Tales of a Gringa in Brazil

5 03 2010

I just finished reading up on the adventures of my dear friend Liz (of Argentina and alfajor fame) as she settles into her new home in Brazil. She is living for six months in the tiny town of Maravilha, population 20,000, where she will be teaching English (and has already become something of a celebrity). I would be lying if I said I wasn’t the slightest bit jealous, but I’m nonetheless thrilled for her, and can’t wait to read more about her adventures. Hopefully I too will appear on Gringa Tales one of these days, as I am going to do everything in my power to get down there and visit her.





Oh Schmap!

6 07 2009

I recently discovered that two photos I posted on Flickr were selected to represent Woodlawn Cemetery and the New York Botanic Garden on Schmap, this new, nifty interactive map guide. This was exciting because: a) someone likes my pictures! and b) I discovered Schmap, this cool new digital travel guide, where users can publish schmaps (with photos, reviews and trip itineraries)  and access maps and guides from anywhere. Yet another reason I need to invest in a smarter phone than the jenky one I currently have.





Tweet on Travel?

21 04 2009

I like to think of myself as rather up on the latest technologies, though I know this is a total fallacy. In fact, though I consider myself “hip to tech,” I instead tend to be nearly the opposite. I don’t have an iPhone (my phone, at that, is a piddly, very old model, my iPod even older), it took me forever to start blogging, though I am on Facebook, I’m rather resistant (have never written a status update, don’t search for people I know there…) and the list goes on. Meaning that basically my tech savvy lies in knowing HTML and using the internet for all things efficient.

Which is why I have yet to join the ranks of the latest technology, which seems to me far from efficient. Yes, I have a Twitter account. I actually signed up long ago, before it was as huge as it is now, which places me on the forefront of the Twitter revolution, right? Wrong, if you consider that I have not tweeted a single thing in the months I’ve been signed up. I do, however, have 25 followers, and counting, none of whom know (at least not from Twitter) when I’m enjoying the sunshine, or in a contemplative mood or, for that matter, filing my nails.

Which brings me to Twitter and travel. The Twitter-obsessed, it seems, Tweet all the time, everywhere. While I recognize that Twitter is fun and that there is definitely value to certain updates, for the most part I feel it also has the tendency of making the mundane ubiquitous, and of being a total time suck.

The other day, when I saw a BootsnAll article about Twitter while traveling, I was intrigued. The article responds to a World Hum advice column piece by Rolf Potts, who answered the question, “Should I update friends and family by Tweeting while traveling?” with a decisive “no,” which was, predictably, followed up by countless responses, comments on Rolf’s own piece. World Hum then placated those tweeting travelers with a response giving tips from travelers who do like to Tweet. The BootsnAll article I came across that dragged me into this fray was essentially ad “live and let live” response to all the responses

I find the whole thing rather fascinating. First, there’s this main, overarching point of technology itself, since here is all this online discussion of the decision to “online discuss.” And here I am adding yet another voice to it all. In some senses, it is heartening, a sense of community in a way. Even though the opinions on the subject differ, it makes for interesting reading and interesting conversation on a topic that is, well, topical right now. It’s yet another means of making opinions and information ubiquitous.

As for the whole, Tweet during travel debate, though, I think I have to agree with Potts. While I do enjoy blogging while traveling, which some might argue is the same thing, I feel like there is a difference. A blog is like a mass communication, like sending a semi-descriptive missive to all those at home who want to know what’s happening with me and what sorts of adventures (or misadventures) I’m experiencing. While in theory Twitter does the same, there isn’t much one can convey in one line of text, so I’d guess it takes away from the experience without adding to much to those not experiencing, while a blog or an email is a way to relive certain aspects of the trip, almost a form of public journaling. And, since Tweeting is more immediate and shorter, I’d guess there is the risk of doing it more often, which means attention is focused on Tweeting about the experience rather than actually experiencing it (while with a blog or email, that time is explicitly focused on said task and on recalling, an experience, rather than relating it while it happens). Potts also mentions my favorite form of communication while traveling: the oft-overlooked postcard, the original travel communication and a memory in itself, which merits its own later post.

Ultimately, I agree that Ms. Spiegel of BootsnAll has a point: there are, in fact, all kinds, and what’s right for me isn’t going to be right for the next person. I travel far differently than my sister does. Likewise, she has 300+ Facebook friends while I have barely 70. It all comes down to what you like and what you do. But for me, I’d go with Potts and advise all those Tweeters out there to strongly consider resting their fingers over the course of their travels to fully immerse themselves into the experience, without the cocern of sending minute by minute updates home. Not that they asked me in the first place…





Friday Pennies: NY Souvenirs and Orchids and More

7 03 2009

It’s been a while since I’ve done a penny post, and after the week I’ve had, I need one. I don’t know why this week was exceptionally hard, but the combination of the frigid weather outside and my own feeling under the weather has had me feeling exhausted and pretty much blue all week long. But coming into the weekend, all is looking fine. A few reasons? Funny you should ask:

  • I’m lovin’ this blog post on Budget Travel about Authentic, Affordable New York Souvenirs. No snow globes here! A few favorites: the fantastic and unique New York dishes from Fishs Eddy, sweets from Zabar’s, and, of course, totes from Strand Books. A few to add: Fat Witch Brownies and that magical scrub from Sabon.
  • The fact that I was able to walk around today without my toes going numb. Is spring here?
  • Orchids.
  • Book group. I just picked up the latest book today. Confessions of an Economic Hitman, in which John Perkins tells of his role in helping “the U.S. cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then taking over their economies.” Not, admittedly, something I would have chosen, which is why I’m thrilled that book group turned me on to it. I’ve read two pages and am already fascinated!
  • The weekend. Despite the fact that I must work tomorrow (I have to attend a class to learn about SAT prep, faux-yay!), the weekend promises a chat with Liz in London, a tour of an abandoned subway tunnel, and longer, lighter days.




71 Miles to Almost Anything

4 03 2009
From the roof of my former SF apartment

From the roof of my former SF apartment

I feel as though I’ve been touting the virtues of California a lot recently. In the past few weeks I’ve found myself in several conversations, both with fellow Californians who know what I’m talking about and with New Yorkers (or other East Coasters) who wonder if I’ll ever go back. It’s amusing really: the Californians pretty much always say they’ll return, especially this time of year.

The East Coasters will often ask why I left, but generally conclude that they could not live in California, mostly given the earthquakes. This is an amusing fear to me: I’d much prefer the threat of an earthquake (the last major quake in the San Francisco Bay Area was 1989) than the actuality of hurricanes, tornadoes or whatever other national disasters occur just about annually in other parts of the country.

But that is not the point. Whenever Easterners ask me what’s so great about California, my answer is simple: everything. We have great weather (most of the time) and in most places in the state you’re not far from whatever it is you might seek: mountains, ocean, desert, sea elephants, wine… California, and San Francisco in specific, pretty much has it all.

Which is why it was so thrilling to find this e-zine the other day: 71Miles is a website covering weekend destinations within a four-hour radius of San Francisco. Within those guides is something for everyone. Head out to the coast, up to the mountains, into the wine country, or simply stay put. From San Francisco, four hours gets you (almost) to Santa Barbara, also known as paradise, to Yosemite, one of the natural treasures of the United States, and just about anywhere else you might want to go.

It’s basically a blog, but it’s amusing, well-written, and there is a lot of good content on it. Best part? The writer/editor, John A. Vlahides happens to be a New York transplant to San Francisco. Go figure.





Latest Obsession: Sosauce

2 03 2009

I’ll confess I’m not really big on the social networking revolution. I have the obligatory Facebook and MySpace accounts but rather obstinately refrain from using them unless someone contacts me first. I’m behind the times, I know (my older sister, on the other hand, has been on Facebook all of a month and has 300+ friends—go figure).

That’s to say nothing of the many social networking sites devoted to travel alone. I’m not sure if there are other industries that merit their own litany of social networking sites, but travelers, not surprisingly, love to connect and share stories (and pictures and tips) with other travelers. And so this is one type of social networking I can definitely get behind, especially when it’s as cool a site as my latest discovery: Social Sauce.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting a few of the masterminds behind Sosauce when they hosted a cocktail party with the EuroCheapo crew. Buoyed by Tom’s delicious sangria, I went straight home and, admittedly, stayed up far too long creating a Sosauce profile. Too bad I’ve only since recruited one friend (who, it just so happens, is one of the few people I know who is not on Facebook). Looks like I’m going to have convince my sister to come on board.

Anyhow, Sosauce is the social networking site to end all social networking sites, for travel at least. First, they call themselves “travel geeks” (note: any time you can be an “anything geek,” do it!). Second, there is a cool interactive guide section, as well as a great personal area where you can share videos, photos, journal entries, map your trips and much more. But my favorite part is the socially conscious aspect. The standard profile page gives travel geeks, in addition to the usual name, interests, etc. spaces, a place to choose their endangered species of choice as well as the social and environmental causes they most care about. And it must be noted that the business cards of Sosauce employees each feature a different endangered species with a bottle of sauce. Now if my adoring their business cards isn’t geeky, I don’t know what is!





Guest Post: A Girl’s Wish

26 12 2008

Holiday travel is always stressful, but well worth it when you arrive to hugs and the smiling faces of some of the cutest kids in the world. We’ve not done much but around the house, so I have little to report in terms of Colorado, but, in the vein of female bonding and passing the torch to a new generation of writers, I present some holiday cheer in the form of a guest blog. Without further ado, “A Girl’s Wish,” a story by Miss Olivia Jean Russo, age seven.

A Girl’s Wish

One day a  girl named Sarah wanted a webkinz Racon. She asked her mom. Her mom said no. So one night Sarah heard a sound on the roof. She climed up on the roof  and saw  Santa with  a webkinz Racon. She went up to Santa and was  so happy. She got to ride in his sleigh. Because she was so happy she got to go to the north pole and see the elves. The next day Sarah’s mom was  wondering where Sarah was. Sarah was watching tv with Mrs . Clause. They were watching  Elf. When Elf was over Sarah had to go home. When she was home she got to go Christmas shopping with her mom.

About the Author

Hi my name is Olivia Russo. I have two dogs. My favorite food is ice cream. I have five people in my family. My friends call me Liv. My mom sometimes calls me sassy pants when Iam bad. my favorite animal is a dog.I like to go to the pool with my family.We also like to go to Sweet Tomatos. We like to go camping at Horsetooth reservoir. I like to go on rides on the boat. Ilike to jet ski and snow ski. When I grow up I want to be an author and write all kinds of stories. I want to live in Hawaii because you get to swim jet ski and swim with the dolphins.

Written by Olivia Russo and typed (exactly as written) by Olivia Russo and Lauren Markel

Budding Young Writers, Lauren Markel (left) and Olivia Russo

Budding Young Writers, Lauren Markel (left) and Olivia Russo





Holidays offManhattan

21 12 2008

Ok, this may be cheating a little bit, but I’m going to do it anyway. In keeping with my holiday obsession of late, I spent some time on Friday writing about holiday festivities off the island of Manhattan for none other than offManhattan.com, a travel guide for New York that promotes green living by writing about places to visit outside Manhattan that are reachable by public transportation.

I had so much fun researching and writing this that I may have gotten a little carried away, but since most of these are things I want to do and see, I had to share them a second time here. Check it out.





Fan Mail

10 10 2008

There’s nothing to make a gal feel great like a little adoration. Being the youngest in my family by many years, I am aunty to 11 children, most of whom, to varying degrees, consider me the fun young aunt, different and cooler than their parents and other aunts/uncles. Any I, of course revel in this fact.

This morning, to my great delight, I found this comment from one niece. Her sister, however, had other things to say. My oldest brother, Gregg, has three daughters. His youngest, Olivia, has always had an inexplicable and yet wholly welcome affinity for me. She tends to prefer me to just about everyone else in the vicinity, often including her own mother. Wherever I am, you don’t have to look far to find Olivia.

And, though incredibly diplomatic, my darling does not keep her love of Titi (as the kids call me) under wraps. When teased by my brother Scott, who insists (to the point of annoyance, as only Scott can do) that he is her favorite person, little Olivia stands firm. And when this past summer Scott got her to call him her favorite uncle (by letting her OD on frosting), the darling quickly turned to me and added, “He said uncle,” just to make sure there was no question of my having slipped from favor.

Why is all this important? Because my nieces have been looking at my blog. Several months back I wrote about Olivia’s older sisters in a post about passing on a love of travel, and in this one about baking. Olivia was not mentioned in these posts, in part because she was uncharacteristically not at my side during these interactions, and in part because I intended a separate post about her, which then never came about. It will now, however…

This morning I woke to the following email, titled “it’s your darling”:

I read your blog  you didint write about me . When are you going to do that? Why did you write about  all my sisters and not me? I’m your darling appendige . And your pretend godchild . Do you relly love me or not ? If you don’t write about  me I will like uncle scott more then you! I’m serius with you are you worred about that? now or never

From the word “appendage” (which I have used with and defined for her in the past) I’m guessing she may have had some help crafting this note. It’s entirely possible that Scott put her up to it. It’s also entirely possible that she is really that enraged. Whatever the case, it looks as though my next post will be that long belated story of Olivia’s tea party. And soon.

Me and my shadow.

Me and my shadow.





Earth Day Musings

22 04 2008

They sure picked the right time for Earth Day. It’s definitely (finally) springtime in New York and there is something about the fresh smells in the air (and the warmth in the air that makes you want to actually be outdoors and able to smell it) and the new little blossoms on the trees that makes one love earth all the more. I am all about being pro-Earth and all, but I’d be far less inclined to be impressed by Earth Day fairs if they took place in frigid temps when the environment is nothing more than the wind whipping against my ears and causing my hands to sting.

Anyhow, rant over. It is spring and despite being a little foggy-headed from allergies, I am very much pro-environment and pro-doing what I can to help it. Last year at this time I sent an invective to my siblings who (living in Colorado of all places) didn’t recycle. They were annoyed, but a few months later I got a call from my nephew (to whom I assigned the task of bugging his parents about social responsibility) to inform me of the delivery of their recycling bins.

This year I have no siblings to enlighten but I will extend the plea to any and all other Coloradans who may come across my blog: PLEASE RECYCLE.

And now I have many other tasks to which I must attend (like Earth Day fairs) so I will end with a list of Earth friendly items, and pick up Earth Week again tomorrow:

  • Last year I posted about Earth Day friendly travel on EuroCheapo’s blog.
  • Totalbeauty.com has a list of Earth Day Discounts and Freebies for green chicks who refuse to sacrifice style for the Earth (or travel).
  • And because I love sweets, I want to turn everyone onto Travel Chocolate, the socially responsible chocolate bar (more to come).

Over and Out.