Shopping for Nirvana in Prague

Quick Trip to Prague 2017

Chester and I left Budapest, Hungary and took the train through Slovakia to Prague, Czech Republic. When I asked the train conductor what country did we just pass through he said, “Slovakia.” And then I realized – when I was growing up studying world history the country was called Czechoslovakia and on January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia dissolved and became Slovakia and Czech Republic.

After WWII, Russia took over Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland, and Yugoslavia. These countries became known as Eastern Europe.

scenes of Prague

Prague is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The city has been in existence for 1100 years. In the Middle Ages, Prague was one of the leading cultural centers of Christian Europe. Prague University was founded in 1348. In fact, everything seems to have started in the 1300s like the buildings in the Castle District (my Neruda Hotel) and the Medieval Pub where we had lunch.

Founded during the Romanesque period, flourishing by the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras, Prague was once the capital of Bohemia. The Kings of Bohemia also ruled Moravia, Silesia, Lusatia, and parts of Saxony, Brandenburg, and Bavaria. As you can see this area has changed names many times over history.

streets in the Castle District

Prague is magical and mystical. It is an enchanting fairy tale city. Bohemia-Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke’s work is described as inherently “mystical” (1875-1926.) He is one of their famous authors. The art of puppetry is alive and well in Prague. Puppets and marionettes are recognized as a key element of national culture and are truly amazing.

Rainer Maria Rilke window display and hand-made puppet

Legend says that Czechs lived happily in Czech lands around the Rip Mountains. The new leader Krok had 3 daughters. The youngest, princess Libuse, ruled after her father’s death. She had a vision. Standing on top of Vysehrad Hill overlooking Vltava River, “I see a large city whose fame will touch the stars!” She directed builders to build a castle across the river and name the new city Praha. Praha is Prague in Czech.

signs on buildings show the type of business located there

Immediately, Prague felt enchanting and charming. Although it was crammed with tourists, mostly Chinese from mainland China, I kinda fell in love with it. Along the Charles Bridge are important statues.

Charles Bridge – Castle

I didn’t realize Prague was the fairy tale location for Chinese weddings. Asian couples arrived from China daily to have their wedding photos taken on the Charles Bridge with the fairy tale castle in the background. Hundreds of Chinese lanterns were released nightly as part of their wedding ceremonies. Fun Fact: it was said that when Walt Disney saw the castle in Prague it inspired his castle design at Disney Parks.

castle view at magic hour – city view from the castle

I’ve gone to court! The magnificent castle – and it is truly amazing – took 600 years to build. It started Gothic with flying buttresses – they added Renaissance – spectacular doesn’t begin to describe it. During the Russian intervention, tourism was on a “special” invitation-only basis. Today you can barely see the buildings blocked by a sea of International humanity. Mid-day visit in the summer is super hot and chaotic. But… visit anyway. I was told that evening when the twinkling lights come up is the best and most quiet time or first thing in the morning.

St. Vitus Cathedral

The guide explained that the grand churches were built when people didn’t trust religion. Times were tough so magnificent churches were erected to give regular people hope that they too could get closer to God and riches.

Prague is known to have thresholds to other realms. The city area has been considered a powerful energy vortex. Prague has always attracted various mystics and many esoteric societies and lodges were established here. Charles IV, the first Bohemian king to also become Holy Roman Emperor, believed that Prague was the New Jerusalem, and built the city based on astrological, astronomical, and alchemical symbolism. The later emperor and spiritual seeker, Rudolf II., continued his legacy and turned Prague into the esoteric center of Europe.

The city is said to have a strong, protective shield, and that’s why each time someone tries to harm it, the energy of destruction bounces off. This could explain why it hadn’t been destroyed even during the biggest wars. Hitler, who was clearly an occultist and worked with dark magic, must have been aware of this, as he spared Prague, and actually wanted to make it his place of residence. He wanted to use the power that dwells in the city before it turned against him. Due to the magic shield, Prague may not be beneficial to all the people living there. (notes from Iva Kenaz’s blog)

Our guide said Golden Lane holds the magic so I immediately headed there to explore the artisan cottages.

Golden Lane at the castle – photo of me thinking I was taking a video by the Golem rafters

The magical mystical portals of the castle grounds were at the Golden Lane, an irregular strip of land between Romanesque walls from the 12th c. There are 3 defense towers. In 1597 the “Red Artillerymen” asked the Emperor for permission to build little rooms. The little houses began to expand. It was a super cute little alleyway where I spent a few hours exploring.

Golden Lane and Red Artillerymen uniform

Some people believe that in addition to standard homes, there’s a special one that is visible only occasionally. When entering, it takes you to other dimensions. The Invisible Prague by Gustay Merink refers to it as the House at the Last Lantern. I looked but couldn’t find it. It must have been invisible that day.

Up until the departure of the last tenant in 1952, the community was very colorful. At first, it included employees of the castle and later it housed craftsmen and eccentrics. Each home has been re-created to how people lived as tradesmen in these cute little houses. I bought a replica of an old-time wind-up watch and whenever I wear it I say, “I am on Medieval time.”

The houses are numbered and each has a story. House Number 22 was the home of Franz Kafka from 1916-1917, who rented it from his sister. Here is where he wrote “The Country Doctor.” I bought a copy of his book “Metamorphosis” at the house gift shop. Hardly any of his work was published in his lifetime. He wrote in German.

Number 14 is the Little House of Psychic Matylda Prusova lived. Before WWII Madame de Thebes, Prague card-reader and fortune teller, whose real name was Matylda Prusova, wife of the local pharmacist, predicted Hitler would fail. She was arrested by the Gestapo and eventually tortured to death.

Chester at the Medieval Tavern

A Medieval Tavern is from the 13th c. The Medieval Tavern where we had lunch is the oldest pub in Prague (1375.) The waitresses were dressed as wenches. The waiters in rags. “Welcome stranger, to our tavern, we will treat you with tasty dishes and offer you drinks. Beer, wine, mead or clear water will moisten your thirsty throat in our noisy tavern. You came to the tavern from the 14th century, so do not be surprised if the staff uses your name or is shouting around. The behavior is a little rough, however, all of them are good-hearted. They will take care that you have a comfortable table, full stomach and then you leave the tavern much poorer then you came. Whenever they call you farmer, knight, or robber they do not mean to offend you, it is just the Middle Ages. King Wenceslav IV, Rudolf’s alchemists, the executioner Mydlar, W.A. Mozart and Jaroslav Hasek all used to drink their pints of beer here along with rogues and fraudsters.”

The Charles Bridge and Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square

Every evening we walked back and forth across the Charles Bridge. The bridge is believed to be special when it comes to astrology and constellations; Charles IV consulted his astrologer and ordered the stone to be laid on July 9, 1357 at 5:31 am.

The town hall Astronomical Clock (built 1364) is perhaps the most well-known astronomical clock in the world, with four moving automatons (including a skeleton ringing his death knell for each hour), and rotating statues of the 12 apostles. It displays Babylonian time, Old Bohemian time, German time, and Sidereal time. It also shows the moon’s phases and the sun’s journey through the constellations of the zodiac. The calendar dial, just below the clock, shows the day of the month, the day of the week, feast days and allegorical pictures of the current month and sign of the zodiac.

The clock also has a dark history. Rebuilt in 1490 by clockmaker Mikuláš from Kadaň. Such was the reputation of his craftsmanship that Mikuláš was approached by many a foreign nation, each wishing to have its own town square topped with a marvelous astronomical clock. Mikuláš refused to show the plans of his masterpiece to anyone, but word got back to the Prague Councilors. Overcome with fear that Mikuláš might build a bigger, better, and more beautiful clock for another nation, the Councilors had the brilliant clockmaker blinded, ensuring that their clock would never be topped. Driven mad, the clockmaker took the ultimate revenge, throwing himself into his extraordinary work of art, gumming up the clock’s gears and ending his own life in one stroke. In doing so, he cursed the clock. All who tried to fix it would either go insane or die.

Old-New Synagogue (Golem Story) and Spanish Synagogue (middle)

TEMPLE HOPPING

The Gothic hall of the Old-New Synagogue has been a house of prayer for over 700 years. It is the oldest surviving medieval synagogue of twin-nave design and Europe’s oldest active synagogue. Completed in 1270 in the gothic style, it was Prague’s first gothic building. The older Old Synagogue was demolished in 1867 and replaced by the Spanish Synagogue. I also visited the beautiful Spanish Synagogue and the Maisel Synagogue.

The Old Jewish Cemetery

For over 300 years the Old Jewish Cemetery was the only burial ground for Jews. It remains its 1478 Medieval size of 12 layers deep because Jews can’t be moved once buried. There are over 12,000 gravestones. There was something so tranquil and surreal about this cemetery that I found myself haunted and hung out here for hours in meditation.

Understanding gravestones: from the 16th c. onwards, tombstones in the Jewish cemetery were decorated with symbols, denoting the background, family, name or profession of a deceased person. Blessing hands – the Cohen family. A pair of scissors – a tailor. A stag – Hirsch or Zvi family. Grapes – blessings of abundance.

wolf and hands on the tombstones

RABBI LOW AND THE GOLEM

The scholar and philosophical writer Rabbi Low, director of the Talmudic school in the late 16th c, was also thought to possess magical powers. He was supposed to have created a figure, the Golem, from clay and then brought it to life by placing a magic stone tablet in its mouth. The Golem went berserk and the Rabbi had to remove the tablet. He hid the creature among the Old-New Synagogues rafters. I had a strange experience in front of the location where the Golem is supposed to be. I was doing selfie videos. I did 3 of them with the building in the background (I did not know this was the exact location at the time.) When I went back to my room later I realized the videos were only still photos with a ray of strange light across my face (see my image earlier in the blog.)

me and Chester posing at the John Lennon Wall

Cafe Louvre was Prague’s Cafe Society hangout. It was visited by the cream of Czech Society or those who had contacts in the arts or literature or worked in the world of science. To Prague writers, it was also their office and allowed them to be seen and get phone calls.

A must-visit is the famous Dancing House. Designed in 1992, completed in 1996.  It was designed by the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunic in cooperation with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. Gehry originally named the house Fred and Ginger (after the famous dancers Fred Astaire and Giner Rogers) – the house resembles a pair of dancers but this nickname is now rarely used. Gehry himself was later “afraid to import American Hollywood kitsch to Prague”, and discarded his own idea. We went to the rooftop for a fantastic city view.

Dancing House & Cafe Louvre

Rainy last night in Prague – farewell Europe!

me taking photos and in the rain

Shopping for Nirvana in Budapest

Quick Trip to Budapest 2017

Hop, skip, and a jump from Amsterdam to Budapest. A once regal city, Budapest boasts of being the Paris of Eastern Europe. My travel buddy, Chester Simpson, and I stayed at the famous street Kertesz Utea in the Jewish Quarter. Budapest is a big city with big buildings and big history. Seemingly old and crumbly yet vibrant – it is a city full of young people.

views of historic Budapest

We stayed across the street from one of the most famous neighborhood hot spots, Szimpla Kert. Old rundown buildings in what was once the Jewish Quarter, have been transformed into Ruin Bars and they are the center of art and culture in Budapest. By day Szimpla is a farmer’s market. By night, it’s a popular bar and restaurant. The line to get in was always super long. Good thing we were staying directly across the street in an apartment so we could come and go all day long.

me at Szimpla Kert

Gerbeaud is a famous cafe and chocolate bar that opened in 1858 by the Kugler family in Jozsef nador Square. Quite a spectacular interior in the Rococo style of Louis XV. Gerbeaud had the tables sent from the Paris World Fair to create an elegant style. A cup of tea or coffee is like stepping back in time.

Gerbeaud

The Chain Bridge (1849) over the Danube River connects Buda with Pest – two different cities.

I was shocked to read about all the people who were shot and thrown into the Danube River over many years of war, especially during the Holocaust. We were there during the Red Bull Air Race. Daring pilots flew small planes under the bridge. Chester captured some amazing photographs of the race.

While in Budapest you must go to one of the famous baths. As one of the great spa cities, natural hot springs pour out 18 million gallons of richly mineralized water every day. We took the subway out of town to Szechenyi, boasting the deepest thermal baths and Neo-Baroque architecture. It was probably the most visually interesting – definitely the most touristy. It was like a giant public pool. Apparently we arrived too early for the nightly Bath Party where strangers rub up against you under the thermal waters.

Szechenyi Bath and Danube River

As a Jew, there is a certain pilgrimage you must make in Eastern Europe to what is left of the synagogues. The Dohany Street Synagogue is the setting of the traditional life of the Jewish community. It is quite spectacular with three balconies. In the gift shop, I bought a hamsa hand charm and blessed it inside the temple. Synagogues do not have cemeteries, but in this case, the garden cemetery was a necessity. In 1945, when the genocide took place for residents of the ghetto in Pest, they were not transported to the concentration camps. They became victims of hunger, bitter cold, and mass murder in their homes. This is their final resting place and they were the lucky ones. I bought the book, Yellow-Star Houses: People, Houses, Fates about the people who lived in the houses marked with yellow stars. There were 1,950 houses marked with a yellow star for 220,000 Budapest Jews from 21 June 1944 until late November 1944.

Dohany St Synagogue

One of the best restaurants was a local spot called Spinoza. We waited for almost an hour for a table, but it was worth it. The pianist Tibor Soos was one of the last representatives of a great Hungarian bar pianist-generation. From the 20s until the 70s piano bars were flourishing in Budapest creating a legendary nightlife in the city. Tibor started working steadily since 1953 and has been playing around town without a break. He has played around the world for Elizabeth Taylor, Clint Eastwood, Leonard Bernstein and on this particular night – for me! He bought me a bottle of wine and spoke English really well.

Tibor Soos piano player and me

Did you know that Budapest is actually two cities located on opposite sides of the Danube River? Buda is on the western bank. Buda has the Castle District and Matyas Church from the 13th c. Buda was built on hills with sweeping panoramas, a grand Hapsburg Palace, and an air of Imperial wealth. Everything on the Buda side was destroyed and rebuilt after February 1945.

Pest is on the eastern bank. Pest is flat, busy, and buzzing. In 1873 they merged.

From my tour guide, I learned that half of the Hungarians were Jewish during WWII. It was a small weak country. In 1938 Hitler took Austria and Hungary. 600,000 Jews were gathered in 1944 from March 19 to November 29 – mostly from the countryside. Holocaust means “burn them all.” It was the coldest winter – a lot died in the ghetto and were punished all the time because maybe they didn’t smile.

Since the end of WW II Russia has had a big influence on Budapest. My tour guide took me on public transportation and explained that people in public still don’t speak loudly and keep a low profile. The last Soviet Troops left as recently as 1991 and their influence is still felt by the pubic, especially the older residents.

7th District

We ventured down new streets and saw new things. Gypsy musicians from Romania played for tips. Did you know Budapest is the bachelor and bachelorette party capital of Europe? And we found an Israeli restaurant that had been on “my list” called Mazel Tov at Akacfa Utca 47. Best food. Fresh. Live music.

Central Market

I had high hopes for the Grand Market that Chester raved about from his trip on a USO Tour many years earlier. I found it disappointing, crammed with tourists. Sunday Farmer’s Market back at Szimpla Kert was fantastic, so that’s where we hung out. Next stop – train to Prague.

Shopping for Nirvana in Amsterdam

Quick Trip to Amsterdam 2017

Bucket-list 60th birthday trip with photographer pal Chester Simpson began in Amsterdam. I loved this city and wish we had spent more time here. The first thing you notice in Amsterdam is that life revolves around the canals – boats – bikes- and cafes. I thought I would end up “bike roadkill” on a daily basis.

canals and bikes in Amsterdam

My favorite hotel was the Pulitzer located on Prinsengracht in the center of the action. Each room has a plaque with its history. Owner Peter Pulitzer joined 135 rooms to create higglety-pigglety hallways with charm beyond belief. I loved the Santal 33 Le Labo bath products in each room along with the Dutch waffle cookies I couldn’t stop eating.

KLM collectibles

Stewardess Barbie caught my eye in the window of an antique shop. I walked inside and couldn’t resist the tiny blue Delft Ware ceramic houses and started my collection. Created in the 1950s to be given as gifts for 1st class passengers on KLM Airlines, they originally had alcohol inside. A book 4 years in the making, tells the story of each real house with a photo of the ceramic house. I bought Mata Hari’s love nest #26. Born Margaretha Geertruida Macleod August 7, 1876 (D: Oct. 15, 1917), she was a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan convicted of being a German spy during WW1 and executed by a firing squad in France.

Me inside a brothel window

Concentrated on the Oude Kerk, a nighttime stroll around the Red Light District is a must. Prostitution in Amsterdam dates back to the city’s emergence as a port in the 13th c. By 1478, prostitution was so widespread because of sailors flooding in, it had to be contained. Window prostitutes and seedy clubs are popular. It was not really what I expected. Located on one main canal lined with two streets of bars, clubs and yes, red-lit windows with scantily clad ladies. We are told not to take pictures but we snuck a few anyway (if the Russian bodyguards caught you they would toss your camera in the canal.) There are tight alleys off the main drag where the women are behind glass lit by black lights to make them appear more appealing. It actually makes them look more ghoulish and right in your face. Men appear and disappear inside each tiny room. Negotiations are made before they are allowed inside. Tourists gawk. Best Advice: explore once, it’s fun. We went back after my birthday dinner and it was creepy the second visit.

at my bday dinner

We got an Amsterdam Holland Pass to hit up the many world-class museums. The Rijksmuseum has an unrivaled collection of Dutch art. It opened in 1885 with over one million pieces, 8,000 are on display. The Museum district hangs Vermeer, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt. We stopped in when it was pouring down rain. Then the rain stopped and we decided to meander around the city instead of being inside a museum. Getting lost and exploring the city was the best part of the trip. Next visit, I plan to see all the museums.

me at the Anne Frank house – paintings from the Dutch collection

In some ways, Amsterdam to me was all about Anne Frank. July 1942, 13-year-old Anne Frank, her family, and the Van Pels went into hiding at the rear end of her father’s factory warehouse in what was called The Secret Annex. Her last diary entry was August 1944, 3 days before being arrested and sent to a concentration camp. In March 1945, Anne Frank died at Bergen-Belson. She longed for Hollywood and glamorous life. A dreamer and ambitious person who knew in her heart she’d be published. Her diary has sold more than 30 million copies translated in 67 languages. She wrote in Dutch occasionally using German and English words. What I got out of the Anne Frank Museum and her diary was that she was an author discovering her voice during extreme diversity.

me at Rembrandt house

For 20 years, Rembrandt lived and worked in this house. He ran out of money and had to sell it. A distant relative of his was the tour guide. Displayed was his cabinet of curiosities that he drew from. Visiting his house was a unique way to experience this famous artist imagining his life from 1606-1669.

9 Streets

The quaint and quirky streets that straddle the grandest canal is De Negen Streetjes or The Nine Streets. Bursting with boutiques, cafes, designer shopping, and all-cool stuff. Located in the middle of the World Heritage Canal Belt (and near my hotel The Pulitzer) the 6 bigger streets refer to animal skins for leather industries: Reestraat, Huidenstraat, Wolvenstraat, Berenstraat, Hartenstraat, and Runstraat. Most buildings in this district date back to the 17th c.

Amsterdam locks

I loved my short visit to Amsterdam and can’t wait to return.

Shopping for Nirvana in London

Birthday Trip to London

Quick Trip to London 2019

My birthday bucket-list trip to Ireland and Scotland wrapped up in London, where Will and I met up with Max (his oldest brother and my nephew.) Max was doing a summer internship in London and as we found out over those days visiting, he was loving it.

my birthday portrait at the Andaz – Max and Will with graffiti

Now, I have been to London many times before and each visit was mostly about catching up with close friends who live there. I have stayed all over the city, and each location offers its own unique viewpoint of the city. This time, I chose the Andaz Hotel near Bricklane, Shoreditch, and Spitafields.

Bricklane is the area with the best Indian restaurants. This is where I would go for curry and nan bread. This time I was amazed at all the graffiti murals. Some of the best street artists got their fame up on those walls.

Sweet Toof mural on far right

Brick Lane was originally called Whitechapel Lane. Thought to be renamed because local earth was used by brick and tile manufacturers who set up shop in the street in the 15th century. By the 17th century, the street had also become a popular location for breweries.

Within walking distance to another favorite area of mine was Shoreditch, an arty and hip neighborhood of Hoxton. This is where the ultra trendy new Box Car is located. I had no clue what it was, but there was a line to get in so I grabbed the nephews and we lined up too. It’s a pop-up space built from shipping containers. Ground level has shops and upstairs are kiosk-type food stalls, loud pulsating music feeling more like an exterior nightclub than a food court.

nephews meeting new people at Box Car and my dinner

Spitafields is another district in the East End of London with three historic markets; Old Spitafields Market, Bricklane Market, and Petticoat Lane Market. They sure fixed up Spitafields Market since my first visit in the 1970s. Known for its antiques, I took some of my favorite photos of vintage decor and bought a fuzzy hippie sweater I still wear when LA gets cold. Now the market sells everything from indie designer clothes to designer coffee. Also located nearby is where the famous and grisly Jack the Ripper murders took place in 1888.

For my birthday afternoon with the nephews I got to pick the activities. We took a boat cruise along the London canals, which ended up not being as exciting as I thought. Nevertheless, it was a unique point-of-view of the city. We started in Little Venice and floated down to the crazy crowded tourist-infused area of Camden. Our boat driver got the entire cruise boat to sing happy birthday and that made my day!

Camden after the river cruise (left and right photos) – Thames River (middle photo)

Next stop was Notting Hill which always makes me feel like I am in a Hugh Grant movie. Portobello Road is the commercial and more touristy street lined with antique shops. We were there on a Saturday so the street was blocked off for vendors. It was crazy crowded and not as much fun as I remembered.

When our Uber dropped us off on Westbourne Grove, near Portobello Road I had never been to this area and was excited to window shop at the posh stores. This is where all the cute and expensive real estate is located. What a sweet neighborhood. If I wasn’t with two teenage boys I would have shopped ’til I dropped and tried on everything!

me with Shermay in Chinatown

My visits to London are always about visiting my dear friends. I met Shermay in Monaco and now she lives in England so we planned to meet in Chinatown. “Our thing” is dim sum and catching up no matter where we are in the world. Plus, she always orders the best dumplings.

And then I met one of my BFF’s, Pete, for High Tea at Browns. It is a hoity-toity spot, but there is something so special about the ceremony of tea when in London. It’s almost a religion. The little cakes and sandwiches with crusts cut off are the best.

High Tea at Browns

Wrapping up the Ireland/Scotland trip with a few days in London with my nephews was special. I really hadn’t noticed before the intriguing and complex juxtaposition of modern hi-rise architecture with centuries old buildings. Probably because I never stayed in this area before. The city is growing and expanding.

in the middle is the famous lipstick or The Gherkin building

On my last day, trying to find my way to the city’s oldest synagogue Bevis Marks Temple, hidden among the skyscrapers, was challenging. I wanted to end my birthday bucket list adventure with a few prayers at the 1701 Sephardic Temple. I am grateful every day for my family and dear friends and another year around the sun. I hope you enjoyed my blogs from this trip to Ireland, Scotland, York, and London.

birthday dinner with nephews, the Freilichs, and Jan – sneaked a photo at the Bevis Marks Temple

Shopping for Nirvana in York

Quick Trip to England 2019

After Dublin, Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands Will and I decided to stop over in the Medieval town of York en route to London. We boarded the train in Glasgow and spent one night at the historic 1898 Principal Hotel at the train station.

View out my window of the Principal Hotel at the Train Station

York is super cute and full of personality and charm. My favorite area was the famous Shambles Street used as a location in the Harry Potter movies as Driagon Alley.

Roaming the Medieval Town I walk around a corner and see this higglety-pigglety street of leaning buildings and cobblestone streets and I was overwhelmed with adventure. Transported back to a time and place.

antiques and tilted buildings in the Shambles area

York was founded by pre-Roman Britons and originally named “Eborakon” meaning ‘place of yew trees.’ Romans made it their capital in 71AD. Built as a fort between rivers Ouse and Foss. Ouse River is a continuation of River Ure and the longest river in the United Kingdom.

View from the bridge over the Ouse River

The Roman Walls around the city were erected at that time. Walking along the Roman Walls you get a chance to peer over yards and gardens and see vista views of the famous Minster.

York Minster is a Cathedral and Metro-political Church of Saint Peter and one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe.

Will cap shopping and Anita at a Tudor house

After Romans departed York was abandoned and fell to ruins. In 866 Vikings conquered northern England and York became the capital of a new Viking kingdom.

In the Middle Ages during the 16th and 17th centuries York was the most important town in Northern England. Less important in the 18th century. York was a market town of craftsmen, butchers, brewers, bakers, tailors, shoemakers, coppers, comb-makers, jewelers, and pie makers.

old signs in York

Shambles is a Medieval street of timber-framed shops originally occupied by butchers. Some shops still have outdoor shelves and meat hooks. Now they’re all souvenir shops.

see how he buildings tilt and lean

Travel Reflection:

There’s a big wonderful world out there and when you step out of your comfort zone and open yourself up to new experiences, new people and new cultures something magical happens deep inside. A profound shifting of energy that revitalizes and readjusts all that was stuck and stagnant and uninspiring.

Shopping for Nirvana in Scotland

Quick Trip to the Scottish Highlands 2019

In many ways my bucket list birthday trip to Ireland and Scotland was all about experiencing the Scottish Highlands.

Our tour guide, David, had an itinerary and I had no clue what we were going to see or what to expect short of a list of castle hot spots. The minute he met me and my 16 year old nephew Will, David tossed out the plan and improvised. Everything unfolded beautifully. Best guide ever!

Once we left Edinburgh, we immediately hit up our first castle.

LINLITHGOW PALACE is where they shot Wentworth Prison in my favorite show “Outlander.” How did David even know I was an “Outlander” fan? Most of the other castles and palaces we visited were also locations for the TV show so of course I was in heaven (check out my other blog on Outlander locations.) Still in tact was the fountain built by James V in 1538. Fed by an underground water supply, water once fell from the crown. When Bonnie Prince Charlie visited in 1745 the fountain was made to flow with wine. Restored in 2007 to its former glory of fanciful bas-relief statues of mythical beasts and human heads.

Scottish castle details

Scottish castles and palaces were not the luxury dwellings I had thought or imagined from visiting France, England or even India. These were stone fortresses meant to keep invaders out and provided very little space or comfort for royal families inside.

Storming Doune Castle, I immediately recognized the grounds where they staged Castle Leoch in “Outlander.” In ruins, there wasn’t much to see inside. The exterior courtyard is where all the energy remains. As an intuitive I felt the castle was happy to have “Outlander” film there. The castle was able to revive the spirit of its inhabitants through the action of actors in period costumes camped out for months recreating the world that once was.

Posing at castles with Will

Lunch at the Potted Shed Cafe Bistro on the grounds of the Roman Camp Hotel in Callander was one of our favorites. Built in 1625 the Roman Camp was the hotel for the Dukes of Perth. It has 3 ghosts. The cute pink hotel was very classy and everything I dreamed a quaint Scottish Manor House would be. Even the slightly creepy front desk manager who told me he “liked my vibe.” Maybe it was my blue hair!

Scottish Speak:
Dreich is Scottish for rainy weather
Drookit is the word for being soaking wet
Crabbit is ‘bad mood’ and our guide David told us no one is allowed to be Crabbit on this trip! Of course, we never were.

Stopping for the classic photo of breath-taking famous 3 Sisters Mountain range in Glen Coe, it was the same view as the opening credits from “Outlander.” The valley was once used by Clan MacDonald to hide their livestock from raiders during the Jacobite uprising.

We also saw the Harry Potter train passing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This train runs an 84 mile round trip that passes Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain. The Jacobite Steam Train was featured as the fictional Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films.

Chef at Victorian Hunting Lodge

When my trusted travel agent booked us at a creepy Victorian hunting lodge on Lochy Loch, I was shocked at first. Then after a few days the place grew on me and in fact Will and I left with a few tall tales of our own about the place and lots to giggle about. It was our favorite strange experience. Nightly over dinner as we looked out at the dramatic scenery and 10pm sunset the theme from “Outlander” played over the speakers. The famous Scottish folk tune called “Skye Boat Song” transported me to the romance of hunky Jamie Fraser and his true love Claire. The song looped every 30 minutes.

Eilean Donan Castle is quite spectacular. Located on a a small tidal, which is land where 3 sea lochs meet: Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alshin in the Western Highlands. The picturesque castle dominates the island. Founded in the 13th c – a stronghold of Clan Mackenzie and allies Clan MacRae. Partially destroyed during the Jacobite uprising in 1719, a footbridge was added in the early 20th c.

Dourne Castle

I wanted a fairy experience so we crossed the bridge to have lunch on Isle of Skye located in the Atlantic Ocean. We hadn’t planned on any special isle of Skye outings and now I realize that was a mistake. Next trip I want to hike the Isle of Skye and visit the fairy lake, the fairy waterfalls, fairy everything! The fairy world on Isle of Skye is a magical experience and thankfully we got to dip our toe in the fairy pool.

As we were crossing the the bridge to the isle, my phone alerted me to a MAGIC HOUR. Now this is something I have on my phone in my special calendar but I have never had a phone alert. I believe the fairy energy was alerting me to place my back to the hourly direction and send out my prayers. So, in the parking lot of the Red Skye School House, our driver David and my nephew Will and myself stood with our backs to the Magic Hour direction and tapped into the magic of Isle of Skye. It was truly a spiritual experience. David and Will thought I was slightly nuts. I want to go back!

Of course, no trip to the Scottish Highlands is complete without a visit to the Colloden Battle Field. They have an amazing visitor’s center worth a few hours of attention. Then there’s the quaint town of Pitlochry where it must have been senior hour. As we arrived 2 buses filled with senior citizens mostly in motorized wheel chairs on oxygen tanks roamed the souvenir stores. Urauhart Castle was destroyed but he ruins and movie about its history playing in the gift shop was super interesting. Rainy and misty drive around Loch Ness we could not see the famous sea monster, but Will bought a Nessy stuffed doll for his little cousin (another nephew.) Finally wrapped up the 5 day tour at Scone Palace. The grounds are spectacular and worthy of a few hours dodging peacocks.

A real treat and super special was an overnight stay at the poshy posh Fife Arms in Braemar. Until Swiss art dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth took it over and made it their love project displaying over 14,000 works of art, the Fife Arms was apparently a dump. Owned by the Duke of Fife (1889-1912), the Inn is now an art masterpiece and everything you imagine a Scottish Highlands experience to be – it is.

One of my favorite shopping for nirvana purchases was the Duke of Fife tartan scarf. Re-created from his original tartan design, a tartan is a woolen cloth woven in plaid associated with a Scottish clan.

The Scottish Highlands is superstition mixed with daily life.

Shopping for Nirvana in Ireland

Quick Trip to Dublin 2019

Ireland and Scotland were on my bucket list for years. In my mind, these were mysterious European places I had no clue about. Not exotic enough to move them to the top of my list. Foreign enough that I was curious. Probably the main reason for putting them off was my fear of encountering fairies and spirits in castles and legends of things that can’t be explained. I do enough of this in my every day life and work! I didn’t need paranormal encounters while on vaca.

Over the years I’ve gotten better at protecting myself. Armed with my ‘ghost oils’ I took the plunge only to learn I was fine and should have explored more of these magical realms. This is my trip…

After 10 hours and 9 time zones, my 16 year old nephew, Will, and I arrive. Will surprised me by agreeing to join “Aunt Anita on her 62nd birthday extravaganza adventure!”

Our first night, we strolled down the popular Baggot St to Matt the Thresher for seafood which started Will’s daily ritual of eating fish and chips. By the end of the trip I thought he might swim away! He couldn’t stop talking about Guinness so I bought him a beer (drinking age is 18.) Two sips and he was over it. Decided he is not a beer guy!

The pub is a place of Irish cultural exchange.

We went to listen to authentic Irish pub music at O’Donoghue’s. I was told there may be a long line to get in and the pub may not even let him in. I put on my leather jacket to look hip and told Will to put on his black jeans so he could look a little older. I was determined to get in.

On the long walk over I told Will that I really wanted to experience Irish music and if they wouldn’t let him in he could walk back to the hotel by himself because I was going to stay! As it turned out – no line and they even asked him what he wanted to drink. We stood in front at the bar by the band and learned they were local guys with day jobs at the gas station, etc, and played here at night. A 22-year-old from Minnesota shared her Jameson whisky with Will, which I probably should have discouraged because drinking from a stranger’s glass in a bar is not something I should be teaching him. But she was cute (she took this photo of us) and it did loosen him up! Fun was had by all….

Georgian Architecture

A building boom between 1714 and 1830 built a ton of Georgian buildings. named for the British monarchs of the House of Hanover – George 1, George 11, George 111 and George 1V. Symmetrical proportions – block-like. Not very ornate on the outside but the interiors had high ceilings and ornate trim. Balance and simple mathematical ratios. Irish cities would have knocked them down and rebuilt – but money was always an issue so now they remain as historical gems.

From Joyce to Yeats – Dublin is a city of literature

Some of the famous Dublin writers include:

Syge who wrote “Playboy of the Western World.”
RB Sheridan aka Sean O’Casey writer of “Shadow of a Gunman”‘ that Alfred Hitchcock turned into plays and films
Jonathan Swift wrote “Gulliver’s Travels”
Richardson wrote 1st person narratives “Pamela and Clarissa”
George Bernard Shaw won and Oscar and a Nobel
Samuel Beckett wrote “Waiting for Gadot”
WB Yeats was more spiritual
Thomas Moore was a balladeer
Oscar Wilde had extraordinary parents who held salons that included the intelligentsia of the day

“Be yourself – everyone else is taken.” – Oscar Wilde

Sweny Chemist Shop is where Leopold Bloom buys his lemon soap in the epic “Ulysses.” Sweny remains pretty much in tact from when Dublin’s famous writer James Joyce set a scene from his book here. “Ulysses” is about a day in the life of Leopold Bloom as he wanders about Dublin on June 16, 1904. It’s a puzzle and enigma and difficult to truly understand. We gathered with a group of South American students learning English and went around the room reading passages from the novel. I was surprised to hear that Will actually enjoyed that experience!

What I learned are that Irish people are hardworking. They love their music, their literature and their pubs. Next trip I would like to venture outside the city to the countryside to truly experience Ireland in all its majesty.

8 ways to know the personality of your house

Anita at the Taj Mahal in India

Your address is the key to your castle.  Matching the house number with your personality trait, gives you the WOW factor. For example, if your neighbor just jetted in from Buenos Aires and is keeping you awake with their all-night Jacuzzi party chances are they live in a #5 House which is perfect for a jet-set world traveler who likes to entertain. The family down the street with the bubbly Buddha fountain and Zen koi pond probably lives in a #7 house which is about spiritually and things that money can’t buy. Knowing your house number is the key to personal nirvana.

Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have two adjoining properties in Aspen with house numbers 4 and 3. While Goldie’s house is a super creative #3, Kurt’s house is #4 which grounds a famous person. Kevin Costner’s Aspen lake house is #6 which is about being of service to others. When he and his family do things that help and enlighten others he taps into the energy of that house.

My clients Supermodel and CEO Miranda Kerr and husband Evan Spiegel founder of Snapchat live in #7 spiritual house which may be one of the reasons Miranda is so open to spirituality. We sprinkle crystals she gets from me everywhere. Her Kora Organics collection is based on a very high vibrational premise in alignment with a #7 home.

While actor/singer Ashely Tisdale and her husband musician Christopher French live in a #4 grounding home, perfect for their fast-paced lifestyle. When Ashley gets home after a long day on the TV set of her new comedy “Carol’s Second Act” with Patricia Heaton, she needs a sacred retreat to anchor her and that is what a #4 house provides.

To determine what energy your house or office holds take the house number test yourself. Add up the numbers of your address until they reduce into a single digit. For example: 12310 = 7 or 1741 = 13 = 4.  If you live in an apartment or condo the address of the building affects you, but your unit number is more important. What is closest to you affects you the most.

1 – single person

#1 is about new beginnings.  This house is perfect for being single and starting something new. It holds the energy of a new phase of your life, new career, new family, or new venture. Relationships and partnerships will be challenging because #1 is about soaring solo. To balance the yin and yang in your life, decorate with pairs of things (and I don’t mean pears, the fruit.) Live here by yourself and use this time to fire up your reputation.

If you live in a #1 house, make sure you get out and about.

2 – couples

#2 is about partnerships.  Whether it is romance or business, #2 is about the dance of duality and being in sync with your partner. This house holds the energy for newlyweds and couples who can’t get enough of each other. Starting a new relationship or rekindling an existing one will be easier. If you find yourself cozying up in front of the roaring fireplace and being lovey dovey too often, make sure to get out and socialize.

If you live in a #2 house share the love and invite friends over and entertain.

3 artists

#3 is a house full of creativity.  The artist in all of us needs a place for creativity to soar and this is a house where you are most likely to find an art studio, performing stage, or music room. Creative spirit comes in many forms, so if you live in a #3 house you need to honor your artistic side. Recognizing a #3 house is easy because it will be the kooky neighbor down the street with the garden gnomes, pink flamingos, and flowering garden. It can also be the house with exotic Halloween or Christmas decorations. That neighbor will be the filmmaker, writer, painter, musician, professor, and it might be you. 

If you live in a #3 house have fun, but don’t get too far out.

4 – stars

#4 house grounds a famous person or someone in the public eye. Whether you are the star of stage and screen, the CEO of a large corporation, or the star of your own life a #4 creates a solid base camp from a busy and hectic life. You will most likely have star quality and your home is your get away for balance and stability. This is a perfect retreat from a pressure-filled day from living in the spotlight. #4 will ground and focus your energy.

If you live in a #4 house it will keep you stable and secure.

5 – party people

#5 is for jet-setter travelers who like to entertain. Like the fingers on your hand, #5 is a handful. This is an active house where something exciting is always going on. These folks just got back from a safari in Nairobi, biking in Vietnam, or shopping in Dubai. This house holds the energy of those who love to travel and celebrate life and if they are friends of yours you will be invited to join the festivities. They are tireless party animals who are in and out of town constantly. A #5 business will be buzzing with activity and a super fun place to work. Since #5 is all about looking forward to what tomorrow may bring, make sure to leave time and energy for what needs to be taken care of today.

If you live in a #5 house be ready for plenty of spontaneous parties and unusual adventures.

6 – nurturers

The essence of #6 is being of service others. This is the perfect house for doctors, lawyers, healers, waiters, personal trainers, hair dressers, designers, Realtors, or therapists. Anyone who dedicates their life to being of service to others benefits greatly from the loving support of a #6 house. If you are about giving back in one form or another, your life will have purpose and meaning. Make sure to take time out to recharge your own battery or you will give and give and have nothing left for anyone else.

If you live in a #6 make sure to give back to yourself as well.

7 – spiritual folks

#7 is associated with spirituality and inner strength. This is a home that brings out the spiritual contemplative side to people. It is the most challenging number because it is about things that money can’t buy. If you live in a #7 house you need to concentrate more on who you are in the world and less on material abundance. If you are fulfilling your purpose, the money will come. Decorate with Buddha statues, crystals, magical candles, or whatever has special meaning to you. Meditate on your life and fill your home with spirit.

If you live in a #7 house your world will be filled with spirit.

8 – money-makers

#8 is best for prosperity and gaining material wealth.  In Chinese culture, the number 8 is associated with wealth. If you are lucky enough to live in this house, it will be easier to draw money towards you and hold that money in. For business leaders and entrepreneurs, this is an extremely profitable number to have. Keep in mind that money cannot buy happiness. Stay balance and try not to focus on material gains to excess. A happy life is a balanced life.

If you live in a #8 house it will be easier for you to hold in your wealth.

9 – great for everyone

#9 is the ultimate number because it holds the energy of all the other numbers.  If you add numbers 1-8 together and reduce them to a single digit you get 9.  This is the highest number in humanitarianism and is the most auspicious house or office. It tends to be a balanced environment and you will be prone to thinking high thoughts and be able to reach once considered unattainable goals. The energy of this house will allow you to complete things and resolve old issues. Congratulations if you live in #9!

If you live in a #9 house, you hold all the energy of life.

Anita Rosenberg is an International Feng Shui and BaZi Chinese Astrology Expert. She lives and works in Los Angeles at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. For more information and to shop at the Good Karma Shop go to: www.AnitaRosenberg.com. Follow Anita on FB and Instagram at Anita Rosenberg Studio.


Tea Time

Tea Time in Taiwan
tea time in Luang Prabang, Laos 2016

Tea is a way of connecting. Drinking tea is one of my favorite rituals.

You might call me a “tea snob” because I have come to love tea and am pretty picky about it too. It wasn’t always this way. Years ago I attended a tea event at my friend’s chic tea import store on La Brea in Los Angeles. Owner Gail Baral was my guide to all-things tea. How to make it, what to eat with it, and which countries did it come from. I got hooked. Drinking tea all day works for me because the buzz from tea is a smooth uplifting constant as opposed to coffee which can be a roller coaster of ups and downs. At least, that was how Gail explained it to me many years ago.

I learned to brew loose leaf tea. I studied different tea regions like Darjeeling in India and Ceylon in Sri Lanka. I enjoy a strong black Aasam tea during the day and calming Chinese green tea in the evening. More importantly I experienced tea rituals through global travels.

In Europe, it is common to add milk. This came about because in the early days of tea arriving from the East India Trading Company it was low quality so milk made it taste better. The highest quality was super expensive and saved only for the rich. Today in India adding milk is the norm. Usually it is a hot steamed milk or even ground spices are added calling it masala tea. BTW did you know that the word chai means tea, so when you ask for a chai tea, you are asking for tea tea?

Chester and me in India drinking street tea 2007

What really took me over the edge understanding tea was when my friend in London, Pete Hendricks, suggested I read one of his favorite books, “For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History” by Sarah Rose. Based on journal notes and historic events of Scottish botanist Robert Fortune who was sent to steal the crop from deep within China and bring it back to British plantations in India, it reads like adventure fiction. The odyssey of this tall Scottish man who went undercover in 1848 pretending to be from Northern China (because Northern Chinese are taller) is a fascinating read. One of my favorite books.

tea time at the Fairy Cave in a remote area of Taiwan 2016

The art of negotiating always takes on a tea component throughout Asia, especially in Bali. Traveling to the small craft town Tenganan in East Bali with my friend Robert in 2000 I witnessed a master class. Tenganan is famous for beautiful baskets handmade according to ancient techniques with a smokey scent. They are said to be so sturdy they last a hundred years. Robert was there to purchase baskets for a client in Sweden. When we reached the village I stood back to watch him work his magic. Like the ancient art of tea, the ancient art of shopping has important lessons too. Don’t talk business before making friends and sharing a cup of tea. Bicker about the price then have another cup of tea. Finally, meet in the middle so everybody walks away happy. And then of course there’s a final cup of tea to seal the deal.

me in Tenganan, Bali being followed by a water buffalo 2001

If you are already a tea drinker, enjoy. If not, maybe you will give it a try. I have found tea to be so much more than a hot drink and it’s always “tea time!” My favorite new find is Steven Smith Tea from Portland. Their flavor combinations is superb whether loose leaf or sachets. Try Mao Feng Shui or Portland Breakfast! Cheers!

tea time in Denver 2019

Outlander Tour of Scotland

Castle Leoch kitchen on the set of Outlander (left) and me at Doune Castle where they shot

I wasn’t planning on an “Outlander” Tour of Scotland. Admittedly, I am obsessed with the series, yet I did not plan any “Outlander” visits while on my summer birthday bucket list trip in June 2019. But the moment our (I went with my 16 year old nephew) tour guide picked us up in Edinburgh and we headed to the Highlands of Scotland for five days, he knew. He just knew he should alter the itinerary and take me to OUTLANDER!

While in the Medieval City of Edinburgh, our guide there included a pit-stop to Bakehouse Close where Jamie and Claire were reunited 20 years after their separation. A “close” is an alleyway off the main Royal Mile road that leads to private property and were once gated and closed to the public. To this day, they remain frozen in time which is why they used Bakehouse Close as Jamie’s Print Show of 1700s Edinburgh. I stood on a step with no clue that when I would go home and re-watch the series, I would be standing on the same steps where Claire could be seen entering A. Malcolm print shop.

Bakehouse Close in Edinburgh (left movie scene) (right me on same steps)

Our Highlands guide David Campbell gave me a map “Outlander – Visit the Scottish Locations as seen in the hit TV series.” I poured over each and every location on that map. We only had time to visit a few. First was Linlithgow Palace where they shot Wentworth Prison. In the center of the haunted ruins of Linlithgow was a magnificent fountain built by James V in 1538. Fed by underground water, when Bonnie Prince Charlie visited in 1745 it was made to flow wine. I couldn’t quite figure out which scenes were shot there. Maybe the creepy haunted narrow hallways.

Next we stormed Doune Castle where they shot Castle Leoch for months. The interior isn’t much, but the grounds and exterior courtyard is energetically exciting. You can really imagine castle life in those days. As an intuitive, I liked this happy castle. It talked to me and let me know that shooting the show brought back a life it had lost for centuries. The castle was pleased so many visitors were taking an interest in it. Doune was a bit lost for a long time and now it had been found again. Castle Leoch was the fictional home to Colum MacKenzie and his clan in the 18th c. Misty and moody, I loved this castle visit.

Me and nephew Will at Doune Castle where they re-created a village for Outlander (left)

The 3 Sisters Mountain in Glen Coe is a highlight of the Highlands visit. Majestic world-famous Scottish landmark with high mountain peaks, ridges and rushing waterfalls. The opening credits were shot here as well as a few horse riding scenes. How could it not? Breath-taking scenery.

Glen Coe Highlands – (left) opening Outlander credits (right) out car window

The magic of the movies never gets old to me. It’s always exciting and illuminating and pings at my heart. If you make it to the Scottish Highlands and are a fan of Outlander, you must visit ALL the spots where they shot. Tell your tour guide!