So Much to see in New York’s Fair City

Don’t Accuse Syracuse of Being Dull

Whether you pronounce it Seer-accuse, Sarah-cuse, or Sir-Accuse, New York’s fourth largest city and home of the annual state fair is worth a visit.  Many traces remain of the city’s extraordinary legacy as pre-Civil War America’s largest provider of salt (!), a commercial hub at the crossroads of the railroads and Erie Canal, an important depot on the Underground Railway.  Pack up and spend a few days exploring the town.  Here are some goals and distractions:

 Monumental downtown architecture

Downtown Syracuse is rich in monumental architecture


The Downtown Committee’s easy to follow walking tour leads you past 71 historic sites and buildings.  Happily Syracuse has preserved several monumental edifices from its Erie Canal boom years.  The monumental Carnegie Library, the clock-crowned Gridley building, the Romanesque style Neal and Hyde Building, the Art Deco masterpiece National Grid building are not to be missed.  Murals in the M&T Bank and the stately furnishings of the Bank of America are reminders of the days when monumental banks were built to impress their clients. Continue reading

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“Weigh” To Go

Shunning Suitcase Fees with Lighter Luggage

So far this year I’ve been to Turkey, China, Death Valley, Mongolia, Florida, Siberia, Kaliningrad, the Tyrol, Poland, Sicily, Ireland, the Gobi Desert — I’m on the road almost two to three weeks a month, and as I often travel alone, I bring gear that is lightweight and inconspicuous.

To minimize packing I’ve worked out a scheme based on color. I’ve assembled sets of single color “bottoms” — trousers + tights + a skirt + pair of shoes — each set coordinated with a zipper vest and an anorak jacket. I have these sets in five basic colors: black + navy + brown + olive + gray and I intermingle them with a few colored tops and matching earrings. While fully outfitted, I maximize the wardrobe I have to lug around.

One set of travel basics is an olive green color scheme

One set of travel basics is an olive green color scheme

For maximum flexibility I prefer two pieces of SAKS luggage, black and well worn to attract a minimum of curiosity and attention.

I pack the larger one without opening the expansion zippers — that leaves me room to unzip and add space to cart back souvenirs if I buy them on the trip.

The smaller one, with two separate zipper compartments carries my guide books and files in one half. In the other side I stash electronics — ipad, chargers, and adapters — plus an essential umbrella. It’s lower zip pocket is permanently loaded with a blanket/shawl and a small emergency kit with ear phones, band aids, sleeping mask.

I cart these along on a portable trolley — separate bags and wheels provide more flexibility for fitting into overhead compartments — and usually these two pieces can be carried on the plane — no baggage checks required.

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Sightseeing and Sampling at Ireland’s “Food Paradise” Festival

With a temperate climate, fresh sea air and rich soil warmed by the Gulf Stream swerving nearby, West Cork at the southwestern tip of Ireland is an ideal location for agriculture to thrive.  Recent years have seen a resurgence of natural farming, and its bounty is highlighted each autumn in the Taste of West Cork. For ten days in September,  32 towns and 8 islands hosted 188 events and participants were treated to myriad activities — beekeeping workshops, gourmet walking tours, elegant candlelit dinners held in historic homes.  Arriving just after the opening weekend, I missed the opening few days but did attend sessions for almost a week.  Picking out events from each day’s list was daunting, but here is what I was able to taste and learn.

A multi-page program listed Taste of West Cork Events

A multi-page program listed Taste of West Cork Events


Arriving four days after the festival officially started, I drove straight from Shannon Airport to the Michael Collins Center in Clonakilty to attend a highly informative lecture and slide show detailing the region’s local hero who became the martyr of the 1916-22 Revolution and Civil War when this area was a hotbed of fervor supporting separation from England.  While knowledgeable Tim Crowley lectured, his colleague baked a delicious soda bread over the open fire.  It’s aroma was a treat to us all, and after it was popped from the pan, four lucky raffle winners each took home a quarter chunk. Continue reading

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Suzhou Highlights

10 Irresistible Features of China’s “Garden City”

China’s “Venice of the East,” has been a center of high culture and wealth throughout history attracting officials, scholars, wealthy merchants to its graceful greenery and waterways.  Now an emerging center of commerce and industrial parks, Suzhou’s ancient core retains a microcosm of the country’s history and culture.

Suzhou is a city of greenery and canals

Suzhou is a city of greenery and canals


Situated near the southern end of China’s monumental Grand Canal linking Beijing and the South China Sea, Suzhou is crossed by picturesque canals.  Lined with shops and cafes, historic Pingjiang Lu  is one of the popular pedestrian streets running parallel to waterways crossed by high stone bridges.  Cruises along the Grand Canal and paddle boat rentals offer a floating perspective on lush greenery lining the banks.

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Kent Presents

The Kent School campus was the setting for “Kent Presents.”

Friday, September 2, 2016. Labor Day Weekend, end of Summer.Yesterday in New York we had some light showers intermittently throughout the day, and remaining overcast, with temps dropping into the 70s by late afternoon– which is what the forecasters are predicting for this last holiday weekend of the summer.

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Tanglewood Too

Adjunct Events at the BSO’s Great Music Festival in the Berkshires

The leafy setting of the BSO’s Seiji Ozawa Hall

The leafy setting of the BSO’s Seiji Ozawa Hall

While picnics on the lawn outside the big Koussevitsky Music Shed are the principle attraction for those who journey to Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s iconic summer music festival in western Massachusetts, audiences should not overlook another option.  Also on the grounds is Seiji Ozawa Hall, a handsome acclaimed wood auditorium.  Housing the BSO’s Fellowship Program and hosting concerts and programs, the Ozawa offers concert-goers an additional venue and line-up.  Continue reading

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Destination Kent: Scenery and Study in Litchfield County

An Ideas Festival in Northwest Connecticut

Which panel discussion to choose? For one particular session, the options were the pros and cons of a guaranteed income for every American, “Hamilton” and non-profit theater, and the 21st century challenges of feminism ― plus there was the outdoors draw of beautiful Litchfield County on a splendid sunny day.  For over 300 participants who have traveled to the campus of the Kent School in scenic northwest Connecticut for the second annual year of “Kent Presents” the dilemma, seven times a day, is choosing one of three juicy topics to focus on for the next fifty minutes.

The Kent School campus is the setting for Kent Presents

The Kent School campus is the setting for Kent Presents

Kent School’s Mattison auditorium awaits a panel discussion

For the second year in a row, Litchfield county’s verdant hills were the setting for northwest Connecticut’s answer to Davos World Economic Forum and the Aspen Institute. Three Nobel laureates, four former US ambassadors, directors of four major museums, the former head of British intelligence, the scientist who helped confirmEinstein’s theory of gravitational waves  were among over 85 authors, doctors, technicians, artists, and other experts assembled to share their expertise with people who have traveled from New Mexico, Florida, Minnesota, Arizona, Louisiana, and the surrounding towns to attend.

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Woody Allen, German “Gold,” and Giveaway Prices in Russia’s Pocket Enclave

A theater complex in the center of Kaliningrad may seem like an unlikely place to find a pair of bronze eyeglasses mounted in tribute to Woody Allen, but “Woody” was  born Allan Konigsberg and before the Russians seized the region, this city wasKonigsberg the original capital of Prussia before Berlin. Now renamed for one of Stalin’s henchmen, Kaliningrad is the moniker of both the city and the tiny enclave or oblast  nestled between the Baltic seacoast states of  Poland and Lithuania, a mini Russian outpost rich in modern and historic lore.

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Nuggets of New York

Lesser Known Spots to Discover in Manhattan

The Empire State Building, Tiffany’s and Trump Tower, Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum and MoMA are among Manhattan’s “must see” spots for tourists.  But the island is dotted with less publicized gems that still merit attention.  Here are some stops an “insider” was invited to discover.


Encased in its own spiraling nautilus shell pavilion, Battery Park’s merry-go-round is like no other. Without a center pole, guests seated in fanciful fish and sea creatures twirl around and up and down in a trip through a mystical “underwater” world.  Located steps from the Staten Island Ferry in historic Battery Park where the city originated, the carousel is open from 10 am to 10 pm, and after dark the 30 iridescent fish light up evoking a spin through the bioluminescence of deep ocean waters.

A nautilus shell shaped pavilion
Carousel riders sit in fishes inspired by actual species
The Sea Glass Carousel glows luminescent at night

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How to Attend Safari School

A See-and-Study-Wildlife Vacation

Instead of merely driving around in search of wildlife to gape at, a major South African wildlife centre offers the opportunity to observe rescued animals up close in their enclosures while studying  methods of saving and preserving the natural bush veld and its creatures.

Game drives pass giraffes and zebras

Rescued rhinos, elephants, cheetahs, wild dogs, lions, African wild cats, bald ibises, blue cranes, ground hornbills, sable antelope and wildlife are the featured guests, but human visitors are invited to encounter and care for them through the Wildlife Conservation Experience of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre  in South Africa.  In an extensive three week program of lectures and hands-on experience, participants observe the everyday care of the creatures, study conservation, and tour wildlife areas.

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Destination Bridgehampton: A Cavalcade of Chefs

Attending the Hayground School’s Annual Feast

Travelers to the Hamptons know they can enjoy the food at ultra-popular Nick &Toni’s any night they can manage to wrangle a reservation.  But Toni, Toni Ross, is also a founding parent of the Hayground School and once a year it’s worth a trip out to Bridgehampton for the school’s famous Chef’s Dinner where celebrated chefs assemble to cook up an exclusive benefit feast.

Pre-dinner cocktails are served in a tent on the school’s 13-acre rural grounds.

             Every single seat at this year’s dinner sold out, but the cocktail reception hors d’oeuvres alone were worth the trip.  Among the precursor tidbits were lemony “Romance in Aviation” cocktails made with handcrafted Owney’s rum which is distilled in Brooklyn, little plates of lamb chops with creamy vegetable puree from French American bistro Camaje which forayed  out from Manhattan. Almond’s brought cups of a Malaysian corn soup, there was a selection of cheeses with cubes of quince jelly from Cavaniola’s in Sag Harbor, and Stone Creek Inn’s rounds of grilled octopus under little mounds of tomato preserves, lemon confit and Castelvetrano olives.

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A Weekend in Majestic Mongolia

Visiting Genghis Khan’s Spectacular Homeland

Oklahoma eat your heart out ― to say nothing of Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming and all those other “wide open spaces” where “the wind comes sweeping down the plain.”  Expansive though they may be, American prairies are literally dwarfed byMongolia’s majestic steppes which stretch endlessly into the distance.

Mongolia’s landscape stretches endlessly into the far off horizon

Within the vast green landscape, herds of cattle and horses and flocks of sheep and goats roam without fences amid intermittent multi-mile long wheat fields stretching out of sight into the horizon. It’s bitterly cold in winter, but in the summer central Mongolia is an idyllic landscape stretching almost farther that the eye can encompass, interrupted only by occasional round white ger (yurt in Russian) homesteads.

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Scenic Shopping in Celebrity Central

Historic East Hampton Hosts an Antiques Show

With the likes of Martha Stewart, Steven Spielberg, Alec Baldwin in residence, celebrity spotting in East Hampton is almost inevitable.  But some tourists come to the Hamptons for historic ambience.  The eastern-most city in New York State East Hampton was founded in 1648 by a group of farmers and fishermen who established a rich legacy. That history is preserved by the East Hampton Historical Society which restores and preserves historic structures as museums  open to the public.  One historic house, Mulford Farm is the setting each summer of the East Hampton Antiques Show. Continue reading

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Polo and Picnics

A Day Trip to Greenwich Polo Club’s Butler Handicap

While the action entails thundering teams of horses galloping around the field, it turns out that polo is a genteel spectator sport.  An afternoon at the Greenwich Polo Club is an excursion to a day of old fashioned  beauty and taste.

The Greenwich Polo Club

The setting is the gloriously green graciously wooded grounds of The Greenwich Polo Club in southwest Connecticut. Invited free of charge, visitors start driving in around 1 pm descending from their cars in various stages of finery ― from elaborate hats and fascinators to natty  khakis and blazers and, naturally ― designer polo shirts.

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Hiking with the World’s Greatest Mountaineer

Following Reinhold Messner Up a Dolomite Trail

It’s the equivalent of shooting baskets with Michael Jordan, volleying with Roger Federer, playing catch with Peyton Manning, hitting a few with Jack Nicklaus — once a year Reinhold Messner leads his herd of yaks to an upper pastures in Italy’s Dolomites for summer grazing and hikers have the opportunity to trek uphill along with the world’s most famous mountaineer.

The first person to summit Everest solo and without supplementary oxygen, conqueror of all fourteen of the world’s 8000 meter peaks, a man who walked across Antarctica and the Gobi Desert, the supra-athlete is also founder of sixMessner Mountain Museums.  Scattered through the middle of the Alps in South Tyrol they are monuments to the culture and disciplines of mountains, mountain peoples. and mountaineers all over the world.  Each of the six satellite museums is devoted to a different aspect of mountain lore.

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