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Sunday, January 25, 2009


Cabo San Lucas is gorgeous! It is the last stop in Mexico before we arrive at our final destination, San Francisco. The beauty of Mexico doesn’t diminish as we travel north. Each port has its own special lure, and Cabo’s famed stone arch—el arco—is breathtakingly awesome. The arch is at the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula where the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez meet. It’s a place called Land’s End. As the Coral Princess glides toward its anchorage position, we are treated to spectacular vistas from our balcony. To one side is el arco, ahead are beautiful beaches, beyond are mountains, and above are para-sailors. We can’t wait to board our tender to take us ashore!

Rob and I booked a shore excursion—well, not quite “shore”—it is a boat tour and scenic drive. We’ll take a boat to see el arco up close as well as the myriad sea life; there are pelicans everywhere. Our tour is narrated so we learn about the ecology of the area. Once again we’re surrounded by courteous people who share the railings and trade cameras to take photos of one another. It’s a beautiful day and a magnificent boat ride. We pass Lover’s Beach with its smooth white sand nestled between towering rock outcroppings, and there are people swimming and sunbathing there. Other boats sail or motor by, and there are even some sea kayakers. There is a great deal of activity, but it appears leisurely and uncrowded—interesting but untouristy.

After our boat ride, we board a mini-bus that drives us up into the rugged mountains surrounding the Bay of Cabo San Lucas. As in other ports we’ve visited there are construction projects everywhere. Mexico’s tourist industry is booming, and it’s easy to see why. We head to a beautiful hotel on a cove where we enjoy some Mexican beer—dos cervezas—and gaze enchanted at the view from the terrace. Below us on the beach are surfers enjoying the waves of the bay. We look over the vividly colored flowers toward the omnipresent el arco. The world seems peaceful. We’re happy, and that’s what vacations are all about.

When we return to the town, we have time to wander in and out of shops and go to a wonderful, trendy place, Cabo Wabo, for lunch.
(see One drawback of cruising is time. It would have been nice to stay a while longer.

By the time we meander back to the dock to board the launch returning us to the Coral Princess, we’ve had a nice sampling of the area and some awesome pictures embedded in our minds. Cabo is a place I’d like to return to and stay.

This is our last stop in Mexico, but we have enjoyed ourselves so much that Rob and I decide to vacation here in the winter. We think we prefer the Caribbean side with its calmer waters. We’ve visited there on other cruises.

A winter 2009 Mexican vacation was our plan last May, and I’m pleased to say that the plan became reality, and Cancun is the destination. You’ll soon be reading about that trip. I’ve been working on my Spanish almost since we returned from the Panama Canal cruise, so I hope to be able to get out of the tourist mode more than I might otherwise be able. I’ll let you know.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


4443 Highway One
Rehobeth Beach, DE 19971
(302) 644-7711

We hit a spot on the Coastal Highway heading toward Rehobeth Beach, DE where seafood restaurants begin to border the roadway. Coincidentally it was just about lunch time, and where else but the Delmarva Peninsula can one get the best crab cakes?

Rob and I stop at the first seafood sign we see. To our dismay, it’s a market—but a friendly one—and after a few minutes’ chit chat, the recommendation is Jakes Seafood House, just a short distance along the Coastal Highway.

Jake's is a lovely restaurant, spacious, unpretentious, and filled with people who seem happy with why they’re here. Food is why its customers are here, and good food is what they get. This family-owned restaurant has a sterling reputation, and Jake's Seafood House aims to keep it. The original Jake's in Baltimore has been in the Schneider family for 50 years. The founder’s daughter, Lois, and her son, Bill, opened this Rehobeth Beach restaurant in 1988.

Rob and I skip the menu listings for steaks, chicken, and pasta. We head straight for the seafood wondering if we should splurge on a big bowl of seafood bisque, Jake’s specialty, described as a delectable combination of lobster, shrimp, scallops, and lump crab meat in a rich cream-sherry base. Sounds soooo good, but we decide to be prudent since we’ve no idea yet what Allison and Don will do for lunch or what we four will do for dinner. They’re coming up from Virginia to meet us for a weekend at Rehobeth Beach.

Rob and I settle on the lump crab cake sandwich. We choose, at our waitress’ suggestion, to have it fried. We are served a large home-made crab cake on a wonderfully soft roll. The crab cake is stupendous, and if you’ve followed our crab cake adventures, we’ve tried them all over Maryland, Virginia, and even South Carolina. Now it is Delaware’s turn to enter the contest. We thought we had the best at Woody’s in Northeast, Maryland, but Jake’s’ definitely rivals Woody’s.

The crab cakes are made fresh daily from a recipe that has been in the Schneider family for over 70 years. That’s no antique; that’s a classic! I don’t think Jake’s uses a filler in the cake. This is a crab cake made of big, meaty chunks of crab—not shredded, not diced, but big discernible hunks of fresh, succulent crab held together with a light, fried coating. This Maryland delight is accompanied by lettuce, tomato, and some of the best french fries we’ve ever tasted.

What a great way to begin a vacation!

There is another Jake’s in downtown Rehobeth Beach (closed Jan. & Feb.), and Allison, Don, Rob, and I end up there for dinner where we do get to taste the seafood bisque and some dinner selections. Wonderful. If you are ever in the vicinity, Jake’s should be on your hit list.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


With all the hidden treasures in NYC, it’s easy to pass one up. However, having just returned from the first program of the 39th season of Lyrics and Lyricists at the 92nd Street Y, a smile still on my face and a song—or many songs—in my heart, I must point out this gem.

Lyrics and Lyricists celebrates the Great American Songbook. These musical concerts are exceptional, and the talent covers the range of theatrical possibilities. Rob and I first attended a program when friends who had a subscription were unable to make a performance. The following year we began to subscribe. The theater is beautiful and spacious. I don't believe there is a bad seat in the house.

Today’s program is Rodgers &…:Inside Five Collaborations. The artistic director and host is Martin Charnin who worked on two musicals with Richard Rodgers. Nominated four times for the Tony, he won twice. No shortage of talent there nor in any of the other performers. The music, of course, is glorious! Why not when we’re listening to Rodgers’ paired with theater icons, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Martin Charnin, and Sheldon Harnick? Why not when we’re treated to magnificent voices singing songs from such plays as Babes In Arms (although I know these songs from the Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney movie), Pal Joey (which I know from the movie but have B’way revival tickets in March), Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific (now back as B’way revival but tickets are difficult to get), The King and I (which we took Allison to see when Yul Brenner actually played the King), Flower Drum Song, The Sound of Music, No Strings, State Fair (where I’m a fan of both movie versions), and Do I Hear a Waltz?

Today’s 2½ hour show gifted us with 53 songs and an additional dozen in two medleys. Doesn’t get much better than this, and the crowd’s enthusiastic response was well earned. Two and a half is not a number we’re bound to hear at any concert, and when performed by vocalists of the experience, range, background, and ability we heard today, we couldn’t help but be bowled over!

The program begins with a breezy explanation of a few of Rodgers’ unique qualities as lyricist. Charnin spoke of his style--with examples, of course. For instance he defined internal rhyme, and then the vocalists sang, and sang, and sang! He also pointed out how Rodgers stuck with a tune and kept rewriting lyrics for it until a song worked. Richard Rodgers used one tune in three different shows with three different sets of lyrics until he finally hit it with the fourth try. We know that song as Blue Moon.

If there were one negative, it was that we had to stifle our inclination to sing along. This music is part of our theatrical heritage, and most of the audience probably knew most of the lyrics. In fact, at one point Charnin lamented the absence of verse in today’s music, and he played an audience participation game. A performer sang just the verse, and the audience had to guess which song it introduced. Each one came easily to some member of the audience.

We four who attended agreed today’s program is going to be a tough act to follow, but we have four more shows to go in the series. Tickets to individual shows can be purchased. Go the the Y website. If you live outside NYC, it’s worth the trip.

Don’t miss this or some of the other programs at the 92nd Street Y. Visit the Y’s website and you’ll see an incredible array of possibilities appealing to every interest. This week there are tours and a tea at Gracie Mansion, official residence of New York City’s mayor. There are cooking classes, a wine and cheese pairing presentation, a lecture by columnist Paul Krugman (not my style), as well as other possibilities. Look at the website’s calendar for more detail. Tickets can be ordered online. Many of the offerings repeat themselves throughout the year, so look ahead. This Y is not a membership organization (although there are membership options for some offerings), and anyone can attend any program.

There is even a café where we had lunch before the performance. We went early to find street parking although there are plenty of available garages in the area.

At any rate, go and enjoy.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Amy Tan knows relationships—at least between mothers and daughters. She may not have the answers to smoothing these relationships, but she is aware of both sides of the story. I know. I first read and loved her novel The Joy Luck Club in 1989. Then I read it from the daughter’s perspective. In 2009, I read and loved it from the mother’s perspective. The whole concept of the cycles of life and the universalities of hopes and dreams always appeal to me.

The Joy Luck Club also explores themes inherent in crossing cultures. China-born Lindo Jong, for instance, wants her children to enjoy “American circumstances and Chinese character." But she admits, "How could I know these two things do not mix?”

While mine is not the Chinese culture, this novel is about me too. How does one take advantage of American society with its openness and opportunity and still retain a cultural connection to family and the past? In this respect, The Joy Luck Club is about change and acceptance. It’s incredibly interesting to follow the lives of these women—four mothers and their daughters—as they explore this problem. Can they work it out?

In reality, we know so little of the generations that come before us. We may hear stories and see photos or ancestral trees, but we do not share the experiences that shape us as we grow. Growth, as limbs of a tree, is away from the trunk—away from the source. Daughters struggle to get away from the source, their mothers. It can be frightening.

June (Jing-Mei) says when she realizes the truth, “I don’t know anything. She was my mother.”

But Auntie An-Mei cries back, voicing her own fears, “How can you say? Your mother is in your bones!”

June is right in at least one respect: how little each of us understands where our mother came from and how she came to be as she is and wish for us the things she does.

Also true, however, is the reverse. Mothers are not privy to all the factors daughters face in their own struggles with life. Sometimes they need to learn from their daughters’ experiences. In The Joy Luck Club, Tan shows how a woman’s position in China is far different from a woman’s position in the United States. That is also true for American women of different generations; what is possible today was not possible to prior generations. The differences make understanding each other difficult.

Amy Tan also tackles the problems of communication. Communication is language, very important in this book where the lack of language creates bricks and mortar to form walls between people. Communication is more than language; it is also lack of honesty—sometimes by choice and sometimes by a culture where one is taught to squelch personal desires. How does one communicate? What is the right language? Do we always understand the message someone is trying to communicate? When we let others translate and interpret words for us, can we accurately get across our ideas? If we can’t what damage is done?

Tan’s structure is intriguing. The novel progresses through a series of vignettes, of short stories concerning the four mother/daughter pairs. Each pair is represented in each section, but taken together, each pair creates a complete story thread. Each section is introduced with a parable that represents the theme of the story. Marvelous! Not nearly as confusing as this sounds; in fact, it’s beautiful and gives the reader time to mull over the possibilities.

Amy Tan’s language is exquisite. China comes alive for those of us who haven’t been there. San Francisco’s Chinatown is vividly depicted, and those of us who know it will recognize the details, not only of the places and streets, but of the people and attitude. Amy Tan is a wordsmith.

I just presented a discussion of The Joy Luck Club as part of a January celebration of Asian culture. The discussion was interesting and the audience, identifying themselves from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds including Chinese, Korean, Irish, Jewish, Italian, and Finnish, all empathized with the people in this book. In fact, one woman, raised an orphan, yearned for some of the relationships Tan explored. This universality appeals to me.

I haven’t mentioned how the conflicts resolve. I won’t. I won’t even say if they resolve. But I will recommend this book, and I hope you’ll read and comment on it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


This review of Woody's in North East, Maryland originally appeared in Third Age Traveler in October, 2005. Rob and I have returned several times since then, and the legend continues! So if you're driving I-95 in Maryland, Woody's is a great place to stop.

Native Marylanders will be the first to tell you that the only place to get the best crab cake is in their state. So if the thought of crab cakes makes you salivate, then you’ve got to hop off Route 95 at exit 100 and drive to a tiny town along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland named North East. Find your way to Woody’s right there on the main street, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed. A year ago we stumbled upon Woody’s during a foray to Patriotic Fireworks, a factory way way back in the woods and reached by traveling over a dirt rood where the signs nailed to the trees announce “Fireworks. NO SMOKING.” But we’ll leave that story for another time. Woody’s is enough reason to go to North East.

Woody’s is a grand place. Enter and to the right is a capacious bar. There is also a bar in the dining room where tables are covered with brown wrapping paper. Woody’s is a fun place. You can purchase souvenir mugs and T-shirts or gaze at the stuffed lobster on the wall. Visit the website, and you will have a good chuckle! The windows are draped with fish netting, and there’s a great, down-home atmosphere. Soft country music plays in the background, and we hear a happy buzz from the other customers. You’ve got to appreciate plastic at Woody’s, and the advantage is that you don’t have to be afraid of making a mess! If you need more napkins, there’s a convenient roll of beige paper towels right at your table.

Our very friendly waitress immediately brings a basket of warm bread and plenty of homemade cocktail and tartar sauce. We both wish we can overlook the crab cakes to try something new like the Eastern Shore Clambake consisting of fresh chicken, shrimp, clams, king crab, carrots, spinach, new potatoes, all steamed in Woody’s special seasonings. It is served with fresh steamed corn on the cob. But we gravitate back to the crab cakes which are made fresh everyday. We’re not disappointed.

Rob points out as we begin to eat that these are crab cakes, not crab croquettes, and we are eating meat, not mush. The cakes are big and hearty fare. We choose the dinner with one cake, and that is really sufficient. We are not eating filler, but lumps of crab meat, delicately but perfectly seasoned. Our dinner comes with a ramekin of creamed spinach seasoned with garlic and broiled just enough to give it a crusty top. Delicious! We are served twice-baked potatoes. These potatoes are not mashed up but remain chunky with a delicious crisp skin. It’s a scrumptious meal in a laid back atmosphere. Everything is excellent and without pretense. It’s wonderful.

Woody’s is a family-owned business begun by her father and now run by Rachel Wood. In 2001, Woody’s was voted one of the top 10 seafood restaurants on the East Coast by American Express’ magazine, Travel and Leisure, and I’m not surprised. It was the winner of “Best in the Bay” by Chesapeake Bay Magazine from 1996 until 2003. Since the family bought the restaurant, they’ve added the garden room and expanded in other ways. The new addition is Ice Cream Alley, and you can’t miss it. Outside the entrance is a great big cow! She’s terrific, and she certainly catches the eye. No room for ice cream, however, after that great meal. On a side note, North East is worth some additional time. There are cute shops and a charming small town quality that ought not to be overlooked.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


We like to think that no medical problems will rear their ugly heads while we’re traveling internationally. But that’s not always the case, and it’s good to travel prepared. In addition to the benefits in your travel insurance package (and I highly recommend having one of these policies; Rob and I use Travel Guard), look into IAMAT—International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers—a non-profit organization founded in 1960. Free membership (although they ask for a tax-deductible contribution) includes several immediate benefits, the best being a directory of reputable, English-speaking doctors in countries around the world. Your symptoms you describe will be understood; his instructions to you will be clear. Additionally, your doctor will have received training in North America or Europe.

Explore the website. IAMAT is recommended by travel mavens like Arthur Frommer—and by practical third-agers like myself.