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Seeing Isaac Stern in Concert Touched My Heart

26 May

When I was 23 years old I was fortunate to see the violinist Isaac Stern in concert.  My husband, then my boyfriend, got us the tickets that were excellent, about six rows back from the stage.  I remember watching as he created the most beautiful music. But the moment that touched my heart was when he meandered over the stage to our side of the theater, all the while making music, and as he reached a crescendo he lifted on to his toes…. I was sure he would lift into the sky with his music, upward into heaven.  I thought, “this is what Marc Chagall was painting when he drew his musicians flying in the sky. This moment is a Chagall painting.”

I thought of Isaac Stern yesterday throughout a concert at the Kansas City Symphony conducted by Michael Stern, Isaac’s son.  Although we have season tickets to the Pops Series of the Symphony, and we go to other concerts as well, we have never actually been to a concert that Michael Stern conducted.  As I watched him conducting, putting his entire body into the music, I flashed back to that moment about 40 years ago when I saw his father.

Since that time when I was in graduate school, I have been to many concerts.  I have attended concerts throughout the USA including the Aspen Music Festival, Boston Pops, Kansas City Symphony.  I have been to La Scala, in Milan, where our hosts arranged for my son, my husband, and I to go behind the scenes at the music school [Accademia d’Arti e Mestieri dello Spettacolo (Academy for the Performing Arts]and see the incredible instruments and tour the school.  I still cannot believe we got to do that!

Although I took piano lessons for many years, I was never the most talented musician.  (See link below.) Those years of lessons, however, taught me to love music.  I love to listen to the sounds of a symphony. I have sat in other venues and listened with my ears and my heart to other wonderful concerts and extremely talented musicians: including violinists Itzhak Perlman, Midori, and Pinchas Zukerman; and cellist Yo Yo Ma.  I have seen Zubin Mehta conduct.

Not one of them have ever compared to Isaac Stern for me.  Perhaps it was because it was my first time to see such an extraordinary musician.  However, I think it was because of the way he lived and breathed his music.  I will never forget him on his tiptoes, playing his violin and reaching to heaven with his music.

For me it is true, as this quote attributed to Plato says,  “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”  For me, it was Isaac Stern who first truly gave me this gift.  Seeing Isaac Stern in concert touched my heart.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/08/02/a-chair-a-baby-grand-piano-and-yiddish-songs/

Back in Time: Escape to Tybee Island

30 Apr

“When you go to Savannah, you must go to one of the barrier islands,” we were told by friends who had been there.  We chose Tybee Island for its historic sites, its lovely beaches and its historic lighthouse.  I love lighthouses.  (See link to post below.)

The drive from Savannah to Tybee Island is easy.  You cross over a few little islands along the one road that goes to the sea.  Along the way we saw the cut off to Fort Pulaski, where we stopped on our way back.

Let me tell you in advance, parking is a nightmare in Tybee Island. It was horrible in March.  I cannot imagine what it would be like in the height of summer tourism.  You have to pay for parking everywhere.  In fact, we chose our lunch spot because it had a parking lot, where you could park for free and there were spaces.   But beyond that, it is fun.

We did find a spot in town to park with a meter.  And we actually had some quarters.  DO NOT GO to Tybee Island without quarters!

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The pier at Tybee Island.

Having found a spot on a side street, we were able to walk to the beach and over to the pier. When we were there, they were having a mermaid event. I had a great time just looking at the Atlantic Ocean.  We saw some ships in the distance and watched the waves. At the end of the pier, people were fishing, mainly catching stingrays and then throwing them back into the ocean.

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People were catching stingrays.

I felt really badly for those stingrays!  On the way up, they were pulled by the fishing rod and put into a net.  Then they were subjected to photos with the person who caught them. However, the way down was way too scary, the stingrays were just thrown over the pier, where they tumbled back to the ocean.  UGH!

We did walk up the street filled with shops.  I was amazed at the number of people there!  It was only about 65 degrees, but people were on the beach sunbathing and some had even ventured into the ocean.

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The light house and the support buildings.

Next stop the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum…the Lighthouse.  We were in for a surprise.  It is not just the lighthouse that remains on the island, but all the houses used by the head keeper and his assistant.  You can even climb to the top of the light house!  All 178 steps!

The first lighthouse was built on Tybee Island in 1733!  It was too close to the ocean, so a second one was built.  During the Civil War, the confederates burned it.  After the war, in 1867 it was rebuilt and made taller!  Now it is a hybrid.  The bottom 60 feet are original, the top 85 feet were added in 1867!

It was a beautiful day to walk around and visit the historic buildings,  and watch a short movie about the lighthouse.

Across from the lighthouse compound are the remains of Fort Screvens.  One of the remaining batteries, Battery Garland, is now a museum as well.  Built in 1899, the battery was part of the US Coastal Defense System until 1945.  There are great views from the top.

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Unfortunately we could not enter the fort.

Our next stop was Fort Pulaski.  We had to cross over to McQueens Island and then across the South Channel of the Savannah River to Cockspur Island.  Unfortunately, last year’s hurricane season had not been kind to this area, and the fort itself was closed for repairs.  Also, we had to leave much earlier than normal because the road also was under construction and closed at a certain time.  We really only got to visit the Visitor’s Center and did not have time to walk the Lighthouse Overlook trail to see the Cockspur Island Lighthouse.  I was disappointed, but gives me a reason to go back!

History buffs, go!  I think you will enjoy these two sites.   And beach lovers, Tybee Island has lovely beaches for all to enjoy!

 

https://zicharonot.com/2015/11/22/the-lighthouses-that-made-me-feel-safe/

 

Savannah Sojourn Is for History Lovers

19 Apr

For our 38th anniversary we went to Savannah, Georgia.  I have been wanting to visit Savannah for our entire married life because my first job out of graduate school was for a local Girl Scout Council.  And all Girl Scouts know that the founder, Juliette Gordon Low, was from Savannah.

It exceeded my expectations.  I want to go back!

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Juliette Gordon Low house.

On our first day,  I did go to the Juliette Low Gordon house.  I saw the rooms she walked in.  I saw ceramics and paintings she had created.  I walked in the garden with my husband.  Yes, I did buy something at the gift shop.  I had to.   Later we went to the Andrew Low house, where she spent her adulthood and passed away.  Unfortunately, we were too late to get on a tour.  But we did walk over the first Girl Scout headquarters, which is just beyond the gardens.  While there, a purchase of Girl Scout cookies was made.

But Savannah is not only for Girl Scout fans.  There was so much else to see.  So many lovely old homes from the early 1800s. Due to a group of women who started saving these homes in the 1960s, Savannah was saved from being a faceless and bland city to one that kept its local charm and ambiance.

I loved those restored homes.  We went on an architecture walking tour of the historic area, seeing many houses from the outside.  The next day, we visited three homes that were designed by William Jay in the 1820s: Owens-Thomas House, a home museum;  the Telfair Academy Art Museum which was once the home of Mary Telfair; and Scarborough House, built for the owner of the Savannah steamship.  This home is now the setting for the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum. This museum is packed with wonderful models of sailing ships.  But the history of the building is also unique, it was once a school during segregation.

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Inside the Owens-Thomas house.  There is actually a bridge on the second floor connecting the two sides.

At each home I learned a bit more about William Jay, the architect, and even more about the economic slump of the 1820s that led to most of the original homeowners losing all their money and their homes, soon after they moved in.  These homes passed to other families and some fell into disrepair. Thank goodness for the Historical Society and the ladies that saved them!

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We walked the paths in Colonial Park Cemetery, reading the markers that told of the famous and infamous people who were buried there.  The saddest were the number of children who perished.  So many died in the epidemics of Yellow Fever that swept through Savannah several times.

I loved walking through the historic district and visiting every one of the 22 squares that still exists.  Yes, we went to every single one.  Each square has its own personality, some with a statue and a historic marker telling about that area.  I loved it.  I took photos of almost every marker.

We also meandered along the river and walked in and out of candy stores and gift shops.   The many diverse restaurants served the most delicious foods. My favorite was Elizabeth’s on 37th Street.  We ate in two different restaurants each day, some fancy, others just fun. Some we enjoyed were: the Funky Brunch Café;  Boar’s Head Grill and Tavern, near the river; The Lady and Sons Restaurant, surprising delicious; and Lulu’s Chocolate Bar.  I was surprised that I did not gain an ounce. But then we did walk 4 to 6 miles most days.

We also learned how Prohibition impacted Savannah!  It seems that lots of booze smuggling and speakeasy joints were part of the riverfront during the 1920s. A visit to the American Prohibition Museum is a must.  And yes get a drink at the end in the speakeasy.  You do not have to have an alcoholic drink…but my husband loved his.  I went for an original lemon soda mixed from scratch!

 

I found the history of the city is intriguing.  But for me, the Jewish history was amazing. Who knew that just a few months after the first settlers arrived, a group of 42 Jewish settlers arrived in 1733 bringing a Torah and starting a Jewish community in Savannah that survives today! This group of Sephardic Jews had been forced to leave Spain and settled in England just a decade or so earlier.  They then traveled to the unknown on their search for religious freedom.  WOW!

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Built in the late 1870s, this building has always been a synagogue: Mikve Israel.

We went to visit the current synagogue building in the historic district:  Temple Mikve Israel.  Built in the late 1870s, the building is still used as by a congregation.  It contains a small museum and you can visit the chapel area.  But when we were there it was undergoing renovations, so we could not enter.

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The Torah brought to Savannah in 1733, written on parchment made from deer hide.

We got to see one of the oldest Torah’s in the USA. The one that was brought here from England in the 1700s.  It is written on deer skin.  For me this was a thrill to see that a strong Jewish community still exists and has been a part of the Savannah community for 285 years.

I did not see all that I wanted to see in Savannah.   I loved staying in the Marshall House, with its evening wine and cheese, speakers and musicians, and wonderful staff.  But next time I want to stay in a bed and breakfast.  I have the spot picked out.   I could spend another five days in Savannah eating, walking and visiting museums.  I love learning about history and walking through Savannah is a living history lesson!

 

A Mexican Interlude

9 Feb

A week in Cabo San Lucas has been a joy. The weather is a dream. Seeing the humpback whales with their babies a delight. Listening to the Pacific Ocean pound the shore throughout the day is actually relaxing even in its furious attack against the land.

Granite rock formations honeycombed by the erosion are fascinating. We saw the famous Cabo arch.

Before we came, people told me to be careful. But there was never a problem. In Cabo itself, where the ocean liners dock daily, there is a strong police and military presence. I never felt insecure or unsafe. We walked around the marina several different days and experience the restaurants, the shops and the whale watching boat tour of the cove and watched the baby whales frolic (Cabo trek). Marine biologists went with us to give us interesting facts about the whales.

We walked into town several times both during the day and at night to experience the restaurants, with no issues. Just joined the trickle of others also walking along the well lighted paths. So many good restaurants! Guacamole, fajita, chimichangas, tacos, grilled fish, tamales and more specialities filled us each day.

The live music ranged from two or three men playing mariachi in restaurants throughout the city to classical violin and cello melodies floating through the air as we sat outside.

We drove to Todos Santos and explored the streets and sights. The Mission of Santa Rosa sits in the center of town, with its high vistas to the sea. Another great restaurant, Tequila Sunrise, had our taste buds smiling.

At both Tequila Sunrise and Las Guacamayas (in Cabo), the owners came to speak to us and tell us if we needed help in anyway they would help. And they did, even helping us find things outside of the food they served.

We walked through the Hotel California and examined the art in the many galleries in Todos Santos.

We visited beaches along the Sea of Cortez, and watched the pelicans dive into the waters to catch fish.

The people of Mexico were friendly and helpful. They enjoyed my meager efforts to speak Spanish. But truly appreciated my husband’s more fluent attempts. Smiles would like their eyes when he spoke to them. And several said to his comment that his Spanish was not that good, “but you are trying. You make the attempt!”

Were there times when I wish there were not as many people trying to have you buy something ? Of course. But in my many travels, I have seen this in all tourist sights. Cabo, with its cruise ships is ripe for this behavior. But in Todos Santos, there was no pressure from vendors. It was a delight.

Our last restaurant meal was at The Office, which sits right on the beach. The food was excellent. The margaritas strong. Luckily I don’t drink so I drive back to our resort, The Grand Sol Mar.

Our week exploring the Baja Peninsula is over. We fly home in the morning. It was well worth the trip to visit this lovely site in Mexico.

The Purloined Blankets: A Winter’s Tale

30 Dec
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Blue purloined blanket and plaid purchased blanket.

With the bitter cold weather, I am thinking about my Dad and one of his lessons to me.

Always keep a blanket in the car during the winter months, especially when driving long distances.  His insistence about blankets used to drive me crazy.

My parents would come to Kansas to visit and not understand the Kansas winter mentality. Many people here do not wear winter coats most of the time.  Since we have a ‘drive up to where you are going attitude’ in the suburbs.  We really do not walk around that much.  We get into our cars and drive to where we are going, then run in.  So why wear a winter coat? A sweater is more than enough. I admit when I was younger, I would do the same thing.  But I always kept my children bundled up.

This attitude sometimes backfires on our children.  My god son went from the Kansas City area to Madison, Wisconsin, for college.  His mom suggested that he take long sleeve shirts and a winter coat up to college with him, his freshman year.  No, he did not want any of that.  Then came Thanksgiving break.  His main request was a hat with ear flaps.  He was so cold walking across campus.  Winter coat, gloves, scarf and long sleeve shirts returned with him to Madison.

My daughter went to college in New Jersey.  She also was impacted by winter in this unexpected manner. Walking across campuses really is different than Kansas ‘run in and run out.’  Her request that first winter was a coat that covered her tush. I quickly agreed to that request.

But back to my Dad.  When my family was young, we often drove to and from St. Louis in the winter months.  My husband’s family lived there. It made my parents nervous.  So they purchased a plaid blanket for my car in case the car broke down.  Having a blanket in the car was their idea of safety against the cold of winter.

He also purchased a car emergency kit for me that had a first kit, jumper cables and a flash light. Even though that kit is long gone, I have made sure we always had one in every car. That makes sense to me. So I never argued about that.

It was the blankets in the car that really drove him crazy. He wanted me to have a blanket for each person in the car. What would happen if we were stuck? We needed a way to keep warm. His passion became stronger after the time my husband, children and I got stuck in a snow storm on the way back from St. Louis.  But we spent the night in Columbia…at a hotel… I told him.   It did not matter.  He was now truly concerned. I  needed blankets,  now!

Dad did buy me another blanket.  But I have to admit, even though he was an honorable, kind and gentle man, my Dad had one flaw that I hesitate to tell you about. But I will.  He was a bit of a goniff, a thief!  He stole the blue blankets from airlines. Do you remember them?  We used to get one each time we flew…not any more.  But years ago, they always had a blanket and pillow on every seat. (His favorite airline blanket….Continental.  The airline no longer exists, except for the many blue blankets in my life.)

Dad would not use his.  He would bring in to my house still wrapped in its plastic bag. It made me crazy. When he flew to visit in the winter time, he often would come off the plane with a blanket. When he got to my house, he would pull it out of his carryon bag and quietly place it in my car.  I soon had a collection of blue blankets. During the winter, I kept a canvas bag filled with blankets in my car in case of emergency. Some purchased, some purloined.

We had disagreement after disagreement as the blue blankets continued to enter my home.  Finally my Mom had enough.  “Don’t tell him not to bring you the blankets.  The more you complain, the more he does it,” Mom demanded.  She was right, once I stopped yelling at him and arguing, he stopped taking the blankets off the planes.

Dad passed away in 2011.  I no longer worry about the blankets in the car.  Or so I thought.

My son’s girlfriend lives over an hour away. They drive back and forth every weekend. One coming here, or one going there.  It is so cold today and she has to drive home, so I asked, “Do you have a blanket in your car?” The answer, “NO.”

Oy,  I feel my Dad’s spirit rising up in me!

The plaid blanket my Dad purchased for me over 30 years ago is going into my son’s girlfriend’s car. My son will get the canvas bag filled with purloined blankets.  When it is this cold, you do need a blanket in your car for long distance travel!

As we enter the new year, I realized more and more that we do become our parents. My sister also has our Dad’s safety gene. She gave me a Vera Bradley blanket that folds into a pillow for Hanukkah. It is my new car blanket.

Wishing everyone a safe, warm, and happy memory filled year!

A Touch of Jewish Philanthropy In Lincoln, Massachusetts 

30 Oct

The entrance to the museum. The house is on the hill.

I always enjoy going to Boston, as I can immerse myself in our nation’s history. And I love history.  I also enjoy going because I get to visit with my college roommate. She is my official Boston tour guide.  With this visit she decided it was time to get out of Boston and see some of the surrounding sites. It was a beautiful fall day. I am always ready for a new Museum.

Her choice was the de Cordova art museum and sculpture garden in Lincoln. With my interest in Jewish genealogy, I was very familiar with the name De Cordova or Cordova as a Sephardic Jewish name.  But searching for the name of Julian De Cordova online, there was no mention of any Jewish roots.   Just that he was a the son of a Jamaican merchant with Spanish roots.  So to me it was obvious that this was a family which left Spain due to the expulsion of the Jews and ended up in Jamaica.  I love the white wash of history.

In any case I was excited to see this museum, walk through the sculpture garden and visit with my friend.  We decided to go inside first and see the exhibits.  The main topic was screens and  the different interpretations of a screen:  television screens, screens that separate rooms,  screens that keep people out. It was interesting.   But as we wandered the through the museum, we passed a little display on a wall that discussed the history of Julian de Cordova.

Part of the house.

Julian was the son of a Jewish family of merchants in Jamaica who was able on his own merit to become a successful business man in Lincoln,   He and his wife, who was from the local Dana family,  I assume not Jewish,  traveled the world and purchased art wherever they went.  He loved going to Spain because of his family’s Spanish roots. While there,  He also fell in love with castles and so remodeled his summer home in Lincoln to look like a castle.

He also set up that when he died, this summer home, its land and his art would be donated to the city of Lincoln as a museum.  When he died in 1945, the de Cordova Museum was established.

One of my favorite pieces.

So although most do not know that this lovely estate and museum was once the abode of a Jamaican, Sephardic Jewish man, to me it added a bit of joy as I walked the grounds, enjoyed the art and the lovely setting.  It made me appreciate how immigrant Jewish families have added to our country and the arts.

My friend and I spent two hours walking through the museum,  most of our time was spent walking around the sculptures, along the paths that led to the pond and lovely gardens.   Afterwards we spent time in Concord and the Minute Man National Park.  But this little jewel of a museum is well worth the visit.

In This Time of Asking Forgiveness, I Am Donating to Help Hurricane Survivors

28 Sep


We were in San Juan, Puerto Rico in June.  A lovely island for a day of sight seeing as we cruised the Caribbean.  We took a bus to the Fort in San Juan, and then a walking tour from the Fort back to the ship.   We passed beautiful flowering trees and plants, lush gardens, We toured the Fort that overlooks the ocean and once protected the island from invaders.  We looked down the coast to see the lovely beaches.


But Hurricane Maria has devasted the island.   So many millions without food, water, housing.  Searching for a way off the island, tourists who live elsewhere are stuck, stranded away from their home.  While those whose home is Puerto Rica are afraid of the future.  When where the power grid be repaired, when will the water and the food be available again. When will the roads be fixed.  When will medical care and schools be able to return to normal.


Puerto Rico is one of many islands that faced destruction in the way of Hurricane Irma and Maria, while Florida and Texas also suffered horrors during to hurricane season, Hurricane Harvey and Irma impacted these areas.  Connected to other states and cities,  Florida and Texas are fortunate in that help can come more quickly for these impacted areas, where as the islands of the Caribbean are isolated.

Cruise ships are cancelling vacation cruises in order to help evacuate the islands and bring supplies.  But in reality, there is no tourism or vacation in some sections of the Caribbean now as the destruction of the islands’ infrastructures make tourism impossible.

I cannot go there to help.  But I can donate. I can provide tzedakah to those in need. I chose the “oneamericanappeal.org” that was endorsed by and set up by our five former presidents: Bush, Bush, Carter, Clinton and Obama: Republicans and Democrats coming together to help our citizens in need.

I know that not everyone can help financially.  But those of us who can, must.   The island of Puerto Rico will never be the same.  But perhaps it can even be better as the power grid is rebuilt and the water supply fixed…as it will be updated and modernized. The Virgin Island of St. Thomas was also devastated.  These islands are our responsibility.  The citizens of these islands are citizens of the United States.

It has been a difficult time for many.  Fires in the west and northwest are causing destruction and health issues.  The many hurricanes have devasted areas with their high winds and flooding rains. I also sent sent a donation to help with these disasters as well through the Jewish Federation.

With this season of asking for forgiveness, the time between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, I think that doing good for others ,  tzedakah and gemilut Chasadim, shows my commitment to tikkun olam.  As I ask forgiveness for all that I might have done to hurt others during the year, I send donations to help those in need.