At Home in the World (& other travel books)

Hi Reading friends– Just finished At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider.  And I could happily pick it up and read it through all over again right now!  It made me think of other travel books I’ve loved.  If you’ve got the travel bug– maybe you’d love them too.

But be careful.  Now I’m itching to plan up a big trip.  (I did google “cheap flights to London!!”–$340 round trip from L.A. Air Canada!!)   Do you have summer travel plans??  Suggestions??!

Tsh and Kyle Oxenreider did something I secretly (or maybe not so secretly since I’m writing it here!), wish we could do.  They sold their house packed 5 backpacks for themselves and their three smallish kids and began a trek around the world that took 9 months.  Starting in China with jet lag and a language barrier, settling 6 weeks in Thailand, and moving on to sojourns in Australia, Kenya, Ethiopia, France, Kosovo, England and points in between.   They stayed with friends along the way and met a colorful new band of people as they traveled. Tsh is contemplative and practical.  She muses about the place called home and their place in the world.  Loved it!

In A Year of Living Danishly, Helen Russell and her husband find themselves transported from the bustle to London to small town Billund, Denmark when he takes a job working for Lego.  Having heard repeated statistics touting Denmark as the happiest country on earth, Helen spends 12 months uncovering the habits and preferences of Danish people with style and humor.  She interviews Danes around the country on the topics of education, work culture, taxes, health care, food, interior design in her attempt to find out why they could be so happy.  She immediately is taken with their pastries and slowly comes to understand the quirks of their culture.  Just a fun book, and a real look at fascinating country.

It’s been a while since I read The Geography of Bliss.  But it left an impression.  Eric Weiner wanted to find where the happiest people on earth were found– So he set out to The Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India and finally back to the U.S.A. , interviewing people from all walks of life and positions in the country to determine how much happiness could be found in these places.  He depended on psychology, science, history and humor in his search and the result is vastly entertaining and an enlightening look into the lives of people around the world.

A friend sent us a copy of Heidi’s Alp the years we lived in Spain, and would travel in our tired old van around the continent with 4 kids in tow.  This is the story of a family from Oxford who loaded their 4 daughters in a camper van and traveled through Europe tracking down the origins of well known fairy tales, from Cinderella in France and Pinocchio in Italy, to The Little Mermaid in Denmark and the tales of the Brothers Grimm in Germany.  Along the way they also were acquainted with new foods, cultural sights and curious customs.  She also includes a lot of just rollicking fun with the girls as they go– and subscribes to Hans Christian Andersen’s thought, “To travel is to live.”  (Used copies still available on Amazon)

This is another family off to see the world!  Author David Cohen, wife and three kids (2, 5 & 7) sell their house and set off.  They hike up a Costa Rican volcano, view Burgundy from a canal boat, meet lions on an African safari and trek across the desert lands of Australia.  The style is less reflective and more just an amazing travelogue of the high highs and low lows of traveling around the world as a family.  I especially liked his final chapter on what he would do differently, were he to start over again.  A satisfying armchair travel book!

On the Town– New York

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Sunny day at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park

Hello friends –Back from from New York, celebrating our 40th anniversary,  a few days in the city and points beyond — just Larry and me and we had a grand time.  And it was a picture takers paradise– so I’m warning you–don’t come to my house or you may have to sit through endless photos.  But for here I’ve narrowed it all down… In no particular order here’s our NYC top ten:

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#1.Central Park–  Maybe because we are drought bound here in socal, but I was totally taken with all the luscious green and flowing water of Central Park.  We had a couple good park strolls and the beauty on all sides and the people watching were the best!

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DSC03089     DSC03081#2.  One of our first stops was the Natural History Museum at the parks edge.  To start with– the building is magnificent, worth the stop on it’s own.  And we spent a morning wandering from room to room– from the Rose Space Center to the huge animal dioramas to the exhibits of cultures around the world.  Loved it.

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DSC03219     DSC03217#3.  One rainy morning we taxied down to Chelsea Market in search of breakfast and a quiet couple hours walking from shop to delicious shop–bakeries, produce, spices, flowers, eating spots…  Inspirational.  It made me want to come home and start cooking!

DSC03358     DSC03356#4.  Sunday early we made our way across the upper west side to  Redeemer Presbyterian’s new campus.  A wonderful worshipful morning with God’s people there.

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DSC03241#5.  One of my very favorite stops was the New York Public Library.  Our short spunky tour guide was bright and thoroughly a New Yorker.  She led us through a fact-packed tour of the reading rooms, map room, private collections and just to admire the elegant 1911 building itself.  Loved the grand stone lions out front named “Patience” and “Fortitude.”

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DSC03275     DSC03271#6.  Saturday lunch time found us following along after our friendly tour guide on a food tour of Greenwich Village.  She had stories of people and places around the neighborhood (including Louisa Mae Alcott’s home) and made several stops to sample food treats at shops along the way.

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6.204304     DSC03329#7.  For our big night out we had tickets to see “On the Town.”  I loved the old Gene Kelly & Frank Sinatra movie made from this Leonard Bernstein musical– so the production was a treat.  So much fantastic singing and dancing!

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DSC03426     DSC03446#8.  We made our way across the Brooklyn Bridge in some sweltering heat– with the views across the river to Manhattan and a distant look at the Statue of Liberty off in the harbor– and then rested at the end amid the elegant lower Manhattan city buildings.

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DSC03412#9.  A detour to Brooklyn gave us an afternoon in the extensive and so pretty Brooklyn Botanical Garden– we wandered through the forested natural pathway, the formal gardens, past the Japanese pagodas and into the fragrance garden.  Beautiful. And then we  popped across the street to Prospect Park to take in the Leffert House, a 1700’s Dutch colonial farm home with a most enthusiastic young tour guide.

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DSC03496     DSC03503     #10.  And the Grand Dame for NYC tourists, the Metropolitan Museum, where we spent most of a day. We started the morning with a slightly snooty and extremely knowledgable tour guide and then moved on to explore on our own through the afternoon.  Glorious.

P.S. Just a couple more favorite pictures:
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Photos–carousel at Bryant Park on the balmy evening we sat there for Shakespeare in the Park–Romeo & Juliet.  Doors of Saint Bartholomew’s Church, an old favorite–so many magnificent buildings all over town.  The best serendipity of the trip– finding our niece Katie & Nathan in NYC and joining them for dinner!  Larry reading the subway map– my amazing navigator and best travel partner.

P.P.S.  There was also so much good eating on this trip, but I’m saving that for another post.

P.P.P.S  thanks to Broadway.com for the On the Town photo.

Eating with the Grand-girls in San Francisco

10414539_10103171440295033_8777143104621033161_nBreakfast at Andytown– fresh baked soda bread and homemade scones, muffins…

Hi friends— Like most trips, going up to see the family in SF involves some delightful eating!  This time the trip was all about entertaining those 2 grand-girls in tow.  So here are a few highlights,  eating, small girl style in San Francisco…

IMG_0113     IMG_0571   Andytown, is the new coffee grinder/baker in the Sunset.  It’s owned by an Irish couple who bring the best soda bread out of their oven (his grandmother’s recipe).  It’s smart, stylishly modern, but the scrumptious baked goods are definitely old fashioned and homemade.  Weekend breakfast at Andytown in a regular habit for Ani & Brian.

img_7351     IMG_0637For cousin lunch with Baby Mae, we stopped by the Wooly Pig Cafe and picked up an assortment of their amazing sandwiches– for a little sandwich buffet lunch followed by the requisite trip to year another new playground.

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A short trek from our day at the zoo, brought us to the House of Pancakes, that’s Chinese pancakes!  It’s a small friendly place and if you peek through the doorway into the kitchen you can see noodles being pulled by hand, the old fashioned way.  Our girls were happy to eat here– especially the dumplings.   Chinese food is comfort food for them!

Bi-Rite5     IMG_0535We set off on our travels with a list of “5 TRIP RULES,”  the first being, “#1. Eat at least 5 ice cream cones.”  We did our best to follow this essential rule!  And there’s no where better to pick up a marvelous cone of ice cream than at Bi-Rite Creamery, a convenient walk from the fancy new Delores Park playground.  With flavors like honey lavender and coffee toffee (with Ritual coffee), it’s the best!

IMG_0249    IMG_0252    After a full day of beach hikes, we landed at the Pacific Catch, Fresh Fish Grill.  Loved the spiced maui sandwich with avocado, red onion, tomato and citrus aioli.  And since it’s just across the street from Golden Gate Park, we ambled over to another super playground.

IMG_0726And one last ice cream (well, yogurt!) on the drive back home!!  Thanks Charlotte and Maryann for all the super duper girlie fun!!!  xoxo Gr Rhonda.

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thanks for the photo I borrowed– Ani and burritos&mosquitos.com

Streets of Lijiang, China

IMG_5426Hi there–  I’ll admit I’m a little envious.  My mom is off visiting my sis in Lijiang and it’s left me wishing I could have tagged along.  We were there last summer, wandering over canals and cobbled streets in the old town, sitting down to a plate of yak for lunch and sampling the green onion pancakes from street vendors…  So I pulled up our travel pics- Here are a few:

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The houses sit perched over winding canals connected by stone bridges and streets paved with huge blocks of stone.

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Bicycle delivery men– the first is headed to a restaurant with his load of vegetables and a whole pig tied to the top.  And right is the wagon full of blocks of coal used for heating.

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Old gentlemen sit in the afternoon sun on the plaza and a friendly grandma lets me take her photo with her grand baby in the market.

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Red buckets stand ready by the canal for the fire brigade in case of fire.  And a jeweler plies his trade on  an anvil in front of this shop.

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Here’s my mom and my sister last summer on their way to the wet market, basket in hand.  I hope you two are having a grand visit this time around as well.  Wish I could drop in and spend a day wit you!

Wet Market in Lijang, China


Our first morning in Lijang, we set off with my sister Luanne to the “wet market,” through winding alleyways to stall after stall of — fruits and vegetables, meat and spices…


First stop, the herb counter for Lulu to pick up a small bag of lavender.


There were so many vegetables I had never met before.  I’d like to buy a basket full and take them to a Chinese friend to cook up for us…


There were dozens and dozens of varieties of dried and fresh mushrooms, some fungi as big as my head!


We browsed past the copper smith’s stalls– rows of beautifully burnished pots and ladles,


…and on by the potter’s tables of pitchers and pots.


There were varieties of fruit, familiar and brand new to me.


And I studied tables of bright peppers and every color of pickled vegetables.

  
There were eggs, hen, duck and quail…

  
Fresh meat and all kinds of cooked fowl…


Midday even the vendors stopped for a bit of lunch as they tended their stalls.


We took home a small bag of these– just to find out what they were.  The thick peel comes off to reveal little slimy while globes, tasting a bit like super juicy strawberries.

It was a fine, full morning ambling through the market with my Mom and sis.  A feast for the eyes as well as the shopping basket.

DULBIN

Hello all–  Laurel and I had a grand time in cozy Dublin.  Just wanted to let you in on our “Top Ten” from our days there.

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A refreshing walk through Saint Stephan’s Green.  Entering through grand gilted gates and you come to the truly green oasis in the city– ducks, on a lake, dads playing soccer with kids, picnickers, elaborate fountains, and loads of folks strolling along like we did.  A patch of beauty and quiet in the bustle of the city…

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We worked our way up all 7 floors of the “Guiness Storehouse,” a comprehensive museum of all you could ever want to know about Guiness Stout.  Believe it or not, the barrel making demonstration was fascinating.  And we were rewarded with pints of Guiness straight from the tap in the “bar”with  360 degree views out onto the city to end our tour.

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One blustery day we trekked across the river to the Dublin Writer’s Museum, housed in a palatial Georgian home.  We followed the life and work of Keats, Joyce, Wild with your little audio guides.  Super informative and I’ve got Joyce’s Dubliners on my new list of “must reads.”

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We discovered that Irish breakfasts were a welcoming way to start the day– buttery scones, smoky bacon, tubs of orange butter, an unexpected giant mushroom, pots of breakfast tea…

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.We spent a tranquil morning in the National Museum of Ireland, chic full of historical artifacts from Viking buckets and boats to Celtic crosses and Biblical manuscripts.  But the star for me was the ornate Victorian building that housed it all,  beautiful mosaic floors and marble staircases.

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I have to admit we spent some time shopping in Dublin as well, down beflowered Grafton pedestrian street and in shops scattered through the city.  I recommend “Read’s” bright red bookshop and “McKinney’s” for the colorful dishes and the big breakfasts upstairs.

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The tops for me was the 2 hour walking tour led by a young woman, who was a PhD lecturer at Trinity College, a brilliant look at the history of Ireland as we walked the cobbled streets of Dublin.
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There are no shortage of pubs in Dublin and we enjoyed lunch at O’Neil’s Pub midday.  It was a warren of dark paneled rooms, twisting staircases and cozy tables.  Hot soup and hearty sandwiches on a rainy day hit the spot.

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The Natural History Museum was a favorite for both of us.  Also know in Dublin as “the dead zoo,”  it is filled with beautifully preserved animals cased in a classic early 1900’s British museum setting of glass cases in a historic hall.  Great fun and our favorite photo taking spot.

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Our last afternoon in Dublin we ventured into St. Patrick’s Cathedral (built 1250-1270) for the evensong service.  The choir was visiting from Cambridge and filled the glorious space, including a ethereal version of the Lord’s prayer.  Beautiful, worshipful moments in our travels.

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Material World

Hello Reading friends– If I could give you one book for your family, here it is.

Material World, a Global Family Portrait couldn’t be more fascinating.  Peter Menzel and his team of 16 photographers traveled to 30 countries around the world, and found a statistically average family from each country to photograph and interview.

What does the average Vietnamese home look like? What is the average German family’s hope for the future?   What does the average Haitian father have for breakfast? What is the Ethiopian family’s most valued possession?

Top photographers traveled to stay with families far and wide for a week to document their lives in and around their homes, culminating in a incredible photo of the family in front of their house, surrounded by every one of their possessions.  Some claiming a few pots and  and rugs, others multiple cars, rooms of furniture and stacks of electronic gadgetry.

There are also random pages of televisions or meals or toilets from around the world.  The book is presented without judgment or opinion, leaving you to form your own conclusions, your own understanding of the human family.  I take this book to third grade every year to open for my students,  They are captivated.  It’s a brilliant achievement, a one of a kind book. I wish you could see the faces, read the lives for yourself.