Day 2 in Osaka, Japan

We began our day mastering the elaborate subway system beginning at our Granvia Hotel, which is centrally located next to the Osaka Station.

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Arriving at Osaka Castle Parkwe were greeted by an impressive rock garden (a mini version of Stonehedge). IMG_4481

We crossed the Gokurakubashi Bridge leading to the castle which was built between 1583 and 1598.

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The museum displays with human actors animated over-elaborate artwork depicting scenes from the violent history of this castle throughout the centuries. The original castle was built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi at the site of Ishiyama Hogan-ji Temple. After being reduced to ashes during the Winter Siege and Summer War of Osaka in 1614, Tokugawa Shogun mobilized 64 feudal lords in western and northern Japan and reconstructed the castle over a period of 10 years. Apparently, over 500,000 stones were used in the reconstructed walls of this castle.  IMG_4485

As you can see in these photos of John Ash and Rick Permutt, it doesn’t matter what century one lives in the lure of battle looms large. Rick Permutt

Our tour guide had brought Bento Box lunches for us to enjoy among the Stonehedge-style gardens of the park. Rick, ready to retire as a Kaiser Doc, is practicing for his new career as Japanese Sommelier, while Vintner Susan and Lou Preston pose for a photo op for their new Japanese brand.

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No rest for the weary as we continued our adventures in Nakazakoi, a neighborhood reminiscent of New York’s Chelsea. Nakazakoi offers a welcome reprieve from the bustling metropolis of Osaka with its fancy shopping, offering small boutique shops where entrepreneurs sell handmade artisan items. The shops are interspersed between quaint living spaces with tidy, abundant gardens.

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Our favorite shop, Nijiyura, sold batik fabrics representing both traditional and modern Japanese art.

We opted for the wild and crazy nightlife scene and took taxis to Dotonbori area of Osaka which resembles New York’s Time Square on a quiet night.

Tombori River Walk Osaka

Eating octopus balls on the street encouraged us to look for a more subdued place to dine along the Tombori (river walk). Much to our surprise, John and Jill found a well-named restaurant – Zen. This tiny restaurant on the river front seated about 15 people. The owner’s father-in-law who spoke perfect English lured us in, helped us to order, and after trying many of the house Sakes, upon hearing that we were from the Sonoma wine country, treated us to a bottle of quite delicious white Japanese wine.

…Just another day in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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Meet my First Grandson – Bodhi Carson!

Months after returning home, I’m entering my last blog post. I suppose it’s like lingering over the final pages of a cherished book. Finishing means letting go of the pleasure and daily-ness of living this dream. Knowing that I had one more experience to post has kept me connected to the transformative months of my journey. I left the beginning of September with the intention of clearing my life and letting go of too much responsibility and daily activities. I return full of grace, remembering what it feels like to be a child: To awaken each morning with a sense of wonder and excitement; To follow one’s momentary desires; To laugh; explore while riding a bike; enter caves and hike miles underground; taste food in it’s most simple, delicious state; study the wines of foreign lands; and engage with people who respect wisdom that comes with age. I return revitalized and indeed ready to do the most meaningful work of my life. And, most importantly, to welcome my first grandchild — Bodhi Carson Gervreau, who has in three short weeks captured my heart.

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The Last City of My European Journey – Paris

I open wide the French windows on this glorious last day in Paris and see a woman riding her bike down the narrow Rue de Poitou, presumably on her way to work with seemingly not a care in the world. I hear the click, click, click of a woman’s shoes, the sound of a car every so often and look at the billowing clouds above the rooftops, as I practice my yoga for the last time for a while in Europe. It will not be 33 years before I return to Paris, where it is impossible not to fall in love. My heart is overflowing.

I think of what the day will bring, and smile at the thought of visiting Palais Garnier tonight for a modern ballet, followed by a long walk home to appreciate Paris by night. There is nothing I would rather do on my last night in Paris. Every moment of every day throughout these past two months in Europe has been like today. Fortuitous, perfect, living in the moment and allowing time to unfold, as it will, naturally.

From the moment I arrived in Shetland, and was greeted by Susie and Angus and escorted the five moments it took to drive from the small airport to a sunset walk on the beach, this journey has been seamless. May I hold close these cherished memories and always remember the richness that comes from living fully in each and every moment?

In closing, I will let the magnificence of Paris speak for itself through these photos. I must however add that today on my last day of this journey I will spend the day doing what my mother-in-law did so many years ago. I will search the city for the most precious pure cotton, soft baby clothes fit for a little prince or princess, and I will return to my children, tomorrow, gifts in hand with stories to tell.

A perfect place to stay in Le Marais

A perfect place to stay in Le Marais

Civilized city living

Civilized city living

La Seine —flowing through Paris and into the English Channel creating the boundaries of Rive Droite and Rive Gauche

La Seine —flowing through Paris and into the English Channel creating the boundaries of Rive Droite and Rive Gauche

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I ask you, is there any city more beautiful than Paris?

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My favorite museum in the world - Musée Rodin

My favorite museum in the world – Musée Rodin

Le Penseur —Rodin's most monumental sculpture

Le Penseur —Rodin’s most monumental sculpture

03. Champignions03. Fruits

Champignons — The main reason to visit France in November!

Second best reason...

Second best reason…

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Love is all around!

Love is all around!

Ahhh Paris!

Ahhh Paris!

Shops of gay Paris — The French translation of Artisan

Shops of gay Paris — The French translation of Artisan

Centre Georges Pompidou — National Museum of Modern Art

Centre Georges Pompidou — National Museum of Modern Art

Palais Garnier

Palais Garnier

Palais Garnier

Palais Garnier

What was my delight upon looking up to see  a ceiling painting by Marc Chagall?

What was my delight upon looking up to see a ceiling painting by Marc Chagall?

Anduze, France

Rémi lives in Anduze, a small medieval village with a castle from the 12th century. Le Gardon is the river, which runs through it, and originates from the seven mountains as it meanders down to Le Rhone. Anduze is named La Port de Cevennes because it’s the first access to the seven mountains coming from the Mediterranean Sea. The main industry in this southern village of France is, you guessed it, winegrowing. Languedoc-Roussillon is an emerging winegrowing region that has gained tremendous respect and notoriety in the past two decades. This area is one of the sunniest regions in France with the cultivation of fruit and vegetables as the second largest industry after wine. (Sounds a lot like Sonoma County, doesn’t it?).

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As for the wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, the winery closest to where I am living at Rémi’s, and whose vineyards I walk each morning, is called Vignerons de Tornac. Some of their wines are labeled “AB” which denotes Agriculture Biologique (organically farmed and made, which means no sulfites). The 2012 Merlot and 2012 Sauvignon Blanc are definite bargains. For 3.78 Euros each these wines are delicious. In fact, we purchased other local wines for around 11 euros each which couldn’t compare in quality.

Wine, Words and Wonderful Living in Paros, Greece

I asked Colin, the co-owner of the Greek Cafe, where he bought his wine, and he sent me to the island wine broker, Yannakos Mourlas. It turns out Yannakos’ warehouse was merely a short bike ride from my house. Yannakos welcomed me with a lengthy conversation, as he pointed out his favorite Greek wines. Mind you this was quite a task, as he has between 800 – 900 bottles of Greek wines on his shelves.

A few shelves from Yannakos' warehouse

A few shelves from Yannakos’ warehouse

You can only imagine the fun I had tasting through some of these wines. Fortunately, I had brought with me Tara Q. Thomas’ review from Wine & Spirits August 2013 issue of “Year’s Best Greece.” Yannakos was quite impressed with her reviews, so I recommend that you defer to Tara for Greek wine selections. Here are some photos of Yannakos’ favorites. 

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As for weather, today I’m sitting outside wearing two wool sweaters and a cashmere scarf braving the elements because I don’t wish to be inside in Greece in the beginning of October.Postcards from Paros 1The place I am staying is lovely — centrally located and small, with one double bed, tiny bathroom and a second room with convenience kitchen, couch, table et al. No view of the sea, but moments away on foot. One by one, many of the resorts are closing for the season and today the weather is windy and cold, and I am delighted. I am being kept company by the paper mache ax man and the colorful guy in the corner, and of course the incredible books that grace the shelves at Connie and Rod’s house in Parikia. Susie had recommended that I read, “My Name is Red,” by Orhan Pamuk, a talented Turkish author, as I was headed to Istanbul from Scotland. Alas, there it was on the shelf.

Exquisite Quiet

The Paros Paradise of this journey in many ways in the most glorious silent retreat. Day after day, there is exquisite quiet and no one with whom I am interacting regularly.

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Yes, I speak with vendors to buy succulent fruit, colorful vegetables, exotic cheeses and yoghurt that tastes like clouds on the tongue, and I meet along the way other travelers with whom I compare notes and sometimes share a meal. I’ve even found a world-class Iyengar Yoga teacher in Aliki, on the south side of Paros, and Denise, a gracious woman who is the wife Yannakos Mourlas, the island wine broker, picks me up and returns me home to Parikia. Although Oona teaches Yoga in English, just about everyone in the class speaks a different native language and has the ability to speak at least three. Talk about flexibility in body and mind!

Oona of Alyki Yoga School - www.yoga-paros.com

Oona of Alyki Yoga School – http://www.yoga-paros.com

Yet, my favorite people with whom to break the silence are Luci, Luciano and Nico, who live downstairs and who already feel like family.

Nico, Luci and Luciano

Nico, Luci and Luciano

Spending time with Luci and Luciano - Nico was taking our picture.

Spending time with Luci and Luciano – Nico was taking our picture.

Taking Nico for his first visit to the Antiparos Caves, where he climbed as only an 11-year-old boy would do up, down and around the 45 million year old Stalagmite rock formation that rises from the floor of this amazing cave, as a result of accumulation of material deposited on the floor from the ceiling drippings, was a sight to behold.

Nico climbing on the Stalagmite formations in the millions of years old Cave of Antiparos

Nico climbing on the Stalagmite formations in the millions of years old Cave of Antiparos

We descended 411 steps into the heart of the cave, which has a depth in excess of 100 meters. Decades apart in age and having been raised in different cultures, Nico and I shared overwhelming feelings of awe and wonderment. My teacher instincts were brought to the surface as Nico often consulted his brochure, and I felt a deep joy that I had the privilege of introducing this fine young man and myself to one of the great wonders of the world.

Touring with Nico

Touring with Nico

Another adventure took Luciano and me to Naoussa, a charming seaside village about 15 km from Parikia, where we explored by bike the Environmental & Cultural Park of Paros among many other sites. Of course we stopped to swim all along the way…

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Then off to Yoga… and another day to reflect, to be, to read, to write, to marvel at a sunrise, sunset, the ebb and flow of the Aegean Sea, and to witness the change of weather with the wind announcing the coming storm. To be caught off guard without a moment’s notice by the beauty of Paros — it takes my breath away.  Ahhhh Greece!

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Sunset tempest Greece

Turkey – Saturday Farmers’ Market and Wine Tasting

On to the local Saturday Farmers’ Market.

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Lunch at Kantin – an upscale restaurant that could easily be found in Healdsburg, with farm-to-table food and fresh, simple presentations. It was recommended by an American food critic, and although the food was fresh, simple and delicious, I’m wondering why, with so many authentic, elaborate great Turkish restaurants for foreigners to try, Kantin was rated at the top of the list?

Lunch at Kantin

Lunch at Kantin

Police anticipating trouble, as a soccer game is about to begin…

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Gourmet Breakfast at The Backyard… Great concept, fabulous farm fresh food and on-site bakery.

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With Lynsey at The Backyard

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Poached freshly laid egg and bacon

Yachting with Lynsey’s friends and colleagues. The 5 pm call to prayers serenaded us as we toured the grand houses of Istanbul along the Bosphorus.

Our host Arin Cetin

Our host Arin Cetin

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A perfect choice of wine for yachting

A perfect choice of wine for yachting

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I’m ready to move in…

Unfortunately, these homes are passed down through the ages and only under duress do families sell these regal generational homes, which offer a haven of quiet and clean air.

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The Asian side of the Bosphorus

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The night before, Arin was our host in treating us to a terrace table at Poseidon Fish & Wine Center. The moon was almost full — the food was exquisite, and the service incomparable. Thank you again, Arin!

With Chateau Lafite, Chateau Le Pin, Chateau d’Yquem and other wines on the list, and the most sublime fresh fish caught daily, Poseidon is arguably the best fish restaurant in Istanbul.

The last day in Istanbul was spent shopping for antiquities for Lynsey’s new flat. We purchased a beautiful wooden chest that was delivered on a cart through the cobblestoned streets of Istanbul by the shop owner’s friend, who proceeded to hoist it onto his back and carry it up the three flights of stairs to its new home.

My visit in Istanbul ended with Lynsey hosting a Turkish Wine Tasting at her friend Meryem’s, with a view of the Bosphorus.

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Turkish Wine Tasting

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View over Bosphorus, from Meryem’s apartment

The main wine regions of Turkey are:

  • Marmara
  • Aegean
  • Mediterranean
  • Mid-Southern Anatolia
  • Mid-Northern Anatolia
  • Mid-Eastern Anatolia
  • South East Anatolia

Two popular grape varieties I have never tasted before, that grow abundantly in Turkey are Bogazkere and Kalecik Karasi.

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The line-up for our Turkish wine tasting

The wines we tasted that night were:

2010 Prestige – Bogazkere

2012 Okuzgozu – Yazgan (a blend of Bogazkere & Okuzgozu)

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2010 Selection Kavaklidere (which was the group favorite as the two varieties seemed to meld beautifully together)

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2011 Sarafin – Cabernet Sauvignon

2010 Buyulubag – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (this was my favorite as the flavors seemed well balanced and the wine a great example of what Turkey can do with traditional varieties.

2009 Kayra – Bogazkere Collectible Series #8

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2010 Prestige – Bogazkere

2008 Corvus – #5 Blend Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah

In closing, a huge hug to Lynsey for her generosity in sharing her life and allowing me a window into her world of Istanbul. Experiencing foreign lands through the eyes of people who live there offer adventures that are rich beyond measure.

 

Colorful, Chaotic Istanbul

Going from serene, respectful, clean and dignified Edinburgh to colorful and chaotic Istanbul has been a bit of a shock for the senses and for the lungs. Ohhh… so much smoke!

And yet, it was amazing to be in this exotic land with Lynsey. She was there at the Istanbul airport to greet me.

Lynsey waiting for me at the airport

Lynsey waiting for me at the airport

My first adventure was riding a bus during rush hour and then walking the busy streets full of food and smells and color and vibrant life, until we reached Lynsey’s apartment located in Cihangir, a tony Istanbul neighborhood.

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Lynsey in her new apartment in the Cihangir neighborhood of Istanbul

We dropped my bags and went off to eat at Privado Café, a small authentic Turkish restaurant where the meal began with superb lentil soup and included a Meda platter, Moussaka and a delicious Georgian red wine.

Day One in Istanbul

Of course we began our first day with a traditional Turkish breakfast including Menemen, topped it off with fresh juice (pomegranate, blood oranges, fresh lemons) from Lynsey’s favorite street vendor, and then Lynsey and I went for a walk on the Bosphorus, where we hopped on a ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul to be met by one of Lynsey’s new friends for a traditional “Donner” lunch of beef kabobs with pita, cucumbers, onions, peppers, ripe tomatoes and yoghurt that tastes like clouds.

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Lynsey’s favorite fruit vendor in Istanbul

It was a day that ended with a glass of Raki at sunset, awaiting the ferry back to the European side of Istanbul. Thank you Chala for your gracious hospitality!

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Wine at sunset on the Asian side of the Bosphorus in Istanbul with Lynsey & Chala

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Mr. Prime Minister you’re not going to stop these two Sonoma gals from buying wine after 10 pm in Istanbul!

 

Le Trou Normand — Journey Cleanser

As this is a food, wine, and travel blog, the nature of my travels made it necessary to insert this journey cleanser, or Le Trou Normand, to be used three weeks into this blog, to allow my initial experiences to settle and linger, so that the next adventures could be enjoyed with a fresh perspective.

After Edinburgh, the trip took off into an entirely different direction and I became absorbed in a whirlwind of color, smells, sights and a whole lot of living. In other words, I cascaded into my travel experiences using all five senses, as I set out to do, and thus merely made notes for my travel blog. Reflections from the rest of the trip will be far less detailed, offering the flavor and overall impressions of my travels in Istanbul, the Greek Island of Paros, my one night in Athens under a full moon, 10 days with my ex-husband and father of my son in Anduze, France, with the finale of the trip, a picture perfect three days in Le Marais, the 3rd arrondissement of Paris.

I’ll be adding posts frequently as I am now back in the US and absorbing the amazing nature of this trip while adjusting to the responsibilities of being home.

Let it suffice to say the two month sabbatical was PERFECT.