Sunday, July 25, 2010

A (bitter-sweet) Taste of Southold

I'm not so much a visual person as I am a word person, and especially when telling a story - best done in my own language - I'd concentrate on words very much.  Sometimes, though, a story pours out of an image I have in my mind or images come to my mind when reading a story.

This photo is a good example of what I'll say.

I was driving through Southold in a warm afternoon, after having unsuccessfully planned my morning and I so much wanted to take a walk on the beach. Which beach? There are many in Southold.
The one in the picture is on North Bayview. But don't try to get there, if you  don't have a Southold parking permit.

The town of Southold put this sign e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e: on every possible street that might take you to whatever view of the water.
So, unless you are on a boat or are the lucky owner of a waterfront estate (and filthy rich, because those are huge!) you might as well forget you are on an island. 

Many times I resisted the temptation of ringing the bell of one of those villas, telling a nice story to their owner to be able to throw a look from their windows, terraces or garden (a woman with two cute kids, I believe I could succeed!) and catch a grasp of what they keep so jealously under their finger-nails.

But I just took a couple of pictures from the flooded spot I was standing.

What you'd never suspect (and expect) is that, a few seconds later, from behind that little island-sand bar, a bunch of seniors male and women - armed of swimming noodle - made their appearance, giving a twist to my imagination.
The little paradise-like picture suddenly became the scene of the long ago seen movie Coccoon
And I - half amused, half respectful - restrained myself from taking more pictures.

Instead, I drove to Cedar Beach (amazingly you don't need any permit to park here) to face the South Fork, but - as I arrived there  - my baby had ironically  just fallen asleep, so I decided to leave my walk  for another time and another place.

Note:  I will have more to say about the beautiful city of Southold.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Du bist so wunderbar Berlin!!!

 View from our window

Short post: I have been away from home (home-town and home= living place) for one year now.
I miss my city life. I miss walking around and get things done without ever starting the engine of the car. I miss the culture, I miss the apartment, the bed and the kitchen. I miss my friends and my second family.

But I am not sad. 
Being away (from people and places) is a constant in my life. I will be back soon. And I will want to go away again. (Ralph meant I can always take the S-Bahn to Königs Wüsterhausen when I am fed off Berlin).

I read about Berliners...and I am ready to get angry again, to have a healthy amount of poison everyday to swallow and to talk back if necessary.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ice Cream Extravaganza

Last weekend my family and I were invited to  attend an "ice cream party" and for no reason in the world we would have missed that.
In the first place because Gabriele - an Italian friend and colleague of Ralph - made this invitation and he and his family are such nice people we wouldn't have said no.
Second, we love ice-cream.
Third, we know that Gabriele's ice-cream is THE BEST.

So, of course, I took a bunch of pictures, which are not doing justice to any of his creations (when technology will be able to convey taste and smell through the screens, then it will be fair).
I might, though, tell you about some of the flavors that we had to choose from
(well, I didn't go as far as to try them all because I'm a bit picky, but I tried many).

The genius at work!
And young and old enjoying...


Next to the classics like vanilla and chocolate - good but not extraordinary - there was a huge variety of fruit flavors among which pineapple, nectarine, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, watermelon, banana-cardamom, strawberry, apricot...(bet I forgot some).

I am totally for the berries; my favorite combination was blueberry and banana cardamom and very good were raspberry and vanilla. 
As for chocolate, I almost never have chocolate ice cream. Unless it's dark chocolate. Or chocolate - red chili. (I miss the Eis Boutique in Berlin).
Well, I don't think I had ever eaten so much ice cream in one single afternoon now I definitely need an ice cream break.

In fact, when the twenty something people were done with the ice cream, Gabriele showed a few guys one of his food findings: a marble cheese-cake. With the words "I don't like cheesecake, but I like this!" he convinced me -  not a cheesecake lover either - to try it. 

And I tried that little piece in the middle. Just that, I swear!

Monday, July 19, 2010

West Meadow Beach - Stony Brook

From this point, the West Meadow beach is on the left (north-est) side.
To know more about the little brown cottage, Stony Brook and the Three Villages, I recommend you read what Soundbounder has to say (he has nice winter photos and his blog is always an excellent source of information for all the Long Island Sound area!).

 The mouth bars are supposed to be changing their shape continuously

In the past months I have been hanging around the Stony Brook and Three Villages area a lot.
Earlier this summer I spent some time with the kids walking and having picnics between the harbor and the Wetland Preserve in Stony Brook and visiting the Long Island Museum, where an interesting carriage exhibition took me back in the history of means of transportation on Long Island and the US altogether.

I had the chance to walk in East Setauket, Old Field and Poquott (here we were looking for a house about a year ago, but I opposed any waterfront  option for fear of flooding and strong winds).

One place I didn't know about was the West Meadow Beach.

This is a great spot, especially in the morning at low tide.
The beach is not sandy, and actually the stones are bigger than in other places, but once one gets to the water, there are very few pebbles and  - especially if you have kids, like me - you will love that the water is shallow, with sand bars after a few feet.

West Meadow is one of the most relaxing beaches around, and one of the smelliest: in fact, at low tide everything smells different, but I found that here there was a quite strong sea-weed scent I always have to associate with the very concept of sea, together with saltiness. (Next time we'll talk about my love for sea-weed).

I ignored the existence of this corner (advertising the existence of a beach is not a well known concept) until couple of weeks ago, when a friend bounced me a list of pools and beaches offering swimming lessons for our daughters,  one of these being West Meadow Beach.

Anyway, it seems that - before becoming the idyllic and family friendly spot it is, West Meadow had its own controversies (the same old story of people putting their hands on public land and making it their own until it hurts) but in the end I am glad I can enjoy this place, at least until the jellyfish starts getting annoying.

To find useful information about West Meadow Beach you might read this page or maybe take part to one of the sunset seminars. These sound like fun!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Purple rain

it's me again.
I know I said goodbye once, but I needed to tell you how impressed I was when I saw you on tv, winning the Lifetime Achievement Award.
You in public, speaking to hundreds people... what an emotion that must have been!
You looked pretty good, very elegant in your self designed turtle neck.
Sorry I devoted myself to another little man - you know...that's how it is now (be aware, he's a singer and a dancer too!!!).

No, I will not forget your back then in Paris. Sigh, more than ten years have gone...
And yes, you more than deserve a spot in my heart - because with Ben and my cousin Monica, you'll always be my favorite Jehovah's Witness!

WARNING: Although the characters in this post are all real, I obviously  have never had anything to do with Prince. Too bad!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How We Decide

Montreal (but it could be wherever) - coming to a conclusion

This is one of the pictures one just takes for fun and I wasn't going to put it up, but sometimes sleep brings good advice and so, there it is.
It is a highly symbolic one, obviously. (Don't shake your head because it's AGAIN about food!)
In fact we all have been there, in front of a choice in life. Haven't you?

You are hungry and you are given two totally different choices: the one on top tells you no lie: it is clear and promises you what you see. Unless you are vegetarian or on a diet (or have high cholesterol), it sounds quite alright and satisfying.
The one on the bottom is a vague suggestion.
It reminds you about something familiar, but you don't exactly know who the hell Giorgio is: he may be the owner, he may be the cook - chef Giorgió - so you'll have to rely on your instinct...because it could be a stuffing, delicious lasagna plate or a nouvelle cuisine lot-of-aesthetic-but-no-content plate what you're going to find.
(And here I picture myself chef Giorgió running around with truffle-sprinkles on a plate of calamari...yucky!!!).

Anyway, in front of these choices


Would you choose the easiest option?Or the less clear?
Check the menus of both places?
Or maybe blindly choose and have a look out of curiosity but only after eating?(Usually source of regrets and anger).

As for me, I didn't have a choice; but I ask myself how many people stood in front of this board and wondered what they should choose and which criteria they'd follow.

How We Decide is a very interesting book by Jonah Lehrer about decision-making seeing from the side of the brain.
If it doesn't help you decide to which restaurant you should go, it will give you an amazing insight n how your brain is working at that point.

Montreal, Jazz me souvien.

This one  is especially dedicated to Dede of "Varie ed Eventuali".

One more post isn't enough to talk about this beautiful city, but I should eventually be talking about the main attraction of these few days in Montreal: the Jazz Festival.
I could start with a negative note, saying we missed the George Clinton & Parliament's concert and the Dave Brubeck's concert as well and  - given the fact that good Dave Brubeck is 90 - this is NOT one for the next time, probably.

Anyway, in things music, I always tend to see the glass full.
The amazing number of concerts (all of high quality) and the relaxed way Montrealers and visitors had during this festival struck me as an ideal of tolerance and good behavior I've seldom experienced at open air concerts.

US Americans are a good example, but Canadians are perfection - this is something Europeans should learn.
There was a huge crowd and I didn't see anyone pushing nor yelling (that would be my daughter) or complaining.
There was no junk on the streets, no drunk people and no freaks.
Just pure fun and good vibration connecting everybody. That was great.

A memeber of a marching band that was kind of guiding people from one stage to another with standard brass sounds but funky costumes...

I love brass and I definitely have a couple of movies I enjoy if only for the music like Kansas City, by Robert Altman, Mo' Better Blues, by Spike Lee or Bird, by Clint Eastwood. (One could argue that Charlie Parker was a saxophone player and saxophone doesn't belong to the brass family...but I am not discussing these details here!)

This skilled and sophisticated young pianist and composer is Amanda Tosoff.
I liked her music, but I need more peace of mind for that.

What I like in jazz is the amount of different aspects, nuances and contaminations it has and one of the most interesting is certainly Latin jazz.

Harold Nussa is a young (26 year old, amazing!) cuban pianist.
You can see an interview here.

As I said, everybody was having fun: Bastian loves singing and dancing and it was amazing how child-friendly the whole party was.
No need to be afraid of kids getting lost or hit by careless people.

I forgot the name of these ladies, they were performing excellently some hit, not necessarily jazz songs, but each with a very characteristic voice and sound.

Here are The Lost Fingers; three guys at the strings, singing 80s songs in a jazzy-gypsy variation à la Django Reinhardt (inspiration for their name).
Django Reinhardt suffered an injury on the forth and fifth finger and therefore played just with the remaining three fingers. This year would be his 100th birth anniversary.

I got myself the cd Lost in the 80s and enjoy that in the car so so much...
Some favorite of mine are You shook me all night long, Pump up the Jam and Part Time Lover (not so much for the lyrics, but the interpretation is just too good!Even a stupid tune can become great, if played by with skill and irony).
Btw, last year, when Stevie Wonder was performing at the festival, the  Lost Fingers performed ten consecutive nights.

Between stages and performances there were some breaks with streets actors, and one big break for me when Ralph took Carlotta for a walk and I had a very good talk with a man from Luxembourg who called me "Madame" all the time - some people are just born elegant (he, not I, of course!).
This happened before the last concert of our last evening, Emir Kusturica and The NO smoking Orchestra in their performance full of energy and yet as controversial as the movies Kusturica directed, with some kind of nationalist content.
Well, it was an interesting talk because it was like being in front of a miroir.

This guy was traveling around a lot, it seems, and he explained to me that "if you wanted to see every place on earth, you'd need more than one life. So, I just follow my feelings. They tell me where to go next. You understand me?I bet you do!".
Of course I did.

"If you open your eyes, you will learn a lot; and travel is not just about destination, it is a journey to your inner self. You understand what I mean?
I have no one, I only have god - not the god of religion, forget about that!
It's just something I can rely on, something that connects us all.
I know I am a rebel, a Don Quixote who fights against wind-mills, but that's how I feel and how I have to be.
Do you understand what I mean?
Some people are blocked, they can't live their life fully, because they are afraid of taking any risk; anyway today is just a perfect day, the weather is wonderful and the music too: everybody is having fun. FANTASTIQUE!".

Montreal - more sightseeing....

There are some spots of Montreal that I already declared as my most favorite.
One of them is the Rue de Prince Arthur Ouest (photo above and below).

It's a little walking area with nice restaurants, a little fountain, and such an enjoyable atmosphere I almost want to go back for one more ice-cream at the Pagliacci.

This is the Carré St Louis, (between Rue Pince Arthur and the Rue St. Denis) with its octagonal kiosk, which reminded me - although with a different purpose - of the Café Achteck am Rudesheimer Platz, in Berlin: one family favorite, being half a mile away from our home and offering a quiet  square with garden and fountain, plus a number of little cafes, excellent bakeries and the weekly market.

Buildings are here a little shorter than in Berlin, though.
These are Second French Empire homes, with the typical rectangular tower and steep roof (the style is also called mansardate and was originated in Paris, which makes sense because this part of town, caught between the Plateau Mont-Royal and the Quartier Latin was mainly francophone).

One of the attractive things about Montreal, apart its French connection, is its relatively smooth traffic and of course the bike-friendly streets.
With those steep stairs most of the buildings have, it is some kind of a problem to park one's own bike.
So, as a turist you might like the option of getting a bixi bike from the miriads of "bike stations".


 As a bike owner, you will find other solutions...

The Oscar Wilde Pub at the Quartier Latin.
Little anecdote about Wilde: when he was visiting Montreal he called - a bit arrogantly - the Mont Royal a hill...and actually, that's what I thought when I got a glimpse of that, but never mind!

Chess by the University of Quebec ground

Strolling in the Quartier Latin, a gay friendly, bar and record stores loaded area was also very relaxing, one just has to remember it's not all walking ground, as cars come from the side streets, even when they are slow and careful...

to be continued...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Montreal - sightseeing in the morning...

After having slept like stones, we were spending most mornings doing some sightseeing, which was - due to the few days we had in our hands - more or less a collection of impressions and a promise to "leave something for the next time". 

As far as collecting impressions goes, my own state of mind during this vacation was inspired by the stoned oriental philosopher who - running short of good advice - once said "when you don't know what to think about yourself, just don't think about it".

So, I was projecting and collecting and fell in love with this place.
With every single corner of it: With its people and with its European, international, open-minded, relaxed flair.

Between the Champ de Mars, the old ruins of the city, and the Old Montreal walkable area, we found ourselves immersed in a fruit and vegetable garden, the Governor's Garden, on the back of Chateau Ramezay, the headquarter of American army during the American Revolution.

It's always fun to see how kids  are excited about raspberries, blackberries, carrots and beets when they are still on a plant (me?I am a country girl, so I am immune to this fascination).

Walking in Old Montreal you can meet people you know - and know people you meet.

Place Jacques Cartier from Rue des Artistes

I've got a thing for silly jokes, and Canadians too, it seems.

Amazing how nice and rich of atmosphere most of the restaurants and diners were!

I like hybrids, I also want an aeroplane that can swim, next time I fly...

Strolling on the Promenade Vieux-Port (adjacent to the Old Port).
In the background, the Museum of Archeology - one for the next time!

Garden of the hotel, where we didn't stay...

And the omnipresent Nutcrackers - people are NUT about these toys....

Stone buildings are much more common than in the US, even though the border is not so far....

That's the inside of the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, with its beauiful stained glass windows.
It is also known as the Sailor's now I can make more of fun of Ralph, who, instead of being on a boat, for this year has to be contented with a catholic Church. I still wonder if he should be allowed that, with his protestant background...

So much beauty....

And on a stroll between Old Montreal and Chinatown, the facades which remind me of life in a place rich in history

to be continued...