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Memories of Capri, Italy

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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

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Sunset

Capri Sunset

Faraglioni of Capri

Faraglioni of Capri

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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

 

The World Cup Is Over…What’s Next For Brazil?

courtesy ABCnews.com

The Sun Setting Behind Rio De Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer Statue During the 2014 World Cup Final – courtesy ABCnews.com

The short answer?

The 2016 Summer Olympics.

The 2014 World Cup has come to a close, and the consensus is in. After many months of doubt, dismay, and apprehension around the world that Brazil would not be able to handle it– the World Cup for the country has been a success, some visitors say the best they have ever experienced. Things ran smoothly, tourists were happy, the complaints were minimal, as were the expected protests. Brazil proved to the world that they can host an intricate, highly-anticipated, widely-attended international event, and that they have the chops to do it again. In two years, no less.

If you watched any of the games, and caught footage of the cities in which the games were played, you undoubtedly had glimpses of the beauty of this country (especially shots of Rio de Janeiro and Copacabana Beach, beyond the iconic Maracanã Stadium.) Brazil as a travelers’ destination has so much to offer, from deserted beaches in the Northeast, to the African-inspired music, food, and dance of Salvador, to jungle tourism in the Amazon, to replicas of German villages in the South, just to name a few highlights. I’ve often lamented that Brazil does not get its proper due. Here’s hoping that with this latest reminder of its natural and cultural wonders, it will increase tourism to the country, for the Olympics and beyond.

For the near future, Rio de Janeiro will host TEDGlobal 2014 in October, and of course they will always have Carnaval before Lent every year. Congrats to Brazil! Despite your devastating loss to Germany in the semifinals (!!!), you showed the world all you have to offer and more!

On that note, I’m long overdue for a sip of fresh coconut on your sandy shores…

The Original Wanderer – Madeline in New York

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This past 4th of July weekend, the New-York Historical Society opened Madeline in New York, an exhibit of the work of Ludwig Bemelmans, the author and illustrator of of the beloved Madeline children’s books that were written from 1939 – 1961.

MadsMadeline was one storybook character who captured my attention as a little girl. She was from New York City, Gramercy Park to be exact, and attended an all-girls Catholic boarding school in Paris, France. There were 11 other little girls in the school, along with their teacher, Miss Clavel.

The young schoolgirls and Miss Clavel were forever on the move, and Madeline was always up to some crazy antic. In the first story, their group shuffles through the streets of Paris, past its iconic landmarks whimsically illustrated by Bemelmans. In another, the girls befriend Pepito, the mischievous son of the Spanish Ambassador who lives next door. Once he moves away, in a later book they all travel to London to visit him and his new city. In another story Madeline gets lost with gypsies and a traveling circus.

Decades later, after Bemelmans’ death, his grandson picked up the series again to continue Madeline’s peregrinations—in future books she travels to Rome, Italy, and to the White House.

She is charismatic, brave, and a true explorer, even though at times, it leads her to trouble. Perhaps that is why these books appealed to me, and had me daydreaming of attending boarding schools in Europe while living a suburban life in American elementary schools back at home. Her life exemplified a certain freedom to me back then, an exciting dose of culture, something of the exotic. We often long for the exact opposite of what we have.

I have been reading all these books to Lulu, delighting again in Madeline’s adventures. Yet it’s not the changes of setting, the constant reminder of “other” places that appeals to Lulu, as it did to me. She identifies more with Madeline’s spunky, bold personality. How she fearlessly tells a growling tiger in his cage, “Pooh-pooh!” How she doesn’t think twice about chasing down a thief through Rome after he stole Ms. Clavel’s bag. How she’s the only one among them who is not afraid of mice, or how she playfully balances on the edge of a bridge, frightening Ms. Clavel.

The other day, Lulu and I were crossing the street on the way to the park. A car sped towards us, seemingly unaware of his red traffic light, sending a moment of fear through me as I held Lulu’s left hand. Just then, she stuck up her right palm and pushed it out aggressively towards the car with a stern look on her face, signaling the car to stop—as I imagine Madeline would have done with all her pluck. After the car stopped, the burly-looking driver looked out his passenger side window as we passed him and he said with a deep laugh,

“I see you! I see you little one! I’m stopping! I stopped for you!!”

I was amazed but amused by her boldness and her confidence to demonstrate to a stranger, in an oncoming car no less, that she had the right of way. At 4 years old she is already so assured of herself, by how things are to be done or how things are to be, and she does not flinch in telling others so.

This fearlessness is what she understands with glee when I read to her the stories of Madeline. Lulu and Madeline both have a mind of their own and are not afraid to use it or explore it! They also have a sense of possibility that is unstoppable. It’s a true joy to share these books with her, even more so as in the stories we relate to different things.

Madeline in New York is now on display at the New-York Historical Society until October 19th. The exhibit celebrates the 75th year of Madeline’s existence, and features much of Bemelmans’ original artwork for the series, along with his drawings of the old Ritz Hotel and his panels from the Onassis yacht, where he was commissioned to create murals for the playroom of Aristotle’s daughter, Christina.

The New-York Historical Society – 170 Central Park West at 77th Street  New York, NY 10024  (212) 873-3400  www.nyhistory.org

Cherry Blossom Season in Washington DC

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This past weekend Lulu and I took Amtrak’s Acela train from New York to Washington, DC in time for the peak of their Cherry Blossom Season. The Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual event, and apparently Washington was the most crowded it has ever been for the celebrations. We avoided the usual parades and festivities to take the time to enjoy DC on a leisurely level, but making it just to SEE the trees was an event in itself. It was a walk to the city’s Tidal Basin, which was teeming with people. For much of the trail along the water, Lulu and I continued on foot slowly trailing behind crowds.

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It was beautiful to witness. In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo gifted the city of Washington DC 3,000 cherry trees to honor the friendship between the U.S. and Japan. When they are in full bloom, as they were last week, it is such a lovely sight amongst the usual monuments of the city– the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument. The cherry on top was the unexpected summer weather!

Wash Monument

In front of the Washington Monument

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Lulu's Uncle Al & Aunt Carol at the Lincoln Memorial

Lulu’s Uncle Al & Aunt Carol at the Lincoln Memorial

A weekend here however was not enough, we will have to return. It’s rare these days that Lulu and I visit an American city, so it felt strange to be in different surroundings yet at the same time everything (currency, language, stores) was familiar. I now understand the convenience and comfort of traveling in one’s own country. Plus I found Washington DC to be an amazing destination for kids. Everywhere we went people and establishments were accommodating, and there’s hundreds of things for children to do.

Not to mention…our hotel room had it’s very own yoga room. A nice surprise for both adult and child!

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Our personal yoga studio at Kimpton’s Hotel Madera

Beautiful Ruins in Bacolod City

IMG_0570There is a special place outside of the city of Bacolod in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, Philippines. It’s the shell of an old mansion from the early 20th century, built on a former sugar plantation over 1000 acres (440 hectares) large.

The touching story behind the mansion is that it was built by a sugar baron in memory of his beloved wife, who died in an accident while pregnant with their 11th child (who also died with her.) With 10 kids left behind, the grieving husband constructed the glorious mansion as a monument to their love, with European architectural influences such as tiles imported from Spain and wide hardwood floors.

As for what remains, during WWII the U.S. had commanded soldiers to burn down structures that might have been used by the Japanese as headquarters– this large mansion was a prime target. So it perished, but its shell remained.

It’s interesting to visit through parts of this country and realize what devastation World War II had on its people, its landscape. A battleground just like Europe, many cities, homes, and thousands of lives were not immune to its traumatic results.

The shell of The Ruins, as it’s called, is magical when first approaching it along a long driveway. We arrived at dusk, just as the sun was setting and while roaming the grounds, strings of lights lit up along its edges and in the gardens. The effect– as well as the background story– was hauntingly beautiful.

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