Santa Cruz’n

Located about seventy-five miles down the coast from San Francisco are the beautiful beaches and towns of Santa Cruz, California.  Broad beaches, some surrounded by tall rocky bluffs, quaint towns, and a boardwalk from a bygone era are some of the attractions that draw visitors to this beautiful stretch of coastline.  After a windswept day at the beach, I enjoyed a stroll along the boardwalk with a chocolate covered ice cream cone in hand. The boardwalk, with its colorful rides, is reminiscent of Coney Island in my hometown of New York City.  The main attractions of both boardwalks are their old-school, wooden rollercoasters.  The Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz, built in 1924 is one of the oldest roller coasters in the world and bears a striking resemblance to the Cyclone, which was built three years later in Coney Island.  


Tres Chic Deauville

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On the northwestern coast of France, on the shores of the English Channel, otherwise known as La Manche to the French, lay the great beaches of Normandy.  We often think of Normandy for the famous battlegrounds of D-Day, where so many young Americans lost their lives liberating France from Nazism. In addition to those historical sites of Omaha and Utah beaches and Point du Hoc, there are many picturesque towns along this stretch of coastline that are the playgrounds of chic and wealthy Parisians.  They come here for the grand beaches, hotels, casinos, and shopping that towns like Deauville offer its visitors.  Deauville is also known for the colorful umbrellas/cabanas that line its beach.  Quaint towns such as Honfleur, located at the mouth of the Seine River, are postcard-worthy with narrow cobblestoned streets that climb its hilly terrain.  The streets are lined with slender, old buildings of varying architectural styles that look like they could have been painted onto a scenic backdrop.  A few days in Normandy only whet my appetite for another, lengthier visit in the future to visit sights such as Mont St. Michel and towns such as Bayeux, Rouen, and many others.

Chauffeured Around Paris: Short on Comfort, Long on Style

The vintage Citroen 2CV is an iconic car in France where it was produced for nearly a half a century, until 1990 when consumers were ready for a bit more speed and a lot more luxury.  A Parisian tour company, Paris Authentic, put these old 2Cv’s to work, offering chauffer-driven tours of the City of Light in its colorful collection of cars. Our young driver, outfitted in a typically French outfit —  white and blue striped shirt and a blue chauffeur’s cap — drove us to some of the most famous attractions in Paris where we popped out of the sun roof to glimpse Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Place de la Concorde, and the Louvre.  I’d seen these sights before, but never in a bright green, vintage Citroen.  The cars, short on comfort, but long on style, were equally as photogenic as the sights that they took us to see. We had a lot of laughs and got a lot of stares, but it was worth every minute of the experience.

D-Day Sites

We visited the sites where the United States, Britain, and Canada arrived on that fateful day known as D-Day on June 6, 1944.  World War II had been raging on for five years and countless lives were lost at the hands of the Nazis when the allied troops lead by General Dwight D. Eisenhower stormed the beaches of Normandy.  The attack, which was planned for two years and involved thousands of boats, aircraft, and servicemen was done in such secrecy that it took the Germans by complete surprise.  The brave men who were involved in this invasion changed the course of history forever.  There were several thousand casualties on that day and at the end of a two and a half month period, more than twenty-five thousand allied troops lost their lives and countless others were maimed.  However, their heroics lead to the liberation of France and the beginning of the end of the Nazi regime.  We visited the cliffs overlooking Omaha beach and saw the bunkers that the Germans used and the craters that were created by the bombs that fell.  We visited a museum that displayed evidence and testimony of D-Day and commemorated the lives of the fearless troops that perished.  Omaha beach is a beautiful, wide, sandy beach, surrounded by pretty beach homes, where children frolic and people walk their dogs.  , where some of the worst casualties of the war took place. We spent some time in a torrential, freezing rain at the Normandy American cemetery where over nine thousand American servicemen are buried including 45 sets of brothers and a father and son.  It was very moving to see rows upon rows of crosses and a few Stars of David, under which the remains of young men live in perpetuity.  It was apropos that it was raining because it was as though tears were falling from heaven.  

Marriage Equality – the Law of the Land

In an epic decision, the Supreme Court of the United States of America finally legalized same-sex marriage across this great nation. The United States was not the first country to legalize same-sex marriage and hopefully it will not be the last. Gay couples should be entitled to the same rights and privileges that heterosexual couples have and now they will in this country and in twenty others across the globe. This decision was a ‘no-brainer’ and was favored by a majority of Americans.

Doors, doors, and more doors

I love doors, all kinds of doors.  I love them when they are colorful, architecturally detailed, barn-style, even decrepit, just as long as they are visually interesting.  Here is a collection of doors that I photographed in Paris and in the French countryside.  I love photographing them because, in addition to their beauty, I often wonder what lies behind these closed doors.  In Paris, there is often a beautiful courtyard or a car park that you can occasionally glimpse when the doors are open.  In the countryside, perhaps the door leads to a beautiful manor house or a barn.   

A French Country Wedding

I attended my cousin Amanda’s wedding at a beautiful manor house in Normandy, near the town where she and her husband grew up and where they met as high school students.  They chose the site, situated a short distance from the seaside town of Dieppe, for its beauty and for the bucolic feel of the property.  The grounds of the manor were perfectly suited to the style of wedding that they had.  They set up chairs in rows on either side of an aisle strewn with rose petals.   The wedding canopy was made of a white organza fabric.  Each seat had a white umbrella ttied to it to be used to protect guests from sun or rain, since the weather in Normandy can change on a dime.  Amanda and her husband Soufian left no detail to chance.  

The wedding was called for 3:30 PM, so they set up a garden style reception to immediately follow the ceremony and a dinner reception was held a few steps away and several hours later in the manor’s dining room.  The French certainly know how to throw an elegant, yet fun and exciting wedding.  We finally excused ourselves at 2 AM because we had to rise early to visit the sites where the United States and its allies stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day during World War II.  The party was just getting hopping at that point battle sites and cemetery Normandy’s D-Day battle.

Les fleurs de Paris

Flowers and horticulture abound in France.  There are beautifully planted gardens such as the Luxembourg gardens and the Tuileries in Paris, planter boxes filled with flowers on the streets, and exquisite bouquets in shops and restaurants.  The French certainly take pride in the beauty and happiness that these decorative arrangements and plantings bring to their residents and visitors.  

Gov Ball

IMG_7917Tens of thousands of people descended upon Randall’s Island in New York City last weekend for the 5th annual Governors Ball Music Festival.  They arrived by boat, by foot, and by car to see sixty musical acts perform over a three-day period.  The fields were muddy from a week’s worth of rain and the weather teetered between awful and beautiful.  Nothing dampened the spirits of the festival attendees, who came primarily for the music but for the party atmosphere, as well.  The acts varied from rap to pop to rock to country.  I saw Florence and the Machine, Drake, Flume, Black Keys, and several other up-and-coming indie bands. It is fun to people-watch, too, because festival attendees put a lot of thought into what they wear.  The outfits are predominantly hippie-chic, while some are a bit outlandish and others are a bit risqué.  There were times when the crush of the people was a little scary, but overall it was a fun and very entertaining weekend. 

You Go Girl!


Courtesy of Vanity Fair magazine

At this point people are well aware of Bruce Jenner’s gender transition. Bruce, who now goes by the name Caitlyn, was recently photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the July cover of Vanity Fair. The shoot meant more to Jenner than just a collection of photos, though. Jenner saw it as the unveiling of her new identity as a woman.  The shots were sexy and feminine, and no one will confuse her with the man that she once was.  While the revelation of her transition has gotten tremendous publicity, she stresses the fact that she did it entirely for herself, so that she could live a happier and better life. It took a lot of courage to do what Caitlyn Jenner did. It would have been easier to remain Bruce for so many reasons. However, she would have been regretful until her dying day that she did not live the life that she always felt she was  meant to live.  You go girl!

Click to read the full Vanity Fair cover story!