70 years after Hiroshima, ‘secret’ survivor in unlikely place

Apparently there’s a survivor of the world’s first atomic attack — the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, living in, of all places, Washington, DC.

It withstood the U.S. attack that led to the end of World War II 70 years ago. And it had been around for hundreds of years before that.

No one knew its secret until relatively recently. But if you believe a pretty incredible story, a tree miraculously unscathed by war is now a symbol of peace.

As for Hiroshima, it seems like just another place on the outside. But the searing scars will never go away. Here’s what it looks like now.



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What you’re really looking at when you’re at the beach

beach facebookAs a kid growing up at the Jersey Shore, I always wondered where the ocean led. I’ve spent a lifetime of traveling finding out.

Here’s a neat cheat sheet to ponder while you’re at the beach. (Lake beaches don’t count, unfortunately.) Someday, why not go for that place across the ocean?

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Let’s Paws: Jimmy Kimmel and lion, 1; the dentist, 0

Jimmy Kimmel takes perfect aim at that Minnesota dentist who admits to slaughtering what turned out to be a famed lion in Africa. Even if that lion were a “nobody”, why?

When I was in Kenya on safari, I saw lions eating a giraffe for breakfast. I felt a little guilty for intruding on their morning routine. I was the stranger.

But this dentist is apparently used to rudely interrupting; “taking” wildlife just for the fun of it. Something I just don’t understand.

Where I come from, dentists are supposed to be nice.


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Why I love the NYC subway

I had a friend who’d lived in Manhattan since Ronald Reagan was president. She had a big job in TV and considered herself the ultimate New Yorker.

Given that she’d been there so long, who would argue?

I would.

As far as I was concerned, she was never a true New Yorker because she’d never set foot on the subway.

True, it doesn’t exactly smell like fresh laundry. And I’m not advocating taking it at 3am. I try not to be out anywhere at that time.

That aside, the subway is the best bargain around, even with the inevitable fare hikes. Given traffic in America’s largest city, it’s the quickest, cheapest way to get to some of the world’s most fabulous places.

More on why I love it:

Subway car3 Because the trains go to the same places they did when I was a little girl. Then, I rode the same  line with my mom to see my grandparents, who still lived in the apartment she grew up in.

Not to mention all the free entertainment.

Subway dog3   Subway child3

Subway hebrew4

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Some reservations about list of world’s top airlines

It’s out. The list of the world’s top airlines. If you care.

Most of us really don’t — most of us flying coach, that is. We’re flying to get somewhere, not for the ambiance or cuisine. We don’t expect much, and usually just keep our fingers crossed that whatever we get for a meal is vaguely like food.

Unfortunately, rotten fare and being hemmed in generally come with the territory in economy, so if an airline tries to make things a bit more pleasant, you notice.

As far as this list goes, flying business on some American airlines is hardly worth the money and actually worse than flying coach on EmiratesQatar and Turkish. Here’s my experience with Emirates. And Qatar. Oh, and Cathay Pacific is pretty great, too.

Fairly decent food and entertainment, and at the very least, eyeshades and socks. U.S. airlines used to hand out some goodies on longer flights, but now you’re lucky to get a blanket and pillow.

A bit surprised Garuda International, Indonesia’s airline, made the cut. Unless it’s gotten much better. I remember flying it from Hong Kong to Indonesia at the beginning of a cyclone when all the other airlines were grounded. I was in too much of a hurry to worry.

Then there was the time a Garuda jet started to land at the wrong airport in Australia with a runway that was too short. Oops. Guess they’ve figured things out by now.

As for Australia, Qantas (aka Flying Kangaroo) is OK.

They try to make those especially long-haul flights linking the homeland to the rest of the world as palatable as possible with lots of food and drink. But the food’s pretty mundane and it’s tough to eat when the person in front of you is almost in your lap along with the Foster’s.

Who’s on your best and worst lists?

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Brussels: Not just a bunch of boring buildings

With my own personal Chocolatefest in Brussels out of the way, I set my sights on more substantive fare — the rest of the city.

Including a trek to the European Parliament in Brussels, tasked with looking after the affairs of all the countries in the European Union. I wanted a glimpse of power, intrigue, diplomacy, snazzy European trench coats. Something out of a Liam Neeson movie.

OK, At the very least, Europe’s version of the United Nations. Still important and impressive.


Sure looked that way on the outside. The complex is pretty imposing.


I was taken with the emphasis on human rights and striking tribute to late Russian activist Andrei Sakharov.


But the tour of the premises turned out to be a big yawn.  Granted, there was nothing going on at the time. But even if those seats had been filled, I might have felt the same way.

That was around Easter. Now, it’s a completely different story.

What’s going on isn’t standard European Parliament stuff this time. Now, European leaders have been meeting in Brussels in what’s being called a “last chance” attempt to defuse the explosive financial crisis in Greece, an EU member.

They’ve got a big dilemma on their hands, one that’s getting too big for the rest of us to ignore.

About as dramatic as you can get.

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New York: Best place to see July 4 fireworks

July 4th fireworks over One World Trade Center, the replacement for the original World Trade Center decimated in the 9/11 attacks.


This is the view from a roof in Brooklyn Heights, just across the East River. An ideal place for an ideal evening.

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Eats: The best cupcakes in the world

It’s been a worldwide quest: trying to find the cupcakes of my youth.

My search for this Holy Grail (see here, where it first started) has taken me from New York’s Lower East Side to the Upper West Side. From Seattle to Ho Chi Minh City. I always scope out a cupcake store wherever I go.

Like so much else in life, many look luscious, but they betray my tastebuds. Dry to the point of sawdust, with frosting that’s waxy or sickeningly sweet.

I went back to a strong contender the other day, just to make sure it was still The One. It is, because nothing else that I know of comes close.


The winner, which is still anemic next to the original, is … New York’s Magnolia Bakery. (One bang on the drum; it’s not worth a drumroll.)

Calm down. I know it’s a touristy cliche, often with lines around the block because of its role in Sex and The City, Saturday Night Live and The Devil Wears Prada. But the yellow cake with chocolate frosting (my standard) is pretty satisfying.

magnolia park2

There are lots of locations, but I like the original on Bleecker Street in the West Village. Nothing like it on a nice summer afternoon, where you can savor your purchase at a nearby park with some of the luckiest pigeons on the planet.

If you know of better, I’d sure like to hear about it! My research is never done.

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New York: A new appreciation for the Brooklyn Bridge

Walking across NYC’s Brooklyn Bridge has been my favorite mode of transportation for a very long time.

Here’s why I love it so much.

Only bad thing about doing that when you’re in a hurry is that you don’t have time to really stop and take a look.

Recently, I had that rare opportunity. Seeing it through the lens of a real camera (not my iPhone this time), I was even more awestruck.

brooklyn bridge1

Manhattan BridgeAlso got the Manhattan Bridge and the Empire State Building in the bargain.

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Why I love New York: Reason Number 6,432

New York. It’s all about …

meatball obsession

new york cake

The Nosh.

new york drama

The Drama.

new york humanityThe Tidal Wave of Humanity.

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