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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.
Surrounded by Pilatus, Birgenstock, Stanserhorn and Rigi mountains, Lucerne is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne. Steamboat traveling along the lake float by deep green hills, villages with half-timbered-houses and grand mountain views. Ancient guildhalls, churches and frescoed buildings create a romantic and colorful cityscape.
Covered bridges span the River Reuss that flows through the town. The most famous being the medieval Chapel Bridge, the pride of the city and one of the oldest covered wooden bridges in Europe. In the summer white pink and red geraniums run along the entire bridge on both sides and swans swim gracefully along making even the tourist activity and bustling city seem moody and peaceful. The bridge was restored to its original state after a fire destroyed some of the medieval paintings that adorn its wood ceiling.
The Swiss Museum of Transport (Verkehrshaus) is one of the largest transport museums in Europe. Switzerland is well known for its efficient transport system and the history of it can be viewed in this modern attractive museum. It offers many hands on activities for children both inside and on the grounds. Next to the museum, in the same complex, is the Hans Erni Museum, one of Switzerland most prominent artists. He celebrated his 100th birthday in 2009 and is still painting. I have heard that sometimes he can be seen strolling around talking to visitors.
Cafes are scattered all along the cobble stone streets of the city and the lake, a favorite place to have lunch or dinner in the summer time. We ate at the Old Swiss House known for its schnitzel cooked in a pound of butter. I was reluctant to order it, as I’m not a fan of butter, instead I ordered venison, which was outstanding. After tasting my husband’s schnitzel, I knew that I would have to go back. It was tender without a strong butter flavor, fresh farm butter makes a difference. The restaurant was built in 1858 and the interior is cozy and formal with carved wood, stained glass and paintings. The prices are steep, but the quality is worth it. www.oldswisshouse.ch
Lucerne with its ancient buildings is a modern city hosting many business events in its large conference center. It has an active nightlife with bars and restaurants offering entertainment with international, as well as traditional menus. Restaurant prices run the gamut from very expensive to reasonable.
Only about 1 hour from Basel and Zürich, it can be a day trip or better yet stay a few days to get the full experience of this stunning city.
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. Serving 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 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. And I couldn’t resist dessert; a warm pear tart with chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream on a beautiful flaky crust was a perfect ending. The wine selections compliments the menu and you can enjoy 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 ran 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 very small local in a neighborhood adorned with interesting restaurants 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
Thirty years ago my husband and I drove along old one-lane winding roads on the edge of rugged cliffs and through stone tunnels in the Cinque Terre. The ride was unforgettable as the one-way road had little security overlooking an unbelievable view of the blue ocean. I could hardly keep my eyes open as this was beyond me, even though I’m pretty adventurous. The stone villages battered by the sea with color-faded houses tucked into the rock were breathtaking. The seascape with cliff cascading to the ocean was captivating and the vineyards, terraced along the cliffs seem to grow right out of the rock.
We decided to revisit the experience since we knew the old road had been closed and a new one built gave me the courage to relive the memories we had of this unique region. Today you can go from Monterosso al Mare to Riomaggiore by train, which is the fastest and easiest way to visit the villages as little parking is available and it is always crowded. The 5 villages are Monterosso al Mara, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Little remains of the old original natural beauty of the villages. They have been named a UNISCO site and although funds are given to maintain these areas, most seem to be used to create tourist convinces. Restaurants and mostly gift shops, a few offering some local products line the narrow streets. New hotels have been built intermingled with the old buildings making it difficult to imagine what the villages were like originally. There are a few places where the beauty of the villages can be seen and the 5 hour walk along the cliffs connecting the 5 villages still has beautiful panoramic views of the ocean and villages tucked into the cliffs. The walk from Monterossa al Mare to Corniglia is difficult and unless your capable of walking up and down stairs, it is not recommended. However the section from Riomaggiore to Manarola is an easy walk. The Corniglia section was closed due to a landslide so here you bypass it and take the train to reconnect with the walk.
The first evening we stayed in the hills above the villages in a small hotel of Locanda “da Marco”, which also had a Trattoria and outdoor terrace dinning with a wood burning pizza oven. After driving all day from Switzerland it was getting late and since we didn’t have reservations decided not to risk looking for a hotel in the villages. Little did we know that we would discover the beautiful stone village of Pignone. The region had been hit with an earthquake and tornado in October and many of the villages in the area had lost some ancient bridges and were in different stages of restoration. As usual the personal service and the food were authentic Italian. When we saw the fresh vegetable garden in front of the house, we knew we would have a good dinner. The hotel has 6 simple but comfortable rooms and the guests were from Austraila, France, Irland and Italy. As we have often found, these evening always end up with everyone talking to each other, sharing their life stories and travel experiences. This rarely happens in larger hotels that tend to be less personal. The owners spent time in the morning with their guests giving everyone information on how to visit the Cinque Terre and their advice saved us a lot of time. www.locandadamarco.it
As we drove down to Monterossa al Mare where we spent our second evening. The hills were covered with olive trees and the farmers were spreading nets under the trees to harvest the olives. After finding a hotel, we started out and went to Riomaggiore, walked along the cliffs to Manarola and took the train to Corniglia. There are also ferries that stop along all the villages, so it is possible to walk part of the distance and also take a boat to others.
After a long day we were ready for a nice dinner by the sea. I stopped an older woman and asked her were we could have a good meal. I have found that asking the locals is always the best way to get a good recommendation. She suggested Ristorante Belvedere in the old town of Monterossa al Mare. The seafood was excellent and view of the cliffs was perfect. We sat outdoors with a warm evening breeze off the ocean to a fresh seafood dinner. Their specialty was soupe de pesce served for two in a clay pot and poured into a large pottery bowl. Consisting of lobster, octopus, squid, shellfish and fresh fish in a tomato and fish broth was outstanding.
Walking back to the main part of the village though a tunnel that was part of the original road that we drove more then 30 years ago brought back those scary memories. However I was pretty safe as now it is a walkway connecting the old town and the beach of Monterossa al Mare. I was glad we were walking rather then driving it, but I wish they had preserved more the original tunnels.
It is always difficult to go back after many years and expect to relive memories, and this was no different. For those who have never seen the Cinque Terre, it is still a unique part of Italy and worth visiting.
The Latin beat, aromas and vivid colors greeted our arrival in Little Havana. My friend Joan and I were invited by Miami Culinary Tours to join one of their walks in Little Havana led by Mirka Harris.
You can not pass a coffee bar without taking in the warm aroma of sweet cafecito and chatting with the locals. Venture into a cigar shop to watch the able hands of an experienced cigar maker, stretching, layering and rolling the deep brown subtle tobacco leaves and comfortable seating areas where cigar smoke fills the air as locals relax with their favorite brand. The sound of dominoes being tossed onto the table draws you to Domino Park as people play this game with intensity and friends stand around anxiously watching and playing along with their eyes as each move is made. The atmosphere is electric and game after game continues all afternoon. Little Havana is colorful from the murals painted on buildings, the vibrant works in art galleries to the Cuban culture and friendly people who are always willing to have their photo taken.
We started at the gallery of Midlrey Guillot, who was there to greet us and give us a little story of her life and how she came to paint mostly women and what they are passionate about. She says “after all it is what I know best as I am a woman”.
We visited several restaurants where we sampled Cuban food as our guide Mirka explained the traditional way it is prepared and eaten. We moved on to bakeries and markets, discovering the beautiful colors of the ingredients used to prepare these famous Cuban dishes. Like many Latin cultures food is what brings families and friends together from happy occasions to sad. It is about the deep sense of life and connections between them that make up their social world.
We tasted a cold sweet drink made with sugar cane, flaky pastries filled with guava fruit, typical Cuban sandwiches and plantain cups filed with chicken and beef. The final stop was Azurcar, the famous ice cream shop where we had the dilemma of selecting one of their many flavors. A very good way to end a culinary tour after walking around Little Havana on a sunny afternoon.
Yesterday was my birthday and he and I decided to have dinner at our favorite French restaurant in Miami only to find out it was closed on Tuesdays. So we headed to Wynwood, an district between NW 1st Ave and I95 and NW 20th and 36th Street. A friend had told me about the painted walls and galleries near the Design District where I had once considered opening a studio. I knew of the artist activity there even then, which is now about 10 years ago, but didn’t realize how far it had advanced.
It is growing and developing every day as artists set up studios and galleries and restaurants attract visitors.The shear complexity and variety of art is invigorating and the huge brightly painted scenes on the sides of buildings attack your senses simulating every part of your being. My feelings were dancing around in amazement as I found the work, sometimes confused and comical and others romantic and sensual. As I viewed each painting depicting its story in bright colors, I felt myself trying to absorb the intensity of the work. As we roamed the streets talking to artists and locals excited to tell us their life experiences we knew that we this district would be a continuing part of our visits to Miami.
The area is not all fully developed, in fact parts of Wynwood are still somewhat depressed, typical of most areas that artists are attracted to. The incompleteness and struggling sections blends in as artists move into these districts because they to are struggling to find ways to do their art and live inexpensively. This melding is what makes this neighborhood interesting. And where artists thrive, so does everyone else, a phenomenon that is both wonderful and at the same time is what causes them to move on eventually. For now this growing neighborhood is bound to be an attraction for a long time to come.
We found some of the friendliest people in the cafes, bakeries, coffee houses and shops where mingling is part of the lifestyle here. I talked to an artist who was painting the side of a building and he told me that painting is all he wants to do in life. Working on the side to pay the bills and earning small amounts of money painting whole sides of buildings is his life. He loves it, lives it and wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. This is the passion of Wynwood.
The owners of these buildings collaborate with the artists about the theme of the work and are happy to promote the artist to whoever comes by. The second Saturday of the month is “Art and Gallery Walk” when all the galleries and shops are open and live music welcomes thousands of art lovers.
Art Basel stimulated this neighborhood to give itself over to the art world and the neighborhood responded and is reaping its benefits growing into an attraction of its own. Some of the photographs I took roaming the district will give you a small impression of the scope of the work. It is now up to you to discover it as I did.
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 Switzerland hosts this annual business community meeting this year from January 27th -January 31st. Business, political and intellectual leaders give their views on the issues that effect world events. It is not well known that in conjunction with the forum, church, non-profit and non-government organizations hold discussions for the general public at the Open Forum held at the Alpina Middle School and are free of charge. There are approximately 300 seats and are on a first come first serve basis.
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.