Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cadiz: white-washed beauty beckons with fun, 3,000 years of history

Cadiz is known recently for shopping and surf, plus history!



The Cadiz Cathedral, "Catedral de Santa Cruz," offers spectacular views of the city and port from southern Spain.

All roads point to Cadiz now, a hot new tourist spot.

WHEN CHRISTOPHER Columbus set forth from Europe, his last steps were taken in Cadiz.

From this lovely and ancient city, he began his remarkable journey to the new world.
For the curious traveler, there is much to recommend Cadiz.  The city comfortably blends recreation and commerce, religion and relaxation, gardens, castles and government buildings.
Fishing, commerce and tourism provide Cádiz with its main sources of income. An array of ports attract business and pleasure welcomes barges, cruise ships and freighters to ports:  Cádiz, San Fernando, Puerto Real, Puerto de Santa María, Chiclana and Algeciras are all busy and bustling.
A Cadiz local wears many colors on her wrist of spangles.
THERE'S A NEW slant to this old town, too.  Cadiz is becoming known to another kind of traveler -- the fly-in and cruise-in tourist.
Long a port city attracting global travelers, this lively town has grown popular as a holiday destination among northern Europeans seeking good weather, long sandy beaches and fewer crowds than the nearby Costa del Sol or inland Seville, both busy and more crowded. 
Thus, many hotels, restaurants, apartments and condos have been built.
Surfing USA -- or Cadiz.
 My partner Keller's ears perked up when he heard Cádiz is also popular with surfers, as it is one of the few places in Spain to offer fabulous weather much of the year, and high seductive surfing waves!
Whitewashed buildings glisten in the sun with the cathedral nearby.
 And for visitors who want to explore the province, the white villages dotting the inland mountains are picture perfect, and the city's offers many museums housing among other treasures, a valuable collection of the work of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
ONE OF THE most famous Baroque Spanish painters, Murillo died in Cadiz.  He lived and painted all over Spain and is often mentioned along with Velázquez and Zurbarán. Murillo is most famous for his religious paintings, however, he also painted many scenes involving women and children from his time. Murillo died in 1682 in Cadiz and was buried, according to the wishes of Murillo himself, in the Church of Santa Cruz. However, this church disappeared during the following French invasion of Spain. Fortunately,  Well known composer Manuel de Falla was born in Cadiz and buried there although he died in 1946 in Argentina where he lived and composed many years. A year later, he was entombed in the cathedral at Cádiz.  Its crypts and hallowed halls house the spirits of several other great artists and many members of parliament.
the church was rebuilt many years later over the top of the old site. Historians and art scholars believe Murillo’s remains still lie there.
Tenerife boasts pyramids,
believe it or not!

COMING SOON: You know about the pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, but did you know that there are pyramids in the Canary Islands? Check it out at www.whereiscookie on Saturdays, Wednesdays and more.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Steamboat Natchez chugs and whistles back in time

The New Orleans skyline is bathed in light as Natchez departs the dock.

Lively evening on the Mississippi harkens back to Mark Twain

days and life on the river  

"The Mississippi is well worth reading about. It is not a commonplace river, but on the contrary is in all ways remarkable. Considering the Missouri its main branch, it is the longest river in the world--four thousand three hundred miles."
 From Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi"


Natchez is one of only two steam-powered sternwheelers on the Mississippi.
A STEAM engine built in 1925, accompanied by a 32-note calliope and world-class Dixieland band beckon tourists aboard the Natchez in New Orleans for noisy fun.
A true antique and treasure, the Natchez became one of only six true steam-powered sternwheelers playing the Mississippi when she was launched in 1975.  Reviving both the famous name Natchez (she is the ninth steamer to bear the moniker), she is now one of only two steam-powered sternwheelers plying the "Mighty Miss" today.
SHE'S THE real deal -- history and romance and an authentic river experience much like one from a

Dukes of Dixieland heat up the dining and cocktail lounge on Natchez.
century ago.
We loved our evening on her -- for myriad reasons.
Keller, a chief contractor, appreciated the mechanics, watching the engines work and chatting with two engineers, who were in constant communication with the pilot.
Engineers at the controls have been with Natchez for years.
I LOVED the jazz upstairs in the dining room, where the Dukes of Dixieland cut loose with classic N'Awlins jazz tunes, including "St. James Infirmary" and many other classics, including "When the Saints Go Marching In."
The Natchez rides smoothly across the waters and around the city and harbor, with a steering system taken entirely from another boat, the sternwheel Clairton.  Electric signals are transmitted down from the pilothouse to a receiver in the engine room, starting the hydraulic pumps which drive the ram and move the gilded tiller arm.
THE PILOT turns the knob to the position he wants, which turns the corresponding dial in the engine room and sounds a bell.  The engineer moves his knob to the corresponding position.
THIS STOPS the bell and tells the pilot the engineer has received the signal, a kind of "steamboat style telegraph" system, time honored.
The historic Natchez provides a tutorial on how she runs.
Fans of steam power enjoy jazz, too!
While all this is transpiring, guests listen to jazz, sip a cocktail, walk the decks to enjoy the New Orleans skyline, and enjoy a sumptuous Louisiana feast with barbecue, salads, shrimp and luscious desserts.
For an evening, we stepped back in time.
Did I just hear did the raucous just kick in?
Cadiz with its imposing buildings is an ancient port.
Twain called the steamboat ``as beautiful as a wedding cake, but without the complications.`` Decades later, we second the motion, savoring the beauty of the red paddle wheel, the moans of the steam whistle as symbols of a bygone time.

COMING UP: We continue our travels, with a  
 look at lovely Cadiz, one of the oldest continuously used port cities in the world. Then back to the Americas for frolic, a fun look back stage on cruise ship Serenade of the Seas, and tips on renting a car for your next European venture. Check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at www.whereiscookie.com

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

San Diego theater moves, challenges, enlightens, amuses, engages

The colorful Lyceum Theatre houses San Diego Rep in Horton Plaza.









SAN DIEGO'S year-round growing season produces more than lush landscaping.  Our city offers a lively and varied theater crop.
San Diego theater can't be beat for quality and diversity.
I spend time in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Francisco and other cities. All have proud acting companies and lively theater.
Herb Siguenza
plays Trujillo
and others.
Yet survey the dramatic riches here in San Diego. Then book your tickets:
AT SAN DIEGO Repertory Theater, one may engage the mind through Jan. 26 in a lyrical, thought-provoking production, "In the Time of the Butterflies." Based on the true story of four remarkable sisters who challenged Generalissmo Rafael Trujillo, it is set in a 25-year period in the Dominican Republic. The title comes from their code name, "butterflies," and the play is based on the popular Latin American novel.

Fabulous acting -- and background singing -- bring a true story
of sisterhood, loyalty and courage to life courtesy San Diego Rep.
ADAPTED by Caridad Svich, the play dances back and forth in time, establishing the bonds and differences of the four sisters.  One sister, Dede, is played by two actors: the "present day" Dede, who narrates the story and explains its importance, and the young Dede, played by Sandra Ruiz, who also plays an American writer. Catalina Maynard, elegant and touching as the older Dede, is surrounded by equal talent in Jacqueline Grace Lopez as Minerva, Elisa Gonzales as Patria and Maritxell Carrero as Maria Teresa. The brilliant Herbert Siguenza, who co-directed the piece, plays multiple parts with his characteristic authenticity and style.
LaJolla Playhouse offers quality, in stately buildings and grounds.
A HAUNTING VIOLIN played by Batya MacAdam-Somer brings this work of memory and activism to life, locking the images in our hearts. The play embodies artistic director Sam Woodhouse's pledge, to honor "acts of courage, creativity and out of the box imagination." Fittingly, the run is dedicated to the memory of another great activist, Nelson Mandela. Do yourself a favor and see this tale of love and bravery.
Emily Padgett, left, and Erin Davie, played
Daisy and Violet Hilton in a bravura LJP show. 
Kudos to adventuresome Woodhouse, Rep co-founder, who brings us cutting edge work, always intriguing. And to Todd Salovey, who co-directed the play and brings us the lively Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival, about which we've written here.
AT LAJOLLA PLAYHOUSE, Cygnet and North Coast Repertory Theater, productions also continue to challenge, engage and entertain.
"Maple and Vine"
is on stage at Cygnet.
At La Jolla Playhouse, one of the most beautifully produced pieces I've seen in my six years of frequenting San Diego theater was "Side Show," a "reimagined" musical story of conjoined twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton.   Actors Emily Padgett and Erin Davie were knock-outs in the two leads. I'd seen the play during its too brief Broadway run in 1997 and delighted in its reincarnation. Fantastic supporting cast players and an enthralling carnival atmosphere prevailed. Seasoned director Bill Condon brought us my best holiday gift with this energetic and moving production -- top talent, great storyline and terrific song and dance.
CYGNET Theatre's "Maple and Vine" is on the boards in Old Town, described as "a darkly appealing fairy
"Who Am I This Time?" is on
the boards at North Coast Rep. 
tale" about 21st-Century lives, new neighbors and the concept of happiness. And North Coast Repertory Theater, in Solana Beach, is presenting "Who Am I This Time?" based on short stories about relationships by Kurt Vonnegut.
IF YOU'RE within walking, driving, or flying distance, support theater. There's no finer artistic stimulation and San Diego has riches galore! Don't overlook the Old Globe and Civic Theater for a wide range of quality performance -- Shakespeare to Broadway tours. And for daring, nuance, originality and variety, check out San Diego Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, North Coast Rep and Cygnet.
sdrep.org; cygnettheatre.com; lajoyyaplayhouse.org; northcoastrep.org

Space is at a premium for actors and dancers performing on cruise ships.
COMING SOON: How does a cruise ship produce full-scale Broadway shows, in limited space and while moving across oceans? Come back stage on Serenade of the Seas.
*Enjoy New Orleans jazz on the authentic steamboat Natchez.
*Glean tips on renting a car abroad.
*Bask in the white-washed glories of one of the world's oldest ports, Cadiz, and more.
At: www.whereiscookie.com
We post Saturdays and Wednesdays and as the spirit and siren song move.
Thanks for spreading the word!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Theater's powerful impact stays in the heart and mind

BEAUTIFUL 'BUTTERFLIES' prompts look at what makes great theater

Fabulous acting, subtle direction and a wonderfully rich story make "In the Time of the Butterflies" a class act.


IF YOU'VE seen a play that moved you to tears, a play that you couldn't stop thinking about, you've been "socked in the kisser by art."
The San Diego Repertory Theater is producing a fabulous play, "In the
Time of the Butterflies," a lyrical theatrical experience at the Lyceum. 
That was my grandmother Olive's expression for a play or concert that stayed with her for hours, days, weeks and years.
I've been thinking of that saying since seeing a wonderful play, "In the Time of the Butterflies" Sunday.
The current production of San Diego Repertory Theatre has beauty, poetry and staying power.
LIKE ALL good art -- a painting, symphony, poem or piece of sculpture -- it lures its audience back again and again.
Find out more about this moving production about sisters, loyalty and political turmoil, on the boards at Horton Plaza until Jan. 26. (sdrep.org) Don't miss it.
MORE ABOUT "BUTTERFLIES" and San Diego's fertile theater environment tomorrow. And we'll talk more about the "art, sex and revolution" theme at the Rep. We post every Wednesday and Saturday at: www.whereiscookie.com

Friday, January 17, 2014

Seville seduces with its architecture, tapas, flamenco and orange trees



Cookie and Keller enjoy the lovely grounds of  Seville's Plaza de Espana built for an international exhibition.

Seville's grand cathedral is one of the world's largest.

IF PARADISE is a garden, as Islamic belief would have it, then the Spanish city of Seville is a bit of heaven on Earth.
This beautiful city merges Islamic splendor and Catholic extravagance. Add olive oil, orange blossoms, tapas and flamenco.
This recipe for "city success" is served up in tourist friendly Seville, a quintessentially Spanish city.
Not far from the port city of Cadiz, which makes a nice side trip,
Shops offer an array of flamenco dresses, pottery and sherry.
Seville is the jewel of western Andalusia. It's the birthplace of flamenco and some think tapas. These bite-size edibles are served with cocktails, or as a satisfying meal.
HERE ARE a few highlights of our recent visit -- easily accomplished in a couple full days:
An afternoon break.
* The Plaza de Espana, built for an international exhibition, is huge, welcoming and a favorite place for locals to stroll.
* The famous Alcazar, built in the 1300s, is one of Europe's architectural masterpieces.  This World Heritage
Seville is a city of gorgeous plazas, churches, parks and friendly folk.
Sight offers sunken gardens, gorgeous halls and
 intricate tile and plaster decor. The Hall of Justice with its lovely gardens, houses the stunning Palacio de Don Pedro, a Moorish masterpiece. The fabulous throne rooms and reception halls include one in which Columbus was received upon his return.
Horses are part of  Seville's culture, here at the cathedral.
* SPEAKING OF Columbus, Seville's Cathedral stands on the sight of a huge mosque, used as a church for a time after Seville fell to the Christians in 1248.  The cathedral was built after the mosque was mostly demolished. Inside one of its opulent chapels stands the monumental tomb of the explorer in which his bones are supposedly housed, brought from Cuba in 1898.
THE LARGEST altarpiece in the world is also part of the cathedral.  The belfry, once the minaret of the mosque, is home to a 16th century bronze weather vane, symbol of Seville's faith.
* Seasoned tourists spend a half-day at the Alcazar and another at the Cathedral.  There's lots to take in, so visiting on separate days is good, with time for a park, picnic or relaxing tapas stop.

This family performs flamenco on a street near the Alcazar. 
* This city of believers is also home to many delightful tapas bars, and flamenco abounds -- on a grand scale in expensive nightclubs and on street corners where locals pass the hat or scarf for Euros.
* SEVILLE's museums vie for attention -- contemporary and classical art and even a flamenco museum, Museo del Baile Flamenco.
* Beautiful hotels, exciting paradors and B&Bs and a hotel with pianos in the rooms offer a satisfying range. Hotel Amadeus on Calle Farnesio is run by an eccentric music-loving family. Upright pianos in the soundproofed rooms allow for practicing on holiday.
This tea selection is available in Seville's outdoor shops.
* YOU'RE CLOSE to Andalucia's enticing hill towns, and Jerez de la Frontera, home of two Spanish symbols:  rich delicious sherry and prancing, dancing horses. Seville is also famous for its orange trees and graceful pink flamingos.
* Friends sipped their way from Seville to Cordoba recently, describing in a postcard the delights of sherry, flamenco, tapas and flower sprinkled white washed patios. "Electrified our senses," they said.

COMING SOON: Steam boating and loving jazz on the Mississippi aboard the Natchez, shopping with the locals in Europe and tips on renting a car abroad. Plus the romance of Cadiz, with waves crashing against the rocks, flamenco,  crawing gulls and frying fish. Remember to explore, learn and live, and tell your friends about us, please. Check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at: www.whereiscookie.com

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Viejas opens stylish hotel to complement its gambling features

Wood, stone, water plus lovely artwork and tasteful rooms
The Viejas' artsy entrance.

offer soothing counterpart to casino action, fine dining

  Viejas hotel is an oasis, near a non-smoking casino area.



IT'S SO SERENE and artful it's difficult to believe there's a full, total happening casino just feet away.
If you like to combine the pleasures of art and nature with a hit of gambling, Viejas Casino Resort near San Diego will satisfy both desires.
THOSE of us who live in many worlds nurture equal affection for city amenities and country calm.
Lobbies and hallways are prettily designed.

It's all available at Viejas, just a half-hour from downtown San Diego, and a world away from any other venue in the region.
The original Viejas casino, circa 1991.
THE RECENTLY opened hotel is small and inviting, more like a boutique hotel in San Francisco or New Orleans.
Artful use of color and natural elements gives an intimate, handcrafted feel. The design of public areas and guestrooms is intriguing and sophisticated.
Today's Viejas Casino Resort boasts a beautiful
 new hotel with enticing amenities and casino proximity.
Viejas is known for being on the vanguard, constantly refining the casino and, now, the hotel.  This operation is attentive to customers and clients, and heeds suggestions and critiques.
Our ground floor room faced the pool, with a private patio and a view of the fire pots, spacious pool and pretty landscaping.
WE VISITED the modern fitness center to watch some of the Sunday Chargers game on a large flat screen TV, and had the place to ourselves.
Wood, paintings,  flowers all add to the hotel's ambiance.
Relatively small, the hotel's 99 luxury rooms and 29 VIP suites convey a feeling of cozy elegance. Yet you're only a stroll away from the casino and the section closest to the hotel is smoke-free, another enticement for us!
The hotel complements this favorite playing place for San Diegans and their guests, offering a tasteful, beautifully appointed oasis.
Imagine a dip in the gorgeous pool, sunning in the courtyard or a spot of tea or wine from your patio as you count your winnings!
WOOD AND fossils, art and lithographs abound.  Several peaceful water sculptures offer the soothing and cooling balm of water and mist.
The Viejas pool is beautifully landscaped  and  some rooms view it.
The world class steak house, Grove, is a delight, with succulent sea bass and lamb chops and decadent desserts. Our waitress, Cathy, was attentive, witty and knowledgeable.
A wine pairing earlier in the evening tempted us away from the tables for a pleasant hour of nibbling, sipping.
All that might be plenty to lure us back, but add these features and we're over the moon to return:
*PIPED  music that is actually thoughtfully chosen -- Vivaldi, mellow jazz, subtle vocals.
*Impeccably trained staff from the
Veijas doesn't hold back on flowers or fine service.
waiters and barmaids on the casino floor, to the reception personnel who could work in any upscale Manhattan or Paris hotel.
*Relaxation when one wants it and the excitement of an alluring, Vegas-style casino with every game and machine one could wish for.
*Convenient business center, wi-fi in the rooms, plus a drawer safe so you can stash your casino chips or special necklace without worry.
THE VIEJAS Band of Kumeyaay Indians is the fifth tribe in San Diego County to open a hotel connected to its casino. The five-story Viejas hotel carries a $36 million price tag. Rooms range from $119 to $259 -- but if you're a player, you might receive a complimentary stay!
Seville's imposing cathedral, known worldwide, is one of the largest on Earth.
Be sure you use your flashy red and black Viejas players card.
We'll be back -- Viejas has it all!
www.viejas.com to let the fun begin!

NEXT UP: Seville beckons! With all its glories:  architecture, orange trees, flamenco, food.  It is the heart of Andalucia, with  one of the world's largest cathedrals! Remember to explore, learn and live.  Check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at www.whereiscookie.com

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Orleans celebrates life with food, fun, jazz on the river

The Dukes of Dixieland aboard the steamboat Natchez are a top band.

Every day's a holiday

in colorful, tuneful 

Big Easy N'Awlins


EVERY DAY is a holiday in New Orleans.  It's a city that celebrates life's pleasures every hour, every day.
Historic Jackson Square with its horse-drawn carriages is a landmark you won't want to miss in New Orleans.
The food, music, architecture, water life and even the cemeteries praise our brief spin here on planet Earth.
Good music is part of street life.  This trumpet player offered fine tunes.
WE PLAYED hard recently in "The Big Easy," and learned a few things

we hadn't garnered in earlier visits.
For starters: the nickname comes from the notion that it's sensible to "take it easy," said our amiable tour guide.
'WE BELIEVE that taking it easy should be done big," he said. "So we call our town the Big Easy."
Our brief, memorable visit centered at the New Orleans Hyatt, at Loyola and Poydras, which locals pronounce with a French creole "pwa" sound: pwadras.
Every day is Mardi Gras time, here at Harrah's casino. 
NEW ORLEANS is coming back loud and strong after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina.  One still sees the occasional light pole ripped from its concrete holding (our guide pointed to parts of the city that were eight and ten feet under water.)
 BUT THE city's colorful inhabitants believe in their motto:  "laissez le bon temps rouler."
The skyline of New Orleans viewed from the Natchez.
And roll the good times do -- from breakfast beignets and coffee au lait at Cafe du Monde to a lunch of the muffuletta (salami, ham and provolone with marinated olives and Italian bread), to a romantic jazz filled evening on the Steamboat Natchez with a Cajun inspired buffet and classic Dixieland jazz on an old-fashioned stern-wheeler.
New Orleans is known for its Mardi Gras celebrations and its nearby plantations.  It is also famous for its above-ground cemeteries, wrought iron gate and doors, horse-drawn carriages and stately mansions.
A HUNDRED years ago, Bourbon Street was famous for its houses of prostitution! Both Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton practiced their jazz in bordellos.
A visit to the Big Easy is not complete without a dish of gumbo, a beignet  and a stroll or shopping around Jackson Square, where you'll hear fabulous music for free -- just leave a buck or two with the talented buskers.
In a city famous for food, this Big Easy diner 
serves up signature "po-boy" sandwiches. 
The cemeteries of New Orleans feature above-ground graves.

New Orleans has elevated hosting to an art with dozens of enticing boutique and luxury hotels.  We grabbed our Mardi Gras masks to book the beautiful Hyatt Regency New Orleans, an elegant, space-age property with 2,000 handsomely designed rooms.  The hotel boasts two terrific restaurants, pretty cocktail lounges, a fine gym and heated pool.  It's centrally located:
The Hyatt's imposing interior is photographed from the fast elevator to the 37th floor!
20 minutes' walk to a cruise on the Mississippi, the French Quarter with its balconies, bistros, carriages, and  Jackson Square delights.
At famed Brennan's, we tried the file gumbo -- fabulous. At our Hyatt Regency, richly satisfying jambalaya. The Big Easy's the place for "Big Eating."
A stroll on the pretty waterfront is a delightful diversion in New Orleans.
IF YOU stayed a month, you'd not have time to sample all the oyster bars, steak houses, gumbo and "po-boy" shops and world famous eateries.
The city is also a great "browsing town." So much to see!

Jambalaya is a New Orleans tradition,
colorful, spicy and addictive.
We spent a delightful morning on a Gray Line bus tour, with stops at the fascinating cemeteries, an afternoon at historic Oak Alley Plantation and evening of great food and jazz

aboard the historic Natchez. It was our sixth visit -- and we only scratched the surface.  Swamp tours, vineyards, museums, horse racing, and gambling have lured us before and will entice us back for another tequila mockingbird, muffuletta sandwich and plate of barbecued shrimp. We missed the world renown National World War II Museum, and must rectify that.
NEW ORLEANS has fun tours for every inclination: history, culinary, cocktails, bicycling, walking, cemetery browsing or double-decker perusing.
Charm, ambiance, cultural diversity, friendliness and architecture combine in New Orleans, perhaps more than any other U.S. city, save San Francisco.
YES, KATRINA left her mark, but New Orleans is back.  The spirit of this lively city endures in Big Easy style.The ethnic mix, rich and varied history and pride in food, drink, music and hospitality elevate it to "fabulous" status.Whether you're here to eat, listen or simply soak it all in, prepare to let the good times roll.
The savvy visitors bureau offers a free guide you can download. Search New Orleans Official Visitor Guide" in the App Store, and go to neworleanscvb.com or neworleansonline.com

The Viejas lobby welcomes visitors with artful flair.
NEXT UP:  Experience a gorgeous hotel with Cookie's favorite amenity -- gambling -- near San Diego, at Viejas Casino and Resort in the hills of Alpine. In the soothing hotel, you wouldn't know you're steps away from a lively gambling house. Then to Spain and the classically beautiful city of Seville, famous for its orange trees, flamenco, fabulous food and unique architecture. Please share this with friends and remember to explore, learn and live! Visit us Wednesdays and Saturdays at at: www.whereiscookie.com