God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

San Diego

San Diego calls itself "America's Finest City" which seems similar to a self-promoting social climber. If you say something enough times you will believe that it is believed. I have wondered if other cities snicker when they hear this and find a quality of hubris in the self-inflicted title.

But........if you were here today, you would find the moniker absolutely on-target. Other places called home pale in comparison. Today was incredibly beautiful--the reason a rather incompetent past mayor promoted the "finest city" concept. She is gone but we remain "fine."

For three days we have awaken with sun streaming through the windows, heat shimmers on the leaves and wisps of clouds threading the blue skies. It is days such as these that bring "paradise" to mind. Casey's first order of business after school has been jumping into the pool, enjoying the first dip of the year. Solar heat panels have created warm water--at least for a 10 year old.

But, San Diego is rather schizophrenic and manic. A week ago we were freezing. It was bitter cold--well, by Southern California standards. I had to wear two sweatshirts--one a hoodie--and cozy gloves at the Little League game. Today it was shorts, a thin cotton T-shirt and sandals.

Yesterday we bordered on 100º. And true to the city's illness, tomorrow is to be fog, low clouds and a significant drop in temperature--down to 72º.

These are the reasons people flock to us in the winter--snow birds they are called. Sunshine has an allure that is irresistible to frosted noses and red hands. Although our beaches aren't so usable in winter, they are beautiful and the sunsets awe us all. God's handiwork is displayed in its glory.

Such days as these lend credence to San Diego's claim to be "America's Finest City." But, there are measurements other than weather and, perhaps, competition is greater in areas of substance.

It is in the areas of intelligent planning, honest government and human institutions, impact and interactions that we may find ourselves less than the "finest."

Self analysis, which is hard for you and me, is even more difficult for San Diego as long as we hide behind the beauty which God has gifted this corner of the world.

At the risk of sounding disloyal to this town I've called home for 32 years, we still have some work to do in order to be "the very finest." But--we'll get there--I'm sure. Just, please, don't ask me to compare it with my second home--Greve in Chianti.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It'll Make Your Day

In the event you have missed this, here it is. I think you'll agree that it's well worth 6 minutes of your time.

You will smile, feel good and know that it's something special . Turn your volume up and Enjoy!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Good Gramma

That's what I am tonight--a very good gramma. This is spring break here in San Diego. Which means Casey is home 24/7.

You know I love him...but......we're in the middle of a major remodel with plumbers, electricians, painters, tilers, granite fabricators, carpenters etc., etc., etc.

Ken is out of town for the week--smart man that he is. So far in the four weeks of chaos here, he has been gone three. I am sure that he will have the wisdom to love each and every decision I've made in his absence.

Anyway, at some time in the near past, Casey asked if he could have another sleep over and I, tending to forget that the future arrives, said spring break would be a good time.

I have been being reminded for many days of that negligent promise and tonight the future came. The good news being that this time we have only one friend as opposed to the three that came last time. I am becoming smarter the further I get into this grandparent parenting thing.

Tonight we have Kurt, one of Casey's best friends since kindergarten. They have grown up together and have always gotten along wonderfully well. I don't think there has ever been a harsh word between them. This is a one of those friendships that will travel with them for many years.

Tonight we went out for Mexican fast food--the staple diet here in SoCal and always a safe place to take boys for a night out. I had forgotten how silly ten year olds can be and that girls have no monopoly on giggling. I drive a little 1998 Saturn coupe--the kind you fold into and out of--and I am sure that other drivers were startled by the bouncing car moving down the street. The boys were laughing so hard that we were rocking from side to side and up and down. It's amazing I was able to keep us on the road. My sanity was seriously challenged. But, I admit I was enjoying them and their meaningless (to me) rapartee.

Now it is bed time-a meaningless concept tonight, I'm afraid. The boys are upstairs where they have made a tent out of the sleeping bags which are supposed to be used for sleeping. The portable DVD player is in there with them and they're watching a 4 hour and 40 minute Harry Potter movie.

This does not bode well for my sleeping. Particularly because I am certain that they won't like sleeping on the floor and will get me up to arrange the sleeping bags in proper form.

In the morning the workmen will be back and the boys will want breakfast--maybe we'll make a trip to Jack-in-the-Box for one of their healthy egg offerings.

And, I am home free from another sleep over until the next time I cave or forget I said "I'm too old--never again."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Slow Europe

Not so long ago--2001--I would use the AOL travel boards to find advice from fellow travelers as we planned trips abroad--Europe, Africa, China, and the Americas. But, in 2001 a new player appeared on the internet and soon became the preeminent voice for traveling in Italy--eventually this voice branched out to other parts of Europe and the world, but, Italy continued to be the engine.

The force behind this venture which was called Slow Travel was Pauline Kenny. She advanced the concept that traveling slow, savoring a locality, settling in and "getting the feel" of people and life was far better than rushing through a country or countries, always remaining a stranger to any understanding of the places passed through in the quest to "see it all."

When Pauline started Slow Travel it was a very basic site--somewhat amateurish and simple; however, in the years that followed its inception, it transitioned into a highly polished, sophisticated resource for unbiased information provided by everyday people who traveled and wanted to share their learnings. Advice ranged from the best place to drop off a car in Rome to wonderful places to rent for a week and, most importantly, the best gelateria in just about any village in Italy. In this process, great virtual friendships have been established that often end up with real life meetings.

Ken, Casey and I have met many of these Slow Travel friends over the years. The year we lived in Italy many visited us in Greve--always a highlight experience for us. Usually it was just to share lunch or dinner at a local trattoria or an excursion into Florence for a meal and some shared museum trekking. Being good friends, although only virtual until the meeting, they often brought with them important items--Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch for Casey, maple syrup from Canada, brown sugar, skittles and other hard to find things in Italian stores. Without exception our time with these people who went out of their way to share with us was wonderful--good, kind, fun people. They came from Australia, Canada, England and around the United States. Now, they are all our friends with whom we communicate and sometimes see again at gatherings here at home. When we were in D.C. for the inauguration in January, we had dinner with 16 of us--at a restaurant owned by a fellow Slow Traveler.

We have traveled to places just to meet new friends. Ann and Paul in Hawaii have become close and dear to us. A friend in D.C. who goes by Chiocciola (snail in English) has developed a close relationship with Casey. She entertained him for an evening while we were there so that Ken and I could have dinner alone. Chiaro in Canada adores Casey and encourages him in his reading and school achievements. It is not unusual for people who are passing through San Diego to contact us and make dinner dates. I could fill pages with such vignettes. Life has been enriched by my friend Pauline's vision and creation.

Almost two years ago Pauline sold Slow Travel. It is not unusual when someone has a vision for something new and brings that vision to fruition to then move on to the next thing. Challenges dissipate and grow old sometimes and so to keep alive, new challenges are created.

All of this leads up to giving accolades to Pauline's new venture and inviting you to sample it--Slow Europe promises to be as rewarding as her first.

Although this has similarities to Slow Travel it is different. At this point, it does not have a message board and I don't think that Pauline plans on one--but, since all evolves, who knows what will happen in the future. Currently the focus is on vacation rentals, tips for traveling in Europe, traveler reviews, and more. There will be greater focus on Great Britain along with the continent. I have no doubt that its future is as bright as its older sister. Check it out and sign up as a member.