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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Wending our way from Malpensa through Genova (founded in the 4th century), we ventured down the Ligurian coast to Italy’s Riviera. The Liguria region is known for its fresh seafood, served at local trattorias, using local olive oils, pesto and fresh herbs. It is simple cooking with complex flavors.

After a couple of hours of driving our hunger rose so we stopped in Santa Margherita for sandwiches and drinks. It is a beautiful little coastal area leading to the town of Portofino.

Portofino is a seaside village in the shape of a half moon. It is known as a destination for the rich and famous, a home to several luxury hotels and welcoming of luxurious yachts in the small harbor. That aside, the beauty there is breathtaking.

After satisfying our grumbling tummies, we resumed our drive south to the quaint town of Levanto.

This town. Levanto, is nestled in a valley that opens to the sea making it an important location in the 9th century as a defense to attacks from the sea. Then during the Middle Ages, it rose in value as a center for commercial activity. The architecture reflects several periods from the 9th century to the 17th & 18th and then again in the 19th & 20th centuries as more growth evolved. All this combines to make it a fascinating stop as part of the famous area of Cinque Terre.

However, our goal for today is to reach Levanto, our base for our exploration of the Cinque Terre (5 cities) on the coast.  True to form, my first interest upon our arrival in Levanto is the alimentari (grocery store).

Then we proceed to explore the coast of Levanto:

An early dusk but not quite sunset offers some interesting images:

Looking toward the hills:

Graffiti!  Anyone who reads my posts knows how I love street art and grafitti.  Unfortunately for Italy, it is overwhelmed with graffiti.  Everywhere.  It’s not a good thing.  I embrace it for the art that it is anyway.

The streets of Levanto:

And everyone in Italy needs a spot to enjoy an apertivo (a pre-dinner treat):

And sometimes the restaurant has additional seating across the narrow street.  Just take a seat and someone will serve you:

Surrounded by quaint streets we close the day with apertivo and great food.

And as the sun sets, the apertivo and dinner lull you to return to your hotel for a good nights rest:

This was a wonderful sip of Grappa with some mini-ham sandwich bites and traditional potato chips for apertivo.

I had a wonderful Eggplant Parmigiana for my entree.  My dining partner didn’t order as well as you will see.

This is the mistake dinner.  My dining partner ordered the coletto di pollo (chicken cutlet) con patate (potatoes)

We had a great evening and went to sleep satiated with travel and food.  Next day we rose and headed out to explore more of Levanto and then on to the village of Lucca.

Stay tuned.

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About eight weeks ago, I was offered an unbelievable opportunity. My love of travel and passion for food melded into one beautiful adventure almost seamlessly. I had little time to prepare for my 3 ½ week trip.

I read about the history and culture as much as time allowed and took a crash course in the basic language. I learned the exchange rates for money. Finally, I packed a single 20” suitcase, loaded the camera bag with lenses and extra memory cards, grabbed my passport and boarding pass, one light jacket and embarked on an amazing journey.

My wonderful task during the last several weeks was learning about the regional foods of Italy. This journey took me to Northern Italy where we focused on the foods from Lombardy, Liguria, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, and Veneto. Due to the wide scope of Italian foods, this trip was limited to just five regions of the twenty regions of Italy.  Thank goodness!

This eating adventure was fun from the moment we boarded our airplane! Seated in first class, we enjoyed a beautiful breakfast on the way to New York.

We had a 3-hour layover in New York that afforded us enough time to enjoy the Admirals Club, shower, grab a snack and send a few last emails before we were without Internet reception.

Our flight from New York to Milan was as smooth as silk. Our seats had multiple ways to adjust as you can see by the remote control here.

Once in the air, and comfortable in our spacious seats, we were treated to hot towels to refresh ourselves.  We each received our own screen for viewing movies.  The alcohol was free and offered frequently. Our dinner was a three course event!

My appetizer:

My salad:

My dinner:

The alternate dinner offering:

After dinner we reclined with our pillows and blankets and slept soundly until our flight crew woke us for breakfast. What a sight it was to awaken to the Alps in the morning sunlight!

We landed in Milan 20 minutes ahead of time, hit the ground running, got our rental car and headed south from Lombardy to Liguria.

More to come…

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After suffering high temperatures and suffocating humidity, New Orleans still left me wanting more. Music filled the thick night air and morning haze raising spirits with rousing beats while restaurant and bakery kitchens wafted alluring aromas into the streets even without a hint of a breeze.

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Most impressive is the fact that dining out three to four (even five) times a day didn’t make a dent in the extensive list of places to eat! One of my favorite aspects of travel is experiencing local cuisine, landmark restaurants and regional specialties.

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The best approach is to find places to eat in an assortment of categories: formal, informal, celebrity, suburban, farmer’s markets, downtown, walk-up, dine in, bar, coffee shop, bakery and everything in between. This can keep a person busy all day long and into the night!

So if you are heading toward New Orleans make dining high on your list of things to do. You won’t regret a bite of it!

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Everywhere you go, there are signs pointing you toward food and drink. My comments below relate to just a few of the places we enjoyed. To discuss each one, well, would take days. So here are some highlights.

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At Café du Monde you can sit and watch the people while enjoying a hot beignet and coffee. The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market. Be prepared, however, to leave looking like you’ve just eaten one of these sugar-coated delicacies!

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Southern pecans are some of the sweetest to be found, especially when cooking into candy.

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Cochon Restaurant will serve you memorable garlicky cochon (roasted suckling pig) with cracklins, amazing pork rillette, ribs with watermelon pickle, and tasty oyster-and-bacon sandwich. If you are short on time, run next door to Cochon Butcher and grab a sandwich or some sausage to slice and snack on.

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Take a short drive (about an hour) across Lake Pontchartrain, the second largest saltwater lake in the United States, and continue on to a pleasant tour and tasting at the Abita Brewing Company’s Brewery. Founded in 1986, they brew over 90,000 barrels of beer and 5,000 barrels of root beer using their own artesian spring water from Abita Springs.

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Mandina’s Restaurant began as a modest grocery store in 1898 under the management of Sebastian Mandina. Later his two sons took the store from groceries to a pool hall that sold sandwiches and eventually, in 1932, they established Mandina’s Restaurant catering proudly to the “needs and desires” of the neighborhood.

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The menu is full of Cajun and Creole dishes and seafood and I highly recommend a cup of the Homemade Turtle Soup au Sherry. If you can also get your mouth around one of their po’ boys you’ll feel proud!

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Commanders Palace is known as much as a century old landmark as it is as a fine dining establishment. This is Creole cooking at its best. Here is a place where the chef insists his ingredients are “dirt to plate within 100 miles” and grows over 1400 herbs on the roof! Because of the chef’s policy regarding local food, I hesitate to recommend any dishes because they can change with the local produce daily.

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The amazing variety of New Orleans!

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Camellia Grill, established in 1946, is known for its breakfasts, specifically its omelets which are fluffy and heavy and an outstanding pecan waffle, and its sloppy burgers and chocolate freezes. There is usually a wait but it’s well worth it and just watching the staff work is entertaining too!

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Muriel’s, in Jackson Square, is uniquely decorated restaurant gussied up like a Gothic parlor. Whether you dine in The Bistro, The Balcony or at the 100-year-old Courtyard Bar, the staff and atmosphere will delight you. The menu makes choosing a dilemma due to an appealing array of contemporary Creole cuisine. The General Manager and Chef, as you can see, are quite proud of this place.

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Aside from the food, Muriel’s also boasts about its resident ghost. The upper area, which used to be a bordello, is his haunt and you are free to visit his rooms.

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There’s nothing to fear. The restaurant states, “We firmly believe that our resident ghosts here at Muriel’s are harmless, and can sometimes be very entertaining. Those who have seen or felt a presence have never felt threatened and instead we’ve welcomed an old kindred spirit to dine, by always keeping a table reserved for Mr. Jourdan set with bread and wine.”

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New Orleans is enchanting with a long history involving food, spirits, music, and metaphysics and as a refuge for lost souls. Its expression lives in the music, cuisine and literature making it a destination filled with entertainments of all sorts.

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As long as I can recall my feet have always had sparks beneath my heels.  I can’t stay in one place for long periods of time.  The road, the sky and even the ocean beckon me from afar.

405 Freeway, California

When my online friend, Tonia, mentioned her layover on the first leg of her journey to Australia, my immediate impulse was to buy a ticket and join her.  My senses caught up with me soon thereafter, so I settled on meeting with Tonia in the Los Angeles area.

Manhattan Beach

I intended to use our lunch as an opportunity to write a review of the restaurant, Shark’s Cove in Manhattan Beach.  With a note of embarrassment, I confess that we talked so much I barely tasted my food.  It was filling and clean.  That’s about the best I can say.  I’ll have to go back and try the place again.

Sharks Cove Restaurant, Manhattan Beach, CA

Tonia enjoyed her hamburger, fries and beer.

Burger Plate with Fries

My club sandwich, curly fries and wine were enough to last me well into the evening.  I would eat there again.  (Some review, eh?)

Curly Fries witih a Club Sandwich

Since cooking is my forte while Tonia’s is photography,  I seized the opportunity to shoot with her.  We strolled down to the Manhattan Beach pier, after fortifying ourselves with that big lunch and a little refreshment.

Food Signs

We shot several hundred photos while the ocean breeze blew our hair wild and the seagulls soared overhead.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Manhattan Beach, CA

Fishing Girl

Bagged Fish

White on White

Kite

Now that Tonia has safely landed in Australia, I can admit that I’m jealous.  There’s still time for me to buy a ticket and catch up to her but I think I’ll just wait for the glorious photos she’s bound to capture.  Honestly, I’m looking forward to our next visit even more than that.

Sun Meets the Surf

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I’m a sucker for a trip: long, short, far, or near, with friends or without, to see family or to meet new people.  I love tasting local foods, learning from different cultures and sharing new recipes that I collect along the way.

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My love of travel is no secret.  In the past year, I traversed my way through snow-covered mountains, the humidity of the tropics, moderate countryside climes, and sandy dunes at beaches, ending full circle with a snowy blizzard in Northern California.

Oh what joy it is…to ride through a blizzard!

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When they said, “Welcome to our house,” all I could respond was, “Where is it?”

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All around the neighborhood, folks had to take to wearing snowshoes to get around.


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My crazy children decided we should take a tranquil hike through the snowcapped trees.

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While they rode saucers down slopes, I warmed myself in this cozy cabin.

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Without a doubt, the scenery was spectacular.

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Yet, after donning more snowshoes for the hike out,

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and following a romp in the snow,


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we were ready to warm up.

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That’s when I discovered my new drink of choice: The S’more.

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Simply combine some hot imported cocoa with a good amount of vodka in a 10-12 ounce glass.  Yes, that’s right!

Top it with a homemade marshmallow crème in a glass rimmed with gooey chocolate syrup and graham crackers crumbs.  Add two straws, one for you and one for the one you love.

Within minutes, you will forget that you are seated beside a frozen lake in the cold.

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Rarely, if ever, is staying away from home immensely pleasurable for me. Over the years, I’ve learned to make my lodgings the least of my expectations — following close behind unreliable flight departure times. As a result I can sleep soundly as long as darkness envelopes me and I am content if some means of sanitation is available.

Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa, Kauai, Hawaii

However, The Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa impressively lived up to every large and insignificant advertised feature. The room was spacious, clean and so quiet that I had no idea there were other people in the rooms surrounding ours. The staff knew our names on sight and that added to the overall friendly ambiance with every smile!

Grand Hyatt Resort Grounds

What put this place over the top was not the grounds, although they were breathtaking and if you are getting married with endless funds for the wedding, check it out.

Grand Hyatt Resort Grounds

It was not the salt-water lagoons even though it was fun to see people kayaking along in them or swimming.

Grand Hyatt Resort Grounds

It was not the crystal clear swimming pools with floating food and drink bars.

Grand Hyatt Resort Swimming Pool

It wasn’t even the wonderful landscaping and wildlife as we wended our way toward our morning meal.

Grand Hyatt Resort, Lobby Area

Cockatoo

Verdant Greenery

Parrot

It was our decadent, delicious and deliriously joyful breaking of the fast as we dined over looking a lagoon with koi and swans.

Grand Hyatt Lagoon

Grand Hyatt Restaurant

Begin with a Mango Smoothie Shot, compliments of the chef.

Mango Smoothie Shot

Enjoy the view while you wait for your order to be served with a smile

Swan

Then the Tropical Pancakes arrive, hot and sweet, filling your head with wild cravings

Tropical Pancakes with Fresh Banana and Fresh Strawberries

The Frittata that was out of this world with a choice of garnishes, fresh vegetables and an aroma that made me and my sexy companion delirious for several minutes

Frittata with Fresh Vegetables and assorted garnishes

With elevated happiness both inside and out, we began our excursion for the day.

The Road to Koloa, Kauai

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Zion National Park, Utah
All this is the music of waters.”

John Wesley Powell, 1895

When I signed in at the Red Mountain Spa last week, I noticed this motto in the folder of information they handed me: “For A Healthy Inside, Go Outside.” Mini-Madame #1 and I laughed over that one because “go outside” was a centerpiece phrase of mine since the children learned to walk.
Zion, Utah
Most of my children are accomplished hikers having logged hundreds of miles through rough terrain and weather conditions in a variety of American states. Well, one child is a klutz who trips on air, but that isn’t the focal point of this article.

Virgin River
One of my goals during my week in Utah was to revisit Zion National Park. My father first introduced me to this 229 square mile area when I was a young child. This park, formerly known as Mukuntuweap National Monument, sits in the southwestern corner of Utah and begs for feet like mine to tread upon her trails. You see, I had to show my hiker-children that I still had it in my old hiking boots to do some serious walking.

Muddy Trail

While in the canyon, your safety is your responsibility.

Trail Warning Sign

The decks of these footbridges have been replaced and are now made of recycled plastic as the park strives to become a “green” environment.
Footbridge, Zion, Utah
Walking these trails, knowing that the Ancestral Puebloans strode these pathways over 2000 years ago, Southern Paiutes walked it over 800 years ago and then the Virgin Anasazi and Mormon settlers walked here, humbles a novice hiker like me.

Trail View, Zion, Utah
The Park’s name, Zion, is a Hebrew word interpreted by the Mormons as a place of safety or refuge and bestowed upon this canyon by Mormon pioneers in the 1860’s. According to Mormon theology as told by the Park Service pamphlet, Kolob is a heavenly place close to God. They couldn’t have picked a more apt name for this majestic canyon area.
Zion Canyon, Utah

The stone cliffs tower above the valley and boast of being among the highest in the world (8,726 feet in the Kolob Canyons section).


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During the Triassic and Jurassic Eras (250 million to 150 million years ago), from sedimentary rock (mostly sandstone) and limestone, shale, mudstone and conglomerate along with some recent volcanic activity that produced cinder cones and lava flows, the park’s stunning scenery was formed.
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The Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel was built in the 1920’s when vehicles were very small. To go through the tunnel today, larger vehicles (over 7’10” in width) require an escort while Park Rangers stop all oncoming traffic to allow large vehicles to drive down the center of the tunnel. There are only a few lookout points from the tunnel. I wasn’t comfortable being in the tunnel when I realized how far underneath a mountain of stone we traveled.

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Looking out from inside the tunnel.

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Within Zion, alive with movement, resides one of the last free-flowing river systems on the Colorado Plateau. The Virgin River, as these waters are called, traverses the Mojave Desert, joins the Colorado River in Lake Mead’s basin and continues on to the Pacific Ocean.

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Nowhere else on earth can this combination of soil type, changes in temperature or precipitation, plants, animals, or of slope, mesa and canyon be found.
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Snow only blankets Zion Canyon about two or three times a year.

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The diversity of plants and animals in this canyon includes mule deer, bighorn sheep, juniper and cottonwood trees, box elders, elk, peregrine falcons, mountain lions, desert tortoises hummingbirds and more— and one of my favorites, the canyon tree frog.
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Zion a place of abundant beauty and discovery.

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