This week as the US celebrates July 4th, I'm featuring a guest author, Kevin Vo of Premier Wellness Travel. Rich and I are observing the holiday at home; we have been using our grill - a lot - and today are going to be grilling ribs with a side of scalloped potatoes from Kent Rollins' new cookbook. We miss being able to see our family and friends, and look forward to when it's safe to get together and greet each other with a hug.
Happy 4th of July to you all,
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WHAT TO WATCH FOR THE FOURTH OF JULY (FROM THE SAFETY OF YOUR HOME) - by Kevin Vo, Premier Wellness Travel
As a college student who spent 7 months of his junior year studying abroad in Spain, staying home quarantined was never part of my planned “study abroad experience.” I went from weekends backpacking across Europe and northern Africa to remaining indoors for the past three and a half months now. My soul is consumed by fleeting wanderlust, aiming to escape and vicariously experience the world via the internet.
But interning with Premier Wellness Travel is almost like a safe haven, where I get to pursue my passion for the travel industry from the comfort of my own home until the world has healed and is ready to welcome travelers once more.
In the meantime, as we approach the Fourth of July weekend, I urge you to make the most of your holiday, even if you find yourself without the physical presence of your loved ones.
As we are all travelers, there is no doubt that learning the histories of our destinations is near the top of our travel checklist. One suggestion for spending this patriotic holiday weekend is to simultaneously entertain and educate yourself on American history! You might learn a new thing or two―like the spy ring run by George Washington or the Black loyalists who liberated themselves in Canada (and as a history major, I admit I did not know about these myself!).
Without further ado, I present to you a list of recommended movies and series, so that you too can escape and vicariously experience the world in which we live. And I'd like to take a moment to recognize those essential employees across so many fields who can't stay home - THANK YOU!
1 | 1776 (1972)
Like Hamilton, 1776 was originally a Broadway play. The musical captures in song the debates and wrangling of the Continental Congress, which culminated in the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence. A few fun disputes exist behind the scenes. John Adams is depicted as a curmudgeon (who takes breaks from the arguing to chat with his wife Abigail) but biographer David McCollough has pointed out out that in fact Adams’ colleagues in the Congress widely respected him. Then one song, Cool, Cool, Considerate Men, portrays conservatives of that era as power-hungry schemers who only care about holding onto their wealth, and Nixon objected. So the film’s producer Jack Warner had the song edited out over the objections of the director Peter Hunt. Decades later, the song was restored. Many of the lyrics are pulled directly from the letters and memoirs of those involved, so this film will give you a good sense of how the 4th of July came to be.
Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes for $3.99 (Director’s cut)
2 | The Book of Negroes (2015)
Based on the 2007 award-winning novel by Lawrence Hill, this 6-episode miniseries tells the story of Aminata Diallo (Aunjanue Ellis), a black woman involved in the politics of her time via the eponymous Book of Negroes, a document recording the identities of liberated Black Loyalists. Against the backdrop of the American Revolutionary War, Diallo deals with topics such as love, loss, and hardship while simultaneously having to come to terms with the realities of her situation. Depicted as a biographical narrative of her life, Diallo encounters characters who contribute to pivotal moments in her life: there’s her love interest Chekura (Lyriq Bent) and the sympathetic indigo inspector Solomon Lindo (Allan Hawco). Although a fictional narrative, the miniseries does weave in historical figures like American restaurateur Samuel Fraunces (Cuba Gooding Jr.). The compelling story carefully portrays the events and consequences of the American Revolution from a female and black perspective, empowering the voices of historically underrepresented groups.
Available on Amazon Prime, Google Play and iTunes for $13.99
3 | Glory (1989)
This film is not set during the time of our nation’s founding, but during the Civil War, and tells the story of the Union Army’s second African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. Starring Matthew Broderick as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the regiment's commanding officer, and Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, and Morgan Freeman as fictional members of the 54th, the film covers the period from the formation of the regiment through to their heroics at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner. Along the way there are unlawful orders, blackmail, peril and a crazy charge on a beach. Their courage caused the United States Army to accept thousands of black men for combat, whom Lincoln credited with helping turn the course of the war. It’s a riveting story.
Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes for $3.99
4 | Hamilton (2020)
Premiering digitally on Disney+ is the live recording of the critically-acclaimed musical Hamilton. First appearing on Broadway in 2015, this musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda tells the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (Miranda) in two acts and how his life was influenced by the people around him. The show’s music draws heavily from hip-hop, R&B, pop, soul, and traditional-style show tunes, and features a diverse cast of non-white actors portraying the Founding Fathers and other historical figures. The musical has been characterized as “America then, as told by America now” due to its use of modern storytelling methods. In other words, it’s an accessible account of our nation’s rich history that engages with today’s young generation. The film version of this musical is an edited compilation of three performances in June 2016 with the original Broadway cast members, and is set to premiere on July 3, 2020 at the outset of the Fourth of July weekend.
Available on Disney+
5 | Independence Day (1996)
It’s hard to believe that this film is 24 years old. It’s essentially a disaster film with an ensemble cast along the lines of Towering Inferno and Earthquake. Starring Will Smith, Randy Quaid, Bill Pullman, Vivica Fox, Jeff Goldblum, Harry Connick Jr. (I didn’t remember that!) and Judd Hirsch. UFOs arrive on July 2 and sit over 36 major cities around the world. They cause anxiety and confusion and panic before the unknown extraterrestrial race attacks, killing millions. The world has to unite. The thrilling action that follows includes a psychic attack, some Morse code, a helicopter crash, a dash through a tunnel by the gorgeous Fox, and a St. Crispan’s Day-like speech by Pullman who plays the US President. A satellite engineer and technological expert (Goldblum) figures out that to liberate earth from this otherworldly threat something has to be done about the aliens’ force fields, and it’s all riveting good fun because Will Smith is involved. A sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, was released in the summer of 2016.
Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes for $3.99
6 | Jaws (1975)
An early film of Steven Spielberg’s, this thriller takes place over the 4th of July weekend off the coast of Long Island (though the movie was filmed at Martha’s Vineyard). A human-eating great white shark starts attacking, killing and eating swimmers, so the police chief (Roy Scheider), a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter (Robert Shaw) decide to find the predator to kill it, and a suspenseful cat and mouse (or man and shark) chase is on. Unsatisfied with the simulations of a shark by the art department, Speilberg decided to keep the shark mostly out of sight and to use the score to create suspense in a way that evoked Hitchcock. John Williams’ famous score can be recognized in just two notes. Also known for the understated line “You're gonna need a bigger boat,” this film essentially created the genre of the summer blockbuster. The Library of Congress named the film as culturally significant in 2001, ensuring its preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Available on Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBOMax
7 | John Adams (2008)
Chronicling the life of our nation’s second president is the eponymous 7-episode miniseries John Adams, based on the 2001 biography by historian David McCullough. Featuring actor Paul Giamatti in the title role, this biopic tells the story of the first 50 years of the United States through the lens of Adams and other historically-significant figures including his wife, Abigail Adams (Laura Linney), fellow Founding Fathers George Washington (David Morse) and Thomas Jefferson (Stephen Dillane.) What makes this series even more interesting, in my opinion, is the scenes set in foreign countries like the then-Dutch Republic, France, and England, highlighting the role international politics played in a new nation. A visually-appealing series with a diverse array of sets and storylines, John Adams is a miniseries that will not disappoint.
Available on HBOMax
8 | National Treasure (2004)
This action-adventure film offers a more fun, quick-paced approach to storytelling which integrates historical elements and secret societies into an epic heist escapade. Nicholas Cage stars as treasure hunter and cryptologist Benjamin Franklin Gates who, with the help of Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) and Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), races against rivals to decode the mystery surrounding a fabled “national treasure” that has involved groups ranging from the Knights Templar and Freemasons to our nation’s own Founding Fathers. If you’re a fan of mystery thrillers like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, you will enjoy the fun rhythm of this Disney film. The film inspired a sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007), that also features this ensemble cast, while a third film in the series is currently under development.
Available on Disney+
9 | Turn: Washington’s Spies (2014-2017)
An adaptation of the book by historian Alexander Rose, Turn: Washington’s Spies is a period drama television series with 4 seasons and 40 episodes, filled with clandestine operations and political intrigue. The storyline is based on the accounts of the real-life Culper Ring, an American Revolution-era spy ring founded by then-General George Washington (Ian Kahn) and directed under the leadership of members Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell) and Robert Townsend (Nick Westrate). The spies of the Culper Ring are involved in a series of espionage activities during the years 1776 to 1781 in order to help turn the tide of the revolution in favor of the patriots. Equally parts exciting and historically accurate, Turn: Washington’s Spies may well become your next Netflix binge.
Available on Netflix
10 | Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
This film, released during World War II, won 4 Academy Awards and, like Jaws, is listed in the National Film Registry. Told in flashback, the movie is the biography of George M. Cohen, a Broadway legend, played in the film by James Cagney. Cohen goes to Washington, D.C. to accept a medal from President Roosevelt, and shares with Roosevelt the story of his and his family’s life on stage. Cohen himself was born on the 4th of July. He comes out of retirement and returns to the stage to play Roosevelt. After getting the medal, while leaving the White House, Cohen tap-dances down the stairs - a moment that was completely improvised by Cagney and executed without rehearsal. The World War II song Over There is also a key emotional touchstone of the film.
Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes for $2.99
Watch the famous improvised tap dance below:
Today we pause and reflect on the fathers in our lives. Pictured above is my dad with me and my sisters. As the firstborn of my dad's 4 daughters, on Father's Day, my dad always thanks me for making him a dad.
My passion for travel was inherited from my parents. As a child and young man, my dad's travel experiences were limited to visits to his family - traveling from Chicago to Milwaukee to visit his mom's relatives, or to Richmond, Indiana to visit his grandfather. (He did participate in a historical American event - his family hitchhiked from Chicago to Washington, D.C. as part of the "Bonus Army" when he was a toddler.) Drafted during the Korean Conflict - my father was deployed to France, serving as a clerk-typist to a unit of architects and engineers. Being stationed in Europe was a life-changing experience for him, and he took advantage of every day of furlough to explore the continent. After his discharge, he returned home to Chicago, and met my mom while they both worked for Lions International. At the time, my mother was planning to enter the convent; she was visiting relatives in Mexico on what she called her farewell tour when she ran into my dad on a Guadalajara sidewalk. "What are you doing here?" she asked him - and he responded that he had been moved by her descriptions of Mexico's beauty, and wanted to see it for himself. The rest, as they say, is history - and I can honestly say that I owe my very existence to my father's curiosity about the world, sparked by his travel experiences.
As we continue to navigate these unique times, I for one am hopeful that by Father's Day next year, we will once again be able to enrich our lives by exploring more of the world.
Happy Father's Day!
Save The Dates
During July, I'll be hosting three virtual wine and travel nights, featuring wines from South Africa, France and Italy. I'll be partnering with a bay area wine merchant, from whom you can order the wines we'll be tasting - as well as travel partners with expertise in each of those countries. The ZOOM calls will be at 5 PM Pacific, 8 PM Eastern, on three Thursdays - July 8, July 15 and July 22 - details will be released shortly. I hope you will join us for these physically distanced but very social events.
From Joan's Kitchen
If you missed my live demo of how to make my mother's non-traditional Gazpacho, never fear - here's the link for the video. To request the recipe, click the button below the video. And on Monday June 22 at 2 PM Pacific, 5 PM Eastern and 4 PM Central, I'll be in the kitchen again - this time, making a Mexican Shrimp Cocktail! tune in to my personal page on Facebook, to follow along.
What's a Wanderlist?
I am very fortunate to be affiliated with Virtuso, which describes themselves like this: "Virtuoso is the leading global network of agencies specializing in luxury and experiential travel, with more than 20,000 advisors. We partner with over 1,800 of the world’s best companies such as hotels, cruise lines, tour operators, and more. Our advisors use their personal connections and firsthand expertise to craft bespoke trips for clients, including unique experiences, special values, complimentary perks, VIP treatment and rare access." Since mid-March, Virtuoso has been incredibly supportive to its membership community of travel entrepreneurs, and they've recently announced the rollout of the Virtuoso Wanderlist - a digital tool to explore destinations around the world, as well as unique and specialized things to do in those destinations. I've linked a PDF with more information - and it would be my pleasure to share a complimentary link to this tool with you! -If you're interested, just reply to this email to let me know. We will be able to travel again - and creating your own Wanderlist will encourage you to learn and dream about -and anticipate - where you may want to travel when we can.
A very wise and thoughtful colleague, Kathleen Sullivan of Anthology Travel, recently published this article. It's so well done that I'm sharing almost verbatim (with permission, of course!) I hope that you'll find this helpful.
A few thoughts on travel for the summer/fall of 2020:
I know we all just want to get the heck out of Dodge, but there are some things to keep in mind.
Develop from the negatives, and if all else fails, take another shot.
I really like this quote - literally it gives logical advice for photographers - but this is good advice for life, too. We truly can learn and grow from every single experience. For me, among the key lessons learned during our current situation is the importance of family and friends, and to remember to appreciate and savor all the truly amazing things that we are privileged to be able to do.
During this Memorial Day Weekend I would also like to take a moment and recognized with gratitude all those who have served our country. In our family, my grandfather and both of Rich's grandfathers were deployed during World War I, and Rich's father was deployed during World War II. My Uncle Bill enlisted during World War II; my father served during the Korean Conflict, but was very fortunate to be deployed in France, and my Uncle Jim served in the Air Force. During our travels we have had the privilege of visiting American cemeteries in Normandy, Maastricht and Anzio - doing so is a very sobering experience as you acknowledge so many who gave their lives to preserve freedom.
How do you feel about cooking? Do you absolutely love it, do you have a kitchen only because it came with the house - or are you somewhere in between these two extremes? Personally, I really enjoy preparing food - but it can be hard to come up with tasty dishes that the whole family will love. With so many people having fun with home cooking, I thought it would be good to have a taste-test challenge, featuring Chocolate Lava Cake.
The spring holidays of Passover and Easter were atypical this year, weren't they? Families were unable to gather for Seder dinners, or attend services in their Easter finery, and may instead have participated in "virtual" holiday celebrations. The Easter Bunny still found most families with young children, but the baskets were possibly not quite as overflowing, and egg hunts were in your own backyard. Seder dinner tables were set – sometimes for only one or two people. And maybe instead of an Easter ham, you dined on pizza... And instead of the Seder quote of "Next Year in Jerusalem," one of my daughters said "Next Year In Person." But you know what? It’s all perfect. We are doing what we need to be doing right now. And we are fortunate to have that option. It’s easy to get caught up in everything that couldn’t happen, but today I want us to recognize gratitude for what IS happening all around us.
Do you know the symbolism behind the design of Chicago's City Flag? The two sky blue stripes represent Lake Michigan/North Branch of the Chicago River, and the South Branch of the Chicago River/and the "Great Canal." The four red stars represent events from Chicago's rich history, namely The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, The Century of Progress Exhibition of 1933, and Fort Dearborn. Even the white bands are significant; they represent the North, West and South sides of the city. (There's really no East Side - that would be Lake Michigan.)
Chicago is my birthplace and my hometown. I lived there until I was 14, when my family moved to the San Diego area. At 22 I moved back, and lived in Chicago for the next 30 years before moving back to San Diego.
I still love Chicago, for so many reason - especially for family members and dear friends still living there. For those of you who've never been, I highly encourage planning a visit. Time after time visitors to Chicago are shocked (in a very good way!) by the beauty of the city, the friendliness of the residents, the world-class activities and of course, the food. In fact Chicago has become such a foodie-town that the NYC-based James Beard Foundation holds its annual awards gala and ceremony in Chicago!
If you were to visit, here are a few things I would highly recommend:
While we are all staying home, we are finding that we have time to do things that we tend to put off. Personally I've been cooking a lot more, and watching a lot more streaming videos; my husband is sorting hundreds of old photos and putting together albums for relatives, as well as getting caught up on entering information discovered during years of research into Ancestry.com. Are you looking for ways to pass a few minutes? I've curated a list of websites offering virtual tours or streaming activities. Please enjoy!
"Whoever lets himself be led by heart will never lose his way" - Egyptian Proverb
As a young child, my family subscribed to National Geographic. I loved the issues that focused on archeology and anthropology- and those I loved best described stories and photos of discoveries of the treasures of ancient Egypt. Living close to the University of Chicago, I loved exploring its famed Oriental Institute - full of treasures from Egypt and the near east. A few years later Treasures of Tutankhamun toured the US and become a pop culture happening - I was thrilled to get a ticket to see the exhibit in LA. But still I dreamed of seeing the pyramids in Egypt with my own eyes.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.