Travel Notes: Still Swooning Over Patagonia

Travel Notes: Still Swooning Over Patagonia

Few places have the power of Patagonia. It grabbed me as only two other destinations ever have (Greenland and the Gobi in Mongolia). All three share the following: they’re difficult to access, they have cold weather climates, they’re sparsely populated and most importantly, all are dramatically beautiful.

What’s so unique about Patagonia?

Patagonia is one of the most remote places I have ever visited. We flew 3 hours from Rio to Punta Arenas on our National Geographic jet. Then we switched to a smaller charter flight for a 30 minute flight to Puerto Natales. From there, we took a 2-hour bus ride to Torres del Paine National Park where, surprisingly, an absolute gem of a hotel, the Explora Patagonia awaited us. There are no towns or villages along the way. We spent 3 nights and 2 days in the park. Each day was filled with hikes and adventures, accompanied by our guides. One important observation: I saw not one piece of litter over the course of 3 days. Everything that is brought into the park is taken back out. It is pristine. Of all the places we have visited so far, Patagonia is the most eco and conservation-minded.

Scroll down for 5 highlights from this amazing Patagonia Experience.
Read more Read More >

Share this post on:

Travel Observations: South America Edition

Travel Observations: South America Edition

A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma – that’s how I feel about my experiences so far in Central and South America.

I have been trying to figure out why I feel so mixed up about what I’ve seen and experienced over the last week. I feel like I have been whiplashed between meeting warm, nice people, seeing the most beautiful natural scenery, staying at chic boutique hotels, learning about mindblowing feats of engineering and at the same time, having no wifi because thieves stole the cables carrying the internet to the entire country. I’m also trying to wrap my mind around people living according to ancient Incan or Mayan values which often fly in the face of what we consider advances in Western culture – especially as it relates to education and equality of the sexes.

Yesterday, on our last day in Lake Titicaca, I stayed ensconced at our wonderful hotel, the TITILAKA, and attempted to put my feelings into words.

Scroll down for 5 highlights and top-of-mind impressions.
Read More >

Share this post on:

Today, My Central/South American Adventure Begins.

Today, My Central/South American Adventure Begins.

Heading to DC today to meet up with Nat Geo and my fellow travelers.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we fly to Guatemela to begin the first leg of this 21-day adventure.

I will not be writing with any regularity until I am back in NYC at the end of February. I will, however, be posting daily on Instagram. Please follow me. It would be thrilling to have you e-join me on this amazing journey via the ‘gram.

¡Hasta luego!

Read More >

Share this post on:

Disruption and learning: two sides of the same coin?

Disruption and learning: two sides of the same coin?

“If we get up every morning and we say to ourselves ‘what can I learn today?’ we should all be able to define our lives on a daily basis.”

Maestro Jaap van Zweden of the New York Philharmonic

I used to say curiosity was my strong suit but now I want to switch it up and make “what can I learn today?” my motto.

Why this topic?

I had been planning to write about how I was dealing (or not!) with disruption in my personal life. Specifically the disruption of responsibilities at our co-op building. We’re a self-managed co-op which means all tasks associated with the building are handled by us, the five owners. There is no managing agent.

At our most recent meeting, we decided to reallocate tasks to make it easier for all co-op members to contribute, e.g., if somebody has a heavy work travel schedule they have a tough time being here to let in workers and so on.

For me, that meant giving up my beloved role as treasurer and instead assuming responsibiliy for our building’s construction and repair projects. Yikes. Talk about being filled with dread. It’s just not inherently where my greatest talents lie.

But then I had an epiphany. It hadn’t been anyone else’s either. I decided I would tackle the problem by embracing this disruption. I would challenge myself to learn how a building functions and do it with an owner’s mentality.

as luck would have it, inspiration fell into my lap
Scroll down for more.
Read More >

Share this post on:

Walmart’s Super Bowl Commercial Is The Big Winner Today!

Walmart’s Super Bowl Commercial Is The Big Winner Today!

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and without the Packers playing, I’m ONLY interested in the commercials. Here are six favorites plus the award for most cringeworthy.

My litmus test for what makes a great commercial is pretty simple but my standards are high.

Commercials have to be memorable, engaging, persuasive and eminently deserving of the Super Bowl platform. To do that, they have to deliver on #1 and #2 below while absolutely steering clear of #3.

  1. Blaze a fresh trail creatively. Sometimes this means putting a new spin on an old brand that lets us see it with new eyes. While I’ve been a Walmart customer for a long time, the Walmart spot signals the brand is making major strides in becoming more contemporary and is a leader when it comes to retail. Absolutely stellar and fun with strong, highly relevant messaging.
  2. Show me a breakthrough innovation, e.g., Hyundai’s Remote Smart Parking Assist technology. I don’t have a car and don’t plan to get one but this ad is going to have me talking (and plenty of others as well). Equally important, with all the car companies advertising on the Super Bowl, this spot is memorable as coming from Hyundai. No confusion as to whether it’s Kia or Audi or GM that’s offering remote smart parking.
  3. Avoid being heavy handed or emotionally manipulative. I detest treacly, sentimental, pandering commercials. I don’t know why that fake feel-good stuff is such a turnoff but it makes me cringe. And certain brands just can’t help themselves from going there. every. single. time (talking to you Budweiser).

I also want to add that I recognize that the majority of the Super Bowl commercials are not intended for my 65+ cohort. However, I’m weighing in because my age group is the fastest growing and we buy everything from cars to candy to beverages (adult and otherwise).


Here then are the top commercials from this year’s super bowl.
1. WALMART – the winner.

Kudos to Publicis Groupe’s Department W.

Scroll down for more.
Read More >

Share this post on:

Dry January Is Over. At Last! And A Great Red Awaits!

Dry January Is Over. At Last! And A Great Red Awaits!

Not only did Dry January seem to be interminable this year, January felt like the longest month ever (so much drama!). But, February is finally here and I am so looking forward to kicking it off with a glass of red wine (perhaps two) at dinner tonight. Rodrigo and Elliott, I cannot wait to see you guys!

So what was my Dry January like this year?
  1. I’m healthier. I slept better, loved waking up hangover-free, and my osteoarthritis once again feels way better without the inflammation that alcohol exacerbates.
  2. I lost some weight. Down 2lbs from January 1st.
  3. Saved a ton of money. Drinking runs up quite a tab. My dinners out cost about half, or sometimes a third, of what my drinking friends were paying.
  4. Dry January has gotten way more popular. Mintel’s research confirms my observations. Between 2015 and 2019, mentions of Dry January on social media increased by 1083%.
  5. Dry January” the way I pronounce it, apparently sounds like “dry gin.” So weird but at three different restaurants, when I said I was not drinking because I was doing “Dry January,” servers came back to me with inquiries about what kind of dry gin I wanted and one said they didn’t have the dry Tanqueray I had ordered! 😜

Bottom Line.

Equal parts happy that I successfully completed my second Dry January and just happy that it’s over.

Last year, was a major game changer for me. I’m not sure if I’ll see such a dramatic post-January shift this year.

But I am proud of myself for making the commitment and sticking with it.

Cheers!!

Read More >

Share this post on:

Do Single People Really Need Help Dining Solo?

Do Single People Really Need Help Dining Solo?

EATER just ran a rather sad piece titled “21 Restaurants Ideal for Solo Diners.” A few days later, Food52 came up with “How To Grocery Shop For One.” Question for my single friends: is it that hard to enjoy a solo meal out or figure out a shopping list for one?

Eater really set me off with their article headlined – more or less –

One is never the loneliest number at these spots. A lack of dining companions? …Some restaurants make solo diners feel like second-class citizens.. Lost in a book at a table for one?

Eater
C’mon Eater…

And yes, I have friends who are not keen on dining out solo. But the tone of this Eater article reinforces the myth that solo dining is an awkward, lonely experience (subtext: for losers who have no friends). But believe me, it’s all in your attitude and how you approach it.

With 50% of American adults now single, it might be more helpful to explore solo dining through the lens of the confident foodie. For example, highlighting how much easier it is for solo diners to get into the hottest new restaurants by requesting a seat at the chefs counter/bar. In my experience, even high-end restaurants are now increasingly offering bar or counter seating. It’s certainly become my favorite place to sit – even when I am dining with a friend.

Over the years, I’ve come to view bar/counter seating as the perfect VIP experience. You invariably get to chat with the staff as well as fellow diners. When I travel (which I generally do solo), I always check for photos of restaurants I’m planning to visit to see if they have bar seating. I’ve gotten the best insider info from restaurant staff on what to do/see in their city – whether that’s Copenhagen or Tulsa. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, the chef will even give you a tour of the kitchen. That’s what happened in Copenhagen at Kodbyens Fiskebar. Pic above (lower middle) is from my kitchen tour with the sous chef there. It’s an unbeatable experience, really fun. And by the way, a photo from my review of Kodbyens Fiskebar has garnered almost 4 million views on Google! Can you believe that?

Scroll down for more on singles in the grocery aisle
Read More >

Share this post on:

Veronika, NYC’s Newest Hot Spot, Is A Disappointing Beauty!

Veronika, NYC’s Newest Hot Spot, Is A Disappointing Beauty!

In a nutshell, the restaurant looks gorgeous (designed by Roman & Williams). The menu and the food, on the other hand, total letdown. I predict the menu will be redone within 3 months.

MY RECOMMENDATION: come early, get a drink at the bar (no food served), go somewhere else for dinner.

Here’s what you can expect if you do go for dinner

Reservations are hard to come by. For this newest hot spot from Stephen Starr expect to wait at least a month and even then you may only find tables available right when they open at 5 PM or very late at night.

The space is gorgeous. It’s boilerplate Roman & Williams, high ceilings, beautiful lighting, extraordinary flower arrangements, dramatically romantic. This might be nitpicking, but the chairs are very uncomfortable.

Massive staff. We were there early but it looked like there were at least 3 people dedicated to our table of two. Cutlery was being put down and then taken away before it was even used, then replaced by more cutlery by yet another team of servers. When I actually did need something (salt), they delivered an empty salt container. They’re clearly still finding their groove. Even our waitress who was professional and friendly, didn’t understand the food. Instead, of offering informed recommendations, the best she could do was offer menu talking points.

Menu is just bad. It’s Eastern European which is an odd choice given Veronika is the restaurant associated with the Swedish-based Fotograviska Museum. I was hard-pressed to find a single item I really wanted to order (the caviar perhaps but at $200?). The majority of the menu items sounded old fashioned and heavy. I ordered the lamb goulash which is served tableside (video below). My friend ordered the Dover sole but left half on her plate which is not exactly a ringing endorsement. For a starter, I ordered the poppyseed milk bread with cultured butter. The bread was dry and overbaked. Sheri ordered the consomme nana – a chicken soup which she seemed to like (but I’m not sure she thought it was $24 amazing). For dessert, we shared a charlotte russe – also underwhelming!

One thing did not disappoint: the Corsair cocktail. My friend Sheri ordered it and the minute it arrived, I desperately wanted to order it also. It looked and smelled amazing. It’s made with rye whiskey, cognac, cinnamon, barolo chinato, cherrywood smoke and is poured tableside (video below). It took a lot of willpower to stick with my Dry January commitment.

bottom line.

WOW! Major disappointment. However, if design is your thing you must check out the space. But sit at the bar – and order that Corsair. And then perhaps get another drink downstairs in the Chapel (their speakeasy). It was very crowded on Tuesday night but it is worth poking your head in. Again, visually stunning.

The Fotograviska Museum on floors 3-5 is also a disappointment. I can’t believe they have the nerve to charge $28 a ticket. I’ve been to the original in Stockholm which is extraordinary. The NY version feels third-rate in comparison. I don’t get it. Low ceilings, horrible flooring. 3 or 4 small shows that are poorly installed. The whole thing is kind of tacky. Did they run out of money?

Scroll down for photos from our dinner and from the museum.
Read More >

Share this post on: