Tasting Life Twice

Archive for the category “Road Trips”

Memories of Florence

A new book from Dan Brown was released today.  An NBC news article states,

Inferno, released Tuesday, sticks with the classic recipe: The novel’s opening scenes are set in Florence, an Italian city with a history as convoluted as its street map. Dante’s Divine Comedy provides literary and artistic allusions — and lots of numerological clues for Langdon.

Florence? Convoluted street maps? Really? You don’t say.

I recall a trip to Florence a few years ago, where we attempted to navigate the labyrinthine streets.

“I think the hotel is this way.”

“Are you sure? I thought it was that way.”

“We just came from that way.”

“No, we can from that direction. I remember.”

“Oh look guys, there’s the Duomo.  Again.”

“Oh. Ok.  Well maybe it’s that way, then.”

“My shoes are wet. I need to buy a pair of socks.”

“How about we stop and get some wine?”

“Good idea.”

“Weren’t we just here?”

As J.R.R. Tolkien reminded us, “not all who wander are lost.”







Some Pointers for Peru

So you are headed to Peru?  How exciting! You’ll be stepping back in time and sightseeing at the crossroad of two great cultures.  Reflecting on the Spanish arrival in the Americas, Bartolome de Las Casas concluded that what happened 500 years ago is a story of “events so amazing that they overshadow all other famous deeds in history.”

Ahead of going, I’d highly recommend reading two fairly recent books, The Last Day of the Incas and Turn Right at Machu Picchu.  Both of them are very well written and engaging accounts of the history that surrounds your trip.

When you are in Lima, I’d recommend dinner (and pisco sours) at La Rosa Nautica on the waterfront.  The food is great and the view is exceptional.  And did I mention the pisco sours?  If possible, plan your dining for dinnertime so you can watch the surfers and also watch the sun disappear into the western horizon.  Or do what we did and dine there more than once!

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In Lima, there are some beautiful parks on the bluff tops that look out on the Pacific Ocean. They are great for an evening stroll. 

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Be sure and check out the Lima Cathedral, the catacombs there and the burial site of Spanish Conquistador, Francisco Pizarro. 

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When in Cusco, you’ll be in the heart of the former Incan Empire.  You’ll see The Convent of Santo Domingo, once one of the oldest Christian churches in Latin America, built right on top of Coricancha, the Incan Temple to the Sun God.  In Cusco, you’ll also see the incredible stone masonry of the Incans.  The stonework is so masterfully done that you can’t slide a credit card between the blocks.Peru 143

The historic square is filled with great shops and restaurants, some of which feature live music and salsa dancing.  We ate at a second floor restaurant on the Plaza de Armas that looks out on the beautifully illuminated Cusco cathedral. 

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While in Cusco, be sure and check out The International Center for the Study for Machu Picchu and Incan Culture.  For many years, Peru and the Peabody Museum at Yale University were in a dispute over rights to the antiquities taken from Machu Picchu.  Hiram Bingham, the famed explorer of Machu Picchu took many artifacts to New Haven, CT and in the last few years, Yale University has returned them.  Many of them are now housed in this new center in Cusco.  Your children will be interested to know that Yale Professor Hiram Bingham was an inspiration for the Indiana Jones character.  Bingham’s own story is riveting and that will help you get ready for visiting Machu Picchu.  Your children will enjoy seeing the first photographs taken from his National Geographic Expedition there in 1912 and published in April 1913.

After you’ve acclimated to the altitude in Cusco, you’ll make your way to Machu Picchu, which is indescribable.  It was recently designated one of the seven new wonders of the world and it is a mesmerizing place.  We spent two days there and I’m grateful we did.  One day was cloudy and misty and the mountain citadel was shrouded in mystery.  The next day was filled with glorious sun breaks on the peaks of the Andean mountains. 

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You’ll love the town of Aguas Calientes as the base of Machu Picchu. There are a lot of great food restaurant choices but one we really liked was The Café Inkaterra which has some stunning views of the Urubamba River. 

Enjoy the trip! I’ll look forward to hearing about it upon your return.  As I’ll be returning there again in the near future, I expect you to update me on other good places to eat and important things to see. 

Bon voyage!

p.s.  When you are in Peru, your family needs to try the guinea pigs.  It’s one of their delicacies, you know.  You might want to wash it down with a chicha beer or a pisco sour or two!  Did I mention the pisco sours, already?

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Scenes from My Wandering

“Wandering can help restore one’s humanity and reestablish the harmony once existing between us and the cosmos.”

William Least Heat Moon, Roads to Quoz: An American Mosey

A Day in the Desert, Part 2


A Day in the Desert, Part 1

Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Las Vegas, Nevada

You Know It’s Hot When….

You know it’s hot when the costumed street performers on Las Vegas Strip are breaking character and the Gene Simmons (KISS) impersonator can’t keep the paint on his face.  I feel sorry for all of the little children whose dream world has been shattered by seeing Elmo and Minnie Mouse and Luigi carrying their heads with them down the streets


Remembering D-Day

A few of my photographs from Normandy, taken in March of this year. 

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Pictures from the Rez

Some pictures from Pine Ridge Reservation, Badlands National Park, Wounded Knee Cemetery, Red Cloud Indian School and Black Elk’s cabin. 

The Adventures of Travel: Foreign Cuisine

Paul Bowles, adventurous traveler and novelist, used to say that whenever he traveled he wanted the place and experience to be unlike anything he had ever seen or experienced before.  Bowles craved the exotic and even felt slightly amused if he was swindled overseas.  He thought it was all part of the exchange of leaving the familiar and venturing into the land of the strange. 

Before we travel, I talk to the students about training their eye to notice what is different and what is similar.  Here’s a story of what can happen when you travel.

After a long day, our bus rolls into Caen, France and we head for the medieval district for dinner.  We look at the menus of the many fantastic restaurants that are nearby.  We finally settle on one that has heated, outdoor patio seating and Italian cuisine.

Upon ordering our food, we discover that the waiter doesn’t speak English (or at least to us).  So we use improvisational sign language.  We tell him we want separate checks for each of us.  We then point to what we want on the menu.  And then we select our food. I order a pizza with some kind of meat.  Or so I think I do. 

When my pizza comes, it looks like this:


When I get my pizza with meat on it, there is a yellow, runny thing in the middle.  Wondering what it is, I ask our resident French scholar, Olivia Koselansky, “what the heck is this thing in the middle of my pizza?”

“That”, she tells me, “is ouef.”

“But”, I tell her, “I didn’t order ouef.”

“Oh, but you did”, she replies with a bilingual smile.

The yellow thing in the middle of my pizza is an egg.  Heck, had I known that the cook was going to feed me a breakfast supper, I would have at least had him scramble the eggs.

I don’t go ugly American on him.  I didn’t use the only sign language I really know. And I did feign a smile while eating the running egg pizza.

He brings the check but it is all on one ticket.  We use our improvised sign language to ask him to break up the check into separate orders.  He doesn’t understand.  So we do the math on our own.  It gets complicated.  We have to remember the French names of our menu items: “Ok, who had the pates avec de la viande et oeuf?”  

“I don’t know.  What is it?” someone says.

“I don’t know.  That’s just what it says.”

After what felt like hours of advanced computational exercises, we figure it out.  We explain to our waiter what we’re doing.  He doesn’t understand.  He motions, “one minute” and goes to get the hostess.  She comes to our table.  She doesn’t understand.  She motions, “one minute” and goes to get the manager.  He comes to our table, shakes his head that he understands, “oui, oui”. 

The whole experience reminded me of this very funny prank that was on the Jimmie Kennedy Show a few years ago about a woman trying to order food at a cajun restaurant in New Orleans.


In our case, we begin to process payment.  My card doesn’t work.  I worry that I’ve broken the bank back home.  I try a second card.  It doesn’t work.  He doesn’t speak English but shows me the receipt with a French note that roughly translates to, “you’re up the creek without a paddle”.  This process continues for fifteen minutes.  None of our cards work on his portable credit card machine.  So, he does the upper-level international sign language for “alright, you idiots.  There is a bank ATM machine down the street four blocks south and then another two blocks to the left in between Henri’s bakery and Marie’s floral shop.  You can get Euros from there and come back and pay in cash.”

And so we do.  We got to the Bank in small groups, leaving a few at the table to make a good showing of honesty.  We don’t want the French police looking after us, thinking we are doing the “dine and dash”. 

By the time we Americans pay the French restaurant owner for our Italian meal, we are late for the bus. 

That is the adventure of traveling!

Rouen, Auvers and Paris

Today we followed the steps of Monet, Joan of Arc and Vincent Van Gogh visiting Rouen, Auvers and finishing our day with St. Patrick’s Day in Paris. 

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