• Stockholm Surprise — A Visit During Midsummer

    10 Off-the-Beaten-Path Things to Do & See in Stockholm, Plus Trip Gallery Vibrant. Industrious. Eye-catching. At once cosmopolitan and down-to-earth. At least that is how I’d describe Stockholm...

  • AirHelp Can Mean Refund for Flight Delays

    Fellow travelers, if you’re flying a European airline during any part of your travels this summer (or any time of year, for that matter) and end up with flight...

  • Manarola sunrise from hotel balcony

    Beautiful Ruins & Cinque Terre

    As I turned to the last page of Beautiful Ruins, I found myself wishing desperately that I could go back in time to start it over. And...

  • New Smyrna Beach: More Than Sun, Sand & Surf

    Often the days that are ruled by spontaneity end up being among the best. Upon waking up one Sunday morning, I decided to head over to New...

  • The Market Table seared scallop in blood orange sauce

    Market Table in NYC a Gastronomical Delight

    OK, so it’s true, New York City is a gastronomical delight. People really do eat their way through the Big Apple. I’m sure part of the reason...

  • Inca Trail, Machu Picchu & My Gift to Patcha Mama

    “Haiku! Haiku!” our guide yelled. The Quechua term for “let’s go/get going” became threaded into the fabric of my days and my dreams during the passage across...

  • The Allure of Peru

    It has been four weeks since I returned home from my travels to Peru. I’m not sure why it has taken me this long to blog and...

There is something majestic about flying hot air balloons — being able to soar the skies with the simple release of hot air into an over-sized piece of fabric attached to a wicker basket — most notably in a day and age where the once-considered-romantic way of getting from Point A to Point B by flying thousands of feet above the ground in what amounts to be an aluminum tube under the power of jet engines has become dull, even loveless. Funny how we seem to revert back to the simple way of doing things to get a fresh perspective, to fan that flame of desire and romance. I joined up with a group launching out of Kissimmee, Florida, one cool fall morning, forming my own “chase” team to get these shots.

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This was a day of contrasts. It began with my scheduled  flight training in the Piper P28 and ended with a surprise lesson in a PiperSport LSA. Weather looked okay at the time of briefing but had changed somewhat after we got through the preflight. A wind change meant a different runway and the direction we planned to depart toward had become “dark”. A new plan. So instead of heading up to Sebastian Muni for landing practice like we did yesterday, we decided to practice at Vero, staying in the pattern after each full stop taxi back landing.  We used 29R, right hand pattern. I won’t spend too much time on this, but right-hand patterns feel unnatural to me — maybe it’s because the LH pattern was what I was used to so long ago. Or it’s because you have a clear view of the runway. I think muscle memory must play a part, like in golf.  But each landing got better. And on three of them we were following another student in a PA-28 doing the same thing, except they flew extended crosswind before turning downwind. We just kept to our plan and remained far enough behind to not interfere, and stayed closer to our preferred distance from the runway on downwind. I mentioned this later when chit chatting with another instructor and he said some of the students will do the longer crosswind to mimic a heavier/bigger airplane pattern.  That’s all good and well, but I want to have the best chance of getting back in safely if there’s a problem.  Oh well.  The weather was iffy with rain heading in from the north so we called it quits after 4 landings.  As usual, my last was my best of the series. Read More

Paddle Boarding and ManateesNo, I don’t think it Christ-like and I actually think the connotation a bit trite, but that happens to be the phrase often used by veterans when they allude to standup paddle boarding. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you read correctly. It started out as the thang out on the west coast before finally making its way to the folks and sunny waters of Florida. My introduction came a bit earlier than for most Floridians thanks to working at a magazine publishing company rooted in watersports magazines.  I embraced it fully, purchasing a board a few years ago. Thank you board. On this particular weekend,  I spent time on the water both days. Saturday found me on a nearby lake just after 7 a.m. and before the skiers and wakeboarders took to the waters. It was peaceful. The water, glass. A great way to come into the day, to be sure. Sunday I headed over to New Smyrna’s inter-coastal waterway, about an hour’s drive from my front door, and, after taking the easy route down current, paddled my way back through strong currents and winds, getting a core workout. All the while dolphins cavorting nearby, including the local regular, Split Fin. I even got up close and personal with several manatees. And my friend who was kayaking got real close and personal with the curious creatures. Too cool. And the coolness continues, with regular outings.

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The Market Table seared scallop in blood orange sauce

OK, so it’s true, New York City is a gastronomical delight. People really do eat their way through the Big Apple. I’m sure part of the reason is because they can…they can have food of any ethnicity, any price and at any hour. Once we finally made it here, we were 3 hours later than our scheduled arrival time, which put us at our hotel just before 2 a.m. We were hungry…or maybe a better word is ravenous. Just our luck, there was a Korean restaurant around the corner. And it was delicious. There’s something about eating in a place like that at 2 a.m. that is just cool. Not to be had at home unless it’s a 24-hour pancake joint. Whoopie. Only 12 hours later we found ourselves lunching on  a succulent seared scallop in blood orange sauce (shown above) at the Market Table in the Village for lunch.  The next day we found the Cookshop in Chelsea, and a delicious parsnip soup (I’ll take that with deviled eggs, please!).

Preamble II at The Cook Shop: Deadly Parsnip Soup and Deviled Eggs

Food for the Soul

In between bites at the Market Table and the Cookshop, walks through the neighborhoods presented opportunities to take part in another one of my delights, photography. There’s nothing like immersing oneself into the moment of one’s surroundings. Subtle scenes that might go unnoticed by most during the hubbub of day-to-day activities always emerge during this peculiar state of consciousness. Think about it…no two people hunting for scenes to capture in the same moment of consciousness would capture the same as the other in his/her viewfinder (whoa!). Check out the Shadow and City series.

“Haiku! Haiku!” our guide yelled. The Quechua term for “let’s go/get going” became threaded into the fabric of my days and my dreams during the passage across the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I never would have imagined the extent of the challenge of the 3.2 day, 30-mile hike based on Active Adventures – South America‘s website description alone. Maybe it was the fever that took up high residence the day before we were to begin our journey — and had yet to leave the day of — that altered the description’s import, or lack there of. Or, that I later lost the ham/cheese sandwich I gingerly ingested the next morning on the bus en route to the park, and in front of 17 other people, while waiting for our guides to finish checking us into the park. Though I calmly and artfully turned my back and removed myself ever so discreetly from the group before the offending moment of truth, one collective gasp rose up from behind me before the guides rushed those from which it had issued forth closer to the trailhead — and away from me. Never mind the poor cactus upon which I heaved my vengeance…thrice.

Wrongly, the guides thought I was having a bout of altitude sickness, evidenced by the Andean elixir they poured into the palms of my hands, instructing me to rub it heartily between them before bringing my palms close to my nose and inhaling deeply. Opening of the lungs to combat the altitude was not what I needed in that moment … or, as it turned out, for the next 72 hours. But the heady floral alcohol-based concoction used by shamans to “open” one’s energy was still hard to refuse despite the misdiagnosis. Read More

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