Tag: female travel blog

House Hunters International Uzés: The Inside Story

If you’ve been following the adventures of the Barefoot Blogger’s life in France, you might remember my brush with fame and the TV show, House Hunters International.

Well, it wasn’t exactly me on the popular show, but now I’m friends with the couple who brought the story to Uzès.

It all started with this email:

We’ve been waiting a long time to email you! In a little nutshell, my husband and I started researching the South of France and Uzes in particular last fall and discovered your blog. We fell in love with the area and made an offer on an apartment in Uzes that we now own!…We would love to meet you if are free at the end of June.

I couldn’t wait! House Hunters International is one of my favorite TV shows. I was going to get “up close and personal” with celebrities.

House Hunters International Uzés
Erin and Stuart at our first meeting

Over the months, between the first email and our dinner together, Erin and I exchanged emails. She told me about her husband Stuart and their blended family that includes four children. We clicked. As Erin said:

“We have loved learning about Uzes through your blog and feel a special connection because you are from the southern US as well. We are also weak on our grasp of the French language!

Now that I know Erin and Stuart, I’ve had a chance to learn a bit more about their TV experience. I asked them to tell me what it was like moving into their new place in France. A “behind the scenes” view to share with you.

House Hunters International Uzés

Here’s the story in Erin’s own words.

Why Uzés?

“We found out about Uzes on a general Google search. I put in ‘French Fractional Ownership’ because I thought that was all we could afford. One was available in Uzes through International Property Shares.

House Hunters International Uzés

I had never heard of the town, so I started watching Youtube videos and reading blogs. We liked the history of Uzes, the location: proximity to the coast, vineyards, mountains, and airports/train stations.

House Hunters International Uzés

Once we had fallen in love with Uzes online, we decided to look at the real estate market for a full purchase opportunity, and VOILA!”

How did House Hunters International get involved?

“We approached House Hunters via an introductory email about our plans to look in Uzés for a second home. The show directors contacted us and set up a Skype interview to learn more about us. It moved forward from there.”

Did you buy your new French home “as is?”
“We bought the apartment fully remodeled.”

House Hunters International Uzés

House Hunters International Uzés

House Hunters International Uzés

House Hunters International Uzés

House Hunters International Uzés

House Hunters International Uzés

You have four young adult children. What did they think?

House Hunters International Uzés

“The children did not have any clue of our plans until the actual filming of the show. We announced our plans on camera for the full effect of their reactions. They LOVED it!”

During the course of your House Hunters adventure, what was your worse day?

“Our worst day was on our first visit to our apartment in Uzés.

The day started with a trip to the local Carrefour store to buy a full list of things we needed to outfit our home. After what seemed like hours, scouting through the huge store, trying to read signs and language that made no sense to us, we headed to the checkout aisle. The store manager was there to meet us. He didn’t leave until he was convinced we could pay the bill.

Next we raced off to Nimes to buy a mattress and portable air conditioner. Thinking we would enjoy a nice lunch with a view before resuming our shopping, we looked for a cafe near the Arena. No parking. By the time we found a spot and walked back to the Arena in 95 degree heat, it was 2pm. The restaurant was no longer serving lunch.

We grabbed sandwiches and set off to finish our task. It took longer than we imagined to buy a mattress and an air conditioner in sign language, so when we headed back to Uzés we were pushing it. We’d planned to have time to freshen up, enjoy an aperitif and spend a relaxing evening at one of Uzés’ finest restaurants.

It didn’t happen that way. A wrong turn took us miles out of our way. We were on the road to Barcelona.

House Hunters International Uzés

We made it back to Uzés; rushed to the restaurant, sweaty and exhausted; but happy to relax with an elegant French meal.”

That was quite a day! What was your best day?

“Our best day was when all the kids were in Uzés with us the summer of 2017. On Saturday we went to the Uzes market, each with a mission. Using euros and a poor grasp of the French language, we were each to purchase food items for a picnic: cheese, bread, veggies, charcuterie. The next day we picnicked on the bank of the Gardon and canoed to the Pont du Gard.

House Hunters International Uzés

The kids had the best time. Alex jumped off a huge rock into the river. It was a wonderful experience!”

House Hunters International Uzés

Erin and Stuart admit their dream to live in France is just beginning. They are busy professionals and have many obligations at home. They’ll be “empty-nesters” soon. Their lives will change. Their getaway home in France is ready and waiting for them.

Welcome to France!

House Hunters International Uzés

For more of the story: House Hunters International TV Show Spotlights Uzes

They Chose Uzes! House Hunters International Update

It’s Dogwood Festival Time in Atlanta

If you want to know the best time to visit the South, USA, it has to be in the Spring. 

Once every April Atlanta brings out its most beautiful self.  Dogwoods and azaleas are in full bloom, scattered among the season’s most prolific flowering trees and plants. The Dogwood Festival takes advantage of the glorious surroundings and brings thousands of visitors downtown to Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. It’s an event that makes everyone forget how much traffic they had to go through to get there.

Along with arts and crafts from around the southeast region, the Dogwood Festival brings Southern carnival foods to die for. Fried chicken, crab cakes, fried catfish, corndogs and more.

Here’s a glimpse of this year’s event. Hope you’re hungry!

ski solo

Don’t Ski? Take A Colorado Ski Trip Anyway

This time last year I was packing my bag for a ski trip in Colorado. Problem is, I don’t ski. Never mind. As they say: “I’ll have lots of fun at the lodge!”

New friends from Atlanta invited me to join their yearly ski outing and travel with them to Winter Park, Colorado. Never wanting to turn down what sounded like a great party, I eagerly accepted. I was certain there was something I would find to entertain me. Boy, was that right.

ski solo

Snowmobiling in Colorado

Snowmobiling

Have you ever been snowmobiling? Me neither. But now I’m dying to go again. If you can ride a bicycle, you can drive a snowmobile. (Assuming you’re old enough. There are some restrictions.) With just a few minutes’ instructions from “Snowmobile Steve” I was ready to join the small group and head for the hills.

ski solo

 

ski solo

Wooden railway bridge

 

The ride was exhilarating. Temperatures were just at freezing and the sun was beaming on the fresh, sparkling snow. There couldn’t have been a prettier sight.  From where we were riding, high above Winter Park, we were told the Continental Divide was in the distance.

 

ski solo

Colorado Rockies

 

Dog Sledding

Day two of the “ski” trip was dog sledding.  This was a dream come true. Since hearing about this from a friend who visited Colorado a few years before, I couldn’t wait to experience it myself. Admittedly, I was a bit concerned about how the dogs would take to pulling the sleds. Soon I learned there was nothing to worry about at all. They were all anxious to get out for the exercise and the thrill of it.

ski solo

 

ski solo

 

 

As we dashed through the woods on the wooden sleigh, I was amazed how the driver could manage the dogs without getting tangled.  It wasn’t easy.  Nevertheless, the dogs stayed in perfect order. Each had been given a place and an assignment, based on their strength and size.

ski solo

ski solo

 

Most importantly, the dogs were loved and well fed.

ski solo

ski solo

 

The Ski Slopes

So what if you don’t ski? The slopes are open to everyone. Just hop aboard the ski lift and they’ll take you to where the action is.  Everyone else may look fully equipped, but no skis are required! Frankly, it’s was easier my way.

ski solo

ski solo

ski solo

At the top? Why, a friendly restaurant with great food and fun people, of course! Did you know pigs have wings?

ski solo

ski solo

 

Touristy Bits

No holiday is complete without a bit of shopping. Right? In Colorado there’s quite a mix.

From small town shopping centers and local crafts …

 

… to Colorado’s home grown industry .

Because I’m the curious kind, I felt it was my journalist duty to check out one of Colorado’s infamous shopping spots. Yes, Cannabis is legal, both for medical and recreational use.

There’s one thing I can say about the place. The staff looked happy.

 

Don’t ski?

Next time someone asks you to go on a ski trip, you don’t have to say “I don’t ski.”  There’s more than enough to keep you busy and entertained. In fact, after comparing our day’s activities, many of the skiers wished they’d tagged along for the real fun.

 

Mystical, Magical Truffles: Alba’s White Truffle Festival

 In 3000 BC Babylonians searched for truffles on their beaches and in their sandy desert.

 Love Goddess Aphrodite spoke of their aphrodisiac power.

Mythical legend says truffles appeared where Zeus’s thunderbolts hit  the ground.

Cicero deemed them children of the earth. 

White Truffle Festival

White Truffle Festival

Early October through the end of November, the white truffle is the main attraction in the town of Alba, a piedmont city in the Langhe region of Italy,  close to where a large portion of the world’s truffle crop is grown.  The Alba White Truffle Festival brings together buyers and sellers for an extraordinary food event that takes over the town — from the truffle market to restaurants, to specialty stores and pizza shops.

 

From classical times until today, truffles have been hunted, savoured and treasured by noblemen and Popes, kings and connoisseurs.  The white truffle is the most highly prized and known truffle because of its taste and commercial importance. It lives in symbiosis with the roots of trees and is rarely found in combination with other truffles. A white truffle crop appears below ground and is usually harvested from September to December with the help of trained dogs or pigs that can smell the truffles through a layer of earth. Retail prices in the U.S. for the Italian white truffle have reached $1000 and $3000 per pound. Most truffles are harvested in the wild and since the wild supply is diminishing, prices continue to climb.

Sale of white truffles at Alba White Truffle Festival

Sale of white truffles at Alba White Truffle Festival

 

White Truffle Festival 

For this year’s White Truffle Festival, visitors from all over the world clambered through the streets to reach the exhibition site.. They filled every shop and cafe through the downtown area of Alba from morning to night to dig into all sorts of truffle delights.

img_0239

 

Truffle selection on Alba restaurant menu during the White Truffle Festival

Truffle selection (Tartufo) on Alba restaurant menu during the White Truffle Festival

 

PARMA UNESCO Creative City OF Gastronomy

A highlight of the Truffle show for the Barefoot Blogger was the PARMA UNESCO CREATIVE CITY OF GASTRONOMY cooking exhibition.  There I was invited to sit “ringside” by the organizers, Parma Alimentare,, to watch some of Italy’s top chef’s create haute cuisine dishes from simple Italian ingredients — the ones that make “Parma” synonymous with famous cheese and pork products. 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Menu 

Truffles were not on the featured menu, yet Chefs Antonio Di Vita of Parma Rotta and Filippo Cavalli of Osteria dei Mascalzoni presented the best Culatello you can buy and dishes made with the finest Parmigiano Reggiano.  Delizioso!

Antipasto: Culatello

Yes! It's OK to use your fingers to eat this antipasto.

Yes! It’s OK to use your fingers to eat this antipasto.

Primo: tortelli di erbetta

img_0284

Secondo: punta di vitello ripiena

img_0290

Dessert: dolci al cucchiaio and meringa

(Persimmon)

img_0296

Wines

Azienda Agricola Palazzo: Brioso  

and
Cà Nova: Malvasia DOC 

Eating White Truffles!

So did I taste white truffles? You bet I did! From pasta to the most amazing pizza.

 

img_0207

 

Yes, that’s with egg and cheese. Eat your heart out!

img_0212

 

Markets and festival activities went well into the night. 

img_0305

 

Visitors to Alba's White Truffle Festival filled the streets into the night.

Visitors to Alba’s White Truffle Festival filled the streets into the night.

Until next time …

Buon Appetito!

 

img_6095

 

 

 

Mystical, Magical Truffles: Alba’s White Truffle Festival

 In 3000 BC Babylonians searched for truffles on their beaches and in their sandy desert.

 Love Goddess Aphrodite spoke of their aphrodisiac power.

Mythical legend says truffles appeared where Zeus’s thunderbolts hit  the ground.

Cicero deemed them children of the earth. 

White Truffle Festival

White Truffle Festival

Early October through the end of November, the white truffle is the main attraction in the town of Alba, a piedmont city in the Langhe region of Italy,  close to where a large portion of the world’s truffle crop is grown.  The Alba White Truffle Festival brings together buyers and sellers for an extraordinary food event that takes over the town — from the truffle market to restaurants, to specialty stores and pizza shops.

 

From classical times until today, truffles have been hunted, savoured and treasured by noblemen and Popes, kings and connoisseurs.  The white truffle is the most highly prized and known truffle because of its taste and commercial importance. It lives in symbiosis with the roots of trees and is rarely found in combination with other truffles. A white truffle crop appears below ground and is usually harvested from September to December with the help of trained dogs or pigs that can smell the truffles through a layer of earth. Retail prices in the U.S. for the Italian white truffle have reached $1000 and $3000 per pound. Most truffles are harvested in the wild and since the wild supply is diminishing, prices continue to climb.

Sale of white truffles at Alba White Truffle Festival

Sale of white truffles at Alba White Truffle Festival

 

White Truffle Festival 

For this year’s White Truffle Festival, visitors from all over the world clambered through the streets to reach the exhibition site.. They filled every shop and cafe through the downtown area of Alba from morning to night to dig into all sorts of truffle delights.

img_0239

 

Truffle selection on Alba restaurant menu during the White Truffle Festival

Truffle selection (Tartufo) on Alba restaurant menu during the White Truffle Festival

 

PARMA UNESCO Creative City OF Gastronomy

A highlight of the Truffle show for the Barefoot Blogger was the PARMA UNESCO CREATIVE CITY OF GASTRONOMY cooking exhibition.  There I was invited to sit “ringside” by the organizers, Parma Alimentare,, to watch some of Italy’s top chef’s create haute cuisine dishes from simple Italian ingredients — the ones that make “Parma” synonymous with famous cheese and pork products. 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Menu 

Truffles were not on the featured menu, yet Chefs Antonio Di Vita of Parma Rotta and Filippo Cavalli of Osteria dei Mascalzoni presented the best Culatello you can buy and dishes made with the finest Parmigiano Reggiano.  Delizioso!

Antipasto: Culatello

Yes! It's OK to use your fingers to eat this antipasto.

Yes! It’s OK to use your fingers to eat this antipasto.

Primo: tortelli di erbetta

img_0284

Secondo: punta di vitello ripiena

img_0290

Dessert: dolci al cucchiaio and meringa

(Persimmon)

img_0296

Wines

Azienda Agricola Palazzo: Brioso  

and
Cà Nova: Malvasia DOC 

Eating White Truffles!

So did I taste white truffles? You bet I did! From pasta to the most amazing pizza.

 

img_0207

 

Yes, that’s with egg and cheese. Eat your heart out!

img_0212

 

Markets and festival activities went well into the night. 

img_0305

 

Visitors to Alba's White Truffle Festival filled the streets into the night.

Visitors to Alba’s White Truffle Festival filled the streets into the night.

Until next time …

Buon Appetito!

 

img_6095

 

 

 

The Monkey Temple of Kathmandu

When my friend, Rosemary, returned from Kathmandu in 1967, all she talked about was the “monkeys.” She said they were “everywhere.”

“Something must have happened to the monkeys,” I said to myself when I visited Katmandu in 2014. I had seen very few and most were at the airport.

Then I discovered the  “monkey temple” in the inner city of Kathmandu.

Finding the right spot

The last day I was in Nepal, the tour group I had joined was scheduled to fly over Mount Everest in a small airplane.  We arrived at the airport early in the morning, eager to get on our way. The airplane was loaded to take off when the Captain said it was too foggy for us to see the mountain range.

Bummer

Rather than spoil the day, I set out to find monkeys. Asking around, I was told about the Monkey Temple. It was on the other side of the city from the airport, on a hill. The only way to it was straight through the morning traffic. Grabbing a local cab, I was off.

The traffic and road through town were horrific.

2014-12-08 09.54.48

Traffic in Katmandu

When I arrived at the Monkey Temple, there was no doubt this was at the right spot. Monkeys were everywhere.

Monkey Temple, Kathmandu

Monkey Temple, Kathmandu

2014-12-08 08.41.40

Monkeys in Katmandu

2014-12-08 08.41.24

2014-12-08 08.51.23

Swayambhunath – The Monkey Temple

The “Monkey Temple,” or Swayambhunath, is one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal. The centerpiece of the complex is a large stupa. The stupa is surrounded by hundreds of Buddhist and Hindu shrines and temples.

Stupa at Monkey Temple

Stupa at Monkey Temple

The history of the Swayambhunath has roots in fact and tradition. Some credit its beginning to the fifth century King Vṛsadeva. Others say it was built by Emperor Ashoka in the third century.

It is the mythology of the Swayambhunath religious complex, however, that Buddhists and Hindus revere. 

According to legend, an early Buddhist deity (Mañjuśrī) was led to the place that is now Swayambhunath to find a holy lotus flower he had seen in a vision. Reaching the site, he saw it was covered by a huge lake. He envisioned the area as an ideal settlement for humans — a valley with a stupa sitting on a hill high above it — just like a lotus flower atop its stem.

Mañjuśrī  cut a gorge to drain the lake which now is the valley where Kathmandu lies. 

Monkey Temple above valley of Kathmandu

Monkey Temple above valley of Kathmandu

Monkeys come into the story because Mañjuśrī was supposedly a young man with short hair when he began building the hill and stupa.

When his work was done, his hair was very long and filled with lice. Monkeys symbolize the head lice that jumped out of his hair.

Monkeys at Swayambhunath, Kathmandu

Monkeys at Swayambhunath, Kathmandu

Many believe that holy monkeys reside at the temple, hence, the “Monkey Temple.”

2014-12-08 08.44.06

Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims flock to the holy place. They climb 365 steps to reach the top of the hill.

365 Steps to the Monkey Temple

365 Steps to the Monkey Temple

Shrines and temples galore

2014-12-08 09.00.45

Praying in Katmandu

2014-12-08 09.00.15

Katmandu Monkey Temple

 

IMG_7025

 

 

IMG_7066

 

2014-12-08 08.54.36

2014-12-08 09.12.29

Vendors and shops all around the temple grounds

 

Shops at the Monkey Temple

Shops at the Monkey Temple

2014-12-08 09.10.38

Shopping in Katmandu

For me, it was not about stores and shopping this time. It was all about the monkeys.

Monkey Temple, Katmandu

Monkey Temple, Katmandu

2014-12-08 09.01.28

 

 

 

The Monkey Temple of Kathmandu

When my friend, Rosemary, returned from Kathmandu in 1967, all she talked about was the “monkeys.” She said they were “everywhere.”

“Something must have happened to the monkeys,” I said to myself when I visited Katmandu in 2014. I had seen very few and most were at the airport.

Then I discovered the  “monkey temple” in the inner city of Kathmandu.

Finding the right spot

The last day I was in Nepal, the tour group I had joined was scheduled to fly over Mount Everest in a small airplane.  We arrived at the airport early in the morning, eager to get on our way. The airplane was loaded to take off when the Captain said it was too foggy for us to see the mountain range.

Bummer

Rather than spoil the day, I set out to find monkeys. Asking around, I was told about the Monkey Temple. It was on the other side of the city from the airport, on a hill. The only way to it was straight through the morning traffic. Grabbing a local cab, I was off.

The traffic and road through town were horrific.

2014-12-08 09.54.48

Traffic in Katmandu

When I arrived at the Monkey Temple, there was no doubt this was at the right spot. Monkeys were everywhere.

Monkey Temple, Kathmandu

Monkey Temple, Kathmandu

2014-12-08 08.41.40

Monkeys in Katmandu

2014-12-08 08.41.24

2014-12-08 08.51.23

Swayambhunath – The Monkey Temple

The “Monkey Temple,” or Swayambhunath, is one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal. The centerpiece of the complex is a large stupa. The stupa is surrounded by hundreds of Buddhist and Hindu shrines and temples.

Stupa at Monkey Temple

Stupa at Monkey Temple

The history of the Swayambhunath has roots in fact and tradition. Some credit its beginning to the fifth century King Vṛsadeva. Others say it was built by Emperor Ashoka in the third century.

It is the mythology of the Swayambhunath religious complex, however, that Buddhists and Hindus revere. 

According to legend, an early Buddhist deity (Mañjuśrī) was led to the place that is now Swayambhunath to find a holy lotus flower he had seen in a vision. Reaching the site, he saw it was covered by a huge lake. He envisioned the area as an ideal settlement for humans — a valley with a stupa sitting on a hill high above it — just like a lotus flower atop its stem.

Mañjuśrī  cut a gorge to drain the lake which now is the valley where Kathmandu lies. 

Monkey Temple above valley of Kathmandu

Monkey Temple above valley of Kathmandu

Monkeys come into the story because Mañjuśrī was supposedly a young man with short hair when he began building the hill and stupa.

When his work was done, his hair was very long and filled with lice. Monkeys symbolize the head lice that jumped out of his hair.

Monkeys at Swayambhunath, Kathmandu

Monkeys at Swayambhunath, Kathmandu

Many believe that holy monkeys reside at the temple, hence, the “Monkey Temple.”

2014-12-08 08.44.06

Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims flock to the holy place. They climb 365 steps to reach the top of the hill.

365 Steps to the Monkey Temple

365 Steps to the Monkey Temple

Shrines and temples galore

2014-12-08 09.00.45

Praying in Katmandu

2014-12-08 09.00.15

Katmandu Monkey Temple

 

IMG_7025

 

 

IMG_7066

 

2014-12-08 08.54.36

2014-12-08 09.12.29

Vendors and shops all around the temple grounds

 

Shops at the Monkey Temple

Shops at the Monkey Temple

2014-12-08 09.10.38

Shopping in Katmandu

For me, it was not about stores and shopping this time. It was all about the monkeys.

Monkey Temple, Katmandu

Monkey Temple, Katmandu

2014-12-08 09.01.28

 

 

 

Off Italy’s Beaten Track: Nova Siri and the Ionian Sea.

All who travel should go somewhere you’ve never heard of at least once in your life. It opens up a whole new world. 

On a month-long tour of southern France and Italy with two of my Carolina friends, we veered off the familiar tourist map and ventured to the southern coast of Italy — to the “instep” of Italy’s boot. We were looking for a beach resort where we could rest from the longest part of our trip and recharge for the next. One of my fellow travelers was a “super duper, double crystal, diamond-crusted, ruby slipper, 24-karat gold medallion member” of a worldwide timeshare group. She said we could use one of her timeshare dates to visit a beach in Italy. She had never been to Europe and she was so excited about being able to use her timeshare points that I hated to tell her the hospitality star rating in Europe might not be up to the U.S. standards.

We chose the four-star Akiris Resort in Nova Siri. Every other beach resort in Italy was booked solid the dates we were traveling.  It didn’t really matter to me about the stars.  I just wanted to dip my toes in the Ionian Sea.

Nova Siri, Italy

Nova Siri, Italy

Along the Way 
No one stumbles upon Nova Siri. Traveling there from Rome meant a two-hour flight to Bari, then a two-hour drive to Nova Siri. Bari is a relatively Bridges_2794580klarge town on the Adriatic Sea. The population is close to 400,000.  Bari gained some small degree of fame from the movie “Bridges of Madison County”. Meryl Streep’s character claimed she “came from Bari.”

We probably should have spent a little time looking around the town, but our driver from the resort was waiting to take us to Nova Siri. Fortunately I have long legs and was given the privilege of riding in the front seat of the Audi taxi. The driver spoke a little English and was happy to answer my questions about his part of the world — the Basicilata region of Italy.

Basilicata covers a large area above the instep of Italy’s boot, with two short stretches of coastline: one on the Ionian Sea and the other on the western, Tyrrhenian shore. It shares borders with the Italian regions of Calabria, Puglia and Campania. Riding through the countryside from Bari to Nova Siri the topography of the land is a mix of mountain ranges, hills and plains.

While we never went directly through mountains, they were ever-present on the horizon. Towns along the way were few and far between. Occasionally we saw a village in the distance. In one area we drove through olive trees that lined both sides of the highway. A little farther down the road,  rows of grapevines stretched as far as you could see. The closer we got to Nova Siri, the more dramatically the scenery changed. Fields of yellow wheat replaced the grapevines. At times it seemed you could touch the wheat shafts as they were so close to the highway.

Akiris: A “Disneyland” on the Ionic Sea
Arriving at our destination in Nova Siri — the Akiris Resort —my Carolina friend with the timeshare points was a bit disappointed when we discovered Akiris was not the “four-star” resort she’d  expected; albeit, she remembered she’d been told the standards might be different.  For example, in our apartment-like dwelling there were three bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room with a sliding door to a patio. The rooms were large but one bedroom had bunk beds. (Guess who ended up with that one? My “friends” figured since I was tall, I could get up on the top bunk if I wanted to.) All the walls were bare.  There were no decorations or lamps anywhere. Just the basic essentials.  “Plush” would not be a word to describe the place, except, to be fair, the towels we rented for the beach were soft and thick. We ended up taking them back and forth to the apartment for our showers.

While the apartment might have been a little bleak, the beach that stretched behind the resort was far from ordinary. With mountains strewn behind the light green sea, it was magnificent.

IMG_1046

Ionian Sea at Nova Siri

Americans in Nova Siri

Americans in Nova Siri

One thing we noticed as soon as we checked in was that no one working at the resort spoke English. I mean no one. It was a family resort for Italians, That’s not to say there were no other Americans there. Like magnets we found each other. There were seven of us from the US and one woman from Germany. She spoke neither English nor Italian. We bonded together like a family. We ate together at the resort dining room and in cafes in the nearby town of Nova Siri Marina. We sat together at the nighttime events and we tried our best to participate in the cruiseship-like, all-Italian entertainment at the resort amphitheater.

 

Mostly we lounged at the beach — exactly what we had come to do.


Some among our group took a side trip away from Nova Siri to visit the town of Matera, known as the film location for Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ. This “little piggy” stayed home. The day’s journey to  Matera, would have been interesting  but I was committed to hanging out on the beach as much as possible during our break. Without the tourists.

Places to Visit in Basilicata

Now that I know about Matera, I’m anxious to return to see what I missed. It’s one of the two places that attract travellers to the Basilicata region.  Matera is famous for its cave-dwelling districts, abandoned in the 1950s, that are slowly being brought back to life. In 1993 Matera was included on the Unesco World Heritage list. It is believed to be one of the first human settlements on the penisula — dating from the Palaeolithic period. It was where Mel Gibson filmed “The Passion of Christ.”  

 Maratea, the second most popular village in Basilicata, is on the Tyrrhenian coast in the far west part of the country. Situated high between the mountains and the sea, Maratea is connected to the rest of the country by modest highways and a railway line that runs through the town. It is especially popular with travelers who enjoy a slow-paced holiday in a place that  has remained virtually unchanged through the years.

Both Matera and Maratea fit my requirements for “off-the-beaten track” locations to visit. With all the world to see, however, I doubt I’ll return to Nova Siri. I’ll always remember it, though, for the friendships …  and the dip in the Ionian Sea.

Ionian Sea

Ionian Sea

 

 

 

 

Off Italy’s Beaten Track: Nova Siri and the Ionian Sea.

All who travel should go somewhere you’ve never heard of at least once in your life. It opens up a whole new world. 

On a month-long tour of southern France and Italy with two of my Carolina friends, we veered off the familiar tourist map and ventured to the southern coast of Italy — to the “instep” of Italy’s boot. We were looking for a beach resort where we could rest from the longest part of our trip and recharge for the next. One of my fellow travelers was a “super duper, double crystal, diamond-crusted, ruby slipper, 24-karat gold medallion member” of a worldwide timeshare group. She said we could use one of her timeshare dates to visit a beach in Italy. She had never been to Europe and she was so excited about being able to use her timeshare points that I hated to tell her the hospitality star rating in Europe might not be up to the U.S. standards.

We chose the four-star Akiris Resort in Nova Siri. Every other beach resort in Italy was booked solid the dates we were traveling.  It didn’t really matter to me about the stars.  I just wanted to dip my toes in the Ionian Sea.

Nova Siri, Italy

Nova Siri, Italy

Along the Way 
No one stumbles upon Nova Siri. Traveling there from Rome meant a two-hour flight to Bari, then a two-hour drive to Nova Siri. Bari is a relatively Bridges_2794580klarge town on the Adriatic Sea. The population is close to 400,000.  Bari gained some small degree of fame from the movie “Bridges of Madison County”. Meryl Streep’s character claimed she “came from Bari.”

We probably should have spent a little time looking around the town, but our driver from the resort was waiting to take us to Nova Siri. Fortunately I have long legs and was given the privilege of riding in the front seat of the Audi taxi. The driver spoke a little English and was happy to answer my questions about his part of the world — the Basicilata region of Italy.

Basilicata covers a large area above the instep of Italy’s boot, with two short stretches of coastline: one on the Ionian Sea and the other on the western, Tyrrhenian shore. It shares borders with the Italian regions of Calabria, Puglia and Campania. Riding through the countryside from Bari to Nova Siri the topography of the land is a mix of mountain ranges, hills and plains.

While we never went directly through mountains, they were ever-present on the horizon. Towns along the way were few and far between. Occasionally we saw a village in the distance. In one area we drove through olive trees that lined both sides of the highway. A little farther down the road,  rows of grapevines stretched as far as you could see. The closer we got to Nova Siri, the more dramatically the scenery changed. Fields of yellow wheat replaced the grapevines. At times it seemed you could touch the wheat shafts as they were so close to the highway.

Akiris: A “Disneyland” on the Ionic Sea
Arriving at our destination in Nova Siri — the Akiris Resort —my Carolina friend with the timeshare points was a bit disappointed when we discovered Akiris was not the “four-star” resort she’d  expected; albeit, she remembered she’d been told the standards might be different.  For example, in our apartment-like dwelling there were three bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room with a sliding door to a patio. The rooms were large but one bedroom had bunk beds. (Guess who ended up with that one? My “friends” figured since I was tall, I could get up on the top bunk if I wanted to.) All the walls were bare.  There were no decorations or lamps anywhere. Just the basic essentials.  “Plush” would not be a word to describe the place, except, to be fair, the towels we rented for the beach were soft and thick. We ended up taking them back and forth to the apartment for our showers.

While the apartment might have been a little bleak, the beach that stretched behind the resort was far from ordinary. With mountains strewn behind the light green sea, it was magnificent.

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Ionian Sea at Nova Siri

Americans in Nova Siri

Americans in Nova Siri

One thing we noticed as soon as we checked in was that no one working at the resort spoke English. I mean no one. It was a family resort for Italians, That’s not to say there were no other Americans there. Like magnets we found each other. There were seven of us from the US and one woman from Germany. She spoke neither English nor Italian. We bonded together like a family. We ate together at the resort dining room and in cafes in the nearby town of Nova Siri Marina. We sat together at the nighttime events and we tried our best to participate in the cruiseship-like, all-Italian entertainment at the resort amphitheater.

 

Mostly we lounged at the beach — exactly what we had come to do.


Some among our group took a side trip away from Nova Siri to visit the town of Matera, known as the film location for Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ. This “little piggy” stayed home. The day’s journey to  Matera, would have been interesting  but I was committed to hanging out on the beach as much as possible during our break. Without the tourists.

Places to Visit in Basilicata

Now that I know about Matera, I’m anxious to return to see what I missed. It’s one of the two places that attract travellers to the Basilicata region.  Matera is famous for its cave-dwelling districts, abandoned in the 1950s, that are slowly being brought back to life. In 1993 Matera was included on the Unesco World Heritage list. It is believed to be one of the first human settlements on the penisula — dating from the Palaeolithic period. It was where Mel Gibson filmed “The Passion of Christ.”  

 Maratea, the second most popular village in Basilicata, is on the Tyrrhenian coast in the far west part of the country. Situated high between the mountains and the sea, Maratea is connected to the rest of the country by modest highways and a railway line that runs through the town. It is especially popular with travelers who enjoy a slow-paced holiday in a place that  has remained virtually unchanged through the years.

Both Matera and Maratea fit my requirements for “off-the-beaten track” locations to visit. With all the world to see, however, I doubt I’ll return to Nova Siri. I’ll always remember it, though, for the friendships …  and the dip in the Ionian Sea.

Ionian Sea

Ionian Sea

 

 

 

 

I Never Wanted to See Glasgow

What a mistake that would have been. Now I know Glasgow is not just a stop on the way to somewhere else. It’s an unsung destination.

Describing Glasgow as a “gray, industrial city”no longer holds true. Today the home of famous shipbuilders is a robust center of finance, commerce and higher education.

Shiny, modern concert and convention centers designed by renowned architect Norman Foster stand on reclaimed land beside the River Clyde.

Convention and concert centers in Glasgow

Convention and concert centers in Glasgow

"Armadillo" in Glasgow

“Armadillo” in Glasgow

The huge convention center, shaped to represent ship hulls and built on land formerly called “the Queen’s dog,” is known by a new generation of Glaswegians as the “Armadillo.” A convention center, the “Hydro,” which accommodates 12,000 guests, opened with Glasgow’s own Rod Stewart. Interestingly, the structures are supported by pneumatic foam cushions. Rock on Glasgow!

One interesting tourist site is this bar. No women were allowed to enter until the 1970s. Since then, the owners have made a turnabout by establishing a rule that all managers are women.

Famous bar in Glasgow

Famous bar in Glasgow

The University of Glasgow, founded in 1493, is a shiny example of the city’s link to the old and the new.

The historic, vibrant campus is home to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, reportedly the most visited attraction in Scotland. 

Kellingrove Museum

Kelvingrove Museum

Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow

Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow

Dali's masterpiece in Glasgow - Christ of St. John of the Cross

Dali’s masterpiece in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – Christ of St. John of the Cross

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Riding in the double-decker “hop on hop off” bus through Glasgow, I loved seeing so many beautiful parks and neighborhoods — like these formal white houses –straight out of  “Upstairs Downstairs.” 

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Cameron Fountain


Who knew that Glasgow has over 90 public gardens?

A stop at the Glasgow Cathedral was one of the highlights of my day.  In addition to the weather being glorious to show off the church and its surroundings, there was an organ recital inside. Magnificent!

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Down the road a bit from the Cathedral is the Necropolis where Glasgow’s famous sons and daughters rest in peace on the hilltop overlooking the city.

 Let me not forget the beer garden that’s in the neighbourhood of the Cathedral. Nothing like a cold pint on a hot summer day.


To shop ’til you drop’, Glasgow’s downtown fashion districts include a massive, glass-topped mall, as well as the stylish Buchanan Street, Argyle Street and Merchant City.
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IMG_2628Glasgow memorialises its ship-building past with the Riverside Museum — a “must see” stop on a tour of the city. The modern structure on the Clyde River, built on the site of the former shipyard,  has a “transportation” theme that includes early versions of cars, trains, bicycles, motorcycles and 19th century street scene — complete with furnished shops you can walk through and cobblestone streets. The Tall Ship, Glenlee, is anchored to the outside dock. The Glenlee is the UK’s only floating Clyde-built sailing ship.  Along the tour I was greeted by a museum docent who was proud to tell me about the Rolls Royce on display. It seems the red “RR” on the museum car tells a story. Apparently during the lifetime of the Henry Ross, inventor of the luxury brand of cars, the insignia on the front of each car had a distinctive red “RR.” Later, after the death of Mr. Ross,  the Rolls Royce cars bore a black “RR” in his honour.

The day I visited the Glenlee the ship was held hostage by a band of curious pirates.

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After a long day I made my way back on the Hop On bus, past the “Squinty Bridge” – formerly known as the Clyde Arc.”

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Would I return to Glasgow? You betcha! There are so many more places to see and explore. The city is alive and active with everything that is modern … and just enough to remind me this is Scotland — a “full” breakfast — a flashback to the past — and their own language.

Thank you, Glasgow for a beautiful and memorable day!

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London for Fashionistas: Versace and Gaultier


With Queen Elizabeth celebrating her 90th birthday, I just couldn’t resist revisiting this trip to England.

Gianni Versace exhibited his collection of history-making fashions at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London before his untimely and tragic death. It was my first time to tour the V&A and the memory is still with me.

I love London. I love the British. I love the Queen. I watched Diana’s wedding at least ten times. I cried for weeks after she died.

For five years of my working life I stayed in London for three weeks each year for a photo project.  Each time I “played like” I lived there. On one of my visits I learned there was an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum with gowns worn by Princess Diana.  Designed by Gianni Versace. Nothing more had to be said.

The fact that J Lo’s cut-to-the-navel green gown was on display was an interesting bonus.

 

The Versace exhibit and the V&A Museum were exhilarating and mesmerizing. More than that, the experience was the beginning of my fascination with museum designer shows.  I still seek out fashion exhibitions in London.

When Kensington Palace showed off Royal wear and jewels — from Queen Victoria and Albert, to Princesses Margaret and Diana, to Queen Elizabeth’s 60th Jubilee — I was there.

 

 

When Jean Claude Gaultier’s “runway show” of legendary work debuted at the Barbican Center in London in 2014,  I was there.

That one was electrifying. Literally. 

It was “fashion gone high-tech.”

Check out the video below and you’ll see what I mean. Male and female mannequins decked in Gaultier couture appeared to be living, breathing humans. I had to get close enough to touch them to find out if they were — or weren’t.

2014-04-25 11.43.47 Gaultier at the BarbicanAt first glance I thought the rows of mannequins were “painted people” — like those who pretend to be statues and show up at parks. The ones that  expect you to drop coins in their hats. I had to literally get “in the face” of one of the “models” to see it wasn’t a “statue.”

 

Gaultier “himself” was there to narrate the show.

2014-04-25 Gaultier at the Barbican

Amazing!

From the animated show to Gaultier’s Madonna collection, the show floors at the Barbican were filled with the unique and the bizarre.

 

2014-04-25 11.52.10Gaultier at the Barbican

 

Icons of the fashion world like Versace and Gaultier are hard acts to follow. Nevertheless, it’s time to return to London and I’m longing to see what’s next.  In fact, the V&A is publicizing an exhibition entitled “Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear  and they are offering a Fashion Blogging Masterclass.”  Sounds perfect to me.

See you there?

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To learn more about Gaultier’s behind-the-scenes production at the Barbican: Gaultier at the Barbican

Visit the Barefoot Blogger to here her tales about life in France at barefootblogger.fr

London for Fashionistas: Versace and Gaultier


With Queen Elizabeth celebrating her 90th birthday, I just couldn’t resist revisiting this trip to England.

Gianni Versace exhibited his collection of history-making fashions at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London before his untimely and tragic death. It was my first time to tour the V&A and the memory is still with me.

I love London. I love the British. I love the Queen. I watched Diana’s wedding at least ten times. I cried for weeks after she died.

For five years of my working life I stayed in London for three weeks each year for a photo project.  Each time I “played like” I lived there. On one of my visits I learned there was an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum with gowns worn by Princess Diana.  Designed by Gianni Versace. Nothing more had to be said.

The fact that J Lo’s cut-to-the-navel green gown was on display was an interesting bonus.

 

The Versace exhibit and the V&A Museum were exhilarating and mesmerizing. More than that, the experience was the beginning of my fascination with museum designer shows.  I still seek out fashion exhibitions in London.

When Kensington Palace showed off Royal wear and jewels — from Queen Victoria and Albert, to Princesses Margaret and Diana, to Queen Elizabeth’s 60th Jubilee — I was there.

 

 

When Jean Claude Gaultier’s “runway show” of legendary work debuted at the Barbican Center in London in 2014,  I was there.

That one was electrifying. Literally. 

It was “fashion gone high-tech.”

Check out the video below and you’ll see what I mean. Male and female mannequins decked in Gaultier couture appeared to be living, breathing humans. I had to get close enough to touch them to find out if they were — or weren’t.

2014-04-25 11.43.47 Gaultier at the BarbicanAt first glance I thought the rows of mannequins were “painted people” — like those who pretend to be statues and show up at parks. The ones that  expect you to drop coins in their hats. I had to literally get “in the face” of one of the “models” to see it wasn’t a “statue.”

 

Gaultier “himself” was there to narrate the show.

2014-04-25 Gaultier at the Barbican

Amazing!

From the animated show to Gaultier’s Madonna collection, the show floors at the Barbican were filled with the unique and the bizarre.

 

2014-04-25 11.52.10Gaultier at the Barbican

 

Icons of the fashion world like Versace and Gaultier are hard acts to follow. Nevertheless, it’s time to return to London and I’m longing to see what’s next.  In fact, the V&A is publicizing an exhibition entitled “Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear  and they are offering a Fashion Blogging Masterclass.”  Sounds perfect to me.

See you there?

264568_601440479874177_438231629_n

To learn more about Gaultier’s behind-the-scenes production at the Barbican: Gaultier at the Barbican

Visit the Barefoot Blogger to here her tales about life in France at barefootblogger.fr

The Best Way to See the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Whenever you are on an extended trip that takes you to many destinations, you’re bound to go to certain places just because they’re on the way. That’s how I ended up in Pisa, Italy. It was sort of on the way to Cinque Terra.

Friends from the Carolinas were visiting me in Uzes and we were making our way on a  tour of France and Italy.  After a visit along the south-western part of France, with stops in the towns of Port Vendres and Collioure,  we flew from Girona, Spain to Pisa. It appeared to be the closest way for us to get to our first “real” destination in Italy — Cinque Terre.

Including the Leaning Tower and surroundings,  Pisa is great for a day trip.

For the first time in my traveling experience with AirBNB, I made a mistake. In our defense, we made this part of our tour plan at the last minute. So there were few–almost none– places listed to stay in Pisa. We pretty much booked what was available.

For a twenty-somethings our lodgings would have been fine. For the “Golden Girls,” it was bleak and noisy.

To begin with, the room we booked in the “B&B” was tucked away in a scarey alley in the oldest part of town. When we arrived the cab driver wouldn’t even take us down the street.

After we got over our shock and disappointment with our location, we lugged our bags up three flights of stairs to our room. The bedroom we had chosen because of three beds was stark and dreary. But clean. One double bed, one single bed, and a side table. That was it. No lamps, pictures or decorations of any type. Beds and pillows were hard as rocks. Bath towels resembled large kitchen towels. It was adequate, though — and I repeat, it was clean. But it wasn’t exactly what we’d expected.

One of the good things about traveling with friends is that we try to make the best of everything. Just minutes after taking in the situation, we were laughing hysterically.

I think it was right after we discovered our room was on top of Pisa’s “party central” — the square where college kids meet to drink and dance. All night.

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When daylight came — after a long, long night — our surroundings didn’t look so bad. We agreed the B&B would be a good choice for young people. There was a nice living area and kitchen. It could be fun if we were forty years younger.

The Leaning Tower

Close to everything” was a true description of the B&B in the AirBNB listing — and it was the best part. Just a short walk down the road that runs beside the Arno River, we were within sight of the Leaning Tower and the cathedral.

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Soon we found the crowds we’d imagined.

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Pisa Italy

 

For some reason, I wasn’t expecting all the ornate buildings around the tower. Even though I’d done a “ride by” on a “Europe on $5 a Day” trip in the late ’60s. The area is truly beautiful.

The Best Way to See Pisa

I’m certain many people find Pisa to be quite a nice play to stay. I’m sure we didn’t do enough research. But if you’re on an extended tour and just want to see the leaning tower,  I suggest you drive to the historic city square, jump out of your car or cab, then walk around to your heart’s content.

You can join the multitudes of tourists who want to “hold up the tower” with their hands.

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Or you can try to hold up the leaning tower with the brim of your hat … like silly me.

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For more information on Pisa:

The Leaning Tower

Pisa, A Touristy Quicky by Rick Steves

Visit the Barefoot Blogger and hear her tales about life in France at barefootblogger.fr

Vik muniz art exhibit atlanta

Art That Redefines Reality: Vik Muniz at The High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

A grain of sand, a garbage dump, a chromosome, peanut butter and jelly. An artist can find inspiration in obscure objects that others cannot even imagine.

The  High Museum of Art was a fascinating find this week for me while visiting in Atlanta. Not only was it family day at the downtown center, there was a guest exhibition by Brazilian-American artist Vik Muniz that totally blew me away. I can’t wait to share it with you.

The Mona Lisa in peanut butter and jelly.

 

Alice in Wonderland made with miniature toys

 

A Calvary horse made from colorful toy soldiers 

 

A castle within a grain of sand

IMG_1739

IMG_1695In the too short time that I had to explore Atlanta’s High Museum, it was the Vik Muniz exhibit that stole the show for me.  I learned — and experienced — that he is one of the most inventive and creative artists of our time. On display was a composite of twenty-five years of Muniz’s work.  Born in the sixties, his Warhol-like images of Che Guevara, Frankenstein and Mona Lisa were unremarkable from a distance. When seen up close each was a masterpiece.

Muniz accomplishes his mind-over-matter masterpieces by envisioning on both macro and micro scales. To the viewer’s eye a piece might appear to be a “normal” photograph or painting behind glass.  Upon closer observation, the image is, in reality,  a composition of tiny objects carefully orchestrated into the lines and spaces of the drawing.

Take Muniz’s work with microscopic cells, for example.

A simple decorative pattern is, in fact,  liver cells — usually seen only under a microscope. Each micro stroke has been carefully manipulated by Muniz to fool the beholder.

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Conversely,  Muniz takes inspiration from Land Art by such artists as Robert Smithton’s “Spiral Jetty” to create images made from large-as-life-sized objects such as garbage.  Drawings are “carved” by bulldozers in vast landscapes and photographed from above by helicopter as demonstrated  in this video.  Watch closely to see the movement of the men, machines and garbage as the mother and children are formed into place.

In his series “Pictures of Pigment” Muniz imitates Paul Gauguin with prints composed of raw pigments. The universal medium for artists,  pigments of bright colors and hues are arranged by Muniz into designs without oil, egg or any other substance that ordinarily makes paint.

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Vik Muniz was my pick for the day, but the museum was packed with guests who were enthusiastic about the wide collection of contemporary/modern, American, European, African and folk art.  Be certain to check it out when you’re in the Atlanta area.

For more information about Vik Muniz and his art, spend a few minutes with this fascinating video

IMG_4618

 

Vik muniz art exhibit atlanta

Art That Redefines Reality: Vik Muniz at The High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

A grain of sand, a garbage dump, a chromosome, peanut butter and jelly. An artist can find inspiration in obscure objects that others cannot even imagine.

The  High Museum of Art was a fascinating find this week for me while visiting in Atlanta. Not only was it family day at the downtown center, there was a guest exhibition by Brazilian-American artist Vik Muniz that totally blew me away. I can’t wait to share it with you.

The Mona Lisa in peanut butter and jelly.

 

Alice in Wonderland made with miniature toys

 

A Calvary horse made from colorful toy soldiers 

 

A castle within a grain of sand

IMG_1739

IMG_1695In the too short time that I had to explore Atlanta’s High Museum, it was the Vik Muniz exhibit that stole the show for me.  I learned — and experienced — that he is one of the most inventive and creative artists of our time. On display was a composite of twenty-five years of Muniz’s work.  Born in the sixties, his Warhol-like images of Che Guevara, Frankenstein and Mona Lisa were unremarkable from a distance. When seen up close each was a masterpiece.

Muniz accomplishes his mind-over-matter masterpieces by envisioning on both macro and micro scales. To the viewer’s eye a piece might appear to be a “normal” photograph or painting behind glass.  Upon closer observation, the image is, in reality,  a composition of tiny objects carefully orchestrated into the lines and spaces of the drawing.

Take Muniz’s work with microscopic cells, for example.

A simple decorative pattern is, in fact,  liver cells — usually seen only under a microscope. Each micro stroke has been carefully manipulated by Muniz to fool the beholder.

IMG_1743

 

Conversely,  Muniz takes inspiration from Land Art by such artists as Robert Smithton’s “Spiral Jetty” to create images made from large-as-life-sized objects such as garbage.  Drawings are “carved” by bulldozers in vast landscapes and photographed from above by helicopter as demonstrated  in this video.  Watch closely to see the movement of the men, machines and garbage as the mother and children are formed into place.

In his series “Pictures of Pigment” Muniz imitates Paul Gauguin with prints composed of raw pigments. The universal medium for artists,  pigments of bright colors and hues are arranged by Muniz into designs without oil, egg or any other substance that ordinarily makes paint.

IMG_1721

Vik Muniz was my pick for the day, but the museum was packed with guests who were enthusiastic about the wide collection of contemporary/modern, American, European, African and folk art.  Be certain to check it out when you’re in the Atlanta area.

For more information about Vik Muniz and his art, spend a few minutes with this fascinating video

IMG_4618

 

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