Meditations #66

August 2, 2015


Travel is at its most fun when chance encounters and discoveries are made.

Serendipity’s best friend is time.

And so, I am convinced, that lingering in place with an agenda that smiles on change is the path to a meaningful journey

Photograph:  Rebecca MacGregor

Peljesac Peninsula, Croatia

Messner’s Mountain Museums

July 31, 2015

Corones, Zaha Hadid-designed addition to Messner's Mountain Museum
Corones, Zaha Hadid-designed addition to Messner’s Mountain Museum

Reinhold Messner, the legenday climber and prolific writer, has just completed his 6th Mountain Museum located in Italy’s Dolomites.  Designed by Zaha Hadid on an Alpine Peak with underground galleries and a cantilevered viewing platform over the valley, Corones is devoted to Alpine history.

The scale, scope and vision of Messner’s extraordinary gift to Alpinists, climbers of all kinds, lovers of mountain cultures – I would say to the world – is staggering.  His other museums are:

Messner's Mountain Museum Ortler
Messner’s Mountain Museum Ortler

“Together with the architect Arnold Gapp, Reinhold Messner has created a unique museum. The South Tyrolean architect has located most of the museum inside a hill next to an old farmhouse which is now an inn by the name of Yak & Yeti. Access to the museum is via an opening in a retaining wall built to support the hill, which is covered with slabs of stone. A short ramp takes visitors into the depths of a man-made cavern built of fair-faced concrete. The high interior is illuminated by a skylight in the form of continuous ribbon of glass that interrupts the surface of the upper floor like the line of a crevasse. At one point, the opening offers a direct view of the snowy peak of the Ortler with its mountain-top glacier.”

Messner's Mountain Museum Firmian
Messner’s Mountain Museum Firmian

A number of Messner’s Mountain Museums are located in rescued and refurbished castles, Firmian being one of them.  MMM Firmian, in Sigmundskron Castle near Bozen, addresses the subject of man’s encounter with the mountains.

Messner's Mountain Museum Ripa
Messner’s Mountain Museum Ripa

Ri (Tibetan for mountain) Pa (Tibetan for man) is another of Messner’s restored castles – Bruneck – that focuses on mountain peoples from the world over and their life ways.

Messner's Mountain Museum Juval
Messner’s Mountain Museum Juval

The museum in Juval Castle in Vinschgau is dedicated to the Magic of the Mountain and houses several fine art collections: a Tibetica collection, a gallery of paintings of the world’s holy mountains, a collection of masks from five continents, a unique Gesar of Ling exhibition, a Tantra Room and the Expedition Cellar.

Messner's Mountain Museum Dolomite
Messner’s Mountain Museum Dolomite

And, finally, Fort Monte Rite, with its 360 degree drop dead views, is an ode to – and a history of – the Dolomites, where Messner grew up in a mountain climbing family.

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There are two words for journey that I love: the Swahili, safari and the Dzongkha, kora.  The latter refers to both an internal and a physical journey, and it is this one that comes to mind when I imagine an immersive journey to the Messner mountain museums.  Located in the Tyrol, one would start with Firmian, perhaps, using Bozen as the hub for day trips by car, rail or on foot, to the five others.  Or, one could easily access the individual museums as a day trip from any of the gorgeous cities in the Veneto.


July 30, 2015

hirohisa exterior - Brie Passano for The New York Times

I love restraint which is probably why I love most things Japanese.  On Thompson Street, within a few doorways of a favorite Japanese restaurant, Omen, is Hirohisa. With the proportions and aspect of a village house, Hirohisa is marked only by a discrete plaque bearing its name.  I was already hooked.


The interior is as spare as the exterior – a handful of wooden tables, a counter with few seats and a slit window through which reels a movie of street life.  But it is the food, of course, that enchants, plated, spooned, and bowled on to wood, ceramic and glass vessels.  Chef Hirohisa comes from Echizen, famed for its Washi as well as ceramics; for Hirohisa, however, it is his home’s beautiful mountains and sea, pure water, and natural resources he wishes to celebrate here.

We had the omakase, a light, lively parade of small dishes that tilted toward uni – a favorite of ours – yet incorporated beef, an extraordinary few sips of tomato broth clear as water, and an unctuous tofu.

Saipua: Dream Flowers

July 20, 2015

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I adore flowers and have rarely seen such hauntingly beautiful arrangements as Saipua creates.  Started in 2006, Sarah is a self-taught flower designer with a studio in Brooklyn and a farm in upstate New York.  She also makes floral soaps and candles, but it is these glorious – sometimes commonplace and sometimes rare blooms – that enchant.


BONDST Restaurant

July 17, 2015


Situated in an historic, Soho-style brownstone, BONDST offers guests  three, distinct levels of enjoyment.  The ground floor houses BONDST Lounge, an intimate space with its own sushi bar and banquettes set amidst a soft, textured space.  On the main floor, the restaurant presents a festive seventy-five seat dining room with a lively sushi bar, as well as a bar overlooking NoHo’s cobblestoned Bond Street. The second floor offers an elegant and comfortable dining room, as well as the Tatami Room which can be booked for private events.

BONDST has been around for a while but, for me, it was a first.  And I adored it.  Luckily, I come to BONDST in the quiet of a NY summer when the crowds are diminished and reservations are plentiful.  What a joy!  Booked at the last minuted, we had a table on the second floor, a spacious, lively but not impossibly noisy, space.  And we tucked in to a menu that was, quite simply, delicious.

Notable from our dinner:  big eye tuna tarte, fois gras chawan mushi, jalapeno scallop roll, tuna crispy rice – and there was more; the food came easily, paced smoothly, beautifully served, not over explained.  What a lovely dinner, one that I could return to over and over again without ever tiring.


Almanac of World History

July 7, 2015


I had recently expressed (somewhat jokingly) a desire to learn the history of the entire world. For my birthday, I received National Geographic’s Almanac of World History (3rd Edition) by Patricia S. Daniels and Stephen G. Hyslop—the key to my success.  As the foreword so candidly states: “History is an exciting and complicated affair. It is difficult to look at events occurring in one location without considering those taking place elsewhere at the same time.” Loaded with detail yet entirely readable, the almanac is divided into three sections: Milestones (agriculture, writing), Major Eras (prehistory to present) and World at a Glance (major wars and religions). An engaging blend of facts, analysis and visuals, the book is a straightforward breakdown for those with lots to learn (myself) as well as for history buffs looking for a refresher. 

This almanac has become a part of my daily routine—I read a page every day!

 Posted by Rebecca MacGregor

Chefs Club

June 30, 2015


Located in the Puck Building on Mulberry just off Houston, Chefs Club is a masterful, innovative dining experience.  The daily menu is created by four chefs drawn from Food & Wine Magazine’s choice of the year’s best, but prepared by two permanent chefs; that is, until the four celebrated chefs make limited engagement star appearances (announced on the website) in the Studio Kitchen, located within the restaurant, and offering an exclusive venue for just a handful of guests.

Our meal – a selection of appetizers and entrees that we shared – was delicious.  We sat happily at the bar, only one of a number of different table options that include round, family style and high top, all overlooked by a rock mountain of Himalayan salt bound in beautiful Japanese knotted rope. Kitchens are open, the ceiling soars, the noise factor is comfortable.  This is a supremely satisfying evening, a rare thing, I find, in the restaurant scene today.

Bags – To the Market

June 28, 2015


waxed cotton, light as a feather, baby change purse as charming as its parent…hails from Paris (natch), but designed by Bess Nielsen of Khadi and Co who finds inspiration in simplicity, soul and India.

Bags: Tanga To The Beach

June 27, 2015


soft yet tough, Lamu’s dhow sails are patched together into a wonderful weekender Tanga bag decorated with a star or heart and sporting a tag jangling from rope handles.  Sourced by Artisan Speak’s owner, Martina Reznick,  during an African walkabout, profits support the Lamu craftsmen, something she is fiercely committed to.

Being Mortal

June 26, 2015


Atul Gawande, Being Mortal‘s author, is one of those rare and remarkable beings:  Practicing surgeon, writer for the New Yorker, author of  seminal books and, because of these accomplishments, a thought leader.

I was advised to read the book by my mother’s doctor.  This young doctor met my 92-year old mother recently. Before we parted, she mentioned the title and suggested that it might give me a new perspective on the journey we are engaged in,  a journey that she, as well, is on along with almost everyone I know.

It is a deeply moving book but it is also a transformative one.  It highlights the limitations and failures of contemporary medicine in the care of the aged and the dying and it provides a wonderfully clear, cogent, deeply human alternative paradigm:  that what counts is to provide a good life to the end rather than a good death.  The shift in thinking is profound and profoundly effects our behavior.