Day 197

From Suzanne’s Files — a lovely blog about luxury everything, but especially those things I associate with the good life, like travel, arts, culture, food, and indulgences — here’s a wonderful post about 8 Great (deluxe) Walking Holidays. Their suggestions are tour-based, featuring independent companies that take groups on walking adventures everywhere from Iceland to China, Spain, Peru, Botswana, and Tibet.

Boundless Journeys is just one of their suggestions. I checked out the site, and this month’s featured journey is a trip to Mongolia — a place of sweeping plains, snow-covered mountains, and the Gobi Desert — that I can only dream of visiting.

Suzanne says: Steering clear of the more popular places to hike, Boundless Journeys chooses destinations for their richness of culture and natural beauty—places like Iceland, Bhutan, Palau and the Baja Peninsula, as well as off-the-beaten-path spots in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. Promising hand-crafted journeys with a spirit of adventure, the firm has an enthusiastic team that travels regularly to acquire the first-hand knowledge that can make or break a walking vacation. Groups are generally between eight and 10 people, and accommodations can be anything from a five-star hotel to a thermal sleeping bag under the stars. After working up an appetite, you’ll happily devour the dinners of fresh regional cuisine, perhaps toasting your day with a glass of local wine.

To read more, visit Suzanne’s site. . And dream away…


Day 172

Rainbow Over the Pacific

This wisdom just in from Hawaii: you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.

Something to think about, friends, as we’re impatiently waiting for “true spring” to arrive. There is a silver lining to every cloud. You just have to stay on your feet long enough. And you have to be looking up.

It helps if you’re in Hawaii, of course. Since I won’t be there anytime soon, here’s a glimpse of the beauty that rain and clouds can bring, all courtesy of Storey, who visited the islands with her family to celebrate a milestone birthday. Thanks, Storey!  And, as Melissa said to Savannah, “Next time, I’m hiding in your suitcase!”

Clouds at Sunset

One (if) By Land

Day 157

I was out in Sag Harbor almost a week courtesy of Leslie, whose mom owns a gorgeous contemporary house filled with sunlight, a couple of Jasper Johns prints, an original Frank Stella, and a lot of sculptures that look like a cross between little people, trees, and fire hydrants. It was all pretty spectacular.

But wait, you’re saying. What’s that got to do with Angels, Health Care, and Sex?

It’s a little secret I learned from Leslie, the consummate journalist: Angels, Angelina Jolie, Health Care, and Sex are among the most popular searches on the internet.And so the headline — sorry, faithful (another hot internet search word) readers — is simply a ploy to bring fresh eyes to this site.

So WELCOME VISITORS. I invite you to lace up your walking shoes, touch your toes a few times, and join us on this year-long walking project. You can walk as much or as little as you like: just make a commitment and stick to it.

Spring is coming. What are you waiting for?

Day 152

From Singer Island, Florida to Sag Harbor, New York…from family folk Melissa, Rosemarie, and Nana to dear friends Leslie and Pam. I’m here to craft the final revisions of my new novel, The Hundred Year Storm. But I still had time for a great walk along the bay this morning!

* and no, I do not mean “one by-otch” to another. I literally mean the sandy stuff between my toes. C’mon now!

Day 84

The strip of Vegas, that is…

While the rest of us were fumbling with snow boots and digging hats and gloves out of the attic, MyBigWalker  Storey was in sunny Vegas, doing the strip and having a grand old time.  Here’s what she reports from that sunny tract of hotels and forever-holidays West of the Mississippi:

“Eight of my closest girl friends from college planed a trip to Las Vegas because we’re all turning 50 in 2010. We had a late night and agree to go to the gym early Friday morning.

After about a half hour of weights and tread mills I couldn’t take it another minute. It was 50 degrees and sunny and I had to get outside.

With a bit of a hangover and the wind at my back I took to the street at a brisk walk. This city had a rhythm and I found myself running ( I am not a runner). There were stairs and an overpass about every three blocks that crossed over the strip, I could see the whole city and even the mountains in the distance. The sights were amazing, I ran past “Paris,” “New York,” “The Pyramids,” Caesars, Elvis’, fountains, and strip clubs.  I got the feeling that people were staring at me wondering how anyone could be running so early after spending a night in Las Vegas.

I was wondering that myself.

But I was pumped.  I was dodging pedestrians, bounding up flights of stairs and feeling like Rocky Balboa. I stopped to snap a few pictures of Sin City while crossing over the street on the pedestrian overpass. I was invigorated beyond words. My enjoyment of this  “walk” was fabulously unexpected and with an open mind and a pumping heart (Vegas is at over 4,000 feet above sea level) and a huge smile on my face, I enjoyed the view! Viva Las Vegas!”

Day 34

neitherherenorthereBill Bryson — journalist, travel writer, and all around funny guy — has this to say  in his hilarious book, Neither Here Nor There, about walking through Paris.

“…I soon learned that everyone in Paris was like that. You would go into a bakery and be greeted by some vast  sluglike creature with a look that told you you would never be friends. In halting French you would ask for a small loaf of bread. The woman would give you a long, cold stare and then put a dead beaver on the counter.  
      ‘No, no,’ you would say, hands aflutter, ‘not a dead beaver. A loaf of bread.’
      The sluglike creature would stare at you in patent disbelief, then turn to the other customers and address them in French at much too high a speed for you to follow, but the drift of which clearly was that this person here, this American tourist, had come in and asked for a dead beaver and she had given him a dead beaver and now he was saying that he didn’t want a dead beaver at all, he wanted a loaf of bread. The other customers would look at you as if you had just tried to fart in their handbags, and you would have no choice but to slink away and console yourself with the thought that in another few days you would be in Brussels and probably able to eat again.”

Now, Frank and I did not encounter any dead beavers in Paris.  Not that we know of, anyway. In fact we enjoyed the food tremendously. And we enjoyed it more when we were able to decipher the menu with some  help from our (mostly friendly) servers.  And so ‘food’ leads off the second half of my top 10 reasons why Paris is an amazing walking city.

SAM_02355. The Food.  Particularly the oysters — or des huitres, which my (mostly friendly) servers were happy to coach me in pronouncing. Strangely enough, this word has a deep gutteral phlegmatic growl at the beginning, and a soft ‘t’ sound at the end.  I loved those oysters from Brittany. And I loved them most of all when we walked to a cafe orSAM_0058 brasserie, ordered half a dozen with a carafe of wine, then walked to the next place….for some more wine and oysters. 

6. Old Buildings. Gorgeous ones. The Palais Garnier opera house, the National Assembly, the Palace of Justice  on Île de la Cité  is just the beginning of a list that could go on for dozens of pages.

7. The Louvre. This grand museum housed in a former fortress palace gets its own numbered rating because you can spend days walking here, inside and out. And we did.

SAM_0025 (2)8. Fountains.  Besides the famous fountains in places like the Luxembourg Gardens or Place de la Concorde, Paris is filled with charming fountains that surprise and delight. Like the one at San Michele, and this one, beside the San Sulpice church.

9. The Neighborhoods. From Montmartre to the Marais, each Parisian neighborhood has its own character, architecture, and charm. Rushing back to a shuttle bus on our last, unfortunate, evening in Paris, Frank and I found ourselves twisting and turning through Les Halles, where we were mesmerized by a glass-topped view of a subterranean swimming pool, filled with Parisians getting their exercise. In all-black bathing suits. But of course!

10. The people. Yes, the people. Not because they strive to charm and delight….because they don’t. And not because they always greet you with a warm smile like the Americans or Italians…because they definitively don’t. But because they have a certain haughty je ne c’est quoi that makes the women, especially, an education in how to present one’s self to the world. And they speak that beautiful language, the one that makes them look like they are always puckering up for a kiss.  Don’t believe me? Go ahead, say bonjour. Now say it again, with the heartiest French accent you can muster.

Now check out your reflection — quick.  kiss

Bet you look like you’re puckering up for a big fat smooch en français!

Day 33

florenceI visited Italy twice last year (they were working trips, I swear!) where I spent more than two weeks walking and studying art in Florence and Prato.  These Tuscan treasures are walking cities by necessity, and for 12 days we crossed the Arno via the Ponte Vecchio, climbed two bell towers — one at the Duomo in Florence, one at Santo Stefano in Prato — and for our grand finale climbed up to the  Piazzale Michelangelo for a stunning view of the sunset over the city.

 In fact, maybe I should say Florence is a climbing city.  Many an evening Laura and I and our cotillion of students and family would have been thrilled to find a bus or Metro to take us back to our rooms in the charming, frescoed San Frediano Mansion B&B.  But there’s no public transportation system to speak of in Florence — unless you count the leagues of motorized scooters buzzing along the cobbled streets.

Paris, on the other hand, has an amazing public transportation system — Metro, RERS, trains, and buses crisscross the city east and west, north and south, up and over the hills of Montmartre and under the Seine with ease — if you can read a map, and muddle along with servicable francaiseSAM_0014 (2)

The thing is, Paris is an incredible walking city — one of the best in Europe.  I’m happy to be proven wrong, of course, and would love to discover another walking city that rivals Paris. But until I hear from you and walk it for myself, I’ll stand by Paris.  Here are the first 5 of my 10 reasons why:

1. The Seine. Walking along the Seine, across its bridges, and around the Ile de la Cite is one of the most romantic and visually pleasing  riverwalks I have ever experienced, anywhere. The Parisians seem to think so, too.

2. Art. A lot of it. Indoors and out.  On our second day in Paris Frank and walked through the Tuileries gardens, the L’Orangerie,  and the Musée d’Orsay, all before stopping for lunch.  It was like walking from ancient Rome to Monet’s Giverny gardens   in a mere few hours.

3. Cafes. Everywhere. And not a bad glass of wine, loaf of  bread, or Cafe Creme to be found.

4. Boulangeries.  If the French women can eat their fill of  Pain au Chocolat and Tart Tatin without getting fat, it must be genetics.  Or caffeine. Or maybe it’s the walking!?

SAM_0043 (2)5. Parks and Gardens.  The gracious and romantic Luxembourg Gardens (named one of the greatest gardens in the world), the San Sulpice fountain square,  the panoramic view of Paris Eleanor and Leendert showed us from Parc de Belleville — the highest park in Paris —  the mazes of Greco-Roman statues and shrubbery in the Tuileries — the list goes on and on. In picturesque Montmartre, en route to the Sacré Coeur, Frank and I passed by the last working vineyard in Paris.

Come back tomorrow for the next top 5 reasons to walk Paris.   I have the list now…I’m just having trouble paring it down to a mere ten!

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