From Copenhagen we travelled to Berlin. Well, my son and his friend to Stockholm, and my friend and I to Berlin.

I had heard from everyone with whom I had spoken what a terrific city it is, and I was still very pleasantly surprised. It is much prettier, greener and bolder than I imagined. First of all it has - to my immense astonishment more waterways than Venice. It is traversed by the river Spree and canals, of which I too was unaware. Much more green space - and well maintained with artwork - than I ever imagined. It is more cosmopolitan and the architecture while not always pretty is bold. So I have joined the bandwagon and it is my new favourite European city, much like being in the first flush of love or infatuation! 

I was very lucky to be able to travel to Copenhagen (and Berlin - in another article) this August. It was a short trip, unplanned and done on kind of short notice. This time to celebrate my son's end of articling position before his call to the bar. 

We spent 4 days; very full and quite delightful. I had heard the city is lovely, and indeed it is - very lovely and picturesque. The people are extremely friendly and the food very good. We stayed in an apartment rented through the ubiquitous www.airbnb.com. It was across the street from an amazing food market; there were flower stalls and other sundry articles, but it is mainly for food and drink www.Torvehallernekbh.dk. Needless to say it was where we did quite a bit of eating and drinking.

The foodstall selling fresh gnocchi was the best that any of us had eaten anywhere, hands down - bar none. They actually rolled out the pasta and proceeded from there as each order was received. That with a glass of champaigne from another stall, sunshine and what else could one ask. Very, very good Smorrebord of course; fresh fish and meat with excellent bread and cheese. 

The first day we had dinner that was booked through Dine With The Danes (www.facebook.com/dinewiththedanes) who can be contaced via their Facebook page. They book your meal with a local family to get a unique experience. We had a lovely evening and dinner with Lotte and Peter Stroiman. The instructions and directions were exact and they met us at the station; they live about half an hour from the city. We walked to their lovely, typical Danish home and were treated to dinner and beer made locally - infact in a forest about five miles from where they live! It is an experience I would recommend highly.

The next evening one of our party suggested (think it may have been courtesy of Tripadvisor) Les Trois Cochons. It is a pretty restaurant, with good food, wine and service even if expensive for what it offered I thought. Nice mix of French and Danish food in a nice location, which happened to be quite close to where we were staying.

We also visited the stunning Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek, about 25 miles north of the city www.louisiana.dk. It has a stunning permanent collection and sculpture garden. It is situated right on the shores of the sound from where you can see Sweden. The cafeteria is located in the garden and the view from a table there on a clear day is simply spectacular. In addition it is easily accessible via train. A bit of trivia which may be just legend - apparently named so because the owner had 3 wives all named Louise.

That evening to celebrate the birthday of one of our party we went to a lovely little boite called Restaurant Krebsgaarden run by the chef Carsten, and sommelier Mats. The service was impeccable and the food quite superb. We found it via Tripadvisor, and would recommend it without hesitation. The food is influenced by the art which is showing in the adjoining gallery. The attention to detail was admirable and their passion and knowledge infectious. 

On the other hand, it is an expensive city and our visit to a bar called Ruby/Ebony & Ivory wasn't as good. The drinks were fine, the location is lovely on the water, but the service quite lackadaisical. Small quibble to an overall lovely experience.

There are a number of vintage shops to explore. Also some small design studios We did a boat tour to get an idea of the city, and lucked out with a guide who wasn't just knowledgeable but had a wonderful and droll sense of humour!

Of course as anywhere, there was a lot of walking involved to get a feel of the city. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the excellent public transit. Worth thinking of a return visit I think!

On the way through from Berlin, we had the good fortune to have a few hours to kill at the airport between flights and indulged at The Caviar House in Terminal 3 with some champagne; very civilized finish to a memorable vacation.

 

 

After two years I returned to Buenos Aires in late March for a little over five weeks. Yes, I stand rebuked, the blog is overdue. Blame it to the fact that I process things slowly and needed some distance and reflection before penning this. Further apologies because I am very negligent when it comes to photos, from which some of the new venues I went to this time would have benefited. Fortunately, we have the internet and they have websites with photos and reviews too.

Of course it was a wonderful trip, despite minor mishaps; but I was there for a long time and these things happen. The city - as always - seduces and by turns makes me want to leave! But that is also it's inherent charm, one begins to miss it and its idiocyncracies. It is by turns enchanting and frustrating and entirely addictive, or is it just my personality? Which doesn't really make a difference, I am drawn to it. Not least of it's attractions is tango, which I started to learn there a little over five (where did the time go, and why am I not better at it?) years ago, then it seemed important to learn the language, and of course not the least of it's charms is it's people, their friendship and generosity, sometimes in the face of no little adversity. Not sure if I am trying to explain or justify myself here?

One of the best things that I experienced was a couple; Alfredo and Silvia Alonso introduced to my by my teachers Bryant and Faye Lopez in Toronto. They are not just amazing and beautiful dancers, but fabulous teachers and extremely generous, with kind and lovely personalities. Of course the opportunity to dance with Alfredo; even if only once a week during our lesson was absolutely magic. They are practically fixtures at some of the old school milongas in the city; not the ones inhabited by tourists though. I had the opportunity to watch them in a show at Cafe Tortoni, worth a visit by anyone's books and not just for the tango. The building is a typically gorgeous representation of the architecture in the city and it has been lovingly maintained. Then after the show, Alfredo (the brave man) picked me to be his partner to dance a tango, much to my surprise and complete delight of course. Think my date Mabel Marcial was suitably impressed! Checkout the website of the venue at www.cafetortoni.com.ar

There are two other bars/cafes or just places where locals hang out that were new to me and very, very enjoyable. Firstly, thanks to my friend Adriana we went to Bar Los Laureles, where I would advise taking a taxi and then you pretty much have to order a taxi through the management to pick you up, because the neighbourhood is still a bit rough and venturing too far away from it is not advisable. Here one goes to listen to music, tango or other, 'en vivo' or live. If it's tango you have the opportunity to dance, but watching is just as much fun. There is usually recorded tango music after to dance to on the weekends. Like most of the city, don't plan to arrive before 930pm at the earliest. There is also a fairly interesting, local menu on offer. It has been deemed a 'Bar Notable', simply meaning it still, mostly maintains it's original interior and definitely it's atmosphere or 'onda'. Look out for a lovely tango dancer from whom I have had the privelege to take lessons too - Soledad Nani. https://www.barloslaureles.com.ar

The next bar I would like to mention was courtesy of Angela, who proved herself my 'angel' in more ways than one this time. One evening, late, feeling a little unsettled I called and asked her if she would like to go for a drink. Being in Buenos Aires, for most people this is absolutely common and done. So, I walked the few blocks to her place and we took a cab to Sanata Bar. Again, plan to arrive late. The food is made inhouse and quite nice if basic; empanadas and pizza. The beer is cheap and good; I think for the first time I actually only drank beer an entire evening!! Very local, and even though there are expats, they speak Spanish. Very casual 'musica en vivo'; two musicians pulled out a couple of chairs and played and sang. No dancing but plenty of quite loud and boistrous talking, at and across tables and of course it is lively. It gets livelier the later you are there. Definitely worth a visit - https://www.sanatabar.com.

I would be remiss not to mention Mundo Bolivar, to which I was introduced by our own Alison Murray and Carlos Boeri. They teach a class there every Friday. I saw the notice on Facebook, so decided to go specially since Alison had mentioned what a lovely space it is. It is in San Telmo, a wonderful mix of resto, bar, cafe, about 4 small apartments I believe and a lovely courtyard in the middle of the property where when the weather is good, Alison and Carlos give their lesson. I had the good fortune to experience that, then I stayed in the bar to drink and listen to live music again. Soren; one of the owners who is married to an Argentine and takes care of the day to day running is usually there and very hospitable. They also have a wonderful event space in the basement. I returned for lunch a couple of days later with a local chef friend; the place was hopping. They were planning to expand hours and menu, so I would recommend a trip. https://www.mundobolivar.com.

I also had the good fortune and privilege to cook at Casa Saltshaker (https://www.casasaltshker.com), a couple of private residences (thanks to our own Juliet and Min) and give a cooking class at the lovely Any Wellcome's beautiful penthouse in Belgrano. Did manage to get to Proa Foundation, MALBA and the Museo Bellas Artes, as well as for the first time the Jardin Japonese. A beautiful, serene Japanese garden donated and kept-up by the local Japanese community. There is quite a creditable Japanese restaurant onsite too, which is worth a visit. 

The mixture of work and pleasure was most enjoyable and welcome; even though my trip to Cordoba did not materialize. A story for another time!

 

 

Full disclosure, my family lives in New Jersey and I hadn't visited in abour 4 years and not met them close to 18 months. What a great excuse to get there this fall and of course go into the city too. Bonus - a university friend whom I hadn't seen in over 15 years was visiting her sons in the city, and we would get to visit.

Not a very auspicious start, I took a tumble on the escalator at Billy Bishop on the way out! Good news (later) nothing broken, not so good (right away) very, very swollen left wrist and of course pain. Fortunately the lovely stewardess gave me ice on the flight and that kept the swelling down.

Anyway, not to be discouraged I went into the city on Sunday having bought tickets to see both Richard III and Twelfth Night. Shakespeare's Globe production in repertory, all-male cast playing both male and female roles, they were presented in the custom of how Shakespeare’s plays were first staged; actors participating in the pre-show ritual of dressing and preparing their make-up on stage, in front of the audience; music played live on traditional instruments; and lighting created almost exclusively by 100 on-stage candles, it was definitely worth the effort and Mark Rylance was absolutely riveting as Richard III (one of my least favourite Shakespeare plays), and Olivia in Twelfth Night. Stephen Fry played Malvolio. I had a perfectly wonderful day.

Went back on Tuesday to meet my friend, we spent a couple of hours at the MET; a wonderful exhibition called Interwoven Globe, the Worldwide Textile Trade 1500 - 1800. It was fascinating with textiles from India, Japan, China and Portugal to name some of the countries. It showed how the textiles actually influenced each other and the examples were stunning to say the least. The roof garden commission by Imran Quereshi was to my mind, more forceful in pictures than reality. Perhaps because the painting on the roof in a deep burgundy (old blood-like) in the shape of paisley and even flowers, seemed to resemble blood spatter in the photos of the installation but didn't have an impact when viewed. It was disappointing. Did a quick walk through of Balthus, Cats and girls too. 

Had a rockin' lamb shish kebab (my friend opted for one with rice) at the Halal Guys at 53rd and 6th close to MoMa on 53rd. Said goodbye to my friend and went for a look through before meeting another friend for dinner at the Modern; MoMa's one michelin star resto which left me a bit underwhelmed. Must have been the late kebab lunch!

Spent a lot of quality time with my neice, brother and sister-in-law. The weather was pretty spectacular in that special way that certain days in the fall are; not too hot, not too cold, glorious foliage and sunshine! Oh yes, also went to see Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart in Waiting for Godot. It was in previews and though Ian McKellen I thought was terrific, think the rest needed a bit more time to settle into the play and themselves.

Looking forward to seeing several of you in the near future. 

As promised this is the blog about the sights in Barcelona. Ok so most of them are those favoured by tourists and recommended by anyone who has visited, or any book about the city. Again, for good reason because even though this was my second visit they all were worth the second visit, and most definitely worth the first.

For any of you with an interest in museums, of which there are numerous, it is a good idea to buy a pass for 30euros which gives you access to 6. It is good value even if you go to just 3. My favourites in no particular order were the Picasso museum, Foundacion Miro and MACBA - the museum of contemporary art. For historical reasons the Foundacion Antoni Tapies is helpful in the history of art in Spain besides being beautiful. The building of the National Museum (MNAC) in Montjuic, a lovely 10 - 15 walk through one of the loveliest gardens from the Miro Foundation is stunning. Not least for the view from the front of the building.

Like almost everyone who goes to the Picasso museum, his take on 'Las Meninas' is never-endingly intriguing; a full series of 58 works. Of course the original Las Meninas is also amazing, and worth a visit at the Prado in Madrid. You may have read an article earlier this summer in the Globe entitled 'Meh, Picasso', but honestly to see his work here, how it progressed and how prolific he was is jaw-dropping.

At the Miro Foundation, the 'mercury fountain' by Calder who was a very good friend of Miro's and made it for the World Exhibition in Paris is amazing. It was actually commissioned by the Spanish Republican government in 1937. It was actually not enclosed and people could see it up close in its original form. The fact that he used real mercury instead of water, the texture of the fluid is astonishing. There was a stunning work exhibited by an artist called Mona Hattoum.

One of my favourite memories as well as sights were the churches. Of course the Old Cathedral is a grand and beautiful structure. But my favourite was the Santa Maria del Mar in the Ribera. It is pure Catalan Gothic, stark and gorgeous and dates back to 998. Parts were under repair but even that did not take away from its stunning beauty and feeling inside.

A favourite pastime was walking the different barris (districts). We were very fortunate to be centrally located in Barri Gotic, but well worth a visit was Gracia where a local festival began in the middle of August where every street competes for being the best and most uniquely decorated. All traffic is stopped, but the throngs of people can make walking some of the street quite challenging; if you are at all claustrophobic you should stay away! Though not every street is that congested; also had some of the very best Syrian food here.

Now back to work, to work! I look forward to hosting you very soon. Hasta pronto!