Thursday, August 26, 2021

Mountain towns of Tahoe, Truckee lure with scenery, sport, dining

An enthusiastic sportsman does a flip from a wakeboard behind a ski boat on Lake Tahoe.
The beautiful background of mountains and trees forms a picture-perfect shoreline.

Views from hotels in the Lake Tahoe area usually have
spectacular views of lake, water, 



Eateries satisfy every taste, and many offer
views of the spectacular water. 


A breathtaking sunset before
the latest fires near Lake Tahoe
 draws the eye to the lake and
surrounding woods, now 
in a blaze of fire and smoke.

MAGIC IN THE mountains  is threatened by ferocious wild fires -- as Tahoe and Truckee fight blazes, and winds whip the Caldor Fire across 149,000 acres of this beautiful corner of the world.  We pray for control, remembering fondly the cool evenings and warm, sunny days we enjoy twice a year on our spring and fall drives between California and Montana.

Crews battle the Caldor Fire Saturday, 13 miles from the
lake. It has destroyed building. Evacuations may be underway.
                                                                             --photo courtesy ABC7 News
WHETHER YOUR ideal holiday is action packed, or simply soaking up the scenery with a cup of tea or glass of wine, you'll find both options -- and everything in between -- in the towns of Lake Tahoe and Truckee. I still remember the horrible fires of 1988 which scarred over a million acres of our beloved Yellowstone National Park. Tahoe -- like Yellowstone -- will eventually recover. 

ONCE THE FIRES are contained, there should be time to plan a late-summer or early autumn trip to these treasures in the mountains of California.  The fires are slowly being put under control and tourism is expected to be resurrected with warm weather into October. When the smoke clears, you'll find fun or relaxation to suit your taste.

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
take in Lake Tahoe at least once a year.
Here, they are in the woods near the lake.
TAHOE IS KNOWN for its steep granite cliff sides,  towering mountaintops, plus crystal-clear waters. This enticing combination earns the Tahoe area an international reputation with boaters, sailors, and water sports enthusiasts of all kinds. 
The Tahoe area features a large, beautiful freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, straddling the border of California and Nevada. As in Vegas, the south shore casinos are open 24-7, but in Tahoe you'll likely have a view of the mountains -- not the wall -- when you take a break from the blackjack table.
 Dining options abound from American to Chinese, Japanese to Vietnamese, and Italian, Greek and Thai. With a nod to its place in the west, you'll also find plenty of burger and steak options.
IF YOU'RE looking for glitz, glamor and nightlife, the south shore of the lake is where you'll want to locate. The casinos are clean and most have smoke-free areas.  While there is not the multitude of shows one finds in Las Vegas, there's plenty to choose from -- comedy, live music, variety, and some decent bands for dancing.
A stately home  in Tahoe's Incline Village.
THE SIGNIFICANT difference between north and south Tahoe is in the bars and restaurants.  The south shore has plenty of both, many with live music. 
The north is quieter, more laid-back, home to a more sedate community of full-time residents and wealthy "second home" people.  Tourists who stay here seek a more scenery-oriented country vacation experience. North shore towns are are smaller and more sedate, with businesses and eateries closing earlier than in the south.
Small towns such as Incline Village offer beautifully landscaped residential areas and some palatial  private homes, many with boat houses and staff to run their high-end digs.  The scenery is spectacular.
Fans of winter and cold-weather sport 
will find plenty of options in that area, too.

LAKE TAHOE is known for its beaches and ski resorts. Truckee is known for its logging, ice harvesting, the Emigrant Trail, and the tragic journey of the Donner Party, which spent a horrific winter struggling to survive and starving in the Sierra Nevada. We discovered new detail about their fascinating story at the well designed Donner Memorial State Park museum and Pioneer Monument. Hit the casinos or plan a dinner cruise on a river boat. Read a book with a view of the lake. Take to a rental boat, or grab your binoculars and take a bird watching hike. The area offers something for everyone. For more information or to help plan a stay:

A worker at a Hilton hotel, a brand which won kudos
for its groundbreaking hygiene protocol, still in effect.

UP NEXT: As summer winds down, we're celebrating labor as we've witnessed it these past months of  pandemic purgatory. Labor Day, 2021, is a time for us to express our gratitude to all those who have bravely entered into the work force -- whether in medicine and science, or at hospitals, hotels, malls, restaurants and transportation venues. Celebrating those who labor -- from taxi drivers to front-liners, up next at 
Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, the arts, nature, family and more.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

New York's Little Island offers a creative, restful oasis in the busy city

Little Island is New York City's latest attraction, a brilliantly conceived "island" at Pier 55 in
New York, the gift of two philanthropists who wanted New Yorkers to have a calming place to unwind.
The old wood pilings are visible, adding character and set against spectaclar new concrete pilings.

Little Island photographed by Bruce Keller at 10 p.m.
from a Hudson River cruise aboard a vintage schooner.


Little Island offers a theater where concerts
are held on a regular basis. Tickets advised.


LITTLE ISLAND in New York City  has given new, imaginative life to Pier 55.
The gorgeous park, on an artificial island on the Hudson River, is an eye-stopping creation, a $256  million gift from two enthusiastic New Yorkers with deep pockets and love for their lively town.
Philanthropists Barry Diller and Diane vonFurstenberg visualized a place of beauty to  encourage rejuvenation and calm in a busy world. 
View of the imaginative pilings from the north entrance.

Their creation lies in west Manhattan in New York City, adjoining Hudson River Park.
Designed by London's famed Heatherwick Studio, its goal was to create a garden within the busy city, in the Meatpacking District neighborhood and Chelsea.
Suki Rae, composer and flutist,
performs for a delighted crowd.
Little Island offers ongoing treats.

SMALL, COMPACT and beautiful, the 2.4 acre park was fashioned on the same pier where Titanic survivors were welcomed in 1912. Pilings from the aging pier were left in the water for character and contrast. The project is near the intersection of West and 13th Streets in once lively neighborhoods which in recent years have fallen into disrepair and neglect.
WHEN DILLER and von Furstenberg  came up with the idea, they wanted a calming, beautiful place in the hustle and bustle of New York City.
Despite the pandemic, the sanctuary opened earlier this summer and so far the crowds have been busy, consistent but not overwhelming.
Construction took place over several years.
A SERIES of 280 concrete pilings, gracefully and artistically 
shaped, were brought in from upstate New York.  On top of those pilings, are 132 "tulip pots." All the new pilings are made
of concrete, flood resistant to weather, waves, aging and storms.
A beautifully designed theater, in the style
of Roman theaters, is one of the attractions.
WE WANDERED for several hours through the compact but wondrous gift. By chance, we happened upon a small concert near the lavish restrooms which lead the way to gardens, circular walkways and stunning views of the water and city skyscape. People were enjoying picnics and fresh air and all our fellow nature lovers were respectively masked.

Bruce Keller, photographer, and writer Christene Meyers at
Little Island, on the Hudson River, New York City.
 A WONDERFUL classical flute and guitar duo played Mozart and a delightful offering of baroque and modern jazz tunes. This was also free.
The ampitheater offers concerts and other productions from time to time, but that evening happened to be dark, so the flute-guitar concert was a real plus, a serendipity occurence for two musicians and music lovers. 
NEVER DID WE feel overwhelmed by our fellow visitors,  due in great part to a well monitored on-line ticketing system.  Before noon, admission is free and need not be pre-booked.  After noon, admission is by time slots, crowd sizes are monitored and reservations may be made by the half-hour.
For more information or to book a performance (for a charge) or free admission to the grounds, check out:

Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada-California border, and its
neighbor, Truckee, are next on our stop. Come along.
UP NEXT:  Tahoe and Truckee, California, are next on our list of explorations. We visit the beauty of Lake Tahoe, a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, then stop by Truckee, which straddles the border of California and Nevada. The two are very different, both appealing. While Tahoe is known for its beaches and ski resorts, Truckee is fast becoming a competitor for tourism. Minus the lake, it boasts magnificent mountain scenery, fresh air and eateries of every ethnic persuasion. Come "truckin' " to Truckee and Tahoe, remembering to explore, learn, live. Catch us each week for a fresh spin on art, travel, nature, family and more:

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Baroque musicians present bravura repertoire to rural Montana towns

Violinist Carrie Krause introduces the opening number, a lyrical piece by J.S. Bach, with John Lenti barely visible behind the harpsichord. They were joined by fellow Baroque Music Montana players
at Community Congregational Church in Columbus, Montana. The group is on tour through Aug. 24.


Vocalist Reginald Mobley's resonant countertenor
voice delighted a full house with 

BAROQUE MUSIC boasts a delightful do-over through the world-class talents of Baroque Music Montana.
The gifted ensemble would grace any stage worldwide, but by good fortune, it is based in Bozeman, Montana. 
It's musicians have wide-ranging interests and credentials and come together in Montana from  Massachusetts, Washington and New York.  
THEIR CREDITS credits include study at the country's finest music schools, including New York's famed Juilliard.  
Montanans may recognize ensemble founder, violinist Carrie Krause, whose specialty is early music. The diminutive and spirited Krause is concertmaster of the Bozeman Symphony and teaches students young and old in Gallatin Valley. 
 Countertenor Reginald Mobley is Florida born and Boston based.
Elliot Figg on harpsichord is a native Texan who lives in New York.  Carolina born John Lenti plays guitar and theorbo, a large lute used for accompaniment in the period pieces.
WE HAD the pleasure of catching a concert recently in my hometown church in Columbus, Montana, a small village in Stillwater County.  In the acoustically soothing sanctuary of Community Congregational Church, the four talents played a precise 90-minute
John Lenti masters his theorbo, a large
lute, plucked in period music.

 program of Bach, Purcell, Handel and more.
The generous house was immediately on its feet, hoping for an encore which the group enthusiastically supplied.
 The ensemble is presenting an ambitious season with a repertoire showcasing popular period music played from 1600 to 1750, before Renaissance music came into vogue.
THE ENSEMBLE'S sense of flair comes across in precise,  showy playing.  They've mastered the technique of the period -- formal precision but with a sense of fun.  They stylishly deliver, honoring the baroque custom: choosing small, acoustically perfect settings and appreciative audiences to deliver their inventive repertoire.
Elliot Figg plays with perfection the
 harpsichord; here he introduces a number.
The upcoming  tour -- Aug. 16 through Aug. 24 -- is whimsically titled "Will You Be My Valentini?" and promises a light-hearted program exploring a violinist known as ‘'Little Ragamuffin.’' Florentine born Giuseppe Valentini was a painter, poet, and composer who succeeded Corelli, the great guru of Italian baroque musicians.
THE GROUP has a fun-sounding recording for sale, "BaMM's" inaugural recording, "Sonata Tramontana." It is the first commercially-released period instrument recording in Montana, for CD and digital release and features, says Krause, "our favorite music." The works are especially suited for this instrumentation, she adds, "sublime sonatas from 17th century Germany, to soothe the aesthetic and intimate cravings of the soul." The season continues with these concerts: Aug. 16, at 7 p.m. at Beehler House in Bozeman; Aug. 17 in White Sulphur Springs; Aug. 18 at Bitterroot Public Library in Hamilton; Aug. 19 at Backyard Baroque in Bozeman, and Aug. 24 in Big Sky.

Baroque under the Big Sky. A grateful and enthusiastic
audience applauds performers at Community Congregational
Church in Columbus. Baroque Music Montana performed.


The upcoming collaborative concert tour features another treat for lovers of the period.  Baroque dance specialist Julie Andrijeski will join Krause.

Next year's 2021-22 season begins Oct. 9 and concludes with the ensemble's traditional workshop in August, 2022.

THE WIT of the four matches their talent as they offer engaging insights into the music they love, entertaining the audience with humorous asides throughout the evening. Don't miss the opportunity to enjoy their brilliance.

Little Island is more than a little delightful, a multi-million-
dollar gift from Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg.
UP NEXT:   We visit the newly opened "floating park" called Little Island, in New York City. The imaginative space was christened earlier this summer, a magnificent "do over" of Pier 55, a calming oasis in the city. Two wealthy philanthropists devised the project to revitalize a part of Hudson River Park with nearly three acres of new public space  featuring lush greenery and a diverse array of   carefully tended flowers. An ampitheater offers concerts, and there are many other charms. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, nature, family and more:


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga rock Radio City Music Hall in bravura birthday show

Tony Bennett sang to two packed houses Aug. 3 and 5, capping a two-night concert celebration of his 95th birthday, attended by Bill and Hillary Clinton and 12,000 loyal fans. His pal and collaborator, Lady Gaga introduced the legendary singer. Both are native New Yorkers.


Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga are promoting their
second CD, "Love for Sale," out October 1.


Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett are both Cole
Porter fans. Their new  is album "Love For Sale."
and courtesy Streamline Columbia Records

THE CROWD WAS emotional.  The cast was, too. Two glitzy birthday concerts this week were an unadulterated love fest for Tony Bennett, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto 95 years ago on Aug. 3.

Christene "Cookie" Meyers, Bruce
Keller head for orchestra seats, 
His "farewell concerts" with Lady Gaga were a pair of shows like no others. They were an emotional good-bye -- an affectionate "arrivederci," from the second-generation Italian New Yorker, son of a grocer and seamstress. And it was our chance to salute him.
HE SANG US a tuneful Valentine, a gift to his legions of fans. The love came full circle with two dozen standing ovations, cheers, whistles and a spontaneous singing of "Happy Birthday" to the beloved performer, with Lady Gaga leading the serenade. 
The packed houses were two sold-out evening at Radio City Music Hall. They were well organized, despite the crush of 6,000 eager people jostling to buy souvenir t-shirts and cocktails before taking expensive seats to begin a hit parade of American jazz classics.

Hilton Club New York offers fabulous Midtown
proximity to theaters, restaurants, museums.

 was mandatory at the door even before tickets were scanned.  Cell phones were put into "yondr pockets," little sealed packages to prevent the use of technology during the show. (We have an arsenal of Gaga-Tony photos from four previous concerts; and happily, we were able to take photos before and after.)

Radio City Music Hall was jammed with Tony Bennett fans
and admirers of Lady Gaga, for their sold-out concert.

THE EVENINGS  were a smash three-part hit -- with Gaga offering a generous one-hour set and entertaining commentary (including a shout-out to her friends Bill and Hillary Clinton).  Then she introduced "the great man, the amazing talent, my friend, my mentor -- the guy you've been waiting to see and hear:  Mr. Tony Bennett." Bennett's set was stellar, backed by his longtime jazz quartet. "Just in Time," "Stardust," "Steppin' Out With My Baby" and more. Then the duo sang five songs to end the show, hits from their "Cheek to Cheek" CD, which won a Grammy. Bennett offered a bravura encore, his signature "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." The crowd leapt to its feet for the 25th time.
Lady Gaga introduces Tony Bennett, her good friend and
collaborator on a new album, "Love for Sale.
THE STAR-studded evening featured royalty on both sides of the footlights with VIP guests including the Clintons and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The performers also previewed their new Cole Porter album, out soon. 
Gov. Cuomo declared Aug. 3 “Tony Bennett Day” in New York, tweeting "Few have contributed more to music and arts in New York than Tony.”

BEHIND Bennett's jazz quintet, a full string orchestra graced the stage of the stately 1932 art-deco theater, brainchild of millionaire John D. Rockefeller and cornerstone of Rockefeller Center.

 Gaga charmed the crowd with her repartee, looking both elegant and slinky, changing costumes three times (including one made by her gifted designer sister), bowing gracefully and kissing Tony before and after his set after reeling out a dozen solo favorites of her own to warm up the happy crowd.

BATTLING Alzheimer's for the past five years, Bennett capped his illustrious 85-year career with favorites from his enduring repertoire. He and Gaga, also a New Yorker, have been bravely creating the new CD in their hometown for two years, despite his diagnosis.  
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga,
both New Yorkers, have a long
bond and deep friendship.

 Young Tony sang at the opening of the Triborough Bridge in 1936 when he was 10 years old, so the evening brought the Long Island born singer's career full circle to a hometown crowd.

PREVIEW their new CD and get out the hankies 


Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga offer a pair of "One Last Time"
concerts this week celebrating a new CD coming out soon.

WE BOOKED our tickets the day they went on sale two weeks ago, and planned a New York trip around the concert,  knowing that this might be our last time to see Bennett. Lucky "east coasters" though, have other chances. Bennett has scheduled a handful of solo concerts on the east coast, into October. (No west coast gigs, sadly for us.) Check Ticketmaster for details.

Booking your stay: go to and plug in the property of choice. There are many Hilton brand options in New York. We have enjoyed Hilton Club New York, New York Hilton Midtown, Hilton Times Square, The Quin and many other Hilton brand properties.

Carrie Krause introduces a program of baroque treats
in Columbus, Montana, at Community Congregational Church
UP NEXT: From Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett and jazz, to period music and the unusual repertoire and musical instruments of the period from 1600 to 1750.  We feature the upcoming schedule of a gifted ensemble, Baroque Music Montana.  The group offers musical treats  on tap and on tour in Montana.  We took in a concert recently and share the talents of this fabulous, precise quartet of talents playin period music of long ago. Meanwhile, enjoy, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, nature, family and more: