As Winter quickly approaches, I want to share this photo I took at Williamsburg, Virginia several years ago.  During our visit a snow storm struck the east coast and left a six-inch blanket of snow covering Williamsburg.  While Colonial Williamsburg and most businesses in the town were closed, we made the best of the situation.  We spent a lot of time wandering through the historic district and taking many photos of a once in a lifetime experience.

I love how the red brick chimneys pop against the otherwise monochromatic scene.  I also love that, because the scene is from the backyards of the historic buildings, the snow is pristine, with footprints or other signs of man.  To me, it’s a peaceful and beautiful scene and provides a different view of a much photographed tourist destination.


Castle of Leiria

Probably the cultural and historical highlight of the Portuguese city of Leiria, the hilltop castle can be seen from virtually everywhere in the city.  The castle has a long history, when the very first king of Portugual, Afonso Henriques, had the castle built as defense against the Moors, who still controlled the south, including Santarem and Lisbon.

Over the centuries the castle has seen many changes and has been the site of many historical events.  It was the home to Dom Dinis and his wife, Saint Elizabeth of Portugal.  Dom Dinis was the king who declared the “language of the people” as the language of the state, making Portuguese the official language of the country.

Dom Dinis earned his “Farmer King” nickname when he founded agricultural schools to improve farming techniques in the country.  He also ordered the creation of the Pinhal de Leiria, a huge pine forest, as a barrier against encroaching ocean sands.  The forest also became an important source of raw materials for the building of the Portuguese naval fleet which, in the coming centuries, would help turn Portugal into the most powerful country in the world.

Leiria Castle 2

Atlas, NYC

This beautiful Art Deco sculpture has become one of those lasting icons that are associated with New York City.  Created by sculptor Lee Lawrie and installed at Rockefeller Center in 1937, The sculpture depicts Atlas holding up the heavens.

According to mythology, the Titans, the older gods, fought the Olympians, a younger generation of gods, in a ten-year series of battles known as the War of the Titans.  When the Olympians came out victorious, Atlas, a Titan, was condemned to hold up the heavens for eternity.

If you’re a fan of television, you may have seen this work of art on 30 Rock, where it’s been shown many times.  If you’re a reader, you may have seen an artistic rendering of it on the cover of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  Atlas is is a fitting image to represent the strength and power of New York City.


Gaylord Opryland Resort, Nashville

About 10 years ago my wife and I spent a few days at the Gaylord Opryland Resort Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.  This is a photo of one of the hotel’s lobby areas.  I love the delicacy of the lights and the greenery.  It’s an amazing space and I can understand why the resort is a top destination in the southern United States.

Opryland Interior

The Portuguese Travel Cookbook

The Portuguese Travel Cookbook, by Nelson Carvalheiro, is more of a travelogue than a cookbook.  Carvalheiro, a popular Portuguese blogger and winner of the 2015 World FITUR Travel Blogger award, toured his home country, focusing on the traditional foods of Portugal as well as the restaurants making their mark on the food traditions of the country.

The book is full of beautiful photos and recipes, but the best part of the book, to me, is Carvalheiro’s descriptions of the foods and traditions of Portugal.  The recipes are pretty basic, but Carvalheiro shows great respect and love for his country and the food.

We had the pleasure of dining at one of the restaurants Carvalheiro writes about, Ze Manel dos Ossos, in Coimbra.  It’s a wonderful little restaurant and the food, what I would describe as Portuguese country cooking, was great.  I will use the Portuguese Travel Cookbook as a guide to exploring more of the food and cooking of Portugal on our next visit.

Old Kentucky Home, Asheville, NC

American author Thomas Wolfe spent much of his youth at this boarding house, which was purchased by his mother in 1906.  While most of his brothers and sisters lived with their father in their house a few blocks away, Wolfe’s mother insisted that he live with her at the boarding house.

Wolfe chronicled his early life in Look Homeward, Angel, a novel that drew heavily from his time at Old Kentucky Home.  One of the defining moments of Wolfe’s time at the boarding house was the death of his beloved brother Ben, who died in the house.

Today, the Old Kentucky Home is the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.  It’s an interesting slice of American literary history.  Behind the house is a museum celebrating Thomas Wolfe.  Both the house and the museum are well worth a visit.


Veteran’s Day

Veteran’s Day began as a worldwide day to celebrate the end of World War I.  The first Armistice Day was held on November 11, 1919, the one year anniversary of the end of the Great War.  It became an official U.S. holiday in 1938, when the United States Congress passed a bill designating November 11th as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”

In 1954, Armistice Day was officially expanded to a day to honor all veterans.  Two years later the name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

My father is a Vietnam veteran, as are two of my uncles.  My grandfather was a World War II veteran, as well as several of my uncles.  I have cousins who are veterans of the Iraq War.  Today is a day to honor them, as well as all veterans in our country.  Please remember them on this holiday.

Infantry Museum WWI Trench HDR Outdoor 2


Stanton-Anthony-Bloomer Statue, Seneca Falls

Women have been fighting for an equal place in American society for many years.  In 1848, the first Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York.  This week, 170 years after that first convention, women made big gains in the mid-term elections, winning nearly 100 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

This beautiful sculpture, located in Seneca Falls, commemorates the first meeting between women’s rights activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.  While Stanton, a resident of Seneca Falls attended the Women’s Rights Convention of 1848, Anthony was not in attendance.  Anthony and Stanton first met in 1851, when Anthony was in town to attend an anti-slavery lecture given by William Lloyd Garrison.  The two giants of women’s rights were introduced by dress reform activist Amelia Bloomer.  In the sculpture, Bloomer and Stanton wearing the mode of dress Bloomer was promoting, a knee length dress over pantaloons, a style that soon became known as “bloomers.”

Seneca Falls Meeting Statue Ektachrome 64 Pro HDR Outdoor 2

170 years after this meeting,women are still fighting for pay equality, the right to make decisions regarding their bodies, and other areas.  Congratulations to the many women who have continued the fight for equal rights.  Great inroads were made this week in the representation of women in the United States Government, but much more is left to be done.  I wish the women who now have a voice in our government great success.

Autumn Colors

Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love when the leaves begin to change.  There’s such a wide variety of colors.  From the yellows of the maple to the reds of the dogwood and all the colors between, it’s a magical time.

Fall Colors 4

Food as an Experience

Yesterday, my wife and I made a run to the farmer’s market and decided to have lunch afterwards.  We’re a bit unusual in that we don’t simply find a nearby drive-thru and grab whatever is available.  We look for places that 1) are not chain restaurants, 2) are well rated on Google, Yelp, or Trip Advisor, and 3) appeal to our sense of adventure.

We chose CO, a relatively new restaurant serving Southeast Asian cuisine.  We hadn’t been there before so we had no preconceived impressions.  Being that it was a beautiful Saturday and just a few minutes after opening, we had the restaurant to ourselves, at least for a few minutes.

The decor was nice, with kind of an upscale diner feel.  One wall had several large black and white photos of who our waiter said was the 1960s Bond girl from You Only Live Twice, Akiko Wakabayashi.  The photos were stunning and gave the interior a kind of hip feel that would appeal to the younger, more affluent crowd I expect they’re going for.

The food and service were great and we had a nice leisurely lunch before finishing up our shopping run and heading home.   It was a nice experience and we will be back to CO.

All of this brings me to the point of this post.  We had a wonderful dining experience, but what made is so?   First, we had not been there before, so it was a new experience.  We both had drinks we hadn’t experienced before and the food, Ann Marie’s Korean Short Rib Banh Mi and my Korean Poke Bowl, were full of fun and interesting flavors.

Second, we learned a few things during our experience.  How many people take the time to ask about the photos decorating the wall, much less even notice them?  We also took the time to talk to the waiter, who gave us a bit of history about CO and a bit of his own history, as well.

Finally, we enjoyed ourselves.  We explored a new menu, met new people, and visited a new restaurant.  We took a little time out of our day to have a bit of an adventure and to create new memories.  That’s what it’s about for us.

So what are some of my favorite food experiences?

One relatively early experience happened in Blowing Rock, North Carolina nearly twenty years ago.  I can’t remember the name of the restaurant; it doesn’t really matter since the restaurant was gone when we returned to the town a few year’s later.  I also can’t remember the food, although I do recall that it was very good.  What sticks with me is the gentleman playing acoustic guitar for the retaurant’s clientele, who played a beautiful version of John Prine’s Paradise.  It was a special moment.

More recently,  we had a very personal dining experience in the Bairro Alto neighborhood of Lisbon, Portugal.  We visited Flor da Laranja, a wonderful Moroccan restaurant and a true one-person operation (the owner was the cook, waitress and maitre de’).  It felt as if we were dining in the owner’s home.  Again, the food was great, but what made it special was the intimacy of the dining experience and the service.

Flor da Laranja

Sometimes it’s the atmosphere that makes the memories.  On a rainy night in Nazaré, Portugal, we spent an evening at Maria do Mar, a little seafood restaurant and a favorite of Nazaré’s surfing community.  The restaurant was full of locals and Maria, the owner, made us feel as if we belonged.  There was a karaoke D.J. playing fado and the staff took turns singing their favorite songs.  The fun atmosphere turned a rainy night at the beach into a memorable experience.

Finally, just a couple months ago, we sat at a picnic table outside 12 Bones Smokehouse, in Asheville’s River Arts District, and enjoyed a nice meal on a beautiful Summer day.  We watched as an eagle soared overhead against a brilliant blue sky.  It tied everything together-  the food, the location, the beautiful weather and a touch of nature.  It was wonderful.

12 Bones River

For us, it’s these special moments that make dining an adventure.  Those moments can be anywhere.  You just have to open your eyes to them.