Sunday, May 30, 2010

Buddhist Thought for the Day

"Extending love and compassion toward others in contemplative practice is a rehearsal for stepping beyond stinginess and self-centeredness in daily life. Eventually our training will give us the power to flip the mind instantly by letting go of the "me plan" and considering the happiness of somebody else, whatever we’re experiencing, wherever we are. In that moment, we are cultivating peace. When we live like this, we feel happier. The reason is simple: because love and compassion are the basis of our consciousness, we thrive when we let them come to the forefront. "

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

City by the Bay~ Travelin' Tuesday

A short post tonight as I just returned from a
long weekend in San Francisco~ my favorite
City by the Bay.

To me, San Francisco is a portal~
both to the past and to the future
as well as a most joyous present moment when I am here.

The Past~ Because so many aspects, neighborhoods, sights, smells and sounds
remind me of my years here coming of age.

The Future~ because as some of you know,
my dream is to once again live in the Bay Area,
preferably this time just across the Golden Gate Bridge,
somewhere that I can be
driving Mt. Tam,
seated at any restaurant
or perusing any art exhibit in the city
within the hour.

As part of my creative visualization toward this goal,
some years ago I spotted a photo in a magazine that I knew
was the kitchen of my future home.
Around that kitchen, I designed an entire writer's house
and set it on the side of a Marin hillside with a view of the bay.

For me, a visit to San Francisco is like
going on vacation and coming home all at the same time.
I get to relive my years as a teenager here
and look forward to the home I'm creating.
What's in your dream?

(All photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Looking for the Oldest Bar in Paris?~Missing Paris Day

You've found it!

One of my favorite little eateries in Paris,
La Reserve de Quasimodo,
is also considered one of the oldest-
the space having served clients since the early 1200's.

Located on the Ile de la Cite, just a half block off the Seine
and the tourist route to Notre Dame,
this cozy little Resto-Cave A Vins,
on a small cobblestone street,
serves simple yet traditional Bistro-style food
but without the punch of Parisian prices.

A separate room filled with wine and spirits
announces guests with a tinkling bell from its own entrance.
Current owners Nathalie and Christian,

when not prepping and cooking in the front,
are more than willing
to offer wine suggestions from the shop
(and for a small corkage fee--open it on the spot).

Christian has even once recommended a tres inexpensive wine from the shop

simply because he felt it would best accompany our food.

The menu hangs from hand-written chalkboards in the front window...

...which offers individual menu items

or the typically French 'price fixed menu',

an entree et plat or plat et dessert

at a very low cost.

From the mural walls, tippling monks

accompany you on your visit...

...Even in the restroom.

Downstairs hosts another small dining room for groups...

And the ancient stone stairwell leads to the wine cave,

linked to the Roman maze of

once all-connected cellars in Paris' underground.

My favorites of the simple fare

are the ever traditional Salade de Chevre Chaud...

(warm goat's milk cheese)

...and the Tartine de Foie Gras,

gently toasted making the apple and foie gras slices

the perfect complement to one another.

While I've never been much of a sardine fan,

(before visiting Sicily, that is)

this Rillette de Sardine entree

is worth stopping in for alone.

Frequently, the restaurant also hosts

an evening of singing or storytelling,

the price including a plate of meats or cheeses and a drink.

(I have yet to see one of these shows

though I'm afraid I might have trouble following.)

Stop on in

for a little taste of history.

The monks have a spare table just for you!

La Reserve de Quasimodo
4, Rue de la Colombe, Paris 97004
Metro: Hotel de Ville
Open: Mon-Sat 10-21.

(All photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)
(Do not reprint)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tulipen~ Travelin' Tuesday

As I am off to my Writing Retreat again this week,
this post will be short but so very sweet.

A friend who recently returned from a 10-day biking trip in Holland
has graciously allowed me to post some of his photos from his time there.
The first is my favorite...

...followed by such exquisite colorful beauty
as to make us all sigh.

And lastly...
Hugh and a dancing partner
tiptoe through the tulips!

Thanks Hugh for letting us
trip the Tulipen fantasmic with you!

(All photos copyright: Hugh Prichard. Do not reprint.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Return to Delphi~ Travelin' Tuesday

Delphi (like Pompeii for me)

was a place I'd heard of all my life

but in the rather limited opportunities of my childhood

never thought I'd truly see.

A couple of years ago,

while touring several of the Greek ruins,

'The Chef' and I made a trip to the small town of Arahova

where I was able to fulfill a lifelong quest

of walking the ancient stones of Delphi.

While the entire ruin is a mesmerizing

portal to the ancient world,

I wasn't quite prepared for its stunning location

and breathtaking surroundings

with its long, expansive mountainous views.

Many of Greece's ruins are on easy-to-reach flatgrounds.

But Delphi, with its standing columns and fluttering wildflowers

of deep, blood red and mischevious yellow,

sleeps on the side of a sacred mountain.

The columns below are the ruins of the

Temple dedicated to Apollo

where it's said the Pythia inhaled vapors from a fissure,

went into a trance and whose prophesies

were most likely translated by priests.

One guess over time

is that the ground fault fissures emanated an ethylene gas

that was responsible for the priestesses altered states.

Carved into the temple walls were 3 phrases

(attributed to a few of the Seven Sages of Greece--

6th Century wise men before Plato's time):

"Know Thyself"

"Nothing to Excess"

And the last: "Make a pledge and mischief is nigh".

One can't help but wonder what the many travelers to its site

must have said to themselves after crossing the world or its oceans

upon finally reaching the foot of Mount Parnassus:

"Really? All this way and now...up there? Really??"

It took me decades to finally make my way here

and while I went by plane, boat and car (the fairly easy, modern way)

it's not hard to see once here why seekers would traverse the world over

for a glimpse into this glorious present (of any century)

and the ever-elusive future.

(All photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen)