If You Ever Hear I’m Moving...

Winter is a time many people take trips. Some people head to the slopes and ski their hearts out. While other people seek to escape the cold, rainy (or snowy) days by heading to a tropical oasis. I, on the other hand, enjoy exchanging one urban winter for another.

For years, Spain has been one of my go-to destinations. First it was Barcelona, then Barcelona and Andalucia, after that Madrid, Andalucia and Barcelona, this time, it’s a bit more complicated - Barcelona, Falset in Priorat, Zaragoza, San Sebastian, Rioja, Bilboa and, to round out the Iberian Peninsula, Porto and Lisbon.

Of the places I’ve been, Barcelona is my favorite city. The minute I land and get into the city I feel comfortable. The pace, scale, and overall culture is comfortable. I enjoy Barcelona so much, that all of my close friends know that if they hear I’m leaving San Francisco, it’s because I’ve decided to move to Barcelona. Two of the areas I enjoy the most are the Gothic Quarter and the Born District. These are two of the oldest neighborhoods of Barcelona. Narrow maze like “streets” to navigate, lined with shops, bars, and restaurants. The markets in these neighborhoods are spectacular. The largest, and oldest, one is the Mercat St. Josep. Then there is a newer one in the Born called Mercat de Santa Ceterina. Both of these are filled with vendors selling fresh produce, fish, meats, sweets, anything you could ever imagine.

Two of my go-to restaurants are Cal Pep and Bar del Pla. On this trip I added a third, Pla, the sister restaurant to Bar del Pla. Cal Pep is mostly seafood. I’ve never seen a menu here. The times I’ve gone in the waiters has simply asked a few questions and then sets a menu for the table. Bar del Pla is a more casual tapas restaurant while Pla is a slightly more formal place with modern Spanish food.

Above all else, Barcelona is known for it’s architecture. Specifically, Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi’s work is everywhere, former palaces, apartment buildings, parks, even the sidewalk tiles are designs of his. His largest project is the Sagada Familia, a massive basilica that had been under construction since 1882 with an expected completion date of 2026.

This visit is the shortest I’ve made, but I can still say that I love Barcelona and would still move here in a heartbeat.

It Started with Fiddler on the Roof

Around nine years old my dad introduced me to Fiddler on the Roof. That’s when I announced I was going to be Jewish when I grew up. What I saw was a group of people both tied to and struggling with their traditions. I spent most of my childhood longing to be a member of this community. It wasn’t until 2002, after moving to San Francisco, That I finally converted. This was what I had been aiming for all those years. After converting I felt Jewish, connected to the tradition. There was something missing from my Jewish identity. I didn’t know what that was until this last week when I traveled through Israel for the first time. Never before have I felt so connected to my religion and the wider Jewish community than being in Israel. The night before my trip I has a mix of emotions - joyful, excited, nervous. As I boarded the plane the next day the only thing I could think about was the fact that when the doors opened I would be in Israel. 

The next afternoon I arrived in Tel Aviv. I arrived home.

The trip took me from Tel Aviv to the Negev and up to Jerusalem. Ascending the hills of Jerusalem was a moving experience. I was pretty emotional just at the thought of walking the streets, not to mention the fact that I was going to get to celebrate Shabbat in Jerusalem. 

Our first full day in Jerusalem was a Friday. After touring in the morning and afternoon, we all went back to the hotel to prepare for Shabbat. We attended a lively pluralistic Kabbalat Shabbat services under a large tent in what was the first train station of Jerusalem. Then went over to the Kotel to welcome in Shabbat.  On our way to the Kotel we ended up having an impromptu song session with a group of Hassidic young men. We all joined together in singing Hinei Ma Tov (Psalm 133: How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity).

I danced with a few groups of yeshiva students and prayed at the wall. The night ended with a Shabbat dinner on the Hebrew Union College patio overlooking the old city.

Back home I’ve been asked many times “How was the trip? It must have been an ‘interesting’ time to be there.” It was indeed an interesting time. Tensions escalating between Israel and the Palestinians over the three kidnapped Israeli teens who were murdered and the Palestinian teen found shortly after. However, with all the demonstrations and the likelihood of missiles, I still felt at home and completely safe.

After nearly 13 years as a Jew, I finally felt Jewish…fully Jewish. And it all started with Fiddler on the Roof.

Click through the slideshow for some highlights from the trip.

Wayne's World, Beer, and Architecture

Anyone who has seen Wayne's World knows that "Milwaukee" is derived from the Algonquian word Millioke , which means "The Good Land." This city is the home of so many great things. I've been visiting good friends here for years and every time I visit I discover something new. On this trip I was introduced to "The Domes" (Mitchell Park Conservatory). Designed by Donald Grieb, the glass domes are 140 feet in diameter at the base and 85 feet high. I was pressed for time so I didn't get a chance to visit the different climates in each dome. Next time.

The Public Market reminded me of San Francisco's Ferry Building. Many little shops housing local merchant's goods bustling with people. There was a coffee shop at the main entrance with face-sized cookies. An unexpected discovery on this trip was a row of four townhouses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright located just south of downtown. Most are still private residences.

No trip to Milwaukee is complete without some beer. This year my friends took me to a fun Beer garden complete with sausages, pretzels, and, of course, liter sized beers.

 As always, I'm looking forward to my next trip to Milwaukee. 

A few goals

Recently, I was home visiting my parents and somehow we got on the topic of my childhood. They said that around four or five years old I told them two things, well, let's be honest, I'm sure I told them more than two things. Anyhow, the two things I told them were 1) I'm going to live in San Francisco someday and 2) I'm going to travel when I grow up.

This year I celebrated my 14th year of moving to San Francisco. Took a trip to Chicago two weeks ago, am heading to South Lake Tahoe this weekend, and fly to Israel next weekend.

Looks like I've achieved at least two of my goals.