Tag: UNESCO sites

pont du gard show

Pont du Gard. Lights, Cameras, Action!

Each year The ancient Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard is alive with an exciting sound and light show. 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the most influential thinkers and writers of the eighteenth century was overwhelmed when he visited Pont du Gard. Imagine what he would say if he witnessed it today.

“I had been told to go and see the Pont du Gard; I did not fail to do so. It was the first work of the Romans that I had seen. I expected to see a monument worthy of the hands which had constructed it. This time the object surpassed my expectation, for the only time in my life. Only the Romans could have produced such an effect. The sight of this simple and noble work struck me all the more since it is in the middle of a wilderness where silence and solitude render the object more striking and the admiration more lively; for this so-called bridge was only an aqueduct. One asks oneself what force has transported these enormous stones so far from any quarry, and what brought together the arms of so many thousands of men in a place where none of them live. I wandered about the three storeys of this superb edifice although my respect for it almost kept me from daring to trample it underfoot. The echo of my footsteps under these immense vaults made me imagine that I heard the strong voices of those who had built them. I felt myself lost like an insect in that immensity. While making myself small, I felt an indefinable something that raised up my soul, and I said to myself with a sigh, “Why was I not born a Roman!”

 

More about Pont du Gard:

Pont du Gard, France: Architecture or Art?

Summer 2019 don’t miss the Pont du Gard light show:  “The Bridge at Dusk” 

wine tasting and canal cruising

Wine Tasting and Cruising Canal du Midi

Canal cruising is more than floating along slowly in a barge. Wine tasting and cruising was the perfect way to spend the day on the Athos Canal du Midi.

The itinerary for our first full day on the Athos Canal du Midi barge took us to the House of Noilly Prat in Marseillan for a wine tasting. The famous vermouth company, owned by Martini & Rossi, was developed by French herbalist Joseph Noilly from Lyon in 1813. Noilly Prat was officially created when Louis Noilly became business partners with his son-in-law, Claudius Prat. The company moved to Marseillan in the 1850s because of its ideal location.  Proximity to Marseille enabled easy shipping and the sea spray from the coastal location aided in oxidizing and aging the wine.

The location was perfect for wine tasting and for starting our cruise of the Canal du Midi, too!

wine tasting and canal cruising

Noilly Prat is only a few steps from the Marseillan harbor

 Noilly Pratt’s three variants of vermouth is made totally in the factory we visited — except for bottling. Our tour followed each process.

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Wine Tasting and Canal Cruising

Entering the Canal du Midi

From the harbor in Marseillan the Athos canal barge approached the entrance to the Canal du Midi. It wasn’t long before we were at the first of the canal locks we would encounter over the next days of our cruise.

wine tasting and canal cruising

Route of the Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

 

Enjoy the video and the ride!

wine tasting and canal cruising

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

Canal Cruising in France: Aboard the Athos Canal du Midi Luxury Barge

If visiting the south of France is in your future, put an Athos Canal du Midi Cruise at the top of your “bucket” list.

Kid you not. My Canal du Midi cruise on the luxury hotel barge Athos is fast becoming one of my most memorable experiences in France. Where else could you go on private tours of quaint and romantic French towns and villages; eat the most authentic and delicious French cuisine, including wines and cheeses selected just for you; cruise on a historic winding canal; experience wildlife within reach, and be waited on hand and foot?

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

Canal du Midi Cruise

For a full week I was a guest on the Athos du Midi which is owned and managed by Dannielle and Julian Farrant. The Athos is their “Love Boat.” Dannielle — a Canadian, and Julian — a Brit, met and married while working aboard the canal barge over twenty years ago.

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

While Dannielle and Julian are busy taking care of business on shore these days, they leave the five-person crew of the Athos to wine, dine and attend to passengers onboard the 100-foot barge (30.48 meters). The Athos is one of the largest barges on the canal.

Port of Origin: Marseillan

Marseillan is the port of departure for most of the week-long cruises. By lucky coincidence we were in Marseillan for the celebration of the reopening of the port. As crowds gathered around the harbor, the town was lively with music when we arrived. By dark there was a spectacular fireworks just feet away from us.  Quite a welcome for our first day on Athos Canal Midi cruise!

Guests aboard the Athos were Heidi and Tim from New Zealand; and Canadians from Victoria: Michelle and Dave. Ten passengers on the Athos are the norm, so right away, we knew our holiday with only five was going to be very special. We were going to be pampered.

Aboard the Athos Canal du Midi Luxury Barge

Arriving in Beziers by car, I was driven to the port by Mathieu, our tour guide. Other passengers stayed overnight in Beziers and met us at the Athos. The crew welcomed guests with what was to become a standard: friendly, gracious service and lots of attention.

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

Onboard the Athos the crew met the five passengers with champagne and canapés

 

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Dinner is served!

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Yes! There’s more … more canal cruise adventures and food! Stay tuned …

Join the Barefoot Blogger on FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for more photos and fun on the Athos Canal du Midi. 

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

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. 

 

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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

 

 

 

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.

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

 

 

 

 

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