New YouTube Series Travel People: Living Authentic Lives, Finding Kindred Spirits, Fulfilling Dreams Episode 1: Spain

Watch Episode One here or skip to sections which interest you marked below.

A lot of us are getting through sheltering at home by meeting online with old friends.  I thank God for technology that bashes through borders during a pandemic. Looking back at how we’ve navigated change in the past can transform how we handle new norms in the present and future. Being grounded for many has been grounding–even if what we know about an invisible enemy seems to shift every hour. In Nashville we’ve been saturated with spring storms and power outages. Worldwide we’re assaulted with staggering statistics of death tolls and unemployment. So I’m wondering…

How are we doing? Reassessing life’s meaning? Seeking a new job or career? A new life? Needing to reinvent ourselves again?

I’d planned to start a podcast this summer but decided to first launch as a YOUTUBE series since we’re home on computers more than commuting to work or traveling. Welcome to this first episode where we’ll travel to Spain and meet my friend, Monica Fernandez Chantada, master of reinvention and growth, who shows us how she and her country are dealing with months of pandemic lockdown, social distancing, and unemployment. Her journey from a Corporate Human Resources position to International Teacher to Camino de Santiago Tour Guide to Life Coach will inspire you as she shares coping tips, travel go-to places, and the beauty of her backyard. She explains how saying “Yes!” changes challenges into adventures and offers to teach you Spanish online.

Moni will walk us through her province of Galicia, Bucket List worthy for its mountains, coast, Celtic ruins, wine, and wonderful people. Through here pilgrims since the 9th century have traveled to the Cathedral in Santiago on the Camino or St. James’ Way–backdrop for the Martin Sheen movie (trailer below). We’ve walked three continents together and I’m still inspired by her journey and spirit. I think you will be, too.

If you’re planning a getaway for when the coast is clear and up for a Camino or stay in Galicia, check out options at Moni’s company, Spanish Steps, and/or stay in her home in Vigo where she’s a Superhost here.

0.00-3.30 “Travel People” Series Intro. “Come Run Away with Me” by Carole Edwards https://www.reverbnation.com/caroleed… Photography https://cindymccain.photoshelter.com/… and courtesy of Monica Fernandez Chantada

4:15 Meet Moni in beautiful Vigo and learn how Spaniards do Lockdown (started March 14)

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.35.21 PM

6:20 Memories of Madrid: Attention chocolate lovers!

7:05 How Moni and I met in Nashville, Tennessee

9:30 Moni’s US Teaching and Traveling; Alaska, Peru, Mexico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas

11:00 The Wanderer Returns Home to Vigo

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.35.08 PM

11:30 How to Reinvent a Life (Again) From Journalism to Working in Corporate Human Resources Job to Teaching Spanish is the US to Camino de Santiago Guide “I always say ‘Yes!’ Every challenge, I take it!”–Moni

13:30 Effect of Pandemic on 2020 Camino Tourism

14:00 Moni’s Call to Another Life, Spanish Financial Crisis, Realizing in India what she really wanted

15:30 Moni’s Mom’s Advice

17:20 Pandemic Effects on Finances and Family

20:00 How Emergency State in Spain differs from US Lockdown

22:30 Dealing with Solitary Confinement after divorce

25:43 Beautiful Vigo–My visit with Moni and Ale on St. John’sEve/Summer Solstice

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.37.29 PM

26:28 Meeting Moni in Porto, Portugal

27:28 Cies Islands–one of my favorite travel experiences ever

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.34.06 PM

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.36.44 PM

28:30 Spain Photos from Other Journeys

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.34.45 PM

29:37 Eating and Socializing in Spain

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.37.11 PM

32:15 Toledo –Day trip from Madrid

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.40.54 PM

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.41.45 PM

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.40.16 PM

34:40 Camino options based on distance, routes, fitness, purpose

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.33.39 PM

40:08 Photos of Coastal Camino through Galicia; Pilgrims; Goals

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.43.32 PM

45:40 My journeys with Moni: Morocco and Andalusia, Spain

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.44.26 PM

48:40 Oregon

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.45.11 PM

49:22 Moni’s Other Travels for Growth ; Backpacking at 37 in India

50:20 Travel Deals Now

52:30 Moni’s Call; Nashville, Kenya, Japan, New Zealand. What’s on her Bucket List now Moni: “I’m rich because I have freedom.”

1:03:00 Healthcare in Spain

1:05:00 What Moni would tell a 20something daughter or her 20something self

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.53.53 PM

1:06:00 Join Spain’s 8 PM Lockdown Celebration of Solidarity and Spirit

1:09:001:10:00 Closing Contact Moni: mfchantada@yahoo.es or Cindy: cindylmccain1@gmail.com More on Portugal and Spain:

StyleBlueprint Feature on Our Trip to Portugal and Spain

Southern Girl Gone Global Posts on Spain

She Knows Guide to Madrid

 

And for some more Good News, Thank you Feedspot for naming SouthernGirlGoneGlobal.com a Top 30 Baby Boomer Travel Blog or Website to Watch in 2020 !

Classic Movie Offers Words of Comfort for a New Year

81v4qsHXRFL._SL1500_

When choosing a book or movie, I ask, “Where do I want to go?” emotionally and   physically. Films and travel memoirs have shaped my Bucket List, transported me back to places I love, and moved me–literally–to live abroad for three years. Two of my first posts on this blog were movie reviews–one on Slumdog Millionaire set in India, and the other on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button set in New Orleans. I’m preparing to return to NOLA, so I just watched the latter again.

Souls knowing no age, the only constant being change, and life’s demand that we constantly let go are truths that have always intrigued and often frustrated me. At year’s end we nostalgically look back on what has passed and hopefully or anxiously look forward at what’s to come.  The movie’s message is that because nothing is permanent on this earth, beloved relationships that last a lifetime, the ability to be grateful and present in fleeting moments, and the freedom to change our course and start anew are precious gifts.

I couldn’t believe as I watched the movie again that the words below were spoken first by Benjamin Button–a voiceover as the character traveled the world.  I’d found them on a poster somewhere online which I bought and hung in my classroom in Morocco. Two of my students, inspired, drummed and sang them to a beat. They were headed to universities in the US, Canada, and Europe, and my colleagues, international teachers, changed schools and countries every two years.

These words are what I hope for my own children, for us all in the new year. 

img_5426
From Eric Roth’s Screenplay The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Riad Dar Kleta: Marrakech Stay for Rest and Inspiration

Riad Dar Kleta

Stepping from a tunnel of the Medina into a passageway to a massive door… crossing the threshold into a lush courtyard garden flanked with singing birds… climbing the spiral staircase to three levels of heaven.  Exploring Riad Dar Kleta is a magical adventure.  Being inspired by the creativity of its owners, Julien and Francoise Gaumont, who treat guests like family, is unforgettable.

My friend, Kate, and I were greeted with mint tea when we arrived, asked to name whatever Moroccan dishes we wished to have for dinner, and told to relax. “You are home,” said Julien.

IMG_5798

IMG_5964

IMG_5807 (1)

So many choices… to sprawl on the lush, shaded couches of burnt orange and earth tones overlooking the courtyard, to nap on wine-colored sofas by a cacti garden, to wind up the second spiral staircase to  loungers for watching the sky change colors at sunset.

IMG_5829 (1)

IMG_5838

IMG_5839

IMG_5845

IMG_5846

IMG_5841

IMG_5817
Our room had a view of the garden and touches that made it welcoming.

IMG_7890

IMG_5823

IMG_5908

IMG_5914

The night was a little cool for dinner on the rooftop–unusual for June in Morocco–so we were served in the beautiful salon below. We sat down to a refreshing drink before dinner, wine, and a delicious meal prepared that afternoon from local, fresh ingredients.

IMG_5932

IMG_6812
Julien and Francoise unveiled the tagines with traditional French-Moroccan flair. Photo credit: Kate Woods of Moroccobespoke

IMG_5934 (1)
My Aussie friend Kate

The lamb and prune and vegetable tagines were wonderful, as was the fresh mango and cherries that followed. The next morning we enjoyed breakfast in the courtyard. Francoise had made the homemade orange and strawberry jams.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_7948

IMG_5963

Francoise left her career as a nurse and Julien as a concierge on Oléron, an island off the west coast of France where they lived nine years. They fell in love with Marrakesh, as did their daughter, Lila, on holidays in Morocco.  Now fifteen, Lila told her parents when younger that Moroccan adults notice and speak first to children. Loving the attention, she turned down a trip to the beach in Essaouira with them, preferring instead to stay behind with the Moroccan ladies working at the hotel.  She now loves attending school in Marrakesh.

For Francoise, it was a natural move as well. Her parents were French expats who had moved  to Casablanca for her grandfather’s health and there she was born. She’d lived in Morocco until she was nine. The first trip back was with Julien nine years ago when she told him it felt like home. Now hotel owners, the couple rents two rooms of their home to guests, making an intimate experience –one reason John Brunton named Riad Dar Kleta in The Guardian as a Top Ten place to stay in Marrakech.  In Creuse, they still have a family home and visit their four older children and  nine grandchildren living in France.

The couple is following another dream. In addition to tag-teaming as managers of Riad Matham and Riad Dar Kleta, three years ago they  became designers.  Their chic French style and love for Moroccan vintage textiles led to their creating furniture, clothing, and handbags sold in their hip boutique, Bazarkech , located in the shops below medina landmark, Terrasse des épices. Kate and I visited their shop supported by tourists, the community, and fans afar.  They shipped locally made stools upholstered in their fabrics as far as to a restaurant in St. Barts in the Caribbean.

IMG_5953
When I told  Francoise she looks too young to be a grandmother, she shrugged, smiled, and said, “Age does not matter, right?”

IMG_5905
“We love this country. We love the Medina. For us, Marrakesh is the Medina,” says Julien of their new` home.

IMG_5801
Francoise’s hatpin collection

IMG_8019
Bazarkech

IMG_4439

IMG_5639

IMG_5929
Kate, who lives in Marrakesh, too, and Francoise talk local hair dressers.

IMG_5904

IMG_5823

IMG_7890

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was a great stay. I left inspired by new friends–Francoise and Julien who are beautiful examples of embracing new, exciting seasons of life–and their cool cats who know how to relax.

Thank you to Riad Dar Kleta for a peaceful haven. As always, the opinions here are my own.

 

Chef Paulette: Renaissance Woman, Artist, Authority on All- Things- Italian

cookbook-cover-w_bleed

Nine trips to Italy and I’ve just planned the next one.  This year I spent New Year’s Eve in Venice, my birthday in Tuscany (below), and Easter in Rome, but I’m asking Santa for an extended holiday in the land I love.

img_1221

img_0653
The Girls in Tuscany

Thanks to Chef Paulette‘s just-released book,  Italian Cooking Party, this tour will last for years to come with 100 of her recipes, tips on how to stock an Italian kitchen, and secrets to throwing Italian parties anywhere.  Details of how to order her book are here; and if in Nashville, you can purchase copies for the cooks in your life in time for Christmas at Parnassus Books.

Many know Chef Paulette from Channel 4 WSMV’s More at Midday and Today in Nashville (see her making Walnut and Chocolate Biscotti below) and have traveled with her to Italy. Or they’ve seen her perform with Duane in Duette.  Upcoming shows in Music City are January 1, 2017 at Brown’s Diner and January 6 at The Frist Center.  I met Paulette many years ago in one of her cooking classes in her Bellevue home.  As Diana Krall crooned, the chef who had migrated from New York City from the kitchens of Mario Batali and Micol Negrin and learned from cooks in six regions of Italy impressed me with her signature recipes and soulful teaching. I knew we were kindred spirits when she sat with strangers as if family, lingering over the meal the class prepared.  Her home soothed, transporting me to summers spent with Italian friends in Piedmont. Students left warmed by the wine and conversation.

Multiple cooking classes and a friendship later, I’m still drawn, wherever we meet over dinner, to her heaping hospitality  and wisdom cultivated at her parents’ table. She laughs: “I always want to sit at table longer than anyone else. I don’t want to clear the dishes but keep hanging. I grew up in that. Mom would do the dishes but I sat listening to my dad. Dad was a philosopher. I remember crying at his philosophical life stuff.   Coffee and cake would come and we’d still be sitting there.”

Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the  Soul, advises:   “Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with positive, nourishing, and uplifting people–people who believe in you, encourage you to go after your dreams, and applaud your victories.” Paulette is what southerners call “good people.” I asked her once if she ‘s a romantic. She said she takes chances and is generally optimistic–good traits for a time when nothing globally or personally seems certain.

cindy-and-paulette

img_6083

This year the decision to sell our family home of 21 years was one of the hardest of my life. Leaving Morocco was difficult, too, although I wanted to be nearer family.  Last February I had no idea when the house would sell nor where I’d end up working or living.  When I told her my concerns, she wrote: “Isn’t that great? All sounds great — even the leap into you-don’t-know-where back home. Sorry about your house but maybe that was the only way for you to move from it and into this newer part of your life. I’m so glad Morocco was wonderful for you — (how could it not I guess!)…but what a way to evolve and find more of yourself.”  

That’s Paulette Licitra, the consummate Renaissance Woman.  Her story is the Portrait of an Artist who never stops growing, learning and laughing.  A lady who reminds me that challenge brings change… reinvention…and despite growing pains it’s a good thing.

The Brooklyn-born Italian-American wrote novels and plays produced in New York City. When she won the Phoenix Theater’s national playwriting contest, her hip my heart premiered in Indianapolis, receiving nods for its multicultural casting and a “haunting ballad” she wrote.  She also boosted women’s literacy rates in Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco with an Arabic version of The Electric Company while writing and producing for Nickelodeon and Children’s Television Workshop.

By September 2001 Paulette  was on top of the world…literally. Perpetually peaking, she had climbed through a Costa Rican cloud forest on an Earthwatch Expedition to study the mating dance of the long-tailed manakin. Bound for the Northern Cape on a Norwegian cargo ship, she’d crossed the Arctic Circle prowling for Atlantic puffins.  Trusted with national treasures in over twenty states, she had researched and recorded audio scripts and podcasts for land, sea and air: the Sky Tour at the John Hancock Observatory, Royal Caribbean cruises, the New York Botanical Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pearl Harbor, and the CN Tower Observatory in Toronto.  Her expertise earned her the job of writing the audio script for a tour atop Tower Two of the World Trade Center, what would be “the tallest rooftop terrace on the planet.” In her New York Times piece, “The Tour That Never Was,” she later lamented: “I spent a few weeks haunting the observation deck, looking out the windows, spacing out the tour stops and figuring out how to direct a visitor’s gaze… (they) were setting up the kiosks that would hold the headsets when the attacks came.”

After the tragedy of 9/11, tourism tanked so Paulette Licitra decided in her 50s to become a chef and worked in New York kitchens alongside Mario Batali, Micol Negrin, and with cooks from six regions of Italy. Re-charting her professional course, she became Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning Alimentum and moved to Nashville.   She also reunited with a high school friend. After graduation they had gone to Woodstock together as purely platonic buddies. After years of living separate lives, they met again and something shifted.  The intensity of this Duette is clear on and off stage. She showed me once the prophetic photos used by Joel Makower in his Woodstock: The Oral History of the soulmates’ teen faces peering at the camera from the crowd.

Juliette Child said, “Life is the proper binge.”  A journalist, novelist, playwright and painter…chef, singer, tour guide and candlestick maker….  Paulette inspires me.  I asked her about the courage it took to live the life of an artist–something I’ve always longed to do.  To have the freedom to focus on creative projects–to make one’s own schedule–to give your first love first place until it’s time to return to an old love or try something new.  She said:

“I was ALWAYS attracted to the road less traveled. The idea of a suburban life in a house with a husband and 2.5 children made me squirm a little. Somehow I think I was always afraid that my brain and spirit would be lulled to sleep and all my creativity would be silenced. Probably not true, but the idea pushed me in another direction.

From a little girl I wanted to be a dancer. In high school I wanted to an actor. In college I wanted to be a writer. All the things I’ve wanted to do—the things that compelled me forward– were always endeavours that didn’t make money unless you were a star and involved a big population that was trying to do the same. I really think an artistic life is like a calling. It comes from inside. You can try to ignore it but it is very insistent. And if you leave yourself open to listening and following its call then you’re always off the beaten path. Some people have to ignore it because of commitments. There’s a great book about women who have had to do this: Tillie Olsen’s Silences. I was always so afraid of being silenced, of not getting my visions made into something out there…and still…I feel like I really haven’t done it yet! SO many stories and ideas still jam my head constantly.”

She said career highlights were interviewing survivors for the Holocaust Museum tour in Houston. There was also the day Israeli and Jordanian producers were in the NY studios together. Paulette smiled and said, “It was fine. I remember thinking, ‘You see. It doesn’t have to be the way it is. Everyone is into creating great stuff for kids.'” She recalls making a video for choreographer Loretta Thomas: “We shot on the streets of NY for 24 hours straight. At 3 AM Martin Scorsese pulled up to his apartment in a limo in Tribeca. We made eye contact and he smiled!”

Christmas is a great time to thank those who call us to taste la dolce vita.  The new year is a great time to host others at our table and celebrate the good together.   Her book offers more than amazing Italian cuisine.  It offers soul food meant to be shared.

*Chef Paulette’s winter cooking classes are sold out.  However, you can buy friends gift certificates or contact her for information for the spring classes starting in March here.

Chef Paulette on Channel 4 making her Walnut Chocolate Biscotti