4 selfie skyline

Having lived in the US for my entire adult life, it’s amazing to me that I had never been to Chicago!  A total foodie city, it had been on my bucket list forever.  As in recent years, I found myself free for a few days after Christmas, as did my brother Luke.  “Want to go on a trip somewhere with me?”, I asked back at in November. “Sure” was the reply.  So then came the quest to find the perfect place for two siblings in their forties to spend a few days together.  “How about Chicago?”, I texted him one day.  His response was a resounding “yes!”.  Decision made! Both of us have worked in the restaurant business for most of our careers so far, so heading to a city chock full of amazing restaurants was perfect.  A couple of days later, a text to Kerry and Bart asking them if they wanted to come too, resulted in them booking within hours!

The advantage of traveling to Chicago in winter, is that it’s low season for hotels.  Book on Cyber Monday and you can snag a great deal for a luxury hotel for the same price as an average 3 Star.  The obsessive researcher that I am, after days of looking, I landed on The Hotel Gwen smack in the middle of the city, just north of the river and adjacent to the Magnificent Mile.  Newly renovated, the former Conrad Hotel is now part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection.  Named for the Sculptor whose work is a prominent feature in the lobby, the hotel is chic with an Art Deco flair found in the many details of its decor. We loved it.  Gorgeous heavenly beds and spa-like bathrooms, friendly staff, a great bar and even a curling ice and little chalet on the patio overlooking the city!  I love beautiful hotels.  I appreciate luxury.  And I especially do so when acquired for less than $150 a night!


So now for the main theme of our trip…..FOOD!  Luke and I arrived a day earlier than the others and after a good flight and a 40 minute Lyft ride to the hotel, we were ready for a bite to eat.  Across the street from the Gwen, was the famous Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab.  I had read about their excellent happy hour and as if by magic, we arrived on the dot at 2:00, the start of it.  Moscow Mules, Buffalo Cauliflower and a petit Shrimp Po’boy, fortified us.  We then had a nice walk around the area, realizing how much there was right outside our front door.  Great shopping and tons of restaurants albeit somewhat touristy.

The evening was the best part of our day and indeed one of the highlights of our trip.  An old friend of Luke’s, Scott Worsham, who along with his lovely wife Sari, owns two restaurants in Chicago and invited us to meet him at their newest place, Bar Biscay in West town, recently nominated for a 2019 Jean Banchet Award for Best New Restaurant. A sleek modern restaurant in a more residential neighborhood, Chef Johnny Anderes cooks food inspired by the “simple, direct approach of Basque cuisine and the classic rusticity of the French Countryside”.  My kind of food. We were in for such a treat.


Firstly, there is nothing like being reunited with an old friend, so to witness Scott and Luke catching up after so many years was a pleasure in itself.  To do so accompanied by a veritable journey through the menu and wine and drinks list was perfectly divine.  We started with Anchovy Toast, Razor Clams with Radish, Garlic butter and Toast, and Manchego Gougeres with Garlic Aioli washed down with a lovely white wine.  Then, on to Veal Sweetbreads with puréed parsnip and maple-espellette glaze, Cockles in sherry and paprika butter served with a crusty baguette, then I believe a salad.


On hearing that I planned to resume my tee-total life after the trip Scott declared that we must drink something good with our Braised Oxtail (that reminded Luke and I of our grandmother’s version), Confit Carrots, Tilefish and Chorizo stuffed Peppers.  A gorgeous Bordeaux was chosen. There are few things in life that make me happier than experiencing that perfect marriage of food, wine, atmosphere and the company of others.  A celebration of flavor, carefully crafted combinations and great banter.  The best part of which is that the owners and their SUPERB crew, are taking you on that ride, showing their exquisite artistry. Brilliant.  I know there are literally thousands of restaurants to choose from in this city but I instantly fell in love with this place.  I wish them all kinds of success as they certainly deserve it!  I can’t wait to go back and try their other restaurant, mfk, as well as coming back here!


After a blissful slumber in our double queen bedded room with a view of the Magnificent Mile, and countlessly recalling the dishes we had sampled and how fabulous our evening was, we turned our thoughts to Kerry and Bart’s arrival.  We greeted them at the lovely bar in the hotel lobby and after checking in, we headed out to do what we felt was an obligatory food experience…the famous Chicago Deep Dish Pizza.  We found ourselves at Pizzeria Due, at the bar with beer and red wine, sampling their meatballs and garlic bread while the famous pizza was being prepared.  They take 45 minutes. Was this my favorite food experience of the trip? Probably not, but it was certainly fun to sit at the bar in this loud but cozy place and soak up the atmosphere along with the 5,000 calories that surely each slice contained.  The four of us split a medium size and couldn’t finish it!  It was certainly decadent; a very thick almost pastry-like crust filled with cheese, tomato sauce, sausage and pepperoni.  So, so heavy… tasty but now that I’ve done that, it’s checked off the list and I can continue on to other delicacies.


A walk was needed after that indulgence so we headed to the Navy Pier area.  On our way we truly understood why this place is called the Windy City!  Freezing wind means that warm coats, hats and gloves are essential.  We needed the walk and it was nice to see the lake and view the skyline.  Navy Pier had lots of shops, a tropical garden (?!), a big Ferris wheel and a Children’s Museum.  When we had seen enough we headed back to the sanctuary of the hotel bar to enjoy the delicious cocktails.


For dinner, we attempted to get into the Purple Pig but the hostess rather proudly told us that it was a 2.5 hour wait….thanks, but no thanks!  So we opted for Shaw’s Crab House for martinis, two dozen oysters and bowls of clam chowder in their more casual Oyster Bar. Perfect!


Just as I research hotels to death, I of course do the same for restaurants. I do not just go straight for the number one rated restaurants, give me a smaller, independently owned place over a large corporate franchise ANY day.  I had found out about Lula’s and was happy to get Scott and Sari’s endorsement for my choice.  Famous for their brunch for which they don’t take reservations, we hopped in a Lyft on Saturday morning for the 15 minute ride out to Logan Square.  Located on a wide avenue with grand houses, it was great to get out of the city centre into a neighborhood.  As expected, there was a wait, so we added our name to the list and checked out the local bookstore a few doors away.  We were greeted by a parking lot of strollers inside and the sound of music coming from a kids story time hour here.  Quite charming.  After a couple of purchases we headed back to Lula’s for Bloody Mary’s made from scratch and deemed “nice and clean” by our experts aka Bart and Luke.  We were seated shortly thereafter and proceeded to enjoy an outstanding brunch.  The key to success in most businesses is attention to detail.  This place has it in its drink ingredients, the art on the wall, the cool expert service and oh my, the food…..freshly made pastries followed by Royale sandwiches with the addition of bacon for the guys, a beautiful White Sweet Potato Hash for Kerry, and Smoked Lake Trout Scramble with the crispiest potatoes for me.   Sublime, we were all ridiculously happy with our choices. At the end I ordered a pot of tea, and even that was impeccably served, down to the server letting me know to please let it steep for three and a half minutes.


Our only downfall was our plan to visit the Institute of Art after this boozy brunch! Whilst a nap was likely in order, we battled on regardless! A quick breezy stop at the “Bean” revived us somewhat.  The only place which felt truly crowded and touristy during our trip. The Institute, however, was everything and more!  One could spend days there.  Bart and Luke opted for a shorter tour, ducking out to search for football viewing and beer….Kerry and I stayed on to enjoy the Contemporary wing which looked out on the skyline with its window frames mimicking the buildings.  Very cool.  Definitely need to go back. The Drag Docent was a fantastic addition to the experience!  We loved it all.




A Facebook comment by our friend Denise lead us to the lobby of the nearby Palmer House Hotel.  Wow!  So beautiful.  Well, most of it anyway.  The modern addition of escalators was a less than perfect choice despite its necessity?!  We thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere though and had yet another cocktail…




Dinner tonight was another Facebook comment suggestion by our friend Terry.  Bart had really wanted to have an authentic Italian dinner.  This we found at Quartino’s.  A huge two-story bustling restaurant a short walk from our hotel.  Yes, the food was fabulous, but the best part of this meal was watching Bart in his element, ordering up a storm, reviving his Italian and clearly taking a trip down memory lane from his time spent in a Italy.  This is what eating is all about.  The joy of the time, the place, the company and the tastes.  How it makes you feel, transcending you to a happy place.  We ate a ridiculous amount of food, without complaint! Antipasti to start followed by Broccolini, a delicious Arugula Salad with orange and hazelnuts, Beef Carpaccio, then Linguine with Clams, Gnocchi with Arugula Pesto, Braised Pork Shank…..AND a pizza!!!!  Pure gluttony.  One would think that there would be no room for dessert, but we bravely ordered some and loved our Tiramisu and had hysterics when Kerry bit into her cannoli and the icing sugar exploded over her, and Luke.  Oh and there was wine…of course.  What a great day!



Luke was determined to have a classic Chicago Hot Dog, and we achieved this the next day, at Portillo’s, an institution here.  It’s a large place with just counter service so as Bart and Luke ordered hot dogs and Italian Beef sandwiches, Kerry and I grabbed them goldfish bowl beers from the bar counter where the menu included Beer, Wine….and Mai Tai’s!?  Not sure about the story behind that…. We lovingly devoured our classic dogs; sliced onion, sliced tomato and a pickle with chili on the side.  The Italian Beef sandwiches were delicious too, as were the fries!  What a well oiled operation, we were in and out of there, happy as we could be, in about 40 minutes.  We grabbed a Lyft to head to the river for our Architecture Boat Tour.


Were we quite mad to do a boat tour in these temperatures?!  Quite possibly, but the tour was fantastic, and packed.  It was also luckily on the only sunny day of our trip.  Our guide was great (he’s a therapist when he’s not a tour guide) and we got a wonderful hour-long overview of the magnificent architectural styles that are represented here. The buildings towered above us, gleaming in the sunlight.  We absolutely loved it despite almost freezing to death.  It is such a beautiful city and seeing it from the canals was the perfect way to do so.


We returned to the hotel and the guys decided to go in search of a pub to watch football again.  Kerry and I opted for quiet time before the grand finale of our culinary adventure!  We met up with Scott and Sari at La Frontera, a Rick Bayless establishment serving traditional Mexican fare with modern interpretations.  Having visited Austin in September, Kerry and I had fallen in love with the authentic higher-end Mexican cuisine that we found there.  La Frontera was the first of several restaurants that Chef Bayless owns.  Naturally, we hit the bar first and while we didn’t go for their famous $30 Splurge Margarita, we all tried various other kinds.  I had a Mango Picante, followed by the Champagne Margarita.  The latter was served in an oversized champagne flute, topped off with Taittinger Champagne.  I kid you not.  Couldn’t let up on the decadence, not when this was the grand finale, right?


It’s funny, I’m usually a bit of a control freak when it comes to food ordering, but for most of this trip, other people took care of it.  And you know what?  It was great.  So fun to sit back and have things appear in front of you.  Scott commandeered the wine list, not only ordering a lovely Albarino which balanced with the food superbly, but also shots of Mezcal and a tomato juice concoction which arrived in separate champagne flutes.  More decadence!  A dozen oysters and their Ceviche Trio appeared.  I love ceviche and tasting three different kinds was a treat; the Classic Frontera included Hawaiian albacore, lime, tomatoes, olives, cilantro the green chile.  The Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche Verde was combined with avocado, cucumber, jicama, serrano and onions.  The Tuna Ceviche Tropical consisted of Hawaiian yellowfin tuna, fresh Mexican Papaya, spicy salsa roja, jicama and avocado.  Delightful.  We also enjoyed two-bite Tostadas de carnitas, Puebla-style chicken enchiladas and baked cheesy cauliflower.  So much fun to indulge in so many flavors and share that experience.  When two slices of their Chocolate Pecan Pie with Kahlua whipped cream appeared, our decadent repast was complete.  Good grief.  What a meal in a great, colorful and lively restaurant, oozing with flavors and fun!


While Kerry and Bart decided that they had reached their limit, Scott suggested one last stop.  So where does one finish a decadent food tour of Chicago?  In a dive bar, of course! This is where it pays to be with a local, we would never have had this experience on our own.  Rossi’s is, I understand, a bit of an institution.  A full bar, no food, one bartender, cash only, a juke box and the walls are plastered with mementos showing its history.  It opens at 7 am.  Closes at 4 am, I believe.  Oh, if those walls could talk.  I nursed one drink and happily chatted with Sari while Luke and Scott talked away until we had all simply reached the point where we simply had to retire.  It was a really fun way to finish off another wonderful evening and yet another great experience.


It’s an understatement to say that this was a wonderful trip.  We had an absolute blast and can’t wait to go back.  To spend time with my brother, especially at this time in our lives, was a really lovely thing to be able to do.  Having Kerry and Bart along for the ride was the icing on the cake.  I realize that we saw just one side of this magnificent city, but boy did we love it.  Upon my return home, the boys and I watched Anthony Bourdain’s Chicago and saw a very different but fascinating side to the city.  I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface which means now I’m itching to return.  Good times, good eats, good company… my favorite way to end a year!  We’ll be back.



The Gwen, A Luxury Collection Hotel

Bar Biscay

Pizzeria Due

Shaw’s Crab House

Lula Cafe


Portillo’s Hot Dogs

La Frontera Grill






Celebrating Love in New England



I don’t really need an excuse to go to New England for a weekend, but a lovely wedding is the best kind.  Three weeks ago, I squeezed in my 10th radiation treatment before heading to RIC.  Thankfully I was feeling great!  I always get a thrill arriving at Richmond Airport to go somewhere, but when the destination is Boston, I’m particularly tickled.   Somehow I’ve always arrived there on a clear beautiful day regardless of the season and September 29th was no exception.  I was heading up for Steve’s cousin Tim’s wedding in Dover, NH.

My mother encouraged me to go, and kindly took over teenager and puppy duty for the weekend so that I could join Polly for all the festivities.  I caught the S&J bus service from Boston Airport to Dover, fantastic!  Polly picked me up, we checked in to the Hampton Inn and before we knew it we were invited to a fun dinner with the Nordahl clan.  I sat next to Yuri who had much in common with me and we had a great conversation.


Breakfast the next morning saw us reunited and newly acquainted with family and friends.  Whilst we should have rushed out to see the delights that I’m sure Dover has to offer, chilling in our room on a drizzly day was a lovely alternative.  Once primped and ready, we headed over to St. Joseph Catholic Church.  It’s always lovely to arrive at a wedding where you know you are getting ready to see a whole load of people you love and eagerly anticipate the nuptials of two of them.

Catherine and Tim are one of those couples that just fit.  Even the Priest affirmed this when he said that upon meeting them in preparation for marriage he knew it was for real because Tim wouldn’t stop looking at Catherine.  They are both in caring professions, he’s a Physical Therapist and she’s a School Psychologist.  Both are the sweetest, mildest-mannered people you could ever meet.

I don’t like to take photos during a wedding ceremony so there won’t be any in here, but I’ve seen some lovely ones!   Needless to say the bride was radiant, the groom was handsome and we were all thrilled to bits for their union.  I’ve been to many a wedding and worked many more than that and this was the real deal.

Transportation was provided from the hotels to the Reception and I couldn’t have been more thrilled that it was a yellow school bus!  A first for this Brit!  We wound our way through the New Hampshire countryside that was starting to show the telltale signs of Fall, before arriving at the lovely Lodge at Parker Mountain. Catherine’s uncles own the beautiful property in Strafford and, despite the overcast skies, it’s a stunningly gorgeous place.  A cabin overlooking a pond, between which a huge tent was pitched.  As it was a chilly day, guests were drawn to the inside, next to the roaring fire.  I believe this is typically rented out as an Airbnb, what a treat that would be!


With a bar stocking signature cocktails, beer and wine, the party got started!  A delicious array of hors d’oeuvres were laid out on the porch for us all to enjoy while watching the official photos being taken down by the pond.  The weather was overcast but the mood was most definitely sunny!  Also, let’s face it, the photos are usually better in this lighting too.  An important detail to add at this point is that the porch was decorated with strings of origami cranes, ONE THOUSAND of them!  Marie and Caitlin had painstakingly made them over a period of several months, a symbolic gift to Tim and Catherine for good fortune.


After the cocktail hour, we were ushered to the tent to find our assigned seating.  The wedding party was introduced to much applause and Tim and Catherine took their first dance.  Just lovely, followed by Catherine dancing with her father and Tim with his mother, Marie.  Justifiably proud and happy parents.


I particularly love this photo as it shows the joy we all felt!


So while the focus is of course on the couple, we do have to talk about the food too, right?  They opted for the newly popular family style service of dinner.  Something I love!  No long lines for a buffet and no being confined to one set plate of food.  Instead, delicious platters and bowls of food that included all food groups and diets.  I’ve already talked about platters of food in this blog, but I’ll say it again: it promotes and celebrates the shared experience of enjoying food.  They chose well; sliced beef, chicken, a veggie pasta dish, roasted rosemary potatoes and haricots verts.  It’s always great when there’s wine on the table too!  Kudos to the excellent catering staff, diligently working out of a truck and a tent.  As someone who caters weddings, I know the challenges.


Tim’s best man, his brother Patrick, made a lovely speech before raising a toast to the newlyweds.  Heartfelt and loving from what I know is a close relationship.  And then it was time to dance!!  And yes, we did!  So much fun!  Here’s a selection of photos to show the rest of this lovely celebration:

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The school buses returned to pick us up in shifts and Polly and I took the second one.  We were given treat bags for the ride home; a freshly baked cookie, a bottle of water and an apple.  What a lovely touch and the perfect end to a most beautiful day!

So, did Polly and I party on upon our return to Dover?  Ummm…nope.  Went to bed!  Slept beautifully and then enjoyed a lively breakfast catching up with everyone the “morning after”.  It was great to chat and laugh and have one last chance to hear about how everyone’s lives were going.  I sat next to Caitlin and Cliff who had traveled from Nairobi for the wedding and our conversation ended up with an invitation for the boys and I to go and visit them and they offered to help book a safari….uh oh.  Don’t have to ask me twice to go pretty much anywhere!  But the thought of a safari with my boys next summer had me racing to look at fares and guide books.  Fingers crossed I’ll be blogging from our Kenyan adventure next August!

The one thing I always have to do when I go to New England is, of course, to eat lobster.  I had let Polly know that and on Sunday morning, asked her how far we were from York, Maine.  Less than 30 minutes!!  My request to pay a visit down memory lane was instantly granted and after saying our goodbyes, we took the back roads to York.  It was a perfect New England fall day and we wound our way through lovely countryside to the place that Polly and Ed used to call home and a place I had adopted as a favorite, chock full of memories.  I first met Ed and Polly there, Steve and I drove all night from Virginia when I was just 20 years old.  We had many Thanksgivings there, always taking a frigidly cold walk by the beach before indulging in pie.  Ed and Polly threw us an engagement party there.  We brought our boys up here pretty much every summer.  The last time I had visited, 3 years ago, we came up to let Ed and Polly know that we had reached what would turn out to be an insurmountable issue in our marriage, not a happy time.  However, on this day, with Ed surely looking down on us and smiling, we drove to all our favorite spots and had the most lovely day.  Time does, and can, heal.


Lunch just had to be at Chauncey Creek.  An absolute favorite.  My grandparents went there, many friends from Virginia were taken here.  My boys tried lobster for the first time in high chairs here. So here we were, just the two of us this time, enjoying a perfect sunny day, sipping wine and eating pound-and-a-quarter lobsters and steamers, whilst enjoying each other’s company.   Polly had been on the road for 5 months cross country and around Canada visiting National Parks, mostly by herself, processing her grief at the loss of her beloved Ed.  When describing the experience, she concluded that it had made her realize and believe that she “could do anything by herself”.  Music to my ears.  It’s a powerful thing to discover about yourself  and I couldn’t be more thrilled for her.  It would have been easy for her to have stayed home and mourn, but she hit the road and 15,000 miles later, had stories and experiences that will propel her into this new chapter.  Pretty awesome.


We hated to leave but it was time for me to get myself to Boston Airport, using the shuttle once again, this time from Portsmouth.  What a beautiful weekend celebrating the start of marriage for a truly lovely couple, as well as a gorgeous trip down memory lane.



Weekend in Wintergreen

I have had the fortune to have traveled to many countries all over the world and have seen a multitude of stunningly beautiful places.  But, few have captured my heart quite like the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  After a week that involved surgery recovery, often a bit of a blur thanks to painkillers, a weekend in the mountains was just what the doctor ordered.  It’s one of my happy places, for sure, and the closer I get to them, the calmer I am.  I took this photo on my phone near Charlottesville, the first glimpse of the mountains was accompanied by the sunset….just lovely.


Before heading up the mountain to Wintergreen, Andy and I stopped in Charlottesville for dinner at Bella’s, a delightful Italian restaurant downtown.  A Limoncello Martini seemed like a great way to start and then it didn’t take long to decide on Gorgonzola Grilled Salad (grilled romaine hearts topped with Gorgonzola dressing, tomatoes, pancetta and scallions with a balsamic drizzle) and Arancini (fresh mozzarella stuffed inside lemon risotto, breaded and fried).  We followed this with Zuppa Di Pesce, a mound of fettuccine with fennel scented tomato sauce with all kinds of seafood.  Heavenly.  I clearly decided to eschew my newly adopted mostly plant-based diet, just for the weekend.  Every bite was fabulous and I loved the setting, exposed brick in a likely 19th century building.  It’s clearly a popular place and you can tell the staff enjoy it as much as the customers.

With a Tiramisu “to go”, we headed up the mountain to the condo that had very kindly been lent to us for the weekend.  Sitting on the deck in about 65 degrees under a clear starry sky was just perfect and a much needed respite from the almost triple digit temperatures back in Petersburg.

I woke up early the next morning, it’s a bit of a struggle to sleep comfortably as I’m still sore from the surgery.  I was rewarded with seeing the latter part of the sunrise over the mountains.  A spectacular sight given the amazing vantage point from the deck.  It was so quiet and apparently the only living things up this early were me, and a groundhog having its breakfast.  I think living in an urban area intensifies my appreciation of beautiful rural spaces.

First up on the schedule was Wimbledon, of course.  No way I’m missing the finals!  Afterwards, a decision was made to go to Devils Grill, the Golf clubhouse restaurant that has a gorgeous porch overlooking the 18th hole where we scored a great corner table with an uninterrupted view.  We watched as deer and golfers enjoyed the stunning course while we ate a delightful lunch of Salmon Sliders and a Lamb Meatball Naan with Tsatsiki.  Yum.  To be able to sit on a porch in July in Virginia, with a cool breeze and the absence of bugs, was a veritable treat.  I could have sat there all afternoon!

Just to prepare for the unlikely chance I might win the lottery one day and be able to buy a second home here, we stopped by an Open House and then the Realty office.  I represent the opposite of the average Wintergreen homeowner as I’d want to be there anytime other than the ski season.  The Open House was a fully refurbished 3 bedroom condo with SPECTACULAR views but for some bizarre reason they only built a tiny deck which would barely fit two bistro chairs.  Simply not good enough for this porch lover.  And neither was the $360,000 listing price.  But a girl can dream, right?

I hadn’t been to Afton Mountain Vineyard in almost 20 years and wow has it changed since then!  I remember a small tasting room with a selection of cheeses and snacks in a refrigerator that could be enjoyed outside with a glass or bottle of their wine.  The basic concept is still there but it’s all grown up now.  A “terrace room” provides a weather resistant tasting space, and I presume a private event venue.  A lovely porch surrounds the actual tasting room with lots of seating.  We were greeted at the door and informed there was a wait for our tasting.  The offerings were quite lovely and being a fairly hot day, we picked the crisp and delicious Rose to take outside.  Here we were entertained by two women, a few glasses in, gossiping about the antics of their friends.  Then, a bachelorette party arrived and the delightful civility of the setting was momentarily and hilariously interrupted by the bride and her very enthusiastic group of bridesmaids.  It would be a fair guess to say that they were probably on about their fifth vineyard of the day. One of them was practically begging for someone to ask her to take her top off…..  Despite the distractions, the setting is lovely and surely there are few better ways to spend an afternoon?

Bold Rock Cider was on our way “home” and what an impressive place it is!  And clearly very popular especially with younger folks.  I was a cider drinker back in the day in England so it’s great to see this delicious drink being taken a lot more seriously over here now.  We took the free tasting of two of their signature ciders and then purchased their 4 cider flight.  We carried our little trays outside onto the deck  and sipped on some seriously good cider.  A great visit to an impressive place.

We decided to have dinner up at The Copper Mine, the main restaurant at The Mountain Inn up at Wintergreen.  No culinary boundaries were smashed through and the service was a little painful but we really did enjoy the food, opting for a flatbread, great honey balsalmic chicken wings, asparagus, a gorgeous watermelon and feta salad and shrimp cocktail.  Tapas style, always a favorite way to eat.

I didn’t quite wake up early enough for the full sunrise again on Sunday but almost did… it was stunning regardless.  I love the peace that emanates from the view, the silence except for birdsong, and the endless waves of shades of blue.  Just beautiful.

Another lazy morning included watching Federer make Wimbledon history by claiming yet another title, he’s amazing!  Watching him play is like poetry in motion. Unfortunately it was time to leave this lovely place so we packed up and drove to one more stop before heading back home.  Veritas Winery is a favorite, not only is their wine great, but they also have a gourmet snack bar now.  So, we enjoyed a Goat  Cheese and Fig Panini and a Pear and Arugula Salad along with their Sauvignon Blanc whilst sitting on the large covered porch overlooking the Vineyard.

It was a perfect end to a fabulous weekend.  The goal having been to relax, recuperate and enjoy this gorgeous area.  The fact that I felt thoroughly peaceful and pampered, was the icing on the cake.





A quick stop in Savannah

We had planned this vacation time perfectly when we got out our calendars months ago.  We just didn’t know it back then.  My Surgeon was happy to let me keep my plans and felt that it was a great idea to have some downtime with my boys before my lumpectomy on July 7th.  When Nelson suddenly and tragically passed away 2 weeks ago, Kerry got caught up in a whirlwind of activity and hadn’t had a minute to even think since then.  So, on Saturday night we both, in our respective houses, threw a bunch of clothes in a suitcase and along with JV, loaded up the car and hit I-95 early on Sunday morning.  With Bart heading to Portland to be with his family, we were ready and able to keep our plans.  While leaving town doesn’t change a diagnosis or relieve the burden of grief, it does somehow allow a small respite.  As we headed south, we slowly but surely started to decompress.  As my boys were just finishing up a week with Steve in South Carolina, we had agreed to meet just north of Charleston to pick them up.  At about hour 3, I suggested to Kerry that we play a CD after we had talked non stop, rehashing the events of the last few weeks.  I reached to press “play” and she said, “did you bring Adele?”  It was exactly what I was about to play.  I think it took two songs before Kerry started to sob.  A much needed release of emotion that lasted for the entire CD.  I think we actually listened to it twice.

After about 5 hours of driving, we met up with Steve, Rory and Ben and they regaled us with stories of their travels over the last few days….a night at South of the Border, Columbia, Congaree and Charleston.  We ate lunch at McDonalds and then hit the road again, driving into torrential rain.  Not exactly the way you want to approach the beautiful city of Savannah but oh well…. we had booked our hotel just an hour beforehand, something that is most unlike me!  Kerry jokes about trying to make me a more spontaneous traveler, and she succeeds a lot of the time!  We ended up getting a great rate at The Embassy Suites, a favorite chain of the boys and I as it’s ridiculously good value.  The fact that all 5 of us could stay comfortably in a two-room suite with a free cocktail hour and full breakfast, is awesome!  It’s a relatively new hotel and located right on the edge of the historic district but still walkable.

Naturally the boys would have been perfectly content to stay in the room the entire time, well at least JV and Ben anyway.  However being the horrible Mothers that we are, we forced them out of their comfort zones and on to a trolley that would give us a 90 minute tour of Savannah.  These two photos sum up perfectly how they felt about it:

As this was Kerry’s first trip to Savannah and we were here just overnight, it gave her a great, quick overview of this lovely city.  I have to say, Rory did enjoy the tour too.  Our two thirteen year olds?  Not so much…..until half a dozen drunk girls in their twenties boarded our trolley and thanks to seating themselves right by the boys, provided them with quite the education which was in no way historical, and pure entertainment.  Wow.

By the time the tour had ended, it was raining again and we were exhausted!  While it seems criminal not to go out during our one night here, we were happy to let the boys scurry back to the room while we enjoyed the free Manager’s Reception where we sipped on a couple of Vodka and Tonics and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the hotel bar.

We were happy that the hotel restaurant which was a French-style bistro, provided the room service.  We ordered up a Duck Confit Sandwich, a Chicken Caesar Salad and 3 cheeseburgers for the boys.  We have brought a plentiful supply of wine with us.  It seemed like the most lovely luxury to eat in our pajamas then finally crash for the night.

We slept soundly and slept in.  But we did make it for the big breakfast buffet.  After breakfast, as the rain had finally stopped and the sun was out, Kerry and I headed out to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.  Having been raised in the Catholic faith, I’m always drawn to Catholic Cathedrals and this one was no exception.  Kerry also grew up in a Catholic family.

We gasped as we entered the Cathedral and wandered around soaking up all the beautiful details in the architecture, art and artifacts.  It’s simply stunning.

Kerry was so moved by being here that the tears flowed again and she lit a candle for Nelson.

We took a leisurely stroll back to the hotel, wandering through some of the lovely Squares and enjoying the architecture and lush vegetation and gardens.  It was sticky and humid which somehow felt appropriate for a truly Southern experience.  One of my favorite things to do when visiting a city, is to wander around taking pictures and so I did.

We both regretted that we couldn’t stay longer in this gorgeous place but we are determined to return!  We headed back to the hotel, loaded the car with luggage and teenagers and hit the road for Florida!

Showing up for 24 hours in Roanoke

“Call and Response” and “Every Shadow you Make”, Aimee Joyaux

I firmly believe in the philosophy that half of life is simply about showing up.

Our dear friend Aimee Joyaux, a brilliant artist, was selected to include two pieces of her work in the Homeward Bound exhibit at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, a juried show featuring only Virginia artists. The opening reception was on Friday night and what better reason than that to plan a quick jaunt to celebrate her, experience another city and enjoy great food, drinks and company.  Oh, and stay at the Hotel Roanoke.  A place I’d heard much about but had never been to.  Our party of 13 left for our destination at different times, our carload being the last, due to school pickup.  The drive down 460 was an easy one despite the 3 hour duration and as we approached Roanoke the sun was setting over the mountains.  Beautiful!  Upon arrival at the hotel,  we checked in to our lovely rooms on the Executive Level.  The advance party, Heather and Cherry, had stocked our room with wine so we were able to enjoy a quick glass before walking over to the Taubman.  On our way there we heard voices behind us and it was Alain’s son Daniel and his girlfriend Karin who had made the trip from D.C. to celebrate Aimee’s latest accolade of her amazing work.

Just seeing the Hotel Roanoke and experiencing the short stroll to the museum, I already knew that I loved this place!  The historic area is chock full of independently owned restaurants, shops and bars housed in historic and interesting buildings with a small town feel.  It was freezing outside so we happily entered the very warm museum, a thoroughly modern but not too imposing structure on the edge of the historic area.  Our tardiness meant that our time there was somewhat brief but we were thrilled to see Aimee’s pieces hanging in such a beautiful space.  Not only that, we got to see Ron Walton’s piece too!  Another Petersburg artist and owner of the Walton Gallery.  It was fascinating to see the different works of art, all by Virginia artists, all so distinctive and brilliant in their own way.  One of my favorite moments was when JV suddenly exclaimed to Kerry, “Mom, my favorite artist has work here!”  He had spotted the paintings by Richmond artist, Todd Hale, from a distance of about 50 feet and rushed over to admire them.  How many twelve year olds do you know like that?  Such a cool kid.


There was never any doubt that a great dinner was going to be part of our itinerary.  We were also joined by another of tonight’s honored artists, a friend of Aimee’s, Alyssa Salomon. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in Roanoke and we had secured a reservation at Lucky, a restaurant that describes themselves as French Country and American Comfort. Heather had pooled her contacts in the city to find this gem.  Definitely my kind of place!  We were seated at 2 big tables by the entrance which essentially gave us a space all to ourselves.  We were then treated to one of the best servers ever, Lauren, who we initially assumed was the owner.  She looked amazing and wouldn’t have been out of place at a cocktail party but more importantly than that, she knew the menu inside and out.  Not only the food but the craft cocktails.  Tonight’s special cocktail was Rumming with the Devil which included two types of Rum, Apricot, Five-spice and a concoction that apparently involved overnight fermentation of some ingredients in a coke bottle… I ordered one and it was certainly interesting!  Not my favorite drink ever but fun to experience and as tonight was all about art, we appreciated the artistry and creative process that went into it. We ordered a Bread Plate, Mussels, Duck Pate and a Cheese Board to accompany our drinks and loved it all.  The bread was accompanied with divine roasted garlic olive oil, goat cheese, nicoise olive tapenade and Basque olives.  The PEI mussels were suitably garlic laden, the duck pate was divinely smooth and luxurious with baguette, sweet onion chutney, pickled red onions and Dijon.  The cheese board was perfect.  Four types of cheese with an onion jam, candied walnuts, olives, drizzles of honey and baguette slices.

Cocktails and appetizers demolished, we moved on to wine and a variety of entrees.  Buttermilk fried chicken for all three boys and Heather, Gnocchi with Kale and Pesto for Kerry, gorgeous salads with Goat Cheese and Beets for Chana and Cherry, and I opted for two small plates.  Roasted Marrow bones with Charred Lemon and Fava Bean Hummus along with four Roasted Oysters with lemon, garlic and scallion breadcrumbs.  All delicious!  Along with top notch service in a delightful space, we had a fabulous experience.

Ben and JV have a new passion for playing pool and had discovered that there was a table in the pub at the Hotel Roanoke.  They begged us to see if they could go and play after dinner.  So, we began the 10 minute stroll back to the hotel trying to explain why it might not be possible for them to play as it was late on a Friday night and kids might not be allowed in the pub. However, upon our arrival there, a quick chat with the bartender confirmed that it was fine for them to play.  And so began a hilarious couple of hours that involved martinis and more wine for us ladies and several rounds of pool with a group of ACC football referees in town for a conference.  The refs were all hanging out by the pool table and when they saw the boys starting to play, quickly became their tutors and ultimately competitors.  They could not have been nicer and we all had a blast chatting away and playing pool. Until 1 am.  I know, kids and their Moms should really go to bed a lot earlier than that but life is for living and this was a fun experience all round.  Not an everyday occurrence despite the fact that my kids spent the first decade or so of their lives living above our pub.

Staying on the Executive Level gave us access to a lounge with refreshments.  In the morning this included a breakfast that provided us with much needed delicious sustenance after our late night; sausages, scrambled eggs, fruit, pastries, yoghurt and all the caffeinated beverages that we needed.  The lounge was overseen by a woman who was ALL business!  We got a 5 minute warning when breakfast was over and we were in no way going to question her.  I highly recommend upgrading to this level as the services included provided excellent added value.

Feeling a little more alive, we showered, packed and then sat in the gorgeous lobby, chatting and relaxing while JV and Ben enjoyed the pool table once again, but this time all to themselves and in the light of day.  The Hotel Roanoke is definitely my kind of hotel.  Upscale but not stuffy, traditional but with modern touches.  For example, the furnishings in the lobby were mostly traditional in their colors but modern in their lines.  I’m no interior design expert but I noticed the details and really appreciated them.

With what felt like the fiftieth game of pool completed, we headed out to explore.  We went into the delightful city market, weaved through the stands and shops of Market Street, chatting with vendors along the way.  You get a genuine feeling that keeping business local here is serious business.  I love that.  We purchased gorgeous locally made soaps, had hysterics in the kitchen store at all the fun quotes on napkins and tea towels, tasted delicious baked goods, bought great jewelry in a store that imported African and Asian crafts, marveled at all the Virginia products being sold in Eli’s, drooled over furniture at Shabby Love…the list goes on.

In need of a snack, we headed to the well known Roanoke Weiner Stand for hotdogs.  What a cool place, simple concept, great service, lunch for 4 under $20.  You can even get a $2 can of Bud or Bud Light if you so desired.  I did not.


After enjoying our hotdogs, we headed back to the hotel to enjoy the lobby for just a little bit longer and yes, the boys played pool…again!  We decided to end our stay with a quick drive up the mountain to the Star monument where you can enjoy an amazing view over the city and valley.  Much to JV’s horror, when we reached the iconic landmark, Kerry recalled her last visit to it.  Back in her college days, she and her then boyfriend had a date there and she decided to declare her love for him in grand style, by shouting it from the mountaintop!

Just being up in the mountains feeds my soul.  Give me them over the beach any day. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to climb them, but I love being surrounded by the majesty of them.  There are few places in the world that I have found more lovely than the mountains of Virginia.  I hadn’t explored this part of them before and it was a real treat.  I could quite easily live in Roanoke.  Beautiful scenery, great food, support of small businesses, a fabulous art museum and the essential requirement for any place I might even consider living in…an airport.  Can’t wait to go back.  We left the Star, winding our way back down the mountain and headed back along 460 on a lovely evening, happy to have experienced a terrific 24 hours in Roanoke.  Thanks, Aimee!

Like I said at the beginning, all kinds of things can happen in life when you simply show up.


Yes, I marched.

I don’t hear from my brother super frequently and I don’t tend to answer calls during This is Us, however, I answered the phone that night.  “I hear you and Mother marched”, he said.  “Yes, we did”, I answered.  “Well, I’m just really interested to know the reasons why, I genuinely want to understand”.  Thank you, Luke.  Really, I mean that.

The reason I started this blog was because I just love to travel and I’m passionate about food.  I was also seeking a creative outlet.  I did not necessarily intend for it to be political.  Two weeks ago, I attended the Women’s March on Washington and couldn’t wait to share the great experience on here, until I read on Facebook about how some people felt about it.  I was stunned.  I have not been able to write about it until today.

On Saturday 21st January, I drove myself and 5 fabulous women to our Nation’s Capital to join thousands of others to march.  I hadn’t originally planned to go but Steve’s cousin, Amy, and her wife MerryBeth asked me a few weeks ago if they could stay with me so that they could attend.  They flew up from Florida for it and were SO excited.  I kind of casually responded that I should probably go too and up until the day, I  regrettably kept that attitude.  However, just like many events and happenings in my life over the last couple of years, it was no accident that I was meant to be there.

What transpired was an awe inspiring day of peaceful solidarity amongst women of all ages and circumstances…along with many men.  Not one single arrest.  Medical emergencies were dealt with by Doctors who were marching also.  Women came in wheelchairs.  They came pushing strollers.  Husbands and boyfriends came in support of the women in their lives.  For about 3 hours, no one could move, so we got to know our neighbors…3 older very well-to-do Jewish ladies; a new mom with her sweet baby, husband and friends; a Floridian woman in a motorized scooter with her grand daughter, and then there was 10 year old Evan who climbed up the tree and led us to believe that the crowds were actually moving… Everyone was so very very polite and respectful.  Paths were magically created for those needing special assistance. Were there some “vulgar” signs and attire?  Yes.  But more so than the source that inspired them?  No.  Actually, most of the signs were amazingly creative and brilliantly clever and I understand why there is talk of gathering many of them in a museum to commemorate the event.

Upon my return home, I was genuinely shocked, and quite frankly hurt, to learn that by attending the march,  I was branded as a number of highly offensive things by some people.  I can assure you that I did NOT go because I’m happy to kill my babies.  But I CAN tell you that it hurt like hell when I miscarried my first pregnancy, but that thankfully I had the fortune to have great health insurance to figure out the problem and this allowed me to subsequently have 2 healthy boys.  I did not litter while at the March.  I was not violent, nor was a single other person there.  I was not in costume, nor did I wear a Pussy Hat but I totally understood why people did.

I’m a single mom of 2 teenage boys.  I’m not raising them totally alone though, they have a great and ever-present Dad.  I am an immigrant and green card holder. I’m also a woman of relative privilege.   Who did I march for?  I marched for my boys and the women in their present and future lives.  I marched for women who have far less than I and those who have endured abuse and violence.  I marched with and for Amy and Merrybeth who, along with so many LGBT people, finally felt safe and free only to suddenly feel afraid again.  I marched for the women and their families fleeing  horrific conditions in other countries.  I marched for better education and access to healthcare.  I marched because it’s so important that we never go back but instead keep moving forward towards equality.

For the women who didn’t understand why we felt the need to march because they feel like they have every opportunity available to them already?  Good for you to have that comfort and security,  but I kind of marched for you too.  Life and circumstances can and do change in an instant.   I believe we also owe it to all those women who, in only the last 100 years, gave and risked their lives for what we have today.  We have the privilege of feeling like we have endless opportunities and rights because they paved the way to allow us that feeling.

It was an amazing day, one that I’ll never forget.  When I discovered that women had marched all over the world and that also I had the support of my friends from around the globe, I felt like a tiny part of something very powerful.  Later, upon my return home, I discovered that my boys had been following the TV coverage all day.

As I usually bring food up at some point in these blog posts…for what it’s worth, I consumed a large tea and a Protein pack from a Starbucks in Fredericksburg and then snacked on nuts, dried apricots and way too many chocolate covered salted caramel pretzels during the March.  We returned home to attend a lovely party at Silvia’s house, she was having a fabulously and typically diverse gathering of friends that included the serving of food representing various countries and a whole bunch of much needed wine.  Perfect.


We gasped when we turned the corner to view the crowds for the first time, realizing that a few more than expected showed up:


Gotta get a selfie…


The vast majority of the following photos were taken by my brilliant friend and fellow marcher, Aimee Joyaux:




Looking after Ling Chao


If you’ve never experienced being woken up by a 50lb dog that is standing directly on on top of you, one paw on your breast and one on your throat, then spare yourself!  This is what happens when you score the biggest bed and the dog’s owners are away and said dog tries to get your attention in the middle of the night!!  Ouch!!

The whole premise of our visit to NYC was to dog sit for our friends Marc and Keju while they went to visit their new home in Seattle for the New Year’s weekend.  Their fabulous apartment in the Financial District in Manhattan is on the market but hasn’t sold yet.  Lucky us!  Marc was already on the west coast but Keju was of course with us the first night.  Ling Chao, their Chow, is quite the character!  Our duties were to walk her, feed her and of course, love her.

She’s one of those dogs that commands attention wherever she goes and also knows exactly where she wants to go. She’s gorgeous to look at so is much admired and she’s pretty stubborn!  The doormen all greet her by name and keep treats for her and the many other dogs that live in the building that houses 400 apartments.

The apartment building is a classic Art Deco structure designed by the same architectural team as the Empire State Building.  Marc, Keju and Ling Chao are fortunate to live on the 14th floor which has the largest terraces.  I thought my porch was big!  They have 1400 sq feet of terrace and thanks to Marc’s expertise in landscape design, it is absolutely stunning.  We so enjoyed staying in this beautiful place that is so tastefully decorated, comfortable and full of great artwork, including many pieces by Marc’s late uncle.  A real treat.

Ling Chao missed us during the day when we went out but there’s no denying that every time we came back you knew she was secretly hoping it was Marc and Keju.  She put up with us though and enjoyed being lavished with attention despite the fact that we aren’t her first loves.

One of her favorite walks, last thing at night, is down the street where the back door of a Burger King provides endless entertainment because that’s where the trash comes out of and is put on the sidewalk overnight.  By entertainment, I mean rats.  I did the late night walk twice.  The first time, there were only 2 or 3 darting around the trash.  But last night we rounded the corner and as there were no other people around, there were at least a dozen to “entertain” us.  Ling Chao just suddenly sat and watched them all, refusing to move.  I was happy not to as well.  When a couple finally walked up towards us, I felt like we had a decent human/dog to rat ratio and we quickly traversed the area as the rats scattered into grates and onto car wheels.  City life!  There must be millions of them but at least Ling Chao was happy to see them!

Could we have possibly had more fun dog sitting in New York?   I think not!  Robin, Kerry and I are home now, while Cherry continues with this job for a couple more days.  We caught trains home today, without a doubt the best way to travel to and from New York.  Kerry kindly made us Eataly/Le District sandwich combos for the journey.  Even the train ride was an adventure, hats off to the Amtrak employees for dealing with a train at full capacity and assigning seats to each and every passenger on the spot with just the right combination of authority and humor.  And to the young soldier who sat across from us:  a girl that sends you back to your Base in North Carolina with a six page neatly handwritten letter adorned with hearts, particularly in this day and age, is a keeper.

We packed an awful lot into these last few days.  We ate extraordinarily well, walked a lot, avoided all the super touristy stuff, enjoyed each other’s company and absorbed the magnificent energy and culture of this city and the many many offerings it has.  Many thanks to Marc and Keju for the opportunity.   Can’t wait to go back again!  Now it’s time to plan some more adventures….

2017 begins…

Just when I thought our time couldn’t get better here, I discovered that there is a French answer to Eataly close by called Le District.  Oh happy, happy day…and New Year!

After staying up so late last night, I slept in and then enjoyed a really lazy morning.  We all did.  Robin traditionally likes to take a hike on New Year’s Day and there was a consensus that walking the Brooklyn Bridge would be a great choice.  Unfortunately, my decision to wear the same pair of boots to pound the pavements for the last few days had given me a lot of heel pain so I opted out and offered to secure a suitable destination for lunch.  The others left for their hike and I did a little searching and came across an online description of Le District, described as a French version of Eataly…..whaaattt??!  Eataly is great, but my first love will ALWAYS be French food.    This place was just a couple of blocks down from Eataly so I couldn’t shower and get ready fast enough. While pursuing my degree in French many moons ago, I had the fortune to spend my third year of University in Paris, teaching English to Lycee students.  As a child, we took many camping holidays to France too.  I’m a huge fan of French Bistro-style food.

While I was heading out to find Le District, Kerry, Cherry and Robin walked the Brooklyn Bridge and shared these photos with me.  They really enjoyed it despite the crowds doing the same thing.

They also stopped to watch these dancers on the way to meet me.

In the meantime, I strolled through downtown on a lovely sunny and slightly warmer day, passing the 9/11 Memorial and heading for the Battery at the end of Liberty Street.  The moment I entered Le District, I knew I had found my place.  I did a complete tour,  salivating at all on offer and clicking away with my camera. It is a market and a restaurant, with the dining happening in the middle and therefore the center of the action.

Le Bar a Vin was undoubtedly going to be our lunchtime venue today.    I secured a spot for the four of us at the double sided bar seating, a brilliant way to fit more people in and allow for larger parties to be able to properly converse.  This configuration flanked  the bar at either end, which was incidentally also  double sided itself in the other direction.  I ordered a Bellini while waiting for the others and perused the classic French Bistro Menu.  Steak Frites with Salad and Bearnaise was a no-brainer for me.  When the others arrived they too ordered a cocktail.  Kerry was less than thrilled with hers but persevered, saying she needed to give it a chance.  Such a craft cocktail trooper!

Having hiked the Bridge and the fact that it was 3:30 already and we were all starving, we started off sharing  Smoked Salmon with Quail eggs, radish and capers atop Boursin cheese and toasted wheat bread.  It was so very, very good and a perfect appetizer to go with our cocktails.  We were all ready for steak so ordered 4 of the Steak Frites, medium rare with Bearnaise Sauce.  By the time they arrived, Happy Hour had started so we ordered a round of $5 glasses of house red.  Perfect!  It was great eating in the middle of so much going on.  The food was fantastic and the market was pretty dark with low ceilings so really quite cosy too.

When we were done indulging ourselves, the sun was setting and so we headed out onto the Battery.  We walked out far enough so as to see the Statue of Liberty.  It was a stunning sight.

When we made our way back home with fresh baguettes in hand for snacks later, we had to pass by the 9/11 Memorial.  This time the fountains were on and the pools were lit up.  A really beautiful scene.  There’s something very peaceful but also quite painful  about the sound of the water cascading down into the pool and then disappearing into the dark center square.  No doubt designed for us to feel that way.  It was really moving to see it at night. It also felt like a good reminder at the beginning of a New Year to always have gratitude for what we have.

We returned to the apartment tired after another wonderful day and poured Vodka and Tonics and eventually enjoyed the leftovers from Eataly accompanied by baguette from my new favorite place, Le District.  Life is good and the new year is off to a great start.

Ending the year on just the right note

We had 3 objectives for this last day of 2016:  Oysters for lunch (again), seeing The Great Comet at the Imperial Theater, and going to Eataly to pick up a variety of delicious bites to enjoy at “home” for New Year’s Eve.  Mission accomplished.

We finally gave up our cab habit and took the Metro to 28th Street and headed to the John Dory Oyster Bar by the Ace Hotel.  A really great classic but funky bar/restaurant with all bar or high-top style seating.  You know they are serious when the oyster bar is the same size as the actual bar.  We were the second party to be seated for what I’m sure will be a long day and night.  Happy hour prices were available for a number of items including: their Cocktail of the Day, a Honeysuckle Daquiri which is made of rum, honey and lime, Prosecco by the glass and Oysters for $2 a piece, a bargain in NYC.  Kerry, our craft cocktail fan, naturally chose the daiquiri, as did Cherry.  Robin and I went for prosecco and we all shared 2 dozen divine oysters served with a jalapeño cilantro mignonette and horseradish mixed with a lemon olive oil.  A delightful twist on the classic condiments.  We then split Haddock fritters with Curried Mayo, Sea Bass Ceviche, Char Pate sliders, Kedgeree and Chorizo stuffed Squid served with white beans accompanied by a New York State Gruner which was a lovely complement to our dishes.  Another great lunch!  Cherry channeled my grandmother and declared that she would pay….just what Apple always did when she particularly enjoyed lunch with family and friends.  Always a nice gesture and much appreciated.


As it was a sunny day and we knew that traffic anywhere near Times Square would be totally nuts, we opted to walk the 17 blocks to the Imperial Theater.  All was well until we hit 42nd and came across multiple barriers and dozens of police officers.  Thinking we had given ourselves plenty of time, we panicked a little when they diverted us to 8th Street.  All the way, all four of were silently feeling completely relieved that we weren’t going to see the New Year in out on these streets.  It was only 1:45 and it was already packed!  Our theater tickets gained us access to 45th Street and we were happily in our seats in time for the show.

We had a few minutes to simply gasp at the stage set-up, seating and set design.  Red velvet curtains adorned the walls with period pictures hanging from them.  There is no conventional stage, instead a series of walkways, stairs and a sunken pit in the area where traditionally an orchestra would be.  Instead, it was much smaller and contained a piano, Pierre’s office and a couple of stools for other musicians and occasional actors.  There is no real distinction between the audience, the musicians and the actors and performers, which made it one of the most fantastic productions any of us had ever seen.

Why pick this musical?  Well, mostly because it has a Petersburg connection.  The choreographer, Sam Pinkleton, grew up in Hopewell and then attended the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School (ARGS) for High School, with a concentration in theater.  His mother, Kimberly Ann Calos, is a well known business woman and community activist in Petersburg and for a while, I worked for her.  My own son, Rory, just started at ARGS this year in the Literary Arts program.  Kim recently attended the Opening Night and when we found out we were coming up here this week, it seemed perfectly obvious that we must see the production!  And are we glad we did.  It’s a real source of pride that we got to witness firsthand the mesmerizing results of a local boy’s talents.

I am no theater expert despite enjoying attending shows and plays.  However, it doesn’t take an expert to know when something is as good as this show is. It is truly an ensemble piece in every sense, with the set design, lighting, music, choreography, and of course the amazing performers all playing equal parts to make a mind blowing whole experience.  The show is based on just a few pages of War and Peace but never seeks to deeply delve into history, instead just exploring the relationships between several characters.  It’s funny, shocking, vibrant, colorful, sexy, edgy, poignant, sad and beautiful all at the same time.  Oh, did I mention that Josh Groban is in it?  He’s amazing and what a treat to hear his voice in the same room.  Oh, and the performers dance around the entire theater, meaning that even the back upper rows on the Mezzanine feel a part of the extravaganza.  When the first act was over and the lights came up signaling the intermission, we all just looked at each other and said “wow”.  Robin was seated next to the Executive Producer of a TV show from LA and she had seen 8 shows in 4 days and declared this to be the best one.  When Robin confessed that it was her first Broadway show, she responded by saying that she had certainly chosen well.  The second act while less exuberant, was no less powerful. Beautiful singing with some very powerful solos and duets.  We simply didn’t want it to end.  Bravo and Encore!

Leaving the theater was a challenge, but thankfully we were heading in the opposite direction to all the Times Square revelers.  We fought through the crowds and found ourselves the right metro to Downtown.  We headed straight to Eataly knowing that if we dared stop home, we might not come out again.

Eataly, just like Chelsea Market, was just as heavenly as I had imagined.  It even has a wine bar.  We should probably have made dinner reservations at some fabulous restaurant this evening, however, we were all perfectly happy to buy some delicious hors d’oeuvres, nice wine and curl up on the sofas in our PJs.  Having worked in the restaurant business for the bulk of my adult life, I spent years in a row working on New Year’s Eve.  For many of them, it didn’t really feel like work as it was a lot of fun and it was great being at the place where people wanted to be on this big night and quite frankly a real honor.  Having said that, every year, I fantasized about spending New Year’s Eve in my pajamas on the sofa by the fire with a bottle of great champagne.  After selling the restaurant, I did just that…except I also extended an invitation to about 25 friends too, who also happily donned their PJs.

Back to Eataly….gorgeous breads, every cheese imaginable, fresh pastas, beautiful meats and fish, pastries galore….heaven on earth.  I loved it, of course.  We stocked up on Duck Rillettes, Irish Smoked Salmon, cheese, prosciutto, salami, mortadella, huge cooked shrimp and a variety of dainty sweet treats.

Back at the apartment we took took off our shoes, poured vodka and tonics and sat for a bit, just relaxing.  I then put together our mini banquet and we happily and heartily indulged ourselves.  Everything was terrific.  We did start to wonder if we would make it until midnight after such a big day, but we rallied and managed, opening a bottle of nice Cava to start the proceedings and ultimately watch the ball drop on TV.  Funnily enough, Robin’s mom celebrates her birthday on New Year’s Eve and Kerry’s Mom on New Year’s Day so each called them on the right side of midnight.



Despite the late hour, I felt the need to finish this before sleeping and therefore to bring this year to an end.  I started 2016 alone, waking up in Quebec City after a fabulous few days spent there and in Montreal.  The trip was not only a springboard for moving on with my life in a great way but it also lit the spark for this blog which took me until October to start when I went to Peru.  As I reflect on this year, I feel really really fortunate. It’s been a year of true personal growth.  A lot of good stuff happened.  Some tough stuff happened too. To be ending this year in the great city of New York in a beautiful apartment with wonderful company is the icing on the cake.  I have started and ended the year wandering around a city with my camera, soaking up the atmosphere and culture and of course eating great food.  The very things I love best in life. Lucky me.  Cheers to an amazing 2017!


High life on the High Line

If I ever go missing and there is a need to send out a search party, then Chelsea Market would be a good place to start.  But more about that later….

After another laid back morning taking care of Ling Chao and sipping caffeinated beverages in the comfort of this lovely apartment, we took the short walk over to the 9/11 Memorial.  It was a freezing cold morning and our mood was instantly made somber at this most hallowed and sacred place.  You cannot help but be moved and we certainly were.  Kerry’s reaction was the most emotional as she couldn’t fight back tears the very moment we got there.  And they flowed non stop when we read the notice that the roses placed on names are put there by the 9/11 Foundation folks on the birth dates of those who died.  It’s hard enough to even imagine what it was like on that day, but to have experienced it and lost someone, well…there are no words.

In need of some light relief after a very powerful and emotional visit, we headed around the corner to Century 21, a posh version of Marshalls that had we had unlimited time and means, we could have come away with a LOT of clothes.  An overwhelming store.

It was food time once again and I was on a mission.  I had read about The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market and the restaurant, Cull and Pistol attached to it. Our party are all lovers of oysters and seafood so we were excited to try it out.  We took a taxi there and found yet another interesting driver, originally from Algeria, who was quite the thinker and philosopher.  He gave us pause for thought when at one point he mused “You know, everything has a beginning, you have to start somewhere”.  Not a bad thought for the start of a New Year tomorrow.  We also discussed marriage, he was happily married to a fellow Algerian and said that he had learned to just let her take charge…we shared with him that between the 4 of us ladies, we had 5 marriages behind us so were impressed with his success.  We also discussed the influence and effect of Uber on the taxi system in NYC and he said it has been pretty devastating as we suspected.  Obviously it’s great for the consumer, but it’s great for the city coffers as they receive 10% tax on the fares.  Instead of allowing a comparable number of drivers to the number of taxi drivers, they allowed thousands more which has the affected the income of regular cab drivers in a profound way.  That was his take anyway…he thanked us for picking a cab, we tipped him handsomely which he appreciated and wished him the best for the new year.


Hunger had us walking quickly through the throngs of people in the Market.  I knew I had found just my kind of place.  Multiple gourmet food stores AND Anthropologie under one roof??!  Be still my heart.  When we reached Cull and Pistol we were a bit nervous as there were so many people.  However when the hostess came outside to get our name, she said it would only be a few minutes.  Somehow, magically, a super cozy end booth magically became available and so our $380 lunch began…. we had a fantastic server, a young guy who knew how to deal with us perfectly.   Before long we were sipping delicious Sauvignon Blanc, eating an array of heavenly oysters and sharing a bowl of sublime clam chowder.  After this, we all opted for Lobster Rolls and fries, 3 of us having them warm, Connecticut style, and Cherry opting for the classic Maine Roll.  Naturally, we needed more wine and we savored every sip and morsel of this magical feast.  Definitely a top ten lunch of my lifetime. (Please note that the average lunch doesn’t have to cost that much here…we had great wine and an abundance of food)

The others waited for me outside while I headed to the restroom, which seems like a completely unnecessary thing to mention except that there was a pair of what appeared to be lobsterman rubber boots in there used as a vase for some decorative reeds.  While the others were outside talking about it, the man who had been sitting at the next table to us, suddenly came up to them and said “the boots were my mother’s”.  Very cool.  They told him that they couldn’t believe that we had managed to score such a great table and he replied “Oh, we knew you were important people”.  Haha, very nice. He owns a great restaurant and the experience from start to finish couldn’t have been better.

We meandered through the market checking out all the gorgeous stores and Kerry and Robin scored some great tops with tree designs on them.  Stuffed from lunch, it was time to work some of it off by walking the High Line, a former elevated railway line that is now a walking path and garden of sorts that winds through Chelsea and up to the Garment District.  The sun was starting to set and once again there was a lovely glow illuminating the buildings.

We hopped in a taxi and headed back to the apartment to catch the dwindling light up on the rooftop garden.  In need of some food but not wanting to go out, I headed to the grocery store downstairs but found myself uninspired.  There was talk of Chinese take-out but then I spotted an Indian food truck out of the corner of my eye.  The smell wafted up the street and drew me towards it.  The laminated articles displayed on the side of it told a story of the owner starting as a busboy in Times Square, then working in a food truck then eventually starting his own and expanding to three, all in Downtown.  He was out of their signature Byriani dish however I was able to pick up some Chicken Tikka and a lamb dish along with delicious Kati wraps.  Great food for a freezing cold night and our cheapest meal so far at $24.  Another great day in this city where you can experience so many adventures in just one day.