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Seewis is in the Prättigau/Davos Region of Switzerland. The language spoken is Swiss German and it is located high up on the green pastures of the alps. Homecoming of the cows in September/ October is celebrated with great fan fair, cow bells, älpen horn, folk music and local specialties such as bundnerfleisch (air dried meat), raclette, alpen kasse, the regional cheese. It is a traditional event played out throughout Switzerland. Small family run farms blanket the alps and this festival highlights local traditions, costumes and the spirt of the alps.
I joined in the festivities and created a video I hope will give you a little bit of the atmosphere of the Vehaker, the return to the barns from the upper alps.
The vibrant street life of Paris is magical. The only way to really experience the city is to walk and view the impressive architecture, art and monuments. Stroll through the gardens, visit the museums and walk along the Seine. Feel the magic atmosphere where cafe life is the center of social life. Romance is what Paris is all about in every aspect of life and known as “The City of Love”. Everywhere you look Paris awakens every emotion!
Come with me on short walk and visit one of my favorite cities in the world, Paris.
The country with its dramatic landscape, lakes, rain forests, jungles, volcanoes, markets and welcoming people is in transition. Its colonial cities such as Granada and Leon are colorful, a photographers paradise.
The population is 95% catholic and there are many churches; a colorful country with buildings, doors and dwellings painted in bright tones. Tourist are discovering the culture and beauty of the country and there is a transition under way.
Those who are not afraid to experience adventure, traveling the country by car can be very rewarding. The landscapes with cone shaped volcanoes, lakes, beaches and pastures are dramatic.
Although the infrastructure is only just beginning to be developed, there are a few good highways and many of the roads are challenging but drivable. We traveled from the North-west to the South-west of the country, parallel to the Pacific Ocean coast line, visiting the major inland cities.
Although the driving is slow it also allows you to see rural life and stop at the small food stands along the way. I highly recommend renting a car and experiencing the country and culture.
It should be said that speaking Spanish is a must. Although you can find a few people in the cities, particularly in the hotels that can speak English.
I can’t say enough about the warm nature of the people. In general they live in dwellings that are built from any type of material that can be found, many with dirt floors and within their property they are cleaning and sweeping to maintain an orderly environment constantly.
Their dwellings are often built in the jungle under trees for shade, smoldering fires are lit to keep bugs away. They are friendly, and more then willing to engage in an attempt to converse, or have you take their photo.
They love music, dancing and being together with family. Their neighborhoods are a close community of people and they are hard workers.
It also must be said that the common areas are filled with trash and my guess is that the country doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle trash removal. The beaches, crowded with locals all the time, are not well maintained. High-end condos for foreigners are in the process of being constructed along the coasts, but the small villages, small hotels, restaurants and roads are inadequate to handle large numbers of tourist.
Having said this, we ate in the local restaurants and found the food to be not only delicious and fresh, but we totally enjoyed everything about them including all the local activity and entertainment.
It was fun to spend time being locals for a little while. The food is very inexpensive and there is no need to eat at higher end restaurant. We visited cantinas, small little eateries, beachfront restaurants and the local markets and never had a problem.
It is always best to be aware of eating in local places, it can be risky, but although we brought along all the medication we needed, we never had the need to use them.
Adventure travelers will find hiking, volcano sliding, zip lining, surfing and many other sporting adventures to explore. There are 25 volcanoes, 9 of which are active. Hiking them opens dramatic panoramas in every direction.
It is time to visit Nicaragua now and enjoy this interesting country before progress changes it.
The International Black & White Spider Awards were announced November 5th in a world-wide presentation online. Two of my photo’s were nominated.
11th Annual Jury members included captains of the industry from National Geographic, Washington DC; The Armory Show, New York; TBWA, Paris; Victoria Film Festival, Canada; Aeroplastics Contemporary, Brussels; Studio Hansa, London; Fratelli Alinari, Florence; Australian Centre for Photography; Young & Rubicam, Lima; and Anthem Worldwide/Marque Branding, Sydney who honored Spider Fellows with 627 coveted title awards in 31 categories.”It is an incredible achievement to be selected among the best from the 7,556 entries we received this year,” said Basil O’Brien, the awards Creative Director. ”
The Gelmersee Bridge
Located in Oberwald, Switzerland above the Grimsel Pass is Gelmersee (lake). The bridge is situated at the entrance of the Gelmerbahn mountain railway to the Gelmersee. It is a pedestrian bridge suspended over the Handeggfall with a spectacular view of the dramatic falls.
The Raymond & Maria Stata Center
The Raymond & Maria Stata Center was designed by Frank Gehry. Located at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts is the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Departments as well as student dorms on the upper floors. The exterior tiles reflect the surrounding landscape and creates a visual picture of the activities of student life in the area.
This year’s harvest is in full swing in the Bünder Herrschaft.
Last year I had the fortune of photographing Jürg Obrecht and his team harvest and process the grapes.
With urgency and passion, the activity was intense as the temperature in the evening was beginning to drop.
Not a minute could be wasted in getting the grapes into the crushers and vats.
The moment to harvest is decided with experience, gut and closely watching the weather.
Jürg took over his father’s winery (Weinbau & Weinhandel) in 1997. Along with his young family he built a team of talented people to develop and create innovative and traditional wines.
Added to the production of his own 17 acres of vineyards he buys the harvest from another 50 acres of vineyards in Jenins and Maienfeld.
Surrounded by spectacular views of the Alps he produces excellent and award winning red and white wines.
Jürg modernized his production with the newest techniques and equipment to generate top quality wines.
Eighty percent of the grapes he grows are Pinot Noir, the rest are mainly Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Sylvaner.
I thank Jürg and his team for tolerating my camera and me and for the lovely glass of wine.
It was hard to shoot and drink at the same time, but as always I found a way and completely enjoyed the experience.
For more information of the Fünf Dörfer – The 5 villages along the Wine Route of Maienfeld Switzerland
Umbra’s hilly landscape is known for its many medieval hill-top towns that are surrounded with olive groves and vineyards as far as the eye can see. Stretching from Perugia to Spoleto it is a rich agricultural area producing olive oil, black truffles and wine. Tourists will also find beautiful textiles items such as scarf’s and linens produced in the region.
I was impressed to discover the renovation of some of the hilltop towns that today are being occupied, not only by part-time summer residence, but are beautiful vibrant communities. This trip we set out to visit Spoleto, Montefalco, Trevi and some of the restored towns such as Campello Alta and Castello di Postignano.
We found the lovely Argriturismo Pettino in Campello sul Clitunno, after driving along a windy road overlooking the valley, on top of a mountain. The food was outstanding with homemade pasta, perfectly grilled meats, local specialities and black truffles collected by the family around the surrounding mountain. However a warning, after drinking wine and eating large and delicious meals, driving down the mountain could be a risk, so staying at Argriturismo Pettino is a good idea.
Nonna, who was there before breakfast and stayed until after the dinner service was a joyful woman who loved to talk to the guests. I got to know her a little during my stay and one morning she was making homemade ravioli, I really wanted to stay and help her, but we were going to visit Spoleto that day and I had to make a choice, Spoleto it was. But I was in heaven at dinner eating the best ravioli I have ever had that evening.
As I left Umbria, a plan began totake shape in my head about how I was going to return, but that will be another trip and another story.
Enjoy some of the photo’s I took of the landscape and look for a future post about Montefalco and Spoleto.
The Bernina Pass is one of Europe’s highest alpine passes at 2253-metre-high. It is located in the Canton of Graubünden and The Bernina Express runs from Chur, Davos, St Moritz through Valposchiavo to Tirano in Italy.
The stunning and rugged landscapes and pristine ice blue lakes provide magnificent views of the Alps. Alp Grüm (2,091 m) is the first station south of the Alps situated above Largo Palü. The train negotiates 55 tunnels and 196 bridges. The highest point on the RhB is 2,253 metres above sea level, where you will find the Ospizio Bernina.
The route takes you on a journey into Swiss German, Romanish and Italian villages, cultures and languages. It offers a unique experience of Alpine life in small villages as well as the glamour of St Moritz. It is considered one of the world’s most beautiful train trips.
The Radishes Bahn is one of the Largest Network of Rail systems in Switzerland except for the Swiss Federal Railway. RhB section from the Albula/Bernina area (the part from Thusis to Tirano, including St Moritz) was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008.
Enjoy some of the landscapes along the Bernina Pass.
Information can be found on Wikipedia, Eurail.com – (http://www.eurail.com/europe-by-train/scenic-trains/bernina-express),the Rhaetian Railway at https://www.rhb.ch/en/panoramic-trains/bernina-express and My Swisshttp://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/search/index.cfm?phrase=Bernina+Express%2FBernina+Pass
Deep fog was not in my plans when I awoke at 5:30 AM to shoot the sunrise at Sunshine Meadows Equestrian Center in Delray, Florida. I thought this could be interesting anyway and drove to the stables. I could barely see the horses slightly visible through streaks of mist moving silently over the corals.
The atmosphere was mystical as I drove up to the racetrack.
I could see trainers leading their horses in and emerging out of the fog.
And then the sky started to turn pink, then bright gold, it looked like they were trotting to reach the rays of sunlight casting gold light on their coats with their mains floating in the air.
It was captivating watching this unfold and my plan to shoot the sunrise turned to capturing these beautiful animals and their trainers.
It became a passion and I returned many times.
I know nothing about harness racing except to have attended a few races in the vineyards not far from our home in Switzerland. I began to see personalities in the horses and the relationship between the horses and trainers.
The trainers even seemed to look at their young horses in amazement.
The power of their limbs and their gracefulness has lured me back many times.
The trainers, owners and staff are engaging and have accepted my presents, although sometimes wondering what I’m doing so early in the morning taking photos. As they leave to go up North for the summer, I will miss my visits to Sunshine Meadows and look forward to their return in October.
Spend a few moments with me and enjoy these beautiful animals and their trainers.
Division of Forestry and Johathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound, Fl had a Fire Fest with a controlled burn. The focus is on fire safety and the importance of forest management.
The growth of community development close to wildlands and the growth of vegetation has made the management in these areas riskier and complex.
Tribal, federal, state, and local governments partner in the management of these areas and community preparedness strategies.
Inviting the public to talks given by the firefighters and a demonstration of an actual controlled burn is an effort to educate families to get involved in the use of the community wildlands and its wildlife.
Safty is of key importance as large numbers of families joined the fest for a day of activities.
Look for information on their website for the next Fire Fest. http://www.floridastateparks.org/jonathandickinson/
Each year Scott Kelby hosts a worldwide photo walk. Organizers from photo clubs around the world select a location in their area to highlight . This year PBC Photo Walkers, a group that I’m a member of, choose Green Cay in Boynton Beach, right in my back yard. I joined about 50 photographers to photograph the nature preserve at sunset. The park is about 1.5 miles of boardwalk with various plants and wildlife abundant and easily photographed. The challenge is that the selection is not the best location for a sun set meet and this isn’t the best time of year to photograph animals or birds, as the migration has not yet begun. But having said that, it is important to search of interesting shots and challenge your skills.
There is a contest by Scott Kelby that the photographers can participate in and the selected photo’s will be posted on his website.
Here are some of the images I shot.
Brickell has grown into a major cultural area with theaters, such as the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House, the Carnival Studio Theater, Adrienne Arsht Theater and other Performing Arts centers. Also found in the area is the Perez Museum, under construction the Miami Museum of Science & Planetarium and nearby the Children’s Museum and many others. Creative and exciting architecture and public areas beautifully adorned with palms, flowers and parks provide leisure spaces for visitors.
Brickell Village is a small neighborhood in the middle of this beautiful area overlooking the sea where many restaurants and cafes cater to locals w ho enjoy evenings and weekends with friends. As a photographer what fascinates me is the way the contemporary architecture mingles with the “Miami Style,” as I call it, which is a combination of Spanish and Art Deco buildings.
Buildings of glass reflect architectures that seem to be alive with the flavor of the Latin music that is heard in the clubs and restaurants. The shapes, lines and colors dance to the rhythms of the culture of the area. Recently I have taken images of the buildings that show how these architectures reflect the style of the area.
My image “The French Countryside” will be exhibited at the Palm Beach International Airport from July 9th to October 8th. The photo won a Merit Award in B&W 2014 Portfolio Contest and is currently published in the June special issue.
It is very exciting for me to have the opportunity to participate in this exhibition and display a location that I have loved and enjoyed for many years. Please stop by and enjoy the exhibition.
For more photo’s of this beautiful countryside go to my blog post: http://turosdolci.pturo.com/the-french-countryside/
Black & White is a leading photography magazine that conducts photography contests in Single Image and Portfolio images yearly. The magazines distribution is 35,000 worldwide. With about 9,500 images submitted in the 2014 portfolio contest, three of my images won a Merit Award and are included in the Special Edition #104 due in the Newsstands soon. It is an honor to be among the outstanding photographers who won this year.
My photos were taken in the Burgundy region of France. Having lived in Europe for many years, we most often traveled on the back roads and through the countryside whenever possible. The French countryside is my favorite, and to me the most romantic. I am absorbed with the tranquility, graceful fields filled with sunflowers, vineyards, quite villages and elegance of the architecture.
I have written a blog post with additional photo’s that I invite you to view.
The following three photo’s are published in the magazines 2014 Portfolio Contest Winners Special issue.
Grassy Waters Preserve is located in West Palm Beach, Florida offering 23 miles of wetland trails for nature seekers eager explore the wetlands.
The Cypress Board Walk, Hog Hammock Trail, Apoxee Trail and Owahee Trail are just a few trails I’ve hiked with my hiking group.
An array of nesting birds and other wild life such as alligators, deer and turtles etc. can be seen in the wild. Flowers, wetland hammock, cypress swamps, pine flatwoods and vast views of beautiful landscape sometimes with herds of deer off in the distance can be seen.
The reflections of a variety of trees are a photographers dream.
School programs, hiking, canoeing, kayaking with one of the naturalists is available through the nature center. Trail maps and any information you might need can be obtained through one of the staff members.
I advise checking in with the center if you are not an experienced hiker. Even for vacationers, hiking through Florida’s wetlands is not only a learning experience, but seeing Florida and all its natural beauty.
Grassy Waters Preserve 8264 Northlake Blvd. West Palm Beach, Florida 33412 (561) 804-4985
Wakodahatchee is considered one of the best sites to view birds in South Florida. Located in Delray, it has ample parking and a ¾ mile boardwalk that takes you over the top of wetlands where you can view alligators, turtles, fish and many different species of plant and bird life.
Saturday morning I joined my photography group to photograph birds. I’m not an early morning person and getting to the reserve at 7AM was an effort. When I arrived, I was very surprised to see that the parking lot was almost full, who else but a bunch of avid photographers would get up so early in the morning. I soon found out that the mornings are magic.
My group was already set up with huge lenses and having a great time enjoying each other and sharing technical information on how to shoot the birds. The sunrise was spectacular and the birds were active building their nests.
This is one of our favorite walks in the evening, but I am now a convert to morning walks.
Enjoy some of the birds of Wakodahatchee.
Florida has thousands of parks and reserves that offer magnificent opportunities to view wildlife and enjoy sport activities. Riverbend is located in Jupiter, (Palm Beach County), and is 680 acres of subtropical terrain, waterways and miles of trails.
The park offers wonderful hiking, bicycling, horseback riding as well as water sports like canoeing and kayaking. Riverbend is a unique blend of outdoor activity opportunities lending itself to both young and seniors.
The self-guided trails are easy to follow and you will want to stop along the way to take in the beautiful views and reflections along the Loxahatchee River and the bird life that make it their home.
There are Chickee huts with picnic tables and grills available for your picnic outings. The park is open everyday from sunrise to sunset and has a visitors center equipped with trail maps and equipment.
If you are a visitor or longtime resident of Florida, visiting Riverbend Park is a wonderful blend of nature and sporting activities.
As we flew over Iowa and I looked down at the patchwork of cornfields, I wondered what would keep our interest on our drive back to Atlanta.
The harvest was a few weeks away so the farms were devoid of activity and people as is often the case in farm regions I have been in. I had my ITunes ready for a long drive with my favorite music.
We picked up some fruit, fresh bread and pastries at a wonderful and very large farmers market in Des Moines and purchased cold cuts and drinks at a local market for a picnic lunch. We might not find a restaurant on the way back and we thought we would find a nice area to stop for lunch. As it turned out we drove down a small country road and enjoyed our lunch along side a corn filed. Well how appropriate was that.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t as dull as I had expected. The beauty of the barns, silo’s and movement in the sky was mesmerizing. As in other trips where we encountered farmland or vineyards, it is quite, peaceful and farmers have meticulous respect for the land. The clean shiny silos and white barns provided breaks of interest as well as the human element that sometimes gets lost in long distances of endless landscape.
The striking difference from the farmland I’m use to seeing in Switzerland, France, Germany and even Italy was the flat the terrain. Yet the deep green corn reaching for the sun, white barns with silver metal roofs glistening in the sunlight, and round metal silos created unique images.
Life seems timeless, as if nothing had changed.
Yet we know that these farms are hi-tech and provide food around the world. Iowa produces more corn than most countries and corn can be found in many products such as animal feed, starches, oils, sweeteners and even ethanol (Iowa Corn Growers Association).
I have found that if you look hard enough, you often find beauty in unexpected places.
There was no doubt what we would choose for lunch during our visit to the San Remo food market. The markets in Italy are a visual and gastronomic experience. Red, ripe, sweet tomatoes, huge bunches of basil, garlic and fresh olives filled our basket. How better to enjoy a beautiful village but to experience the local markets and fresh food. Next to the bread stand for fresh crusty Italian bread and a stop at the cheese vendor left only one more thing to buy. On the way back home we visited our new friend in the local store to purchase a bottle of wine from the vineyards of Dolceaqua. We were climbing the stairs to our apartment in anticipation of a lovely fresh tomato salad with basil, garlic and olive oil from the local olive groves. This is one of the advantages of renting an apartment rather then staying in a hotel. We were happy and content enjoying our lunch and the view of the village. How better to spend a vacation in a beautiful village experiencing the local markets and fresh food.
All aboard at the Swiss Museum of Transport in Luzern, Switzerland. The largest transport museum in Europe with hands on displays. I’m still trying to figure out which one of these signs I should follow.
Hiking in the mountains is invigorating as we pass people parasailing, white water rafting, motorcycling, mountain biking, horse back riding, all taking advantage of the cool days in the mountains during the summer.
The sunsets paint the sky in tones of red, orange and yellow. Thunderstorms echo throughout the mountains and when they leave they seem to say “I’m sorry for making such a fuss, so I’ll leave you with a rainbow”.
The valleys spring into life as flowers turn the hills and meadows into shades of blue, yellow, red and white and their sweet aromas penetrate the air. Restaurants are crowded with guests enjoying eachothers company surrounded by flower covered houses. The Summer!
In the Autumn the trees turn yellow and orange and the cows are escorted down to the valley as the air becomes crisp and snow threatens.
Farmers rush to sickle down grass and stack the hay in barns for the winter. Cows, sheep, goats and horses are now grazing in the valley, their last chance to roam free.
The vines are heavy with deep blue and yellow grapes ready to be harvested. The wine fests begin!
I love looking out over Serneus as I hike down from the mountain and the Summer gives way to Autumn colors. I think this might be my favorite time of the year. The Autumn!
At the first sign of snow the villagers move into action preparing for the arrival of the ski season. Anticipation builds up to the lifts opening. I’m sorry to see the Autumn come to a close, but one of my favorite seasons is around the corner.
My favorite moment is when I walk out of my bedroom in the morning and view the light snow peacefully falling over the village from my picture window. The church steeple reaches out to greet the soft flakes and the ski run begins to take shape behind it.
Klosters turns from green to white with ice clutching the edges of the mountain streams.
Thoughts of skiing alone down wide open slopes with views that carry you to the ends of the earth begins to sweep over me. The Winter!
In early Spring the snow covered peaks provide a backdrop for the green rolling hills against a deep blue shy and the contrast is amazing, yes this is my favorite season.
The blue and green colors of the lakes are translucent as the sun penetrates the water.
Mountain streams are swollen as rushing water flows from the glaciers. Deer can be spotted along the hills nibbling at the new grass after a long winter. Spring is one of my favorite seasons. The Spring!
I can’t quite make up my mind which is my favorite season.
Floating above the earth in the early morning feeling the cool air blowing against your face and blasts heat as the fire fills the balloon. For just a short time you escape from the world and your body and mind take in the wonders of the earth.
Devils Garden is about 17 miles southeast of Escalante, Utah. Formations of sandstone worn down by the ages are called hoodoos. They create an unreal landscape in tones of red and terra cotta surrounded by white cliffs.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast in the small town of Escalante that was very nice and well-appointed. The owner provided us with hand drawn maps and suggestions of where to go, what time to be there and what we would see. We may have missed this wondrous sight if it were not for him.
Driving to Devils Garden in itself is an experience. The road winds down steep cliffs with hairpin turns without guard rail protection down to flat plains. Having lived in Switzerland for a long time, you might think I would be use to traveling on roads like this, but I was holding my breath all the way.
We left before sunrise after it had rained with dark clouds hovering over white cliffs. I was already getting anxious at what we might find. The drive was harrowing until we came to a long gravel road. We stopped and got out of the car to take in the view before us. Dark clouds hung over a very desolate but unique landscape. We came upon a small parking lot, and just behind it, stretched out before us was an amazing sight. We were in Devils Garden, looking out at hoodoos in varying shapes and sizes.
The rain had left the earth smooth and glistening. The clouds opened up and closed from time to time looking very threatening and the landscape stretched out as far as the eye could see. According to Wikipedia the gardens are estimated to be about 166 to 174 million years old. Dinosaurs fossils and tracks have been discovered and you can imagine them roaming around this surreal scene. It looked like the creation of visual effects artists.
At first we stood motionless in amazement, feeling like we were on sacred ground. It was so quite, we were alone, and it took a few minutes to acclimate ourselves to this strange sight. We began to walk around the arches and stone formations. They are shaped by erosion and wind sandblasting the surface creating smooth rounded shapes. As we walked, we felt as if we were on another planet and our lonely foot prints were the first to travel this ground. Our landlord for the evening had given us good advice to arrive very early in the morning to see the sunrise, except maybe we were even luckier to have arrived after a rainfall.
Photography Miami had a photo shoot at the Little Havana Festival, which is held the last Friday night of each month. I thought, well we will go for about an hour and then go to dinner somewhere, a good excuse to go into Miami. We arrived at 5:30 PM and left at 10:30 PM and probably would have stayed longer if it were not for an hour ride home.
Typical of the Latin culture, it was electric with music and dancing in the streets. As we have found in the past on our excursions to Little Havana the people are great and ambassadors for their neighborhood. Take time to talk to the locals, artists and vendors displaying their work on the streets and visit the galleries.
Around 8PM 1,000 bikers came rolling down Calle Ocho some wearing costumes, music blasting from their bikes, hooting and waving all the way. It was an amazing site and for a minute I thought I was in Beijing again.
We went to a Cuban restaurant with our group who helped us select a typical Cuban dish, with the waiter chiming in to help us make our selection. Later we were back out on the street listening to the Latin beat and watching people dancing.
The crowds got larger towards the evening, so I suggest getting the full flavor, go about 7PM and be sure to visit one of the many restaurants and galleries for a memorable evening in Little Havana
Some Street Photography
Henna painting is a form of tattooing. The color generally comes from dyes taken from plants, seeds and fruits. Typically it has been used in Asia and Africa for centuries. It has become a popular form of body art.
Authentic French cuisine prepared by chef owner Madame Caroline Poussardin in the style of Aix-en-Provence is a sweet find. The food is beautifully presented and an evening at Côté Gourmet is as if you are sitting in a lovely little village in the Provence. It is a family owned establishment where her husband runs the front of the restaurant making people feel as though they are in their dinning room. Côté Gourmet is a little bit of France in Miami Shores. As in many small restaurants in France, the chef and her husband enjoy talking to guests and making their dinning experience memorable. If you speak French, a big smile will come over their face and they will be delighted to communicate with you in their native language.
Fresh ingredients of the season are prepared by Chef Caroline in typically French country-style with specials prepared such as crêpes on Wednesday evening and a special soirée dinner on Thursday. They serve lunch and if you should show up early in the morning and would like breakfast, she will accommodate you. A small menu is complimented with daily specials and is a nice selection. When I tasted the polenta soup with shrimp, I was in France. The soup was seasoned perfectly, smooth and light, amazing for polenta. The lamb chops were prepared exactly as I had requested, rosé with chèvre sauce. I couldn’t resist dessert, the warm pear tart with chocolate sauce over vanilla ice cream on a beautiful flaky crust was a perfect ending. The wine selections compliments the menu and you can order it by the bottle or glass. I almost never order a three-course meal, as it is often too much food. But I made an exception in this case.
Madame et Monsieur owned two restaurants in Aix-en-Provance before moving to Miami to start a restaurant with their daughter. They have been serving their guests for 5 years in a neighborhood local in Miami Shores. The atmosphere is typical of many small restaurants found all over the French countryside. Space for about 30 guests, it is decorated with white crisp tablecloths, white napkins tied with a large golden ribbon, fresh flowers and candles burning, creating a warm romantic atmosphere. When you walk into Côté Gourmet, you walk into France for an evening and you walk out feeling you have returned to your favorite little neighborhood place.
Having lived in Europe for many years, I must admit that finding a good French restaurant that doesn’t compromise itself and is unmistakably French was not easy to find. When it comes to maintaining the meaning of Provence French cuisine, Madame Caroline delivers exactly what you expect.
Côté Gourmet French Restaurant
9999 NE 2nd Avenue
Look for them on Facebook
The Limmat Quai runs through the city flowing out of the Lake of Zürich. Lined with swimming areas and restaurants it is the playground of the city where people meet in beer gardens and cafes. The city is sophisticated, elegant, spotless and yet it seems like a beachfront with people sunbathing along the river and lake. Motorboats, sail boats and steamboats move along the lake in a frenzy of activity while people dinning in the restaurants enjoy their champagne brunch. During summer, the lake promenade is a relaxing way to spend the day or evening enjoying the beautiful views and feeding the swans that gather around the shore.
This is the center of Switzerland’s famous financial services, an important international business hub. It looks more like a resort then a business center. But then you walk down the Bahnhofstrasse and you are in another world. Banks, insurance companies, trading companies stand side by side with exclusive shops.
Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland and offers the traveler more then 2,000 restaurants and some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. People stroll along the Bahnhofstrasse window-shopping at spectacular jewelry, art galleries and elegant boutiques. Smartly dressed people stop at Sprüngli’s for an espresso and decadent desserts. Sweets are not just for special occasions here, they are an important part of the lifestyle and you cannot pass by without experiencing some of the luscious chocolates beautifully displayed to excite your taste buds. My internal navigation system is permanently set to take me to the Paradeplatz; if not to indulge myself in chocolate truffles, griotte, and tarts, but to also take in the visual experience of Sprüngli’s and Teuschers’ chocolate concoctions. It is said that the average Swiss eats approximately 22 pounds of chocolate per year.
Zürich has the biggest techno parade in Europe, and has the Züri Fäscht, a fest with spectacular fireworks to music that sprawls along the entire harbor side and held every 3 years. Zürcher Theater Spetakel, an outdoor cinema and live musical programs fill the summer schedule with entertainment.
Many political refugees lived in Zürich shortly before and during the two world wars of the last century. They gathered in the Odeon Café at the Bellevue, among them Trotsky, Lenin before the Russian revolution and many artists and writers during the Nazi period, such as Berthold Brecht. Even today it is a place where intellectuals gather.
Visit the Grossmünster, a Romanesque church and the Fraumünster. The old Gothic church has windows created by Marc Chagall. Kunsthaus, one of the major Swiss art museums and many more are mostly free entry.
This civilized city somehow seems to be in slow motion and still in high gear at the same time. It is like everyone’s back yard yet there is serious business going on in the majestic buildings. The intermingling of young smartly dressed business people in suits lunching at the many ultra modern bars and the serious looking bank buildings are a stark contrast to all the activity surrounding them.
The Niederdorf can’t be forgotten. This is the Old Town, and here like in many cities it coexists with jazz clubs, exotic shows, small theaters, restaurants, clubs, galleries, jewelry shops and boutiques. This is the place to go at night and during the day for a bit to eat in one of the many restaurants. Here you find people elegantly dressed on their way to the Opera or pre-opera dinning or enjoying jazz at the many clubs. This is not the typical seedy part of town, but the entertainment district for all to enjoy. It is buzzing from late afternoon into the early morning hours. Fourteenth century buildings and small cobblestone streets offer apartment living and city getaways for people living in the suburbs.
Switzerland has a fantastic transport system, not only can you tour the city by tram, but you can also take restaurant trams enjoying lunch as you go. In a very short time you can be in the Pre-alps or even in the Alps. Steamboats take you on slow lazy cruises along the villa-lined lake with the alps looming in the background, and during the Föhn (warm air coming from over the alps from the south) seem to be touchable. The contrast of the countryside is stunning as you very quickly go from this alluring city to the peaceful awesome views of the green rolling hills to the alps. Travel by train along transparent blue glass like waters of the many lakes. Buy tickets at ticket machine before boarding or from one of the kiosks. Tickets are sold for the day or multiple trips, or tickets that offer you all forms of transportation.
Zürich is as complex as the Swiss themselves – a reflexion of the Swiss personality. Complex, reserved, conservative, hesitant, precise and even reluctant and yet there is an underlying energy, bursts of excitement and curiosity. These traits create an innovative and courteous place that typifies the city and the people who live here. It is stunningly beautiful.
We started out in Dolceaqua in search of more medieval stone villages and came across Pigna just a few miles from Apricale. The village is beautifully restored with many apartments renovated into full time or vacations getaways occupied by dwellers in search of the past. Many people had witches (le streghe) hanging above their doors or in the apartments. This of course coming from New England was rather strange. I assumed that it must be that they are meant to keep evil away. As we walked through the narrow caruggi (paths) we met up with one of the locals who was entering his apartment and had a witch hanging above his door. He explained that the witches bring good luck to the family. An odd concept we thought as they are considered shadowy figures working their potions and strange ideas in dark rooms somewhere to us. But not here, as the village of the witches here is Triora he told us and suggested we visit this interesting stone medieval village. So off we went in search of the story.
Back to Pigna for a moment as it is too pretty to just pass by. The large spa of The Grand Hotel Pigna Terme is cradled just below two medieval villages with breathtaking views. Hidden just below the Toraggio mountains the views of the ancient villages of Pigna and Castle Victorrio, the green plateaus and centuries of history and art are surreal. The Grand Hotel Pigna Antiche Terme offers just about everything for relieving stress and beauty treatments in harmony with nature.
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From there we headed up winding roads, sometimes hairpin turns into the mountains with views covering miles of forests and olive groves out to the sea to Triora. The small village is truly fascinating, as the world’s technological advances have not reached it as yet. Some locals and a few vacation apartments have been renovated, but if you want to get a true idea of what life must have been like during the 14 century you can find it here. It is hard to call the spaces apartments – they are really caves carved out of the mountains with walls built of layered stone. A simpler construction then their neighbors, it reaches down into your physic with wonderment of what life must have been like and how lucky in many ways we are today. Hard to contemplate living in this cold yet imaginative environment. The village was very poor as we were told by one of the local woman. She went on to say that the women were the center of life with great power over the family. As in many cases the mystic overtook reality and those who didn’t understand their world considered the women witches. They were burned alive during the Inquisition; Troira was the site of the last witch trails. Today the witches are thought to bring good luck to families. Troria has a witchcraft festival in August and Halloween. It was selected as “I Borghi Piú Belli d’Italia”, (The most beautiful villages in Italy). We didn’t find any witches, but I’m sure there are some behind the old wooden doors along the caurggi.
As usual we were taken up with what we were doing and lost track of time as we began our decent to San Remo. We needed to find a restaurant before 2PM when the restaurants close for the afternoon. As we entered Moiline Di Triora we came across a very small restaurant along the side of the road. We know that they usually don’t have a menu but this has never stopped us in the past, and we always enjoy the interaction with the local people. This was no exception as we listened to the two main courses and the pasta of the day, we made our selection and enjoyed some wine as we waited for the fresh tagliiatelle with pesto Liguria, now going on at least 3-4 times we have ordered it. The homemade pasta was delicious (pesto Liguria is made without cheese) and shortly came the Cinghiale di Liguri (wild boar) and the Coniglio di Liguri (rabbit) that my husband ordered. These are typical dishes of the Alpe Liguri and we had to try them at least once.
The stews were simple and the meat just fell apart. Knowing that not many people would have access to wild boar, I asked the owner for the rabbit recipe. This is always interesting as everyone in the restaurant usually has his or her idea of how to prepare a dish. As she explained how to prepare the rabbit and left to serve another customer, our neighbors began to explain that she had not told us the most important part. The rabbit must be browned to a crisp and not to add too much olive oil or wine as it should not be steamed or it will get too dry. The conversation went on for quite some time as they ate their panna cotta with chocolate sauce and a shot of Vodka poured over the top. Seeing that I was a little surprised, they explained that this was how people in the mountains eat – they drink a lot! We had a good time talking to them except by the end of the discussion we had eaten all the boar and rabbit and I forgot to take a picture. So here is the recipe without the picture.
Cinghiale Bianco Ristorante
Molini DI Triora
Via Regina Margherita 77
Coniglio di Liguri
1 rabbit cut into pieces
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 whole cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup white wine
Vegetable bouillon, as needed
Mixture of herbs: thyme, sage, rosemary, chopped
Black Taggia olives
Large grain salt
Extra virgin olive oil, light
Other things needed:
Terra cotta pot
Put a small amount of olive oil in the pot and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the rabbit pieces and brown until a crust has formed. This step is very important, as the rabbit will dry out during the cooking if it is not properly browned. Add the herbs and wine and salt and pepper. About 1/2 hour into the cooking add the olives. Let the stew cook for about 40 minutes. Add the broth as needed.
The medieval village rests on a small hillside 7 km from Ventimiglia in the Val Nervia dominated by the ruins of the Chateau des Doria. The medieval bridge stretches over the Rio San Rocco river connecting the two sections of the town and is a symbol of Dolceacqua. Terraces (fasce) are carved into the hillside where olive trees, vineyards, flowers and eucalyptus grow. Art and history create a visual feast of beauty that caught the eye of Claude Monet who painted Dolceacqua and said that it was an “extraordinary picturesque village”.
The sunny Piazza Garibaldi acts a theater for feasts and events in the village such as the Festa dell”Olio Nuove (Festival of the new oil), and is lined with restaurants where you can enjoy the famous pizza made with local light olive oil. Stone pathways with arches connecting the buildings called “caruggi” (narrow paths) wind upwards through the stone village that protected its inhabitants from invaders and the weather. Small shops tucked along the caruggi house workplaces of carpenters, electricians, galleries, small B&B’s and agriturismi that cater to today’s residents and guests. Each day as we passed we could hear the sound of classical music combined with workmen’s tools as they go about their tasks.
The ancient village is slowly being renovated into charming apartments and rough stone spaces still await a loving owners to bring them back to life. Many French come over the boarder to enjoy the views, the famous pizza at one of the 15 restaurants, and mountain breezes that provide a naturally cool and pleasant environment during the summer months. This is mountain life and the pace is slow and peaceful. People meet in the café’s, drink cappuccino reading the newspaper in the mornings, and socialize with friends over a glass of wine in the afternoons. The fish man comes along in a small truck selling fish from the sea as people go about their business working in the shops or greenhouses that ramble along the hillsides and olive groves that seems almost impossible to reach.
The region has a culture of roses and floriculture with tangerine trees lining the streets and the sweet aroma from the multitude of flowering bushes. Although the region has been deeply affected by difficult economic times, 80% of Italy’s flowers are grown here.
Dolceacqua means “Sweet Water” maybe named after the very nice red wine called “Rosses di Dolceacqua” that has the deep red color of roses. Made from grapes grown in vineyards where their roots cling to the hillsides, it was highly revered by Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Paul III who made sure that casks were shipped home.
Maybe it is the olive oil that is the sweet water of Dolceacqua. The silver green leafed olive trees covering the hills produce light yellow oil perfect for fish, wild boar and rabbit dishes typical of the cuisine of Liguria. Beer is also brewed here, and is deep yellow, served very cold in glasses similar to a Bordeaux glass. The beer is a perfect accompaniment to the thin-crusted pizza made in wood fired ovens covered with local dried salumi, porcini, fresh vegetables or shellfish, the best pizza I’ve had in Italy.
Just up the road about 4km is Apricale, one of the” Rock Villages” certified as the most beautiful villages in Italy. Stone houses and alleys lead around the castle housing artist’s workshops and painted murals. Paintings and stone carvings can be seen along the caruggi and doorways decorated with flowers that add color to the grey stone structures.There are a few B&B’s and restaurants in the center of the piazza where there is a washing trough and along the caruggi you can see the old village central oven. The village is also well-known for its summer theater. A local Balu tournament is held in June and July with 16 teams taking part. A popular Ligurian game using an elastic ball is played against the walls of the ancient village. The local players are even more popular then football players.
Sun showers light into the dark covered caruggi during the day lighting the painted and carved murals walls. At night it is the stars that light the ancient village, which seems to sit just below the sky. The villages were owned by the Counts of Ventimiglia, captured by Grimaldi until Andrea Doria liberated them. Apricale even has an American history as Giovanni Battista Martini fought at Little Big Horn and was the only living survivor.
Both Apricale and Dolceacqua belong to the prestigious “Associatione dei Borghi piu belli d’Italia”, (The Association of beautiful villages in Italy) and there is no doubt why many foreigners have bought apartments in appreciation not only of the villages but the life style of the mountains.
Ventimiglia is 7km, San Remo is 14km and the French border is 16km from Dolceacqua making this little village a perfect base for visiting the Alpe Liguri – the backdrop of the Riviera dei fiori is a refuge from the crowded beach towns along the Riviera. There are many apartments for rent by the week or weekend. Renting an apartment offers you the opportunity to experience village life and select some of the local cheeses, salumi, wines, foccica, bread and pastries to enjoy at home. The local merchants are very helpful and always happy to recommend local specialties. French and Italian are mostly spoken here and even though only a few people speak English you can always find ways to communicate with the friendly locals. There is little night life except for the restaurants and a few clubs, yet you are a very short distance to the sea side towns.
Cars are not allowed in the old villages anywhere along the Riviera, so be prepared to walk up hill or steep steps to reach an apartment or B&B. Villages have parking lots; some are free at the entrance of the village. Summer months are crowded with heavy traffic clogging narrow roads through the towns along the sea. The best time to visit the area is in May to Mid June or from September through the fall.
Pizza Verde Dolceaqua
Cook time: 200c (400ºF)
Time: 20-30 minutes
500g flour (1.1.lb)
5 tablespoons extra virgin ‘Taggiasca” olive oil
250gr water (1 1/4 cup)
40gr yeast (1 1/2 oz.)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 whole eggs
750gr chard (1 lb. 10 oz.)
150gr Parmesan cheese (10 1/2 oz.)
1 1/2 onions
Extra virgin olive oil
Black Taggia olives
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and a teaspoon of sugar and allow it to rest in a warm place.
Pour the flour onto a work surface and add the yeast mixture, and salt to the flour. Bring it together into a ball and knead it. Let it rest under a clean cloth, preferable woolen, of a bowl until in a warm place for at least 2 hours.
Take the risen dough and knead a second time until you have soft dough and let it raise again under the cloth for another 2 hours.
Roll it out and put it onto a pan greased with olive oil and let it rest again before covering it with the greens.
Chop the uncooked chard and add the oil, salt, eggs, onion and cheese. Spread the prepared mixture onto the dough and sprinkle olives and whole cloves of garlic over the top. Cook in the oven at 200/300º (400ºF) for 25/30 minutes.
Michetta, The sweet bread of Dolceacqua
The story of michetta:
The Marquis Doria sent a young bride who refused to give herself to him to prison to die. The population of Dolceacqua rose up and forced the Marquis Doria (1364) to stop his abuse of power and on the 16th of August there is a festival to celebrate the event. The women of the village created the “michetta” now the symbol of love and freedom.
1kg flour, (2 lbs 3 oz.)
100g yeast, (3 1/2 oz.)
350g sugar, (13 oz.)
250g butter, ( 9 oz.)
Grated lemon zest,
Warm water and Marsala
Bake time: 200ºc (400ºF). until they puff up and have alight brown color on top.
Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the warm water and add it to the flour. Add the eggs, butter, lemon zest, salt and Marsala. Let the mixture rise for one hour and knead it. Shape it into an oval or knot shape. Place the michette on an oiled baking sheet and bake in the oven at 200ºc (400ºF).
Dampen the tops with a little water and dust with remaining sugar.
The polenta, porcini and truffles and Genovese pesto spaghetti were dishes we had for lunch at Locanda dei Carugi, Via Roma 12/14, Apricale, a small little inn and restaurant – they were excellent.