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Ariel Emrani

What’s in a Name?

Our names are part of what defines us. A name can reveal your country of origin, a favorite flower, a family name passed down through the generations, or created anew. Some people love their names; others despise them, change them, and choose a new one. A lot of weight can be associated with a name.

The name Ariel comes from ancient times, even mentioned in Bible prophecies. Shakespeare named a prankish (male) spirit Ariel in “The Tempest,” and much later, Disney chose Ariel as the name for the main character in “The Little Mermaid,” with the name peaking in popularity in 1991.

In The Tempest, the spirit Ariel displays only positive characteristics, is very empathetic, which works perfectly to reveal the lack of empathy of the other characters in the play. In The Little Mermaid, Ariel’s deepest desire is to explore the human world and experience freedom. Empathy and a quest for freedom – what could be a better concept in a name!

The Study of Names

Research into names is a science called onomatology. This science covers names for both people and places. Behind every name is a story. When choosing a name for a child, a dog, a cat, a band, or a company, selecting a name could take days, weeks, or longer, as a name is not a minor issue. In fact, the UN has enshrined the right to a name in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in this phrase: 

“The child shall … have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.”

It makes sense! Your name can be a big deal. My dog Frankie has a name that suits a French Bulldog – In the early Middle Ages, the Franks controlled the area that is now France, and is the origin of the country’s name. It’s also a cute name for a sweet little dog.

State and City Names

The origin of the state name Oregon is in contention but is believed by many historians to be connected to the Algonquian word “wauregan” which means “the beautiful,” which Oregon certainly is, with its mountain ranges, rushing rivers, and rugged coastline. The city name “Portland” is just one of thirty Portlands in the USA, the best known being Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon. In Portland Oregon, the name was chosen by the flip of a coin when it was first laid out. It was named after Portland, Maine, but had the coin landed on the other side, the city would have been named Boston!

The name “America” goes back to the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who had the revolutionary idea that Christopher Columbus had landed on a separate continent. An early map from 1507 was the first time the continent was first named “America,” which is a Latin version of the name “Amerigo.”

Naming is a unique part of the human experience, and names travel through time, telling stories about who we are, where we come from, and reflect the hopes and dreams of our parents.

Ariel Emrani

My Frenchie, Frankie – Small Body, Big Personality

Frankie, my French bulldog, is small in stature, but he has a bigger-than-life personality. French bulldogs are known for being friendly and are bred to be companion dogs. Frankie is one of my best friends. He has a playful personality and loves to cuddle with me during one of his many naps of the day. 

French bulldogs are known for having deep devotion to their owners, and Frankie is no exception – his entire body goes into convulsions of joy whenever I come in the door. These dogs are also known for making weird noises, including snoring, farting, wheezing, and snorting, not all of which are endearing, so I watch his diet closely! 

French bulldogs have sensitive digestive systems, as the flattened face of the breed causes them to swallow air as they gobble down food. Just like humans, Frenchies can be lactose intolerant and shouldn’t eat dairy, fermentable foods, spicy foods, or many carbohydrates, no matter how much they want a taste! These dogs (like most dogs) almost inhale their food, swallowing it in gulps, and slowing it down can keep their tummies happier. 

Frankie is very energetic, and just like all animals, he needs exercise to maintain his trim figure. As he is a little guy with short legs, walks are not long, but he enjoys every second of his outdoor time, sniffing, walking, stopping, and meeting other dogs and the friends he makes in the neighborhood. As long as Frankie is treated like a prince, eats a strict diet, and is given love in abundance, he is happy, energetic, and always affectionate. 

What is a “Brachycephalic Breed?”

Bulldogs, and French bulldogs specifically, are called a brachycephalic breed – which means “short-headed.” The cute, flat skull shape is believed to have begun with a genetic mutation, which people found adorable. The cute, puppy-like face has been rigorously bred into French Bulldogs over the years. 

The History of Dog Breeding

Dogs have served humankind forever, alerting settlements to intruders, catching, and eating rats and other vermin, and providing warmth and comfort during the winter months. It is believed that dogs were originally bred to have the loudest bark to alert their owners of invaders. Dog breeding, as is done today, started in the 19th century. The original categories were just three: hunting dog, herding dog, and lap dog. Breeding was later expanded into bloodlines and specific breeds. There are now more than 400 recognized breeds of dogs exhibited at dog shows and a range of other dog-related events. Every breed exhibits significant differences in personality and is unique in intelligence. Frankie is a genuine original, smart, friendly, and funny.

For Frankie, it’s all about Games.

Frankie, like other French bulldogs, loves a good game. A tug-of-war with a toy, a game of fetch, or hide-and-seek – he’s always ready to give it his all when it is time to play a game. We have a real relationship – I keep him happy, and he keeps me happy, the perfect friendship! 

Japan

Everything about Japan is fascinating. A visit to the country is among the best travel experiences, as the people are gracious, warm, and polite, and the cities safe and clean. 

Japanese Food

Japanese food has been an influence on chefs across the globe. It is prepared with techniques developed over centuries, the standard diet is so healthy that the Japanese have the longest life expectancy of any country. The cuisine is loaded with fresh vegetables, generally eaten in season. Even in the smallest café, the care with which the flavor profiles are created makes a simple meal a delicious experience. 

Tokyo restaurants are legendary, with 227 achieving Michelin stars – more than any other city on the planet. Acclaimed Japanese chefs create a blend of flavors, textures, and aromas created from the freshest, most flavorful seasonal ingredients. 

A Very Brief History 

The Islands that make up Japan are believed to have first been settled about 35,000 years ago. The first known inhabitants were the Joman, hunter-gatherers. They wore fur, built wooden homes, and created elaborate clay vessels. The second wave of settlers was the Yayoi, who brought metal-working, rice, and weaving to the region. The Kofun then arrived, establishing a network of aristocratic warlords. Buddhism and the Chinese writing system then entered the culture, splitting the population into two major clans, one Buddhist and practicing calligraphy, with the agricultural village people practicing Shintoism. Both religions still flourish in Japan, along with many others.

Next came the Heian era, from 794 to 1194, with the imperial court, a time in which incredible works of art were created. The Samurai lords ruled the area in 1185, holding power in Japan until 1868. One emperor attempted to overthrow the shoguns in 1331, causing a civil war between the northern and southern courts, with the conflict rampaging for decades. In 1868, the power of the shoguns ended, and a constitutional monarchy was established. Emperor Hirohito was at the head of the country during WWII, with the government eventually surrendering, and over the decades, being reborn as the technological giant of today.

The Shinto Way of Life

Ancient Shinto religious customs are ingrained through every aspect of the Japanese lifestyle. It involves worshiping “kami,” the divine power in all things, including trees, flowers, and animals. The religion has no known founder, no sacred books, and is more of a way of life. Shinto festivals and visiting shrines in the New Year is a national event in the country. Human beings are seen as basically good, and any person who practices Shintoism can be a member of any other religion as well. 

Architecture: Japanese Temples

Japanese architecture is rooted in respect for the natural world, and typically involves elevated wooden structures with thatched or tile roofs. Buddhist temples are found in almost every city, with large cities having several hundred, some of which are over 1,000 years old. The Kinkakuji temple was built in 1397, first serving as the home of a shogun, and is completely covered in gold leaf, surrounded by gardens. The Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo was created to honor the goddess of mercy. The Todai-ji temple is still the largest wooden building on the planet, with a massive statue of Buddha within.

Visiting Japan is always an adventure, with super-modern, clean cities, ancient temples, and incomparable food. The best part of the country is the warmth and generosity of the people, who go out of their way to be respectful and helpful to visitors.

Comfort Food

Every culture has its comfort foods. In the USA, our comfort foods vary from region to region. If you live in Los Angeles, a cheeseburger may top your list, or you want macaroni and cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich with some hot soup, or chicken and waffles. In New York, a slice of cheese pizza, bagel with cream cheese, lox, and onion, or your mother’s chicken soup – everyone has their personal favorites. South, north, east, and west – every state and country has unique flavors. 

It can be fun to try the comfort food of other countries when you travel – here are a few dishes people turn to in some of my favorite countries:

French Comfort Food

The French are world-renown for creating delicious dishes, and their comfort food is no exception. 

  • Cassoulet: While a cassoulet has white beans as the main ingredient, the French method of combining the flavors of sausage, pork, duck fat, garlic, onion, and duck confit takes this dish over the top.
  • Croque Monsieur: The French version of a toasted ham and cheese, this sandwich goes above and beyond the USA version. The sandwich is made with Béchamel sauce, ham, cheese, and Dijon mustard and then grilled until the cheese oozes out from the crust. Super delicious.
  • Gratin Dauphinois: Imagine scalloped potatoes, but simmered – twice – in rich cream, and then cooked with gruyere cheese until the dish is soft, rich, creamy, and comforting.

Swiss Comfort Food

  • Cheese fondue: Dipping cubes of bread into a silky cheese sauce is a common way the Swiss, and visitors to the country enjoy creamy Swiss Gruyere cheese.
  • Raclette: A traditional Swiss raclette is made with a cheese of raw milk of cows that have grazed in the mountains of Switzerland. “Raclette” means “to scrape.” The cheese was melted (in the past on fire, but now on a special heating plate). As the cheese melts, it is scraped off the cheese wheel and eaten, a restoring treat after a day on the slopes.
  • Rosti: A potato pie, crusty on the outside, soft and savory on the inside – the Swiss Rosti can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, with added cheese, apples, onions, or whatever your heart desires.
  • Landjager: A semi-dry Swiss sausage made of beef, port, lard,  sugar, red wine, and spices. The sausage can be stuffed in a backpack before a hike or cooked with potatoes, onions, and fresh greens.

Italian Comfort Food

  • Gnocchi: Gnocchi is an irresistible Italian comfort food, with light, airy potato dumplings simmered in a sauce. These little ovals were once a peasant staple, but are now served in the finest restaurants, and one of the most famous Italian comfort foods.
  • Pizza: We all love it, but the Italians do it best. Rather than the American versions, which are heavy on the tomato sauce, Italian pizza is more like a crispy, cracker-like flatbread, typically with just one or two toppings, rather than loaded with multiple ingredients as people like it in the USA.
  • Risotto: Endlessly open to creativity, risotto can be the perfect comfort food to warm your heart and your body. The word “risotto” comes from the Italian word for rice (riso). The Italians cook it with a special technique, adding broth while stirring throughout cooking to create a creamy (never runny) dish, enhanced with mushrooms, seafood, or any other ingredient.

There is nothing more comforting on a cold, rainy, or snowy winter day than comfort food to warm the body and bring back the flavors of home and youth.

Egypt, Where History Lives

Egypt was once the home of a large and complex civilization, an advanced culture, flourishing from 6000 BC to 30 BC. The accomplishments of the culture are evident in the pyramids, incredible feats of engineering, along with a vast number of other advances, including the development of paper, the use of the lever and geometry in construction, modern irrigation techniques, and advances in shipbuilding and medicine. 

The Egyptian civilization endured for over three thousand years, but through a series of events, it slowly fell apart, with only the remnants left for modern archeologists and researchers to decipher. It is believed that a combination of changes in climate leading to crop failures, foreign invasions, epidemics, and the growing power of the nobility and the priesthood affecting the influence of the Pharaohs led to constant wars and power struggles, and finally, the end of one of the world’s greatest civilizations. 

While the power of the Egyptian Pharaohs faded into obscurity, the majority of the population were regular people, concerned with the issues that concern us today – caring for and feeding our families. The Egyptians of long ago ate many of the same dishes you can try in the finest restaurants or from the many, many street vendors.

Egyptian Traditional Dishes

Koshari is a combination of rice, noodles, lentils, garlic, garbanzo beans, and onions, and one of the most popular street foods in Egypt. 

Ta’miya is the most well-known Egyptian fast food, what we call falafel. These tasty, deep-fried fritters, in Egypt, are made of dried fava beans (rather than chickpeas) and spices, and served with tahini (sesame paste sauce), and typically enjoyed stuffed in a pita with fresh veggies.

Hawawshi is the Egyptian take on a hot beef sandwich – but so much more delicious. Ground beef, onions, peppers, and parsley, spiced with cumin, paprika, and chili are baked into a pita or wrapped in bread dough and baked, and served with cooling yogurt sauce.

Kabab and Kofta are popular dishes of veal or lamb, served with a tahini dip, green salad, rice, or rolled in a pita and topped with tahini. The skewers of meat, whether in chunks (kabab) or ground meat (kofta) are grilled over hot charcoal for a juicy bite.

Molokhiya is a delicious and healthy vegetable dish made from the leaves of green Molokhiya leaves, or “jute mallow.”  The mint-shaped leaves are minced into tiny bits, simmered in chicken broth, seasoned with coriander and garlic, with the flavor profile enhanced with ghee, a dash of sugar and a bit of tomato paste to add some tartness. This dish can be eaten with rice, as a soup, or scooped up with pita bread. Some people find it slimy, but once you become familiar with the texture, you can’t turn it down.

Baba Ghanoush is an eggplant dip that originated in Lebanon and is also a staple in Egypt. Roasted eggplant is combined with olive oil, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt. This creamy, tasty side dish is often served as an appetizer or served alongside a main dish.

Ful is an everyday breakfast meal, made from fava beans cooked with oil and salt, served with eggs, cheese, pita bread, or Ta’meya. 

Mahshi is a vegetarian dish that every cook customizes to their own taste. It is essentially the vegetable you choose, such as zucchini, eggplant, peppers, cabbage, or grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, parsley, cilantro, dill, tomato sauce, and a dash of cinnamon. Non-vegetarians often add ground meat to the filling mixture.

Traveling to Egypt is an unforgettable experience, with incredible historical sites, museums, luxurious modern resorts, and traditional hotels with a more authentic experience – you’ll find it all, and once you have visited, you will want to return again and again.

 

Winter Celebrations Around the World

The winter season is celebrated in every culture. The dark winter days give us time to relax, stay warm, and spend time with friends and family. We are familiar with many winter celebration traditions, and others are just a little more unique. 

Hanukkah

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah honors a victory over King Antiochus, who persecuted Jews, leading to the Maccabean Revolt in 167–160 BC. The revolt was an uprising against foreign oppression that freed the Jewish people to practice their religion without fear of reprisals. For eight nights, the menorah is lit, candle by candle, with special prayers are recited. Games, songs, and gifts are all part of Hanukkah, and special foods eaten, such as latkes (potato pancakes), brisket, kugel, and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), marking a joyous celebration.

Yalda 

The winter festival of Yalda is celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. It falls on the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, with family gatherings, traditional foods, poetry, songs, and laughter. Persians arrange a platter with pomegranates, watermelons, persimmons, dried fruit, and nuts. Persimmons are not the most common fruit in the USA, but a ripe persimmon is a luscious, sweet treat. Another hard-to-find fruit eaten by Persians during Yalda, the medlar, may appear unappetizing to the American eye, but has a unique sweet flavor. Rosewater infused, starchy candy called “baslogh” flavored with cardamom and saffron, and topped with pistachios, almonds, and rose petals are created specifically for the special night. 

Up Helly Aa

A Scottish festival celebrated in the Shetland Islands, Up Helly Aa is a major holiday in the city of Lerwick, the main city. Called the “fire festival,” the festival has traditions harkening back to the Viking conquerors in the 8th and 9th centuries. Attendees come in the thousands to the event dressed in skins, furs, horned helmets, and armed with ancient weapons. A procession of more than thousand men led by the Viking Jarls Squad, led by the “Guizer Jarl” (“guizer” means a person in disguise in the Scots language) march around Lerwick with flaming torches  The festival culminates with the burning of a mockup of a Viking ship, and the celebration typically continues until the wee hours, with the people drinking and dancing until sunrise.

Harbin Ice Festival

Harbin is a city in northern China, the location of a two-month-long event with thousands of ice sculptures, with meticulously carved palaces, figures, and pyramids, illuminated by LED lights. Many of the creations include ice slides, which you can slide down at will, making it easier to move from display to display. Foods associated with the event include dumplings, sweet and sour pork, and Dis An Xian, a rustic stir-fried dish of potato, eggplant, and green pepper, flash fired in a wok to create a crust on the veggies, covered with a flavorful sauce of garlic, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and a dash of sugar.

Quebec Winter Carnival

This popular Canadian 10-day Winter Carnival is in historic Quebec City. Also called the “Bonhomme Festival,” referring to the mascot, a snowman. The city keys are handed to the snowman by the mayor, entrusting him to manage Quebec during the festival. Over a million people visit the celebration each year, making it the largest winter festival in the world. It is typically very cold during the festival, which doesn’t stop anyone from visiting, with night parades, dog sledding, masquerades, ice slides, and parties throughout the event. Some of the flavors of Quebec include maple taffy, a “beavertail,” which is a hot fried dough topped with sugar, hazelnut spread, and other additions, and mulled wine consumed hot or cold.

Some History About Christmas in America

Christmas is the most celebrated winter holiday in the west. When New England was first settled by Europeans, celebrating Christmas was in contention. The Puritans banned any celebration and imposed fines on any person who refused to work on Christmas day, or who were caught feasting or celebrating in any way – also banning Easter and other holidays, but the people prevailed, with caroling, feasting, plays, hunts, balls, and decorating homes with evergreen and holly continued, and the Puritan way of life fell out of favor, with Christmas becoming a national holiday in 1870. 

Winter, spring, summer or fall there really can never be too many celebrations!

Growing Roses – They are Like Children

Roses come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, but whatever variety you want to grow, the condition of the soil is critical to the health of the plant. Roses are like pets – they need to be loved, fed, and cared for. If you love roses, like I do, you may need to learn the secrets for growing a healthy plant.

Preparing the Soil

Roses don’t like an overly acidic or alkaline soil and are fussy to grow. Every garden soil has a pH, which can be checked with a pH testing meter. For overly acidic soil, adding lime is the most common solution. Use finely ground agricultural limestone, as integrates into the soil faster. If your garden soil has clay, it probably will need lime added for a growing environment where roses can flourish.

Soil pH

If your soil is too alkaline, the addition of sulfur, acidifying nitrogen, or organic mulch can do the trick. These soil additives can be found in any local gardening center, or online. Sphagnum peat is another alternative, but keep in mind that it takes thousands of years for it to form, and there are limited areas where can be found and harvested, and for ecological reasons, you may choose compost as an alternative. 

The basic soil mixture ideal for roses is a third clay, a third sand, and a third decomposed organic matter, such as a high quality compost mix, or your own compost made from food scraps, grass clippings, eggshells, leaves, or other organic material.

Once your rose is planted, keep an eye on it, and if you see any changes in the appearance of the leaves or blooms, it could be that the pH has gone out-of-balance. Treat roses like children and fertilize them at least three times during the growing season with high quality fertilizer or compost. 

Rainy Day Roses

If you live in a rainy environment, the constant water leaches the nutrients out of the soil and can trigger fungus growth. When choosing your roses, make sure you select a rain-tolerant variety. Most roses are sun-lovers, so selecting the best varieties for your area is a big deal.

One odd thing about roses is that they won’t grow well in areas where a former rose was planted. Called “rose replant disease,” the problem is not fully understood. If you are replanting an area that had roses before, dig out all the soil and replace it, rather than planting in the same soil. You can also buy special soil additives to avoid the problem.

Pruning

Your roses will need to be pruned every year in the early spring. Remove dead branches and leaves. If you are unsure how to prune a rose bush, a YouTube video or book with diagrams can show you how. Generally, you are cutting back the old wood about 30 to 40 percent. When the rose is in bloom, the dead blooms should be removed. You can snap them off or use pruning shears to reshape the bush at the same time. 

Roses require a lot of care, but growing a rose garden is fun, rewarding, and once your roses are in bloom, you can enjoy them outside, or cut fragrant blooms for a fresh and beautiful table arrangement. 

Ariel Emrani

A Sleepy Day with Frankie

Some people think French bulldogs are lazy – that’s not quite true. Frankie enjoys his sleep and spends many hours each day day napping or deep in sleep. French bulldogs need a lot of rest, and typically sleep for about for about 60 percent of each day. 

The funny part is that when the nap is over, Frankie is full-on ready to respond to a knock on the door, or just to madly run around in circles in the house or yard, back and forth through the house with crazy bursts of energy – a trait called FRAPs, for “frenetic random activity periods,” or “the zoomies.” 

After a restful nap, Frankie is ready for a snack. He wants to eat everything, but needs to be monitored, as he has a sensitive stomach, and I need to watch his weight, so he stays healthy and fit for as long as possible. He’ll overeat if I let him, so I keep him on a strict, healthy dog diet. 

The Frenchie – The Journey from Brothels to the Laps of Royals

The French Bulldog breed is an offshoot of the English Toy Bulldog. During the Industrial Revolution, thousands of lace workers lost their jobs as lacemaking machines took over. These talented lacemakers chose to cross the English Channel and settle in Normandy, where their skills were still valued, carrying their English Toy Bulldogs along with them. 

From there, it is believed that the English Toy Bulldog was bred with the terrier, leading to those distinctive bat-like ears, and the name “French Bulldog.”

Le Belle Epoque and the Frenchie: Rags to Riches

In the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris during the “Belle Epoque,” when optimism, prosperity, when post-impressionist art flourished, the brothel scene was in full swing. Works of art depicted Parisian café and street life. The frivolity and gaiety of the era meant brothels were busy places, and the French bulldog became the signature pup accompanying the “women of the night” Adorable French Bulldogs began appearing in works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who painted a Frenchie called “Bouboule” (loosely translated to “tubby”).

As these little dogs gained in popularity, they began appearing on the laps of European royals, from the Romanovs to King Edward VIII, photographed with his Frenchie, Peter. The fad was soon picked up by Americans – and the love of the Frenchie in our country continues to this day. The world’s first “French Bulldog Club” was established in the USA, and the bat ears standardized as a breed feature. 

Frankie is a smart dog, but obedience may not be his strongest point. He is a sensitive creature who shows his emotions and loves to cuddle up as often as possible. He’s loyal, funny, and always ready for an adventure, whether tearing around the yard madly, or a stately walk through the neighborhood, with his royal roots on full display. 

Exercise…. Love it or Hate it

Exercise is easy when it just happens, such as when you are hiking a glorious mountain trail, walking through the park, dancing, or swimming. More focused traditional exercise, performed indoors, is a little more challenging. Thankfully, the more you do it, the easier it gets, and the more you can enjoy the process. 

Yoga

Yoga is great for flexibility, core strength, muscle tone, balance, and improving your overall energy. The exercises can be traced back to India more than 5,000 years ago. With varying beliefs about the origin of the practice, there is no question that yoga is good for the body! The discipline of moving through the series of poses stretches all the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, enhances overall core strength, and as a side benefit, gives you a better night’s sleep.

Pilates

Pilates is named after its inventor, Joseph Pilates. Mr. Pilates was born in Germany and then moved to Britain. In WWI, he was interned by the British, as an “enemy alien.” His internment was the beginning of the development of the Pilates techniques. He was serving as a nurse and began attaching springs to hospital beds to help his patients restore muscle strength and tone when they were restricted to a bed. The very first version of the reformer was a sliding bed. 

When the war came to an end, Mr. Pilates worked with movement pioneers such as Rudolph Laban, known for developing the dance notation used in choreography. The Pilates reformer was born, which he called “the apparatus.” He opened his first studio in America in 1923, which soon became popular with the well-known dancers of the time, including Martha Graham and George Balanchine, followed by hordes of others. Originally, Pilates was called “Contrology.” It builds long, lean muscles rather than bulk – the ideal exercise for dancers – and ideal for anyone who wants strength without bulky muscles. 

Barre

Another favorite exercise is Barre – a combination of ballet, yoga, and Pilates. A low impact technique, it strengthens the body, increases physical agility, flexibility, and is a muscle endurance style workout. Small motions work to sculpt and strengthen various body areas, including arms, butt, legs, and core. Every Barre studio is slightly different, but you can trust that by the end of the workout, you feel it. 

A Long Walk

Walking is an ideal exercise as it gets you out of doors to enjoy the sights of your local neighborhood, a park, along a river path, or wherever you choose. Depending on where you live, at some times of year it could be too hot, too cold, raining, or snowing. When the conditions are right, strolling around the local neighborhood to walk the dog is low impact, doesn’t cost anything, and no equipment required. You can take it to the next level with a power walk, swinging your arms and moving at a faster pace, or walking with wrist and ankle weights. One person who loves a walk is Frankie, my French bulldog.

Living Like a Local

When visiting another country, it can be tempting try to see it all in one trip – an exhausting way to travel. Rushing from place to place to try to experience a new culture, taste the food, enjoy the art, and see every architectural wonder can cause you to miss out on the real experience. 

Rather than planning this kind of trip, it can be so much more fun to give yourself time to relax, sit back, watch the world go by from a sidewalk café, wander an outdoor market, window shop, and discover something unexpected all on your own. It is incredible what you can find when you are away from the throngs of tourists flooding areas with their cameras and phones. 

Waking up in a new city with a walk to discover your new favorite coffee bar is a great start to an adventure. Take the time to sit down, watch and listen to the locals and absorb the local customs. Some cultures are openly friendly, and others more reserved. In Denmark, you may need several days of buying your morning coffee before you rate a welcoming smile, but in Italy, you are a friend within seconds. 

Once you have enjoyed your morning tea or coffee, meandering through the local can lead to the discovery of unique local shops on the side streets and less-traveled boulevards. I love to relax, wander, and immerse myself in the local culture. Stopping for lunch in an unknown café, where the locals meet can be memorable, whether visiting Italy, France, England, Switzerland, or the other countries on my list of favorites. 

When in Rome…

The old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is good advice – but did you know that this saying goes back a long, long way? Its origins can be traced to the 4th century AD, attributed to Saint Ambrose, who gave his friend Saint Augustine some good advice. 

Saint Augustine had taken a new job in Milan and his new church had some big differences from his former church in Rome. The meaning of the saying, is of course, when visiting another country, being aware of the customs of the area is wise, and means adapting your actions, appearance, and demeanor to the culture, rather than standing out as an obvious outsider. 

English? Maybe, Maybe Not.

Although many countries teach English, with lots of locals speaking the language a little, we have the advantage of smart phones that can translate for us. The locals appreciate efforts to speak their language (although they may smile or even laugh at how we pronounce it). I like to do my best to try to speak the language as much as possible. 

The Tourists Other Cultures Love

Many countries depend on tourism for the population to prosper. The people of the country work at many jobs that serve the tourism industry, including hotels, restaurants, bars, guides, car rentals, and the list goes on. When visiting another country, supporting the local economy helps the people of the area survive. No matter what rumors you may hear about American tourists, you will be welcomed if you are respectful, do your best to use the language however you can, and show respect the local customs – and they are easy to find online. A little study ahead of time can inform you of the do’s and don’ts, which are well worth knowing – after all, we have cultural rules in our country too!