Workout Along La Plata

Montevideo, Uruguay
November 2011

At the base of high-rise hotels and apartments, the beautiful and not-so-beautiful people of Montevideo saunter forth this Saturday morning on La Rambla. The path follows a crescent around the beachfront where lithe, attractive, young women in shorts and tank tops fly past on rollerblades; lean, athletic men jog by; children scurry here and there; and families and old ladies stroll. A middle-aged man hangs his big, hairy gut from a wife-beater and over the top of his Bermuda shorts, his white-socked feet wedged into sandals against all good taste.

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Montevideo

November 2011

We come for the food, but we dessert on the city. Karimé and I arrive from Colonia with empty stomachs, and within an hour we’re at the parrilla in the Mercado del Puerto gorging on steak, chicken, and bottles of wine.

Montevideo teems at its center on a hot, late spring day. Yet for all its bustle, it’s slower and more self-contained than its larger rival across La Plata. We have no plans, just killing time in the Ciudad Vieja. By nightfall, we’re hungry again and ready for another bottle.

 

 

Travels With Karimé

Buenos Aires, Argentina
November 2011

Tonight I white-boy danced with a beautiful tango dancer, while Karimé took pictures and laughed her head off. An evening of necessary robotourism after a mad dash across the city to make the curtain.

We spent the day on our feet — Retiro station, Recoleta, Palermo, and Evita’s tomb in a cemetery of generals who died with way too much money. Karimé thinks she could live in a house the size of these tombs, plans to move into one someday. The rest of the afternoon, we swanned about art museums in the better side of town.

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Highlights: Copenhagen

August 2015

A pale blonde girl in a black bathing suit dives head first into the canal. She comes up for air with a gasp from the gray water. All along this side canal in Christianhavn, young women are taking the plunge with thrilling screams or are lying on blankets in the grass taking in the sun.

It is a glorious day, warm and sunny, a real summer day. And in a cold weather country, these glorious summer days are few. So you have to take advantage of them.

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New Nordic Cuisine

Copenhagen
August 2015

Seems like every other restaurant on the Strøget is a shawarma joint. I counted at least a dozen, especially near the university. They must be secretly filming Iron Man 4 in Copenhagen. Robert Downey Jr. is always posting about shawarma on Facebook. It’s the only explanation.

Until I saw The Avengers on television last year, I’d never heard of shawarma. Perhaps it’s becoming what falafels and doner kebabs have been in Europe — a sign of growing ethnic diversity coupled with a need for quick and cheap eats. It’s probably not a threat to the open-faced sandwich, though.

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North of Morocco

Copenhagen
August 2015

Crossing the bridge to Islands Brygge after a long day in Central Copenhagen, I hear music and see crowds along the waterfront. I hadn’t anticipated such activity after my arrival late last night. There is a tent set up on a wooden platform, and the sound of Moroccan and Arabic drums.

Inside, a woman is singing, while the drums build up slowly the way they do in the Jemaa al-Fna in Marrakech. Then come the belly dancers — tall, blonde. Their dancing is, well, Scandinavian, but they work the hand gestures and dramatic effects for all they’re worth.

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Copenhagen Side Trip

August 2015 

“Where are we?” someone on the street asks me.

“Copenhagen,” I reply.

It was a smart-alecky thing for me to say. It’s my first day in town, and I don’t know anything. The first thing I’ve noticed about Copenhagen is there are a lot more tourists here than there were in Norway. They are the summer holidays kind of tourists, too. There’s construction going on along the canals downtown, so any directions you get require an improvised detour. Still, what are people asking me for?

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