08 Aug 2019

Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Explorer

Allyn and I boarded Regent's Explorer today. It is the loveliest ship we have ever been on. Our room is sensational. We are looking forward to a great experience on our home here for the next three weeks.
The rooms are large and well designed, and quite pretty.
All of these photos are from our Cabin 901.

06 Aug 2019

Madrid, Spain 2019

Guernica, one of the most brilliant artworks ever created, and not coincidentally Picasso’s most famous painting is considered to be one of the most powerful anti-war paintings ever.
And that is the reason we found ourselves back in Madrid. Yesterday we took a trip to Reina Sofia Museum to study, view, and learn about Guernica.
We had such a good time and learned so much last year with our great guide Mr. Hernan A. Satt, partner (with wife Irina) of  Madrid Museum Tours. We were shocked and thrilled when they invited us out for a wonderful dinner at a deluxe local’s restaurant when we told him we were returning.
This 12 x 25 ft black white and gray painting just blows people away even if you understand nothing. You can spend all day looking at it. It doubly blows you away to have somebody explain it.
Early in 1937, the Spanish Republicans had commissioned Picasso to paint a mural for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. 
Then on 26th April 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, Guernica was bombed by Nazi German and Fascist Italian warplanes on request of Spanish Nationalists. Picasso created this masterpiece in response to the bombing of Guernica. 
At least that is what is generally accepted. However, all Picassos are always about Picasso too. Many art historians point out this was a very sad period in Picasso’s life wherein he was in a funk over several love relationships. He produced almost nothing for the first three months of his commission and then cranked out this masterpiece in three months as he had the World’s Fair deadline date.
Note the three women in the painting. One would not grant him a divorce, one was so sad that he wouldn’t marry her, and one was involved in a love killing with his friend.
He was a genius.
Day two was a return trip to The Prado where we just did not have enough time last year. See last year's blog.
This time Irina was our guide. She was great also. 
It is so interesting to learn both the history of the time and the amazing art methodology that was being used. A couple examples:
The Equestrian Portrait of Charles V had such a profound effect on Spanish Art.
The Lovers of Teruel besides one of the great love stories and the detail delicacy such as the lace and pearls is incredible.
We love searching for and finding wonderful small local restaurants around the world and we hit a home run in Madrid near Opera. We had such a delightful dinner at Algarabia. I mean the food was great. There were only six tables. Two sisters own it and work all of it. Isabel is the hostess/server and Pilar is the chef. Dinner for two including wine - 70 Euros.

04 Aug 2019

Grand Canaria, Canary Islands 2019

Although difficult to get to, we enjoyed Grand Canaria Island in The Canary Islands so much last year that we opted to return this year. 
Fun factoids:
*The Canaries name comes from dogs not the bird.
*The bird was named after the islands.
*The Canaries get 12 million visitors annually. Note that Hawaii is about 10 million.
We enjoyed our hotel,Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia, enough last year that we came back this year. 
It has an outdoor gym.
Maspalomas is one of the great beaches.
One dinner was at Rias Bajas. Great Food and service, but no view. Notice how the place is quite empty. That is because it was "only" 9:30 and Spaniards eat very late.
Allyn loves salt crusted sea bass.


Dinner the last night at La Aquarela was sensational. It recently receive a Michelin star. Although it is in the lower level of an apartment, the view, ambiance, food and service are top notch.We had seven courses and seven wine pairings. Wowsers.

In my experience, never have I been to a restaurant that has a purse stool for the ladies where the restaurant hasn't been outstanding.


01 Aug 2019

San Francisco 2019

The first stop on this summer's trip was San Francisco. We came in a day early to have dinner with long time friends Terye and Jacob Levy.
And what a great dinner it was. They took us to Kokkari Estiatorio, a sensational Greek restaurant. You can't go wrong with either the lamb chops or the whole fish fish.
About 4:00 AM I remembered that I left some drops prescribed for my cataract surgery on my nightstand. What a dumbo! After a brief panic I got down to business of figuring things out.
I rejected the idea of trying to round trip going home and making it back in 10 hours. I tentatively ruled out having somebody from the office fly here, but knew that would work.
Then I learned that FedEx actually has a same day service. That was interesting although a $250 option.
Then it clicked. I jumped online and saw that Walgreens had a 24/7 pharmacy in Castro. What a cinch that was. I (Allyn) called them and in 5 minutes max they confirmed who I was, what my prescription was, and said the doctor had already approved two refills. He said it would be ready when we arrived.
And that is how we ended up in The Castro District in the morning.
When I was at Berkeley in college during the sixties this neighborhood was already the center of the universe for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Come to think of it, I don't recall transgender back then. Anyway its still there big time. 
After returning to The St Regis, our lovely home for a day in The Embarcadero, we strolled to and visited Salesforce Park. It is a beautiful 5.4 acre rooftop park above the Transit Center. Other urban areas should take a lesson.

06 Apr 2019

Barcelona, Spain 2019

Guest blogger - Allyn Shulman
Having visited beautiful Barcelona many times, I decided to join some good friends on a walking food tour, also known as Barcelona’s secret food tour.  What a magnificent and informative way to see the city!
We met at  “Plaça de l’Àngel” square where our guide Miguel introduced himself and then introduced the 12  guests to one another. Miguel explained that if we were spending the day together we might as well have a blast.  With all smiles, we knew this was the beginning of a great day.
Wasting no time, out first stop was La Colmena, one of the oldest cake shops in Barcelona located right in Plaça de l’Àngel.  The exact date it was founded is unknown, but it has been thriving since 1849.  Outside the restaurant lies a special plaque which commemorates valued iconic establishments that have appeared in the city over the centuries and now form a valuable part of its heritage. 
Our first treat was delicious.  And off we went!
Next we visited a bustling market full of fresh, bright, shiny veggies, beautiful cuts of meat, fish and cheeses that immediately made us hungry.  Our guide explained the Castilian way of cooking.  The old mamas didn’t use recipes but rather went to the market daily, in order to see what was fresh.  After the mama’s bought the fresh food, they prepared the meal and learned generation after generation how to cook with fresh ingredients no recipe, as opposed to going to the local store looking for items in a recipe.  
Our guide chose three different cheeses and two different pieces of Iberian ham, with one piece of ham being extremely expensive.  The fun part was having a blind taste test.  We all tried the different varieties of ham and of course, my friend Stanley and I were the only ones preferring the very expensive ham.
 We walked through small alleyways with each store being more charming than the next.
Our next stop was El Xampanyet,  one of the most popular tapas bars in Barcelona.  Our guide made sure we arrived just when it opened so we could get in.  He explained that when you go to a bar such as this one, you don’t expect to simply eat.  You order a drink, you speak with your neighbor and you order one item, just to make sure you will like the food.  It will be loud as everyone is speaking, drinking and laughing.  Without asking, the garlic bread arrives; a sliced tomato has been rubbed on a piece of toast with garlic and olive oil.  That begins the event.  
After three generations, El Xampanyet gets it right, which is why it was standing room only when we left.  That’s after enjoying their famous anchovies, sausage, potato omelet, garbanzo beans and eggplant and other delicacies.
As you can see from the honorary plaque outside, Casa Gispert, opened its doors in 1857 and was awarded the honor of being a valued iconic establishment in 1999.  We know this because when we see such a plaque, the date on the left is the founding date and the date on the right is the award date.
The wood fire oven you see is unique in Europe.  The nuts are being roasted and from time to time, a worker opens the oven, pulls out the round barrel and tastes the nuts to see if they’re done roasting.  We had a tasting and the dry roasted flavor was like none I have ever had!
Thanks to its high quality products, Casa Gispert has been recognized as one of Europe’s 10 best food artisans, and awarded by Les Gourmands Associés with the prestigious Coq d’Or prize (Paris, 1999).
No food tour in Barcelona would be complete without the famous paella!   Although we were already stuffed, that did not stop us from enjoying this traditional meal that has held a place of honor and practicality in Spanish homes for centuries.
Walking back to the ship from a long, wonderful but exhausting day, Stanley glanced at his Fitbit and informed us that we had walked 7.2 miles!