Wednesday, June 24, 2009


After returning to mainland Italy from Sicily, we visited Alberobello (at the top of the heel of the boot). Alberobello is not on most tourist itineraries, but is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to trulli unique buildings. Trullis are made out of limestone with conical roofs and were originally constructed without mortar so that the homes could be quickly disassembled to avoid taxation. We enjoyed walking the streets and eating more great food including braised baby octopus, a local specialty.

Next, we traveled north to the Piedmont area near Turin (Torino). This region is famous for its mountains, sweet hazelnuts, Nutella, chocolate, Martini, the Slow Food Movement, FIAT, truffles (the mushrooms) and wine (including the sparkling Asti Spumante). Do we need to say more?! Everyone should travel here. We stayed in Asti and took day trips to the surrounding areas. A cooking class in Neive was a highlight that involved one-on-one time with the chef and learning to prepare meals such as fillet of rabbit with rosemary and garlic. We made our own pasta that was served to us during a 6 course lunch (each paired with a wine from their vineyard) to complete our class. In Turin, we explored the city via a chocolate tour. Yes, chocolate tour! The tour consisted of walking from historic café to historic café sampling the famous Turinese chocolates. In Alba, we learned about black and white truffles with their bold evolving flavors and hope to cook with them in the future.

We left Italy with a bang! Our one day in Rome, before flying to London, was incredible! Luca (a friend of my Sister In-Law--Jodi) and his girlfriend Michaela, both who live in Rome, toured us around the city in style. We covered 10 miles on foot, ate at their favorite (and best) gelato shop near the Pantheon, toured churches with Caravaggio paintings, ate at local restaurants, fell in love with a “completo” (shot glass lined with Nutella with espresso poured in and topped with whipped cream) and revisited a few sites we‘d seen on previous trips and enjoyed even more the second time. What an amazing day! Thank you Luca and Michaela!!!!!

Buon Viaggio!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I have delayed writing about our time in Sicily because I feel like I just can’t do it justice on paper. You really have to live, breath, feel and taste Sicily. It is the ultimate place of simplicity and contrasts coming together to make one perfectly harmonious experience. If you can understand the title, I mean really understand the title, then you will get Sicily.

The deep red velvety liquid dances on your taste buds as it flows from a white Dixie cup. A white plastic Dixie cup?! How could the nectar of the gods be served in a little white plastic cup? And yet in Sicily, how could it not? There could not be more of a contrast between the deep crimson liquid and the white plastic. And yet it couldn’t be any more perfect or taste any better than just as it is paired with the Pasta Alla Norma at the Mom and Pop restaurant in a back alley in Palermo, Sicily. In Sicily, there is no need to dress things up to make them appear better than they are. You don’t need crystal to bring out the wines beauty. You just need to close your eyes, gulp it all in, and savor the raw and honest flavors.

In Sicily, tomatoes don’t get dressed up to the nines to go out with Tagliatelle, but rather they go as they are, bold, sweet, delicious and maybe with a little olive oil and basil. One bite and BAM!….Tomato! Fruits and vegetables taste like they‘ve had sun on them. The egg yokes are the most brilliant orange color. The chocolate is spicy and direct from the chocolateria. Nothing is marked “organic” because everything is right out of a field and they would not have it any other way. Complexly flavored pasta is made from 3 simple ingredients of the right freshness, quantity and preparation.

Sicily is a place of extremes. The largest gruffest man spends his day making intricate marzipan works of art in the shapes of fruit that cannot be distinguished from the real thing. People are so passionate when having conversations, that I swore two men were about to get into a fight in a restaurant. It turns out they were just sharing a story about Grandma. Every Sicilian man is seen wearing designer sunglasses--Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Carrera---which it turns out can be purchased for 10 Euros at a market that does not exist. The dark and dilapidated streets are full of vibrant life and energy with music, voices and laughter. The smallness of their homes is inversely related to the fullness of their lives. The darkest of darks and the lightest of lights. The extremes balance themselves in harmony.

We traveled to Sicily armed with our newly refreshed Italian language skills and a desire to experience new places. We had no expectations and were rewarded by our interactions with people who live their lives with passion. A passion that Sicilians exude in their daily lives, in conversations with friends, in picking out fresh food for the days meals and in pouring their wine into plastic Dixie cups. We left Sicily with a different perspective of how to live our lives and took a few good recipes, too!

Friday, June 5, 2009


I like to joke that I left Joe and Ryan in charge of writing the blog for South America from November/December 2008 so that they can take the blame. I’m not sure that I actually told them they were responsible for the blog until a month or so after the trip. Yet still, 5 whole months have gone by and they’ve yet to produce a blog. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to rescue them so they’ll be indebted to me :) .

The story below really did happen and to be honest was a very small part of our time traveling with my parents in South America. It just so happens that for me the one dark and dramatic event is much more exciting to explore and elaborate on in writing than the 1,000 happy and fantastic times we had together. Hmm….what does this say about my imagination? And, why am I revealing this? Oh, well.

After the story I’ve tried to highlight our time with my parents traveling from Valparaiso, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, by boat through the Straight of Magellan and the Beagle Channel. My parents flew home from Buenos Aires and we spent a few more weeks traveling to Iguazu Falls and Mendoza, Argentina.


Sitting in a South American Police Station. How did I get here. It was more of a statement than a question. You should avoid police stations, I thought to myself, especially in other countries. You never can be too sure which one’s are going to help you. Minutes ago we were sitting with our parents and my husband having a coffee at an outdoor café and now my brother and I are in the police station. The police station in Santiago, Chile. Am I dreaming? Did the nice man really return to the café and ask us to help him by going to the police station? As we walked to the police station he said that he was a nurse and worked at a nearby hospital. Surely he is trustworthy, after all he helps people for a living. How did he know to come back to the café to get us? Hmm. Maybe I should ask him.

He says that he saw the whole thing. My brother holding the camera to take a photo. The young man running by and snatching the camera. My brother chasing after him. Me following close behind. And then the old guy with white hair decided to chase after everyone. Why did the old guy have to do that the nice man asked? He said that it wasn’t right that the young man snatched the camera, but if the old guy had a heart attack chasing after everyone it would be a tragedy. The nice man said he had to run after all of us to make sure he was there to help if the old man had a heart attack because he is a nurse. We laughed. Yes, laughed. A good honest belly laugh. It’s ok we told the nice man as he looked at us in horror. The old man with the white hair is our Dad and he is in the best shape of all of us. He could chase the young man for miles. Really?, said the nice man. Yes, really, we replied chuckling to ourselves.

The police sergeant took one look at my brother and said you a boxer, huh. My brother quickly and honestly replied no, American Football. Ah, the sergeant said with a grin and immediately became more at ease with us. Good answer I thought as I stared at the thieving young man’s bloody nose and made a mental note that my brother’s prompt response helped us dodge an unforeseen bullet. We recounted the events to the police sergeant in one part Spanish, two parts English with the nurse translating and 3 parts charades until the sergeant understood the mornings events.

Thinking about that bloody nose and those wild dazed eyes makes my skin crawl. The thieving young man had a bad morning. What was he thinking stealing a camera out of a big strong man’s hands? I bet he wishes now that he had chosen a different path for his day. I imagine the young thief thought he was home free when he rounded the corner at the end of the block with the camera in his hands. I’m sure he was smelling victory when he rounded the second corner. Then from his hiding place behind the pillar, the thief thought where on earth did the big guy come from when he spotted my brother running up the street. And, why in the hell is the girl chasing after him yelling donde esta el hombre?! Donde esta el hombre?! Mi camera! Mi camera! The thief’s heart had to sink in his chest as he saw not one, but two, three, all of the people on the street pointing to him as he hid behind the pillar.

As I look back on the event, I think this is the point in time that the group mentality began to take over. You know the mentality when all logic and reason go by the wayside and nice peaceful strangers turn into a cruel violent gang. This metamorphosis took place before our eyes. The thief waited until my brother was about even with the pillar when he made a break for it in the direction from which we had just come. As my brother turned to run after the thief a nice man on the street struck out at the thief kicking him in the leg and slowing him down enough so that my brother put on the full lineman wrap around tackle taking the thief to the ground. Without warning the angry mob descended. Punching, kicking, screaming the dark wrath of the mob connected with the thief’s body lying underneath my brother’s. My dad arrived on the scene ready to fight off the mob to protect my brother and he realized that each connecting blow from the mob targeted the thief and miraculously left my brother untouched. Through the chaos, my dad recovered the camera from the thief.

Then came the sobering blow. One mobster landed a full force kick to the thief’s head. Whoa! Stop! Pare! No mas! No mas! My dad, brother and I all yelled. Enough! The dark magic mob trance was broken. In a matter of seconds the entire group dispersed. The thief jumped to his feet with a wild dazed stare and a bloody nose. The mob regained their former selves and a few people asked if we were ok. Without skipping a beat, everyone walked off and returned to their daily business.

As we walked away, I remember wondering if we should call the police. I looked around to try to get a signal from someone, any local person, to instruct us as to what we should do. This isn’t my country. I don’t know how things work. I looked to them for help. No one made any indication that anything should happen except going on their merry way to continue their day. In retrospect, I see my error. I was looking for an indication as to the right thing to do. I was looking to the mob for my answer. Probably not the best place to look given what they had just participated in.

The thief’s day got even worse. As he was walking a few blocks from where the camera recovery took place, he happened to walk down the street where the police station was located. At the exact time that the thief walked past, the nurse who saw the whole event walked by, too. The nurse indicated to the policeman standing in the police station doorway that the thief had just stolen a camera a few blocks away. The thief was arrested and the nurse was told to provide witnesses or the thief would be released in 24 hours. Thus, the nurse returned to our table at the café where my husband had been left to protect my mother and my purse while the rest of us ran off to the circus.

We learned our lesson from the “camera incident” (as we lovingly refer to it). We are always careful with our valuables and now we are even more careful. And, if we are put into a similar situation again, we’ve all agreed not to chase after the thief.

Santiago, Chile
-Mom and Dad flew in to meet us, government strikes prevented us from some of the sightseeing as all the parks/monuments were closed, ate great steak w/ Roquefort sauce at Le Assassins…..twice.

Valparaiso, Chile
-Stayed at the Hotel Brighton perched on the cliff top, rode the 1800’s ascensor that hugs the cliff side, cruise departed from here.

Vina del Mar, Chile
-Beautiful beach town, visited the museum containing 1 of only 2 Moai not on Easter Island.

Puerto Montt, Chile
-1st stop on cruise, walked around town.

Puerto Chacabuco, Chile
-Beautiful views.

Straight of Magellan
-Beautiful mountains along the channel, penguins swimming next to the boat.

Punta Arenas, Chile
-Saw thousands of Magellanic penguins (characteristic coloring)

Ushuaia, Argentina, and Tierra del Fuego
-Ate wonderful king crab. King crab is only found here and Alaska.

Beagle Channel
-Six glaciers lined the channel, two of them came to the waters edge.

Cape Horn
-Rough seas with weather that completely changed within minutes.

Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)
-Very British, enjoyed beer in a pub, toured museum dedicated to the Falkland Conflict.

Puerto Madryn, Argentina
-Visited wildlife reserve with Elephant Seals on Peninsula Valdes.

Montevideo, Uruguay
-Beautiful vineyards, fantastic lunch at a winery with wine pairings, beaches, tour guide told us that people here strive to own their own apartment and banks don‘t provide mortgages .

Buenos Aires, Argentina
-Recoletta Cemetery, the best steak we’ve ever eaten at Cabrerra’s Restaurant, incredible malbec wine (Luigi Bosca a favorite) and panqueques (crepes) con dulce de leche. Yes, it was all about the food!

Mom and Dad flew home.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina
-Hundreds of beautiful waterfalls and the big Garganta del Diablo (on par with Niagara, Victoria and Angel Falls). Absolutely amazing! One of our favorite places!

Mendoza, Argentina
-Malbec, malbec, malbec. Oh, and steak, too.

We flew home for the holidays and had a fantastic time seeing family and friends!


Photos Chile (mostly):

Photos Argentina: