December 17, 2016. When Matthew and I made plans to move overseas, we promised each other that we’d take the opportunity to experience Christmas in as many countries as possible. Why such a weird goal? It’s probably due to one too many viewings of Rick Steves’ European Christmas (we even have the music on CD.) Not to mention that I spent several years working with cultural groups to create the Christmas Around the World exhibition at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. And all that surrogate spectating had us hankering to see the real thing for ourselves.
August 8, 2016. I’m guessing that if most of you were asked to rank your top-ten ideal European destinations, Budapest probably wouldn’t be in the lineup. Maybe it’s the lingering impressions of Iron Curtain countries as dismal. Or maybe it’s Hollywood portrayals of Hungarians as blood-sucking vampires, devious gypsies and petty criminals, or brainless beauties. (I’m thinking here of Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula; Peter Lorre in Casablanca and most every other movie he was in; and Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor from T.V. classics like Green Acres and Gilligan’s Island.) But whatever the reason, Budapest has had a bit of an undeserved bad rep, at least in the U.S. Continue reading Budapest Bound
March 23, 2016. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know what’s coming. Given my obsession with all things “oriental,” to use an old-school design term, I could barely wait to see what Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar had to offer. It’s billed as the world’s oldest shopping mall (it goes back to Byzantine times), and supposedly contains more than 4,000 vendors. We’d devoted only a half-day to perusing the place. What the heck were we thinking? In the end, I think we came back here three times. Continue reading Turkey: The Grand Bazaar
February 15, 2016. On the fourth and last day of our Valentine’s trip, we decided to go biking like Belgians. Let me preface this with the fact that I’m a horrible cyclist. I stopped riding a bike at age ten and never really learned how to use handbrakes or gears. That’s why, when we’re at home, we ride a 1971 Schwinn Twinn tandem that Matthew purchased in a garage sale. He gets to man the helm while I provide the rear horsepower. Our first date was on that bike 26 years ago, so the arrangement seems to be working. Continue reading Belgium: Biking to Damme
February 12, 2016. Certain holidays carry considerable baggage. These include Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s — and of course, Valentine’s Day. Each comes loaded with expectations. As the date draws nigh, the pressure mounts to outperform the previous year’s experience. Which is why we decided to spend February 14, 2016, in the most romantic place we could think of: Belgium. After all, it’s the capital of beer, frites, mussels, and chocolate. Stuff we love (xxxooo!!!) Continue reading Belgium: Brussels-n-Beer