A Travellerspoint blog

Scotland

Lochs, Castles, Mean Fairies, & Rain

In 2017, readers of The Rough Guides voted Scotland number one most beautiful country. It is. With its 38,000 lochs (otherwise known as lakes), its lowlands, highlands, islands, beaches--both sandy and rocky--, its green hills and barren mountains, Scotland is stunning. And that is just the scenery. There is so much else to do and see. There are beautiful cities, castles, great restaurants, and the funny, friendly people. There are also countless stories about mythical creatures, especially fairies. Not cute ones who want to be your wee friends. Scottish fairies are mean and exist to trick humans.

And, oh yes. There is rain. In some places, you know how they say if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. In Scotland, if you wait five minutes, you'll just get another sort of rain. Or fog. Or both. I counted seven distinct kinds of rain, most of which I had never seen before. There's misty rain which doesn't actually fall to the ground, it just surrounds you in a delicate veil. There's a rain which falls in droplets that are spaced apart, float around you, and somehow defy gravity. There is soaking, freezing rain, and there's wind-driven rain that flies mostly sideways and hurts when it touches your skin. There's more, but you get the idea. Rain is sometimes briefly interrupted by sun, a temporary condition that lasts a few minutes and is widely celebrated with a wee dram of whiskey. Contrary to rumor, sunshine does exist in Scotland. I saw it twice, once in Edinburgh and once in the seaside town of Portree.

After doing some research, I chose to go in May which is supposed to have fairly good weather. In the winter months, Scotland is quite cold and has little daylight whereas May has very long days. The sun is up at around 5 a.m. and doesn't set until around 9:30 p.m. Another benefit is that in May the midges haven't appeared yet to torment you. The midges, also known as no-see-ums, are the price you pay for warm weather and no rain in Scotland, apparently. May is usually a good month, but this year, winter did not want to let go. It was rainy, windy, and cold. I thought I came prepared for bad weather, but I was not ready for the rugged weather up in the highlands or even for the wind and cold in Edinburgh.

I began my journey in Edinburgh. I had been there before so I did not do some of the things that you would want to do on your first visit, such as visit the Castle and some of the historic places along the Royal Mile. Before I set off on a five day journey to the Highlands and out to the Isle of Skye, I stayed in the old part of the city. A few good places to eat there are the White Hart Inn, the oldest known tavern. The food was good pub food. And there is the ever-popular Kick Ass Cafe. Another good place to eat is Prezzo's on the North Bridge, a reliably good chain with great flat bread pizza. It is reasonably priced and tempts you to come back by offering you a free bottle of prosecco. Who could say no to that? Edinburgh is a photogenic old city and a wee wander here and there is a great way to begin a visit to Scotland. Although the weather was chilly, the sun was out and everything was just beginning to bloom!
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Posted by teethetrav 11:07 Archived in Scotland Tagged rain scotland edinburgh lochs highlands lowlands fairies scottish_isles Comments (0)

Southerners, Food, & Alcohol

Southern Crazy

"Here in the south, we don't hide crazy. We dress it up and put it on the porch." That was a slogan on a dishcloth in a shop in The Hammock Shop Villages. That, in part, is why I love the south.
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I've already written about my jealousy of southern writers, so I'll move on to my obsession with the food.Two other reasons I love the south, besides the lovely writing, are the food and the southern love of a good drink. First, the food. I believe that the only true American foods are hamburgers, fries, pizza, and southern cooking. Feel free to disagree. It's my opinion, but I'll warn you ahead of time: I'm not open to changing my mind. That said, all southern cooking has its roots in Africa, so we stole it, adapted it, and made it American. The best southern cooks and recipes come from what grows in the southern soil and lives in the waters along the eastern southern seaboard. Farm to table and sea to table are not new concepts here.

I had some awesome food in my recent visit to South Carolina's Pawleys Island. The charming and welcoming South Carolina Writers Association hosted its Dream Conference there in October and I ate and drank my way through the warm days. Clam chowder, oyster sliders, shrimp and grits from the amazing Rusty Table, balsamic glazed pork from Websters, and hush puppies from The Deck were perfectly cooked with fresh ingredients and just enough heat. I could go on, but I'm making myself hungry just thinking about the (delicious and fattening) southern foods. So much so, I've decided to do a southern-themed Christmas dinner. Cornbread, sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, creamed corn are on the menu, so far. I'm testing a shrimp & grits recipe. Let me know if you have a good one!

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As for alcohol...I've consumed my share of wine, but have never had the stamina for anything much stronger, so I wouldn't make a good southerner. I have the utmost admiration for anyone who can handle their liquor. It seems that bourbon is a way of life in the south. A luncheon partner at the writers conference bemoaned the fact that the bar was closed and he had forgotten his flask of bourbon. Then again, maybe it's not a southern thing. Maybe it's a writers thing. I have enough trouble writing sober and keeping my crazy to myself, so I'll probably just stick to wine.

Posted by teethetrav 07:21 Archived in USA Tagged south_carolina novel pawleys_island south_carolina_writers_conferen myrtle_beach litchfield_beach southern_writers south_carolina_writers_associat the_rustic_table websters Comments (0)

Pawleys Island South Carolina

Southern Writers & Inspiration

Going almost anywhere excites me. Going back to places I know and love has a special feeling. But there's something about going somewhere entirely new that opens up possibilities and gives me a sense of giddiness. As anxious as travel can make me, I love the entire experience. I love being in an airport and wondering where everyone else is going and why they are traveling. I love remembering the last trip I took. This trip, I sat in the airport recalling last January's trip to the Cayman Islands for my daughter's wedding. Our airport trauma was lugging her beaded gown through the airport, through security, onto the plane where the flight attendant got angry at my son who had carried the dress like it was a Faberge egg the entire way, only to watch her try to fold and stuff the gown into a compartment. He. Was. Not. Happy. And she called security. Yikes. But it all ended well and, after that, the trip and the wedding were perfect.

So far, this trip is fairly uneventful. I did get pulled aside at security because I had a suspicious item in my carry-on. Turned out, it was my breakfast muffin. Every the TSA guy shook his head and laughed. Other than being seated behind someone who had a "companion kitten" on his lap (seriously? that's a thing?) this was a quick flight to Myrtle Beach where I picked up my cool rental Jeep that I got for points and headed to Pawleys Island to the South Carolina Writers Conference I'm attending at the Litchfield Beach Resort. Low country. It sounds like a place writers go to write, doesn't it? I've long envied southern writers and their ability to tell stories set in swampy, marshy places with names like Pawleys Island, Edisto, and Murrells Inlet. Let's not get me started on southerners and their ability with words. Pat Conroy, Carson McCuller, Eudora Welty, Lee Smith...There must be some magic, some kind of alchemy which occurs due to the combination of Spanish moss, soupy humidity, and an unabashed love of alcohol.

I am here hoping some of the luck of the southern writers will rub off on me as I try to find a publisher for my latest book, a family saga inspired by historic events. It's called GOODBYE, LOVER and it's about an introverted bartender who discovers three tiny skeletons in a trunk in her grandmother's attic which upends everything she thought she knew about her family.

Wish me luck!

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Posted by teethetrav 13:11 Archived in USA Tagged south_carolina novel pawleys_island south_carolina_writers_conferen myrtle_beach litchfield_beach southern_writers Comments (0)

Christmas Markets 2016

NYC & Berlin

Some of my earliest memories took place in New York City, especially at Christmas time. I was born and lived in the Bronx, and my father’s business was on 35th Street in mid-town Manhattan, the part of the city that I’ve known and loved all my life. It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered Soho, the Village, Central Park, Museum Mile, the High Line, and all of the other places I grew to love. For me, 30 West 35th Street was the center of New York. It was the perfect location nestled between 5th and 6th Avenues, next to the back entrance of Orbach’s department store. Orbach’s is long gone, (it’s now a Banana Republic) along with B. Altman’s, Gimbels, and FAO Schwarz, the toy store with the foot piano featured in the movie BIG. 30West.jpg
Every year at Christmas my family would visit all the windows. Very few are left: Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and a couple of others remain and are worth seeing, especially now with all the available technology. Now, the windows are interactive and dazzling. Back then, we would visit the windows, shop, leave our packages at my father’s store and go to eat. Our favorite restaurant, also long gone, was Mamma Leone’s where we would eat until we could not eat anymore. And then we would have warm zeppole, dripping with powdered sugar. To this day, no one has ever made it better, in my opinion. ChryslerBldg.jpg
Just a few blocks away from 30 West 35th, I met Patience and Fortitude, the stone lions who still guard the greatest public library in the world. Near the library is Bryant Park, which was not someplace to go back then. It harbored homeless people and drugs and just wasn’t safe. Now, it’s a destination. Every year the park hosts one of the city’s holiday markets as well as an ice-skating rink and a tree. It’s become part of my new traditions, in addition to visiting the amazing Rockefeller Center tree.
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Last week, I went to Bryant Park to the Christmas market. Inspired by the European markets, the vendors there have a wide array of hand made and home made products and you never know what you're going to find. If you go, you are not only supporting small businesses and artisans, you can find unique products like the truffle honey I found.

A few days ago, one of the Christmas markets in Berlin was attacked and shoppers were killed. There was talk of closing all the German markets for the rest of the season. They decided to reopen and yesterday wary shoppers returned. As someone who lives close enough to NYC that I saw the cinders and ash from the Twin Towers when they fell, and as someone who was in Paris during both the Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan attacks, I’ve thought about fear and terror quite a bit. Fear is real. All over the world there have been irrational, horrific, sometimes random attacks in unexpected places like Nice, a beautiful beach town. Whether I go to New York, to Paris, or to a movie theater, I have decided that if I stop traveling, if I give in to fear, they—whoever they are—-have won. If markets close, if I cower in my home, if I choose fear, then I lose out on so much. And that is not acceptable.

Posted by teethetrav 08:17 Archived in USA Tagged paris berlin nyc macy's christmas_markets bryant_park charlie_hebdo orbach's fao_schwarz bataclan mamma_leone patience_fortitude b.altman's lord&taylor Comments (0)

A New York City Day

From Harlem to the East Village

It’s funny, but I don't think about NYC as a place to blog about. To me, NYC doesn’t seem like travel since I was born in the Bronx and my father worked in Manhattan most of his life. Although we moved to New Jersey when I was young, we were never more than an hour away so going to NYC was something I took for granted. I never knew New York was, well, NEW YORK. I don’t know how old I was before it dawned on me how lucky I was to have grown up in and around one of the greatest cities in the world and that this was a place that people aspired to come and visit. Now, when I go to New York I make it a point to talk to tourists. I ask them how far they came to be here and where they are from. I want to know if it’s their first time and what they have seen. Last week I met a couple from Australia who were here for two weeks. We had a great chat about what they had seen so far, where they had eaten, where they were staying, and their impressions of New York.

I love New York. It makes me happy that I’ll never get to see everything there is to see or do no matter how many times I go. It fills me with joy that there is always another new restaurant to try, or a favorite one to go back to again and again. Ruby Foo’s on Broadway is one that I’ve been to and over and over. If you go, have a Ruby Foo, their signature drink. Bring a group. It’s a fun place to eat a million little things that you share with friends.
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Recently, I went to New York with my daughter to celebrate a significant birthday (hers, not mine). We went all out and ate at two of our bucket list restaurants and, the coup de grace, saw our favorite actor Liev Schrieber on Broadway in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. First, we went uptown to Harlem to eat at the amazing Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster. If you don’t know him, read his remarkable memoir Chef. It’s a great book and his is an inspiring, uplifting story that brought me to tears. Speaking of tears, the cornbread at Red Rooster is so delicious I nearly cried. I know. Cornbread. But it is indescribably good. Everything was. And we loved the whole atmosphere and decor. This is a cozy, feel-at-home, unpretentious place and I plan to go back. Hopefully soon.
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Next, we saw the show. It’s a limited run and the story is raunchy, sexy, funny, and quite sad. And words do not convey the steamy appeal of Liev Schreiber. Suffice it to say, when his shirt came off, there was an audible gasp throughout the audience. Whew.
We waited outside the stage door and he graciously took photos and signed autographs. What a sweet man. I can’t wait for the next season of Ray Donovan on Showtime!
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Finally, it was time to go down to the East Village to David Chang’s Momofuku for his famous noodles. They were everything! Porky goodness with an egg floating on top. But the sublime experience, for me, was the shitake mushrooms on buns.

All in all, it’s a hard call to say what was the yummiest thing all day. Gun to my head, Liev was definitely the winner.

Posted by teethetrav 13:11 Archived in USA Tagged nyc chef ruby_foo red_rooster david_chang momofuku liev_schrieber marcus_samuelsson ray_donovan Comments (2)

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