Travels with Lulu on Instagram


A Day in Sonoma, California

DSC_1634This past week I’ve been in Northern California country, on my own, without Lulu. It’s the first time in months that I got on a plane without my 4-year old traveling companion. I’m here for a Travel Writers’ Conference at Book Passage, the incredible bookstore in Marin County. It’s been non-stop learning and loving the craft of writing.

The kick-off to the conference was a day trip to Sonoma with Don George, co-chair of the conference who has a long, impressive career in travel writing. We began the day in the actual town. A wild-west-looking outpost at some moments, at others it struck me as quaint, appealing, and exactly what I picture when I think of an old Californian town– one steeped in history from our country’s gold rush years, along with influences from Spanish culture.

It’s a lovely place to visit, with charming inns, enticing restaurants and shops, and of course, dozens of places to taste wine. Along with a friend from the group, I stopped at the charming Sonoma Hotel, where we were told Maya Angelou had once booked a room in which she wrote part of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. We stumbled upon a chic yet rustic bed & breakfast, A Inn 2 Remember, whose decor and charm knocked us off our feet and guaranteed our return for another stay. The outlets for hospitality here– hotels, inns, restaurants, cafes, tasting rooms– beg for return, each is so enticing in their décor and sensibility.

Lobby of the Sonoma Hotel

Lobby of the Sonoma Hotel

A Room at Sonoma Hotel

A Room at Sonoma Hotel

The wide hallway/former dance hall of the Sonoma Hotel

The wide hallway/former dance hall of the Sonoma Hotel

The lovely dining area of An Inn 2 Remember

The lovely dining area of An Inn 2 Remember

The sitting room of An Inn to Remember

The sitting room of An Inn to Remember

Interior of The Girl and the Fig

Interior of The Girl and the Fig

Outdoor wine tasting

Outdoor wine tasting

A Favorite- Bryter Tasting Room

A Favorite- Bryter Tasting Room

The reason I wanted to travel to Sonoma however was the same reason most come here: the vineyards.

Don took us to Cline Cellars, a vineyard in Carneros Valley. The visit exceeded expectations. Under bright blue skies, our guide, Mike Alberigi, walked us through the property. He was extremely knowledgable and charismatic and his passion for his work had us all enthusiastic about the vineyard’s story, as well as its incredible wines.

The vineyards were gorgeous, highlighted by colorful landscaping, flowing ponds, and other areas of interest, including a museum that housed miniature versions of old California missions. It all ended the best way possible– with rounds of tastings of their sumptuous wines! I could not have asked for a better way to spend the day, the perfect way to start our stay. Without a doubt, I will return one day soon– this time, with Lulu in tow.

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The Inspirational Writing of Annie Lamott

Anne Lamott – Image © Richard Krusemark

I was first introduced to the writing of Anne Lamott through her widely popular book for aspiring writers, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It was educational, it was funny, it was reflective, and for a how-to kind of book, it had a lot of heart.

Encouraged by her writing in Bird by Bird, I found Operating Instructions, her memoir about her first year as a single mother, which she wrote in the mid-90s. Having just become a mother myself, I picked it up to read. It was one of the first honest accounts of new motherhood, whether a woman is raising a baby with a partner or on her own.

Lulu was just a baby then, so I related to much of what Lamott expressed in its pages. It was one of those exhilarating moments when one reads passages and instantly realizes— I am not alone. For me, this is what the best writing does. My most treasured reads are ones that inspire, that elicit compassion or understanding, and offer a connection that reassures us the human experience is not one we endure alone. We all have our struggles.

Lamott is a master at this. I aspire to touch the human heart with my writing as she does so effortlessly.

Two years ago, Annie Lamott wrote Some Assembly Required. This was a follow-up to Operating Instructions—where the first was a memoir about her time with her newborn son Sam, Some Assembly Required was about her and Sam’s time with Lamott’s first grandchild. It was co-authored along with Sam, who became a father at the age of 19.

Lamott and Her Son Sam - Image © Rick Forrestal

Lamott and Her Son Sam – Image © Rick Forrestal

When her book tour brought her to my local Barnes & Noble bookstore, I went that evening to listen to her speak and to buy her book. I approached her afterwards, to tell her how encouraging it was to read her first memoir when I too first became a single mother of a little girl, and how it was a great source of comfort to me at the time.

“Thank you,” she said. “How old is your daughter?”

“She’s two years old,” I responded.

“Oh great!” she replied. “I have a husband for her…”

After the initial shock, as marrying Lulu off was the last thing on my mind (and still is), I realized she was referring to her own grandson Jax, who at the time had also recently turned two years old!

And just like in her writing, she brought a moment of humor to my day.

Lately I have been overwhelmed with the news flooding into the media these past few weeks, as you may have been too. The unrelenting killing in Gaza and Israel. The conflict in the Ukraine that led to the tragic loss of foreign lives. The immigration problem with children at our borders. The Ebola outbreak. Freak deadly weather storms. Libya. Afghanistan. The list goes on.

To hear any of this news, on top of whatever stresses anyone may be experiencing on a personal level, is too much to bear. Earlier this week on Facebook, Lamott posted her thoughts and once again, brought it all home for her readers to find solace.

At the end of the day, when we are feeling helpless in the face of widespread global news, isn’t this all we can ask of artists, and writers who write well?

Solace. And to know we are not alone.

Click the image to read her Facebook post below, or you may find it easier to read by clicking the link:

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=524013137728334&id=115632081899777

AnnieLamott

Memories of Capri, Italy

JK

JK Capri Hotel Overlooking Capri Harbour

This morning I read in the New York Times about NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s current holiday to Capri, Italy. I thought it was amusing that even on vacation, he maintains his “every man” public persona by staying at a modest hotel at Ana Capri– not even on the main glamorous island of Capri itself. He and his family eat at simple restaurants, and they took the (gasp!) public ferry from Naples. In contrast, the reporter writes about Cameron Diaz, who is also in the area, taking a private helicopter to arrive to Capri for her stay.

Five years ago I took that same public ferry from Naples, on a vacation to Capri and the Amalfi Coast. In fact, at the risk of giving too much information, two unforgettable weeks on that glorious coast produced the 4-year old travel companion I have today. It really is a special part of the world– the bright color of the waters, the lingering smell of Amalfi’s lemon trees, the towering rock formations rising from the water called faraglioni. We stayed at the JK Capri (www.jkcapri.com), a beautiful hotel that I had dreamed of experiencing for some years before that trip, and it didn’t disappoint.

I’m happy for the de Blasio family and hope they truly enjoy their stay– despite the fact that they are being followed by a pack of reporters chronicling their activities at every turn!

Come to think of it, I wish I was one of those reporters. Not a bad trip to take for “work.”

Below are some photos of the region. One day I will have to tell Lulu about that trip, about this corner of Italy and what it meant to me– and how she is the product of that snapshot in time, the best memory of all.

Marina Beach

Beach at Capri Harbour

Boats

Boats Docked at Capri Harbour

Marina2

Sunset

Capri Sunset

Faraglioni of Capri

Faraglioni of Capri

Grotto2

Faraglione di Mezzo

Cave

JK Capri

Sitting Room at JK Capri

Foyer

Entrance of Hotel

Dining Room

Dining Room

Approaching Positano

Approaching the Town of Positano by Boat

Positano Beach

Positano Beach

Positano

In Positano

Road in Positano

Waiting for the Public Ferry to Capri, May 2009

Waiting for the Public Ferry to Capri, May 2009