Tag Archives: travel

Trip Advisor: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week looking online at London hotel web sites.

I’ve read Rick Steves’ recommendations; he has a certain point of view that I’m not sure I always share. I’ve read some other travel guides, but I often come back to Trip Advisor. My experience has been that if a hotel has mostly Excellent and Very Good ratings and has enough such ratings to actually have some credibility, I can trust Trip Advisor. Open online forums such as Trip Advisor allow for fake positive reviews posted by the relatives of the innkeeper, but also allow for negative reviews created by competitors to drive business away. That’s why I look for an accommodation with lots of reviews and I read them pretty carefully.

I rated the bed and breakfast we stayed at on our 2011 trip to England, and gave it glowing reviews on Trip Advisor. We were there for eleven days and knew the place inside and out. One morning there was a disgruntled guest who complained about her breakfast experience the entire time she was in the dining room — and she wrote a negative review on Trip Advisor about it. Hers is the only remotely negative review about the place, and frankly, people should take it with a grain of salt.

What’s your experience with Trip Advisor? Do you write reviews? More importantly, do you have a place in London to recommend to our readers? Please put links in the comments — we’d love to check out your favorite London accommodations!

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Chicago Day 8: Public Art

I’m linked up today and for the rest of the month in the 31 Days Challenge at The Nester. By clicking the tab at the top of the page, you can easily access all of the 31 Days in Chicago posts. If you’ve got a story to tell about your experiences in Chicago, I welcome guest posts. Join the fun by emailing me, or if you’re not ready to write, go to The Nester’s web site to follow some other stories this month.

Chicago is well-known for its public art.

You have probably all seen Cloud Gate, our “bean” in Grant Park.

You probably have also wondered about our Picasso.

You may have even seen the Batcolumn.

But have you seen Carpet by Ellen Harvey (2007), a mosaic of hand-cut marble? I used to ride the CTA from this station, but I’ve never seen this amazing piece of art work.

If you’re a visitor to town or a staycationer, an exploration of the Chicago Public Art Program website might be in order. We are surrounded by art and it enriches our daily lives in sweet home, Chicago.

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October 2012 Challenge

I’ll be linking up with The Nester again this year for the 31 Days Challenge — and what better travel destination to choose than my own beloved city? I’ve combed through my archives and I have lots of beautiful Chicagoland sites to share with you, as well as a whole bunch of restaurants. Some will be new to you and some may be old favorites.

If you’d like to join me as a cheerleader for the home team, I’d love some guest posts about your experiences in our fair (but sometimes windy) city. Just email me — my link is in the contact box on the right. Just send me your photos and text, and I can format the post for you.

Last year I just about killed myself with magazine-style articles about places in Europe that we visited. I’m hoping to keep this year’s posts shorter, with lots of photography. You know that I love a challenge; I think I’m ready to introduce you to my Sweet Home Chicago. See you Monday!

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(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Photographers do the craziest things.

I chased these white horses around the field in Sauder Village trying the get the perfectly synced photo.

It turned out that the first one I took was the best… isn’t that always the case?

P.S. After I prepared this post, I realized that those rocks in the corner were actually little horse pies and was aghast. Then I decided to keep them in as proof of a photographer’s folly in not cropping one’s photos. 🙂

I’m linked up today with Project Alicia. Be sure to stop by and visit the work of these talented bloggers and photographers.

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Wordless Wednesday: Antique Cookware from Sauder Village

This photo was taken at Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio.

I’m linked up today with other bloggers; be sure to stop by their sites and check out their work!

Cheese, Glorious Cheese!

I’m on a brief hiatus while I enjoy my out-of-town company, but I just couldn’t resist sharing this wonderful post about the Roquefort region in France.

Our House in Provence is one of my favorite finds among the French bloggers I follow; Michel lives in the United States with his family and also owns a home in Provence. I love the travelogues that are presented and every story makes me more and more eager to experience Provence for myself!

People either love or hate “moldy” cheese; does this photo of aging Roquefort make you hungry? Or do you hate it?

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Provence Week: Anthony Bourdain in Provence

Provence “looks like the inside of Martha Stewart’s head.”

Thus says Anthony Bourdain, host of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations. Although I had totally forgotten that I had seen this before, I got all excited about an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations that was filmed in Provence. My brother even texted me to tell me it was airing, I’m that obviously hooked on both Tony and Provence.

This episode actually makes Bourdain seem normal and almost humble.

As Tony learns to make aioli from an elderly Provencal woman, he is respectful of both her process and her experience.

It’s very gentle, the process…You gotta be careful.  You have to keep your voice down.  Show a little respect for the process…

It makes me want to learn how to make aioli.

There are lots of good scenes in this episode.

Tony and friends do a wine and charcuterie tasting.

He tours a winery.

His friends tell him that if you ask for Ricard instead of pastis, the locals know you know what they drink.

It’s really funny to see the usually brash Tony worrying about cooking for his Provencal friends.

Apparently I’m not the only person who’s dreaming of Provence; this remains my top post of all time because of the beautiful photo of Provence I used. I guess it’s time to use it again!

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Based on the Book: Cezanne in Provence

I love movies, even if they are documentaries.

While not precisely based on the book, Cezanne in Provence is a wonderful background documentary to start my study of Cezanne’s work. Stemming from the National Gallery of Art’s  2006 exhibition of Cezanne’s paintings, the documentary film gives a lot of background information about Cezanne’s life in Paris and Provence and about his painting style.

The catalog from the exhibit has also been published in a 350 page coffee table book and shows Cezanne’s paintings in more detail. I’ve been slogging through it during cooking down time — you know those times when you are stirring something or waiting for something to come out of the microwave. I have to admit that I kind of skimmed all the really good stories and text in the beginning to get to some of the art and I’m feeling a little guilty about it. It’s really a gorgeous book and I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with it this week!

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Book Club: The Women

Read The Women by T.C. Boyle. It’s really good. End of book review and on to the juicy stuff.

Image via http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_OrSWhs5g-6w/SirG2CjbkBI/AAAAAAAAALQ/H5HwnoVuHcs/s400/TheWomen.jpg

Boyle’s tale of Frank Lloyd Wright’s relationships with women is intriguing — a pastiche of story-telling based on solid factual research.

I’ve been a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright for many years. I’ve visited his home and studio in Oak Park many times and I’m always happy when a visitor wants to take the tour. I’ve been intrigued by his story and the depth of his magnetism. It’s kind of amazing how this arrogant and self-centered man was able to inspire love and almost slavish devotion from the people around him.

Sometimes what I write doesn’t end up where I intended it to go when I began.

Clearly this is more than a book review because I’m a history nerd.

After we read Loving Frank in book club, we decided to do a pilgrimage to Spring Green, Wisconsin, to visit Taliesin and I wrote about it here. We have also visited Taliesin West in Arizona, Falling Waters in Pennsylvania, and the local FLW shrines, including Unity Temple.

When I read books about Frank Lloyd Wright and his designs, his houses become characters on their own.

Blue Balliett’s YA novel, The Wright 3, is a good example of this. Wright’s Robie House near the University of Chicago is the setting of this novel, and I couldn’t wait to go visit it after reading the story. The physical connection I get to the houses through the text is hard to resist and apparently I’m not the only one. If you’re going to be in the area with your children, read the book together and then take the house tour designed to connect with the book — or just do it yourself cause it’s worth it!

Given all that history, it’s not surprising that I just lapped up The Women hungrily. Told through the reflections of a fictional Japanese apprentice, T.C. Boyle has given us another intense visit with Wright and the women who loved him. He traces the stories of Wright’s three wives and his mistress backwards, and as the story unfolds, questions are answered and links become clear. It’s a difficult narrative construct to do effectively, but it didn’t drive me too crazy. I wish there had been more about first wife Kitty and how she really coped with Wright’s desertion of her.

I’m a firm believer in the power of chance and there are several chance encounters that led to the writing of this book and the writing of this post.

Image via http://0.tqn.com/d/gocalifornia/1/0/D/T/3/20110522_010-a.jpg

T.C. Boyle bought and renovated Wright’s George C. Stewart house (1910)

T.C. Boyle is the author of many successful books as well as being a professor at UCLA, and apparently he had enough money to purchase and renovate Wright’s George C. Stewart House in Montecito, California. In this interview, he talks about how his fascination with Wright grew after living in one of his homes. I can truly see how that would happen.

On our recent trip to California, we visited the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. I was deep into The Women, visualizing FLW striding around in his cape and hat, and suddenly, there he was on the wall of the Claremont. Of course I took a photo (as I do incessantly).

Wright loved the Claremont, and designed a wedding chapel for the hotel in 1957 at age 88. It was never built, but its design was organic yet modern, as all of his work was.

In researching the wedding chapel design, I ran across the website of this Italian architect, who has redesigned Wright’s work using specific design principles.

I’m a great reader, but a lousy book reviewer, as you can see.

I get too caught up in the human stories surrounding authors and their subjects to ever make a living writing book reviews. I’m glad you stuck with me through this visit with Frank Lloyd Wright, and I highly recommend The Women if you have been intrigued by my story today.

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Food Cult: Dinner at Plum

One of the best parts of traveling is meeting new restaurants. For Tech Kid’s birthday, we went to a highly touted Oakland restaurant, Plum. I’m still struggling with my cameras, but I just had to share photos of the inventive work of Plum’s chefs.

Beet Boudin Noir, with brussel sprouts and turnip

Avocado Risotto with pistachio,lemon, and cucumber

Raviolini with mixed milk ricotta, nettles, and green shallots

One perfect raviolini

Samples from the Plum Charcuterie with pickled vegetables and violet mustard. I’ll leave you to guess what’s in these delectable morsels.

King Salmon with fava, potato, radish, and vandouvan (curry-like spice blend).

Roasted Pork and Belly with young chard, new onion, and mustard

I’m not sure what this wonderful dessert was — it was ordered specially for the birthday boy.

This lonely little turnip is all that was left on the plate when we finished this sumptuous and scrumptious meal.

If you are visiting Oakland, I highly encourage you to seek out this very good restaurant (make reservations!). The portions are on the small side, but every bite is full of interest.