Sunday, April 27, 2008

State of the Union's Approach to Travel

A leisurely vacation overseas escapes the vast majority of American working dreamers. For most U.S. workers - lacking the time or the money, or both - traveling abroad essentially amounts to an unattainable or once in a lifetime (if they're lucky) luxury.

Having just returned from a quick four-day visit to Montreal, I was already lamenting having to wait a full calendar year to accrue the allotted 12 days of paid time off so that I could take something more akin to what I consider a real vacation. For me, if there isn't a trip on the horizon I'm just not a happy camper. So I put in for my time away next spring, this spring. That's how serious I am about taking time off. I was chatting about this with a friend in Paris and he mentioned to me that the new job he's considering offers―now would be the time to sit down and brace yourself before reading on―48 days of paid vacation. Um, yeah. I was floored, too.

I was reminded of that scene in Sicko where, "Sitting at a restaurant table with a bunch of American ex-pats in Paris, Moore is treated to a jaw-dropping recitation of the perks of social democracy: 30 days of vacation time, unlimited sick days, full child care, social workers who come to help new parents adjust to the strains and challenges of child-rearing." - Ezra Klein

In stark sobering contrast to what workaday Americans are guaranteed, in the way of paid time off in particular: "We guarantee zero. Absolutely none. That's why one out of 10 full-time American employees, and more than six out of 10 part-time employees, get no vacation. And even among workers with paid vacation benefits, the average number of days enjoyed is a mere 12. In other words, even those of us who are lucky enough to get some vacation typically receive just over a third of what the French are guaranteed." - Ezra Klein

Sigh. And a very heavy one, at that.

I'm now one of those Americans who enjoys "a mere 12" paid vacation days. After three years with the company that will increase to a whopping 15. If it weren't for the the fact that I love the company, the work, and the people, I couldn't commit to such a setup. Not unless there were the possibility of unpaid leave, which is what I enjoyed at my former place of employment.

Although, to quote Ezra Klein - "Very few individual workers in the United States can ask for four weeks of vacation. It is not only outside the benefits of their job but far outside the culture of our workplace. The incentives for most every individual, particularly if they want to keep their position and amass a reputation as a good employee, is to abide by those norms," I worked up the gall to ask my last employer for unlimited unpaid leave in addition to the standard two weeks (i.e., only 10 days) he outlined in the company benefits package. For some crazy reason, my request was deemed reasonable and I got my wish. It was fantastic. I even took it a step further when I opted for less monthly income in favor of a four-day work week.

That arrangement lasted for nearly six travelicious years before I decided it was time to move on and pursue my work as an artist more seriously, along with a career/day job that more closely matched personal passions; first and foremost, my love of travel. I consider myself exceptionally lucky to have found just such a place and position. Although I lost my lobby for unpaid leave in lieu of more fully-funded with my new employer, the fact that I enjoy my work counts immensely. Not many people―American or otherwise―can say that.

All that said, this still strikes me as shockingly medieval. This being where the U.S. ranks with the rest of the industrialized world in time paid to step away from the grindstone and catch up on some much needed R&R:

Kinda makes you want to scream and wish you'd been born a Brit or a Brazilian, right?
The reason it's so hard to get a vacation and so hard to enjoy one when you manage to squeeze part of one in is that the U.S. is the only country in the industrialized world without a minimum paid-leave law. As you can see from the chart [above], we've got a death grip on last place in the paid-leave standings. The first column details figures for statutory minimum annual leave and the right-hand column lists combined mandated leave with average additional time off by agreement with employers.
One of the most frequent remarks I'd encounter on my extended two, three, and four week trips abroad in the last five years is how atypical my length of leisure was for an American. Americans are often criticized for being an insular clan of overworked folks who take quick trips of five to seven days abroad and aim to squeeze in as much as possible within that tiny time frame. Going from Venice to Florence to Rome in the space of five or seven days doesn't sound like leisure to me; it sounds like stressful work. How can one possibly achieve a state of relaxation when so much time is spent traveling and sprinting about on the vacation itself? But given that "the average number of days enjoyed is a mere 12," what's a Yank to do? Spend the whole 12 on a single trip without saving time for family events or other piecemeal days off needed throughout the year? It's not like most companies allow a plethora of "personal days" or sick leave. That's right. For many Americans, sick time can often dip into vacation time because we're also lacking a logical allotment of paid sick leave.

It's kind of sad―though it's brought me unmeasurable pleasure, but I'm more and more thankful to be single and without dependents. Life is expensive these days and it's difficult to coordinate time off with friends, family, and partners. Especially when you're unwilling to take a five or seven day trip to somewhere 10 or more hours away by plane. I can't even imagine affording a real vacation, with kids. Let alone enjoying one! Not that it's not possible for those of us making less than $100,000 a year. I'm just saying that I can't imagine it.

In conclusion, I think that when one's government does not espouse or encourage a proper vacation by law, it is unarguably apparent that said government does not truly expect its people to be citizens of the world. Particularly puzzling when the nation in question is one of the richest in the Western World. The part that shouldn't come as a shock, then, is that in the United States, the vast majority of Americans can afford to be nothing other than what they are: untraveled people whose idea of a vacation is a three-day weekend (often spent working, from home!) It might also explain why Americans can be such ugly travelers, as they say. We don't get out much. Out of the country, that is. Our culture both in and outside of the workplace doesn't allow for much else (lack of support or mandate from the federal government; professional/social peer and personal pressure to work longer hours and to value material rewards rather than experiential rewards like vacations). Coupled with the ever increasing cost of living and the well-traveled American becomes the true overseas oddity. It's the truth, and it's a travesty.

Update: August 5, 2010 - Why don't Americans have longer vacations?

Questions? Ask away! Please use the comments feature to ask questions rather than contacting Marisa directly. That way everyone can learn a thing or two, too.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A broad at home

Take-home trips: Titillating travel designed for use at home or away.

While either ramping up for a trip and seeking inspiration or just because, I read these books and found them to be entertaining or informative or both. At the very least, definitely worth delving into. Thought you might derive some virtual vacationing pleasure from them, too. Alphabetical by country and continent, note that the books themselves appear in no particular order of preference or importance. The list includes fiction and non-fiction titles, both. If it's not here, it is quite possible that I found the tome insufferable and wouldn't recommend it to a soul. For example, I can't do Frances Mayes. After attempting Under the Tuscan Sun on more than one occasion, I finally gave up for sheer boredom. While I did get through A Thousand Days in Venice, I found it flat and devoid of any real charm; an accomplishment for a book set in Venice, one of the most charming cities in the world. But that's no reason to read it. On the contrary! Anyway. As with my "When in ... " list, I'll try to keep this collection of recommended reading fresh. So check back periodically for the latest suggestions.

Travel with a capital T
  • The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton
  • Dirty Havana Trilogy, by Pedro Juan Gutierrez
  • Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson
  • The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory
  • Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, by Bill Bryson
  • A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for
    the Color of Desire, by Amy Butler Greenfield
  • Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik
  • Athenais: The Life of Louis XIV's Mistress,
    the Real Queen of France, by Lisa Hilton
  • A Place in the World Called Paris, by Susan Sontag
  • A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle
  • Toujours Provence, by Peter Mayle
  • Encore Provence, by Peter Mayle
  • French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew,
    by Peter Mayle
  • A Year in the Merde, by Stephen Clarke
  • In the Merde for Love, by Stephen Clarke
  • The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Lebovitz
  • Mediterranean Summer, by David Shalleck
  • Mistress of the Sun, by Sandra Gulland
  • The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

Set in Venice and peppered with truth about the town, Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti Mysteries are always good reads.

  • Pompeii: A novel, by Robert Harris
  • The Smell of the Night: An Inspector Montalbano Mystery,
    by Andrea Camilleri
  • The World of Venice: Revised Edition, by Jan Morris
  • Venice Observed, by Mary McCarthy
  • The City of Falling Angels, by John Berendt
  • Fatal Remedies:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • Death and Judgement:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • Dressed for Death:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • Death at La Fenice:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • Through a Glass, Darkly:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • Quietly in Their Sleep:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • Death in a Strange Country:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • A Noble Radiance:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • Acqua Alta:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • Doctored Evidence:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • Uniform Justice:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • Blood from a Stone:
    A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, by Donna Leon
  • Falling Palace: A Romance of Naples, by Dan Hofstadter
  • A Venetian Affair: A True Tale of Forbidden Love
    in the 18th Century, by Andrea di Robilant
  • Dreaming Venice, Photos by Fernando Bertuzzi
  • Italian Dreams, Photos by Steven Rothfeld
  • La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind,
    by Beppe Severgnini
  • Pagan Holiday, by Tony Perrottet
  • Mediterranean Summer, by David Shalleck
  • Imprimateur, by Monaldi & Sorti

Hawaiians have some of the most beautiful proverbs and poetical sayings anywhere. A joy to collect and read.

United States
  • I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America
    after 20 Years Away, by Bill Bryson
  • The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America,
    by Bill Bryson
  • Ciao, America!: An Italian Discovers the U.S.,
    by Beppe Severgnini
  • In the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt
  • Olelo No'Eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings, by Mary Kawena Pukui
Questions? Ask away! Please use the comments feature to ask questions rather than contacting Marisa directly. That way everyone can learn a thing or two, too.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Montreal notes from a broad

Cocoa Loco
It isn't often that one meets a brownie worth blogging about. But I encountered (and inhaled) just such a specimen on my quick introduction to Canada, via Montréal. Based on the photos and descriptions found in my Eat Shop Montreal, I made it a top priority to swing by Cocoa Locale. Come rain or shine. It ended up being a shockingly cold day, made all the more frigid by an icy and persistent precipitation. But I made it to Cocoa Locale in one wet piece, just before closing. My choices were an entire key lime pie or two slices of the much touted (per my pre-trip research) Valrhona spicy brownie. Being that it was my birthday weekend and I'd already had more sweets than was either healthy or warranted, I opted for the brownies in luau of the pie (Mais oui - that luau was for you, Jenny.) Oh man. Score. The taste, the texture. The spicy kick! Far more delicious than a brownie should be and gone before I was ready to stop savoring. You must go to Montréal and have one. You simply must.

Airport Encounters
As per usual, the airport proved the place to make the acquaintance of friendly strangers: A new mother and her happy daughter (the little girl of 6-months smiled so much that I smiled so much my cheeks cramped up!) on the way to Montréal; a Venezuelan mother taking the first plane trip of her life (well the second, technically, because she didn't arrive in Canada by osmosis) after visiting her grandchildren in Montréal, on her way back home via Toronto (where I met her). The new mom was Italian, born in Lucca, now living in Napa. Though she'd love to return to Europe sooner rather than later, her family and friends still in Italy assure her the best opportunities to be had remain Stateside. With so many people out of work and unable to afford homes (even those like her best friend, a lawyer), la vita isn't so dolce as it should be for many Italians (and Spaniards, and, and, and) per the move to the Euro, which has made the gap between rich and poor only the grander (or more grandiose). Just because the Euro is up and the Dollar down does not spell wealth and celebration for all those paid in the favored currency. On the contrary. People are struggling now as ever and perhaps even moreso. Unable to find work. Unable to afford property. And all the while the cost of basics like bread and milk and eggs rises. As for the mother from Venezuela, she attached herself to me immediately based first on the assumption that I must speak Spanish (Hablas español, sí? Pero usted es de México o de América Latina, sí? No? Negra? Qué?) and then out of sheer nueva-traveler fear and the fact that I can in fact speak Spanish. Kinda. Painfully poco though. Loco poco even (particularly after spending the last three months brushing up on the French I'd last studied as a student some 15 years ago; as for el español, it's been about 12 to 13 years). And her Venezuelan accent didn't help any. I may not be Mexican, but it is Mexican Spanish one learns in California schools (makes practical sense, ?) So I think the misunderstanding went both ways. I can't think of an example to use, but on words I knew that I knew, her pronunciation was vastly different from the Spanish I'd been taught. Reminds me of learning Spanish at UCLA and my mother asking, "What the hell am I paying them to teach you?" Being a Spanish teacher herself (and shame on the woman for not raising me bilingually, or trilingually; she also teaches French) she didn't understand the benefit of one's learning Spanish in California with an Argentinian pronunciation or dialect. It's true it was pretty useless given the circumstances, but it was fun and I did learn basic Spanish, in the end (I also didn't continue on with that particular professor.) Anyway, back to my lost in translation experience at the Toronto airport. Every time I tried to think of the Spanish I'd deliver a French-Italian-Spanglish fiction that only made sense to me and caused my new friend's brow to crinkle in confusion. I'd try again and eventually put together something loosely reminiscent of the desired language in that it finally made the vaguest of sense, I think, because she'd relax a little and Sí a lot. I got her on the plane and to her connecting flight in the end, and that's all that matters. Sí?

Cafe Culture
I found the cafe life in Montréal to be among the friendliest and most open anywhere. Though I was only in town for three full days, I felt like a fixture in an old haunt from the moment I set foot in Olive + Gourmando. On my first visit to this most delightful of cafes, just down the street from where I was staying, I met a New Yorker who has a flat in Old Montréal. My little piece of Europe, she called it. Our conversation threaded from travel, to reality TV, to the cost of living and the growing gap between rich and poor, to the economy in general, to bankruptcy, to art, and back to travel. Nicest New Yorker I've ever met. On my second visit to the same cafe the next day I met a native of Montréal. We chatted. We watched the passersby and took note of the impeccably chic clientele who glided in and out of the posh boutique across the street. Before I left she gave me her cell number, a few city tips, and invited (and treated) me to coffee (I had a hot chocolate, actually) the morning of my birthday at Cafe Olympico (another cafe with a very friendly, all-in-the-family feel) in Mile End. How nice was that?

Bilingual Bliss
Well before coming to Québec, I'd cooked up a romantic notion of it based on nothing more than the knowledge that both French and English are spoken here. Being something of a rudimentary Francophile, not nearly fluent in the language, there is a certain coolness and comfort factor in knowing that one can use either language and likely be understood (rather than laughed at, the way one's less than commanding grasp of French can sometimes be received in the environs of say, Paris.) My imagined Montréal did not disappoint, in this regard. It was wonderful. I'd been brushing up on my French for a month or three and it proved to be worth the effort. I could read signs and menus and descriptions of things with little difficulty. When people spoke to me directly I think I fared alright. But eavesdropping on conversations of two or more people proved fruitless. I blame the Québécois accent and dialect. Not the French one leans in school, but we'll come to that later. The Montréalaise woman I met at Olive + Gourmando who treated me to a birthday hot chocolate seemed to mirror my sentiment about the uniquely Franglais culture one finds only in Québec. She spent some time living in London and noted that, "I really missed the French." A marvelous Montréalais man I had the pleasure of talking with explained that, "Québec is a separate country, whether it is officially recognized or not." He pointed to the language for support; "How can you claim to know a place if you don't speak the language? I am modest enough to say that while I know something of English-speaking Canada, I do not know it. My English is okay, but it is not my first language." He makes a good point. Even if one knows or speaks some French, unless one also knows Québécois specifically, one can never truly know Québec.

Fun with Québécois
I studied up on my French, when I should have been learning to Speak Québec! I had no idea there are so many distinct and nuanced differences in everything from pronunciation to structure. I suppose I should have guessed as much; judging from how English is or can sound worlds apart within the U.S. itself or as compared to the various dialects of Mother England, Australia, etc.) Oh well. When I go back I'll have a native phrase or two to kick around like a local. Learning beaucoup from my souvenir copy of Speak Québec! by Daniel Kraus. If you can't find one at home, there'll be plenty for sale au Canada. It's a great little livre and one of the only English-Québécois (as opposed to French-Québécois) resources out there.

A few of my favorite entries:
  • An?- The Québécois equivalent of, Huh?
  • Atchoumer - To sneeze. From the onomatopoeia, "Atchoo!"
  • Avoir un face de boeuf - To be in a bad mood. Literally, to have a face of beef.
  • Avoir les baguettes en l'air - To gesticulate wildly.
  • Avoir juste le cul et les dents - 1. To have no personality. 2. To be extremely thin. Literally, to have just an ass and teeth.
  • Avoir le feu au cul - A rude expression meaning, to be furious. Literally, to have fire in one's ass.
  • Avoir du fun - To have fun, to have a good time.
  • Avoir vu neiger - To have experience. Literally, to have seen it snow before.
  • Baptême! - Shit! Literally, Baptism.
  • Chat sauvage - Chat is cat. Chat sauvage is raccoon. What a great way to describe a raccoon.
  • Être game - To be game, to be willing.
  • Faker - To fake, to pretend.
  • Flusher - To purge, to flush, to dump. Ils sortent plus ensemble, elle l'a flushé il ya a trois mois. They're not going out anymore, she dumped him three months ago.
  • Il n'y a pas de trouble! - No problem!
  • Kodak - Camera.
  • Kossé? - What is it? A condensation or deformation of the French, "Qu'est-ce que c'est?"
  • Oreilles de Christ - Fried pig ears.
  • Parlure - Slang.
  • Péter de la broue - To brag about one's abilities. Literally, to fart suds.
  • Pis - 1. And, next 2. "So?" 3. "What's new?" Pis toi? And you? Et pis? And so?
  • Quessé? - Another form of "What is it?" from the French, "Qu'est-ce que c'est?"
  • Questa? - What do you have? What's wrong? From the French, "Qu'est-ce que tu as?"
  • Shafter - To give someone the shaft.
  • Swinger - Nope. Not the noun. A verb. To party, to dance, to have a good time.
  • Tiguidou - Okey-dokey.
  • Tourlou - Toodleoo. Used as "goodbye".
  • Trippant(e) - Impressive, amazing.
  • Tripper - To dig something, to find something cool, to really like something.
  • Zozo - Idiotic, foolish.
Snow Pants
Is that a dog? No. OMG. It's a cat! I met a girl walking her cat on a little harness and a leash. The cat was stopping every few feet to window shop. Yes, to window shop. A long-haired orange beauty, "Mooshe" looked like a lion up close. A lion with snow pants. His fur was so long that it swayed and billowed in the breeze like a pair of pants one might sport in the dead of a snowy winter. Much like the snowy winter he was plodding through right then, on the streets of Montréal. His owner kindly gave me directions to the street I was seeking and she swooped him up and began to carry him. "He gets tired of walking sometimes. Especially today. We've been walking for nearly two hours." "How'd you train him to walk on a leash," I wondered aloud. "It's easy if you train them from when they're kittens. I've done it several times before." I would have never believed it if I hadn't seen it firsthand. And unfortunately you'll just have to take my word for it since I didn't snap a picture. Anyhow, something to remember for when and if I ever find myself on the market for kittens.

A special merci to Liz for turning me on to the term, snow pants. Parfait man. Parfait.

Mall Mania
Montréal boasts an underground city spanning some 19 miles of passageways with 11 subways, 2 railway stations, over 10,000 parking spaces, 37 movie theaters, and 18,000 businesses. Over 500,000 people traverse this subterranean city beneath the city each day. I don't know exactly how many malls they've got down there, but I can say that it's a whole bunch of them and that on a Saturday afternoon when it's raining ice outside, the mall situation below is absolute mayhem. I browsed a bookstore at street-level, exited the same store two floors down, and wandered through three distinct malls before deciding I was completely lost and that there were far too many people to enjoy myself. The first Metro sign I saw I bolted and made my way out of Hades shopping hell. It's a nice idea, but not my idea of fun. Something to see on your first trip to Montréal though. I'd never seen anything like it before (and hope never to see, again.)

If the dollar continues to dip and you find yourself craving a trip to Paris for the cafe culture, la langue, or l'architecture, hop on a plane to Montréal instead. Or Québec City. I'm told that Québec City's old town is far larger than that of Montréal with architecture that is even more quaint and charming and French-European. Québec City is also said to be more conservative and traditionally French. Many people there do not speak any English.

Airport Security and Other Jokes that Aren't Amusing
Why is it so difficult to uphold consistent security rules from airport to airport, or even in a single airport? I flew from San Francisco to Toronto with the same stupid little ladies' Coach pocketknife key chain that I've had on my keys for years. Meaning, it's flown with me to Hawaii, Los Angeles, and Europe multiple times post-9/11 without ever having been confiscated. Truth be told, I didn't even know there was a legitimate blade on the damn thing. When the security person at Toronto showed it to me, I was genuinely shocked, but pointed out that one would be hard-pressed to do any real cutting with the pathetic-looking thing. Scissors and nail file in the event of an emergency is all I'd ever used it for. It was a gift. Would I like to check it for C$7 or lose it? I'm going to miss my flight. Happy birthday. It's my birthday, but keep it. It's yours now lady. The two gentlemen behind me weren't quite so curt with their security situation. A special lighter that they'd specifically been told could be brought on the plane no more than 10 seconds earlier by another security type was now an issue. "You should have checked with the rest of your baggage, sir. I don't care what that woman told you. She's wrong. Check it for C$7 or lose it. Your choice." Being that they were also about to miss their connecting flight, they opted for a loss. But not after losing it with the security guard pretty heatedly (though briefly), first.

Sí, nevando.
On the way home, waiting for my flight from Montréal to Toronto, it started snowing pretty convincingly. "Nevando?" I asked my friend from Venezuela. "Sí, nevando." I don't know how I remembered the Spanish for that. Thought it was one of my muddled, made-up words.

Extreme Passenger
I don't know the how's and why's of it, but I'm continually blessed with making the acquaintance of nice (if not plain interesting) folks when I fly. The flight home didn't pan out any different. Though this was certainly one of the more interesting people I've met on a plane. Extremely interesting. A fellow "mutt" (with a far more interesting mix; thought his last name was Portuguese but he said no, Spanish-East Indian and that his roots are a melange of French-Egyptian, Spanish-East Indian, Caribbean-Canadian, and who knows what all else) and self-proclaimed "extreme traveler", the man in the middle (I had the window) had gone sky-diving, bungie-jumping, mountain-climbing; you name it. Next on his list? Swimming with sharks and night-diving. No joke. He was dead serious. Anything sporty and dangerous, he's all about it. Sharks or scuba-diving in the dark. Hmmm. I can't decide which is more terrifying or insane, or both. What a nice guy though. Offered to show me around Toronto if I ever get out there for a visit. Total sweetheart. Assuming he hasn't had an extreme accident of some kind (which wouldn't be a shocker), I look forward to the (terror-free) tour.

On est Back
In Québécois, rather than using the typical French nous form for we, the on form is used with verbs and conjugations. Thus, "On est Back" rather than "Nous sommes Back". The use of the English word "back" is très Québécois. According to my copy of Speak Québec!, English words are folded in with the French to enhance an idea or to express an extreme. And now, I leave you with some Québécois hip-hop. Note, I didn't say it was good. But it's what's popular at the moment, unfortunately. Perhaps when je suis (pronounced "chwee" in Québécois) back one day, something a little more flavorable will be in fashion.

Questions? Ask away! Please use the comments feature to ask questions rather than contacting Marisa directly. That way everyone can learn a thing or two, too.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

When in ...

A trip to Venice is not complete without a visit to Alberto Valese's shop. Alberto makes beautiful marbled papers and books. All by hand.

When in Rome. Though I've not been there, yet. But you know. That sort of thing. Was just reminiscing about the highlights of trips past and thought I'd put together a broad list of things missed (as in looking forward to seeing or doing, again.) And, therefore, things not to be missed. Anywho, check back periodically. I'll try to keep this little collection of lists up to date as I discover new things one must endeavor to experience when in where ever. I've even included some Stateside favorites.

When in Amsterdam
When in Barcelona
When in Berkeley
When in Budapest
When in Dubrovnik
  • Explore the old town at sunrise (it will be all yours) and again at sunset (when you'll have to share)
  • Day trip by bus to Cavtat
  • Day trip by bus to Korcula
  • Day trip by bus to The Bay of Kotor and the town of Kotor in Montenegro
  • Eat lots of dried figs
  • Eat lots of pastries from Niko
When in Liguria, on the Italian Riviera
When in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu
When in Montreal
  • While away the hours at Olive + Gourmando (351 Rue Saint-Paul Ouest)
  • Dessert from Cocoa Locale (4807 Avenue du Parc)
  • Or from Les Glaceurs (453 Rue Saint-Sulpice)
  • Book-browsing (or buying, if you're up for a supreme splurge) at Librissime (62 Rue Saint-Paul Ouest)
  • Pick a church or two to sample in addition to a requisite visit to the Basilique Notre-Dame. Lots of lovely churches, if I do say so myself. And I've not a(n organized) religious bone in my body.
When in Paris
  • Wander around with your spiral bound copy of Michelin Paris Par Arrondissements and a keen sense of curiosity and adventure
  • Skip the Louvre (or go on a Wednesday or Friday night after 6PM when it stays open until 10PM, the crowds have thinned, and it costs less, to boot) and go straight for a hot chocolate with Chantilly at Angelina's
  • Walk it off in the Tuileries
  • Catch a sunrise at La Tour Eiffel (tout seul) and then, later, share a sunset with the hordes
  • Repeat with Sacre Coeur
  • And again with the Place des Vosges
  • Have plenty of pastries from Paul
  • Macaroons and tarts from Laduree
  • Lots of L'As du Fallafel (34 Rue des Rossiers, Paris, 75004)
  • Beaucoup de glace from Berthillon
  • Hot and sweet mint tea at the Grande Mosquée de Paris and a meal fit for a sultan, inside
  • And of course, shop til you drop
When in San Francisco
  • Pretend you're in Paris and get yourself over to la pâtisserie Miette, and/or one of Bay Bread's little Paris-parfaît Boulangeries
When in Sorrento
When in Venice
When in Vienna
  • Spend endless hours, rain or shine, at the bistro-cafe Le Bol (Neuer Markt 14)
Questions? Ask away! Please use the comments feature to ask questions rather than contacting Marisa directly. That way everyone can learn a thing or two, too.


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