Thursday, March 27, 2008


It is Thursday here in snowy, grey Vermont and I am reminded of a much warmer, Thursday evening a few weeks ago in Barcelona when I was wandering around the old part of the city after dark. I came into the Plaza St Jaume where along the wall of the Generalitat de Catalunya was a group of people standing in silence holding placards with images and words invoking Peace.

I stopped to look at the literature they had lying on a blanket. There were pictures of Martin Luther King, Jr. and various flyers in Spanish. An elder gentleman handed me a small piece of paper (see picture), one side was in Spanish, the other side in Catalan – and the following is a not so great English translation, but it gets the point across.

We Love Life, We are for Peace 

We call on your condition and your individual conscience to reflect on the moment facing our society. Based on the creation of requirements under the cover of values that give priority to possess, sheltered in the selfishness that makes this solidarity and unfair, has reached the contempt for everything that lives and generates Life: the exploitation of underdeveloped peoples, unemployment which extends in a polluted planet that has enough wealth to feed everyone, the inequities of a society that recommends its injustices with the segregation of marginalized and offenders are apparently some of the fruits that we must collect. Meanwhile violence grows and carries with it a mad arms race that fear, the economic and military blocs are unstoppable and that it now can destroy our planet by 15 times. 

We believe that, despite everything, THINGS CAN CHANGE, if all we are proposing. We want to let our attitude silence internal happen to silence the word, above views, or dogmas prejudices, in the hope that what unites us as people definitely exceeds what might separate us. 

We invite you every Thursday in front of the Generalitat, at 7pm, to participate in the half-hour of silence that we do in support of peace.” – Artisans of Peace

As I read the daily news of our war-torn world, I think of these people standing silently for 30 minutes (harder than you might think) in the chill every Thursday evening, and the countless others who do the same around the globe.

I think of the Tibetan monks worldwide who pray for worldwide peace and an end to suffering every day, and how it is now our turn to pray for them every day, every moment until they are free to practice their spiritual beliefs of compassion, peace and tolerance. Because until they are free, none of us are.

Martin Luther King, Jr. accepted the Nobel Peace Price 44 years ago and his acceptance speech is as relevant today as it was then. Following is an excerpt:

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid."

Excerpted from Martin Luther King Jr. Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech 1964, From Les Prix Nobel en 1964, Editor Göran Liljestrand, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1965

For the monks and the world: Om Mani Padme Hum
If you are in Barcelona on a Thursday evening, consider standing with others in Plaza St Jaume.
Wherever you are, I hope you can pray, hope, work for and be peace.

Some websites covering the Tibetan crisis:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Visual Tools for the Green Traveler

I am happy to announce a NEW feature - Visual Tools for the Green Traveler - on the Traveling Naturally website (
The first of these is a Google Map of Health Food Stores in Barcelona, Spain. Stay tuned for more Visual Tools for the Green Traveler as they are developed, including Google Maps of Health Food Stores in other cities including Paris, London, Zurich, Avignon, and many more.
Click on the Go Lightly Guidebook MAP of Barcelona Health Food Stores on the left hand side of the web page.
Happy healthy eating and traveling!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Madrid Eco Travel notes

Madrid is Spain’s largest city, and quite majestic with its broad boulevards and grand buildings. There are street musicians at almost every turn and in the metro. Thursday evening is the night people can put out all manner of unwanted items like furniture to be collected by the city trash trucks. As my Spanish friends and I were heading home from our dinner (11:30pm!!) we saw some wooden bookshelves. The handyman in the group picked them up – they were taller than he – and we were walking along with the four of us and the bookshelves, but then we came upon a much larger pile with a chair, and a number of pieces of wood – doors and shelves – a whole commode size cabinet. Before you knew it, we were all hauling 2-3 pieces of the cabinet down the streets of Madrid, laughing as we went, with the handyman gleeful at his find. The bookshelves had been left behind as the dismantled commode was considered a better haul. We saw others walking down the street with their own finds – recycling at its finest.
The Spanish people have a relaxed and happy quality to them, reflected in their schedule and pace of life. Most people must be at work by 9am – but have long lunches – some have lunch and siesta as part of their day, others don’t have a long lunch and siesta but do not work on Fridays or Friday afternoons. Dinner is served between 9-11:30 at night and then strolling, dancing and hanging out in the plazas is common. Stores are often closed all afternoon, so plan your shopping for the morning or late in the day – starting from 3-5pm depending on the store.
Delicious, inexpensive wine is plentiful, as are divine olives and olive oil, cheeses, seafood (see picture of bizarre delicacy – Percebes) and all manner of fruits and vegetables. This is true all over Spain, not just in Madrid. If you are looking for traditional espadrille shoes made with hemp and canvas, these are plentiful in Madrid. One store filled with a bounty is on Calle Toledo just off Plaza Major.
While Madrid is not really biker friendly for riding through the main streets, there is a 64 km bike path around Madrid and paths through the large park Casa de Campo (about 4000 acres), as well as the smaller Parque del Retiro (322 acres).
Travel between Madrid and Barcelona is some of the busiest in the world, so if you are hoping for a train ticket, book ahead, otherwise you may get caught with no available seats or having to travel first class to make a connection. It is best to buy your tickets through the internet and pick them up at one of the many handy machines in the station. The Atocha train station in Madrid is huge and beautiful with a plant filled atrium, cafes and multiple security bag checks.
Health Food Stores in Madrid:
Natura Si – Supermercado Ecologico/El Supermerdaco Natural;;, c/Guzman El Bueno 28, (corner of c/Melendez Valdes) Madrid; Tel: 915 445 663; Metro: Arguelles-Monchoa. Open Mon-Sat 10-8:30 pm without interruption - -direct link for their three stores in Madrid
Yoga in Madrid:
Yoga and Pilates en Galileo, c/ Galileo 23, Bajo A, Madrid; Metro: Arguelles-San Bernardo. Classes during the whole day, Monday to Thursday, and yoga for children.
Yoga center in Madrid, Centro de Yoga Sivananda Vedanta, c/Eraso 4; Tel: 913615150;;

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Going Home

It is truly hard to believe that my seven weeks in Europe are over and that I am heading home. I have loved every minute of the trip even when I haven’t. Just two weeks ago I would have been devastated about having to leave, but now I feel as I did after my divine body treatment at the Kan Spa in Avignon – satiated.
Part of this trip has been about observing and assimilating the European portion size in all things – coffee, food, car size, etc – and feeling satisfied. Another has been about being present, in the moment, and appreciating that what looks like an inconvenience in one minute, often turns out to be a blessing. Yet another piece I love about traveling is the spontaneous connections and help you find around the world. A man helped me on with my very heavy back pack this morning at the Paris Gare-train station; in London a fellow photographer noticed me struggling for a night shot and lent me his tripod; in Barcelona I had a brief but lovely conversation about world travel with a young Cuban heading to Italy and Greece while I was headed to Switzerland; a breastfeeding mother from Wales and I discussed the marvels of the new mega Whole Foods store in Kensington, London; sharing an overnight train bunk with a Swiss woman, I learned she runs a bio bed and breakfast outside Basel - she spoke only German but we managed to ascertain through our broken bits of each other’s languages and a good sense of charades that we were “Zwei Bio Frau/Two organic women” ☺. Countless other delightful encounters filled my travels and are part of what makes travel so magical.
Now as I head home, heart and soul filled with my experiences, the scents, sounds, tastes and generosity of strangers as well as old friends, my body stronger than it has felt in years, I feel whole, without wanting, without lacking. It is as it should be. Ciao, Auf viedersen, Adios, Hasta luega, Au Revoir, Cheers, and Bon voyage!

London and Whole Foods

I did London in a brief burst. Decades ago good food was scarce in London, but now it is full of natural foods stores and restaurants, as well as fast-food convenience stores selling decent food for on the go. These chains include EAT and Pret a Manger.
The Fresh and Wild health food stores are beautiful and full of great food. This line of stores was bought a couple of years ago by the U.S. Whole Foods. While the original Fresh and Wild stores remain, Whole Foods renovated an old landmark building, Barkers, on Kensington High Street, and built their flagship store, which puts their U.S. stores to shame. A gigantic store, Whole Foods has 80,000 square feet of natural and organic foods taking up three floors. It offers a variety of over seven different food court options, and sells fair trade and organic clothing, bed linens and gifts. The food part of the store is divided into regular groceries, plus gourmet sections for cheese, wine and other delicacies. They also offer health therapies including massage. The store is easily accessible by Tube – just a block from the High Street Kensington stop, and they also offer delivery services using their groovy-fueled motorbikes.
Whole Foods, Barkers Building, 63-97 Kensington High St, London; ; Open Monday-Saturday: 8am -10pm, and Sundays 12-6. The four former Fresh and Wild store locations can be found at the Whole Foods website.
For travelers feeling desperate for natural food in the Piccadilly Circus area, take heart – a Fresh and Wild is hidden on Brewer Street just behind the north side of Piccadilly Circus with prepared foods and gluten free options.
The Queen’s walk on the south side of the Thames is a great strolling promenade – very busy on nice weekend days. Both the National Theater and Shakespeare’s Globe are along this route, as well as numerous shops and sites. Under Waterloo Bridge you will find a used book market full of old and new titles for reasonable prices open daily. Street musicians are plentiful and talented along this promenade.
A note on London Theater – while the regular, Broadway-like theater productions are expensive, you can find excellent theater for great prices at the National and Globe theaters. The Globe only has productions in the warmer months since they are an outdoor venue, but the National goes year-round. I bought standing room tickets for 5£ each (about $10/ticket) for a wonderful production of George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara.
Bus stops and subway stations (the Tube) are everywhere, so between public transport and walking you can get around just fine - in fact a car would be a hindrance in London – the traffic is horrid, parking scarce to none and there is now a fairly hefty congestion-fee for driving in central London. Harry Potter fans will understand when I say that London bus drivers perform very closely to the night-bus drivers portrayed in the books. That said, it is great fun to travel on the double-decker buses and the views from the upper deck are excellent. Check out the day-pass for public transport – good value and so much easier than having to buy tickets each time you hop on a bus or train. French and London bus drivers may go to the same training school. A helpful bookstore employee told me that the Tube employees are trained to be knowledgeable about London and be able to answer questions, but not the bus drivers – she said not to bother to ask them anything. That was a good heads-up, but little did I realize that I would be barked at! One cranky London bus driver called me a “stupid cow” as I was trying unsuccessfully to exit the rear door of the bus (now the French were not helpful, but they did not sling insults).
One word of advice – leave enough time to travel throughout the city. The Tube maps can be deceptive as to how long it takes to travel between stops, especially when venturing out to areas beyond the heart of the city.
For possibly the cheapest prices in London you can explore the Queen’s Market on Saturday mornings by the Upton Park Tube station (takes about 40 minutes from central London). This is in the West Ham area of East London, a block from the West Ham football (soccer) stadium. It offers a good view of the non-tourist side of London – the streets are litter-strewn, and the items at the market vary from foods to electronics to a variety of clothing including saris and shimmering dresses.
London is an awesome city. The exchange rate makes it very expensive (about $2 per 1£ – so double the price of everything- ouch!) The Earl’s Court Hostel is a great accommodation located in the fairly swank South Kensington residential area. It is part of the Hostelling International Network. Prices are exceptional for the middle of London and the hostel is clean, newly renovated, and has internet access for a fee on their computers and wifi throughout if you have your own computer. London Earl’s Court Hostel, 38 Bolton Gardens, Tel: 44 207 3737083;; Prices starting at 22£/night per person.
There are countless eating options in London – even the late night convenience stores sell organic foods. I was able to get organic cheeses and bread, as well as wheat-free options and organic ice cream for a friend. So while expensive, London is a great city for traveling green and naturally.

Mind the Merde

In London, the Tube announcers warn you to “Mind the Gap” between the train and platform. In France they should have similar announcements broadcast over sidewalk speakers to “Mind the Merde”. While there is technically a pooper-scooper law in France, many French ignore this, so take note - there is dog shit all over the sidewalks and you really have to pay attention to avoid it – really really - “mind the merde”.
On the subject of Merde, I was wondering why none of the guidebooks mentioned the Paris Sewer museum – well now I know☺ The Paris Sewer museum is along the Seine between the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides. On street level all you see is a modest ticket booth and sign because the actual museum is underground. My vision was out of a picture book I had read to my children years ago about a crocodile from Egypt who ended up living in the Paris sewers. I imagined them to be clean and tiled, and that the museum would be just that – a museum, not a working window into the daily sewer system. So my first words of advice are, unless you have a total fascination with shit or the underground infrastructure of a city – you can pass on the sewer museum. That said, it did provide for countless jokes for the remainder of my trip. If you do go, be prepared with a gas mask or scarf – it stinks – it is, after all, a sewer. You cross bridges over white water rapids of sewage, and through puddles of condensation (hopefully not leaks) – the signs warn you to wash your hands after leaving and not to touch anything – thanks.
My friend and I were laughing so hard when we emerged. We snitched a jasmine blossom from a plant at a florist shop we passed as we had gone completely unprepared and could not get the stench from our nostrils. We pictured the French, with cigarettes in hand, muttering “Ahh, we will get you Americans back for putting your Disney here – we will make a Sewer Museum and make you smell our shit, ha, ha, ha.” My friend couldn’t believe it, “How can that be legal?” We were reminded of our favorite line from the movie The Banger Sisters, when Goldie Hawn says to her traveling companion, “Harry, you may never shit again.”
If your curiosity gets the better of you, Paris Sewer Museum/ Les Egouts, opposite 93 Quai d’Orsay, 11-4, closed Thursdays and Fridays, near the Alma-Marceau metro.

La Alberca, Spain – Going back in time

La Alberca is a historic village located in the Salamanca region of Spain. The tiny, cobblestone streets are lined with buildings dating from Columbus’s time and before. In this tiny village you can find traditional life mixed with modern day. Off the northwest corner of the main square you will find a store specializing in fair trade goods and some organic treats. Donkeys carting manure filled baskets walk down the streets, as do men carrying tools to work the land. Numerous stores sell the famous local delicacy, “Pata negro”, meaning black leg or hoof, a special “ham” from Spanish black pigs that eat only acorns from cork oak trees. This meat really should not be called ham as there is nothing remotely similar to American ham, rather it is closer to prosciutto. It is a dark meat with a rich and unusual taste, and is very expensive.
There are biking and walking trails in the area, and nearby, the monastery of La Peña de Francia sits about 5,200 feet high on a mountain, with amazing views. It is known for its black Madonna and sanctuary, as well as its guesthouse and café.
It takes almost four hours to reach La Alberca from Madrid, but it is worth it for the time travel experience.