It’s been a while since I wrote about my adventures and the reason being is that I was busy moving to the desert! Palm Springs is what I call home now and the Kasbah will be my main residence for a couple of years or so. Although this beautiful resort area is only two hours away from LA, its scenery, landscape and climate make it look like a completely different exotic country. Sometimes I feel like I’m in Casablanca or Mexico or when I drive through the lush streets lined with gorgeous palm trees, I have to remind myself that I’m not in Hawaii. The lifestyle is quite the opposite of LA, as well; the pace is much slower and people are in no rush and always friendly. The quality of the air seems better and the 350 days of sun with dry heat makes it a great location for a healthier you.
Palm Springs view from Bob Hope’s house
Honestly, I’m a little scared of the heat, as so far I’ve only experienced a couple of days around 102 and don’t know how I will handle the real deal when Summer hits, but I discovered that our bodies really do adapt and there are tricks to live your everyday life without being too affected by it. Also, contrary to the usual stereotypes, yes this is mainly a retirement area, but I already met a vibrant community of young artists, entrepreneurs and movers and shakers. Culturally, Palm Springs is considered the epicenter of midcentury architecture and art in general, with a stunning number of houses that are case studies and art collections displayed at the museums and also private estates (Sunnylands being the most notorious and open to the public.) Also, did I mention this used to be the playground for the rich and famous? Being home to Hollywood royalties such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope to name a few. Their legacy is palpable and makes it all the more glamorous!
Palm Springs Art Museum
Marilyn in downtown Palm Springs
On a personal note, I started juicing regularly and enjoy going for long walks on the nearby washes by the mountains. I’m definitely going to write more now and explore all that this community has to offer. I like change, so I’m diving in this new adventure with an open heart and open mind. Stay tuned!
This trip to New York has been all about humanity….I was so honored to be attending meetings on the status of women at the United Nations that gave me an insight and invaluable information on topics that I am very passionate about such as gender equality, women in politics, the economic empowerment of women, safe urban spaces for women and girls. I discovered and learned more about humanity by interacting with people from all over the world not only at the panel discussions, but on the metro, in the cab, in restaurants and bars. I immediately experienced a cultural shock the minute I got out of the plane to get to Manhattan by metro; sharing the same space with so many people at once is something you forget doing in LA, where everyone basically lives in their car and leads a very individualistic life.
At first, I felt overwhelmed by all those ‘rude’ people rushing in masses on the streets, (after all, Angelenos make eye contact and say ‘hello, how are you?’ on the seldom walks, so why shouldn’t New Yorkers do the same?), but despite this initial impact, I left the ‘Big Apple’ thinking that New Yorkers are genuinely good people and go the extra mile to help you. Traveling sometimes is all about getting to know people and their culture, rather than visiting landmarks and museums. New York surprised me like that this time and I enjoyed chit chatting with cab drivers from Africa, Bangladesh, Tony from the bagel shop down the street whom we greeted each other with a fist bump and countless of other people from small mom and pops stores that makes you feel you belong to a small community. I’ll particularly never forget three employees from Duane Read, these kids helped me located my cellphone in a moment of panic in the midst of a small snowstorm on Broadway. One of them actually had the permission from her manager to leave her job temporarily just to assist a perfect stranger like me in the search. I was so moved by their kindness!!
In my spare time, I walked all over the place down Park, 5th, Madison Avenue crossing Time Square, Herald Square and, Union Square. I dined in Chelsea and the East Village. I shopped at the Hell’s Kitchen flea market and hung out in my favorite part of town; the Meatpacking district where I had a delicious brunch at the Standard Grill. I was blown away by the High Line, an old rail way in disuse for decades which has recently been converted in a green oasis, with a beautiful landscape and art installations. The aesthetic is just exquisite and matches the railroad look with elegance and harmony; it’s a very special place for a romantic or relaxing walk. After walking like 50 blocks, the High Line was the perfect place to relax!
I can’t think of any better weekend activity than riding my new ‘Alice & Olivia’ bicycle around town. My colorful girlie bike has quickly become my favorite work out and means to see different neighborhoods and landscapes up close.
The duke and I have been enjoying exploring our dukedom Silverlake by going for long bike rides around the reservoir, the rolling hills and the farmers’ market. I love buying veggies and grabbing some breakfast while checking out new booths and hidden treasures. It’s absolutely genius to go garage sales hopping on a bicycle (unless you are buying furniture, of course!); you can stop at your leisure and not get into an accident trying to get a glimpse of what it’s displayed on the lawn. Every weekend there is a fabulous garage sale happening on the rolling and stylish hills and the effort of riding up to the top is soon replaced by the thrill of going downhill super fast! The Silverlake meadow is my favorite spot to take a break and lay on the soft lawn overlooking the reservoir. It opened two years ago and it is the best urban space improvement ever!
We also have ventured down to the beach (not all the way from our house, that would take 2 days to complete LOL!); we unloaded our two wheels and went off on a great ride all the way from Venice to the Malibu Lagoon. Pedaling along the boardwalk is always something I recommend to friends from out of town. The salty air, the sand and the shiny ocean under the sun are a great backdrop for a romantic afternoon.
We covered the Highland Park and Pasadena neighborhood by Avenue 66, admiring the beautiful Victorian houses and estates. If you love Architecture, riding a bicycle is the best way to discover many beautiful style variations and details at every corner.
Notoriously, LA is not a biker friendly town through and through, but this map should be helpful in pointing out the safest cyclable paths. Of course, there are many riders’ clubs around town that organize midnight rides like critical mass and also the city’s sponsored ‘Cyclavia‘ when some streets are completely shut down for cyclists to enjoy. This is truly a great punk rock thing to do in a city that thrives with cars! We’re joining the revolution!
Oooh, I’ve been so busy with life but I’m happy to have found some time to cover Hollywood’s biggest event of the year: the Oscars!! The weeks leading to the award ceremony are filled with excitement you can breathe and see materialized in every store and cafe’ window, restaurant and party. This town swells up with celebrities, foreign and domestic press, designers and of course, tourists it is hard not to notice it. If you’re accidentally visiting town during this time, take a deep breath, cope with worse traffic and madness than usual and enjoy the show! If you’re purposely here to get the most out of it, then I suggest to start from the very beginning of the Academy Awards and go for a tour that will bring you back in time. The Oscars have been held in many different venues, but the ones that I recommend visiting are the very first ones; the Roosevelt Hotel (1929) and the Biltmore Hotel (1930s and 1940s.) You will be charmed by the old Hollywood architecture of the Roosevelt and by the sophisticated elegance of the Biltmore, which also features a rich gallery of pictures from all the ceremonies that took place in the Crystal Ballroom.
The Roosevelt Lobby
You might also want to dine at Musso and Frank; opened in 1919, this restaurant is steeped in Hollywood history, having been the hideout of a host of famous Hollywood celebrities from days gone by. It is named for original owners Joseph Musso and Frank Toulet. As Hollywood’s oldest eatery, Musso & Frank is the paragon of Old Hollywood grillrooms. In Hollywood’s boom years it was a prime destination for Hollywood’s movers and shakers, including, directors, movie stars, producers and noted writers.
If you want to have a close look at the modern day Hollywood, then I suggest taking a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard. By now, the blocks between Orange and La Brea are closed and decked out with larger than life Oscar statues, red carpets, flowers, bleachers and lights, but you can still get a great view if you actually go to the Hollywood & Highland complex, home of the Dolby Theatre (Former Kodak Theatre) where Sunday’s ceremony will take place. You will literally rub elbows with all things Oscars and this is the closest you will get to the action. There is a stairway leading to the theatre with the names of all the best movie winners since the very beginning, the next one will be revealed tomorrow; I bet ‘Lincoln’ will win, but anything is possible on Academy Awards night and who knows? Maybe you will end up rubbing elbows with the winners at an after party
I can’t believe it’s been this long…but here I am, in Italy at last. I finally got over the jet lag and the cold weather and I’m fully enjoying my home town, Bassano del Grappa, with my family. Last time I was here was over three years ago and I immediately noticed many changes; there are new stores, bars, restaurants and even a mall which, it’s the perfect copy of any small U.S. shopping center! Even some boulevards and streets have been redesigned and feature elegant roundabouts with flower beds and cyclable pathways. I guess the biggest changes, though, are the ones that I’m seeing in my parents, relatives and friends; for years, it seemed that everyone was doing the same things, working the same jobs and living in the same places. This time though, everything is shaken up; everyone looks a little older, has babies or is trying to, is about to move to a new house or start a new career. I have mixed feelings of joy, nostalgia and sadness to realize that I, too, am not getting any younger and the city is growing and becoming a foreign creature that I almost don’t recognize. It’s a somber realization but I quickly understand that the people are the ones who make the city and the memories, not the city per se’. My hometown can grow in leaps and bounds, but if my friends don’t change it will always be the same. If my friends change, however, everything will feel and seem different, too!
This doesn’t apply to the other cities and towns that surround Bassano, including Asolo, the unchanged ever charming pearl located on the sweet Trevisian hills, just a few kilometers East. This enchanting Medieval village with beautiful palazzos and castles, built in Roman times, attracted many artists, poets and foreign literature personalities throughout the years including the international acclaimed theatre actress Eleonora Duse (who lived there between 1919 and1924.) No matter how many times I visit Asolo, I can never get enough of it. When I’m there, I breath poetry and beauty and discover a new palazzo or architectural detail that it’s always been there but I’ve never seen before. I was in awe by the gorgeous garden I spotted on the side of a small road leading to the historical centre; it’s exquisitely designed with beautiful statues and geometrical shaped bushes overlooking the sweet adjacent rolling hills. Ah, Italy, you never cease to amaze me!
Around this time of the year, I have the opportunity and pleasure to dive into familiar dialects, expressions, places and traditions that wake my senses and memories. During the film festival, Cinema Italian Style, I get to see all the classic and new movies that depicts stories and characters wrapped in the historical or contemporary fabric of Italian society. It’s a fantastic way to see how the Italian movie industry is carrying on with its glorious cinematic past and a chance to see first hand how my culture is expressed through and in films.
Among the impeccable selection of great movies, Cinema Italian Style always features the film picked as Italy’s official entry for Best Foreign-Language Oscar category. This year, the selected movie to represent Italy is ‘Caesar Must Die’, already a winner of the top prize at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival. The movie is inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ and was shot entirely in the maximum-security prison of Rebibbia with the characters being played by real life inmates. The result is amazing visually (despite the scarcity of props or the bare-bone costumes) and emotionally; through enacting the timeless tale of betrayal and downfall, the inmates’ feelings are raw and as real as they can get. At the premiere held at the Egyptian theatre, legendary directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani spoke about the process of making this film and the ambivalent task of directing former criminals in scenes where vengeance and anger prevail.
In the quiet city of Artesia, 20 miles south of Los Angeles, there’s a four block stretch that will teleport you to the heart of India. On Pioneer Boulevard from street 184th to 188th, your senses will be infused with spices, colors, scents and sounds that will trick your brain into thinking that you’re living the real Indian experience. There are countless restaurants, sari boutiques and stores selling traditional jewelry, furniture, food and spices. Women in their beautiful Indian outfits walk gracefully and shop quietly at their favorite stores, men also wear their best outfits with colorful turbans and they make small chat at the street corner, children play loudly in restaurants; it’s hard not to love this beautiful culture. While I was visiting yesterday, there was a special trepidation for the upcoming Festival of Lights (Diwali) a five day celebration of the victory of the Good over the Evil and Light over Darkness. ”Victory of good over evil”, refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one’s true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings anand (joy or peace). Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Diwali is the celebration of this Inner Light.
Diwali is celebrated in families who perform traditional activities together; one of them involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. These lamps are kept on during the night and one’s house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome. Firecrackers are burst in order to drive away evil spirits. During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.
It is said that this celebration brings good luck, wealth and prosperity. Well, I guess I was just lucky to stumble upon it in Little India, but to increase my fortune I purchased some clay lamps, too!