Sunday, October 30, 2016

Next Stop: Japan


For my latest adventure, I'll be exploring the beautiful and complex culture of Japan. I'm excited to be hopping the ANA Airlines inaugural flight from Chicago to Tokyo. My base will be the historic Imperial Hotel Tokyo, which has ties to Frank Lloyd Wright and my Oak Park neighborhood, so I can't wait to see another perspective of his architectural style. The hotel is noted for its elegance and service; I'll  even be assigned an attendant!  I'm looking forward to experiencing a  Japanese tea ceremony as well as a Shinto wedding. I'll also visit Kyoto and tour some of the city's famous shrines and landscapes. In between, I hope to visit Harajuku, a Kabuki theater performance and stroll the Imperial Palace gardens, pictured above.  Please stay tuned for posts and videos, maybe I'll even make it to one of those crazy pet cafes!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Beauty of Portugal's Pena Palace


I had been warned about the high energy of the stunning mountain town of Sintra. My guide Eddie told me that I would be able to feel the elevated vibrations as soon as I entered and he was right. I was heady with Sintra's special energy and the narrow cobblestone streets and 18th century architecture charmed me even more.  But nobody prepared me for the spectacular beauty of Pena Palace, perched on a craggy peak above the town.


The photos of the 18th century palace, built as a summer home by Portugal's King Ferdinand II, only hint at the magic. I don't think I closed my mouth during the whole time I visited the UNESCO landmark. I've seen a lot of castles and none except the mighty Alhambra have captured me like this.


Vibrant colors, intricate tiling, sculpture, stained glass and sweeping design entranced me at every turn.


Inside, the tapestries, crystals and carved furniture were nice but there's something about the views and mountain air that make the outside of Pena Palace just jaw-dropping. Have you ever been to Sintra?


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!