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Corsica: Marriage, Hollywood & Chocolate!

Hollywood Loves Corsica!

Where do actors George Clooney and Kathy Bates, singers Tom Jones and Alicia Keys, and even socialite Paris Hilton (just to name drop a few of Hollywood’s elite) go to escape the rigors of being in the spotlight day in and day out? Why the tiny Mediterranean island of Corsica, that’s where.

candyEach day we read stories of Hollywood’s creme de la creme going on holiday to such esteemed destinations as the tony island of St. Barts in the Caribbean or to Hollywood’s backyard playland, Cabo San Lucas in Mexico's Baja Penninsula, or skiing in the chi-chi slopes in Aspen, Colorado. I could go on and on.

But now, there is a discreet group of Hollywood stars who’ve discovered the crown jewel of the Mediterranean. This writer has known about this island paradise for over 20 years when there was only one automatic car on all of Corsica that was reserved for your’s truly. [Everybody drives a stick shift outside of the U.S.] Well, I knew my secret couldn’t stay hidden forever...
bonifacio view2Just last year, George Clooney joined friends for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle adventure around the entire island, including Clooney’s business partner and collaborator, Grant Haslov, and were spotted all over the island during their one month getaway.

Singer Alicia Keys married boyfriend Swizz Beatz near Portovecchio with the marriage ceremony performed by Deepak Chopra with friends Bono and singer/actress Queen Latifah there to lend their support. And Keys was seen in a bikini fully pregnant at the time which had paparazzi from around the world trying to capture the next hot tabloid cover.

Stooges rocker, Iggy Pop, performed in the village of Patrimonio [where they also make some of the best red wine on the island]. Pop was so smitten with Patrimonio he openly mingled and visited a few restaurants in the area the following days.

Actress Kathy Bates stayed in Saint Florent a year before receiving the bad news that she had breast cancer and had to have a double mastectomy immediately. Now the actress, who had TV show “Harry’s Law,” has expressed her desire to "friends" that she would like to spend some more quality time in “the heart of paradise.”

Singer Tom Jones is a regular vacationer on the island having fallen in love with Bonafacio in the 1960s while at the peak of his career. “Right after ‘It’s Not Unusual’ came out, a friend took me on his yacht and we went to Calvi. What a beautiful island and I keep coming back year after year,” Jones told an interviewer recently.

Salon du Chocolat Festival Founder and Owner Paul PierinelliAnd socialite Paris Hilton was busted for marijuana possession at Bastia airport in Corsica a few summers ago. (Oh well.) [Hilton was unavailable to talk about her love of Corsica and... ahem....]  

Love and Marriage

It's one thing to be a celebrity. It's another thing to live the "normal" life. Regardless, to those of us betrothed whose names are not lit up on a movie marquee -- and even those whose names are -- we all understand, unequivocally, that an enduring marriage is somewhat of an art. These days with all the economic stress, to be happily married for many may seem like a mini-miracle. Not that it doesn't exist. It does. And I'm thrilled to report that I am in that group. But like any relationship, it's requires effort, prudence, imagination, romance -- and, most of all, true love -- to keep it flourishing.

Daughter EVANGELINE AND Wife IRINA IN CORSICAMy wife, Irena Patar, and I, met in June of 2002. It wasn't love at first sight. Of Georgian descent (The Republic of Georgia, NOT the Georgia Peach kind from the south of the U.S.), family means everything to her. In fact, on our first date, we went to a local restaurant and had a glass of wine. The VERY first question she asked me was, "Do you want to have kids?" Taken aback, I quipped, "Sure. But can I finish my wine first?"

Humor in our marriage has been the key to our love. From the very moment we met, till we both decided that we liked it each other, what really made us fall in love and why that love is at its strongest today -- humor. We can't live without it.

With love and laughter, you'll find it hard to lose. For our 10th year anniversary, I applied a gentile dose of both and added a sprinkle of romantic shock and awe, and it was the perfect cocktail.

Stunning Landscape

Corsica is a wonderfully enigmatic country. Its attraction lies in nature, not in artifact. It's a rock-hard fragile paradise.

choco carCorsica is also for beach lovers, culture buffs, hikers and divers. It combines vast stretches of shoreline with the beauty of the mountains, plenty of activities for your body and some rich history to engage your mind.

Jutting out of the Med like an impregnable fortress, Corsica resembles a miniature continent, with astounding geographical diversity. Within half an hour, the landscape morphs from glittering bays, glitzy coastal cities and fabulous beaches to sawtooth peaks, breathtaking valleys, dense forests and enigmatic hilltop villages. The scenery that unfurls along the island’s crooked roads will have you constantly stopping to whip out your camera.

Though Corsica’s been officially part of France for over 200 years, it feels different from the mainland in everything from customs to cuisine, music, language and character -- but that’s part of its appeal.

Renewing Our Vows: The Magic Day

With all its incredible beauty, Corsica for me has many hidden roads to paradise. Literally. If you see one, don't hesitate to take it. It will lead you to a beach or a mountain view that will leave you breathless.

Of all of Corsica's magnificence, it is the southern part of the island, Bonifacio, where, for me, the beauty is the most prolific. A citadel that towers over one of the most beautiful natural ports in the world, with Italy's island of Sardenia in the distance, prehistoric rock formations jutting out from the sea -- it is truly paradise on Earth.

Upon my many visits to the island, long before I met my wife, I discovered a man-made balcony that had been built into the mountain face. When I stumbled upon it, I knew one day I'd either propose to the woman of my dreams, get married or one day renew my wedding vows there. (Hey, one out of three ain't bad!)

Daughter ANNABELLE IN CORSICAOn that day, October 30th 2013, with a bottle of one of the great champagne wine growers of the world, Jacques Selosse, we descended on our balcony to speak our hearts and forever proclaim our love. This balcony would make Romeo and Juliette glee with joy. It provides a view and a feeling that is nothing short of spectacular. Our dearest friends who live on the island, Delphine Gueritee and Oliver, joined us. They are the reason why we were on this glorious island in the first place. It was Delphine who introduced me to Corsica 15 years earlier. So it was only fitting that they bear witness and share in the joy of this incredible moment.

As far as what we wore, we actually kept it simple. No dressing up. Just a light white cotten top for my wife (she'd look beautiful in anything), me in jeans.
It was an unusually warm day, about 28 degrees celsius, 85 degrees farenheit.
I popped open my bottle of Jacques Selosse and poured everyone a glass and Irena and I spoke. No prepared speech. No written script. Words from our hearts. Of course, we both broke down in happy tears as we spoke. Words that will forever remind us of the power of love. We have it. And we cherish it.

Our identical twin girls, Evangeline and Annabelle (now 7), were there, too. In fact, they were so moved to see us express our love to each other with such raw emotion that, they, too, said one day when they get married, "We want to come to this place and share our love." And can only hope that my wife, Irena, and I, will be given this gift to see our children speak their hearts to their spouses, once again.

Corsica IS For Lovers

chocoTravel to Corsica with your paramour, or your wife (as I did) or the one closest to your heart. This stunning French island just off the coasts of France and Italy is so beautiful, you’ll want to return year after year.

Napoleon’s birthplace boasts breathtaking views and a plethora of charming corners. Take a boat out of the resort village of Porto to see the bright white Calanques, steep-walled bays with their dramatic backdrop of stone cliffs rising up over the sea. Visit the thirteenth-century Calvi Citadel, then wind your way on mountain roads toward the tiny village of Calvi for a romantic dinner before heading out for a morning excursion on the scenic Route de Bavella.

Corsica is the dream you read about in novels. The romantic escape you only thought was fantasy. But Corsica and all its beauty is very real. Who knows? Maybe I'll end up writing my own romantic adventure about this beautiful paradise on Earth one day. In the meantime, my wife, twin girls and I are planning our return later this year. And we are even thinking of buying our own little piece of paradise there. Hey, remember, you just never know...


Hotel Bonifacio: The Cala di Greco

Writer Jesse Nash Popping Bottle of Champagne Jacques SelosseWithin Bonafacio's old wonder of the well-known marine Mediterranean cliffs, beaches and caps, there is a place that all lovers and families should stay: Hotel Bonifacio: The Cala Di Greco. Elegance and warmth blended together with the perfect geographic location afforded to all who stay there: a view of the citadel and the angels who guard this place.  

It was Homer in the Odyssey of Ulysses, which provide the inspiration for the suites of Hotel Bonifacio: The Cala Di Greco.  Nestled in the jungle of southern Corsica, these luxurious cottages are surrounded by oaks, olive trees, juniper phénicie, arbutus... you are truly one with nature while able to have all the modern conveniences one could possibly desire.

The hotel features suites with their own front gated front courtyard and backyards with patio. The back wall opens completely to the yard. The rooms are nicely furnished and the hotel's website represents what you will actually experience pretty accurately.

The pool is elegant and has such a nice view of Bonifacio and the citadel, you might end up bathing a lot longer than you intended as the feeling will hold on to you.

Breakfast is served by the pool, the perfect place to start your day.

We stayed for three nights. From the first moment we arrived, we were taken by the scenery, architecture and the fantastic service provided. This is the perfect hotel if you want to be close to nightlife and the city of Bonifacio while at the same time have tranquility in your close surroundings. This hotel is one of the most beautiful hotels we have ever experienced, with your own garden and the room layout was exceptional. You immediately feel at home like a Relais & Chateau property.

citadelThe owner was very service-minded and he took his time to talk to his guests each and every breakfast and often was seen recommending restaurants, excursions and beaches that were spectacular (according to the guests who we spoke with).

To feel welcomed and important by any hotel is the art of being in the service business. Cala di Greco does it quite well.

Our family felt like super-stars. So will your's.

Tassajara Zen Mountain Center Offers A Spiritual Trip for Summer

Every year, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center opens its doors to the public for its annual guest season which takes place from May 1 - September 14, 2014. San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) continues its spiritual engagement and community building with the public opening of its Tassajara center every.

Zen and meditation seekers, yoga lovers, artisan foodies, and everyday people looking to unplug and rejuvenate come to experience a truly serene environment at Tassajara, the most remote and oldest Zen monastery in the United States

Located 25 miles southeast of Big Sur, CA, the 2014 Tassajara program offers disciplinary retreats led by expert teachers in six specialty areas

  • Body and Mind
  • Mindful Living
  • Creative Expression 
  • Engaging Earth
  • Spiritual Practice
  • Zen Study & Practice

Among the many 2014 guest season standout retreat leaders are the following

  • Singer-Songwriter, Actor Jimmie Dale Gilmore
  • Poet, Author, Zen Buddhist Priest Zoketsu Norman Fischer
  • Internationally Renowned Poet Jane Hirshfield
  • Tassajara: Dinner and Desserts author Dale Kent 
  • Poet Naomi Shihab Nye
  • More Love, Less Stuff author Andrew Mellen
  • Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute CEO Marc Lesser (Google Meditation Workshops,)
  • Zen Buddhist Priest and Life Coach Sessei Meg Levie (Google Meditation Workshops)
  • The Hidden Lamp: Stories from 25 Centuries of Awakened Women authors Zenshin Florence Caplow & Reigetsu Susan Moon
  • Celebrity Vinyasa Yoga Instructor Janet Stone
  • Yoga Room Founding Director Donald Moyer (Berkeley, CA)

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (Founder of San Francisco Zen Center, Author of the the modern spiritual classic and seminal Buddhist book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind) founded SFZC in 1962.

In 1967, he established Tassajara as the first Zen training monastery outside of Japan. Suzuki Roshi searched for a mountain temple similar to the monasteries in Japan and China, and was able to purchase Tassajara through the support of the Zen community, friends, and patrons.

Today, Tassajara is internationally recognized as the most remote Zen center in the United States and beckons as a top destination for Buddhist practitioners and vacationers alike.

The retreat has come to host celebrity guests (Steve Jobs, CA Governor Jerry Brown, Joan Baez, etc.) and vacationers alike for more than 47 years. Tassajara is known to many through its widely popular hot springs, acclaimed vegetarian cuisine and celebrated artisan bread baking book by Ed BrownThe Tassajara Bread Book.

Nestled in a mountain valley, inland from the Big Sur coast in a remote part of the Ventana wilderness, Tassajara has been long known as a place for self-discovery, healing and an escape from the stresses of everyday life. 

Only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles via a 14-mile dirt road, Tassajara is an eco-efficient paradise garnering 100% of its energy from solar panels and the local hot springs. The hot springs have proven to be a main attraction of the Monterey/Salinas area following the native Esselen people's discovery of the springs in the 1870's; generations of settlers and visitors have come ever since seeking renewal and tranquility. 

Please see the list of retreats below, and for more detailed retreat info, visit: Various images of Tassajara can also be downloaded at this link.

San Francisco Zen Center Presents 
Tassajara Zen Mountain Center
(25 miles southeast of Big Sur, CA)

Guest Season 2014
May 1 - September 14, 2014

300 Page Street
San Francisco, CA, 94102
phone: 415-863-3136

email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


In London, Secret Cinema’s The Grand Budapest Hotel Screenings Bring Life to This Enchanting Ruin

A couple of hours after my arrival in West London, this adventure starts with me, comically overdressed and clutching a precisely wrapped bouquet of pink (as was instructed) roses in the cavernous Baker Street station. Two stops later, the District line train becomes the stage for more guests, all with varying types of pink flowers, dressed in their finest ’30s evening wear. It’s 11:45 am on a Saturday, and we are heading for the Grand Budapest Hotel.  

Based and so far operating exclusively in London, Secret Cinema is likely the most elaborate way to see a film. The premise is simple, but it’s out there: you buy a ticket, and then you receive (in this case) neurotically specific instructions including a map to a secret location no less than two days before the event. 

With the exception of these Grand Budapest Hotel screenings, the film is also kept under wraps. Secret Cinema has become a ritual of sorts for film fans in London: my companion at the screening of the film recounts with joy her experiences with the company, noting the staging of The Shawshank Redemption was a standout. (Free pints all around during the rooftop scene is just one part of it.) 

grand-budapest-hotelThe Grand Budapest Hotel was a must for me, being a Wes Anderson obsessive and having been a temporary Londoner during my semesters abroad. This particular screening was my fourth for this film, which I have deemed one of the director’s masterpieces and certainly marks a degree of maturation for him. As a result, I couldn’t have been more elated to live, even if just for a few hours, within his imagined reality in my favorite city. Though, for the sake of honesty, I try to live in a Wes Anderson film every day. 

Going back about a month, my inbox chirped during one of my film classes. I had not been expecting an email from Secret Cinema until a day or so before my flight, but there it was, styled as if on old parchment and containing a page’s worth of meticulous instructions. 

I’m not keen on spoiling the surprise for anyone who plans on attending, but I will say that the aforementioned flowers and black tie attire are key to the aesthetic. Also recommended is committing to learning a brief poem to recite back to one of the hotel’s fellow eccentric guests. The sappier, the better. 

A few minute’s walk from the tube, some lobby boys and grisly men clad in black leather stand waiting at the mouth of an cruelly narrow alley (which isn’t an uncommon feature in central London, the global city built on cow paths of the Roman Empire). By 12:10, about a hundred men and women garbed in vintage black tie stand in the queue, much to the bewilderment of tourists who’ve somehow strayed from the path of the usual tour bus route. 

Periodically, a mock-up of Willem Dafoe’s character snatches an unsuspecting guest out of line, demanding to see immigration papers. It is the exactly correct measures of camp, wit, and commitment to the atmosphere of The Grand Budapest Hotel. In this massive group, we are then led to the site of a retired factory, where this Grand Budapest Hotel finds its home.

Upon entry, smartphones (those perpetual fun-ruiners) are checked by lobby boys and girls into small velvet pouches to be held at the door for the duration of the event’s four hours. Two bars occupy a lobby which is otherwise kept open for dancing. 

Due to its setting, the hotel is less polished, but rather takes on a more bare-bones look, halfway between the hotel’s two appearances in the film. Throughout the three hours we are given to roam around the levels of the building which are opened to guest access like acts in a play. We are free to peep into hotel rooms, chat with Dmitri, the vitriolic son of Mdm. Desgoffe-und-Taxis, pay our respects to Mdm. D.G.u.T. with our pink bouquets, attend the reading of her will, or dip our toes in the Roman baths. In the final act, one can scale the Alpine Sudetenwaltz whilst the other guests waltz below. 

On the whole, the production is an extraordinarily faithful adaptation of both set and character. Milling about are about 50 actors, all of whom are loose adaptations of the film’s cast. 

sc logoFor me, they are the key element in this incarnation of the Grand Budapest Hotel. They instigate trouble in many forms, peddle drinks and pastries, and in the final act before the screening, they lead a waltz in the lobby, surrounding the circular concierge desk with a flurry of feathers and patent shoes shined by the crippled shoeshine boy himself. They love causing scenes in the most delightful ways: at one point, the Countess suffers a melodramatic fainting spell in the middle of the lobby.

Secret Cinema gave themselves a challenge when they lobbied to screen this film, but the care with which they produced the eponymous hotel was a privilege to behold. If you are in love with cinematic drama and are keen on living in it for a night, Secret Cinema screenings are the definitive way to see films in London. 

Matinee and evening tickets (£53) are available at

Secret Cinema presents The Grand Budapest Hotel 
Currently running until 30 March
at a secret location

London, UK


Cityscape: NY Marathon Offers New View of City

The winner of the female race Kenyan Priscah Jeptoo on First Avenue.

All photos  © h. nazan ışık

Today is November 17, 2013. This is the date of the 35th Istanbul Marathon. Running from one continent to the other one —from Asia to Europe — it must be a unique experience for the runners.

ista mara oneTwo weeks ago, November 3, New York celebrated the 43rd ING New York City Marathon. After the 2012 NYC Marathon’s cancelation in wake of the Superstorm Sandy, and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, this one was very important for New Yorkers and marathoners. According to the information given by NY Road Runners more than 50,700 runners started this year’s race (last year it was 47,340), and 50,304 of them finished it.

I love the marathon day in New York. That’s the only one that I can talk about, since I haven’t been to any other marathons to compare. I love that day in New York City; such a happy, joyful day it is. The people of New York line the 26.2 miles across the city to encourage runners.

Every year, I like to stay close to the 60th Street on First Avenue which is the entrance into Manhattan after the Queensboro Bridge — also known as the 59th Street Bridge. Manhattan is ready for the runners at that spot. Portable toilets are located under the bridge, an official fluid and food station on First Avenue and the 61st Street is set up there , a band is ready, waiting, and NewYorkers, fans and runners’ relatives are there with flags, signs and bells to cheer them on.  

ist mara twoThis year I decided to get there earlier than the previously to see the preparations and first comers. It wasn’t very crowded yet. The fluid & food station was getting set up, volunteers at the station were practicing how to hand off the cups and/or clapping and cheering. People were on the side making signs read “GO……GO!”, “RUN……RUN.

First, the wheelchair athletes arrived. Wheelchair athletes were like bullets: boom, boom, boom; so fast.

Well! The female and male athletes who entered Manhattan first, were not different than the athletes on wheelchairs; they were very fast too.  And even some of them had smiles on their faces, as if they just started to run.

Then the male racers arrived.  Following are the five male runners who finished early in Manhattan:

ist mara fourTsegaye Kebede, who completed the race in 2nd place, Jackson Kiprop (7th), Peter Cheruiyot Kirui (8th), Stanley Biwott (5th) and Julius Arite (4th).  

And the winner of the 2013 New York City Marathon, Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai was not among these five athletes.

The road was getting crowded with runners as well as those on the sidelines. There were relatives who knew their loved ones’ running time and were trying not to miss them. People around me were waving different flags and yelling in different languages.

Spectators were very cheerful and encouraging all the racers no matter what country they were from…

The reactions coming from racers were different: some were smiling, others were thanking people, some were giving high fives and one wheelchair athlete was giving kisses. It was a wonderful day to remember!

The next day on the streets of New York City, I saw some people wearing their commemorative medals — mostly, I guess, visitors. I told them, “Congratulations!” with a big smile.  Some came, shook my hand and replied: “Thank you! And thank you for your encouragements.” Even the next day was wonderful!

ist mara fiveI hope the Istanbul Marathon will be as happy and joyful as the day of New York City’s marathon.

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