Cannolis, Gelato, and the Pope!

I don’t usually like people’s posts that have just come back from a trip.  I mean really, popewho cares about your trip but you and your very closest friends and family.  (that’s a maybe!)  I had to make an exception this time because not only was this the continued celebration of David’s and my 40th anniversary (celebrating began in November), but he is to have a big, and I mean big number birthday.  Those of you who know me know how kooky I am about age, so no numbers please!  Let’s just say it’s big and he looks about 15 years younger than his age.  Good genes!

I have been many wonderful places on vacation, but Italy was not one of them.  The reason being that my very fortunate daughter went with her best friend from high school when she was 15 yrs old.  Nice to have an Italian best friend with a  family home in Tuscany!  Being a Baby Boomer parent (hate this, but I am the epitome of the stereotype!) I took this into consideration when planning trips and took us to France, Britain, Turkey, Greece, Spain, etc as opposed to doing what my husband and I wanted to do! Anyway, finally, our time had come.  Children grown, last family trip about 3 years ago (hope there will be more, but who knows with schedules, boyfriends, significant others!)  With an Italian last name, De Santo, Italy was calling.

I planned a trip to Lake Como, Rome, and Venice. (Florence and Amalfi will have to wait) with the brand new  Hilton in Como being the foundation.  We chose mid May since the crowds have not swelled yet and the heat is not oppressive.  When you are retired, you can pretty much go anywhere anytime!

The trip was amazing, totally living up to every expectation.  I was awe struck by the beauty, the history, the people, the food, the wine; who wouldn’t be?  The Trevi fountain, the Coliseum, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pieta, the Grand Canal, everything in Venice, and on and on.  To see these works of beauty in person cannot be described.  They are magical, mystifying, awe inspiring.  I am a woman of hyperbole, as most of my friends and family know (I have to live up to my given name, Joy.  It’s tough!) In this case hyperbole is justified.

Wednesday morning in Vatican City is the papal audience. I wanted to do something special for my husband so I purchased tickets, which allow you to skip the lines and get a prime seat for viewing.  Being Jewish, this does not symbolize the same to me as it would to someone of the Christian faith.  However, I must say that sitting waiting for his holiness to make his rounds Pope mobile style was incredible.  I was so moved by the love, devotion, and admiration swelling all around me.  I too saw this man’s face and could understand why Pope Francis is so revered.  It sent chills down my spine and I smiled all morning.  A true once in a lifetime experience!

I am back home with a full I Phone full of pictures, wonderful memories, tired feet, jet lagged, well fed, well vinoed (past tense of vino!) and just plain thrilled to have seen this beautiful country. So it’s a bit messed up politically, there is no urgency for doing anything (reminds me of Mexico), and it certainly isn’t the Empire it was in Nero’s time!  It is a must on anyone’s bucket list and one of the most beautiful countries in the world. If you can’t be romantic in Italy, there is no hope for you! You are made of stone!

Today’s Takeaway...

Travel, open up your world, open up your eyes, open up your mind.  It’s a great big wonderful globe. There is nothing that comes close to understanding our similarities and differences culturally like travel.

Add some romantic time back into the marriage.  Getting away from your routine, even when you are retired, is special and puts the spice back into a relationship when you are away from the routine of everyday life. Some of the sexiest people on earth come from Italy!  Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren knew a thing or two about the spice of life!  Viva Italia!

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy



The Simplicity of Life

We are back in upstate New York now, Columbia County (deer and tick country!) where it is most definitely still winter.  We left 85 degree weather last week to arrive at a blustery, average temp of 39-45 degree with a dusting of the white stuff yesterday morning on our lawn!  Unreal! Where is global warming?!


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In being back home, I see life in much more simple terms.  The light is different here.  It’s almost translucent and the colors are vibrant.  It’s a setting that The Hudson School of painters saw and capitalized on in their magnificent landscapes of trees and farmland.

I hear the sounds of wild turkeys, birds, coyotes, and deer leaping in the brush. My neighbor, who has a farm and chickens roaming around has agreed to sell me eggs on a weekly basis.  These are real “free range” “cage free” birds and I’ll be  making egg salad from the fruits of their labor!

I understand why people live longer up here. “Men in rural areas on average can expect to celebrate their 78th birthday -two years longer than those in the city-while women will pass 82, almost a year and a half  more than their urban peers. It’s official: move to the countryside and you live longer (a study by The Guardian).  The stress is gone, the serenity and beauty of the landscape puts  one at peace. One of my very good friends’ mother lived to be over 100 yrs old residing in a remote part of Northern Maine. Same principle. How many centenarians does Willard Scott report on in major urban areas?  New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago; these are working cities.  Everything is stressful in New York City:  going to the dry cleaner, waiting for the subway, ordering take out! No wonder people are gray and sallow, grumpy looking, agitated! Don’t get me wrong.  I am a New York City girl through and through, but I am getting to like the boonies.


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I understand why at this third chapter of life (Jane Fonda refers to it as “the third act”-see link for an incredible Ted Talk courtesy Jane, Jane Fonda:Life’s third act)   – who doesn’t look a day over 55!!) gives us the time to see things differently, simplistically. When you strip away, excess, material things, competition, greed, jealousy,  we can truly appreciate the every day, the each day.  I always felt strapped for time, no time to be alone with my thoughts, no time to read (thank God for commuting!), to pick a recipe for dinner, to reach out to a friend and have a juicy hour-long conversation.  Now I can and I am and it feels wonderful! Eva Gabor and  Eddie Albert, known as Lisa, the socialite wife and Oliver Wendell Douglas, the New York lawyer found Green Acres in 1965 to give them just that. Though Eva went kicking and screaming in her evening gowns and Bulgari jewelry, she grew to accept it.  If Eva did it, so can I!  Simplicity for simplicity’s sake is my new mantra.


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Today’s Takeaway…

.  Truly, stop and smell the roses.  Savor the simple things that life gives us every day.  Don’t take them for granted.  One day, you may not be able to hear those birds singing or see the colors of the morning sky.

Time is precious.  Don’t waste it. Plan your day and get out there.  In the words of Muriel, sage purveyor of wisdom, “You can sleep when you’re dead” (which is not to say that I’m not enjoying my going back to sleep in the morning and waking at 10! That’s the beauty of retirement!

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy




What’s in YOUR bucket? A Word about Travel

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”  

St Augustine observed, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

In 2013 Joy and I connected with an engaged, energetic travel group —  on a Bucket List Kenyan safari. The trip began in Nairobi where we visited a sanctuary for baby elephants followed by a giraffe observation deck where we rubbed noses with gentle giants.


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We slept in tents and grew accustomed to chastising monkeys overhead. We learned about the Maasai tribe and we giggled through daily Range Rover excursions finding unspeakable beauty.


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Joy and I even caught sight of the elusive African  bushbaby.  Or at least we think we did.

Being self-proclaimed street-smart girls, we are a bit embarrassed to tell you about this little side adventure….

We had casually mentioned to one of the resort workers, “Oh, how we’d love to see a bushbaby.  They are SOOOO cute!”  Little did we know that these creatures only come out at night.  And little did we know that this resort fellow would be shining his flashlight through our tent window at 1AM that very morning jarring us awake,   “Come, come.  We find bushbabies!”   

So, picture this — Joy (Manhattan born and raised) and I (with NYC and Chicago roots) in our PAJAMAS and our Nordstrom’s sandals – following this perfect stranger with a flashlight into the African bush.  At 1 AM!   To find a bushbaby – which for all we knew was as real as a unicorn.  And yes, we left our passports and cash in an unoccupied tent.  So much for street smarts. 

At the first rustle in a tree we yelled “YES, there’s a bushbaby alright!”  And we scurried in our designer sandals back to the tent – certain it would be ransacked.  Assuming, that is, we made it back to the tent!


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Five years after, we still can’t believe that we put ourselves in such a precarious situation.  But oh the laughs we’ve shared since!  


This was the trip of a lifetime.  A whole chapter from St Augustine’s book.  


And it begs the question.  What’s in your Bucket, travel-wise?  National Parks? Wine Country? Israel?  Paris? 

We Baby Boomers are known for our hip replacements and knee tweakings so we should probably make plans while we can.

Yes, there will be missed flights, luggage snafus, and scary turbulence.  But that’s what Xanax and Bloody Mary’s are for! 


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I doubled my Xanax dosage for this flight.  

Check out the clouds.  And propellers…….. really?   



So let’s start depositing our pennies in that travel savings account.  Because we don’t need more STUFF. 

What we DO need is mind broadening experiences, memories that cause you to giggle when no one’s around, and a renewed appreciation for this wonderful world.

And maybe a bushbaby sighting.



Today’s Takeaway –

  • Find a travel group that keeps trips affordable and life affirming. And does the legwork for you.
  • Take short getaways to visit relatives and friends.  But as my mom used to say, leave them wanting MORE of you — don’t overstay!



Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy


Nosotros Vamos a Mexico

My (Joy’s) husband had always dreamed of retiring internationally. This is the man I married 40 years ago! A dreamer, an out of the box thinker, someone who didn’t care if his opinions were not popular or main-stream.We had a subscription to “International Living” magazine when no one had heard of it, its readers, hippy-dippy types who chose to live in Ecuador or Panama long before these places were considered cool.  

Me, the girl from the Upper West side of New York City who lived in the same apt for 23 years until the day she got married. I guess this was my alter ego saying, try something you have never experienced before.  So we poured through these monthly issues voraciously thinking of cool places to retire.  We were never going to be the people who moved to South Florida, as my parents did or Arizona or Nevada, the Carolinas, typical choices of Northeast folks when it came time to leave the workforce and the cold winters of this part of the country. As a twenty something year old reading this stuff, it seemed a lifetime away.

About 12 years earlier, for my 50th birthday to be exact, we planned a trip to Belize, a country getting a lot of attention at that time for being atypical Caribbean and non touristy.  I hated traditional resorts and all inclusives, being a sophisticated traveler.  Belize sounded cool and I only knew a few people who had been there. I picked a beach resort and figured we’d check it out at the same time for possible digs in that next chapter of life. Our whole family went including our then 15 and 18 year old daughters. We traveled to Grenada, a beautiful colonial city that some people had mentioned as a potential candidate for retirement.  Beautiful architecture, a city feel, but also armed guards with serious looking weapons at the local bank, and a true third world feel.  

Adventurous, I am, but stupid I am not.  This just didn’t feel like a place I’d call home!

From there we took a small plane (the kind you have your knees up against your chest in and pray until you land on terra firma safely) to our lovely beach resort.  We had a wonderful vacation and I will always remember Belize as the place I spent my 50th birthday with my family, but its less than smooth non white beaches were underwhelming and not even on the list of possibles when we returned home.

Next, several years later, as that 60 something decade was getting closer, we tried Panama and Nicaragua.  Both lovely destinations for a vacation but they didn’t make the cut. Panama City reminded me of Miami Beach, — not a fan and the humidity was oppressive.  In addition, the currency used is the U.S.dollar, so no benefit in terms of buying power.

 Nicaragua, while beautiful on the coast, many likening it to Southern California of 50 years ago.  But we must not forget that a wacko by the name of Noriega ran this country not that long ago. When discussing the idea of buying property in Nicaragua with one of my friends, who is actually from there, she advised me not to touch real estate in her own beloved country.

With 3 down, all giving us very enjoyable vacations, the attention was brought back to Mexico, our neighbor to the South.  International Living had recommended Mexico for years:  it had a stable government, the peso advantage (now 18 to 1, but as high as 21 to 1 last year when we arrived) and people who are welcoming and friendly.  They actually like Americans, or they did until we had this crazy person in the White House, but I digress…

My husband being the researcher in the family, me being the shoot from the hip, ask questions later kind of girl, came up with this place called Ajijic, a long time destination of expats, artists, and hippy types for over 30 years. Such famous people as  Meryl Streep, Marilyn Monroe going way back, D.H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, and the little brother (Todd Karns) in the eternally famous movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  Who knew?

It’s not as well known as it’s more expensive and much larger sister San Miguel Allende, known as SMA, but it offers incredible weather, temperate for about 9 months out of the year, and a rainy season for 3 months that makes the mountains turn into broccoli, so I hear. It’s considered to have the second best climate in the world after Nairobi.   We being snowbirds, can only tell from photos and friends.


This is our second winter here and so far so good.  We have returned to friends, a vibrant social life, far more than we ever had in Southern Westchester for 25 years, and a quality of life that is pretty good.  La Vida es facil and an average dinner costs about $30 U.S dollars complete with wine, appetizer, entree, dessert and coffee.

I’d rather be on this side of the Wall any day!  We’re only snowbirds, so I see my children when I get back and we can roll our eyes at the Tweets El Presidente issues from afar!


Viva La Mexico!


Today’s Takeaway—

. Be open minded.  Would I ever have thought I’d live in Mexico as an expat? If not for my EPH’s out of the box thinking, I wouldn’t have experienced Mexico and the benefits of living abroad.

. Stretch that comfort zone. If not now, when?!


Enjoy the ride

Xox Barclay and Joy