The Dreams of Giovanni and Antonio.

My son Zack and his wife Afi are in New York City today.

The Truzzolino Bros.

Their first stop this morning was Ellis Island. They would be on a mission to find as many Sicilian relative’s names as possible engraved onto the Memorial there.

I hope they were able to find the engraved names of my Uncle Giovanni Truzzolino (left) and his brother Antonio Truzzolino, my maternal grandfather. The picture to the left was taken in one of those funny photo booths that were popular back in the 1950’s. I believe this shot was taken at the San Joaquin County Fair in Stockton, California in 1956. They were both in their mid-60’s.

Giovanni and Antonio arrived in this country during the first decade of the 20th century with courage and little money…yet with vivid dreams to succeed in the New World.

They were hard working, salt of the earth, fun loving, family people.

The early 20th century was a period of time when those vivid immigrant dreams, courage and ambitions were celebrated and memorialized in stone by Americans.

The early 21st century is a period of time during which Americans chastise, condemn and destroy similar vivid immigrant dreams, courage and ambitions.

How selfish our nation has become.

Tuscany’s Montorio.

Located on a lush, green hilltop overlooking Montepulciano and Tempio di San Biagio, Tuscany’s Montorio is a wonderfully renovated destination property reborn from the ruins of a 15th century convent.

We were able to spend several nights there last fall, using the central location to tour by day Orvieto, Pienza and other nearby hill towns.

While memories are still fresh, I sketched a view this week of our apartment lodging and have hopes of having the drawing soon find it’s way to Montorio’s gracious owner/hostess, Stefania.

Our rooms were located in the large, two story stone faced building in the rear. We had a full kitchen, a well appointed living room, a large full bath and two comfortable bedrooms suitable for four.

It is a fabulous place.

Montorio

A Tahoe hike: Pure Bliss.

Our daughter Mimi visited us last weekend at the Tahoe summer cabin. After two solid weeks of damp, cool May Sierra weather prior to her arrival…I was itching to get outside …enjoy some sun and to wander through the forest.

Mimi got online and researched several potential short journeys through nearby woods for the two of us. Understand right off the bat that Mimi is a seasoned outdoors person.

Examples? To my extreme parental displeasure, she and her husband Brandon have hiked to the very top of Yosemite’s legendary, frightening Half Dome…and have precariously stood on the rocky summit of Arizona’s Four Peaks.

Me? I walk 3-4 miles a day on level urban asphalt and describe it as an adventure. So, to call this a mismatched outdoor duo is an understatement. Of course, Mimi’s only requirement for me to be able to pair up with her on a trek this day was “No walking on asphalt!”

Appreciating my tenderfoot abilities and being the loving, considerate daughter as always…Mimi chose an “easy” trail on Tahoe’s west shore beginning at D.L. Bliss State Park. It is a 4.5 mile hike to Emerald Bay. Doing the math, that would be nine miles round trip.

OK!

We pulled into the park check-in point to pay our day pass fee and were greeted by the camp host… a loquacious sixty something woman who must have felt some sympathy for me as she learned what we had planned for the morning. “OK! Have fun! And stop by on your way out for a kiss!”  I actually didn’t hear her say that. Mimi did. And she never lies. So it must be true. And I hadn’t even shaved.

I found a really nice hiking stick and off we ventured onto the as required, “non-asphalt” trail. Gorgeous views of a stunning, very calm early morning Tahoe were off to our left. The well traveled path is about 200 feet above lake level and the views in all directions were incredible, even on this low overcast morning. We enjoyed the large stands of cedar and pine… and were amazed that so many fallen trees along the way have been left to rot…a natural way for the forest to self manage.

Every so often we’d speak loudly or Mimi would whistle or hum some unrecognizable new music hit to let the Tahoe black bears know we were in their neighborhood. Fortunately the only two legged outdoorsy creature we saw along the way was a skinny wild turkey…which fearlessly approached us, likely hoping we had some spare trail mix or an Oreo or two to share.

After almost three miles and an hour and a half or so at 6,000 feet above sea level, this urban hiker had met his match. Seeing my tongue hanging out, Mimi agreed it was probably time to turn around and head back to the trailhead. Of course along the return, she had to climb some craggy, off-trail rocks and dangle from their edges to satisfy her true outdoorsy-ness…as well as wreck havoc with the ticker of her old man.

We had a great time that morning. We got to have some wonderful “daddy-daughter” moments to share…as well as being able to appreciate for the millionth time or so,  the incredible beauty of Lake Tahoe and it’s bountiful glory.

I looked for the friendly camp host as we left, wondering if she really wanted to plant on me that promised kiss… (Mimi would have to look away) but alas she was nowhere in sight…probably peeking out her trailer window and laughing at the sight of a “mature” urban hiker unable to make it to Emerald Bay and back.

Photos from our hike follow…

Mimi and Dad.
Mimi and Dad.
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Tahoe from the D.L. Bliss trail.

Woof. Woof. My Friday Dog.

Woof. Woof. This Friday meal has me barking for more.

Kris and I arrived at our summer retreat a couple of days ago…and of course the world’s best hot dogs…Casper dogs…were on our shopping list.

No better way to watch a couple of ball games on the tube tonight…with stove top grilled foot long dogs…sliced lengthwise down the middle.

Slapped a soft, Dutch crunch roll in the hot pan…with a healthy slice of havarti cheese set on one half to melt.

Grilled a few sweet onions and some ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes…set those delights on the other half of the roll…added lots of mustard…cracked open a bag of crunchy, delicious kettle fried potato chips…and presto!

My Friday dinner on a short leash!

Five Nights in Paris.

When Kris and I planned our European trip several months ago, we decided that a visit to the D-Day museum in Caan, France and a pilgrimage to the Normandy beaches would be a fitting conclusion to our six weeks on the continent. After all, had it not been for the dedication, heroism and sacrifice of the Greatest Generation during the 1940’s, who knows what Europe would be like now in the 2000’s?

Somewhere between Slovenia and Munich, however, we began to think that perhaps we’d rather spend the last few days of our trip in one place…limit our long distance driving…and enjoy some time in one location before heading home. We were due to arrive at Hotel Brittanique in Paris Thursday, October 9…spend a couple of nights there…and fly home Saturday morning. At the last minute we found that Hotel Brittanique had room for us three days early…and we grabbed it. World War II history would have to wait for another time.

I mentioned in an earlier post what a great location the hotel is situated. Our friends Sue and Mark had stayed there before and loved it. We understand why. Charming accommodations. Great neighborhood. Within walking distance across the Seine to the Left Bank. Near the Marais, Notre Dame, Louvre, Rue De Rivoli…easy access to the Metro and many wonderful restaurants and cafes.

We spent 10 days in Paris in 1972. The passage of time created foggy memories. We were ready to explore Paris once again, with a fresh perspective.

In short, Paris is incredible. Despite the social and economic problems facing France…Paris is alive with culture, history, food, traffic, parks, sounds, colors, grandeur. Parisians fill street-side cafes all day long and late into the evening…visiting, reading, eating, sipping. Kris and I believe this is what Parisians do to entertain themselves rather than plop down on sofas at home like we do in the States to watch crappy TV sitcoms or SportsCenter. People watching in Paris is better than anything on the tube in prime time. Guaranteed.

Paris is a huge city. It’s avenues and boulevards are laid out on an expansive level plain which stretches for kilometer after kilometer. On this fabric it’s historic buildings, monuments and parks are on a scale so large one feels incidental to the perspective created. Perhaps that is what architects of aristocracy strived for centuries ago. Create an environment so breathtaking…so grand…that the masses will be humbled, yet grateful to be within it’s bounds.

Our mornings in Paris began with delicious pastry and tea at Paris Baguette…a small neighborhood bakery just around the corner from our hotel. Besides the wonderful treats to eat…the shop also had FAST, free wi-fi…a perfect remedy to the terrible connection we had at the hotel. The staff at PB was cheery and fun…greeting everyone who came through the door with a smiling, upbeat “Bon Jour!” Good pastry will do that.

Then each day we walked. And walked. And walked some more. We window shopped. We found cool places to sit, nibble, sip and watch. We discovered little out-of-the-way neighborhoods to explore. On a warm, perfect Friday we ventured down the Rue De Rivoli past the Louvre…up the Champs Elysees to the Arc d’ Triomphe and back to our hotel via Boulevard St. Germain. Over six hours, we walked EIGHT MILES. So much fun.

One day we took the Metro to the Opera area…and the Galerie Lafayette…an extraordinary experience. The Galerie is the ultimate Paris shopping destination. In our case…not to buy…just to look. The merchandising and presentation is mind-blowing. For the better part of two days we walked through the Marais District…a blend of large department stores, small unique shops, wonderful cafes, green parks and residential apartment neighborhoods. Sights and sounds beyond compare.

And of course there was terrific food. For fun during the day…charcuterie…pommes frites….Croque Monsieur.

At night we’d get serious.

Our neighborhood was like a culinary goldmine. The first night we discovered La Robe Et Le Palais…a cozy wine restaurant just around the corner from the hotel. Decor? Shabby modern. Very cool. The late great Curtis Mayfield was on the house sound system when we arrived…and I knew this was THE place. (Later Otis, Sly, James Brown and a slew of Memphis Stew. Our server was in charge of the music. Plugs his iPod in before his shift and cranks it up.)

We were asked if we had a reservation (of course not)…but a deuce was found. Menus presented. Plates and wines translated and described. A bottle of tasty, warm red for our table. On the fruity side. Kris enjoyed salmon…Beef tartare for me. And no wimpy, accompanying Surgeon General-like warnings on the menu like, “Eating undercooked meat can be harmful to your health”. Screw that. Shut up and eat. It is a given you WILL TRUST your food in the hands of French kitchen experts. Loved the place so much we ate there three nights.

We also had a delicious, fun meal one evening at an Italian restaurant off Rue De Rivoli called Fellini. Simple yet satisfying salads, rich pastas and personable, fun staff. Lots of terrific memories here. Kris learned how to fold the fancy table napkins here so well in between courses…she was almost hired. Oh, darn. No visa.

Our last five days and nights in Paris blew right past us. What a great time. We are so happy we chose to spend the last days of our trip there. The time we spent in Paris encouraged us for a return to Europe at some point in the future.

We hope to be so fortunate.

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