to reward us, Christain sends over dessert.

Friday we do lots of walking and visit Villa Spada. The villa is closed but we hike thru the park. It is quite an oasis in the city.

We keep going and soon are at Nonna Rosa, a family run restaurant that has been recommended to me by Ela. We love the tables filled with families and we love the pasta and the veal cutlets. I meet Dino the owner and he brings over wine for the three of us to share. This just seems to happen to me all the time in Bologna. Such a friendly place.

Long walk back before we go out tonight for a multi course ( 11 courses) dinner at Sotto l’Arco. Funny thing— we took the bus there. It was a direct shot from my apartment and cabs are not that easy to find in Bologna. So we arrive via public transportation at this quite upscale restaurant. I’ll show you the pictures of some of the courses and if you have questions you can leave it in the comments. You know you are in trouble when the amuse bouche consists of 7 dishes that represent breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner.

Saturday arrives and we are set to pay homage to Pavarotti. His favorite restaurant (next door to his now museum) is outside of Modena. We train out and when we arrive—- no cabs— oh well- we are getting good at taking city buses to fine restaurants.

A lovely meal ensues and afterwards we meet the owner Cesare. He is actually out working in the gardens without a shirt and the staff brings him out a shirt so he can come in and talk to us.

Saturday night we get by with charcuterie from Enoteca Italian and see the terrific Giorgia again. We still haven’t had Cremeria Cavour gelato so off we go for that ( again no line…this is getting so strange). As we eat our gelato outside, a line forms that goes around the block.

We finish this week off with drinks and snacks at the Roxy Bar, across the street from my apartment.

Do you see why the title of this post is La Dolce Vita?

I really appreciate my readers and their many comments. It makes it like a conversation. If you want to comment, all you have to do is go back up and click the title of the post and a comment box will appear at the end of the article. You don’t have to sign in to leave a comment. Hope you do!

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Friends, Ferrara and Family

The beginning of week 2 in Bologna brings dear friends to visit. My friends from Shirleyfest Vienna, Arno and Petra, bring their two daughters to Bologna and we have a wonderful weekend. They arrive Friday night and after Apertivo at my place we walk to Proscutteria nearby.

Having stopped by there previously on a calm Wednesday night to reserve, I had miscalculated the frenzy of the place on a Friday night. Although they have reserved a beautiful table for us, the decibel level would make catching up with these dear friends impossible. What to do when all reservations are taken on a Friday night by now? Ah ha. Remember Christian from my first night here? A quick phone call and he makes room for us. Great dinner and great catching up after not seeing my friends for over 3 years.

The next day we attempt the San Luca Church climb all together.

The heat and length are too intense for the children so we spin off and get sodas and talk about their lives in Vienna while Petra and Arno soldier on. Afterwards Arno finds us the most local of all places, Trattoria della Santa and we all have a delicious lunch together. Later we go to the beautiful Palazzo Albergati and see the photography exhibit of Oliviero Toscani . Believe me you know his work as he had many famous ad campaigns such as the United Colors of Benetton and photography that made people aware of significant issues such as the death penalty, anorexia, AIDS, and much more.

The permanent collection includes many iconic photographs as well. Photos by Man Ray, Robert Capa and Alfred Stieglitz among others.

Dinner that night is at Da Cesari, an old school local restaurant that was empty at 7:45 and overflowing at 8:15. The full moon beckons us to finish with drinks at the famous Roxy Bar.

A walking city tour the next day ends with the whispering corners of the Enzo Palace where not only could close families communicate during the historic plagues of old, I’ve been told it is of practical use today to communicate during Covid.

A little more eating, shopping and gelato and then my dear friends jet back to Vienna until next year when they will visit me in California.

After they leave, I go to a concert at the Basilica di San Petronio that is made even more beautiful by the acoustics of the church .

Monday I am off to Ferrara on the train to see this city dominated by the Este Castle and stories of ruling dukes, Papal interference and the formerly large Jewish population, originally invited by the dukes for their crafts and then sequestered in the Jewish Ghetto by the Pope. I have booked a walking tour like always and I meet Massimo and two lovely ladies from Kolkata,India.

Massimo ( Max) our guide is a retired doctor and is so entertaining and knowledgeable.

Of course when the tour is finished I head directly to the Michelin restaurant in town, Trattoria Da Noemi for a delicious lunch of local asparagus and the Ferrara specialty of pumpkin filled ravioli.

Tuesday I meet Ela and her mother-in-law Laura for Apertivo at their favorite place. I love mid- day aperol spritzes over lively conversation. Laura is of my generation, but unlike me, she drives a motorcycle.

Lunch today, I try the little place Ragu that has the meat pasta sauce in focaccia. Think slow food sloppy joes!

Later walking thru the main square I see police all around and everyone is pointing at a box that they have made a perimeter around. I think..bomb? I discover that it is a box filled with bees and they had to call the beekeepers to deal with it.

Later I have dinner at the well known Da Nello. I had a reservation, but that didn’t seem to matter. I ended up at an ok table with delicious food, but I was less than thrilled with the brusque wait staff. I would not recommend it even tho you will see it mentioned often. For me, great food is the minimum requirement…but especially as an often solo diner, I want to feel engaged with the restaurant and the people, not just fed. Considering I’ve eaten 35 meals out in Bologna, a dud of one in 35 I can live with. Plus there was this great pasta I had there.

Early Wednesday morning I check out the big park near me, Giardini Margherita. It is really lovely. Surrounded by pretty homes.

Plus I like it because an Italian yoga instructor trying to meet her class in the park, ran up to me, assumed I was Italian, and asked me in Italian how to get somewhere in the park and I was able to tell her in Italian. WooHoo!

Afterwards I go for caffé and a Panino alla Cannella ( morning bun) at Forno Brisa where I met dashing Lorenzo. He has a bandage on his nose and I discovered that he had broken it in a biking accident last month just like I had. What are the chances?

Later I pick up mortadella, cheese and bread for Apertivo as sister MJ arrives this evening. Simoni deli was closed, but now that I know everyone at their restaurant, I was able to convince them to let me buy provisions there for my welcome party for MJ. MJ arrives and we go to my favorite Bolognese pizza place where Christain welcomes MJ to Bologna with his delicious pizzas.

The next day, Ela does a walking tour for MJ and I so that MJ can get the lay of the land.

Before she leaves us, she calls Trattoria de Me for us and snags us a very hard to get lunch reservation. Hot crescentina fritta and MJ’s first dish of Tagliatella Al Ragu and my ravioli in a pea sauce are delicious.

We go next to see the anatomical theatre of the Archiginnasio. In 1637 it was where anatomy lessons were held in the first ever theatre style classroom for such. It is because of it that we use the term theatre in describing operating rooms today.

Drinks at Simoni with Parmesan cheese tasting is followed by dinner at Trattoria Sette Tavoli ( 7 table restaurant— which is what it had).

Not quite done, we stop at the bar Ruggine for some interesting cocktails from bartender Alessandro. On the bar stools next to us, two young students can’t believe we found this place which is a popular student bar.

Next day we climb to the clock tower of city hall for some views and then see the art collection.

The art collection is huge and we had seen enough, but when we turned to leave we were instructed by the docent to continue on and not cut out any of the rooms. Hilarious. We did as she asked. A stop for coffee at the lovely Cafe Zanarini fueled us for some shopping.

Shopping in Italy is great! We both did some damage at Max Mara and other stores. Actually that is true figuratively and literally. We did buy some nice things. Then, at a very fancy store I managed to not see a clear glass 12 inches off the floor side table and I crashed forward into their display. While the display looked like a car had plowed through the wall with metal and broken glass strewn everywhere, I escaped with only one cut and one bruise. The shopkeepers were amazing with bandages, ice packs and bottled water. I was going to see if they would also give me this wonderful pair of shoes I spied, but I thought better of it.

Tonight we stop for drinks at Enoteca Italiana and meet the delightful Giorgia who brings us mortadella( of course) to have with our wine.

Later we eat at Trattoria Valerio.

Next to us is a Berlin travel writer named Soenke who engages us and makes the evening quite fun. Three Italian men are at the next table celebrating a birthday and so we also have fun talking with them before we leave.

On MJ’s last day here, we go to Modena on the train. While sipping coffee in the square we see a wedding is about to take place in the cathedral. Of course we crash it. The mustache man was the highlife of our attendance and of course the bride!

We wedding crashers now go for the famous Modena basaltic vinegar tasting. There is no finer balsamic vinegar than Giuseppe Giusti. At its lovely showroom, Matteo expertly guides us through all the variations and laws pertaining to preserving the integrity of Modena basalmic vinegar.

We move onward to Francescetta 58 which you may recall from my previous post I went to last week. I really want MJ to experience this wonderful place and we are very lucky that the famous Massimo Bottura is here today. He talks to us…. If you count him saying “sera” and us saying it back as talking.

We love our food and also the show taking place a the next table where 4 Italian men are tasting a dozen bottles of wine.

Onward to the Maserati museum where MJ and I pick our our favorite cars before training home to Bologna.

Having had such a big lunch we opt for Simoni for dinner. Once again upon seeing my friendly waiters there, a table magically appears for us ahead of mobs of people waiting. The platter of meats and cheeses plus a bottle of local wine makes for the perfect dinner. Fredrico chats with us about his upcoming exams and we lend encouragement.

No encouragement needed to decide to end the ending at the Roxy Bar. I opt for a Montenegroni where they substitute Amaro Montenegro for Campari. MJ gets the Roxy, a bourbon and lime concoction. The night ends but the memories linger on.

A few days alone and then my friend Nick who I first met on Shirleyfest Berlin will arrive.

I really appreciate my readers and their many comments. It makes it like a conversation. If you want to comment, all you have to do is go back up and click the title of the post and a comment box will appear at the end of the article. You don’t have to sign in to leave a comment. Hope you do!

Until then!

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Bologna Week 1 Comes to a Tasty End

In Ravenna this week I see the beautiful mosaic tile ceiling that inspired Cole Porter to write the song Night and Day.

I can’t write music, but it does inspire me to go have lunch at a Michelin restaurant in Ravenna. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to where we left off.

Monday, I meet my new friend Ela for coffee at a Turkish cafe called Naama. Afterwards we wander the streets of beautiful Bologna. She shows me some of the hidden towers.

All of a sudden I run smack dab into friends from home, Mike and Lisa, who had come from Florence to Bologna to see me. We all were independently looking for a lunch place and Mondays many things are closed, but we ended up at Bottega Portici-Due Torri. It is near the ancient Two Towers and houses the Portici Academy where you can learn pasta making.

In the restaurant, modern touch screens deliver old world Tagliatelle al Ragu. Ela leaves us after lunch and the three of us wander around the city. I take them up the secret spiral staircase for a great view of the towers.

As we are passing the charcuterie shop Simoni, my friend Klevis calls out to us. “Stop for a drink”, So we do. Later Marco’s son Michaela fills in for his Dad and does a balsamic vinegar tasting for us. We also buy Prosecco at his store called Gilberto because it is aperol spritz time now.

But we need ice. Let me tell you ice is the bane of my existence on these Shirleyfest. I love aperol spritzes and they need ice. But this apartment has no freezer. There is however a famous bar called the Roxy directly across the street from my apartment and without hesitation the lovely waitress there sensing my great need offers me a huge bag of ice for our drinks. Works out fine and held us over until our dinner at Trattoria dal Biassanot near the canal.

It was great to have Mike and Lisa join Shirleyfest!The next day is the flower market day at Piazza San Francesco.

Off I go early morning and I am rewarded with some great flower finds.

After depositing those in my apartment, I want to see the three tiny Michelangelo statues in the Basilica of Saint Dominic’s. The place is empty so I could get quite up close and personal with the little guys.

The other art that was calling my name is the 7 terracotta figures known as the lamentations behind the altar at Santa Maria Della Vita. Done in the 1400s by the artist Niccolò Dell’Arca, they are magnificent and really not to missed if you visit Bologna.

I then had in mind to sample what is suppose to be the best gelato in Bologna at Cremeria Santo Stefano. But the line is long and not moving.

Gelato

Interesting that the last time I saw a line like this is was at Shirleyfest Boston and people were in line to buy the latest released sneakers.

Athletic Shoes

Pretty much sums it up—Italy: Food. US: Shoes

Dinner tonight is in the courtyard of Bologna’s version of Romeo and Juliet ( basically same story….kids in love, parent are against it, tower scene, they both die). I’m here for the beautiful setting of the restaurant Corte Galluzzi.

I start with prosciutto and melon.

I follow that with Vittelo Tonnato. It has been a favorite of mine since a friend in Florence made it for me many years ago. It’s roasted veal that is chilled and sliced and the topped with a tuna/anchovies sauce. Not for everyone for sure.

I meet a Swiss couple at dinner and we talked for quite a while about American politics and especially our Supreme Court…grrr. We agree to meet for Apertivo the next evening.

Wednesday I hike up to San Michele in Bosco. It’s an old church, but the real reason to spend the energy is the beautiful views of Bologna from the top.

I’ve got to get back tho because I’m invited to cocktail reception at the 5 star Grand Hotel Majestic for an artist who is in town for art week. It’s a beautiful party and the sparking wine is flowing. I get to meet the artist and we talk about her work, which is stunning.

Thursday, I take the 8:06 train to Ravenna an hour away. It is a spur of the moment decision so I don’t have time to hire a guide or sign up for a tour so I download the important information and set up a Google map annotated with the things I want to see. Ravenna is the city of mosaics and is a UNESCO World heritage site. It is literally a glittering jewel box of 5th and 6th century mosaic art. I walk the 15 minutes from the train station and start with a coffee in the town square and then go directly to the Basilica di San Vitale. I have found that an early start in these day trips is the best recipe and then go directly to the most important site and work backwards depending on the time you have. I am not disappointed as there are very few people at my first stop. Later I pass by there and it is mobbed with people. The ceilings, floors and walls of all the sites I visit are so stunning. Take a look.

Now it’s time for lunch. I check and there is one Michelin restaurant in Ravenna called Antica al Gallo 1909. I decide to take my chance and walk the 15 minutes there to see if I can get in. As I study my map, a local gentleman approaches and asks if he can help me. I tell him my destination and he admires my taste in restaurants and says he will walk me there. His name is Herman and we have the most lovely chat along the way.

Now I approach this gorgeous restaurant and am welcomed by the owner Umberto who is happy to seat me in a table right near the garden.

I am so lucky as soon afterwards the restaurant is completely full. Umberto’s great great grandfather started the restaurant and it has survived two world wars and Covid and is still going strong. Upstairs there are sitting rooms for cocktails and smoking!

I with squash blossoms filled with Gorgonzola and surrounded by a red pepper sauce.

Then I go for the Cavaletti al Ragu. Umberto pours a lovely local wine and I am having the best time.

I’m too full for dessert so they bring me a plate of cookies— meringues with toasted almond glaze.

Afterwards Umberto gives me a gift of a little book about his family. It is first in Italian and then English and he says, “this way you will learn Italian words.” So cute!

Now I visit Modena which is only a 20 minute train ride away. I tour around the town with its beautiful cathedral and lively market.

Modena is famous for balsamic vinegar, luxury sports cars and Massimo Bottura, the chef of the Michelin restaurant Osteria Francescan ( frequently thought of as the #1 restaurant in the world). Before I left California I scored a reservation at Massimo Bottura’s second place ( also a Michelin restaurant) for 2 pm on this day.Arriving early I am taken to a garden table by Marco and an amuse bouche of squash stuffed with ricotta and lemon zest as well as a raw zucchini topped with mousse of zucchini arrives.

I have to have the burger starter which Massimo invented. I took Massimo’s MasterClass and this was featured so I’ve been looking forward to trying it. In his home region of Emilia-Romagna, he makes the patty out of Italian beef mixed with gelatin from cotechino (a local pork sausage) and Parmigiano-Reggiano. For condiments, he puts an Italian spin on American standard making a mayo out of Balsamic vinegar from Modena and an herb sauce based on Italian salsa verde.

Next course is an artichoke ravioli with a black garlic sauce which Giacamo, the young intern from Milan recommends.

Still denying dessert, I am presented with not one but two little Italian bites.

Really a fantastic meal!

I wander back and even figure out the self service ticket machine at the station to change my ticket to a slightly earlier train because my friend Arno and his family arrive from Vienna tonight.

My readers will remember that I met Arno in the Naschmarkt in Vienna in Shirleyfest 2017. Here we are that day nearly 5 years ago.

We really hit it off and the next year when he learned I was going to Amsterdam for Shirleyfest 2018 he invited me to join his family in the Dolomites for a week before Shirleyfest. I did and had the best time! Now they are here! I will report on our activities during their weekend visit in the next post. Now, it is time for me to go have apertivo. Cin Cin!

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72 Hours in Bologna

I’m trying to think when I’ve felt compelled to post about a Shirleyfest city after just a few nights in my new home. Oh I know……Never! Until now. Dear readers, Bologna might just be the best kept travel secret. So why do I say this? Let me tell you.

Let’s start at the beginning. It is an easy trip to Bologna connecting thru Amsterdam on KLM. The airport is small and having cleared customs in Amsterdam, I simply walk straight out to a waiting taxi. Less than 20 minutes later, I’m in my new apartment which is literally steps from the famous two towers of Bologna.

The street below my fifth floor flat is Via Rizzoli, a pedestrian zone on the weekend.

Of course that means since Bologna is a university town that the students gather below my building on the weekends, but it makes for a lively atmosphere. I unpack, shower and head off for my first dinner.

I have reserved in the posh Gallerie nearby. I’m well taken care of by Christain who is surprised and delighted that I am here for a month. After a delicious salad and designer pizza, he surprises me with a lemon sorbet to welcome me.

I’m feeling right at home. And that is the first night!

The next day I have reserved a walking tour. As my readers know, that is my standard practice to have that set up for the first morning in any city. I am so lucky to have Ela as my guide. Smart, warm and energetic, she takes me and two others around her beautiful city. Pasta being the religion of Bologna, we stop to watch it being made.

We then head on thru the beautiful porticos of which there are so many. Bologna has more porticos than any other city in the world …..they date back to 1041. Ela takes us to see one of the portico still standing from medieval times.

From there, we wander thru the Quadrilatero, the old Bologna market, and now home to many many outdoor cafes, restaurants and food shops.

We duck into Gilberto’s and do a basamic vinegar tasting with Marco. We progress from the 8 year old to the 40 year old and it astonishing how rich and refined the oldest Modena vinegars taste.

We stop in the building that housed the university originally and now contains the library. The ceiling is filled with famous family crests.

We plan to end at Neptune fountain, but Ela is so generous with her time, she takes us to the “hidden canals of Bologna”. I was able to peak through the recently restored window that gave way to a view of the Reno Canal in Via Piella.

We take a group shot and Marcel and Alexandra leave.

Once the tour ends, Ela and I are not done talking so we go off the two of us to a nearby coffee bar and continue our discussion.

Soon I say goodbye to my new friend, but we make plans to meet again soon.I feel so lucky to have met such a wonderful person.

I decide to walk to the modern art museum at the edge of town. MAMbo. It is small but nicely done. I’m fascinated by what this artist was trying to tell us.

And I love that this artist found a way to cram more hours in the day.

Later I head to Trattoria dal Biassanot and enjoy a beautiful meal served by the attentive Luca.

The pasta is tortellini with pistachios. Absolutely devine…. as was the pane cotta with fresh berries. Oh gosh I’m glad I walk a lot here! I looked at my step counter at the end of the day and had walked 25,000 steps. I’ll need to keep that up if I am going to eat all this delicious food.

On Sunday it is Mother’s Day so I decide to take the pilgrims path ( hike!) up to Chinese Della Madonna di San Luca founded in 1194. You go through 666 porticos ( the longest Portico path in the world) to have an uninterrupted 3.8 km hike to get to the top.

Once up, a beautiful church awaits you.

Inside many parishioners are chanting the rosary in honor of the Virgin Mary. I love how fitting this seems on the special day. Great views await you at the top.

After a small rest and a bottle of water, I start back down. I have to admit I saw a coffee bar just before the end and I plunk down at a table for a refreshing cup of tea before carrying on.

Tonight I decide to try to get a table at Simoni, the unchallenged best charcuterie restaurant in Bologna. I see lots of people and I wait to put my name on the list. For some reason, I am whisked off right away to a perfect table in the center of the restaurant with great views of the hard working staff.

It is a show to watch the charcuterie trays being churned out for all the hungry guests. Klevis, my waiter, shows me the best wine to order and soon my plate arrives.

By then I am heartily engaged with the tables on either side of me. One with an American student living in Bologna now for 3 years and her visiting cousin and the other two Italian students getting their masters at the university. Naturally I garner some great tips and recommendations from my fellow diners!

I walk the few short blocks home very happy with my first three days in Bologna. I do believe I have picked the perfect city for Shirleyfest 2022. I hope you will continue to enjoy Bologna with me.

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Shirleyfest 2022: Bologna, Italy

While I loved my Santa Barbara and Boston Shirleyfests, I’ve been looking longingly at international destinations for 2022. For a variety of reasons, Ive decided to change things up this year and go in the spring instead of the fall……although it is entirely possible that come fall I’ll want to do a second Shirleyfest.

I’ve had Bologna on my travel radar for quite a while. It is known for its amazing food ( it is considered Italy’s gastronomical capital), miles of beautiful Spanish terra cotta tiled rooftops and porticos in the city center (25 miles) and home of the oldest university in the western world ( University of Bologna founded in 1088). For these reasons it has three nicknames, Fat, Red and Learned. Add in fabulous museums, a train hub that begs you to do day trips, impressive markets and lots of live music, who could resist being part of that! Not me.

So I’ll be off to Italy in a couple of months. Please let me know if you know people to introduce me to or have any good information to pass along. I hope you will follow along with me as I immerse myself in Shirleyfest #12.

Ciao!

Shirley

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Last week Boston

Time to wrap up my Boston blog. This last week has been exciting. I went to the opening night of the famous Boston Symphony where John Williams conducted a piece he wrote for for the renowned violinist Anna Sophia Mutter. You may know Williams from his Oscar winning scores for movies like Jaws and Star Wars…with 52 Academy Award nominations, he is the second most-nominated individual, after Walt Disney. This 89 year old succeeded Arthur Fiedler as the conductor of the Boston Pops in the 80s and occasionally he still conducts the Boston Symphony. I was so lucky to see him! Anna Sophia Mutter is a German violinist of great acclaim ( often performing with Yo-Yo Ma), so it was a double treat.

I took the T over to the Prudential building before the performance and had a lovely salad and glass of wine pre-show at Terra. Very very noisy but tasty and very convenient.

Walking to the symphony I encountered many people excited to return to live performances. The show ended late and hearing my daughter’s voice in my head, I chose not to walk through the dark Boston Commons park at midnight. Speaking of my daughter, big news! Laura and Mallory are engaged. I was excited to see them in Boston the day after their engagement and to toast their happy news. Look at these two happy faces! Guess what? Mine was equally happy.

On my way to meet my friend Brad for lunch, I spy the Greenway Carousel. This is a unique carousel with hand carved air, sea and land animals native to Massachusetts. Ten years ago at my first Shirleyfest in New York City, I rode the carousel in Central Park to celebrate my birthday. I thought it fitting to jump on the grasshopper at the carousel in Boston to celebrate this one as well.

After the ride I meet Brad at J. Hook for one last bowl of Boston Clam Chowder. I wanted to bring him some apple cider donuts for his kids so I was forced to first sample one at the Boston Public Market. These are addictive.

Brad mentioned that he also liked Row 34’s seafood. That was all I needed to head over there the next day for a local beer and fish tacos.

One other foodie place I need to mention is Coppa. I went there for brunch and had scrambled eggs cacio e pepe which was fantastic. My favorite Italian dish without the added carbs from pasta. Of course there was that burnt tomato toast.

I liked Coppa so much I went back there with my friends Belinda and Kent at the end of the week. This time I did have pasta and also a delicious sea bass.

Enough about food. You must think all I do is eat. You would not be too far wrong. But I also did a harbor walk that last week. Impressive sights all along the harbor.

Near the Seaport is the Contemporary Art Museum. I took one last look around as the exhibits had changed. It is a small museum but really nicely curated.

I head home and up to my wonderful rooftop to say goodbye to Boston.

The sun was just starting to set so I made one last aperol spritz.

And then with a glorious finish the sun set on my lovely Boston Shirleyfest. Goodbye for now and thank you for coming on my journey with me.

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Boston Birthday and more

Shirleyfest has three human components…enjoying visits from family and friends, engaging with new people I meet in my host city, and my solo time. I have lots of fun stories and photos from those first two categories, but first let me comment on the last.

A solo walk at daybreak across the Longfellow bridge allows me time for contemplation and reflection. Shirleyfest allows me the luxury of getting away from my home, to do list, and familiar surroundings to think about what is important to me. It allows me to have intimate moments with my own mind. I am challenged to figure out many new things, overcome obstacles and let my curiosity take me down many paths. All of this leads to personal transformation and growth. I am never the same person when I leave a city that I am when I open that door to my apartment. I learn lessons and I learn new things about myself.

A solo walk around MIT. Adding another chapter to my Tao of Shirleyfest

After Vermont, I was blessed with many friends and family coming to Boston to help me celebrate my birthday. Fortunately there is a very nice hotel, Liberty Hotel, a few minutes walk away and my visitors all chose that destination to stay ( it is a former prison so I don’t know what that says about my friends and family?) My friend Andy arrives and we take to the Charles River for some kayaking

We venture into a part of the river I had missed before— the Charles River Locks.

Now that we have the hang of being on the water, the next day we take the fast ferry to Provincetown.

A 90 minute ferry from Boston straight to the heart of P-town.

After a very nice lunch at Fanzini’s we stroll around the town which is charming. We ferry back and tonight have dinner at Mamma Maria in North Beach. Andy has to work the next day so I enjoy meeting a new neighbor, Mike, for lunch at Harvest in Cambridge.

That night my brother John, sister in law Virginia and sister MJ come into town and we all go to Wood Hill Pier 4 for a meal sourced from their large farm. It is a full moon out and life seems just right sitting outside with people I love.

Andy leaves but the rest of us walk all over Boston the next day. We see a group of ladies dressed in white at Boston Commons. Turns out to be a demonstration against Massachusetts law that has no age requirement for marriage.

We walk through so many neighborhoods today. Louisburg Square, North End, Charlestown. Laughter bounds.

Tonight my friends Dan and Sharon join us and we head to Petit Robert Bistro. It starts with a toast of pink champagne.

The evening was hilarious and the restaurant got into the fun…. sending us complimentary champagne and desserts. I think everyone could tell how happy we were.

Laura and Mallory arrive the next day fresh from Cape Cod.

Oh yes today is my birthday! We open gifts and have lunch at Tatte nearby before exploring the shops on Charles Street. That evening my friends Kent and Belinda join us all at 75 Chestnut where I have the best birthday dinner dinner a girl could want. Brother John got the entire restaurant to sing me happy birthday!

file:///var/mobile/Library/SMS/Attachments/52/02/DB6973BB-62D3-4F68-A36E-8916E2EF6E57/IMG_3351.mov

So it is a done deal, I’m officially a year older.

More exploring the next day and of course more eating. Tonight the gang walks to Legal Seafood on Long Wharf. The walk there is highlighted by a beautiful sunset.

That night we hang out under the moonlight and have after-dinner drinks at their hotel. Everyone but Sharon and Dan is leaving in the morning and it has been such fun having my gang here to celebrate with me.

Dan, Sharon and I first go out to the Kennedy Presidential Library. I have only been to one other of the 14 Presidential Libraries—LBJ’s in Austin. This one is beautiful and well done.

I am surprised by this map. are you?

Later we head to Cambridge to have dinner at little Donkey, a Spanish tapa style restaurant. We all love it. Then off to the Loeb Theatre to see Chasing Magic. It felt so odd to be back in the theatre. We had to show proof of vaccination and wear masks but it was worth it to finally see live theatre again.

Dan and Sharon leave for Charleston, SC and I have a solo day where first I go to Third Cliff Bakery owned by Meg, the wife of a friend of ours. Delicious!

Then I go to mass at the Cathedral.

A beautiful place and a great homily. The priest tells the story of a boy who is sitting in a low stool looking up at his mother embroidering and sees the underside of what she is working on. He is puzzled because it looks like lots of loose threads and knots, with no rhyme or reason. She then lifts him up to look at the work from the top down and he sees a beautiful orderly design and pattern. That story speaks to me in many ways.

The next day I take the train to Kingston, RI to visit my friend George. I am wowed by Rhode Island’s beauty. We have a fabulous lunch at George’s friend Nancy’s home.

Nancy shows me around her lovingly decorated 1776 home and gardens. George and I hang out at Witch Hill beach with his new dog, Gracie.

George takes me back to the train station for an easy hour ride back to Boston

So much has transpired this week! I’m back in my cozy place with these colorful dahlias from Nancy’s Rhode Island garden to remind me of all the beauty in the world.

Thanks for reading along!

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Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz

Wait…not THAT Woodstock! I’m heading to Woodstock,Vermont where the theme song is the Ballad of the Green Mountain Boys ( really good song actually, link here https://youtu.be/Y4KcJTP8nW8).

I have always wanted to go to Vermont as it is one of the 5 remaining states I have not spent a night in. Mid-Shirleyfest I always take a little side trip, so this is a perfect time to head north. My friends Belinda and Kent pick me up and off we go on a beautiful sunny day. After an organic healthy lunch at Mon Vert in town we arrive at the Woodstock Inn.

It really is so lovely and well maintained. After checking in we walk around town. Bookstores, antique shops, bakeries and gorgeous large homes on the river. I have to say it is the quintessential Northeast village encapsulated by covered bridges and the the Ottauquechee River. I feel like I am in Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls.

When confirming my reservation a few days ago, the concierge told me that at the nearby farm they had thousands of sunflowers in bloom and it was quite a site. We head off to see those flowers. Imagine our surprise when we we see a field of dead sunflowers. Well there is one that looks like a sunflower shower so I got a picture with that.

And while the sunflowers were a bust, this butterfly feasting on one is fun to see.

All is not a bust at the farm tho because we do see a calf that has just been born. That night we have dinner at the Red Rooster at the hotel and it was delicious. We start the next day with a hike up the nearby mountain for magnificent views of the valley.

Afterwards we head to Simon Pearce, an amazing shop with beautiful hand blown glass. The many glass blowers are working in the basement and we are mesmerized by their craft.

Outside the shops, the river and a waterfall are beautiful today but we learn that a devastating hurricane in 2011, destroyed much of the shop and the surrounding town. It looks great now!

We realize that we are very close to Dartmouth so we decide to go. The students have just arrived on campus so all is abuzz. We have lunch at Lou’s before heading to the Quechee Gorge. The gorge is 165 feet deep and is the deepest gorge in Vermont. It is known as Vermont’s Grand Canyon. We find a spot on the bridge perfect for viewing.

Back in Woodstock, Belinda discovers a hidden game room complete with pool table, pinball machines and a bar. We have it all to ourselves and enjoy some pre dinner libations before heading upstairs to the Tavern for a delicious dinner.

The next day we head back. I’m sad to leave Woodstock but I spy out the car window a field of leaves turning colors. It’s a sign to come back and see all of Vermont’s changing foliage again someday. Viva Vermont!

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Boston ABCs….Art, Baseball and Charles River.

I’m sitting in my beautiful living room sipping coffee at 8:08 am and I see online that there is a 9:00 am tour of Fenway Ball Park. I throw on my clothes, rush out the door and hop on the T. I buy the ticket on my phone while I’m on the train, power walk 15 minutes from the stop and I’m there with minutes to spare. It’s game day and Boston, who is in the wild card race, is playing the #1 Tampa Bay Rays in a few hours. Fenway is getting ready!

Our energetic tour guide tells us all the lore of this storied baseball park. We see the one red seat in a sea of green where a fan got beaned when Ted Williams hit the longest home run in the park’s history. We see the Green Monster and the seats on it. We sit in the press box.

Can you see the one red seat?

Fenway now even has a farm on the roof which provides produce for the concessions in the park as well as donations to local food banks.

The hour flies by and I couldn’t be happier. Later the Red Sox could be happier as they were beat 11-10 in extra innings.

But I gotta scoot because I’m going kayaking on the Charles River. I walk across the Longfellow Bridge to the other side of the river and find the kayak rental place. With very little info I’m sent off in my kayak and told to bring it back when I feel like it!

Off I go towards the Harvard Bridge. It is so beautiful on the river today. I get out a ways and have the whole Boston skyline behind me.

I could have gone on forever. The day was beautiful and the river calm. It is only because I’m getting hungry that I finally go back. And you know what I want after being on the water? A lobster roll!

I heard of James Hook lobster shack from a local. It is back over on my side of the river and down towards Long Wharf. I order the large lobster roll. Period. That’s all I want. And for $42 with tip that is what I get. Worth every penny

The other local tip I got was that Boston has killer donuts from a place called Kane’s. Fortunately ( or not) Kane’s donuts is just around the corner, so…..

The next day is equally great weather and I hire a local photographer to do a photo walk with me around my Beacon Hill neighborhood. I take a lot of pictures and she points out cool possibilities to me for shots.

This house is charming and begs to have its picture taken with its Red Sox door and Red Sox baseballs gracing all the flower pots. We also go to Acorn Lane, the most photographed street in Boston and where marriage proposals are regularly staged. I thought I got a great shot of this pretty street.

She takes me to Louisburg Square which is right behind my place and where John Kerry lives at #19 and the author Robin Cook lives at #16 (Coma, Contagion, Pandemic, and more). Louisa May Alcott lived here at one time as well. It is apparently the most expensive address in Boston. I love the door knockers.

Which is your favorite?

We also photograph the public gardens and parts of Back Bay. One of my favorite photos is the dog stuck in the Back Bay fence. All in all it’s a fun morning.

But what about the A of the ABCs? Not to worry, that afternoon I went to the special Monet exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Art and then topped it off with a visit to the Isabella Gardner Museum. This Isabella Gardner museum was the site of the $500 million, 1990 theft of 13 works of art including Rembrandts and Vermeer. Look at the empty frames still on the walls where the paintings had been.

The best part of the Isabella Gardner Museum is the courtyard garden. it is gorgeous and ever changing. The Museum also has a great restaurant where I had lunch prior to my visit.

So there you have the ABCs of a couple of my Shirleyfest Boston days. Coming up next…the USS Constitution and sunset walking with my Boston Meet Up group. Stay tuned and follow along!

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Beautiful Boston Shirleyfest 2021

I arrive during a rainstorm to my new home for the next month. There is always that moment before I open the door where I wonder what it will look like on the other side. Here’s what I see.

I breath a sigh of relief and an outburst of joy. I’ve rented a beautiful place in the Beacon Hill area of Boston. I will be happy here. My dear friends who live in a nearby suburb kindly whisk me away for a welcoming typical New England dinner of lobster,clam chowder and Boston cream pie.

And so goes my first night in Boston. Early the next day I do a walking tour of the Freedom Trail with Brian, a comedic Bostonian. I see the State House, the Boston Commons, the First Public Schoolhouse, and the site of the Boston Massacre where British soldiers opened fire on a taunting mob in 1770 killing 5 and providing an igniter for Revolutionary activists. I also see the Old Granary Burial Grounds where the gallows humor is you can go to the bar across the street and have a cold Samuel Adams while overlooking a cold Samuel Adams.

After the tour, I head over to the North Church for a quick visit in the Italian area of Boston—North End. I spy Regina’s Pizza which is on my list and choose a yummy pizza.

That evening I stroll through the beautiful Beacon Hill streets and wind up at a local place called 75 Chestnut for dinner. So enjoyable to eat outside on these cobblestone streets. Afterwards I realize I am only a few blocks from Cheers bar so I have a nightcap of a cold one.

The next morning I meet a friend from Palo Alto for coffee and we stroll around Charles street looking at vintage stores and antique shops. In the afternoon I go downtown and get my monthly subway card ( Charlie Card) and head to the Boston Public Library. It is an beautiful building with murals from the painter John Singer Sargent, gorgeous reading rooms and a storied history. It is the first free public library and it is filled with people today taking advantage of all it has to offer.

Tonight I head first to the Contemporary Art Museum via the T and a walk across the river. It is happening! A cool exhibit featuring Virgil Abloh. He is the artistic Director behind the off-white launch in Milan which challenges elite fashion houses long-standing exclusion of Black talent. There is a band playing on the waterfront in front of the museum. So fun! Afterwards I go to Sportello, a Barbara Lynch restaurant nearby.I get suggestions from two regulars and I always listen to regulars. One is to order a whipped housemade ricotta with honey and a homemade warm focaccia and the other the roasted pasta Bolognese tagliatelle.

Now it’s the weekend! My friends and I go to Marblehead and Salem for the day. Marblehead is a coastal town, sometimes referred to as the birthplace of the American Navy. We cross the causeway and walk around this little island and see the lighthouse and all the beautiful homes. You can see Boston in the distance.

Now Salem! What a hoot! Everything is witchcraft this and spooky that. Some people are dressed in costume. We have a great lunch at Finz overlooking the harbor and then we check out the old cemetery.

After all that spooky business we need some drinks. No better place than my rooftop deck when we get home.

I think that is quite enough for my first few days here. Next up at Fenway Park and kayaking the Charles River. I hope you follow along as I explore Boston!

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Copenhagen: a sensory experience

It isn’t a Shirleyfest, but why not do a summary of one of the coolest cities in the world? Copenhagen tickled all my senses more easily than any city I’ve visited. Sights, sounds, smells, touch and taste…..oh my goodness…taste! It is also the happiest….Except for Wednesday night when at midnight Denmark lost in overtime to England in the UEFA EURO semi- finals. More on that later.

Saturday July 3, 2021

I leave on Friday and arrive Saturday via a 10 hour nonstop flight from SFO on SAS. Because I made my reservation so late, I can only get premium economy, but SAS lets you “bid” for an upgrade and fortunately they take my bid. Lie flat beds make the trip go fast and easy! Arriving in the morning, I quickly hop on the train below the airport into the city center and walk the few blocks from the central station to my beautiful design hotel, Nobis Copenhagen.

Nobis Hotel Copenhagen

At 7:30 am I know my room will not be ready, but DeJon at the front desk stores my luggage and I go off to explore Copenhagen. First stop- Sct. Peder’s Bageri where I get my first of what will be many delicious pastries. This one was a Kanel gnurrer.

There I meet a lovely family and we talked for an hour. The 5 year old, Oliver, teaches me the cheer I need for this soccer week-“ I am red,I am white, I am Denmark dynamite.” Over to the beautiful Nyhavn ( new harbor) where I decide to take one of the boat cruises around the Baltic Sea and the canals. So glad I do! I learn a lot and enjoy seeing Copenhagen from that perspective.

Nyhavn

Now I get a text from the hotel that my room is ready. Again—it’s a design hotel so naturally my room is stylish! Later in the afternoon the front desk sends up a glass of wine.

Nobis Hotel Room
a nice gesture from the hotel

I get ready for my first dinner in Copenhagen. Fishmarket. Lovely local fish with peas and vegetables and I get to hear the roar of the crowd as Denmark beats Czech in the quarterfinals.

Fishmarket

Home for a good night’s rest.My Apple Watch informs me I have walked 8.5 miles today after getting off my overnight flight.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

I see online that there is a 10:00 am walking tour starting at the Radhuspladsen ( Town Hall Square) so off I go. Our guide, Stuart, is an older gentleman married to a Dane. Our little group of 5 enjoy a wonderful walk around many of the famous sites, including the old and new palaces, stock exchange, parliament and the court house. Two of the people with me on the walking tour are from Salzburg and afterward we decide to go see the famous little mermaid statue together and we have a lovely time walking a bit more around town.

Little Mermaid

Leaving them, I want to try Cafe Ateiler September for lunch. I pick the special salad. Does not disappoint. The crowd in here is as cool as it gets too.

Cafe Ateiler September farmer salad
Cafe Ateiler September

Now I’m off to find the outdoor market, Torvehallerne. It is a bit like a small Naschmarket in Vienna. Beautifully curated produce and even more beautiful small restaurants on the fringe.

Torvehallerne Market
Market produce

But I read about a brew pub in the New York Times and I want to find it . Success! Brus. So many beers on tap. I choose. I drink.

Brus brewery

My friend is arriving tonight from Amsterdam, so I head back. Joining him at dinner at our hotel— great food and great design…and great wine. Then we set off around 11 pm to walk across the bridge and later around Tivoli— a very old amusement park that was the inspiration for Disneyland.

Tivoli Amusement Park

We realize it is the 4th of July and snap this picture to commemorate the occasion.Apple Watch says I walked 12.6 miles today.

Tivoli

Monday July 5, 2021

We plot out a super fun day starting with renting bikes to bike to the spiral Church of Our Savoir. We use the bike app Bycyklen which I had downloaded and added minutes to before I left home. Later we learn from a local that a preferable bike company is Donkey Republic. Smooth biking across the water. We climb and climb and one of us even squeezed up to that last bit. Great views of Copenhagen.

My rented bike
Church of Our Savoir
What a Climb!

Time to get our groove on. We hang out in Christiania, a 70’s style hippie commune. Nick drank the coffee and I just breathed in the aroma from all the people passing by.

Christiania

We check out the opera house on our way to lunch at La Banchina, a combo swimming hole, organic wine bar, gourmet seafood restaurant. On the way we pass the site of Noma, the famous restaurant I’m heading to on Saturday.

Opera House
Swimming platform at La Banchina
Lunch at La Banchina
Passed by Noma on our walk

That night we head to Copenhagen’s meat packing district and dine at Pate Pate. 5 courses, lots of delicious wine and a stroll thru the beautiful Copenhagen night finishes off a glorious day. Walked 9.1 miles

Pate Pate

Tuesday July 6, 2021

Sadly my friend has to leave early. I decide to go over to Malmö, Sweden. I head to the train station and work out a very reasonable $35 round trip ticket across the famous Odense bridge/tunnel. It only took 35/minutes and now I’m in Sweden. A lovely lady at the info booth gives me a map and I head off. It’s a charming town with a cute old town where I have some street food for lunch. Then I head to the castle and the surrounding park.

Malmö, Sweden

The Turning Torso beckons me so I take the long walk there. Amazing architecture! I stop for a drink at the beach and then walk along the harbor.

Turning Torso

Back on the train I’m in Denmark again before dinner time. Actually time to go to the Glyptotek museum which is right next door to the Nobis. This is an old villa with an art collection built around the personal collection of Carl Jacobsen, the founder of Carlsberg Breweries. This may be one of my favorite museums ever.

Glypotek Museum

A food blog I read insist the pizza at Pizzeria la Fiorita is the best neighborhood place in Copenhagen. I walk out only to return for an umbrella as it is pouring. It is actually a nice walk in the warm rain. The place is hopping with locals getting pizza after pizza. The owner comes to talk to me in Italian where I’m understanding about every other word. It is delicious!

Pizzeria La Fiorita

A walk back thru the Kings garden, the new harbor and the winding streets. Walking 13.2 miles

King’s Garden

Wednesday July 7, 2021

It is game day! You cannot find anyone not decked out in red and white. I want to try the metro today. The Metro here is pristine. NYC take note.

Clean metro!

Also I heard of a bakery in the northern borough so I get a day ticket and head up really early. The famous bakery, Juno the Bakery, is closed for July break but since I am in Copenhagen there is always another bakery. I stop for the next “ I’ve lost count how many ” danishes at Bosses Bageri and a coffee at Cafe Efternolern.

Coffee shops everywhere!

I’m refreshed enough to go shopping on the longest shopping street in Europe, Strøget. I hit a couple of shops( and they hit my wallet) but it was so fun. Now I have a reservation for lunch at the Michelin guide restaurant Sankt Annæ. Oh my. They have been serving lunch only for over 180 years in the same location. I choose the most Danish lunch I can find on the menu: smoked salmon from FARO and creamed spinach. It comes with this Danish salted butter. Oh my again. I pair it with a crisp Sancerre wine and am enjoying a long lunch chatting with the friendly waiters and other patrons. I finish with a chocolate nut cake with raspberry and mango coulis. The waiter insist on bringing me one perfect Danish strawberry to try as well.

Sankt Annæ
FARO salmon
Happy me with a glass of Sancere
Chocolate Nut Cake
One perfect strawberry

I’m so full, so I decide to get on my bike and bike the half hour to the cemetery where Hans Christian Anderson is buried. My one and only bike mishap happens on this ride. I signal the American way that I am turning right. I collide with a biker behind me also turning right. Many many curse words later— by him not me— I come to understand that a right turn is signaled not with the left elbow bent up but with the right arm outstretched. We are all fine and I continue my ride. Beautiful peaceful oasis and people strolling like it’s a park. I bike home and get ready to go out for the big celebration.

Basically I just walk and observe. Happy people everywhere!

Semi final game is tonight against England

Noise and partying. I have a reservation at Popl a hamburger place started by a NOMA alum. Quite a treat especially paired with a Riesling.

Popl burger made with cattle that graze freely in the Wadden Sea National Park

I wander and wander among the crowd enjoying the festivity and getting a beer here and there with the joyful celebrants.

Celebrants

With the game tied 1-1 at 11 pm and going into overtime I head back.The streets are deserted as everyone is celebrating together.

Where is everyone?

I am just in my room when at midnight I hear the eerie quiet. Denmark has lost! Walking 12.3 miles today

Thursday July 8, 2021

I switch hotels today from the Nobis to the Sanders, as my fabulous friends who have been the catalyst for making this trip are arriving today and that is where they are staying. I say goodbye to the wonderful staff at the Nobis: Dora, Ishara, DeJon, Alexander and Diane. Arriving at the Sanders I find Asteroula at the front desk has upgraded me to a beautiful room and that the staff here are equally attentive and lovely.

Sanders bedroom

When my friends arrive we head to the Apollo Bar for a snack and to see the art exhibit showing there.

Arch at the Apollo Bar

Tonight we are dining at Joudnær, a Michelin two star restaurant owned by Eric Vildgaard and his wife Tina. The story of how Chef Eric went from gang enforcer to acclaimed chef has the makings of a dramatic movie. I urge you to read about his inspirational story. The end of the story is the love of his wife and the love of cooking brought this amazing restaurant to life and to us.

Chef Eric

It is an breathtaking 19 course dinner with the service as well choreographed as any ballet. The name of the restaurant translates to “down to earth” and it is a vegetable/seafood forward menu. I’ll let the dishes speak for themselves. After dinner we tour the kitchen which is as delightful as any dessert. Walking 11.7 miles today

Menu

Friday July 9, 2021

Great breakfast at the Sanders made even better by the delightful David in the cafe. Today we stroll down the shopping street stopping into the big Illum department store. An employee explains a process whereby they remove the moisture from fresh flowers and replace it with a preserving serum. She then arranges the flowers and the bouquets will last for years.

Onward we go to the meatpacking district where we see more art galleries before walking home to get ready for our dinner at Bæst in the inner Nørrebro area of Copenhagen. This is Christian Puglisi’s Italian restaurant where all the ingredients are grown or raised on his organic farm.

Two pizzas and many yummy other courses later we taxi back. Walking 10.7 miles

Saturday

Today we go to the Louisiana Museum. The name derives from the first owner of the property , Alexander Brun, who named the villa after his three wives, all called Louise. The museum is 22 miles north of Copenhagen and is the most visited art museum in Denmark. The exhibits which impress me are one called Mor! ( Mother), a video work by Arthur Jafa entitled Love is the Message, the Message is Death and one of paintings by a Swedish artist, Mamma Andersson. The Jafa video contrasts the fame and status of black athletes and musicians with the treatment of the African American population in general. The place itself is quite impressive and there is art installed all over the grounds outside.

We decide to try to take the train home. We had many problems getting the ticket machine to work and when the train arrives we just hop on hoping to buy thru the app on our phone before the conductor arrives. With seconds to spare, we achieve success with the app and therefore incur no fines or jail time for violating the train rules. Good thing we are not in jail because tonight is Noma.

Noma is of course one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world. The chef Rene Redzepi has created a gastronomic mecca of Nordic cuisine. The new location is on a large plot of land with greenhouses and herb gardens. Every detail of the many buildings on the property and the open kitchen has been meticulously planned. We have 17 courses each one as beautiful as a painting. Again I will let the pictures speak for the experience. We tour the kitchen of Noma and learn about the concept and the inner workings of this awe inspiring place.

Noma menu
Chef Rene Redzepi
Cardamon Candles–walnut wicks and caramels to eat after flame goes out

We choose to walk home with the Copenhagen sky doing a private show for us. Walking 9.1 miles

Walk home from Noma

Sunday

I am sad to leave Copenhagen this morning, but my flight is at noon so one last breakfast and I say goodbye until the next time. In my week here I’ve walked the equivalent of 3 marathons and enjoyed becoming a part of the biking public . In summary? Copenhagen…..gorgeous canals leading out to the sea, an extraordinary food scene, awe inspiring art, cobblestone streets filled with cafes and wine bars, and the nicest population of anywhere I’ve traveled.

Planning a Solo Adventure

Traveling alone has a lot of perks, from meeting new people to changing your mind on a whim.

I just completed a week long workshop at Rancho la Puerta called Transitions, Transformations and Travel. All the sessions were well attended and enjoyable. I promised the attendees I would post on my site a brief article I wrote for Via magazine on traveling solo. Enjoy!

By Shirley Buccieri 

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Would you like to go on a trip with someone you know intimately, do exactly what you want to do, whenever you want to do it, and never once have to share your dessert?   Then get on board with one of the hottest trends in  the travel industry–Traveling Solo.  The changing demographics of American households, the frustration of trying to mesh friends and partners’ work schedules and interests, and even the popularity of the book and movie Eat, Pray Love mean more and more people are hitting the road alone. For many people, traveling solo is an intriguing concept, but for some, that fascination is mixed with fear. So what are the ways to tip that scale in your favor and acquire the skills of successful solo travelers?

Optimizing your solo travels means mastering three basic concepts: (1) the practical mechanics of  what to do when “It’s all on you”, (2) dealing with the number one concern of solo travelers–loneliness, and  (3) embracing the experience to get the most out of being on a trip with yourself.

Practical Mechanics

Do your homework.  You won’t have a navigator to say get off at this exit or a friend to watch your luggage while you roam about checking out the bus vs. taxi option at the airport.  Advanced planning before you leave home is paramount.  Whether you are heading up to wine country or flying to Berlin, know your route, transportation options and  the general lay of the land before you leave home. Print out maps of things you want to do or put those destinations into your mobile phone or GPS.  Make at least your first night’s hotel reservation ahead of time and know how you are getting there when you arrive. 

Be Safe. Trust your gut. Going solo means the fun of talking to new people alone and accepting impromptu invitations.  But if something doesn’t seem right, trust your intuition and know that it is best to pass on that conversation or opportunity and exit.  Also, dressing and behaving in the manner of the place you are visiting goes a long way towards not labeling you as an outsider and that is good for both safety and enjoying your visit. Open your eyes and take your cues from those around you. 

Don’t be Lonely

Put lines in the water.  One of the things most solo travelers worry about is being lonely, or if not lonely, not having someone to share the wonderful food, art, or performance they are experiencing. This is where having put lines in the water ahead of time will really pay off. Having connections at your destination is a matter of asking people at home to E-connect you with locals they know via email before you leave home. Ask your friends, your doctor, your colleagues–everyone. A certain percentage of these “lines” will pay off. You can follow up when you arrive and set in place at intervals that suit you, dinners, lunches, coffees or drinks.  The nice thing is–one connection leads to another connection and you can pepper your aloneness with as much local companionship as you want to add to your vacation.  

Meet people on your terms.  A solo trip has room for as much or as little interaction as you want. While enjoying the freedom and flexibility of a solo outing, it is actually easier to meet people when you are a solo traveler.  Become a regular at a local coffee house and not only get great local tips, the aura of a regular means you will meet other locals as well. Choose places that have communal tables.   A person alone is much more approachable than a group, or even a couple,  so don’t be surprised if people strike up a conversation with you. Enjoy it! Need a loneliness fix? Get the benefits of a group without being one by signing up for a local walking tour of something that interest you at your destination.  Ask people to take your picture or offer to take theirs.

Embrace the Experience

Go for it.  Now that you have bravely taken your trip, get the most out of it. Put aside your electronic devices and look around. Walk as much as possible or take public transportation. Keep a journal both as a silent companion, but also to note how this experience is changing you. Write down the lessons you are learning from this trip. Contemplation and personal growth come naturally on a solo trip. When traveling with someone, sometimes we temper our curiosity to fit another person’s expectations–solo travel allows uninhibited observation of others and unbridled curiosity.

Mistakes-who cares!  One of the nicest things about solo travel is you learn to cope with your own mistakes and laugh. Got on the wrong train? No one to blame, so you shrug and get off at the next stop and make an adventure of a place you didn’t intend to see. 

No one else to please, so please yourself. You want to linger in the cafe for an hour?  Do it. This museum is boring? Leave. Don’t rush through your trip. Make conscious choices and please yourself. Get lost on purpose. Solo travel lets you be spontaneous and design your own adventure without compromise or negotiation. 

Have themes.  As you get the hang of solo travel, it is fun to have recurrent themes that you explore. Maybe you visit every place with an eye towards “What is the coffee culture?” Or maybe in each location you look at the dynamics of people and their pets? Or maybe you just want to sip an Old Fashion in every place you visit and compare and contrast that simple pleasure.  Go ahead–it’s your trip!

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world”–Freya Stark

This article first appeared in Via Magazine. 

Savouring Sanguis and the last few days of Shirleyfest 2020

Before leaving Santa Barbara, I visit Sanguis Winery. It is one of two wineries I really want to experience during my month (the other is MarBeSo which I wrote about last post). My desire to visit starts with this quote I read on Sanguis’ website, “There is BEAUTY IN ORDER — but to merely accept this as a fact of life is to surrender to the status quo. In this way things will be predictable, monotonous and boring.The ‘Secret’ to making beautiful wine is to work hard at not giving into the seduction of routine and instead to continue experimenting and pushing the limits by exploring new directions. ” This sounds like a wine version of my philosophy of life. So I bike over after my lunch at La Super-Rica and knock on the door of the winery, set in Santa Barbara’s industrial area. The owner and winemaker Matthias Pippig lets me in and I find him and his co- worker Elliot having lunch.

I explained my mission and Matthias interrupts his lunch to talk to me about Sanguis and how it came to be in 2004 with his wife Jamie. Bavarian born Matthias has had many past lives including jazz musician and a stint at La Brea Bakery. I learn of his passion for capturing nature’s beauty in crafting electric Rhône and Bordeaux style blends. Matthias is heading out to Oregon for a new wine project, but he sets me up to have a tasting in a couple of days with his colleague Robin.

Robin amazes me wIth her knowledge. She tells me all about the building and how it became this unique winery at the edge of town. She shows me the process the winery is using to make the perfect wines, and how Sanguis embraces what nature provides. She talks about how they are working with the farmers in all aspects of the planting, pruning, and picking. Then we get down to the business of tasting. From Stolen Moments, to Loner to the Optimist to Bossman I am loving the depth and nuance of these wines. It won’t surprise any of my readers that I have to own some of the Optimist.

While we taste. we exchange ideas about travel and life. I do not know when I have had a better full range conversation with someone I had only just met. A native of Santa Barbara, Robin is an athlete ( dancer) and as such she has focus, spirit and the ability to rise to new challenges. She also loves food and before I go she gives me two good tips. Revolver Pizza and a new wine bar called Venus in Furs.

I am actually fairly hungry after the tasting and even though Robin was dubious that I could get a pizza that day, as they limit what they make, I give Revolver a call. Luck is with me.

A chef driven New York style pizza place only opened one month, Revolver takes on the name of the Beatles iconic album which for the Beatles was a leap into the future. So it is with the trio of men collaborating on this new venture. As Robin suggests, I take my prize pizza to Mesa Lane Beach nearby and have my own psychedelic experience of all my senses being happy from the memories of the day at Sanguis Winery and now the delicious pizza and the incredible view of the sun on the beach.

I have been following the Santa Barbara zoo on instagram and thinking of dropping by. I learn from my new friends Paul and Lynn that if I bike there I can also bike to the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge so that is my plan. The zoo is nicely laid out and manageable. I do believe I am the only person at the zoo without a child in tow, but I don’t care, I’m doing research.

A short bike ride later I am at the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge, one of the largest wildlife refuges in Santa Barbara County. It is named for the older sister of the heiress Huguenots Clark, who owned Bellosguardo (which is near the refuge), one of the several empty mansions of the reclusive copper heiress who died in 2011 at the age of 104. Bellosguardo sat furnished but unvisited by Huguette Clark after 1951. The staff was under orders to keep the home as it was, and automobiles remained in the carriage house with 1949 license plates, as described in the Clark biography Empty Mansions. The heiress funded the refuge in honor of her sister who died a week before her 17th birthday. There are over 200 species of birds in the refuge. It is so peaceful just sitting here taking in the refuge, the palm tress and the view of the ocean nearby.

Remembering Robin’s other recommendation, that night my neighbor Lynn and I head to the brand new Venus in Furs wine bar/cafe. It is a collaboration of a well known restaurant group in town named after the song by the Velvet Underground who named the song after an 1870 novella by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The front of house, Jamie, talks to us about the opening and gives us some background before we settle into a wine cocktail. All the cocktails are made with wine–not hard alcohol. Our choice is the Bee’s Lee’s, a delicious concoction of textured white winer, yellow peach blanc vermouth, honey and lemon.

After consulting with our lovely server, Jo, we smartly pair the drinks with some garden fritters made of olives, fried greens and citrus.

We eventually move on to try some of the wines paired with the spiced lamb belly and the melon with duck prosciutto and persimmons. A fun evening and so great to be able to walk to the restaurant and then walk home under the Santa Barbara moon. We didn’t have dessert and that may be my fault. Earlier in the day, hot from my bike ride I made a little stop.

The last morning in Santa Barbara I do one last bike ride along the beach. I lock my bike up and go for one last stroll at the water’s edge. Thank you Santa Barbara and thank you all the wonderful people I met during my month here. I’ll be back.

Happy Birthday Drink Eat Laugh

Wednesday was my birthday. I was told those last 5 words that day and here it is 72 hours later and I still can repeat them. The tick of one year older has not caused any mental degradation in me! Can you remember these words? More about my birthday later.

Friday morning I head off for the Montecito Farmer’s Market. I love Farmer’s Markets, but also I was hoping Megan, Harry and Archie might be there picking up some local squashes or peaches. No such luck, but I did find some chayote which I had never seen before. It is a gourd originally from Columbia and is cooked like a summer squash.

After the Farmer’s Market I head straight up and 10 minutes later I am at Lotusland. Lotusland is an amazing botanical garden. Madame Ganna Walska, a well-known Polish opera singer and socialite, purchased the Montecito estate in 1941 and spent the next 43 years creating Lotusland, today recognized as one of the best gardens in the world. There is a spectacular collections of exotic plants on the 37-acre property. I start in the cycad area and a guide points to these large three cycads and tells me they are called the three bachelors. Madame Walska sold off a million dollars of her jewelry to get these and the other cycads. These three are sub tropical plants that lived over 250 million years ago, before the dinosaurs. They are no surviving female plants for the three bachelors on the planet today. As a single lady I find this amusing.

There are guides throughout the garden. I learn so much from each of them. Cory, the Gardner, talks to me about bees— native bees, bumblebees, honeybees. I learn there are over 4000 species of bees and that they morphed from wasps. They have an entire section devoted to flowers that the bees and butterfly’s love.

Two bees or not two bees?

Honestly there is so much to tell about every section of the garden that I can’t do it justice. Let me just post a few more pictures I took and then encourage you to get a ticket if you are ever in Santa Barbara.

The one Farmer’s Market that I still want to get to is the Fishermans Market out on the wharf where the freshest catches are brought in from 6-11 on Saturday Morning. Today is the day.

It is so fun to see all the fishing boats and local fish, a lot of which is caught in the Channel Islands. I had a great talk with Paul who was selling vermillion ( like snapper) with his assistant Dylan. Paul tells me why the eyes of the fish bulge out ( has to do with a little balancing sac in the fish that expands when the fish come up from the deep sea).

Paul has been doing this for 40 years and seems to love both the fishing and the market. Paul tells me about an Italian man Salvatore Castagnola born in Italy in 1876. He came to the United States through New York in 1904. Salvatore started building fishing skiffs and acquired a fleet of 7 fishing boats. The family opened a fish market in 1929 in Santa Barbara and they shipped fish all over California. He and his wife had 11 children. One of the Castagnola fishing boats came up for sale and Paul bought it. It is named Sal C after Salvatore. He let me take a picture of him with his boat.

I have biked to the Fisherman’s Market so now I start biking to meet my new SB friends at La Super-Rica Taqueria. This beloved institution has been drawing crowds for decades from near and far with its simple, delicious food. Julia Child put it on the map when she moved to Santa Barbara after husband passed away. She announced in numerous interviews and magazines that it was her favorite spot. Lots of controversies exists as to its enduring claim to fame but I just want you to know that I loved it.

I beat my three friends there ( because I’m on my bike and don’t have to park) and get in the line. When they arrive they all have their favorites but I am torn.

I finally go for the Super Rica Especial (#16) and a special of the day fish tamale. If you look at these prices you see that over ordering isn’t a financial burden ( but it is a waistline burden). The people working here are so very nice.

This is Hector. I hung out talking to him while orders came and went. He has worked here for 20 years and takes such pride in his work. After a while he tells me, “ Shirley, you can call me Tito. That’s my nickname.” My order is up and it looks so delicious! Here is my tamale and my Super Rica Especial.

Here are my friends who suggested this outing. Lynn, Susan and Lynda.

But wait what about my birthday? Or birthday week actually. Do you remember those 5 words I told you at the beginning of this post. I was afraid of that. Happy Birthday Drink Eat Laugh

My brother John and sister in law Virginia arrive Monday night. We head out for a great tapas meal at Loquita in the Funk Zone to kick things off. The next day we hike the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve. It is a beautiful protected area where the Santa Ynez Mountains can be seen to the north and the Channel Islands to the south. There is a view down to the Carpinteria Harbor Seal Rockery. The seals are there year round.

Now it is Wednesday my actual birthday. We start at a local art gallery, Sullivan Goss, to see the paintings of a local artist named Hank Pitcher.

Virginia and I are quite taken by another local artist in the gallery, Erika Carter. Her paintings are rooted in her travels to central Mexico. We both want this lady to grace a room in our homes.

When we arrive back at home, there are beautiful birthday flowers from two of my favorite people.

Now we head up to Buellton. First for a visit to Pence Winery. I mentioned Pence in one of my earlier posts. This time we sit in the Canyon and have a wonderful afternoon sipping their delicious wines.

But honestly the highlight of the wine experience is still to come. A brand new undertaking by Colin McNany, his wife Hannah and the adorable Poppy. I know this family from Colin’s days as the winemaker at La Honda Winery in the Bay Area. The new winery is called MarBeSo. They have a passion for coastal influenced wines. Please put this winery on your radar and get in on their wine futures. You will not be sorry.

Dinner tonight we easily walk to my favorite Olio e Limone. Despite my resolution to forgo dessert it comes out with a candle so what can I do but have a bite or two… or three.

John and Virginia leave Thursday and I would be sad except my friend Joan has invited me for a delicious lunch of a salmon salad from NYT Cooking at her beautiful home. It is so nice to meet new people on Shirleyfest with which you have an instant connection.

That evening I head to Hendry’s beach and catch the sunset and feel so blessed by all the love and friendship I have experienced this birthday.

And do you believe it, there is one more birthday dinner? Last year in Kyoto Angela and Jim helped me celebrate my birthday and they have made a return visit to to do that again this year. We head to Ca’ Dario and have one more beautiful celebration.

Another birthday, another post. Next and maybe last post will be in the next few days. Until then thanks for visiting Shirleyfest.

Food glorious food!

I am sitting on State Street which has been turned into a pedestrian zone, eating a Yoga Pants Salad and drinking a Sunshine Spritz and talking to the delightful Paul of Satellite about natural wines. It is noon on a Friday in Santa Barbara. The salad is created from the Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market offerings and the owner, Emma West, packed it with vegan protein to lure the patrons of the yoga studio next door after their sessions. The Sunshine Spritz is like an aperol spritz but two local vermouths replace the aperol. Paul gave me the recipe and I’ll make you one next time you come to my house. Better yet, come to Satellite the next time you are in SB.

Since I just had a “little” salad for lunch, I am happy to dig into Via Maestro’ fresh clams and linguine for dinner tonight with my new friends Lynn and Susan.

Via Maestro actually started as an Italian import business and then 20 years ago Renalto decided to showcase the products he had been supplying to restaurants by opening a restaurant of his own. It is a not well kept secret of every local I talk to.

So how do I choose where to eat and drink on Shirleyfest? I start by reading food blogs. Food bloggers have the inside scoop much more so than travel guides, TripAdvisor or Yelp. I almost never use those sources as they run to the touristy side of eating. I consult the travel writings of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian as I have calibrated those sources to usually be spot on with what I like. Then I talk to locals and most importantly when I like a restaurant I ask the chef where the chef likes to eat. I always keep a notebook and pen with me and you would be surprised how many chefs and restaurant workers have scribbled out fabulous places that I would never have known about.

But before food there is the cocktail hour. I learned of Test Pilot from a food blog. When my sister MJ came to town last week we headed straight over. I had the Millennial Falcon Fizz and MJ had the Spicy Margarita. Excellent! See happy sister below.

We proceed to dinner at Bouchon, recommended by several friends. Take a look at that bottle of wine behind me.

Remember in post #1 where I found a Santa Barbara Gruner Veltliner I loved? This restaurant didn’t have it on their list but our server agreed it is really the best so he went and found a bottle for us to have. The wine is the Tatomer Gruner Veltliner.

The day after Bouchon, MJ and I rode bikes out o Butterfly Beach and then my friends Tom and John joined Shirleyfest. We walked all over town before ending up at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company where I ate my first night in Santa Barbara This time I went for the fresh Dungeness Crab Louis.

All that walking led of course to needing sustenance so the guys had McConnell’s ice cream— which has been around for decades and is the finest ice cream in the world according to Time magazine. Organic eggs, grass grazed cows producing the milk and nothing added. I resisted that but broke down at Chocolate Maya. Maya is a Swiss woman, who 20 years ago, finding no fine chocolates in this area returned to Switzerland and studied under famous Swiss chocolatiers to return and open her fine chocolate shop. In talking with her we discovered we had both been in the same fine chocolate shop in Kyoto last year at the exact same time.

Hours pass before we all reunite at The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch for the most beautiful, extravagant dining experience in Santa Barbara. We are ushered to a table under a canopy of twinkly lights and start with a flatbread and cocktails. This is followed by amazing local halibut and Steak Diane and…..please stop me before I explode!

The next day we are going wine tasting at three wineries just north of here. You know what that means— gotta eat before tasting. We head to Industrial Eats in Buellton. It is a restaurant tucked into a re-purposed warehouse in the town made famous by the movie Sideways. The ingredients are all grown on the surrounding farms,

We first taste at Alma Rosa next door and then drive 10 minutes to Pence Winery , a 220 acre working ranch owned by Blair Pence, a Burgundy lover. His wines are esteemed Pinot noirs and chardonnays. The tasting is so beautiful as we are led past a pond and into a canyon for a private tasting with Mia.

We also do a very nice tasting at Melville Winery, but it is soon time to head back to Santa Barbara for a dinner overlooking the city at El Canto. It is straight up from where I am staying so MJ and I walk up and meet Tom and John. We feasted on whole Branzino while seeing the city glitter below.

The next day MJ and I hike for miles on Hendry’s beach and Tom and John meet us there after a long bike ride. We eat at the Boathouse Restaurant overlooking the beach. The hostess sends over a mud pie because we had to wait for our table and I think MJ and I got a teaspoon each.

That night we eat at Lark, a favorite for a long time. The Lark is named after the overnight Pullman train of Southern Pacific Railroad that serviced Santa Barbara from 1910 to 1968. The octopus there is so tender!

Before MJ leaves we bike to a great brunch at Joe’s Cafe and make a stop at Oat Bakery, my very favorite in Santa Barbara. It is called a superfood bakery for its all natural ingredients but you would never know it. Lovely Anna is so helpful and suggests I get everything.

Now I am on my own and I know what I want to do. Go to Cold Spring Tavern. It was an old stagecoach stop in 1865 and is about 20 minutes drive away. In the 1800s drivers would change horses there and have a meal. It is a throwback in time. It is a beautiful drive there. I made a reservation and I am glad I did as even at 11:30 the place is getting crowded with interesting types. I get a great table out back and go for the special tri- tip sandwich with onion rings. Delicious!

I think it is time to call it quits on food glorious food. There are some great other places I have tried: like Tyger Tyger (Thai) and Los Agaves ( Mexican) but I think you are full now.

Tomorrow I am hiking to Inspiration Point and going to try to only eat lettuce all day!

Channeling Santa Barbara…..how I saw the biggest mammal in the world

I’ve always wanted to go to the Channel Islands. It seems so mysterious. I jump out of bed at 6 am and then head down to Ventura to catch the boat. I am not disappointed as the harbor is shrouded in fog.

My new friend Joan has agreed to go on the adventure with me and after about 90 minutes we reach the exotic Santa Cruz Island. According to legend, Santa Cruz Island was named for a priest’s staff accidentally left on the island during the Portola expedition of 1769. A Chumash Indian found the cross-tipped stave and returned it to the priest. The Spaniards were so impressed that they called this island of friendly people “La Isla de Santa Cruz,” the Island of the Sacred Cross. It is the largest island in California and has a rich history of over 10,000 years of habitation. Today we are a small group of adventurers who temporarily inhabit this beautiful place.

The fog has lifted to showcase the beautiful blue water and an unbelievable variety of flora and fauna. We are offered the opportunity to hike to Pelican Bay, a “strenuous” hike if we sign a waiver. Of course we do.

We have a well deserved picnic at the end of the climb overlooking the bay.

Back down to the shore we explore the beautiful coastline.

Now we embark for the journey back. The sun is shining and we are treated to dolphins jumping along side the boat.

But the best was yet to come. Cue Jaws music. What is that bright blue object just under the surface of the water?

It is a blue whale, the biggest mammal on earth. 100 feet long and weighing 100 tons. And guess what? They live to be between 70 and 100 years old ( the oldest one recorded was 103). This one was a joy to watch. They generally stay down about 8 minutes so we patiently waited and then this happened.

It was a fabulous day and I can’t believe how lucky we are to have the Channel Islands so accessible.

The Channel Islands haven’t been my only adventure since my last post. I am coming to realize that Santa Barbara has 4 main things going for it: Water, mountains, wineries and the town. Let me take you back to the end of my last post to show you what I mean. I’ll start with water and go in all four directions.

After a great brunch with new friends Paul and Lynn and their boys, I took myself on a little exploration road trip. I saw the resort Bacara in the west, sitting on a remote lovely beach.

Then I went west to Santa Claus Beach and Padaro Beach and walked a long ways just loving the beautiful homes on the beach.

I went due south to Hendry’s beach shown above and then north to Lake Casita.

Water everywhere! Then there are the mountains. Santa Barbara is blessed with the very usual transverse mountains ( East-West). Most of the Santa Ynez mountains are in the Los Padres National Forest. I tried to hike in the mountains my first few days here but with all the fires it was forbidden. They call it Red Flag Days. I have to say the locals all know when those days are, but it is very hard for a visitor to find out. Luckily I have made friends with my next door neighbor, Lynn, who clues me in. If you park your car and go hiking on a red flag day— it is towed!

The ban has been lifted and I have done a lot of hiking since. The views from the mountains are fantastic.

The day before the Channel Island trip I combined the mountains and the ocean to go from the highest point I could hike to kayaking at sea level at sunset. I started off on Cold Spring Trail but then veered towards the top of the ridge.

(more…)

Santa Stunningly Beautiful Barbara

I didn’t know what to expect this year. No long airplane ride, no changing currency and time zones. No cell phone plan, no long cab ride from the airport to my new home and then figuring out how to work the lock in the dark. No pondering how to get a metro card on the first day. Nope, I just lock my front door and hop in my car.

I finish the 5 hour drive by cutting over on Route 154 and passing the most beautiful lake, forest and wineries. And suddenly I am here in my new home for 30 days.

Everywhere you look in Santa Barbara you find beauty. The sky is so blue, the palm trees line most streets and , well, the weather…..After getting settled in I walk down State Street which has been turned into a pedestrian zone.

Restaurants spill out onto the sidewalk. I meander until I reach the end of Stearns Wharf. This long wharf was built by a lumberman so that his ships could off load their lumber rather than throwing the lumber into the ocean and having it float to shore. It was a bustling business until the railroads came to California and took over the hauling of lumber. Now it is protected from becoming a Pier 39 or Santa Monica amusement area by the SB city council, but it does have a couple great places to grab dinner. So I did. At Santa Barbara Shellfish Company.

The next day, I start by finding the best coffee place in town: Handlebar Coffee. Delicious coffee and a great crew working there. Shout out to Brianna.

Not far away is a historic neighborhood I want to see called Brinkerhoff Ave. I bike there and it is a well preserved architectural showcase. It is named after Mr Brinkerhoff, a medical doctor from the east coast who persuaded people that the fumes from the tar in the sand in Santa Barbara was good for their health. He bought the whole block for $20. That idea coupled with the advent of the railroads and Sunset magazine luring people to the easy living of SB caused a huge influx in SB in the late 19th century. Then I bike along the beach for a long ways, seeing the stunning coast line and biking along a flower filled path.

I return to the area called the Funk Zone. This was a run down industrial area until it was turned into a “funky” interesting artist/restaurant/urban tasting trail. I have scheduled a walking tour but before it starts, I get in line at Mony’s, a little walk up burrito/taco shack. Mony’s is said to have the best Mexican food outside of Mexico City. It was delicious!

The walking tour is given by John and happily my two new neighbors, Lynn and Lynda, join the tour. He does a great job of showing us the history behind the current buildings and is a wealth of knowledge. His favorite ( and mine) was a building called Plant 59 where in 1942 Lockheed secretly moved half their operations into in order to avoid an anticipated strike by the Japanese on Los Angeles ( which never happened). There are little artist studios everywhere.

This is one where after having her windows vandalized, the artist decided to put up big scale art work instead of new windows. This used to be the headquarters of Weber bread— the west coast equivalent of Wonder Bread. Those train tracks are where the flour was dumped off each week by the rail.

Speaking of flour, Helena Ave Bakery is really well know in SB. I stop by for a cup of coffee and a piece of their sourdough toast the next morning.

I am pretty sure that is an entire jar of blueberry lavender jam on that toast. Ok well I’m biking off to join a Harbor Tour with John.

Another great tour that helps me understand the history of this wonderful place. We end with the famous Moreton Bay fig tree, planted from a seed in 1876 given by an Australian seaman to a little local girl that now 10,000 people can stay in the shade of and the beautiful SB railway station.

After the tour, I explore the Ambassador neighborhood of SB. Small homes and apartments near the ocean.

As many my followers know, one of the best parts of Shirleyfest is meeting people at my local destination. This evening I meet Joan, introduced to me by my friend Lila ( who visited me on Berlin Shirleyfest). We had a bite and drinks at the venerable Joe’s Cafe and had a great time discussing our mutual love of travel.

Coincidentally the next morning I am meeting another of Lila’s introductions, Maggie, who lives in Ojai. We agree to meet at Field and Fort in Summerland. It is a beautiful day and I decide to bike the 7 miles there. Another terrific person! I learn so much from meeting locals— why they moved to my host city, their favorite spots, but most of all it fits into the Tao of Shirleyfest. The real point of my travel is not vacation but exploration and part of that is in connecting with others. As Teddy Roosevelt’s uncle Robert once said after Teddy Sr wrote home from Europe about the sites he’d seen, “ I’m afraid, Theodore, you have mistaken the object of travel. It is not to see scenery…it is to see men. To enlarge your mind you must converse with and see the bent of minds of other people.” And so it goes with my Shirleyfest.

Later that night I head to an art gallery exposition followed by wine tasting at the Santa Barbara Wine Collective. Santa Barbara is one of the most interesting wine regions and famously is the longest East to West valley from Alaska to South America. This means the climate is perfect for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

The lovely Brooklyn pours me a flight of Santa Barbara whites and was nice enough to switch out one for a SB gruner veltliner that I was excited to try. For years this Austrian denominated wine has been my favorite white. I certainly drank a lot of it on Vienna Shirleyfest. I was excited to find a local winery making that wine. (Tatomer Winery). During the tasting I had a great conversation with Grace and Garret, there with their lovely baby Remi.

The next day is warm. I walk to the Saturday farmer’s market which is large and diverse. I see lots of chefs loading up their carts for their restaurants. I stop by the tiny but lovely Alice Keck Garden on my way home.

My brother John and sister-in-law Virginia ( the owners of this lovely home I’m inhabiting for SB Shirleyfest- I can’t say thank you enough times for that 🙏) took me to the Douglas Family Preserve when we visited together in August. I remember them telling me you could see great sunsets from there, so tonight I drive back and I am not disappointed.

So that is my first five days of Santa Barbara Shirleyfest. As I look out at the sunset, I am so happy I pivoted to SB for my 10th Shirleyfest and didn’t let the coronavirus cancel my exploration. I’ m looking forward to what comes next on this year’s Shirleyfest.

Oh yes there will be a Shirleyfest 2020

So far 2020 has brought us all a lot of bad news….coronavirus, social unrest, so many untimely deaths, impeachment, Brexit, stock market melt downs, floods, fires and locust …..I think we all are looking for some positive relief, both globally and personally. My original Shirleyfest plans were scuttled when France said “merci, mais non” to any US visitors. This being my 10th Shirleyfest, I definitely wasn’t going to forgo my month tradition, so I needed to regroup quickly. I am so happy to announce that Shirleyfest 2020 will be in Santa Barbara, Ca. It’s a 5 hour car ( not plane) ride away with excellent September weather and loads of trails and beaches. It has a rich history that I’m looking forward to digging into as well. Did you know it has been inhabited for 13,000 years ( originally by hunter-gathers known as the Chumash people) and the oldest human remains in North America, a 10,000 year old skeleton called the Arlington Springs Man, were found there? It has been leveled twice by earthquakes (1812 and 1925) and the avocado craze started in Santa Barbara