• Cruising in a New Way!

    Civitavecchia, Italy…today I boarded the Celebrity Equinox…this is my first time aboard a Celebrity ship. This Solstice class of ships by Celebrity set a new standard in mainstream cruising with a totally modern vibe when they were first introduced.

    The ship is surprising chic for a boat of this size. Cool futuristic details such as an Ice Bar with molecular drinks, a spaceship looking dining room, and of course the signature lawn on the top deck.

    Walking around, I feel as if I walked into a South Beach nightclub or an interior design editorial from Wallpaper magazine! Multiple restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools, bars galore, cutting edge art collection, and many entertainment venues will keep me busy for the duration of this cruise…

    I look forward to the next 10 nights in my lux digs at sea…setting sail from deck 14 on the m/s Equinox! 20120824-163949.jpg20120824-163904.jpg20120824-164028.jpg20120824-164451.jpg

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  • Out to Sea!

    Civitavecchia, Italy…an hour long train ride from central Rome, this port town is the gateway to the Celebrity Equinox and my next cruise!

    The train ride wasn’t ideal, air conditioning failed in first class and deodorant was lacking on the part of several local passengers! But the mood was lively with hordes of gay travelers crowding the train in order to get to port. The train turned into a big party, albeit a sweaty one!

    My friend Jeff is joining me on this all gay Atlantis charter…Jeff and I have been friends since our sophomore year of high school! Decades later, we still find time to travel together and channel our inner adolescents…I am ready to party, dance, and let loose on this 10 night Mediterranean cruise after the seriousness of my Eastern European travels!

    Dame Edna is tonight’s entertainment and Atlantis promises us major surprises as the cruise progresses!

    Arrividerci, Roma for now…Greece and Turkey here we come!

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  • Three Coins in the Fountain!

    Rome, Italy…I love Roma! History at every turn…this city is sensory overload for any history buff or anyone who appreciates amazing antiquities!

    After arriving from Poland, it was off for a delicious Italian meal! I got my fix of Artichoke salad (Carciofi) and Bucatini pasta (large hollow spaghetti)…nothing can compare to homemade food in Italy. Delicious!

    A stroll past The Trevi Fountain and The Spanish Steps lets me know I am in Rome…I have been here in the Eternal City a dozen times, but I still get excited by the magnificent Trevi Fountain! It’s an iconic symbol of this city and regardless of the hordes of people, it’s still mesmerizing!

    I won’t be here long but I am trying to soak up all the Roman grandeur I can…every time I am here I stroll upon some never before seen ruin…the riches of Roma are always a travel wow!

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  • Stolat! Cheers to Poland!

    Warsaw, Poland…today is my last day in my ancestral homeland of Poland. It’s been an amazing 12 days that totally flew by. If I eat one more pierogi or splurge on another carb, I may explode!

    This country provided everything I hoped it would…it put into focus so much for me! My sister and myself were able to bond over our shared nostalgic memories of my late grandmother, we had several “A-HA” moments about my father, and we finally were able to put a visual to the many stories heard over and over again!

    Warsaw is a city of resilience…a city whose beauty was totally destroyed yet rebuilt, a city haunted by a completely leveled ghetto that it continues to honor, and a city that freed itself from the tyrannic grip of Communism and is rising to new heights! It is inspiring to see all the monuments erected throughout Warsaw that celebrate and memorialize all the struggles this city has undertaken.

    I think this has become a re-occurring message that my visit to Poland is screaming out at me! I leave here feeling energized with an “you can -overcome anything” attitude and a new sense of pride in my own heritage…

    This visit to Poland will hold a special place in my heart! Wandering the Globe has opened my eyes to so much, but this may be the widest my eyes have been opened by a trip. Now I need to process these learnings in order to achieve more greatness in my life and be that much better of a person!

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  • A Bit of Deco!

    Warsaw, Poland…I am enjoying my stay in this city and a large part is due to the little gem of a hotel I discovered. I am staying at Rialto Boutique City Center in Warsaw. It is located in a central location yet set back from the bustling city streets in a quiet residential neighborhood.

    It’s a fully restored Art Deco masterpiece! Amazing woodwork, period built ins, and lots of chrome! Everywhere you look you see an amazing historic touch. Even the light switches are period black turn knob style and thermostats look like chrome clocks. I always prefer boutique hotels over large chain hotels that lack uniqueness and charm; the sense of history married to modernity is terrific! It’s a total high to discover these kinds of undiscovered gems. Plus, this 5 star stunner was under 60 US dollars a night! What a steal!

    The sun is out, the city is at my feet, and I am living in a utterly memorable place! Life is good!

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  • Back to the City!

    Warsaw, Poland…after another long bus ride, we made it to Poland’s largest city. A totally different vibe from anywhere else we have been in Poland; a bustling big city with traffic, high rise buildings, and a faster pace!

    Most of Warsaw was destroyed during WW II, so there is a lot of bland grey communist era architecture. But today, rising above it all is a lot of construction of new modern towers giving the city a sense of modernity.

    I notice the people I pass on the streets seem hipper, younger, more current, and definitely good looking; tall, thin, with terrific facial bone structure and crystal blue green eyes, many have fashion model looks! Obviously, Poles come to city of Warsaw for the opportunity to live their dreams apart from the vast farmlands of rural Poland.

    Old town Warsaw has been restored to its former glory. Beautiful Castle Square and bustling Old Town Square have a pristine look. As like all other squares, they are lined with street performers and outdoor cafes.

    From countryside to urban landscape, Poland spans a spectrum of lifestyles…it is nice to be able to take in all of Poland’s settings!

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  • A Moment of Thanks!

    I feel the need today to say “Thank You”! I realize how lucky I am to be able to be on this journey…self discovery along with world exploration is not easy and many don’t get this chance! I have been blessed with this gift.

    I realized today how much of the thanks for that gift is owed to my parents! They overcame challenges I shall never fully appreciate and they gave me this life that I have been able to build upon and mold for myself. I have seen where they come from first hand and it’s shown me how far they have grown from where they had started! Paying witness to their beginnings put in perspective so much about them that I just didn’t get…My father was a Polish farmboy that had to abandon it all and eventually managed to work his way to the USA and my mother was a simple German village girl from a large yet poor family who looked for something better in America.

    They led by the example of their actions and this has set my path; I learned to never fear the world…always be independent and go for what you want…don’t be afraid of hard work…and the importance of family!

    It may seem the last lesson was indeed lost on me, but it definitely was not! I knew I needed this trip in order to gain the perspective on my personal journey, because my journey directly relates to the journey of my parents. Growing up, I always compared my parents to others and I had a hard time grasping why they were so different. But now I more fully appreciate the difference and comprehend how incredible it was that these two people supported and allowed me to follow what to them was an unknown dream; to be a fashion designer in NYC.

    I realize I have followed in their steps of creating a life in a strange place and making it work! My lifelong wanderlust has enabled me to see so much more than they ever will…yet I hope they understand the simplest wish they had for themselves and for me is fulfilled: Happiness! I am even happier now that my trip to somewhere far away has made me appreciate them that much more!

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  • Family Riches!

    Tomaszow Lubelski, Poland…a day of visiting distant relatives throughout this picturesque farming area of Poland broadened my eyes to what a large presence my family has in this region. Everyone was excited to meet my sister and I and each home greeted us with a spread of delicious yet rich Polish cooking! Of course, we had to be polite and eat each yummy meal, yet the result of eating so many extravagant meals in one day left us feeling beyond stuffed!

    It’s a world of difference between where I grew up in Chicago and this simple farmland, yet I can see common family traits, mannerisms, and features that connect us. There is a love of art and of craft that I share with several cousins. One cousin in particular hand crafts beautiful embroideries that she so proudly displayed to us!
    Her intricate designs result in lace like fabric that is stunning, yet a bit old fashioned…I mention how I could modernize it by framing it in a slick contemporary way. She was thrilled and gave me one of her pieces with the promise that I would send her a photo of what I create from it.

    Now as I reflect, I am overwhelmed by 3 whirlwind days of meeting so many people, being bombarded with a lot of complicated family ties, and trying to absorb who is who and from where. My sister and I are confusing one another as we try to compile it all into something we can remember. Scribbling charts and connecting names so we can make sense of our visit here!

    Our history is important and connecting to it has been truly special for me. I am so thankful that I finally made this trip; after years of exploring the world’s riches, I am I finally connected with my own! I will leave here feeling just a bit more complete.

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  • A Hidden Jewel!

    Zamosc, Poland…the old town’s center piece is the Great Market Square. The town has been called The Pearl of the Renaissance and has been compared to Sienna, Italy or referred to as the Padua of the North.

    The colorful Armenian houses line the square and the impressive town hall is a magnificent centerpiece. It is a grand place in a simple location that you would never expect to find such grandeur. Plus, it all seems still undiscovered by tourists and you can stroll without the crush of visitors like in Krakow.

    An official UNESCO heritage sight, work is being done to restore much of old town to it’s former glory.

    Zamosc is that one of a kind place located off the beaten track…but finding that hidden jewel is always a great thing when traveling!

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  • Back to the Family Farm!

    Kolonia Rogozno, Poland…my cousin escorted us to my father’s village to meet one of the few living relatives of his generation! She still lives on the same farm down the road from where my father did almost 70 years ago. Obviously it’s not the same place my father may remember…time changes everything, but his land remains untouched, an Aunt’s land was donated to the church and is now a simple chapel, an Uncle’s plot has been sold to another family, and so on…but this last survivor we met today still lives in the same spot!

    It was like being connected back to another time…this simple woman spent her whole life here; she could still recall the 1930’s and 40’s like they were yesterday… We spent time talking about how she played with my father as a child, we tried to understand how we were cousins, and she lit up when we showed her pictures of people from Chicago that she has not seen since 1944!

    I channeled those so many vintage memories I have heard so much of and wanted to understand life on the farm first hand..I fed the pigs (I of course stepped in slop) and I walked and gave water to the cow!l

    As if that wasn’t enough, we went to the old church that my entire family once travelled miles to attend. My grandparents were wed there, my father baptized there, and my extended family spent holidays there! A stunning brown wood structure with metallic steeples and a humble yet beautiful interior!

    How fulfilling to be able to witness all this, it sheds so much light on so many things…especially whom my father is because I can for the first time see where he came from, what shaped him, and how he began his life!

    This voyage only keeps topping itself with amazing discovery after discovery!

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