Hurled Into the Extraordinary World of Food

At A Ripe Early Age

I have a confession to make. I’m not proud of it. I wish I hadn’t done it, but it was over 50 years ago and it’s time to let it go. There were eleven children from two different wombs in my family; that’s a story for another day. I was born to please. I learned early on that if I did the “right” thing, I would get the food that I wanted and liked. If I played my cards right, I could count on privileges my siblings were unaware of, and further, it was not my place to tell them. At the ripe old age of 12, I volunteered to do the weekly grocery shopping. With a family as large as mine, door-to-door delivery was necessary and fortunately for us, free. My neighborhood grocery store knew my family; I’m certain they were grateful we were catholic (usually an absence of birth control) and big eaters. You may be thinking that I was a good kid to relieve my mother of this cumbersome chore, but alas, I had an ulterior motive. Each week I would purchase cake and sweets which I did not send home with the delivery boy (always boys — I later became one myself). I coveted these ill-gotten goods and devoured them on the way home. This would explain my pudgy teenage physique. What I couldn’t eat I hid for later consumption. I committed this heinous crime for quite some time; my parish priest was never told at confessional (also for a later blog). Finally, a combination of guilt and excess pounds forced me to give up my criminal behavior. Lighten up, I’m no George Santos.

I’m afraid this was not my only crime. As the eldest son of divorced parents, I was charged with the task of taking the Brooklyn N train to Coney Island. I would meet my father at Carolina Restaurant for family meal (when restaurant staff sit down to eat before service); we spent ten quick minutes eating peasant Italian food and sharing not-so-pleasant stories about my mother and stepfather. Toward the end of our weekly ritual, I’d stick out my hand for the cash I made the trip to secure. Collecting and doling out our weekly allowance was solely my responsibility. I did not take this task lightly, in fact, I saw this as a huge burden. A burden deserving of compensation. Confession #2, I paid myself a salary for my hard work getting each of them their cash on time each every Tuesday, and me, worse for the wear. My earned bonus went toward the purchase of Coney Island confections at the sweets counter under The El: taffy, chocolate covered peanuts, huge colorful jawbreakers, and jellies. I had 20 minutes on the train home to hide the evidence in my belly.

I’m ashamed of these deceptions; however, they mark the beginning of my fascination with all things culinary. My desire to have all kinds of foods led me to a lifelong struggle with guilt, weight loss, and
the avoidance of food related lies. It feels good to report that most of these issues are under control. Although this is my first time publicly admitting my egregious wrongdoings, I have come to terms with my past and I forgiven myself. After all, we were dirt poor and my entrepreneurial spirit just needed channeling in a more positive direction. It it my hope that my siblings do not read this blog (I’m certain they won’t actually). I’m positive several of them would hold me accountable and might even go so far as to seek retribution — I imagine years of skimming off the top of their allowance, added up. My parents are long gone; they probably would have laughed about it and patted me on the back–afterall, it was their DNA that got me into that mess in the first place.

“I know once people get connected to real food, they never change back.”

– Alice Waters

Fast forward to college and beyond. As a college student, my school loans went toward buying food and eating out. I borrowed books and used the reference section of the library in order to spend less money on books for school and more money on good food. My father cooking was sublime; his knowledge of food extensive, and so, he consequently, spoiled me for life. I can’t be happy with MacDonald’s or canned beans. Like most incurable illnesses, I cannot be blamed for this affliction. Food has taken me to places I never imagined I would go. Dinners with Julia Child, business trips with Jacques Pépin, curriculum meetings with José Andrés, a lifelong friendship with the former editor of Bon Appetit, Barbara Fairchild, who is one special human. I realize it all started from a series of lies, but they were miniscule lies in the scheme of things. I have fond memories of discussions with Anthony Bourdain, although I never ate his food. My friendship with André Soltner will always be cherished (owner of Lutece in NYC). And 16 years at The French Culinary Institute was the single greatest gift of my life; the marriage of education and incredible foods doesn’t get any better. And as an added bonus, I met a few people there who have become lifelong friends. Not just foodie friends, they’d take a bullet for me friends.

“My weaknesses have always been food and men – in that order.”

– Dolly Parton

The FCI, eating at the #1 restaurant Francescana, cooking without recipes

Why I love Food

My father gets 100% credit for my love of good food. In addition to being a fabulous cook, he also loved food from all around the world. On his day off from work, he often took us to restaurants in our very diverse neighborhood. But I do have a story to share:

I was visiting him in Florida after he retired there. I told him I was taking him out for Chinese food; however under one condition: I would be ordering the food for us (I was a precocious twenty year old). He insisted on knowing why. I was quite frustrated with his resistance; he always ordered the same three dishes and I wanted him to try some Chinese food he’s never eaten. After a couple of hours of telling me I was ridiculous and stubborn, he gave up the fight. I ordered five or six exotic Chinese dishes: shark fin soup, abalone in garlic sauce, fried mashi; to name a few; I ordered a lot.

My dad was open minded, but he liked what he liked and he did not like dinner that night. He didn’t complain during the meal; however, after I paid the check he said, “From now on I’ll pay for my own meal and order whatever the hell I want.” He was right of course; I was an SOB.

It’s a Blessing and a Curse
Have you ever gone into a restaurant and found a dish so sublime you couldn’t get it out of your head? Two weeks later you return to said restaurant only to find out the chef left or he’s away for a few weeks or they’ve taken the dish off the menu and they’re not sure if it will ever return or the purveyor no longer carries that cut of beef or it just doesn’t taste the same and you don’t know why? This is the story of my life. Whenever any of the aforementioned happens, I am devastated and ruined for the day.

On the flip side, there are foods and dishes that I love that will never go away for the following reasons:

  • I cook them.
  • Many food brands have been around for 100 years.
  • Brooklyn and all of it’s wonderful ethnic restaurants is here to stay.
  • It comes from the ocean.
  • People would revolt if pizza and/or hamburgers went away.
  • They’ve been around for many centuries (e.g., nuts, rice, vegetables, bread, pasta).
  • Salt & pepper will be here long after we’re gone.

Fine dining is nice on occasion. I ate at high end, expensive, popular, talented chef restaurants, for so long it became tedious; if I’m going to be honest, I prefer either my own cooking or a neighborhood restaurant with good food. I can’t do super rich anymore; my digestive system just can’t handle it. I’d rather have a nice meal at a good price and take home the leftovers. When I really want to eat well: fresh, simple, and delicious . . . I cook. Cooking is my Zen place.

Then there is the wine — I’ll leave it at that.

Future Travel

Fort Lauderdale (Deerfield Beach) in two weeks, then Nantes and Pornic, France, Liverpool, England, and Marseilles, France — Nantes and Pornic are happening on the same trip, over a four day period. Other holidays planned later in the year. Biggest trip of 2023 will be Dubai, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Hong Kong — end of October to mid-November. This will be an adventure of a lifetime that has been postponed three times due to COVID.


I am over two months into a co-coaching experiment I will write about soon. There are two things I want to tease you with:

  1. We sometimes limit ourselves in what is possible due to financial situations. This is unfortunate; I’ve learned there are many constructive things you can do with your life that cost nothing or next to nothing.
  2. Doing a deep dive into what emotionally and psychologically ails you is not easy, but it can be the most rewarding thing you will ever do.


I commissioned Lori Owens Kostiuk, a very talented artist friend, to do a watercolor portrait of Paco. She truly captured the essence of Paco in his Sweet Pea harness. Thank you Lori. If you’re interested in a portrait of your pet, private message me for her details or find her on FB, LOK Studio 6.

“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.”

– W.C. Fields

This was a fun blog to write. Thank you for reading.

The Cruise Experience

If you love cruising, some of what I have to say may disturb you.

How it All Started

I booked this Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) cruise about a year prior to the pandemic and it finally left port on October 5. I have heard great things about NCL and I was excited about seeing parts of northern Europe I had never explored (Belfast, Cork, Invergordon, and Kirkwall). Knowing how travel is these days, I decided to arrive in Amsterdam (our starting point) a day early in order to ensure being at the port for the start of the cruise; I also have a good friend in Amsterdam that I was hoping to visit. I had a voucher for British Airways due to a canceled flight during the pandemic and I thought I’d make good use of it. I had a 90 minute connection at London’s Gatwick, but I thought there would be no reason to rush to Amsterdam.

Taking your luggage on board with you is always the way to go, however, this was a two week trip and I wasn’t up for cleaning my underwear daily; besides I needed some nicer cruisewear. I used a larger suitcase making carryon impossible (although I have to say I did spy some pretty large bags carried on board). I’m not exactly sure why, but I had 100% confidence that my luggage would arrive with me in Amsterdam. Ha.

I’m on antibiotics because of a prostate infection and the meds were in my suitcase (dumb, dumb, dumb – never again). I will spare you the details of my lost luggage, but I will share this:  unless you advocate for yourself and be firm with the third party lost luggage company, you will never see your luggage in time for your adventure. I am certain that if I had not asked for details about when and where my bag would arrive at the airport, I would have waited days longer to receive it. As it was, the day after my Amsterdam arrival I went to the airport to wait for my bag to come out of the luggage carousel. The flight my bag was on was early and my bag was the first one on the belt, with a large “rush” tag on it. I screamed so loudly airport security gave me a cautious glance. I kept my happy dance for the rest room. British Airways will be receiving a not-so-pleasant letter from me.

I made my way to the cruise embarkment building anticipating an easy check in (I was three hours late due to my necessary airport run). By the way, I didn’t mention my hotel situation on purpose. Whether I had stayed at the Ritz Carlton for a Hostel, I would not have slept five minutes. I was so anxious about my lost luggage that I had decided if it didn’t arrive on cruise day, I would head back to Faro and just accept the loss. Sleep deprivation takes your mind to awful places; I was worried about Paco, the world economy, and my prostate. Nothing good comes from a sleepless night. But as reported, I had my luggage and I was ready to check-in. 

I walked into the port hall and there were no less than 1000 passengers on several lines waiting to check in. I walked up to a staff member and asked where to go for priority check-in. I had paid (or thought I’d paid) an additional $250 in order to be at the front of the line for the beginning and end of the cruise. It once took three hours to disembark a ship and I vowed never to put myself through that again. This very pleasant staff member told me that there was no priority check in and I’d have to wait with the rest of the passengers. I smiled and walked away. The next staff member I approached apologized and walked me over to a priority line. Again, persistence paid off. I had my cabin key in 20 minutes. No doubt some of the people in that hall waited several hours. I was thinking that the $250 I paid for priority check in was the best money I’d ever spent. 

I settled into my oceanview cabin. I didn’t pay the hundreds extra for a balcony knowing northern Europe would be chilly in October and I wouldn’t be lounging on my balcony. I want to see the ocean; having a glass barrier is fine by me. I was very pleased with my cabin location – it is essential that when you book you find out where the bars, party rooms, and casino are located, you do not want your cabin to be above or below any of these places. My room was nicely situated close to a couple of nice restaurants and guest services. I decided to tour the ship and get my bearings and basically wear myself out before a much needed nap. 

On my tour of the ship I stopped by guest services to ask a few questions regarding the details of the cruise. It was there that I learned that when I pre-registered I had not completed the priority check in payment and therefore, I was never signed up for it or charged. So just minutes before, I dodged a multi-hour process just by saying that I had priority check in. I felt bad, but a nap and some time would take care of my guilty conscience.


I’m not terribly fond of luxury travel. Perhaps it was having been raised in Coney Island, a poor section of Brooklyn or maybe it’s having empathy for those will never enjoy it. When I have staff servicing my basic needs several times a day, I find it uncomfortable. I prefer doing most things myself. The way I deal with the discomfort is to spend some time meditating; considering my good fortune and ways of giving back. It helps me to be more in the moment and to just enjoy myself. I must admit, it took a few days to settle into this temporary lifestyle.

The Third Night

It often takes a while, but when I allow it, my body will finally submit to most situations. On the third night of the cruise I was finished with eating, listening to a live band play some very smooth jazz, and sipping martinis. It was about 9:30 p.m. and I thought I’d read in my quiet cabin. I noticed Gerry (my stewart) has provided turn down service; the lights were dim and the curtains were drawn closed. I flossed, brushed, moisturized, and thought about how delightful the day had been on board this conflicted ocean liner – conflicted because of the various juxtapositioned spaces, although close together, clearly designed by different designers. One space modern with bold bright lights, while another wood paneled and soft. Still further aft, a series of too bright shops that could be in any mall is South Dakota. I don’t mind it really; however, the brain does begin to question why. Coming out of a bewildered trance, I turned out my cabin lights and drew open the curtains. The sea was white capped and crashing against the bow of the ship. Outdoor beams highlighted the shores of the English Channel and the rocking of the ship was akin to a mother gently pushing the side of a newborn’s cradle. I propped myself up against my window and took it all in, reminding myself to breathe and smile. This is why I happily grouse and pay the price of admission. This I could get used to.

Piss & Moan

I can’t ever share my experiences with you without complaining about something, so here goes. I’ll try my best to keep the soap box stuff to a minimum.

As you know, the pandemic changed travel forever. I can picture the NCL top management sitting around a big, expensive, boardroom table with good coffee and danish. The big boss starts the meeting by stating how much the company lost over the last two years. No doubt NCL alone had over a billion dollars in losses. The question of the day:  How do we recover those losses? It will be all about how they survived on loans and keeping their lenders at bay. How creative they were with luring people to future travel by offering big deals and refundable deposits. 

How the minions suffered with small furlough payouts or minimal unemployment, will not be mentioned at this said meeting. The theme is how much better off we will be in spite of a small hiccup. They may even mention how many of the smaller cruised companies were squeezed out of the market, creating even greater future earnings. Nothing new, this is corporate culture.

Not having cruised for sometime, I can easily see where they are recovering big profits:

  1. They keep the actual cruise cost at pre-pandemic prices and make everything an add-on cost (dominal fees).
  2. What is included in your initial cruise price is considered “complimentary;” not sure it’s complimentary if you’ve paid for it. The airlines are notorious for doing the same thing. On a recent flight I asked if lunch would be served. The flight attendant said, “Sir, we will be offering a complimentary snack (a teenie package of pretzels) and water. If you go to our website (you’ll need to sign-up for on-board wifi, extra cost) you will find a bistro  menu with pricing. Let me know if you need anything.” “Oh, and we do not accept cash.”
  3. The cruise served something akin to bitter mud and called it coffee or you could visit the Java Café and get an American coffee for $3.00 or a latté for a nominal $3.95. The lines for coffee all day were impressive. Our addiction to caffeine has created massive revenue opportunities. On the fifth day I learned that I could use my $75 on-board credit for coffee; I joined the java line that day and everyday after. I also learned to add hot water to the mud they served to counter the bitterness.
  4. I think specialty dining has been around for quite some time, but now you can be treated to a “special” Italian or Japanese dinner with some additional costs. They will add 20% gratuity to the entire bill. If you already paid a 20% gratuity for the entire staff of the ship (which I did), you now need to add this gratuity to your totals. Since you’re eating a “special” dinner, you won’t want to drink that swill included in your $380 beverage package, you’ll want to order a special bottle of wine – only marked up 600% for your total enjoyment.
  5. We’ll be happy to wash your dirty clothes for a nominal  . . . whatever they decide people will pay. Just buy new underwear at every port, it will be cheaper.
  6. Jump in front of the line for a mere $250.
  7. Let us take you on a one-of-a-kind excursion for four hours at a mere $189 (food and beverage not included).
  8. Do you need transportation to and from? We offer that too. A thirty minute ride to the airport for $75 per person – not per vehicle, per person.
  9. We know you’re all addicted to your phones; therefore, allow us to profit from your addiction. You can have wifi for the entirety of your cruise for only $220 or $29 a day; a bargain no. *Please note, wifi will be stronger in large public areas . . . if and when you’re able to connect. My cell worked in all of the EU ports — another Portugal bonus.
  10. Remember when you could swim in an indoor pool and use the jacuzzi without paying extra? Now you can enjoy our indoor thermal spa for only $249 for the entire length of your cruise. Extra benefit:  it will never be crowded because working class people will not be using these services. We do have a “complimentary” outdoor jacuzzi if you dare to try and use it. Two hundred and eighty pound Joe got in at 11:00 a.m. and still hasn’t left at 4:00 p.m. Our waitstaff will deliver your beverages at no extra charge.
  11. Do you also remember when the fitness center on board held classes every morning? I recall it was often just me and the yoga instructor or abs trainer. No worries, they still hold classes; however now, there is that annoying nominal fee.

Please don’t worry that your favorite cruise company will go away, they have obviously found many ways to recover their losses and then some. Cynical? No, just sharing facts. The cost of each of the extras may not be completely accurate, as the amounts were from memory. You can be certain that I mostly understated the costs. At the end of the day, I spent over $300 onboard; actually not-so-bad for 10 days.

Reminds me of what the Port Authority of New York said when they built the Verrazano Bridge:  “When the cost of building the bridge is recovered, we will remove all tolls from the bridge.” It’s been more than sixty years and the cost of crossing over to Staten Island has increased to a nominal $22 a trip, but hey, you only pay one way and they maintain the bridge so that it will never collapse. 

The cruise companies will no doubt recover their losses and profits will continue to soar. Don’t forget billionaires did really well during the pandemic, most increasing their wealth tenfold. How did you fair? Perhaps the billionaires could have paid for the vaccine and contributed to unemployment payouts? Not on your life.

Yes, I have stood on my soap box for far too long; my apologies.

Prologue:  After writing this bit I was enjoying a delicious filet mignon dinner with Oren (met him in Dover on my walk to the castle – very impressive castle by the way). I mentioned my blog and that I had just been ranting about all the little extras on board. He replied, ”You know, I added up what a comparable hotel would cost, a nice lunch and dinner out, entertainment and drinks and I realized the cost of this cruise is actually a really good deal.” It made me feel better about all of the nickle and diming happening on the ship; I think Oren is right, it’s a pretty decent deal. Still, I’ll be staying away from the top shelf scotch and the Cuban cigars, thank you very much.

The Best Things about a Cruise

  • Being surrounded by the open sea. There are few things more humbling than the vastness of the ocean. When you see nothing but water (similar to looking up at thousands of stars), it is a reminder of how tiny you are compared to the size of the earth and the universe. Best not to try to take up more space than the universe provided.
  • I loved walking back to my cabin after a night out on the ship. I could sit in a lounge with a cognac enjoying live music and decide that it is time for bed and be brushing my teeth five minutes later.
  • I enjoyed turn down service. If you’ve ever had it, you’ll understand.
  • I could read in a different quiet spot on the ship every day.
  • You could look at the menu and decide to try three appetizers and two entrees.
  • If you are friendly (not always easy), you can meet interesting people from all over the world. 
  • Several different opportunities to submerge yourself in water.
  • I managed to get lost almost every time I left my room and it didn’t bother me.
  • There are times when you get to see the best of humankind, usually it’s the staff. 
  • Being an early to bed, early to rise person has its advantages:  mornings on the ship were very quiet, including the dining room at breakfast.
  • A wine and chocolate tasting was very well done. I learned a lot and the five wines they paired were excellent. The nominal fee was actually quite reasonable.
  • I’m not sure if it was the rocking of the ship, the cozy cabins, being away from day-to-day problems, etc., but I did sleep well on the cruise.
  • When everyone went on shore and I decided to remain on the ship, it was heaven.

The Ugly Bits

  • You will witness entitled passengers being rude to the cruise staff.
  • All of the nominal charges and super inflated prices on board.
  • Loudspeaker announcements.
  • Some of the food served was downright bad. I had pancakes that I was certain were pre-cooked and microwaved.
  • Loud passengers who will do anything to be noticed.
  • Cueing up sucks.
  • I couldn’t help but wonder how much longer this type of overindulgence will last in our society.
  • People talking politics in the hot tub.
  • Individuals who, for whatever reason, feel the need to share their stories without being asked to do so.
  • Embarkment terminals are depressing – they can be very large and empty.
  • Closed spaces (much like airplanes) can mean suffocation by unpleasant human odors – you know what I mean.
  • I don’t love group tours. Waiting around for things to get started is frustrating for me.

A Wonderful Surprise

Two Scottish ports were canceled due to rough weather. Instead we sailed into Dover, England and I got to see the white cliffs of Dover; truly majestic. I can look forward to Scotland at another time, perhaps at a better time.


I know I didn’t write very much about the ports of call. I did get off the ship in Dover. I met a new friend outside the ship and we walked a couple of miles to Dover Castle on the hill. I’ve visited quite a few castles; although this was a very well preserved castle, it was a castle. A typical Dover pub for a pint was a nice change. My first visit to Belfast, I decided to see its coastline, which was magnificent. Cork was our next to the last stop; a beautiful city and one of the best fish chowder’s of my life. We docked in Portland, England on our last full cruise day. I wanted to see the Jurassic coast, however, that tour filled up quickly, so I begrudgingly booked Corfe Castle and the English countryside. Long story very short, we couldn’t go to the castle right away due to a parking issue, so our guide decided to detour to the Jurassic coast; it was meant to be. The castle and the coast were spectacular (see photos below).

I cannot imagine more than one cruise every few years. I write this realizing I have an Asian cruise planned for November ‘23. It doesn’t count because I booked it several years ago and it has been canceled and rescheduled numerous times (COVID). It’s a wonderful way to travel, but I find all the food and partying to be a bit decadent.

Near Future Travel

Fortunately, between now and March I have every little planned. My sister and brother-in-law will be visiting from North Carolina in early November and I’m surprising them with an overnight trip to see the incredible Algarve rock formations (my sister has never read and will never read my blog; I love her nonetheless). A food & wine trip to Lyon, France with friends in mid-November and a weekend at the Spanish border in December. That’s it until March when I will be traveling to Florida for a week of curated memories; sharing a house with two of my favorite people in the world. All of the above amply spaced out and well planned.

Three Friends, Three Cities, Three Very Different Experiences

Friendships are a true gift, but they aren’t always easy and they should never be taken for granted. As with all relationships, you have to nurture them. I have three male friends I have known for a combined total of close to 100 years. These men are different in many ways; they do not know one another; I love all three for different reasons. When I spend time with each of them, I have a totally different experience.

I spoke with them separately about spending some bro time together; in two cases without their female spouses. They all three agreed to see me for quality time we may not have shared otherwise. All three have agreed to my public blog. My goal is to illustrate in words and pictures, how each person in our lives provides us with something unique and necessary — as necessary as the air we breathe.

No Two Friendships are Alike

I learned early in life, that friendship cannot be easily explained. A person may appear one day as if placed down by a divine hand and the next thing you know, you are the best of friends. What makes this connection different? Everything. Trust, security, loyalty, companionship, confidant, active listener, great dining partner, a shoulder to cry on, understanding, a history, strength, support, and so on. My friendships with these three men consist of all of the above and more. I thank them for sticking with me and by me; I congratulate myself for doing the work necessary to cultivate good friendships. I have other men and women in my life that I love and adore, but I limited this piece to Adam, David, and Don because they are the three I planned various parts of this trip with.


All three are exceptional men. I have never had more than a friendship with any of them. They have seen me through the best of times and the worst of times; I hope they feel the same way about me, I’m fairly certain they do. What I think makes this situation somewhat unique is several things: first, only one of them is gay, but our sexual orientation is not what binds us; second, the three only know of one another through me, and lastly, they each provide support and love in very different ways. I know how fortunate I am; however, laying it out helps me to understand why the work we put into relationships is worth the effort. I’m a firm believer that most of us take way too much for granted (including me).

I believe that most people would agree that men are vastly different from women in many ways. I’m being cautious here as to not offend either sex. For the purpose of this piece, I’d like to note my observations (not absolutes):

  • Men leave a great deal unsaid.
  • Men are a bit uneasy when discussing how they feel.
  • Men are fairly competitive with one another.
  • Men believe they are physically stronger than women, but there are times I would have to disagree.
  • When men are into a sports event, very few things can/do distract them.
  • Straight men are stubborn about asking for directions when lost.
  • Gay men are particularly nostalgic.
  • Gay men and straight men usually enjoy very different types of music.
  • When a straight man is forced to be with someone or do something they’d rather not do, you will live to regret it in one way or another.
  • Gay men talk about being gay, straight men do not talk about being straight.
  • Men, gay or straight, prefer to be behind the wheel, as opposed to sitting in the passenger seat.
  • I have never heard a straight man utter the words, “thread count.”
  • Gay men tend to care more about fabric, wall color, and furniture.
  • Straight men do not moisturize.

Don’t beat me up over my impressions and experiences.

Any fool knows men and women think differently at times, but the biggest difference is this: men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget.
—Robert Jordan

All over the world when you test men and women for facial cue recognition, women test…better. It’s a negotiation tool.
—Michael Gurian


Adam and Toronto were my first stop. I didn’t really give Adam a city choice; I was trying out a new direct flight from Faro to Toronto. I had only been to Toronto once and I have always wanted to return. I proposed a few days with me in Toronto and Adam said yes. I wasn’t surprised, we’ve been close friends for a long time.

I met Adam at the James Beard House in New York City in the 90s. We sat next to one another at a table of foodies; Adam was by far the foodiest. When he talks about food and wine his eyes sparkle and he becomes charmingly animated. I knew I could learn a lot from him. I invited him to L’Ecole at the French Culinary Institute and we became fast friends. He eventually asked me to be his Best Man. His wife is one of my favorite people and his children are two of the finest humans I know. Adam considers me part of his family and I am thrilled to have that distinguished place in his life. He is smart, worldly, empathetic, and he accepts me for who I am.

Adam is a planner. Being like minded about researching a place before you travel there is something we delight in. He sent me a long list of possible eateries and told me that each of them was negotiable save one. There was a restaurant he decided was a must and getting in during our time in Toronto was going to be challenging. I must confess that I never doubted his abilities for even a nano of a second. He got us in. Knowing it was a bit more than I would usually spend on a meal, he offered to treat. Adam is one of my most generous friends.

Rather than name specific places we visited or talk about dishes we ate, I’d rather share the dynamics of my relationship with this very special man.

I feel fortunate because not all straight men can get close to gay men. We all know why these limitations and challenges exist; therefore, I will spare you the psychology of all that. I will also point out that I am not easy to be friends with. I am demanding; I can be selfish; I often run my mouth endlessly and expect you to listen to every word I say; I can be controlling, fussy, and I sometimes lack empathy. So when someone (Adam) decides despite all of those obstacles and challenges, they still desire my company, I’m game.

Adam is a practicing Jew. I have had the pleasure of Passover meals with him and his family. I also attended his daughters Bar mitzvah (Bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah refer to the Jewish coming of age ritual. The plural is b’nei mitzvah for both boys and mixed gender groups, or b’not mitzvah for girls. Wikipedia). Sharing Adams faith with him is something he may not know is very special for me. Although, I am not Jewish, I love how strong his faith is and how happy it makes him. In some way it probably shapes my trust in him as a human.

We share a love of food, art, theatre, travel, making memories, and life itself. If I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t sure about my friendship with Adam at first. God knows he was persistent and laser focused on forming a friendship. I’m pleased that neither of us gave up. Adam is a mensch.

Adam’s advice is always thoughtful and sound. I picked his brain a lot this trip. Someone I have known and loved for many years passed while I was in Toronto with Adam. The support and love he showed me as I grieved was much appreciated and a tribute to the friend and man he is.

I might also add that his wife is very special to me. It is not always the case that you love a friend’s partner; both Adam’s wife and Don’s wife give their husbands the space to be with me.


David and I met while sharing a house in The Pines on Fire Island. We ended up with bedrooms on the same floor with a shared bedroom inbetween. There were something like 11 other men involved in the share. David wasn’t anything like any of them. David was easy to talk with and real. Early on in our friendship we went for long walks on Fire Island and shared some of what frustrated us about our boyfriends at the time.

We participated in the share for several summers and spend time together during the other three seasons. We shared a very close friendship with a third man from the house who eventually died of complications from AIDS. David helped take care of Roger at the end of his life (he’s a saint) and always kept me in the loop. He called me shortly before Roger died to let me know it was time to say goodbye to him.

In many ways, David has taught me how to a gay man. It was David who instructed me on how to party safely. He accompanied me to many club events; he always made sure I was enjoying myself and made it home safely.

In addition to the many things we love doing together, we have one thing that we are polar opposites about; David loves opera and I hate it. He always had very expensive seats to the Met and once, I’m still not sure why, I accompanied him to see an opera. Once was more than enough. I love how passionate he is about opera, music, theatre and art. I asked in if he ever dreamed about being someone else or doing something else and he told me that he would have loved to have been a famous opera singer. You think you know someone.

David is a magnificent and talented artist. Several of his pieces have been shown in prestigious galleries and institutes. He is humble and creates in order to move people in some way — not in order to get rich from the sale of his work. He is a weaver; not shocking that the loom in his studio was larger than the bed I slept in. He is also painting these days. He’s his worst critic, but no doubt, he is good at everything he does.

Everything David owns in his beautiful apartment has been carefully curated. His taste is impeccable. I cannot say this about everyone I love, but David is someone whose home I could live in comfortably. It is surrounded by beautiful things; however, it remains cozy and comfortable. Oh and he is a wonderful cook; especially his Swedish dishes which come from several years of living and studying weaving there. He speaks Swedish too. I’m so pleased to have stayed with him. Now I can picture him in his studio. Now I can say that I have been to the homes of all three of these friends; they are all magnificent in different ways.

My conversations with David are usually very intense. We share just about everything and we share without judgment. As with most friendships, being friends doesn’t mean we are the same people. We are passionate about different things. What I think is unique about us, compared to Adam and Don, is our own stories of fighting to be ourselves as gay men. Our stories are different and similar, but they are ours to share with one another. Our conversations on these trip were no different. However, this time we talked more about quality of life, future plans, and end of life.

David visited me in Portugal and trusted me to plan his time with me. Except for insisting we spend no more than three hours in a car at a time, I did the same with him. He took me to Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs, Maroon Bells, Aspen, and several excellent restaurants. I won’t lie, one of the hikes was quick challenging, but I have no regrets and I will remember the experience forever. He also threw a party for me and allowed me to invites other friends who live in Denver. I was also able to meet people in his life I have not met in the past.


I’ve known Don longer than my other two friends; we were roommates at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (44 years ago). Don is a very successful architect. When we were roommates he promised to design an underground house for me. While in Detroit, I asked him if he is still committed to design that house for me and he said he is. That’s all I needed to hear.

We chose Detroit because of its rich architecture and outstanding restaurants. Neither Don nor the reason for meeting there were disappointments. The city has rebounded from despair to beauty and culture at every turn — we were impressed. Cranbrook House & Gardens were a real trip. We took a side trip to Ann Arbor which was also fruitful.

Don was my best man when I married 40 years ago. He arrived at the church missing a sock and someone else from my wedding party had to run to a store to buy him socks. This is probably one of the things I love about Don. He is about as easy going as a human can be. I checked this fact with him on this trip:

Don, have we ever had words?

No, I’m pretty sure we haven’t.

That’s pretty crazy considering how difficult I can be.

No Chris, you’re easy.


Me easy? Perhaps Don makes it easy?

Don and I have long periods of silence when we are together, no matter where we might be. The silence is about respect and comfort. There is no concern about what might be unsaid. When Don says he wants to see a building, I want to see that building. When I say I want to eat Italian, Don is fine with Italian. The ease of our choices is delightful.

I learned something shocking about Don on this trip: he has never been to a nightclub. This blows me away on so many levels. He believes in God and doesn’t shove religion down my throat. He speaks fondly and respectfully of his incredible wife and two amazing daughters. I listen with awe and delight, having been in his life for all of the milestones and disappointments.

I cannot say that I got closer to these three men on this trip, because I’m not sure we can be any closer. I feel privileged and blessed to have had the time to be with them and I’m pleased that they made the time to be with me. True friendship is a gift that keeps on giving and these three friendships are more than I could ever hope for.

The three cities we spent time in matched our personalities in a way. Toronto is intelligent as is Adam. Denver is filled with natural beauty and light, not unlike David. Detroit offered a rich history; Don as my oldest friend knows a whole lot about that.

I realized on this trip that all three men love to walk, love to eat, love film, love to talk, love their friends and family, love to read, and truly love life. These are the things that bind us together.

An Old Friend I Haven’t Seen

I met Gina over 15 years ago at an accreditation conference. We hit it off instantly and we’ve never lost touch. I had breakfast with her and in Denver. It was as if no time at all had gone by.

Future Travel

My three times cancelled cruise (COVID) to northern Europe is coming up in just a week. I’m sad about just getting home to see and spend time with Paco and then having to leave him again. I know he loves his sitter, but I like to think he’d prefer to have me at home. When I return from the cruise I intend to stay put for a few weeks. The timing of the cruise is not ideal, however, there is nothing I can do to change NCL dates.

Lyon, France with friends in November and a few trips planned for 2023.

My Paco (right) and his best friend Petucha, while I was away


I apologize for spelling or grammar mistakes. I’m not in the mood to reread this blog.

Travel Tips for Frequent Travellers and Genoa

A little bit of Milan as well (less than 24 hours in this city)

Photo: Milan and Genoa (on this trip)

My Blog My Opinion

I’m stuck in my hotel room in Genoa today (Wednesday) due to severe thunderstorms (I love them, but they never happened). I shouldn’t say “stuck” because I’m in a very pleasant hotel in the oldest part of Genoa and my room is quite comfortable. I love reading; watching films can be relaxing, but writing takes me to my happy place. I have been travelling quite a bit and I thought some travel tips might be useful to some of you.

These days, I mainly travel for two reasons: 1)to try food in different parts of the world, 2)to experience change. I’ve noticed great things happen in my life when I shake things up a bit. In the process of shaking, I like to minimize things that could go wrong.

Deciding on Where to Go

I’ve written this before, but it’s worth repeating: the older I get, the less I want to leave the comforts of home. I love my life in Faro and I miss it when I am away. Then why do I do it? It’s a complicated answer, however, I’ll give it a try: I travel because I think I should. Lame answer isn’t it, but it’s true. I believe that I grow as a person when I travel. I know I grow physically from all of the eating I do (another blog).

When experiencing different cultures, you are able to broaden your thinking about the human condition. Of course you can experience differences in your own backyard, but it’s not the same when you’re surrounded by people who look different, sound different, behave differently, and interact with you differently — and that’s all good.

I’ll use my current situation as an example. I am in the Old Town.

“The historical centre, also known as old town, of Genoa is one of the largest and most-densely populated in Europe. Part of it was also inscribed on the World Heritage List (UNESCO) in 2006 as Genoa: Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli.” Wikipedia

As I dragged my suitcase through the narrow, hilly, horribly humid streets I noticed two things: First, there are prostitutes everywhere. They don’t seem to be hiding at all. Second, the area is ethnically diverse. I know that neither of these things is atypical to Genoa, but they stand out here. Where do my thoughts go? Well, I’m certainly happy to see so much diversity. To me that always means more food options and a city that is welcoming immigrants. The prostitutes? I’m not so sure how I feel. I guess if it’s legal and I don’t know the answer to whether or not it is, then I would think there would be regulations around health and safety matters — I’m speculating. Prostitution doesn’t directly impact me personally; however, in my mind, where there are prostitutes, there are illegal drugs and other crimes. This way of thinking stems from my early years in certain parts of Manhattan (remember when Times Square was a hell hole?). Right or wrong, these impressions are part of a history I cannot erase. The prejudice around the selling of one’s body is also deeply embedded.

So as I walk around the Old Town and take it all in, I don’t judge the people I see, but I do wonder how and why it is accepted here and not in other places. We humans are complicated; my prejudices and thoughts are not something I am ashamed of, but the more I learn, the more I understand, and therefore, the less prejudiced I become.

Back to deciding where I want to travel. My first priority is to choose a place that I haven’t been to, where I can fly direct. I hate changing planes. Most of my travel woes occured when I missed my connection or had delays on my first flight which caused me a great deal of anxiety — then and now. There are times when a connection cannot be avoided, but I try to minimize the frequency.

On this trip, I flew directly into Milan. I’ve been to Milan many times because of my position at the French Culinary Institute. I had no desire to spend time in MIlan. Genoa is only 90 minutes away by train and I have always wanted to experience Genoa. Seemed like a no brainer and so far, it’s working. I take the train back to Milan tomorrow and I get to visit with a friend. the next time I’ll go north to Lake Como.

I try to choose places where I can experience dining at ethnically diverse eateries. The cuisine is excellent in Faro, however, it is not diverse enough for me. I had Korean food my first night in Milan. This made me very happy.

Update on prostitutes: The Old Town was swarming with police at noonish today (Thursday); I don’t think it’s legal. I didn’t see a single prostitute.

How to Get Where I’m Going

I love trains and I hate buses. Even though there are usually less delays with buses (in Europe), I hate them so much. Sometimes I have a choice and sometimes I’m forced to take a bus. For example, Sevilla is a couple of hours away, but you cannot get there by train from Faro. Then of course there is flying — terrible for the environment, I know. I prefer to fly out of Faro because I live 10 minutes from the airport and that is a big reason why I chose Faro. Faro has several budget airlines (EasyJet, RyanAir, Jet2, Air Transat, and a couple of others). I can book these airlines inexpensively and fly direct to many cities; then if I need to I can add on a train trip (Genoa where I am now for example). These airlines are all about loading them up and shipping them out, making their on-time-record pretty decent.

There are times when I am forced to take the train to Lisbon because I cannot fly direct to my final destination. I will occasionally add on a Faro to Lisbon leg, but only if the connection is less than three hours. The train is just a little over three hours, therefore, it doesn’t always pay to fly. I normally add an overnight stay in Lisbon; it’s a beautiful city with lots to see and do.

How Long to Stay and Where to Stay (and cruise bookings)

For certain destinations, there are sometimes flights only once a week in and out of Faro. For these trips the decision has been made for me. If there are a couple of flights a week, I will take a three or four night trip, depending on how close or far away the city is. If it is a trip to France and it’s a little over two hours in the air, three nights is sufficient for me. If I’m flying to the States or any place where I’m flying over seven hours, I will go for a week or more. My problem has always been that I miss being home after a few days. This includes times when I am having a great time. I know, I am a complicated fella.

I love using to book. After 10 nights, I get one free night (it depends on the per night costs for the 10 stays — it’s a average cost for the free night. There are times when I have to pay a little bit more for the free night. How is it free then? Who knows.). I have achieved a certain status due to frequency of use, so sometimes I am upgraded to a nicer room or they might leave me a bottle of wine or even include breakfast — as long I don’t end up with twin beds, I’m happy. Happiness being relative. I love when a good breakfast is included. It means I eat more than usual, but I’m learning to be more selective about my choices (i.e., granola rather than three croissants). sometimes has more choices, however, I’ve noticed the deals are not as good. It’s good to compare. I think most of these booking platforms are similar. VRBO is good for long stays in homes or apartments. For booking flights, I love I have gotten some great deals on this site and they send alerts.

I use Airbnb a lot when I’m staying more than two or three nights. I like that I can cook my own food and I love the often, not always, homey feel. People can be very generous and creative — I have stayed at amazing Airbnbs at bargain per night rates. Look closely at the cleaning fee, service fees, taxes, and the cancellation policy. When COVID hit us and flights and trips were being cancelled, I did lose some money. Now I mainly book hotels or Airbnbs with generous cancellation policies (some even the day before travel). I only bother with travel insurance if I’m taking a cruise. I think most have restrictions and do not pay out. For cruise bookings I use Ryan Holland at Vacationstogo. He’s a true pro and gets what I like. It’s all about customer service and knowing the customer. I usually book my own excursions, but not always. Sometimes the cruise lines give you credits and then it might be a good deal. Again, do the research and fine the best deal for you.

For me, finding a bargain is a great deal of fun. There is nothing better than planning a trip to a great city for a song. I look at it this way, the less I spend on airfare and hotel, the more money I have for dining out. As you already know, I live to eat. If you are one of these people who eat to live, I am so sorry for you.

How Much Do I want to Spend?

My budget is always different depending on the following: If it’s a quick weekend away, it’s a tight budget. A longer trip requires more comfort and therefore, a bigger budget. I trip I have waited a lifetime to take (Asia 2023) will mean a greater budget. I don’t love spending money on high-end hotels (although the Sofitel in Havana almost changed my mind; it was fabulous). Sometimes I book a really inexpensive vacation and then I upgrade right before I leave. You know, if I find money in my dirty laundry or a great aunt dies (never going to happen). If you’re travelling with a friend or partner, budget must be discussed and agreed upon.

Tipping: know the tipping practices of the country you are in. Whenever staff go above and beyond, I reward them generously. As a person who worked for gratuities for many years, I know how it feels to be snubbed or rewarded.

What to Do Once I Get There

If I’m traveling to a different time zone or after a long journey, I plan a nap. If I know I’m arriving early (most U.S. east coast flights arrive in Europe in the morning), I write to the hotel and let them know my flight time. I usually write something very humble, such as: “I know this may not be possible, but if you have a room available by 10:00 a.m. I would be very grateful. I will be arriving after a very long flight and I will need to rest and freshen-up.” It doesn’t always work, but I sure am happy when it does. I have learned that when travelling, being nice goes a long way. Should be the way we live, but it’s difficult sometimes because people (hospitality people specifically, aren’t always nice. I have noticed that if you are super nice to angry staff, they sometimes chill out. I live in a fantasy world most of the time.

When planning your first day, keep it light; pace yourself. I always say that if I fail to see or do something and I really like a city or place, not seeing or doing everything will give me a good reason to return.

What if Something Goes Wrong? Stop laughing!

What is that saying? “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Pessimistic at best. Considering the amount of travelling I do, I’d have to say I have very few problems when I travel. Here are some of the things that I do to avoid problems:

  • Do your homework and keep your documents in two places: in your phone doc file and print out paper copies. If something happens to your phone, you’ll be glad you had your docs with you.
  • Always keep your passport and visa in the same place. I pack mine days before a trip and I keep it in a deep pocket of my carry on (and I keep a 20 note folded up in my passport case in case of an emergency). Note the expiration date of your passport and visas on a digital calendar months before the expiration date. Pop-up reminders are very helpful and will prevent you from paying expediting fees. I know too many people who have had to postpone a trip because their passports were either expired or the new one did not arrive on time. Make sure you don’t need a visa to go wherever you’re going. Travel agents are useful for this sort of thing. The travel agent I used for my Cuba trip did everything and it was worth the extra money I paid for the trip.
  • Order a taxi or transfer the day before an early flight. You cannot count on Uber at 4:00 a.m. (Maybe in big cities, but not in Faro). You’ll pay a bit more, but you’ll make your flight. Today, my taxi driver wanted 30 euros for a six minute ride to the airport. I bargained him down to 25; still too much. The world has become a greedier place.
  • Arrive earlier than you think you should for your flight. Getting through security and passport control can take longer than you think. Download a movie or bring a good book. Most airports have free wifi. Having time to spare is so much better than begging people to let you in front of them — some people are gracious and kind; others are bitter. Some people will hold you accountable for every bad thing that ever happened to them. That horrible person may be the reason you miss your flight. I can recall a moment in the Miami airport when I came close to crying. A stranger took tapped my shoulder and led me to the front of the line without even asking anyone; he’ll forever be my hero. I wasn’t blessed with balls that big. Strangers can surprise you and restore your faith in humanity.
  • When you travel to a country with a different currency, either get some at your bank before you leave or keep some from a previous trip. Not all taxis take cards. And what if you haven’t eaten for a few hours? Even in the digital automated world we currently live in, sometimes you have to have cash.
  • Pack light. I usually try to book an Airbnb with a washer. If that’s not possible, I wash by hand. If you’re going somewhere for more than four nights, you do not need underwear or pants for every day you will be away. Most items of clothing will dry overnight. In an emergency, you can always buy a few things.
  • Keep a toothbrush, toothpaste, medication, your phone charger, a pair of underwear, and any other essential item, in your carry on bag. If your luggage gets lost, you’ll get by for 24 hours. If the airline does lose your luggage, ask for a clothing allowance. My favorite pair of shorts were purchased in Seattle when my luggage remained at JFK.
  • If you have an early flight, stay very close to your hotel — it will reduce your stress. As I type this I am in a hotel room 10 minutes from Malpensa Airport in Milan. I have a 6:00 a.m. flight (not by choice) and I’ll need to wake early. Sidenote: I did not sleep well thinking I’d sleep through a call and my phone alarm. It doesn’t matter that this would never happen.
  • Try not to plan your travel back-to-back. I’m sort of in that situation now and it’s not good. This was all due to COVID disruption, rescheduling of cancelled flights, etc. A day of getting to the airport, security lines, Ubers, trains, and buses, can zap you of all the energy you have. Your body needs time to recover.
  • Try not to stay with friends and/or family for more than three nights. Having guests isn’t easy; after a while you’ll start to get on each other’s nerves and it can ruin a good vacation. If you can afford it, find your own place to stay. I stayed with a friend for over two weeks once and I still feel bad about it.
  • Bring a small pillow or one of those neck thingies. My pillow has a 100% soft cotton case and it helps me to sleep better on trains, planes, and buses.
  • Lastly, don’t let the details bog you down. Remember, being organized is supposed to make life easier and help to avoid headaches and disasters. Keep telling yourself how much fun you’re having.

Eventual Travel

Cop-out I know, but true: as I get older I will be taking shorter, easier, higher end trips. Possibly one long journey a year, to places I have never been . . . I think, perhaps, maybe? I can talk myself into just about anything. Remember not to take your health for granted — there may come a time when travel is not possible. I’m a realist . . . except when it comes to eating great food. I think I’ll eat well until the clock stops ticking.

Upcoming Travel

Toronto, Denver, & Detroit, coming up on the 14th, Northern European cruise in early October, Lyon with friends in November (what was a three night trip has become a seven night trip due to a flight cancellation — more wineries and more French food), Florida with friends in March, back to Liverpool in April so I can spend time with a friend, and a big trip to five Asian countries in November (with same friend — no not that kind of friend). I haven’t planned all of 2023, but I know I will spend more time at home in Faro.

Please subscribe (it’s free) if you read or appreciate my blogs; it’s good to know someone out there is listening.

Restaurant Tips and Pics of Genoa

Alla Lunga Restaurante in the Old Town, Genoa is superb. Local ingredients, excellent service, great atmosphere, and not pricey.

Locanda Spinola, Old Town, homemade pasta and fresh fish. Not a bargain, but excellent traditional Genova cuisine.

Il Mannarino, if you love meat you will love this restaurant. My friend Valentino took me there because my father was born in Bari (outside of the city in Bisceglie) and the owners of this restaurant are from there. I had an outstanding lunch. I did not have steak, but no doubt it would be good here. Beautiful memories.

There is a lot to see and do in Genoa (Genova here). I mostly ate at reasonable restaurants on side streets. After years of travel I can recognize and smell the tourist traps. The food where I dined was good and the service was excellent; however, I only note when they are exceptional. When visiting Italy, I eat pasta daily; it’s my birthright.

I Am Not What I Own

A Gentle Reminder . . . to Myself

“Hush Christopher! You’re not supposed to talk about your money.” It’s funny how in certain cultures, money is not discussed, yet in others, it is flaunted. I was raised in an environment where it was not appropriate to talk about what one paid for things. Mind you, I was raised in poverty. I recall teachers in school telling us that there are certain things one didn’t share. You were never supposed to make your peers uncomfortable — boasting about what you have and reminding others about what they didn’t have. Looking back, I believe this was a good life lesson. Something tells me Brooklyn has changed since the 60s and that they’re no longer teaching these values.

I’m getting to my point . . . I live in a place where lots of expats (immigrants) come to retire, play mah jongg and/or poker. The people I’m surrounded by are not poor, but for the most part, they are also not rich. These are people stretching their hard earned dollars. Travel, good food, concerts, and time with friends, is their currency. I rarely hear much boasting; it seems to be more about sharing experiences. What is nice about this, is that you can get some good ideas and learn from other people. So long as we listen to one another — a lost art indeed.

Every once-in-a-while, someone says something about a house they’re buying or something they ordered online. I hear a hint of bragging and it makes me cringe, but the truth is we all do it. I try to stop myself when my thoughts head in that direction, but sometimes it feels good to hear someone ooh and ah. For example, I was sharing a recent memory of a Michelin star lunch I had in Porto. I was treated, so I’m not sure it counts. I was describing the setting and the dishes and I could tell, a couple at my table was taking mental notes. I know it wasn’t a vacation in the Maldives or the purchase of a beach house; however, I was eating up the envy. Isn’t that a form of bragging?

I recently spent some time with friends from South Wales. They casually asked me how much I paid for my condo. I shared the amount with them, but I was somewhat surprised that they asked the question. I told them that although I told them what I paid, in my world it was not something you usually divulged. They were miffed by my words. First, it was their impression that Americans loved to discuss their wealth and second, they said that people in Wales talk about what they paid for a house without giving it a second thought.

How One Might Respond to Boasting

There is the gentle, innocent bragging and then there is the Donald Trump, over-the-top variety. Which one might you think I despise? There are a number of ways to deal with it when it is directed at you or when you are a part of a larger group listening, as all collectively cringe.

Here are some responses to the obnoxious kind we have all been forced to endure:

“I didn’t realize you could afford something that expensive.”

“Wasn’t that watch popular in the 80s?”

“Can you leave it to me in your will please?”

“Can you save this for the next time, I’m buying a Ferrari today and I’m afraid I have an appointment with the dealer.”

“Show me that diamond again, I didn’t see it the first time.”

Bragging about children, grandchildren, or pets shouldn’t count; except of course, when a person goes on and on until you get to the point where you’d like to knock the phone out of their hands.

Am I being unkind? Sorry, I don’t think so.

What I Have that I Consider Priceless (happy to boast about this):

  • Family who love me despite my shortcomings
  • Friends who make me laugh when I’m down and who are there for me when I need them most. In other words, friends who are chosen family.
  • Paco, my furry friend and companion
  • A love of art, words, nature and the undiscovered
  • Good health
  • The ability to reason and rationalize
  • A home in a country where social democracy is embraced and practiced
  • My father’s passion for food and cooking
  • My mother’s sense of humor (and legs)
  • Fearlessness
  • Optimism
  • Authenticity
  • A seeker of truth and justice

Not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. How can anything material this world could offer me, trump this list? I implore you to take inventory of what truly matters.

I consider “know it alls” to be right up there with people who boast. Wouldn’t it be great if we could sometimes just say, “Would you please just shut up!”

When You Might Be Misunderstood

I recently posted the purchase of a friends painting on Facebook. Some might see that as boasting. “Look at him bragging about buying art.” In truth, I did it to promote my friend’s work. I wanted others to see her talent and visit her studio; in my mind, that’s not boasting, it’s supporting a friend. I’m not ashamed of my behavior; I’m proud to know talented people.


I’m currently exploring the Loire Valley. It’s too hot to walk around, but Pornic on the coast starting Saturday will offer milder weather and even a thunderstorm (my favorite). Milan and Genoa in early September; Toronto, Denver, and Detroit coming up mid-September (the best time to travel). Cruising to northern Europe in October, and then a number of shorter trips to the end of the year. This isn’t boasting by the way. If I said I was was staying in a suite on the cruise, that would be boasting. I always travel on the cheap.

I probably won’t dedicate a blog to Nantes and Pornic (where I am now). I’m enjoying being away from home. For me, writing about a place can be distracting. Feel free to ask questions if you have any. France is one of my favorite countries and sometimes being here feels like an extension of home.

Photo by Gabriela Palai on

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Fighting restless demons . . . again.

From my terrace on a clear night, the Ria Formosa with the Atlantic Ocean behind it.

I personally know a few people who have lived in the same house or apartment for over 40 years. I admire their staying power, but I cannot relate. I have moved no less than 15 times in the last 30 years. I’ve relocated so many times that my friends and family do not trust the address they have in their contacts.

I don’t know why I am this way. I can only guess based on my thoughts, however, messages come in and out of my brain quickly and most don’t stick around very long. I relocated to Faro 4.5 years ago and I haven’t budged (meaning I haven’t moved). In all fairness, we did have a two year pandemic and I am living in a foreign country where moving is complicated. I don’t consider myself impulsive, but recent frustration over a condominium issue has me wondering.

A brief disclaimer: I have a bit of reticence in regards to writing about my living situation. Because I know I have an awesome life, I fear people will think I’m boasting. I have two thoughts about this: first, anyone who believes that to be true doesn’t know me or my intentions, and second, if you believe that, I prefer you to leave now – – do not read any further. This is the way I work out some of my internal battles; many people have told me they find it a useful tool. Anything I have achieved in my life I did on my own; I hardly need validation.

Here’s what I have decided to do: I am going to note all the pros and cons and make a decision based on the weight of either side. I’m completing this exercise on my blog for those of you who struggle with a similar affliction, that of inner conflicts based on little or no facts.

Some Background and Generalizations About Faro

Faro is part of the Algarve and the Algarve is known for its incredible, unbeatable, beyond fantastic . . . weather. It’s sunny over 300 days a years, winter temperatures are moderate compared with many other parts of the world, summers are hot and dry, and fall and spring are glorious. Our trees bloom year round and I do not own a winter coat (not true, I just bought one for a fall cruise to northern Europe). There is a regular breeze off of the Ria Formosa and Atlantic Ocean. And if you’re already wondering why I would leave this slice of paradise, hang tight.

Faro is the capital of the Algarve. We have an international airport (10 minutes from my place), a train that takes you north to Lisbon, Porto, and many other cities, and a regional train that takes you to the border of Spain to the east and to Lagos, west. Faro is a working city — of course there are wealthy people living in Faro, but is is mostly middle class Portuguese people. Faro has a small population of expats and it is surprisingly diverse. Tourism is the number one source of income for most people working here. If I get any of this wrong, my Portuguese/Faro friends will set me straight.

There are restaurants throughout Faro, however, a majority of these eateries are traditional Portuguese restaurants — Portuguese people love Portuguese food; probably true for most cultural groups. In recent years, ethnic restaurants are popping up all over the city: Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Nepalese, Italian; the food scene seems to becoming more sophisticated and varied. You don’t have to go far to encounter other types of international food in nearby cities. For example, there is a Korean restaurant in Alvor that I am crazy about; Alvor is about an hour away by public transportation and Vilamoura to my west, has three Thai restaurants.

The Algarve is in the southernmost part of Portugal; therefore, miles and miles of spectacular beaches line the coast. Faro has a beautiful, long stretch of flat beach you can get to by ferry, bus or car — I prefer to go by ferry. There are many seafood restaurants at the beach and most of them are quite good. Other flat beaches or beaches with spectacular rock formations, are east and west of Faro and can be reached quickly and easily. Off-season is the best time to go: mid-September to mid-to-late June. The tourist season has been expanding in recent years; great for the economy and the locals working in tourism or hospitality.

It’s not the Algarve I am considering leaving, it’s Faro. I told you I’d outline the pros and cons, so you’ll have to wait.

There are some things about the Algarve and Portugal that are typical or pervasive. There is no point outlining those because I’m only considering a move away from Faro. When you do this kind of exercise you have to narrow down your objectives. If I were to move, it would be to another city/town within a 50 mile radius.

Pros to Living in Faro

  • Airport nearby (great if you travel a lot)
  • Trains nearby
  • Excellent medical and dental care (great vet as well)
  • Restaurants are plentiful and open year-round
  • I have made some very nice friends in Faro; friends for life in fact
  • The Ria Formosa
  • Unpretentious
  • Easy walking city
  • The capital of the Algarve where all the main government offices are located
  • My street is wide and full of beautiful foliage
  • One does not need a car (a decent city mini-bus system)
  • Extremely affordable
  • Great food stores and shopping
  • Close to several beautiful towns
  • The marina/downtown area has a lot to offer
  • A very small expat community (I cannot get a poker game together — the only downside). I prefer authenticity.
  • The city is growing and adding amenities
  • A large indoor produce/fish market and a Sunday outdoor market

Cons to Living in Faro

  • My condo neighbors do not want to spend money to beautify the building — some of these individuals can afford it (I’m making an assumption).
  • It’s a nice city, but it’s not a beautiful city
  • A very small expat community
  • The Ria Formosa is in front of the ocean; therefore, you do not have a direct view of the sea — true throughout Faro unless you live at the beach (not my scene).
  • Only one good Italian restaurant. This is a significant con.
  • Many of the friends I spend time with live in Tavira. Most of them do come to Faro to see me.
  • There is a growing number of teenagers who have removed the mufflers on their motorbikes. They ride up and down my street revving their engines and the police do nothing. I jump 10 feet in the air everytime it happens. I feel old typing this.
  • It is a city filled with cigarette smokers. They fill outdoor cafés making it impossible to enjoy outdoor dining (a European problem).

You might look at these lists and say, “Ah, first world problems,” and that would indeed be true. Keep in mind that we all have to keep our lives together and that searching for happiness is a human condition.

If I do move, it would only be where I have a direct sea view.

I have an idea that might help resolve the condo issue, however, I’m not hopeful that it will fly. One of the things that frustrates me about Portugal is that you often float an idea and get back this reply, “We don’t do that here.” or “That wouldn’t work here.” Sometimes you words are met with silence or a shrug; not easy for this problem solver/fixer.

I’m not expecting anyone to have the answers; however, if you’re so inclined, please let me know what you think.

Upcoming Travel

Alvor, Portugal, end of July, Nantes and Pornic in mid-August, Toronto, Denver, and Detroit in mid-September, Northern Europe NCL cruise in early October, with some time in London for West End Theatre, Lyon in late November and I’ve decided to stay put in Portugal for Christmas.

The Problem With Self-Examination

Some bits about Geneva and Montreux, Switzerland as well

The Rhone runs through Geneva, making it easy to always know where you are.

One of the many reasons I travel is self-reflection. It’s an opportunity to step outside of yourself and examine who you are. I’m not sure why, but it’s easier to see things clearly when you’re away from home. This will not be a “let’s pity Chris” blog. I know who I am, I know who I’d like to be, and most importantly, I’m learning to accept all of it. Don’t underestimate the power of aging combined with a ticking clock.

I flew to Geneva after a week of watching my little Paco suffer from a serious spider bite and consequential gastroenteritis. At one point I held him in my arms and thought he was fading away; perhaps he was. Fortunately for me he recovered.

Being close to losing someone you love with every ounce of your being, helps you to put the world in perspective. Some will chuckle and think, “For fucks sake Chris, he’s only a dog.” I feel sad that some individuals have never experienced the unconditional love of a pet.

In short, as I reflect on my life back in Faro with Paco, I have come to realize that however brief it may be (in the scheme of things, it will be brief), it is a life I have created and it is a life I am meant to live. The way I see it, there are two ways that I can carry out this plan called living. The first is not an option for me: I could dwell on the past, feel sorry for myself, and wait for death to knock on my door. The more realistic and far more desirable option is to embrace reality, take control, and do my very best. And why not have a little fun in the process.

Happiness for me can be found in food, friendship, family and film — all fs by chance and not in order of preference. Then there is enjoying Paco, reading, playing games, physical stuff like cycling, walking and gym, designing my home, cooking, entertaining and much more. When I look at all that, all I can think is, wow, there are a whole lot of things that make me happy. It’s also true that when you get to be my age, having a day where you don’t pee 96 times and your arthritis isn’t too bad, that’s happiness too.

A Quick Story About My Current Situation

I looked at hotels in Geneva a few months ago. Prices for anything I might find comfortable in the centre of the city, were higher than expected and not within my budget. I try not to go over $150 a night and most hotels were $250 or more a night if you wanted a window — how can you be in a windowless hotel room and breathe? I looked at Airbnb and found what looked like a comfortable room in someone’s flat. A queen size bed is almost always required and a private bathroom is a must. Claudia’s place had all this and good reviews as well.

This magnificent view sealed the deal.

Sitting on Claudia’s balcony, taking in this beautiful Swiss city, helps me make sense of the world. An Airbnb in someone’s home can be less than ideal; listening to them carry out their daily lives, finding privacy, the inability to walk around in your underwear — all considerations. But to be in such a beautiful location, right smack in the centre of the city, for $140 a night, some sacrifices seemed reasonable. Traveling alone makes these decisions a bit easier for me. I don’t think I would do this “share” thing if I had a partner.

Back to Self-Reflection (I like this flow of consciousness thing, I hope you don’t mind)

The problem with self-examination is self-criticism . . . I got it bad. I could tell you what therapists have said over the years, but it would bore the shit out of you and pain me to put it all in writing. The bottom line is that I’m pretty fucking hard on myself. I want to do good, be good, act right and save the world; I want to do it everyday — it’s exhausting. Every time I screw up, I beat myself up and become mad at, well, everything.

I’m not saying that I need to stop reflecting; you all know people who don’t, am I right? People who breeze through life never taking responsibility or holding themselves accountable (very different things by the way; the former can be done without consequences). What I am saying is that me and anyone else involved in self-blame, needs to lighten up. Making mistakes is human and being human means we are bound to make mistakes.

What I Did Recently that I am Not Proud of:

I sort of grabbed a woman’s hands a few weeks ago when she was wrongly entering the train before people could exit. I warned her first and then I tried to pry her hands from the step railings. I stopped myself pretty quickly and backed off, but I am still angry at myself for, 1) touching her, and 2) allowing what she did to bother me. A friend who was present confirmed my cause for guilt, but also reminded me that I stopped when I knew that I was wrong.

They say we’re all a little angry over the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Add everyone’s personal stuff to the mix and you have one steaming world population. Not an excuse, not a pass to behave badly, merely a fact.

To those who have written to thank me for my candor; I want to say I appreciate that you read my blog and that you encourage me to share my truth.

Geneva and Montreux

Switzerland is high-end folks; almost everything is costly. You honestly can’t even get a burger for less than 12 Swiss Francs (the dollar is almost even right now). And that would be a sad burger indeed. But from where I’m sitting, what you do pay for is quality. All things Swiss seem to be very well made. They have a stable government, a strong economy, good infrastructure, the world’s respect, and it’s becoming much more diverse (immigration).

This was a four night getaway. I am here for three main reasons:

  1. Direct flight from Faro.
  2. I’ve never been.
  3. I liked Zurich a few years back and thought it was time to see another Swiss City.

The airport is only 25 minutes from the center. The #5 bus is the way to go for only three Swiss francs. You can also go by train, however, it does not run as frequently.

The weather is perfect in June and there are fewer tourists than there will be in July and August. I had some rain and clouds my first couple of days (I don’t mind) and then the sun came out for the rest of my trip.

I certainly don’t regret coming, but more and more, I want to be home. That’s what happens when you live in a beautiful place where you have wonderful friends, a pet, and good pillows to rest your head on.

I’ll share some observations about Geneva and Montreux: both places are walkable, excellent public transportation, and lots and lots of dining options.

I recommend La Rouvenaz in Montreux: fresh fish deliciously prepared (sole pictured), pretty reasonable considering, beautiful setting, and excellent service. Dessert pictured was from a coffee shop, not La Rouvenaz. That carrot cake was probably one of the best I’ve ever eaten; however, I always say that the setting helps enhance the taste.

Bap Korean, Geneva. Excellent Korean food. I always seek out a good Korean meal when I travel. Faro does not have a Korean restaurant. When they finally get one, I will be their best customer.

Ka Chon Thai. Authentic, tasty and great atmosphere. The chicken curry, coconut soup blew me away.

An abundance of excellent ethnic and street food.

Other Geneva tips: Victoria Hall for music (a bit garish, but fantastic acoustics), walk as much as possible, see Geneva by night, and stay away from the casino (even though I won some play money (money that is not mine, that I can play with) at the Texas holdem’ table). Trains in Europe (not Portugal) have become expensive. Go on-line and there are discount sites where you can purchase reduced price tickets, but you have to plan a bit in advance for really good discounts.

A Festival Outside My Airbnb Door Today

It was early morning before the crowds. My time to show up.

Sometimes shit just falls into your lap. Once a year, Geneva has a street sale where locals sell the crap they want to get rid of. It goes on for over a kilometer and right outside my door is where the bandshell and street food are located. I picked up a winter coat for my Northern Europe (October) and Norway (January) cruises. It’s been worn a couple of times and I bargained it down to 15 francs — it’s worth over 100 so there you go. I also got a scarf for Paco’s sitter and two great hats. They’ll have music and food all day, so I’m ditching my Museum of Natural History plans. It’s a beautiful day and I belong outside — after my seafood lunch of course. Off to Brasserie Lipp; I think it’s going to be excellent — I’ll let you know.

Truly memorable meal: Bird came to share my bread, bone marrow, and rock fish soup. Delicious food, beautiful garden setting, great service and a good value. I’d do it again in a quick minute.

The Old Town is hilly, but historic and worth a visit. Don’t waste your time at the Patek Philippe Museum; all they want is for you to buy a very expensive watch. They have no business luring you in by calling it a museum . . . it’s a shop.

Home to Faro and Paco tomorrow on an early flight. The best part of this trip has been the ability to look in the mirror and smile at my reflection.

Upcoming Travel

Milan in July, followed by Nantes/Pornic, France in August, Canada, Denver and Detroit in September, Northern Europe Norwegian Cruise in October, and Lyon in November. I’m trying my best to stay home more.

Au revoir jusqu’à la prochaine fois.

Adjusting to a New Body and A Different Mindset

Not me, but he gets it

One of the difficult facts one must face when you grow older: we live in a world shaped and dominated by the young. I’m not mad about this, it’s just a fact. It’s difficult to shield your eyes from beautiful young people everywhere. It’s a reminder of two things: 1) you’re not young anymore, and 2) you’re not young anymore. I was never the “turn heads” stud I secretly wanted to be. I was average looking with decent pecs. I accepted this fact knowing that if I added a bit of charm and a big sincere smile, I could probably nab a beau or two in my lifetime. And I did.

Now if someone looks my way, it’s usually just to make sure I’m still breathing. I jest of course, but the plain truth is, my number in years is rising while my chest, chin, and buttocks, are falling. I can either accept it or call it quits — I think the former is the best option. So what does that mean?

I’ve written about aging before. The older you get, the more you think about it. How can you not think about it?

Truth & Acceptance

Reality sucks. Coming to terms with loss is never easy. Losing one’s youth is no exception. We troubled old folk, go through the stages of grief, and I seem to be stuck on #6. I’ve been working through these feelings for a long time.

The 7 stages of grief (according to Google and who knows better than Google?)

  1. Shock and denial. This is a state of disbelief and numbed feelings.
  2. Pain and guilt. …
  3. Anger and bargaining. …
  4. Depression. …
  5. The upward turn. …
  6. Reconstruction and working through…
  7. Acceptance and hope.

Some of the Awful Things an Aging Body Experiences (I’ve been spared a few on the following list):

  • leakage (I refuse to describe this)
  • arthritis
  • teeth issues (rotting, staining, infection, loss, Periodontitis, etc.)
  • tendonitis
  • prostate enlargement and cancer
  • bunions
  • interrupted sleep
  • skin cancer
  • diabetes
  • reflux
  • excessive and uncontrollable gas
  • back pain
  • fungus in hard to reach places
  • memory loss

Okay, I’ll stop. It’s way too disturbing to continue.

Some Ridiculous Affirmations and Mind Games that Work

Some of these I have done and continue to do in order to feel better and cope:

  • The gym makes me feel like I’m doing something about slowing the process.
  • Stretching for about 10 minutes helps loosen me up and alleviates some of the arthritis pain.
  • I “try” to keep my weight now — a lifelong struggle.
  • I tell myself that my body is just a vessel.
  • I compensate for certain body issues by covering those parts with clothing (i.e., longer t-shirts, higher waisted pants). I’m not ready for a man bra, but I’m getting there.
  • I still get an occasional pimple, therefore, I must still be adolescent, no?
  • I tell myself I never liked sports anyway.
  • Meditation
  • I daydream about the past and then let it go (for that moment)
  • I blog. Sometimes (like now), it makes me feel worse.

Can’t Reverse the Process So You Might As Well Make the Best of it

There are a few things that happen as you grow older that are truly wonderful and worth noting. Not that any young person will read this and think, “Oh wow, can’t wait for that to happen.”

  • There is a lot of crap you no longer care about. For example, caring about what people think. If you no longer have to worry about job security or a place at your brother-in-law’s Easter table, what certain people say or think becomes insignificant and that feels really good.
  • If sweat pants feel good on you, you can live in them.
  • Paying off your own college loan debt is no longer worrisome.
  • The closer you get to dying, the less you worry about it. Not speaking for everyone here. As the years go on and you experience more and more death, you realize how inevitable it is. You also start to feel your years physically and think at some point I’m going to want to rest . . . eternally.
  • Your lifelong friends will pretty much accept any stupid thing that comes out of your mouth and you, them.
  • I have read that your taste buds lose their ability to distinguish between certain levels of taste and that this causes a suppressed appetite (not so far, I’m waiting).
  • If I want to go to bed at 9:00 a.m., no one can stop me.
  • Thankfully, most older folks are not tethered to their cell phones. I say most because I know a few who are.

I’m struggling with coming up with this list. I feel like I’m reaching.

You’re Only As Old As You Feel — Research Says So

I’m waiting for some magic pill that turns you into a twenty-something year old for 24 hours. You can stay awake, feel no pain, wear form-fitting attire, dance the night away, attract others with similar desires, and wake-up without regrets.

Two Things to add to the last blog post publishing:

  1. You can no longer fly to Toulouse on an EasyJet direct flight from Faro. I’m not sure why or if they’ll ever bring back the route. It’s a hard pill to swallow. Instead, I will be returning to Lyon; a city in France I also love. Side note: I did a search and found this strange airline called Volotea. It’s a low budget Spanish Airline that will fly you to Toulouse for next to nothing and then quadruple the return flight. I won’t even consider using them unless I book a flight without a return.
  2. I wrapped up my last blog before leaving Toulouse. I wanted to share that I enjoyed a wonderful Easter lunch at Café Maurice in the centre of Toulouse (see photos below). They opened the entire front of the restaurant because the weather was ideal for fresh air and al fresco dining. I sat inside close to the open doors to avoid the smokers. Europeans are still big smokers. Everything about this restaurant is done well.

I also had excellent Korean food in Toulouse; I can’t get Korean in Faro and I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

Traveling to Berlin on the 29th of this month for one week. I’m looking forward to returning to a vibrant, artsy, and fairly close to Faro, city. Amsterdam, Geneva, Milan and a northern Europe cruise after that. And after years of wondering what has happened to detroit, I’ll be going in September (part of a bigger trip to be fleshed out).

An American in Faro and Some Bordeaux & Toulouse Highlights

Why I Love Faro and Plan to Stay Put

When you live in a place where they speak a different language and the customs are not what your accustomed to, you cannot help but ponder on how you fit in. The truth is that I have never fit in. Family, school, neighborhood, work, social gatherings — you name it, I was out-of-place; sometimes I still am. Mind you, it wasn’t always people who made me feel this way; it was mostly my own voice telling me I didn’t belong.

So when I decided to move to Portugal, for many who know me well, the first question was: how will you be able to live in a foreign country? Having rehearsed for this move my entire life, my answer was: oh that’s the easy part.

In the past, I have mostly written about logistics and concrete matters related to my move abroad; today I want to write about how it feels to be an American overseas. First allow me to describe the setting.


[Covering an area of 4,997 km (3,105 miles), Algarve is home to 438,406 permanent residents. According to statistics from Pordata, 10 percent of the population is expats.] It is my understanding that about 11 percent of the Portugal expat population is American. I would say that this figure is far smaller in the Algarve. If you break it down, the number of Americans living in Faro is actually quite small.

The Algarve (the region of Portugal where I reside), is the southernmost part of Portugal. It is a tourist destination for many Europeans seeking predictably good weather, an affordable holiday, outdoor activity, and a safe place to hang your hat. My earlier blogs will tell you why I chose Portugal and Faro; I’ll spare you those details here.

People who look and sound like me are difficult to find in Faro. I workout at a large gym and I am one of two Americans. The other, Al, is also from Brooklyn, but he has lived in Portugal for a long time. It took several years of walking by him at the gym before I learned that he was from Carroll Gardens, a neighborhood not far from my own. Al’s a big guy who is probably a teddy bear, but he looks like someone you wouldn’t want to make angry. I think I look that way when I’m not smiling.

My apartment building is entirely Portuguese and the restaurants I tend to eat in are patronized by a majority of Portuguese people. I’m simply stating fact, no judgment.

Having described feeling out-of-place my entire life, you would think I might feel that way in the Algarve, but I don’t. I feel welcomed, accepted, and like I belong. I’m sure most of these feelings reside in my head and are not based on reality, but does that really matter? I could get all philosophical about what is real and what is made up in our imagination, but I don’t want to scare you.

Thoughts that Swirl and Machinate

These days, I feel as if I’m living outside of myself. I’m like a voyeur watching this old guy navigate a life he cannot quite believe he is living. It’s fascinating for me to watch him fumble. I’m not concerned that you’ll think me mad, because I am certain most people feel this way from time-to-time. Who am I? Where do I belong? How do I fit in? If you’re human, you frequently consciously or unconsciously, ask yourself these questions.

So why do I feel so much at home in Portugal? I will refrain from creating a list and instead, try to describe my dominant feelings. But first . . .

An aside: I flew into Bordeaux because EasyJet cancelled my flight directly into Toulouse and I rebooked on RyanAir to Toulouse which is two hours away. I like the train system in most of Europe, so I figured I’d spend a couple of days in Bordeaux and five days in Toulouse; a city I have come to love. I literally just missed my train from Bordeaux to Toulouse because I booked the wrong time and didn’t notice it on the ticket until I was on the bus to the train station. I jumped off the bus to call an Uber. It was sort of like a scene in a film . . . me leaning into the front seat asking the driver to please try and get me to the station quickly, but unfortunately traffic and slow drivers made it impossible. I tried to book a ticket for the next train, but it’s full so I’m stuck in Bordeaux — not a bad place to be stuck — a 5 hour wait I’m afraid. When I booked this trip, I was unaware that it was Easter week. What do they say about breathing or that things happen the way they’re supposed to? I’ll blog and people watch and eat and answer emails and people watch and sulk. I get to sulk just a little. It was a stupid mistake. This too shall pass . . .

Ô QG, 66 Quai de Paludate, 33800 Bordeaux

I saw this restaurant in Bordeaux on-line while I was waiting for my train. I took a shot at a reservation and they had one seat left (sometimes traveling alone has its advantages). I sort of thought they were lying until I sat down and people started flooding in. I ended up having one of the best sirloin steaks of my life. I almost went all out for a 50 Euro dry aged T-Bone, but I held back having had already incurred extra expenses from missing my 10:28. A nice Medoc and some potatoes au gratin . . . yada, yada, yada. All that for 25 Euros; now I understand why they were all booked-up.

BDX Café is attached to a stylish boutique hotel near the Gare St. Jean in Bordeaux. I’m killing time here while I wait several hours for my train to Toulouse. The homemade chocolate cake with fresh whip cream is divine and I’m sipping a Kressmann’s Blanc Grande Reserve while I type away on my fully charged laptop (multiple outlets at my feet).

I met a very nice young lady on the train who helped me pass the time and gave me a good restaurant recommendation. She was smart, very pretty, and delightful. I suppose I was meant to meet her. I hated saying goodbye at the station. People come and go so quickly here (movie reference; know which one?).

Back to the Main Reason for this Blog

Let’s return to why I feel so good about my life in Portugal. First and foremost, removing myself from a place where I wasn’t very happy, was a tremendous boost to my spirits and self-esteem. I took life by the balls so to speak. When you enter into a situation knowing that the change could and hopefully will improve your life, it gives you hope and the drive to push forward.

I found myself and Giorgio (my pooch at the time) in the position to reinvent myself. I wanted to relax more, care less about what others thought, embrace the European lifestyle, travel, and most importantly, take better care of myself — eat better, sleep more, have regular check-ups, and leave the world of answering to others behind.

It didn’t hurt that I found myself a place overlooking the Ria Formosa and Atlantic Ocean. When the high school is not holding classes, it’s peaceful and perfect and when the students are there it’s youthful and nerve-racking. I think it’s good to have the former to look forward to.

I am a man of many hobbies (e.g., cooking, reading, gardening, writing, film watching, home decorating, learning Portuguese, and keeping up with friends); therefore, I am never bored or at a loss for projects. You’ve heard retirees say, “How did I have time to work?” — that’s me.

I’m close to a large market for fresh fish and beautiful groceries (French owned with many French products), an open air farmers market on Sundays, two Lidl’s, an Aldi’s, many restaurants, numerous good coffee shops (latté one Euro everywhere — café com leite), several closed-to-traffic shopping streets with great stores for clothing, etc. a mall, a multi-screen cinema, a jazz club, great pet shops, good doctors, a wonderful vet, several rooftop bars with magnificent views, and parks everywhere. There is a big park next across from my apartment; it’s being totally renovated and I’m excited to see how it turns out — I liked how rustic it was before they started.

Now I’m certain you will read what I just wrote and think, “No wonder he loves Faro,” and you’d be right. But for some reason expats have stigmatized Faro as a town you only go to for the airport and train station. Whenever I have an expat friend over from another town, they make a comment about how they’d misjudged Faro. Some say, “I could live here.” I don’t really need the validation, but it’s nice to hear that others think I made a good choice. A friend from Manhattan recently purchased in Faro. She is a person of great taste and doesn’t decide anything lightly. This has been not only gratifying for me, but also validates my decision to settle here.

Odd as it may seem, I am happy to be one of a small minority of Americans. I navigate through Faro as a proud resident of a beautiful country and I think, I am an American in Faro.


Toulouse is quickly becoming my second city after Faro. I love everything about this French gem (I have blogged about Toulouse in the past). Ninety quick minutes on a budget airline and I am eating French classic dishes and drinking beautiful French wines. This city has everything I love about Paris, except that it’s less crowded, friendlier, and more affordable. I will only point out a couple of highlights since I am here to just be. Now pass the foie gras.

My airbnb is close to the center of Toulouse and has everything I could possibly need. My first night was quiet and comfortable and I slept nine hours. I think last time I slept-in was 1989. Nice hotels in Toulouse are close to 200 Euros a night and this Airbnb was just a little over 60 Euros a night. I don’t always choose an Airbnb, but for five nights I like a kitchenette and a quiet neighborhood (near everything).


I booked this very popular, modern French cuisine restaurant well over a year ago and then I had to cancel several times due to COVID-19 cancellations. They were extremely accommodating and it finally happened my second night in Toulouse. My one big splurge. The dishes were visually appealing and tasted magical. You have a choice between two tasting menus and nicely paired wines (optional). I spent about 65 Euros and for a meal of this caliber, that’s pretty good.

Went to Victor Hugo Market at lunchtime; it’s my favorite and a five minute walk from my Airbnb. After a sweet walkabout, I had lunch upstairs at L’Impériale. If you’re in the mood for authentic country French, it doesn’t get much better. Get there early because the place fills up quickly. They’ve got the charm and the service down pat. The cassoulet made me think about small country inns on the outskirts of Paris; a warm fire and hearty cuisine.

The dish pictured in the middle is an escargot crumble. It must have been cooked in reduced red wine; like many French country dishes. I never had anything like it. I lapped up the sauce with some good crunchy bread.

I sat across an elderly country at lunch. I assume it was a Good Friday fish day for them. It was one of those couples who have been together for 50 or 60 years; they say nothing out loud, but the words between them are sweet, filled with tortured and loving memories. Watching them through my invisible window was a privilege I do not take lightly.

Tonight I booked a Vietnamese meal to prepared in the home of a Vietnamese home cook. I found it on Airbnb. No doubt it will be memorable. I will add more tomorrow.

Vietnamese dinner at Vivi’s home: I love these “dine in someone’s home” experiences. Vivi moved to Toulouse after studying in Montreal. Born and raised in Vietnam where her family resides, Vivi was a delight to be with. She’s authentic, young, smart, a developer, a writer, and an excellent cook. There were two amazing things about this enchanting evening: first, it was just the two of us (not so good for Vivi) and second, Vivi’s warmth and willingness to share her story. Once again, I am grateful.


I have a few more days here in France. Vivi told me about a Korean restaurant I will try for lunch. I purchased some good eats at the market yesterday and I’m just back from buying a crisp baguette at the local boulangerie. After a few days in a particular place you get to know where to shop and who serves the best latté. My favorite thing about an Airbnb is the ability to buy local food and eat in in a comfortable apartment setting. I will post now rather than wait so that I can enjoy the rest of my trip. If anything amazing or out-of-the-ordinary happens (it probably will), I will include it in my next blog.

Upcoming Travel Plans

In a few weeks I travel to Berlin, then on to Amsterdam, followed by Geneva, Milan, and Nantes. There are some small local excursions in between and a Northern European cruise in October. I have COVID-19 doubts about the cruise, but we shall see.

Lately I’ve been thinking that I am travelling too much and it’s wearing me out. I miss Paco and my creature comforts (the familiar). I admit my desire to explore and experience new things is currently stronger than the wish to curl under a blanket on my sofa with a good book and a glass of Portuguese red, but I suspect the latter will become more attractive over time. Until that happens, I will fight the urge to hibernate.


I was feeling a bit down about my blog until my birthday came around. I received birthday wishes from quite a few friends and acquaintances and many of them encouraged me to keep blogging and posting photos. Honestly, I wasn’t sure anyone was listening or watching. Some of you have been following me since the beginning and I appreciate that. Since I am not one to disappoint . . . there’s no stopping me now (four years of consistent blogging). I’ve thought about self-publishing a book about living overseas, but isn’t that what I have right here on these pages? Perhaps a book containing chronicling highlights in the future. For now, this suits me just fine.

Au revoir pour le moment mes amis.

Please forgive spelling and grammatical errors; my proofreader is on vacation (ha!).

Liverpool & Travel Woes

It’s Time to Piss & Moan About Travel (at the end of my blog)

The Very Pleasant Liverpool Waterfront

The Purpose of this Trip

If I’m going to be honest, Liverpool, England, was never on my travel wish list. Fortunately for me, I landed at a restaurant in Mexilhoeira Grande, Portugal, and ended up sharing plates with Jane and her son Matthew, who are from Liverpool (probably my favorite thing about traveling is meeting new people — my friend Gina thinks it’s hilarious that I talk to strangers) . It did not take long for me to be certain that I must travel to this city sooner than later. The pandemic kept me from getting there sooner.


Let me begin by stating that I plan to return to Liverpool sometime in the next year or so. I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away from Jane for too long and there is more there for me to see and experience. It’s not a large city by today’s standards. A half million very friendly and proud residents. It’s easy to get around and has something for everyone.

The airport is about 25 minutes (26 pound taxi) from the centre, but there is a bus you can take for a lot less. Uber is in Liverpool and I used it a lot.

Liverpool, United Kingdom is a direct flight (2.5 hours) from Faro and may end up being what Toulouse is to France in terms of ease and delight for this traveler.

I stayed at Hotel Indigo close to the waterfront in the center. It was everything I wanted and needed: great mattress, soft cotton linen, free snacks and beverages, quiet, and affordable. I’m not sure I’ll ever stay anywhere else. It also has a steakhouse. I had the ribs and some onion rings and both were excellent — I can’t speak for the steak, but Jane said it was good and I trust Jane.

The Beatles

Liverpool loves the Beatles, as well they should. Beatles “stuff” is everywhere. Buildings, roads, etc.; the names of the four Beatles are everywhere. I cannot think of a more successful and fantastic band to celebrate. If you loved the Beatles, listen to the Beatles, care even a little bit about the Beatles, go to Liverpool. Sir Paul McCartney is especially revered. Take a Beatles tour (I used Airbnb because I trust they’ll always be good). The Beatles have given back to Liverpool over and over and over again, and a couple of them still do. I won’t go into the band here. I liked the Beatles, but I would not say I was ever a devoted fan. Their existence only enhanced my time there.


I read about Turtle Bay Restaurant before my trip to Liverpool. My friend Jane and her children confirmed my choice. Jane and I went to their Victoria Street location (there is one on Hanover) and we both ordered the fried chicken, macaroni & cheese, cajun spiced fries and passion fruit martinis. I don’t get to eat like this in Portugal. When I return to Liverpool, I will return to Turtle Bay.

Ban Di Bul Korean Restaurant is the real deal if you enjoy Korean BBQ or other Korean fair. The atmosphere, service, and food were all terrific. As a lover of all things Korean, Jane made me very happy with this restaurant choice.

There were other eateries on this trip, but as I’ve said before, I only share the exceptional ones. There are many excellent coffee shops for all of us coffee lovers.


For a small city, I have to say there were almost more museums that churches — not on your life. But seriously there is a very modern and large museum dedicated just to the city of Liverpool. The Museum of Liverpool is worth a visit (my next trip for sure). There is the Tate, Maritime, Beatles, World, and so many more. The Public Library is also a beautiful building with several collections worth seeing. I was impressed and overwhelmed. Three days of sightseeing was not enough for me.


There are several famous music venues and live music can be found in many places throughout the city on any given day.

The Sun (the daily newspaper)

There was a football fans incident (The Hillsborough Disaster) that occurred in the UK that I’m not familiar with; 1989. Apparently The Sun (UK publication) blatantly lied about what happened and now you cannot get Britain’s largest daily newspaper anywhere in Liverpool — I love that. The Guardian will tell you what you need to know:

I learned that the United States very first Consulate was in Liverpool. There are a lot of firsts to be celebrated in Liverpool: first school for the blind, first rugby club, first shot from the U.S. Civil war came from a gun made in Liverpool, and so many more.

What I Hate About Traveling These Days

I’m going to make a list because I love lists and I’m afraid that I might go-off and write more than I should about each dreaded gripe:

  1. COVID-19 has been the cause (or supposed cause) of many cancellations. I’m never quite certain I will actually get to fly. And everything gets blamed on the virus: no remote for your hotel room TV? Must be COVID.
  2. Forms — you need to have proof that you have trimmed your toe nails and a doctor has seen them and the government has signed off on it.
  3. Security lines are unpredictable. I went to Faro airport two hours before my flight and the security line was an hour long; wrapped around so many times I wasn’t sure I’d get through it the same day as my flight. I hate lines in general; I am not a cow or a Navy man, I prefer fluid motion to gathering in a herd. Hate to queue-up for sure.
  4. Liquids. A woman in front of me had a 5 ounce bottle of a prescription fluid she couldn’t live without. It took her 15 minutes to find the prescription. Had she not considered they’d want to see that piece of paper? Could she really harm the passengers with a squirt of eye medicine? Would one less ounce (allowable) have really made a difference? Is this part of how our governments control us?
  5. Masks. Sometimes you have to wear them and sometimes you don’t. Three hundred people on a plane and all the masks come off when it’s feeding time; I guess the virus just hides out while we chow down.
  6. Costs have gone up considerably; some of it is justified and some of it isn’t. What I hate is that when some of the supply chain issues are resolved, the costs will probably not come down. My Uber driver here in Faro told we he reserved a car in Florida for a week and it will be $1400 (Insurance incl.) — crazy.
  7. Boarded-up restaurants — the internet will tell you that a certain restaurant is open, but you venture there and it is shut down due to that awful virus — always call first.
  8. Customer service isn’t what it once was. I imagine every generation says this about the service people that come after them, but I honestly believe it’s true. I think social media has destroyed customer service. There was a time when businesses cared what people had to say; they’ve been burned so many times, now they just seem to do whatever they need to do to survive. Cynical I know, however, as a seasoned traveler, I have noticed a change and I don’t like it.

Upcoming Travel

I have been invited on a Portuguese “residents only” trip to wine country. This will be my first time traveling with Portuguese friends from Faro. There will be a big bus and two days of adventure. I’m anxious to see what Portuguese people enjoy in their own country.

Toulouse and Bordeaux April 12. Berlin, Amsterdam, Geneva, Milan, Nantes in the next few months and a cruise through Northern Europe in October. Lots of travel writing to share in the future.

I apologize for spelling errors in my blog. I publish to share my experiences with you and I don’t have a great deal of time to spend on editing. I want this to remain a pleasant experience for me.