Glide Through Europe with 7 Travel Tips


Photo: Vadim Izoita

Everyone I know is traveling. I am too, although not via trains, planes, and automobiles, vicariously through them.  The sad thing with this kind of traveling is that my collection of travel advice is as idle as my unpacked suitcase. I would love to share it with you, perhaps you can make better use of it?

7 Travel Tips To Help You Glide Through Europe

My best tips came from, Mr. Basil Moutsatsos, my Greek Humanities teacher from way back. Since I’m not using them right now, maybe you can benefit from this brilliant travel advice:

  1. Always carry water and toilet paper. Lock bags and do not store anything in those little outside compartments of your luggage, they are pickpocket territory.  Watch your belongings closely.
  2. When searching for good quality food at good prices in a city such as Venice, look around until you spot an elderly woman confidently marching somewhere.  Follow her at a distance, if she enters a restaurant — go there!  Venerable local women may be trusted in this matter for two reasons: they do not eat bad food and they do not waste their money. 
  3. Do not dress like a tourist, leave the khaki shorts and binoculars at home, they are red flags for bulls.
  4. When traveling through beautiful, antiquated cities do not worry about getting lost.  Getting lost on the wrong side of Austria may open up a whole world of unmarked fineries to relish.  Do not waste the entire trip staring into a travel manual; look up, wander and stumble into things.
  5. When in France check if the person you wish to speak with knows English before offending him or her with amateur French. The French prize beauty and eloquence above all things and butchered French is neither beautiful nor eloquent.  They prefer to butcher your language rather than suffer the abuse of their own and as a guest— comply.
  6. If there is a language barrier, repeating the same phrase louder and louder with each repetition will not enhance communication, use hand gestures or consult Google.  Yelling at people in strange tongues is bad foreign relations.
  7. Do not point.  Do not stare and never ever climb public monuments—

Travel Away

Now that you have these morsels of travel advice, I hope you can put them to use. Happy traveling!

Hot September | Florida Notes


Dewy midnight runs, mosquito bites— I’m in Florida.  Humidity aside, there’s something thrilling about slathering myself with sunblock when most are pulling out their fall boots and sweaters.

Sometimes leaving a familiar place behind helps to illuminate it and I have a new-found eagerness to re-explore Tampa Bay. After moving away, it dawned on me that what is common in Florida is not so common elsewhere and as I look around with fresh eyes, I appreciate many of the things and places I used to take for granted.

Don’t wait till you leave your city to realize how lucky you are to live there now.

The Rose City | Portland, Oregon Notes

Photo | Karina Chegarnova

Photo | Karina Chegarnova

Everyone talks about the rain in Portland, but it contributes to the natural beauty of the city, it waters the roses and keeps the city fresh. The vibrant food scene, walkability, and overall look and feel are just a few reasons to visit, despite the rain.  

They call Portland, The Rose City and it’s not for nothing. The city is covered with roses. Plump English roses and pale pink tea roses adorn the city, wild roses climb fenses, and gardens get filled with them. The city is not all flowery, but innovative, exciting, and sometimes flat-out weird. The topic of Portland is long, but a here a few things of note:

The Food

You can never go hungry anywhere in Portland. The city is a cornucopia of food catering to every taste, ethnicity, and eating style. Chic vegan eateries, classy fine dining establishments, and ethnic food establishments are scattered everywhere, and anywhere a restaurant is not, a food cart fills the gap.


I knew nothing of food carts till I moved to Portland, where in the span of one city block any cuisine can get purchased from a little serving window built into a truck, strategically parked along the sidewalk for “walk-through” convenience.

The carts are parked in pods covering entire city blocks, or conveniently sandwiched between office buildings. The idea is brilliant for owners and customers alike. The owners have a mobile enterprise with low overhead expenses, while the client gets ready meals anytime, anyplace.

There is African, Brazilian, Cajun, Ethiopian, French, Greek and to avoid the complete alphabetic list of nations, any other cuisine you could crave. Over five hundred food carts spread throughout Portland, and new trucks can show up at any given moment.

But the carts aren’t just divided by cuisine types. Grilled Cheese Grill is devoted to making creative grilled cheese sandwich concoctions. And forget the old peanut butter and jelly. A food cart, called PBJ’s offers PBJ’s that would have left your school lunch the envy of the cafeteria. Their sandwiches get created from an incredible variety of bread, butter, and jams. Originals like The Oregonian, a sandwich of challah bread, pan-seared duck, hazelnut butter, blue cheese, and Marionberry jam. I don’t eat such sandwiches, but I’m altogether impressed with how they slap the things together.

Food cart pods are a food lover’s haven— no, heaven. The biggest problem is the variety. All the aromas beckon, “pick me, pick me” and how do you do that when you’re hungry?


I did plenty of wondering, and one of my favorite things about Portland is how walkable it is. Hundreds of people opt out of owning a car to walk, bike, and use public transportation because it’s convenient, healthy, and green. And Portland is all about being green.

The Color

When it comes to the overall look of the city, Portland is entirely photogenic. It’s a beautiful composition of sleek modern architecture mingled with the dull tones of historic buildings. The best part is the natural backdrop of vibrant greenery and mountains shooting up behind the city skyline.


The natural color scheme is ever-changing, from verdant green, to burnt orange, to bare brown giving the city a slightly different look for every season. It’s always beautiful, always fresh, and always picture worthy.


Travel Portland Blog: | The Oregonian:

If moving to Portland is on your mind, I recommend the “Newcomer’s Handbook for Moving to and Living in Portland.” I read it before moving. It covers virtually everything a newcomer could wish to know.

Living it Down— Comfortable Minimalism


Even a tiny studio can get comfortable, once you get comfortable with minimalism.

Minimalism half allures me. I like clean, open space, and disregard for mindless consumption, but empty homes with blank walls and sharp lines make me shiver a little. I like having scope for the imagination, things to roll my eyes over.

Aesthetics aside, minimalism grew practical after moving into this smallish 350 square-foot studio in Portland. For the first time, I realized how comfortable a small space can be. It took a while to figure things out, but in the end, I unraveled the mystery of maximizing space without sacrificing style.

I am on the verge of moving out, but before I leave, I want to share the big things I learned in this small space.

Less Is More

This overused phrase means exactly what it implies. Less junk means more space. It means shopping mindfully, canceling the Costco membership and buying only what is needed, when it is needed. I just stuck to one soap variaty, one shampoo instead of all of them. It was enlightening to find that one good bar of soap and my favorite shampoo will last many months. Once I use that up, I can get another. It’s the tiniest things that cause the most clutter.

Give and Get

The best way to avoid overcapacity is the habit of giving. The concept turned into a sort of rule: every time I buy something, I give something else away. Giving is the best way to keep any space alive. Not only is it ever changing, but there is strong energy that comes from giving and I always want to have that energy flowing through my home. Hoarding has the opposite effect. All of those deadlocked things are lifeless; they become burdens weighing down space and the people living in it.

Bath1Quality over Quantity

Focusing on quality allows at least eighty-five percent of all things sold to get crossed off the list. It makes shopping easier and things more enjoyable. Buying good quality usually costs more at first, but pays for itself seven times over. Quality lasts longer and saves the time, energy, and money of constantly having to replace the same thing over and over. Then, of course, it’s more pleasurable and if it gets tiresome, it can be passed on to someone else because many well-made things can last a lifetime. Poor quality quickly becomes an eyesore and you keep replacing it, because why not it was cheap and then starts the never-ending cycle of consumerism.

Color Consort

In a small space, color is important. Too many loud colors have this way of overwhelming a room and lack of coordination makes any space look like a bazaar. Even when there is not much stuff, the discord of color makes a room look cluttered. Subdued tones create a comfortable ambiance and sticking with natural hues makes everything flow.


Studio living was an enjoyable experiment, but I miss having space to really stretch out in. You know, to scream without alarming the neighbors.

They Make Life an Art: The Grigorovich Ballet

Alena Trofimcheva

 Photo: Alena Trofimycheva | Спасибо!

I had an opportunity to go on tour with the Grigorovich Ballet dance troupe from Krasnodar, Russia. In spending two months, day in and day out, I made some good friends and learned some valuable lessons. 

They work hard by day— play hard by night.  That is how these dancers make their life an art.

I thought something different while sitting in the audience watching the bird-like creatures float on and off stage, telling stories and unveiling legends with their bodies.

Then I had a lucky chance to go on tour with the Grigorovich Ballet to spend a couple of months traveling with the dancers.  I saw them day in and day out as they practiced, partied, ate, practiced, performed, partied and practiced some more.

They look so delicate on stage, but they are made of steel.  Their bodies are completely solid, not at all as fragile as they appear when thrown feather-like by their partners. Their grace and ease make the dance seem natural, but it is nothing of the sort.  Every move is the result of discipline, tenacity and endless practice.

Their chiseled bodies appear as if they are restricted to a diet of lean protein and vegetables, but I watched them eat their way through burgers, pizza and many plates of everything that this country has to offer only to burn it all, in half of a rehearsal.

They were genuine, friendly and took me into their troupe as if I was part of the family.  They really walked out the lives of true artists, lives that were entirely devoted to their art.

The troupe is part of The Grigorovich Ballet Company.  The company was founded in Krasnodar, Russia by Yuri Nikolayevich Grigorovich, chief of the Russian ballet scene for thirty years and recognized by many as the father of the Nutcracker.

At home, their routine starts early in the morning.  They arrive at the studio and practice— ten-hour rehearsals are the norm, some weeks end with performances on weekends, some months are spent touring.  For them, it is not a hobby, but a lifestyle.  They live the life of dance and that is what makes each of them a dancer.

This is the trick to turning a hobby into an art and turning a dilettante into an artist.  It takes uncompromising devotion to perfecting the art till it so fully defines the artist, that in turn— the artist defines it.

Behind the scenes from the 2012 U.S. Grigorovich Ballet Tour: