Thursday, March 29, 2018


Every morning, when I first open up my phone, Google has several stories waiting that they feel sure I would be interested in. They are usually wrong. Yes, I do like Mexican food, but I'm not about to travel to NY or Oregon to eat it, with a Mexican restaurant on every corner here in Texas, now am I? Nor am I particularly interested in learning which celebrity did what to earn public humiliation. So, for the most part, I ignore them. This week, however, was different. In fact, it was spot on!

Almost every day this week I opened my phone to find articles quoting travel tips from foodie Anthony Bourdain of Parts Unknown -- tips that clearly echo things I have written on my blog and on Facebook in recent months. Obviously, he is a man after my own heart. Here are a few examples:

(Note: All photos are from a magical few days Hubby and I spent in Marseilles on our own, just wandering around, following a somewhat blurry trip through Provence on a riverboat cruise.)

"I always bring at least one physical book...often a book set in the country that I'm headed towards. A work of fiction, preferably. The perfect book to read before you go to Viet Nam is Graham Greene's The Quiet American. Fiction seems to capture the place in a way that's more tangible. It just works for me better than a travel guide." NYTimes 4/26/17 Nell McShane Wulfhart

The Amazing Cafe Hubby and I Found Hidden Behind A Butcher Shop in Marseilles, Thanks To a Tip in Peter Mayle's Mystery Novel, The Vintage Caper

"Eat like a local. Wherever you are, eat what the locals are good at or famous for, and eat where those locals like to eat it. Do not rely on your concierge for dining tips. Seek out places crowded with locals. Avoid places where others of your kind are present. Show appreciation. Smile and try to look happy, even if you don't like something. Visit local markets. It's a fast way into a culture, where you'll see the basics of a cuisine." From Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain's Top 5 Holiday Travel Tips

On choosing a hotel, always the first thing he books: "Look for neighborhoods that are in the center of things, so you can explore your surroundings without planning ahead. I want to find a hotel in a neighborhood that has charm and character -- the sort of place where I can walk into a café, sit down and feel the place. One with a unique look -- old colonial hotels are a favorite." He says choosing a place in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a city gives him a front row seat to everything happening there and allows him to stumble upon local favorites. His one rule? "I don't want to be in a resort -- something I avoid absolutely!" from an article in MONEY, by Emmie Martin

Our quaint hotel in Marseilles was within a block of the harbor, smack dab in the middle of all the shops and restaurants.

From an article in MONEY, by Megan Leonhardt, called All The Things You're Doing Wrong:

"These marathon sprints to as many places as possible are a bad idea. I want to wander in one city, in one town. Creating a hectic schedule of must-see tourist stops, it's punishing. The sort of frenzied compression of time needed to take the tour, to see the sights, keeps you in a bubble that prevents you from having magic happen to you."

"You can't take it in driving by stuff. That's not satisfying. Don't be afraid to just sit and watch."

Last, but not least:

"Just be nice. Getting angry and frustrated in much of the world doesn't help at all. It's incomprehensible. You lose face, it makes you look ridiculous. Have a willingness to try new stuff. Be grateful for any hospitality offered, and be flexible in your plans, because a rigid itinerary is lethal to a good time." (NYTimes, Nell McShane Wulfhardt)

"Don't schedule out every minute of a vacation. Nothing unexpected or magic is going to happen if you have an itinerary in Paris filled with the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower." (CNBC)

No truer words, Mr. Bourdain. On that trip pictured above, Hubby and I started with a riverboat cruise through Provence, where we stopped in a different town each days, ate all our meals surrounded by other Americans, and took lots of guided tours, surrounded by other Americans. Don't get me wrong, it was a good vacation, but it went by in kind of a blur, and I felt no sense of connection with the places we visited or the people who lived there.

But the bit that came after, when we were completely on our own? The part I was most fearful about? The part where we just wandered around lost and were forced to communicate with the locals using my tiny bit of high school French and lots of hand motions? Well, that is where the magic finally happened, forever changed how we would travel in the future, and where we made our first real connection.

There was a café next to our hotel where I would hang out each morning, sipping tea or hot chocolate, eating a croissant, jotting notes in my journal. Once Hubby was finally up, he'd join me for some breakfast, and I watched the town come alive. The waiter/manager seemed impressed that an American could manage to sit still and soak things in, and was willing to try and communicate using the world's worst French. In the evenings, after dinner, we usually ended up back at that same café to relax with a cup of tea or glass of wine before turning in, and the same waiter would come over to chat. When we told him that was to be our last night there, he seemed sad. He told us to wait a moment, he needed to get something. Then he went back behind the bar, and returned with a nice bottle of wine in one of those chill-pack wine sacks -- the first we had ever seen -- as a parting gift for us. It was truly a magical moment. One that brought tears to my eyes, and never could have happened had we not changed the way we were traveling.

Try it. You just might love it!

Monday, March 26, 2018


In recent weeks I've done several things I never thought I'd do. I researched all the candidates and issues, including all the little local things, voted in a primary election, and, most startling of all, I actually went to hear someone speak about politics. I've never been all that interested in them, to tell you the truth. I cared about causes, and fought for them, but when it came to which old white men were in office, I couldn't see that it made a whole heckuva lot of difference. I voted in presidential elections, but that was about it. It wasn't until I moved here and started hanging with the Muses -- right around the time we had our first real chance of having anything other than an old white man in office -- that I finally started paying attention.

Anywho, that weekend my Driftwood-Winery-Gang-Turned-Mini-Dinner-Club was planning to meet at one member's house for a big Indian feast, when the hostess discovered that Matthew Dowd -- head political analyst for ABC news, and author of a book called A New Way -- who just happens to live here in Wimberley, would be speaking that very afternoon.  So, she reworked her entire dinner party menu into dishes that could all be prepared in advance, and left the hubbies manning the BBQ spit, so that we three ladies could go hear Dowd speak.

Dowd is an Independent who believes that in order to maintain a real democracy (which is a gift, not a given) we must learn to choose country over party. We must also share a common set of facts -- find out the truth and stand for it. Most importantly, we must be willing to come out of our tribes for the common good. He said every 75 or 80 years we go through a crisis period, and we are now experiencing our third industrial revolution. We have greater knowledge than ever before, but less wisdom. We are divided in two with half of us wanting restoration -- a return to the "good ol' days"-- while the other half wants transformation, to create something better than before. And neither side is willing or able to empathize with the other.

His talk, held at a local restaurant and expected to draw maybe 40 or 50 attendees, drew triple that number. In fact, they had to move us outside on the deck to make room for everyone! When they tried to give Dowd himself credit for the crowd, he said "No, you can thank President Trump for this amazing turnout...While over the past year I have been a consistent critic of our current president for his words and actions, we must give him props for reengaging the American citizenry in their interest in politics and the common good." I am a prime example, am I not?

He also said that, historically, it is always the young and the the creatives who lead the battle for change, for they are the ones best able to imagine a better way, and are more likely to step out of their tribes for the common good. We old people seem to have forgotten how to do this, haven't we? But this newest generation? These truly amazing young people who marched and spoke all around the country this past weekend, reminding us of what it was like to have a fire burning in our bellies back in the 70s? They will most certainly lead the way!