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Yes, Elvis Lives

IMG_4631The seven miles of sugar white sand beach catches the gin clear six inch waves from the Western Jamaica sea daily.  Walking the waterline is an interesting pleasure because visitors will make at least fifty new friends on their hike.  The stretch from the remains of the salt petrified tree in front of Barry’s Bar on Negril Beach runs north easterly toward the boundary line of Couple Swept Away Resort Dive Shop, provide the finest tranquil swimming beach and the resort’s water sports areas.  Foot traffic from other resorts make up most of the pedestrian movement.

SHUT UP and FLY

IMG_4599Jamaica, W.I. in the Western Caribbean sea, just below Cuba, offers the best weather to provide great water sports. Trade winds blow off the Great Morass and down from the mountains to the beaches and cliffs of Negril, Jamaica. The earliest visitors from tourism found this area perfect for sailing , diving, snorkeling, fishing and swimming.  Today the beaches support an infrastructure of all the toys for a fine vacation.  The exception to the formula is no jet-ski watercraft are currently allowed by Parish Local Law.  No Problem, Mon, and peaceful on the ears, too! Longtime friend and Negril resident, ELVIS, works the area near Couples Swept Away.  His day starts early, just as the beach boys are raking the sand and arranging the chaise beach chairs.  By 10:00 AM the chairs are filled and the beach vendors have begun their quest with handmade jewelry, Aloe Vera plant  massages, straw hats, Bob Marley pendants, Coconut sculptures and every know island sales pitch of compelling style. These folk work hard. ELVIS stands in the middle of all with one goal: ” What can I get for YOU?”

IMG_4603ELVIS knows his customer will return again and again.  With his broad smile and likable tone, wit and energy, he walks the several hundred meters of beach with his chant: Parasailing!  The operation is seamless for this mission to get the people to the water’s edge, on the skiff out to the big fast boat and harnessed up and in the air. All day long the beauty of the Parachutes floating over the water just outside of the swim buoy lines attract more customers.  But ELVIS works on.  Negril, Jamaica lives on and the finer resorts, as mentioned, keep the tourist coming back year after year. ELVIS Lives.

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033 When does a busy Street Corner Diner make the grade? Since 1989, this Athens, Greece taverna, called EVGENIA. after the owner is a not so hidden of a gem, but, that few tourist would know about. The Nicodemou Street of the Plaka/ Constitution Plaza area is narrow and tremendously packed with taxis and delivery trucks, Yes, exhaust and noise is everywhere. The little Greek taverna tables and chairs are on the pedestrian sidewalk; ten in all. Why go to lunch or an early dinner here? The business folks, in suits, and the retail workers understand. The Small fried fish, called Atherina, or minnows, is the reason. There are traditional dishes made freshly each morning, like lamb meatballs in tomato sauce and moussaka. The tables get packed. The fried fish come out in a basket and are eaten like french fries, head and all, and very crunchy and good. An Alfa Greek beer helps the lunch thirst. Some diners linger, and others chow and bolt back to work. The traffic keeps up the tempo. Find the taverna on this street and one block north of the Electra Palace Hotel. Be willing to wait a few minutes for your table. Thanks to Kathy Gasparis, years back, for this great dining location tip.

DSC_6269There is something about the tropics that has always kept me happy.  It starts with the flora.  Aside from the senses getting ramped up from the colors, the scents, and the attractions of the many species that need these plants for home, food, and a safe haven for life, I especially love the sounds of the tropical plant leaves that rustle in those balmy breezes. Coco Palms in the moon-light do that job for me.  So my relocation to these tropics and the ensuing pleasure of photographing the dozens of different flowering plants in my spring bloom steps away is my mission.  Perhaps, the Bird of Paradise, shown above, outside my door, will keep my Cannon clicking.  Here are a few more flowers.

Greece2015 MykonosThe Word Is: Cash is King! Discounts prevail, pensions and small hotels give most value; bus it to the beach; eat gyros and souvlaki and an Alpha Beer daily.

Euros and major credit cards are no problem for the savvy traveler in 99% of the venues.  Lock your Cash in a sealed envelope in the Hotel room safe or the Hotel front office safe with any good jewelry. Take only what you need for the daily missions.  Keep only one credit card on your body.  Inform your card company bank that you wish to be informed of any purchase over $XXX.xx dollars via text.

Greece2010 125Most of the restaurants on the Greek major tourist islands bring the Card Billing Machine to your table for you to swipe your card.  Use the visible ATM machines in the front of the local bank windows.  Avoid the ATM in Gas Stations or Beach Bars.

http://www.pensionhotel.co.uk/

Greece2015$100 to $200 per day will get you  a room in a pension, perhaps with a continental breakfast for two people. These prices are quite normal.  The room will be in a smaller building with close proximity to the harbor, bus stations, restaurants and the port of Mykonos. Expect twin beds that might be a tad firm.

Here is the news on the ground: there are definite rip-off. Example this: Paranga Beach, on the north side of Mykonos Island is  a great sandy cove beach with a small traverna.  The beach vendor maintains the beach and offers Chaise Lounge Bed (2) and one umbrella at the sea edge. The ripoff price is 120 Euros.  What?  These should be no more that 5 Euros each  or 25 Euros max!  I would expect a full body massage at those inflated prices.

Greece2010 193A cocktail at the Little Venice area in Mykonos Town, a trendy nightlife spot, will set you back $20.00. Note, the tip is included, thank goodness.  Shopping will be a task in the evening well-lit narrow white cobblestone streets of Mykonos. Look for up to 20% cash buyer discounts on jewelry and clothing.

The Mykonos traveler will find that they are in an insulated world from the confusion and news of the day.  Make the most of it and like Zorba, ” live for the day”!  Opa.

My Mojito

    This is My Mojito… Now that I’ve  got your attention, …

There is a small cookbook that was willed to me from a dear relative.  The dust cover is a bit tattered.  Over the years, I have opened it and searched for ideas that pre-online searches failed at horribly.  The oak bookshelf for these little treasures, as this book is, contains several aged cookbooks that are rare or out of print.  Many are softcover gems on ethnic cuisine that were gathered on exotic islands or at their airports’ gift shops in a last-minute purchase. Dog-eared pages, stained with gravies, give evidence of their importance to me.

Gram or Liter, Cup or Pinch

A lack of Celsius temperatures on the oven dial does not remotely cover the variety of measures, temperatures and rules in many of my cookbooks. Aside from baking, my rule is alway 325 degrees fahrenheit.  I can deal with liters, but grams baffle me, excepting hashish talk, of a prior age, of course.  In the old days, “sprinkle” was uses a lot. One book, a Betty Crocker three-ring binder, has a wonderful section on “Happy-Hour Cocktails”. In this section the talents of a chemist come to be, as exact measurements of Angostura Bitters  fulfills the perfect flavor and color of the Classic Manhattan. Holiday Punch for the wassail bowl lists a dozen ingredients.  These retro times demanded the chef to pay attention.  My simple mojito has simple rules: freshness in all ingredients and simple sugar syrup with Cachaça Brazilian White Cane Rum. Simple.

Rose Louise Sorce was native to her Italian heritage, and  a resident of Milwwakee in the early 1950’s.  Her recipes were handed down from grandmother to mother to her. A state fair booth in Wisconsin got her started on writing, according to an old Milwaukee Journal story by their staff.  La Cucina from Twayne Publishers in 1952 was the rollout of years of work.  I refer to this book from time to time.

Let’s call up some friends; like 1000! Perhaps you have a church basement around?  Can we find several 12 gallon steel simmering pots?

Can I have the left-overs? Enjoy.

Rose   sorce1recipe1000

Good Eating: Tangy Soul and Rustic Ribs

sweetpbbq_2    You must start with good ingredients: Tenacity, Funk, and Smoke.  The Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House just might have the right combo.  As many may know, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, offers a glimpse into the mid-south culture of their University of Tennessee, pickup trucks, country tunes, white church steeples and kickback eating.  I have eaten fine BBQ worldwide. I have even served on an award-winning barbeque team in Memphis, TN.  My home cooking of this fare can be pretty tasty.  Enough about me, this is about religious experiences: or, Pork, Brisket Beef and all the fixin’s.  Put the formula under an umbrella of old school soul music and the high-end smoker ovens of Sweet P’s and all works well.

A rolling countryside of the Maryville suburb draws many to the drifting scent of burning hardwood, a low-key one story restaurant and kitchen with plenty of staffers. Trimmed St. Louis slabs of pork ribs from the smoker, rich with the crust of dry-rub seasoning and moistened from the well-balanced soul sauces will start a plate.  Adding the combinations of side dishes create a vision that fills a full cafeteria tray. The steamed collard greens, unique with onions, carrots, beans and spice are smothered in flavors.

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Lacquered picnic tables, sporting old school soul record album covers, set stage for James Brown songs pumping out of their speakers or weekly live artists on the weekends.  The price to chow down is reasonable, so warm seasonal temperature spill the diners out to the patio and tents near the smokers.  The chalkboard menu makes all easy, as the team give you your filled tray and you pay.  The  beer list is extensive. Energy is high and the turnover is brisk.  Takeout and catering round out the mix. Perhaps a long ago Food Network showing of a Man vs. Food episode opened some eyes, but this place had it together.  I suggest the half-rack, fixin’s, of mac-n-chesse, collards and a brew, like Sweetwater IPA. Wait, get some smoked chicken wings first! Drizzle the blend of soul and hot sauce on all.  The folks of Sweet P’s can be found at 3725 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920 and http://www.sweetpbbq.com.  This place is smokin’.

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Dollar Strong, Island of Mykonos Awaits

Greece2010 109     The brisk breezes that move the windmills will soon usher the savvy visitors to the most famous of the Aegean Sea’s Greek island of Mykonos.  Whether you arrive by ferry-boat, hydrofoil vessel or jet, the options that will open up to you on this whitewashed mecca of bliss will keep you poised to return each year.  The European Bohemians that uncovered the Cycladic isle in the 1960’s, welcomed the yachting set, and in turn they turned up the energy several notches. Today, Mykonos is a melting pot of race, color, creed and capital.  Accommodations will vary broadly and many choose the countless bed & breakfast inns in the village, Hora, of Mykonos Town. Others may rent the lovely villas scattered among the cliffs and hillsides or find the seaside hotels on the shores of the many cove beaches. Most are affordable to each desire and disembarking ferry passengers will  be greeted by innkeepers with placards at the port.  Find your lodging and head to the cafes that ring the town harbor for the first frappaccino or Mythos beer.

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Get around this island.  Many use the mopeds, but I love the Smart Cars.  Buses from the top of the village cost a few euros and will get you each late morning to the beaches. A network of fishing boats converted to passenger ferries, or Caiiques, will take dozens to the outlying cove beaches for a similar fee. The captains are a colorful breed and will sing, laugh, or shout and swear. Not much is needed on the beachfront. Perhaps a bathing suit could be brought, but that is your call. All else is found at the tavernas on each beach. Beach club bars set the tone, as late morning hours require new age tunes to awake from the late late night activities, while three PM brings in the techno disco and the volume increases exponentially.  Peace may still be found making the right choice of beach.

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The day may end at the beach, yet with a nap and a shower, the night opens up to adventurous escapades back in Hora. The restaurants and cafes are open past midnight and at that time the clubs are just about to find their rhythm. Many are outdoors in the courtyards of the town or spill out onto balconies. There is a reasoning on Mykonos that this island has over 365 whitewashed churhes. The season begins the weekend of Easter and will continue through the second week in October each year.  Prime season is most active from June to August end, but my season is the first two weeks of September.  The “September Club”, as I call it, finds a certain mellowing out of the people, and the vibe grounds me to drink in the best of Mykonos.  I do find a moment to search out  a little church perched over the blue Aegean Sea, sit and pray for next year’s visit.

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