Thursday, January 26, 2023

Seeing L.A. a new way: fun small bus tour offers sights, delights


Hooray for Hollywood, where the famous letters stand in a well preserved forest near
Griffith Observatory.  A day on the road with Hollywood Bus Tours is strongly recommended.

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
stroll the famous Santa Monica Pier.



WE VISIT Los Angeles six or seven times a year, but we'd never seen some of her most delightful sights.
So on this last trip, with a quiet day between plays, friends and museums, we booked a half-day jaunt with Hollywood Bus Tours.
Our comfy, small tour bus took us all over the city, to
highlights ranging from Santa Monica to the Hollywood sign.

Hollywood's famous Wall of
Fame includes stars from long
ago, such as the great Italian
opera great, Enrico Caruso.

We were so glad to discover this fun tour.  What a delight the day was.  Our tour guide Jeff, a San Francisco transplant, now a devoted Angeleno, has an amiable nature that set the tone for an easy-going day with congenial, global people.
The drive aboard Hollywood Bus Tour takes curious guests
through Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and varied neighborhoods.
Jeff's comfortable, joking nature encouraged conversation and new friendships in a tour both informative and fun.  He took us through Hollywood and Beverly Hills, where we saw dozens of expensive autos and lavish gated homes of stars past and present.
WE TOURED both familiar landmarks and undiscovered parts of the city in our "Taste of L.A." It took us past Hollywood's famous bars and nightclubs, Beverly Hills with its five-star hotels, mansions and parks, Rodeo Drive with its gorgeous shops, and on to both iconic and little known corners.
THE TOUR takes a leisurely look at both the city's hot spots and its quiet treasures which was a pleasure for us.
Los Angeles, "City of Angels," made room
for two more potentials, Bruce Meyers
and Christene "Cookie" Meyers,
at the Griffith Observatory.

Jeff threw in tales about movie shoots and stars' deaths, including that of the great comedian John Belushi who died of a drug overdose at Chateau Marmont in 1982.
While Hollywood is only a part of Los Angeles, it's what most tourists come to see because of its connection to glamour, money and power. It's the show-biz capital of the world, home to famous television and movie studios and well known record companies. Jeff drove us past a half-dozen of these.
EVERYONE KNOWS of Santa Monica Pier, perhaps the west coast's most famous.
Farmer's Market offers shops
and pleasant places to relax.
We walked to the end of it, past the roller coaster and cafes, enjoying an ice cream as we watched fishermen and tourists mingle.
We were thrilled to visit Griffith Observatory, that stately treasure at the city's top. We stopped there for a splendid view of the famous Hollywood sign and the valley that became Los Angeles and hoe to Leonardo DiCaprio, Elvis, Madonna, Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe and countless other stars. The observatory is a popular tourist attraction. Besides those splendid views, it boasts and an extensive array of space and science-related displays, all thanks to its benefactor, Griffith J. Griffith. Admission has been free since the observatory's opening in 1935, honoring Griffith's will.

It's fun to walk the Santa Monica pier to its peaceful end.

WITH LEISURELY stops for snacks, photos or a restroom, we never felt "trapped" in the small bus. We enjoyed Jeff's banter and history lessons, delivered with wry humor and a genuine respect for his adopted town. He has become somewhat famous for his "jokes of the day,"  received each morning from his dad via email, and shared with amused tour passengers. 
While Jeff had plenty of anecdotes about the town's glitz and glamour, he also paid homage to its humble, 
Hooray for Hollywood -- and Hollywood Bus Tours -- which
takes visitors through neighborhoods in colorful Los Angeles.
agricultural roots. He described the Los Angeles of more than a century ago -- long before it became the sprawling city we know today.
 A stop at the famous Farmer's Market, founded in 1934, revealed the city's  long, close connection to agriculture, with rows of beautiful stalls lined with the best produce in the state.
WE STOPPED for a beverage, some sunshine and live guitar jazz at this sprawling, historic market.  Families, couples and singles young and old walked their dogs and lingered between a meal or shopping for refreshments and lovely music.
Besides the pretty displays of fresh produce, the market features an impressive range of trendy shops, cafes and gourmet grocery stores.
WE MADE new friends on this spirited tour, exchanging contact information with folks from Portugal and Berlin, learning new trivia about a city we thought we knew well, and enjoying iconic sights on a sunny, southern California day.
Hollywood Bus Tours with its lively narration and variety offers three tours -- each a memorable way to see the fascinating sights of one of the world's most famous cities.
+1 (213) 986-7688

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers stopped for
a photo in the fortress village of Valenca, Portugal. 

UP NEXT: Come with us to discover the charms of a quiet, little known Portuguese village. Most travelers to Portugal don't visit Valenca, often confused with Valencia, Spain. It's an impressive medieval town whose imposing fortress overlooks the River Minho. We spent a few days soaking up the atmosphere of this laid back village. We found intriguing museums, elegant boutiques, and inviting eateries that didn't break the bank. We saw pilgrims on the famous Camino de Santiago -- the way of St. James. A network of paths lead to the shrine of the apostle Saint James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galacia in Northern Spain. As a border town, it's a great place to sample both Portuguese and Spanish wines.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Vegas food tasting tours offer a royal flush of fun, history, yummy bites


A Taste Buzz Food Tour of the Arts District in Las Vegas offered a fun outing for Bruce Keller
and Christene "Cookie" Meyers. Consider Taste Buzz for a refreshing break from gambling. 

A happy group of foodies posed in the arts
district of Las Vegas on a delightful food tour.



Soulbelly BBQ offers tasty
barbecue, craft beer and live
 music in an attractive space.

IF YOU LOVE Las Vegas -- (count me in) but need an occasional break from the casinos, gambling and glitter, here's a winner of a tour.
Taste Buzz Food Tours offers three unique tasting tours in Las Vegas and we highly recommend this lively, thoughtful trio of options. 
We opted for the Arts District tour, to get us off the Strip which we love but know well, so were happy to find something different. We picked a winner with the arts tour which took us to a unique, unexplored part of the city. We learned so much about this area new to us, between the famous Strip and older downtown.

If you think Las Vegas is only a place to lose
money and see great shows, here's another option
 for your next foray to Sin City: a food & art tour.

We felt like locals as we prowled the streets, stopping at a popular wedding chapel, neighborhood bar and several small, high quality galleries. Our touring was divided into four tasty samplings -- appetizers to desserts.
OUR FIRST "bite" was a delicious empanada with zingy homemade salsa and a fresh, flavorful ceviche at Misterio Mezcal. Then strolling past vintage shops, we admired murals and cottages from the 1920s and  '30s, some reconfigured as attractive galleries and shops.
Our spirited guide April described the area as "the real Las Vegas -- an up and coming local neighborhood." It felt very much like that -- a neighborhood coming into its own, adapting to changing times and trends.
Empanadas and ceviche at Misterio Mezcal
delighted our hungry Taste Buzz group.

Our insiders' look took us past small businesses, coffee shops, cafes, breweries, barbecue and other specialty restaurants and the city's oldest bakery, Freed's, a much loved institution since 1959. It's famous for its pastries, cookies and elaborate wedding cakes.
The Vegas food scene seems to be exploding, and our tour confirmed that. We sampled fabulous barbecue at SoulBelly and pizza better than that we've sampled in Naples at Good Pie Pizza.  We walked that off with a stroll past the inventive Majestic Repertory Theater, a proud cornerstone of ALIOS, the arts district. The theater was named for an early 1900s Vaudeville house. Fun to learn this history.
WE REALLY did feel like Vegas locals as April guided us past bright murals, antique and coffee shops and funky bars, chatting and informing as we walked.
The two other Taste Buzz tours offer the same variety 
This gallery offered lovely pottery and wall
hangings for sale and to admire between tastes.

and fun activities as our arts tour -- a blend of sights, history and tastings. One of the other two focuses on Freemont Street and the old Vegas, the other on the newer and more flashy Strip. Each of the three Taste Buzz tours offers four to six local tastes, all  at favorite, highly rated eateries endorsed by loyal locals as well as tourists.
 TASTE BUZZ has created a successful, highly rated mix of food stops, top attractions and insight into cultural landmarks that make Vegas unique.
Bruce Keller pauses at a favorite
neighborhood bar, Silver Stamp.

A beautiful mural is one of many eye-catching
attractions on a walking foodie tour in Vegas.

We learned many fun facts and interesting Vegas history. At tour's end, we truly felt we'd experienced  local culture through art, food and history. Our  cheerful and knowledgeable guide was a delight, lingering at the end to share personal recommendations for more places to eat, drink, and play during our stay.
Going off the Strip for a few tasty hours offered a wonderful trip down Memory Lane with the latest trends in culinary delights.  Taste Buzz offers a trio of top food tours, not to be missed next time you're in Sin City.
More information or to book: 

Keller and Cookie braved the cool and found sunshine on world famous
Santa Monica Pier on a recent fun trip with Hollywood Bus Tours.

COMING UP: We're always on the lookout for the off-beat, the "undiscovered." So on a recent theater jaunt in Los Angeles, we hooked up with Hollywood Bus Tours. What a fun day. We spent a delightful afternoon in a small bus with a lively international group of fellow travelers. We visited famous attractions -- from Santa Monica Pier to Griffith Observatory.  We cruised past stars' homes and hangouts, well known hotels and restaurants and family attractions including the popular Farmer's Market.  Join us, remembering to take time to explore, learn and live. Visit us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature, the arts, family and more:
Please share the link and we'd love to have you officially "follow" by signing up right here at the website.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Hop on, hop off bus tours show off a new city to fine advantage

The views from the top floor of "Hop on and Hop Off" buses are usually splendid.
Here, the bus passes under a beautiful ceiling of trees on Las Ramblas in Barcelona. 




Hop on and off tourists enjoy a beautiful, sunny afternoon in a new town. 

IF YOU'RE new in town and want to get a good, basic overview of your host city, you can't beat a hop on and hop off bus tour. 
We try to do one in every city, usually on the first full day of our visit. It's a terrific way to get to know your new town, and make note of places, museums, plazas, cafes or parks you want to spend more time with. USUALLY, a taped narration in many languages allows you to learn in your favorite language.  Sometimes, there's a live guide -- even better.  Always engaging.  Particularly if you're on a limited time schedule, the hop on and off bus tour gives a great overview so you can feel as if you've learned something about your new town, even in a few hours.
THE HOP ON AND off feature also allows one to budget time for return visits to particular spots if you're staying longer.
Many day tours can only hit so many major attractions within their allotted hours, but if you take a hop on and off bus tour, you are free to do just what the tour says -- hop on and off and roam the city all day.
A "bus top view" here in Funchal, Madeira, is a lovely
way to see the sights of a new town on a sunny day.

  IF YOU ARE a bus aficionado, the first bus tour you take in the new city will give you a clear concept of how the routes work, what places are near to the place you are staying, what's going on in the street culture and how you can get around in the case you want to rent a car or use public transportation.
WE LOVE TO roam without feeling time constraints, but if we want to get the best bang for our dollar or euro, and best use of our time, we opt for the hop on and off tours.  We look at them as an initiation. And we've learned that a narrated tour gives us much more information than we could glean when left to our own devices.
Convenience, education and a variety of sights are three major plusses.
We recently had wonderful hop on and hop off tours in Barcelona, Porto, Lisbon, Amsterdam and Paris.
Just moments off their flight to Lisbon, Keller and Cookie
booked a hop on and hop off tour for the next morning.
Camaraderie, sparking an interest, expertise, stress free, active/exercise.
OKAY, TOURS of any kind are not for everyone, and at the same time, not all tours are created equal. While I might thrive on a wine tasting tour, someone else might prefer a brewery tour, or adore a tour that deals with street art in an off-the-beaten path area of your city. It’s not a one size fits all approach, and that’s that's the beauty of a hop on and hop off bus tour. You'll pass all these places and can return or book a specific interest tour.
Check out the options before you go, and you can often book one right from the airport when you arrive in Lisbon, Amsterdam, Munich, Copenhagen, Paris or most major cities around the world, including the United States.
This portly gentleman was photographed from
one of our recent hop on and off tours in
Madrid, Spain, on a sunny autumn day.
TRUE, THE HOP on and off bus tour is not the only way to discover a city, but there are few better or more economical ways to get beneath the surface of a destination. If you're touring more than a single day, you can buy two or three-day packages which save money. Figure $30 to $40 a day and as little as $89 for a three-day pass. Each city is different.
We enjoy the way we "tune out" the rest of the world on a hop on and off bus tour. Sometimes it’s nice to just put the phone down and perhaps even turn it off. It’s lovely to make note of what you and your friends or family or tour group might find with the help of someone who, in all likelihood, knows just what path to take you down.;;
or check out the individual cities tourist bureaus

Northern Portugal is a wonderful place to visit for a few days
or a week.  This charming village, Valenca, is a charming
town which boasts centuries old architecture and nice people

STORIES ON TAP: Some fun features await from our recent global wanderings: Playing tourist in Los Angeles, charms of a small Portuguese village called Valenca, whether to take a ship's tour or not, munching your way through Las Vegas with a delightful food tour, and much more. We're always looking for new ideas so please email us your suggestions, or comment on this page. Enjoy the holidays and please remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin and insights on travel, the arts, family, nature and more. As always, we welcome sharing of the stories and links:

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Happy New Year! Resolve to travel, make new friends, learn, grow

High atop Sydney's famous Harbour Bridge, with the iconic Sydney Opera House at the far right, Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller, right, celebrate their climb with new friends
from Japan, England and Switzerland. One more check off their bucket list.

Have you always wanted to swim with a sting ray? Join
Cookie and Keller at Sting Ray City in Antigua.



One recent Christmas found Christene "Cookie" Meyers
and Bruce Keller aboard a ship awaiting a tour in Capri.


WHEREVER IN the world you hope to be in 2023, consider stretching your imagination, broadening your views, meeting new people, learning something new by visiting a place you've never been.

What are you waiting for? Time, money, inspiration? Remember carpe diem and tempus fugit. So go for it!

MANY READERS ask us how to begin to plan a longed for trip. First, figure out where you'll get the money. Do you have a savings account, an IRA that needs a withdrawal? Have you stashed away a certain amount for "rainy days" or emergencies? Now's the time.  Because we're not getting any younger we've made travel a priority. It consumes 70 per cent of our budget. 

    A visit to a museum is a holiday treat, here
    between Christmas and New Year's at the
    National Gallery in London. 

    If you don't have the funds now, start by setting a goal and saving so much per week. You'd be surprised how quickly $50 adds up. That's $200 a month or $2,400 a year -- enough to plan and take a reasonably priced trip by this time next year.
    ONCE YOU'VE figured how to fund your dream trip, it's time to narrow the destination. If you're flexible, compare prices. Eastern Europe for instance is cheaper than western Europe. Your dollar will go farther on the smaller Greek islands on the Aegean Sea rather than, Santorini or Mykonos which are beautiful but overly touristed.  Croatia is cheaper than Greece for holiday rentals, dining out and drinks. Amsterdam beats Paris for luxury shopping and has one of Europe's best flea markets. Shop around for deals.

    Keller, Cookie, and new friends
    on a food tasting tour in Porto.
     how long you can afford to be gone, budgeting an average cost per day including hotel, air, food, extras such as museums, tours, parks, taxi or bus fares. A survey done by a respected travel agency in 2020 estimated the average cost for a trip abroad to be a reasonable $3,600 for a typical 12 night trip ($7,200 for two.) That breaks down to about $300 per person per day, which is on the low side with $150 per night, food and alcohol at $100, entertainment and tours at $50 per day.
    To keep in this range will take some bargain hunting and likely won't include a cruise unless you book an inside cabin. Cruise lines sometimes offer cheap air as an enticement, so consider that.
    Whale watching is a favorite diversion for us,
    here right at home on a San Diego "staycation."
    This estimate does not include air.  It could be the cost of an entire cruise, though. But you'd likely have to pay additionally for tours and extras unless you find a very attractive package.
    IF YOU'RE going international on any vacation other than a driving trip, you must consider air or a trans-oceanic cruise. If you're driving somewhere close, add in gas or petrol. Because energy prices are rising with the war and stock market flux, many people are shopping for bargain air fares -- and finding them. But you must be flexible with dates.
    If Vietnam is on your bucket list, there are some attractive
    fares right now for air and land tours. 
    Back to the budget. This is the most important step in planning a trip. It will affect
    the rest of the steps in your vacation planning process. 
THE AVERAGE vacation for one person in the U.S. costs about $1,919 per week. A vacation for two people  typically costs around $3,838 per week. (Cheaper than international because there's no overseas air.) A backpacker's average daily budget should be between $40 and $70 USD per day in the east and between $70 and $100 per day in the west. 
    So once you've done that, research flights and dates (mid-week is cheaper to fly, etc.) Choose the top places you'd like to go and look for deals. Research flights and dates. Once you've chosen your destination and booked your air, cruise or train travel,
    If you've dreamed of the Caribbean, Europe or
    Far East, now's the time to start budgeting.
    You can make it happen, here in Singapore.

    WHEREVER IN the world you hope to be in 2023, consider stretching your imagination and your pocketbook.  With a little creativity, you can broaden your views, meet new people, learn something new. Take the incentive to visit a place you've never been.
    All ages take to bikes in exciting
    Amsterdam. Now's the time
    to book a trip to the Netherlands.


Narrated bus tours may have an entertaining multi-lingual
taped narrative or sometimes a live guide. Here, we take
a hop on- hop off tour down Las Ramblas in Barcelona.

UP NEXT: We love city tours and the hop on- hop off bus trend is a fun way to meet a new town. Once you've landed, taken a nap and had a light meal, get going in your new time zone. We find narrated bus tours a fine way to explore -- a wonderful way to discover attractions you'd like to revisit. We enjoyed several bus tours on a recent visit to southern Europe.  Come explore with us as we share  roof-top views of several cities from the top floor of  tour buses.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature, the arts, family and more. Please share links: 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Holiday delights: try fun, new foods whether home or on the road

Enjoy each day and celebrate holidays with a trip to the beach -- or a favorite restaurant.
Here, Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers kick holidays up a notch in Vietnam. 


and our recipe for holiday jambalaya

This Vietnamese meal was prepared for a special
holiday gathering at our hotel in then Saigon. 

Shopping and schmoozing in the Caribbean,
Cookie made a new friend in St. Lucia who
directed them to a delightful cafe for local fare.
Noodles are part of a special holiday meal in Tokyo.

HOLIDAYS ON the road overflow with adventure, fun, surprise and delight. We've spent a dozen yuletides in warm climes -- Vietnam, Australia, the Caribbean, and once in chilly but beautiful Finland. We try to do something special on a holiday abroad -- take a special hike, a city bus, boat or bike tour. Then we always cap the day with a meal in our new environs. Maybe we walk into a village to find a cafe popular with locals.  We chat up vendors and hotel folks to find street fairs, food stalls and flea markets, all popular during the holidays in Europe and the Caribbean. We glean tips on munching and shop for gifts in the same outing. In Saigon (pre-Ho Chi Minh City) we were directed to a small hotel restaurant with a huge, tasty holiday feast of pork, pickled veggies, tangy soups, chicken dishes, noodles, rice cakes, and delectable desserts. For two of us, the bill was $35. 

IF YOU'RE staying home, don't let that stop you from putting a little international flair on your table. If you're Norwegian, try serving lutefish on Christmas Eve. Or how about making latkes on Hanukkah or noodles and dumplings on New Year’s Day. Whatever your ethnic persuasion or interest, the holidays are a perfect time to broaden your tastes while you eat, drink and be merry. Dedication to delicious food is  universal, whether you're visiting some new place or channeling a French or Italian chef's pantry. It's easy to open a cook book or go on line to spice up a holiday meal with a recipe from another country or culture. Try one or two of these if they sound intriguing.

IN A HELSINKI mood? You can savor porkkanalaatikko, which translates  

Even a simple breakfast can be made exotic
when you're on the road, or dreaming of being

to carrot casserole. In Lisbon, try the country's favorite dish, cod, called bacalhau, which you can make extra festive on Christmas Eve by trying "Bacalhau de Consoada."  In northern China, we've dined on jiaozi, those delicious pork dumplings. Time consuming to make but so tasty. In Israel, holiday time means latkes, those irresistibly crispy potato pancakes sometimes kicked up a notch with zucchini or tahini. One special New Year's Eve in New Orleans, friends invited us to their kitchen to prepare a delicious bouillabaisse.
Peking Duck on our plate for New Year's
Eve, in China of course, a Shanghai eatery.
In Kyoto one New Year's Eve, we sampled a fragrant "year-crossing noodle” dish. Toshikoshi soba is a thin noodle concoction traditionally served to welcome the new year and bring good luck in Japan. Of course, sauerkraut rules in Germany and panettone in Italy.

IT'S FUN to do something new, too, combining a meal with an outing. Try a hike up a hill or in a nature preserve, park or zoo, followed by a meal in a nearby restaurant. Many places that attract tourists and families are open during the holidays.

SO WHETHER it's spicy tamales in Mexico or or a spongy yule log cake in France, tuck into something different this holiday -- even if it's from your armchair with something unusual in your home kitchen. You don't have to cross an ocean to try something new. We're sharing a recipe we made with friends from Louisiana whom we met on a cruise. It's the state's favorite one-pot dish: jambalaya. 

We cooked this jambalaya while visiting new friends
in their New Orleans home over Christmas.

This succulent dish varies from kitchen to kitchen, depending on the cook and recipes passed through generations. Jambalaya usually contains chicken or pork sausage -- andouille, chorizo or smoked sausage are favorites. Seafood is normally added -- crawfish or shrimp, but we've also had lobster in jambalaya. Onion, bell peppers and celery are musts, with rice, chilis, seasonings and broth -- all cooked together until the rice is done. Some jambalaya recipes have a Cajun spin. This one comes from a Creole cook.  

Bruce Keller enjoys a New Year's
souffle with thick whipped cream,
served in the Canary Islands'
 Lanzarote by a gracious waitress.

3 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
2 tablespoons seasoning, (Slap Ya Mama is great, or our favorite chili powder.)
10 ounces (300 g) andouille sausage, sliced
1 pound (500 g) boneless skinless chicken cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion diced; 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 stalks/ribs celery, chopped; 4 cloves garlic, minced
14 ounces (400 g) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt; 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon each dried thyme and dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne powder)
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce; 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup thinly sliced okra (or 1 teaspoon file powder)
1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice (short grain or long grain)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 pound (500 g) raw cleaned shrimp/prawns tails
Sliced green onions and chopped parsley, to garnish


Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the sausage and chicken pieces with half of the seasoning.
Brown sausage in the hot oil; remove with slotted spoon, set aside. Add rest of oil to pot. Sauté chicken until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.
Sauté the onion, bell pepper and celery until onion is soft and transparent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add tomatoes; season with salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes or cayenne powder, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and remaining seasoning. Stir in okra slices (or file powder), chicken and sausage. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
ADD RICE and chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low-medium. Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked, stirring occasionally. Place shrimp on top of  mixture, stir gently, cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are pink (5-6 minutes, depending on shrimp size.) 
Season with a bit more salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat. Add optional extra hot sauce, cayenne pepper or Cajun seasoning. Serve with sliced green onions or parsley.
Why not check a longed for trip off your bucket list?
Here, Cookie and Keller visit "Godfather" country
in Savoca, Italy, and the church where the
 famous wedding scene was filmed.
UP NEXT: New Year's Eve is upon us, a time for ringing in the new. Why not make it a year to accomplish something you've longed to see or do. Let's put a positive spin on 2023 as we emerge from so much darkness. It's been a difficult three years with the trauma of the pandemic, the heartbreak of losing loved ones including pets, political unrest and bitterness, accidents, a horrible war, illness and changed plans. But there is hope for a new, brighter year.  There's also the opportunity to broaden our horizons, challenge ourselves, click something off our bucket lists. Have you always wanted to visit "Godfather Country" in Italy and see where the film was made? Have you dreamed about seeing the gorillas of Rwanda? Maybe you'd like to take a relative to Paris to celebrate a graduation or wedding?  How about a resolution to plan that longed for trip? Shake up your routine, meet new people, try new foods in new places, explore new vistas. Join us to resolve to make your dreams come true and stretch a bit in this first few days of the new year, remembering to explore, learn and live. Catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature, family, the arts and more:  And please share the links.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Spiritus: splendid psychedelic immersion in famous Portuguese chapel

Clerigos Church and its magnificent cathedral host a light-filled wondrous show, "Spiritus."

Gorgeous lights highlight windows and offer nature imagery
and accentuate the church's large windows and baroque architecture.




PREPARE TO immerse your senses as you simultaneously celebrate an architectural wonder.
This unique opportunity unfolds in a stunning show in an historic Portuguese church, Clerigos.
Clerigos Tower aglow at night, a proud Porto landmark.

In its sanctuary, "Spiritus" -- an inventive light and sound show --  examines with imagination the connection between man, nature and the heavens.
We hurried from a city walking tour as dusk fell, to the lovely Baroque church in the city of Porto. Our "compass" was Clerigos Church with its impressive 75-meter-tall bell tower, the Torre dos Clérigos. As we hurried several blocks from our bus to the show, we could see the tower getting closer. It was fun to observe it from various vantage points and as evening fell and muted clouds blanketed the city. The immense Torre dos Clérigos towers over its surroundings and is a central point on virtually all views of historic Porto. The baroque tower was designed by Italian artist and architect Nicolau Nasoni in the mid-eighteenth century.
Famous Clergios Church and Tower are worth a visit.

Nasoni lived and worked in Porto for fifty years, designing many beautiful structures in Porto and throughout the north of Portugal. He was a busy man, also creating the loggia on the Porto Cathedral, the Episcopal Palace, Palace of São João Novo, and the Palace of Freixo, all proud landmarks of Porto. As we turned corners and navigated narrow streets and alleys, the tower remained nearly always in view. No wonder it was placed where it is -- on a high point in the city where all eyes are drawn to its magnificence.

The small but fascinating museum at Clerigos is
enjoyed by Cookie with insights from a docent.

The interior of Clerigos Church Clérigos Museum
 exhibits a collection of sacred art and liturgical
 objects dating from the 13th to the 20th century.

WE HAD tickets in hand -- an advantage in moving through a line at the box office and toward the entrance of this popular production. The queue was long but moved quickly with visitors from around the world. People were quiet and respectful as we entered the cathedral to take our seats. Then a young man with a sonorous voice gave a brief introduction to what we were about to behold. He explained that the innovative multimedia show would "transcend the walls" and promised a spiritual and emotional journey in this lovely and much loved Baroque church.
Then the lights dimmed and a wonderous light show appeared.  Spiritus is an audiovisual experience, pairing light, music, and architecture in the heart of the church. Created by OCUBO, an internationally known Portuguese art studio, the 
experience uses its religious location to carry the spectator on a spiritual and emotional journey. The work is inspired by the poem “In the end, the best way to travel is to feel,” by Álvaro de Campos, respected Portuguese poet.  One need not be religious to appreciate the splendor. 
CLERIGOS was built in 1753 and has been a national monument since 1910, much loved by the people of the city. It inspired the urbanization of the city, and is a landmark of the town. It was begun at the request of the Brotherhood of Clerics, with architect Nasoni commissioned to design a bell tower to dominate Porto's landscape. 
The Clerigos light show, "Spiritus," moves many deeply.
It was completed 10 years later, in July of 1763, with the placing of the iron cross on the top, and the image of St. Paul in the niche above the door, its construction was finished. Since 2014, the Church, Tower and House of the Brotherhood are a museum. Do make time to visit it when you book the show. It is small -- just a few rooms -- but filled with antique furniture, sacred art and centuries old liturgical objects
Families and couples regularly make a pilgrimage to the tower, climbing the 225 steps to the top. The show and museum add dimension and can also be enjoyed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, too.


Jefferson McDonald, Matthew McGloin are a hit
in Northcoast Rep's "Two Pianos, Four Hands."

BEST BET: "2 Pianos, 4 Hands" is a “must see” at Northcoast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach, Calif. It’s a dazzling love letter to the world's most versatile and difficult instrument. Two gifted musicians deliver classical war horses laced with comedy and pathos. Part slapstick, part highbrow, the show features Jefferson McDonald and Matthew McGloin whose flawless technique was honed in years of study. While their artistry amazes, the show's physical humor and impersonations make it more than a mere concert. Themes honor the hard work a classical career demands, conflicts with parents and coaches, and the challenges of devoting one's life to a passion. In the style of Victor Borge and Anna Russell, the actors weave parody and slapstick with flawless Liszt, Chopin, Beethoven, Bach and Mozart -- with tuneful nods to Rodgers and Hart, Dave Brubeck and Billy Joel. This perfect pitch production hits the high notes while tickling the funny bone -- all on a pair of 88s, through Jan. 1. Tickets at:; 858 481-1055.  

A colorfully clad Martinique woman prepares a holiday
cocktail for us on New Year's Day. Fresh fruit -- delicious!
UP NEXT: Holiday time is in full swing as a New Year approaches. We  find holidays make a lively time to explore new places, holding old habits dear while making room for new traditions. We'll share favorite places and activities for celebrating the flip of the calendar to 2023. We have a suggestion for our readers, too: How about making a resolution to travel, shake up your routine, broaden your worldly experience, take the trip you've long wanted, make new friends on another continent? Come along, remembering to explore, learn and live.  Catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, the arts, nature, family and more at: 
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