Posts Tagged ‘pay-it-forward’

Three Weeks, Six Cities

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Three weeks in Europe feels like a whirlwind tour.  London 2 nights, Paris 4 nights, Antwerp 2 nights, Amsterdam 3 nights, Linhamm 4 nights, and back to London for 5 nights.  Today, is day 4 back in London.  I leave for India tomorrow, and in addition to being incredibly excited for the learning and growth experience I have ahead of me, I am so excited to be in hot, humid weather again.  Yet, that aside, I am getting ahead of myself.

My friend, Kari from Key West, met me in London 19 days ago, and the tour began.  The first 2 days were spent in London with my cousin and his husband, Adam and Hector.  They have been incredibly generous and hospitable hosts,Razor Clam Soup opening their home in Wimbledon to us, and feeding us incredibly well.  These first 2 days were spent exploring their town, and the night before heading to Paris, we went to the well known British gastropub, Fox and Grapes.  It was a delicious meal, and Adam claimed that if I did a food blog on my trip, he would be sure to read it.  Well, this is not going to be a food blog only, but I hope he reads it anyway.  For my main course, I had traditional beer-battered fish and chips with mushy peas.  It was delicious, but my favorite was Adam´s appetizer, a razor clam soup.  For pictures of London (beginning and end of trip), click here.

Then, Paris for my 40th birthday.  This was my third visit to this amazing city, but it felt different as I was seeing it through the eyes of an adult.  I could just walk for days and days in Paris, admiring the architecture, the parks, the sheer beauty of it all.  And believe me, we did walk and walk for days.  We stayed in a budget hotel just up the street from the Maubert Mutualité street market, which happened to be open on my birthday, so we bought a huge spread and headed to Luxembourg Gardens to enjoy.  Fresh goats cheese, goose liver pate, apples, peas in the pod, and dried apricots, a mix of olives and bread, and a Birthday Celebrationdelicious bottle of Bordeaux.  It was a wonderful way to spend my birthday, sharing great food with a close friend in a beautiful city.  One could spend months in Paris and still not cover it all or see all of the attractions.  We did do a river cruise, under the light of a full moon, and of course,¨The City of Lights.¨ I loved this.  Each bridge in Paris was designed differently than the next.  No two are the same.  For some reason, I found this fascinating.  Many of them are artistically beautiful, as well as architecturally.  Other sights included the Pantheon, Champs Elysses and the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame (which we climbed to the top of for the most breathtaking views of Paris), the Eiffel Tower (which we did not ascend), Musée d´Orsay (one of my favorite collections of any museum I´ve visited), and a classical concert at St. Chapelle (the most gorgeous stained glass ever).  And, for all who know me well, you´ll know that there was lots of eating and drinking, too.  Favorite meals, street falafel in the midevil Jewish/Gay quarter and vegetarian lunch at Le Grenier De Notre Dame.  Favorite drinking establishment, next to our hotel, La Lucha Libre, dedicated to the masked wrestlers.  It was just lots of fun.  For pictures of Paris, click here.

Next, off to Antwerp.  This small Belgian city is delightful for a short visit.  Famous for it´s diamond district, and it´s cathedral which adorns several of Peter Paul Rubens works, it also has several pedestrian streets lined with cafes and shops.  I have to say that my favorite meal of the whole Europe trip (aside In the Parkfrom the delicious home cooking of Cousin Adam) was at Fiskebar in Antwerp.  Mussels in a white wine-shallot broth, king crab terrine with tomato-basil-green apple, and whole turbot (the best whole fish I think I’ve ever had) with fingerling potatoes and salad.  For those who know Kari, you know she likes her thrift stores.  We found an amazing thrift store in Antwerp which specialized in lamps, furniture, and accessories.  Thankfully, we were not close to home because we both may have gone broke shopping in this place.  For pictures of Antwerp, click here.

After a couple relaxing days in Antwerp, we got back into the nonstop touring groove in Amsterdam.  My fourth time to this city, and like Paris, seeing it through different eyes, but still loving it.  To relate it to my life, Paris is like NYC.  Bustling, lots going on all the time, loaded with tourists as well as residents; not a place I´d want to live, but I love to visit.  Amsterdam is like NOLA.  Laid back, much to do but at a different pace, not nearly as crowded; and a place I could see spending some time in.  Add in the biking culture, and it´s got most of the things I really like; active outdoor culture, it´s on the water, and has great ethnic food.  It´s easy to get lost in the streets of The Other SideAmsterdam.  The parks are gorgeous, the canals give it a feeling that is unlike any other Northern European city, and the people are so incredibly nice, friendly, and helpful.  We stayed just across the street from Sarphatipark in a dumpy hostel, but it made no difference since we were out wandering the streets most of the time.  The hostel was in the neighborhood of the Albert Cuyp street market, which was open everyday except Sunday.  Our days began there with a fresh squeezed juice, and maybe some food, before wandering through the city streets.  Aside from time spent in Vondelpark, cafés and coffee shops, we explored the Van Gogh museum,  Dam Square and the Red Light District, as well as several of the cities other squares and markets.  Favorite meals, Golden Temple for Indian inspired vegetarian fare and Sonny´s falafel near the hostel.  Favorite watering hole, Rick´s Cafe.  For pictures of Amsterdam, click here.

Then, to Linhamm Ön.  For those of you who are wondering where the heck Linhamm is, it is a subarb of the Swedish metropolis of Malmö (there is a little sarcasm here), and the home of my very dear friend Michelle, her husband Morten, their beautiful daughter Luna, and their precious pup Elly.  It is also situated just across the Oresund Straight from Copenhagen.  My first trip to Scandinavia was a wonderful visit with my friend I hadn´t seen in over three years.  Yet, if anyone tries to tell you that it´s not cold there or that it´s not expensive, they are lying to you.  The northeast wind is frigid, and we did experience snow flurries one day.  All that aside though, it was interesting to explore a bit of this reserved culture.  Linhamm and Malmö are very quaint, Copenhagen Canalfishing communities.  The highlight of Malmö is the Turning Torso Tower.  It is an architectural feat, resembling a human torso, and is the tallest building in all of Sweden.  Copenhagen is a cool city with lots of outdoor culture, including one of the largest biking communities in the world.  80% of it´s 1.2 million residents commute mainly by bike or foot.  And Denmark and Sweden are leading Europe, if not the world, in their efforts to be ¨green.¨  The parks here are gorgeous, my favorite being the Assistens which doubles as a cemetary, or is it a cemetary which doubles as a park?  Regardless, it is beautiful and several famous Danes are buried here, including Hans Christian Andersen and Soren Kierkegaard.  Kari and I took a canal cruise from Nyhaven, which offered a really great history of this port city, and allowed us to see much of it we wouldn´t have been able to cover on foot.  Statens Museum of Kunst is a wonderful free art museum, featuring centuries of European art from the 1100´s til present.  Least favorite meal, sampler of herring three ways.  To make up for it, a delicious burger with fries (split between us) and four beers for $80.  Gotta love it.  For pictures of Linhemm and Copenhagen, click here.

Back to London to wind down the European tour and prepare for India.  Kari and I spend her last 3 days here exploring the city.  London is very beautiful, with history that spans 1000 years, and we walked for miles here, too.  They are doing lots of work here in preparation for this years summer Olympics.  The City of Westminster is archaically beautiful, home to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, and the London Eye.  The river cruise down the Thames offered a wonderful history of it´s bridges, including the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge, of the Tower of London and it´s gruesome history, and of the commercial significance of the river.  Amazing how the east part of the river, lined with what used to be shipping warehouses, is now home to renovated multi-million dollar flats.  Oh, the price of waterfront property.  The architecture is a true amalgamation of centuries old and modern influence.  It can be quite breathtaking at times.  We also explored the fun neighborhoods of Soho and Greenwich, and the Portobello Street Market.  And again, we have been shown the most gracious hospitality from Adam and Hector, and fed incredibly well.

Kari left this morning, and I leave for India tomorrow night.  As I stated earlier, I am looking forward to being in hot, humid weather again.  And, I am incredibly excited to be doing yoga again.  Aside from practicing myself, I have not done much since leaving Key West.  It is hard to find here, and cost prohibitive.  So, I am mentally preparing myself for Mumbai, which I expect to be the polar opposite of the European culture.  Yet, we will all have to wait until I arrive to find out just how different it really is.  In addition, we will have to wait for pictures because I have yet to figure out how to export to my memory stick without downloading to the computer I am working on.  Sorry about that folks, but it´ll be worth the wait.  Om namo…



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Karma Kitchen

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Check out this great video on KarmaTube.com.  It’s about a pay-it-forward restaurant, Karma Kitchen, with locations in Chicago, IL, Wash, DC, and Berkeley, CA.  I love the idea of a gift economy.  So inspiring to see that it has been working for 4 years, and counting…and can’t wait to see more things like it come about.

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