Friday, October 21, 2016

Fado in Lisbon

To me, nothing reflects a place and its essence more than the music that originates there. If it's hard to understand or explain a destination, you only need to listen to it's native rhythms for answers. Cuba has son. Jamaica has reggae. Spain has flamenco and Portugal has fado. What is fado? It's the passionate, dramatic music of longing that exemplifies the Portuguese spirit. Some call it Portuguese blues music.

Fado singers or fadistas are usually accompanied by Portuguese guitar (12 strings), viola and eight string bass. The tradition dates back to the 1820s and is usually performed in bars and cafes. The queen of fado or Rainha do Fado, is the legendary Amalia Rodrigues, , whose brilliant voice helped popularize fado internationally. I have been lucky to see contemporary fado singers Martiza and Ana Moura perform but I wanted to hear the music in it's home. So I walked through Lisbon's hilly cobblestone streets to Adega Machado, a popular fado house that's been open since the '30s.  In a darkened, intimate room, I listened to five fadistas pour their hearts out. Fado is all about feeling so it's hard to put the sound into words. All I know is that I heard the soul of Portugal in that room.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Next Stop: Portugal

This exciting year has been bursting with unexpected experiences and my latest will be a trip to Portugal! I'll be exploring the Cascais and Algarve regions of this distinctive country,which means flawless beaches, maritime history and historic sites like the Pena Palace pictured above. I'll be learning about Portuguese wine,food and the sailing culture. Highlights will include Sintra, Lagos City and Lisbon. Of course, there's no way that I would step foot in Portugal and not hear live fado music so please look out for a video of that. My trip is sponsored by the Portugal Tourism Board and I'm thrilled to be able to share aspects of this sunny nation. Please stay tuned for my Portugal posts!

Friday, September 30, 2016

An Unusual California Scene

In the picturesque mountain town of Mammoth Lakes,  California, striking views are everywhere, from cascading waterfalls and lakes, to ancient pine forests. But this image was one of my favorites because it's so unexpected. The kayaks are piled up near the lake and a man in yellow and black that mirrors the boats colors is napping in a position that almost looks like a human kayak. No, I didn't set this up. It's just one of the dozens of memorable scenes that I witnessed in Mammoth Lakes.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Scenes From The Merida Market

Browsing through a destination's market supplies so many revelations. The sensory overload of colors, smells and sounds show so much about a place and culture. I was excited to see Merida's Mercado Lucas de Galvez and I was not disappointed. The sprawling covered market offers everything from paella pans to pet parakeets. Walking through the endless aisles was like a lively tour of the kitchens and tables of a local house.

I was amazed to find that all of the fruits above are different variations of mangoes.

Spices are essential to Yucatecan cooking so peppers, herbs and spices were everywhere.

A whole section is dedicated to dulces or candy, which meant I was in heaven. I felt compelled to buy pounds of my fave cajeta, which almost required me to check my luggage at the airport.

But the most unexpected site for me were the vendors for fresh chicharrones or pork cracklings. I learned that Mexico is one of the world's top producers of pork rinds. Locals crowded around this vendor for bags of the popular snack. I don't eat meat so these didn't look tempting to me but it certainly gives Merida's market a flavor like no other!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Merida's Progreso Beach

The Yucatan is famous for dazzling beaches but the bustling capital city of Merida makes you forget that you're surrounded by coastline. So I was taken aback to glimpse the pearly sands of Progreso Beach just 20 minutes outside of the city center. Old fishing boats decorate the end of the beach and vendors stroll with Mexican candies and fruits.

Palapas line the beach for fresh seafood but I focused on the flawless stretch and gentle waves. The beach was quiet with only a few strolling locals but on weekends, it's a popular spot. I splashed through the Gulf of Mexico and lounged on the sand until I couldn't ignore the prospect of fresh fish any longer.

Yucatan cuisine is one of my favorites so I immediately ordered pescado tikin-xic, a regional fave of fish seasoned with achiote and other herbs and baked in banana leaves. Nothing beats the taste of freshly caught fish with an ocean breeze washing over you. Afterwards, I meandered down the malecon and soaked up the Mexican sun that always seems to shine the brightest on the Yucatan coast.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Nevis' Sunshine's Bar and the Legend of the Killer Bee

If you are on Nevis for even a few hours, you will hear about Sunshine's. Sunshine's Bar is the island's most famous hangout, where every visitor whether celebrity or beach bum, is required to make an appearance. Named for the gregarious owner, a burly man who will greet you with a smile as wide as the Caribbean Sea, Sunshine's is the ultimate beach bar, sprawled out on Pinney's Beach, with a thatched roof, rainbow-colored benches and communal tables.

The interior is lined with international flags and photos of famous guests. I saw Beyonce and Jay Z, Oprah and Britney Spears smiling back at me but I knew the draw wasn't to spot stars or to taste the  BBQ menu, which is very good. No, the real attraction is a cocktail called the Killer Bee. Every island has their own rum drink but this Bee elixir is more famous than Nevis itself. I had heard about Sunshine's Killer Bee from rum connoisseurs who sip bottles daily and they deemed the drink lethal. I don't know what exactly goes into the concoction, its such a secret that the bartenders mix it out of view but I do know that it knocks out professional drinkers, which I am not. Suffice it to say, I was totally skerd.  So much so that Sunshine took one look at my face and decided that he would make me a Baby Bee, with half the rum in a tiny cup. I sipped the sweet cocktail and as I watched some guests stumble around, I was thankful that I didn't succumb to the legendary Killer Bee.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Unusual History of Nevis" Cottle Church

Nevis is a tiny island but it packs a lot of history in its small space. I saw historic ruins and landmarks on every other road but for me, the most moving was Cottle Church. Hidden in the woods north of the capital of Charlestown, the ruins of Cottle Church stand as a reminder of  a time when slavery was rampant but glimmers of hope still existed. That hope was demonstrated when Thomas Cottle built the Anglican church in 1824 so that his family could worship along side the enslaved inhabitants of the plantation.

It was actually illegal for the enslaved to worship so Thomas was bucking the system on many levels. The church was never consecrated but this monument to religious freedom exists as a special landmark. Walking through the archways of the church, I felt the spirits of the dozens of enslaved people who worked all day, every day, and then prayed for freedom in this church.

The names and ages of all the enslaved plantation workers are listed on a wall of the church. It's fascinating to see the people who are highlighted for being born in Africa. This means that they survived the Middle Passage of being chained in a ship on the West African coast and sailing for months to the Caribbean. It's especially heartbreaking to see the number of children listed. Emancipation was granted in Nevis and other British colonies in 1834, so they would work and hopefully survive the brutal conditions for ten more years.