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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 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.
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 day started with some rain and then the sky opened up with bright sunshine on Wynwood’s colorful wall art.
The international community has descended on the streets as artists and visitors alike speaking many languages open galleries and take paint brushes to the walls of buildings.
Connecting collectors and introducing new collectors with galleries and artists is in full swing.
It isn’t surprising that art fairs spread in satellite exhibitions around Miami with artsy Wynwood being one of the most popular.
The transformation of what was once a manufacturing district into an artist canvas with painters creating colorful images on everything from cars, buildings, walls and even garbage containers.
Photography, sculptures and experiential art have attracted an international community of artists and collectors.
Basel House and other pop up galleries displaying emerging artists draws tens of thousands of art lovers and opens up a world of “must see” art.
As the show begins and the parties start until the wee hours of the morning, I took to the streets to watch and join in the excitement.
What people are doing on the streets of Wynwood.
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.
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.
It is autumn and the sunflower fields have been newly plowed leaving about a foot of stocks protruding above ground.
The plows have made a pattern across the rolling hills emphasizing rows of yellow stocks contrasting with the brown earth.
The clouds roll over the landscape swallowing up the sun as they go. Rays of sun struggle to keep the earth lit and warm creating brilliant shadows over the hills.
It is so serene that you can hear a bird chirp or a roster crow.
It is stunning and I pull over alongside the road to take in the view and renew my love of the French countryside.
I am in the Chablis of the Burgundy region heading to the Jura. It is taking me longer then usual because I want to take mental pictures and also photograph these romantically beautiful scenes.
I want to be able to close my eyes and remember the light, shadows and shapes.
I sit there in my car and wonder who created this, where do they live, do they see the beauty that I see in what they must consider laborious, tiring work.
Do they know they have created a tableau that moves the senses and fills the mind with peace and wonderment.
How can I tell them that I appreciate their work of art.
Maybe by just recalling those autumn days with you.
With Security at its highest including checkpoints and thousands of Swiss military and police in high visibility, the World Economic Forum will again take place in Davos, Switzerland. Preparations start weeks in advance as this small village transforms itself from an idyllic ski resort to center stage of the world’s major news event. A cold snowy winter setting with steeple bells chiming seems like such an unlikely place for black limos and diplomats to be in deep discussions about the world condition.
Last year we were walking past one of the hotels, two diplomats were saying their goodbyes and one said, “well the passion is over, we leave Davos today”. The other responded by saying “the passion is still in Davos. This is a unique gathering place, allowing even the most difficult and passionate of themes to be discussed in a civil and thoughtful way. This really sums up what Davos is all about. The people of Davos are trained for this event and are experts in providing every service from the simple to the most exquisite. An agreement between WEF and Davos to build an extension to the Congress Center assures many future meetings will be held here.
The atmosphere is serious as people rush from meeting to meeting and the media weathers the cold interviewing dignitaries on the sidewalks and in the media center. Journalists from all over the world and visitors, some in their local dress make Davos their home and the people of Davos give them their most welcome attention in every way.
Guests and skiers mingle to enjoy the outdoor cafés and slopes bundled with scarves up to their ears and warm hats of all shapes and styles. Discussions continue while enjoying hot drinks under the sun overlooking snow-covered mountains and blue skies.
Davos-Klosters offers its guests the best in accommodations, restaurants and sports facilities. Many of the participants enjoy the superb skiing on Jakobshorn, Parsenn, Schatzalp, Pischa, Rinerhorn and Madrisa. Between Klosters and Davos there are 192 miles of expertly maintained ski terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. For those who don’t ski, Davos has Europe’s largest outdoor ice rink. There is Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, Para gliding, horse drawn sleigh rides and walking with awesome landscape to enjoy along the way.
If you get tired of all the meetings and sports activities visit one of the many cafés and restaurants. In the afternoon Kaffeeklatsch, Schneider’s or Cioccolino or any of the other cafés are meeting places where guests go to exchange the stories of the day. Enjoy ice cream or a cup of hot chocolate with rum or cappuccino with a selection of pastries. It is always hard to choose and you won’t be looked at strangely if you select 2 or 3 pieces. Afternoon coffee and pastry is a tradition in Switzerland and they never run out. Of course there are the chocolates if you tire of hot apple strudel with vanilla sauce, pastries and biscotti. Visiting a café is a sport unto itself, although you might need to visit a gym when you return home. If none of this interests you, you can shop.
Local dishes such as Fondue, Racllette, Rosti and Swiss regional specialties can be found in cozy rustic restaurants and stubli. Davos and Klosters cater to an international clientele and you can find restaurants in all price ranges offering gourmet cuisine. The Walserhof, with 17 Gault-Milau points, Gotshna in Serneus offering Swiss Specialties, or the Chesa Grishuna, and Silveritta “Italiano” all located in Klosters are among a long list of restaurants.
You can dance the night away to live music, disco or listen to Jazz and live piano music in hotel lounges and clubs. If gambling is your thing, there is a casino waiting for those who are looking for apré ski fun after a long day on the slopes. Others who haven’t had enough sports during the day can enjoy night snowboarding or skating.
Graubünden is a year round outdoor paradise. Davos-Klosters in the summer has beautiful landscape and the summer sports are unsurpassed. Many who attend WEF return to discover the area in summer. You can paint the beautiful landscape, or play tennis or golf, go rafting, hiking, mountain climbing, sailing, horseback ridding or camping and parasailing. The wellness centers are famous and are located throughout the region. Some have outdoor pools open even in the winter.
Many events such as antique car rallies, music concerts, tennis and golf tournaments are planned. The region is family friendly and many apartments are available through the local tourist offices or travel agencies.
The Glacier Express travels through the Graubünden region making stops in Klosters, Davos and St Moritz. Day trips with scenic routes of the mountains, steel blue lakes, and fields blanketed with wild flowers and cows peacefully grazing with the mountains as a backdrop are a train lovers dream.
The passion of Davos lives on after WEF’s curtains close and the mountain villages again return to doing what they do best, welcoming visitors all year round.
The first sign of spring in Europe is when asparagus begin to show up on restaurant menus. Asparagus are considered the king of vegetables and some restaurants open only during the season serving asparagus with hollandaise sauce (Spargel mit Sauce Hollandaise), slices of ham and fresh strawberries for dessert. Once the season is over, these restaurants close.
Having lived in Germany for several years, we would see fields of white asparagus packed in dirt with the tips peeking out of the ground during the spring. They are deprived of light, which keeps them from turning green.
White asparagus are thicker and juicer but I think more fibrous. Some restaurants in Germany serve them in their water, not my favorite. A chef friend of ours, Rolf Messmer, owner of the Au Major Davel Restaurant & Hotel in Cully Switzerland (www.hotelaumajordavel.ch/), tells us that when he started his apprenticeship he cleaned tons of asparagus. He is meticulous in making sure that the skin has been neatly removed from the stalk. Using a vegetable peeler, he turns the stalks slightly with every stroke removing all the skin. He adds sugar to the water to bring out the flavor and slightly undercooks them, wrapping them in a towel for the final cooking. His asparagus are perfect and his restaurant is filled with people enjoying the king of vegetables as they watch the steamboats pulling up to the dock on Lake Geneva.
There are special asparagus pans where you stand them in a rack in about 3” of water. But you can cook them lying down in water also. Don’t overcook them, as they will become soggy and uneatable. Prick them with a knife to judge if they are beginning to get tender after about five minutes. As soon as the knife starts to penetrate the stalk remove them to a clean kitchen towel as suggested by Chef Messmer.
Green and white asparagus are interchangeable in recipes, but I feel that due to the amount of water in the white variety, they are not as good if added to pizza for instance. I also prefer the green the variety in pasta or anything where the heat continues to cook the vegetable.
When choosing asparagus, make sure they are fresh and the ends are not dried out. When they are old, they will begin to show ridges along the stem – the stem should be smooth. Store them covered in the refrigerator for a few days only. When you are ready to cook them, snap the bottoms off – they will break where the tender part starts. Discard the hard bottom parts, as they are woody and fibrous.
Asparagus are a versatile vegetable and can be roasted, boiled, steamed, made into soup, tossed with pasta and so on. The white variety tends to be a little more expensive and are not as easily found in the US as they are in Europe. I prefer the green variety, as I think they have a more intense flavor but this is a matter of taste.
Place several on a warm plate and add some hollandaise sauce over the top or on the side. It is acceptable to eat them with your hands holding the ends and dipping them in the sauce. A good chardonnay, or a light burgundy goes well with this dish.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8-12 minutes
Yield: 2 people
12 green or white asparagus (remove the outer skin with a peeler)
Salt & sugar
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Chopped parsley
2 tablespoons ice cold water
1 stick of butter
2 egg yolks
Juice of one lemon
Boil the peppercorns, wine vinegar and chopped parsley until it is reduced to almost nothing, deglaze it with 2 tablespoons of water. Run it through a sieve and pour it into a cold double boiler. Add 2 egg yolks, whisking them into the pan. Add the juice of 1/4 of a lemon, at this point put the double boiler onto medium heat and begin whisking little pieces of butter until the it has melted and thicken. Wisk constantly – this is very important. If the sauce separates, put chilled water, and if necessary add another egg yolk.
Prepare the asparagus by peeling the outer skin with a vegetable peeler. This is not necessary if you are using green asparagus, but it has to be done with the white asparagus. Remove about 1 inch of the bottom of each steam. You can simply bend the stalks and they will break at the point where the hard stalk separates from soft stalk. However, if you want all the stalks to be the same size, cut them where you think the hard stalk ends. Boil them in salted water (add a little sugar, which brings out the taste of the asparagus), for about 4-5 minutes.
Remove from the water and wrap them in a kitchen towel to finish cooking.
Pour the sauce over the cooked asparagus.