Cruising down the Rhone

I’m taking a river boat down the Rhone in a couple of weeks. I’ll be floating with one of my daughters for seven nights! I am afraid that my instinctive need for physical activity might be a threat to our well-being. Thank goodness, my travel companion is charming, socially adept and willing to overcompensate for my behavior.  I’m trying to figure out how to get to the bikes before anyone else and imagine I’ll be that person who wants to be the first off and then on again.

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I hate lines. I like wine and food however. And I downloaded 6 new books.  Besides packing light (is that possible on a cruise?), I’m thinking I need a new stylish haircut to fit in.  Actually planning for my next trip is one of my favorite things.

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Check the Weather

When you go to the ticket window at the famous Christ the Redeemer ( O Cristo Redentor) in Rio, they show you a live stream of the statue so that you won’t be disappointed when you can’t see it or the views below.  I went on one of those days.

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I spent much more time in the Santa Teresa neighborhood. By taking the metro to Lapa, I was able to climb the famous Escadaria Selaron to reach this delightful neighborhood. Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón used over 2000 colorful tiles on the 250 steps.  He worked on this project from 1990 until 2013 when he died rather mysteriously on this very staircase.  I identified with him when I discovered he was born the same year as me and was a world traveler.  And while he was an artist I do have an affinity for street art….and you can’t get more “street” than this.

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While the area is charming it does lack the convenience and perhaps safety offered by the more famous beach communities, although Airbnb is making a presence here.

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Due to the weather the views from Santa Teresa were better than from Corcovado.

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Similar to San Diego

Rio de Janeiro’s weather and beaches reminded me of home…as did the casual dress of the people. However, there are some pronounced differences.  First of all, the bathing attire is decidedly skimpier.  I was prepared to wear a two piece in order not to announce “tourist” but didn’t realize that 3 bikinis could have been made from my suit.

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Then you have the miles of sand that look cleaner, feel softer and are occupied by incredible athletes playing volleyball without using their hands! But June gloom is a phenomena there too.  Note the difference later in the day!

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All large cities seem to have specialized their scamming of unsuspecting visitors and many travel sites will tell you of these ahead of time, so that you are somewhat more aware when you tread on the danger zones.  However, beauty combined with excitement can lead even a seasoned traveler astray.

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My friend was strolling behind me on the Avenue next to the beach after dinner, having just shared leftovers with a few homeless men when he was approached by a young woman screaming something and trying to show him her cell phone. His confusion was multiplied when her accomplices (two more young women) saddled up to him.  He thought he was being propositioned and tried to tell them he was not interested.  Later he discovered that his pockets had been successfully picked!

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Are You Going to the 2016 Olympics?

Rio de Janeiro  has been on my list for a long time, but their visa process has been a detriment in that they could hold up your passport longer than I’ve  been willing to part with it. When I heard that they waived the requirements for this summer I was on my way to Rio. Since I already had August travel plans I decided to do a reconnaissance mission last week.

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The downsides to a trip that far South meant that I had to take red-eye flights both ways and wear deet for protection from the zika virus along with the sunscreen.  Other than that, it was a great trip!

The preparations are in full swing with people seemingly working around the clock.  The airport is in great shape but I think transportation to the various sites of the games could be problematic. The metro has some new cars and you constantly hear instructions to locals reminding them to treat visitors nicely in at least 3 languages.

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If you do go and have some free time on a Sunday, take in the hippie fair at the largest square in Ipanema.  The local artists exhibit and sell some incredible art and crafts.

Beach volleyball would definitely be the best ticket if you can get it!  And head up to Sugarloaf and Corcovado  on a clear day!

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A Delightful Diversion

I recently revisited another San Diego neighborhood, North Park, a short drive from home. We parked a few blocks away in order to check out the locality.  One building caught our attention with their big sign: Lips (the ultimate in drag dining) advertising bitchy bingo….another time maybe.

Hipcooks was tonight’s destination.  One of my daughters had decided to treat both her sister and me to My Big Fat Greek Cooking Class. The instructor somehow kept a dozen of us busy around an island with cutting boards, frying stations and mixing bowls offering instructions washed down with Ouzo.

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We were invited to freeform; tasting instead of following a recipe, lots of pinches and eyeing. A few hours later we all sat down around a huge table and enjoyed the following: Baba ganoush (smoked eggplant dip), Dolma (stuffed grape leaves),Spanikopita (grilled veggie salad), a grape, haloumi and tarragon salad, marinated lamb chops with tzaziki and
Baklava.

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Love Conquers Hate?

Using the word “conquer” in that overused idiom is frightening to me. All of yesterday was scary, leaving me numb for awhile.  Orlando is pretty far away from me, but it’s somewhere almost all of us have been….maybe not to a nightclub but certainly to one of their many entertainment venues.  And to be told to pray or to love comes up short in my experience.

I listened to the news most of the day feeling unconnected and empty, watched as others were able to react appropriately with sadness and disgust.  How can this happen over and over and nothing changes.  I think  assault guns should not be available and I think that we have to be careful not to incite crazy people to take horrific action.  Simplistic, I know…

I looked for someone to help me put it all in perspective, for something I could feel. The Tony Award Ceremony actually helped.  Many of the participants offered their thoughts and sympathy but an actor, Frank Langella , helped me a bit more:

When something bad happens we have three choices: we let it define us, we let it destroy us, or we let it strengthen us. Today in Orlando we had a hideous dose of reality, and I urge you Orlando to remain strong.” The actor closed his remarks by saying, “We will be with you every step of the way.”  Later he told reporters  “I had to say something about it.” The actor, 78, said the massacre left him feeling disgust, anger.” I react to things much more profoundly than I did when I was 60, 50,” he said. “This violence, sense of madness that seems to be pervading this country is terrifying me.”

I was able to sleep, but now I’m awake again and need to find more answers….I was not able to publish my travel story this week.

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An Anniversary in Andorra

Nestled in the Pyrenees without an airport or railway, Andorra is the eighth of Europe’s smallest countries that I’ve visited. (Malta and Cyprus are in future plans) I took a bus from Barcelona that took just over 3 hours to the biggest “city” Andorra la Vella where I had booked a night at the Park Hotel for under $100. In the winter it is a ski destination and off-season there is great hiking and much to my dismay, a giant mall of thousands of stores offering tax-free or other discounted products.

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My idea of shopping is to hit a few keys on Amazon.com, so Andorra is something of an enigma for me. I understand that close to 10 million visitors a year, mostly from Spain or France come here for bargains.

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I enjoyed hiking both above the village and through it. And since it was my birthday I indulged in a very nice Rioja and some great bread with cheese!

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