The Real Italy

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I never get bored with Italy. Been visiting since I was a teenager. It’s beauty and history are captivating. The food, the wine, all the usual things make me love the country. However, until I visited Abruzzo, I realized I hadn’t seen the real Italy. It took only a short visit to remind me that local Italians make Italy what it is, and the folks of Abruzzo are the warmest, most helpful people I have ever met. While writing this blog my eyes fill with tears as I recall our recent visit and all we achieved with their help. We made more friends in two weeks than I’ve made in the last 20 years.

Colledimezzo is a tiny village in Abruzzo, less than 600 inhabitants. Of course everyone became familiar with us immediately. A mixed race couple with British accents. We stuck out like a sore thumb. Those locals immediately accepted us, helped us and made us feel like one of them.

It’ll be a few years before we can retire there, but the ground work is done. We have a second home there now, and lots of vacations to look forward to. Good things are worth waiting for!

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Abruzzo – a Week in Review

We’ve been in Italy for one exhausting week. It’s been a whirlwind seven days of buying furniture, opening bank accounts, cleaning, organizing, planning and finally today, we took the day off. We needed to. We’re in our sixties not our twenties.

On Monday we arrived at our Italian home in Colledimezzo and were greeted by Maurizio, our carpenter. His work was amazing. We walked into a once empty kitchen, to see a magnificent creation of cupboards, countertops and a fantastic breakfast bar. Thrilled is an understatement.  We also met Franco, the builder who is working on our stairs, and his friend Domenico, who speaks perfect English, having lived there most of his life. We finally met Nino, who I know will always be our friend, and Vincenzo to whom I owe so much.

On Tuesday Franco took us to lunch and introduced us to more of his English clients. We ate an Italian workers lunch, which consists of pasta, meat, salad, fries and as much wine as you can possibly drink. Delicious. On Tuesday night we decided the hotel in Lanciano just didn’t work for us. It was clean, but so dated it made life difficult so we moved to Vasto. I LOVE Vasto. My daughter and I stayed here for one night last August. Gorgeous, comfortable, hospitable. Rezidenza Amblingh!

On Wednesday we bought a washing machine and tumble drier and then continued to the house to meet Vincenzo and a new-found friend Zoe.

On Thursday, long drive to Pescara to buy furniture and beds. Maisons du Monde and more friendly people! They recommended a bed shop where we found exactly what we needed.

On Friday we went back on the long road north and bought small appliances for our kitchen from a SMEG outlet. (Did I mention how broke we are now?)

Yesterday (Saturday), it was light fittings. Found a great discount store for light fittings, and got everything we needed. Then on to Colledimezzo again, where I ran into the young guy we bought the house from. It is his dad’s house, but he showed us around. The cleaning started. We discovered a couple of things that needed fixing, but that always happens doesn’t it. It is going to be a work in progress, but it has so much character.

The photos are from today. We took the day of to relax and enjoy a delicious meal in a seafood restaurant at Vasto Harbour. We mistakenly thought it was within walking distance of the hotel, but it was actually almost six miles away. The walk gave us an appetite. When we asked if the waiter could call us a cab to get back to the hotel, he arranged for his sister to give us a ride. She wouldn’t take any money for her trouble.

Now we have our feet up relaxing like old folks do after a bottle of wine and a big meal, but we feel happy. Although the house may require a little more work than we expected, it is going to be worth it. I want to live among these friendly caring folks. I’ve lived on the good earth for a long time and have never encountered such genuine, friendly, helpful people. I’m blown away.

Abruzzo has enchanted us.

Capri – Crazy Beautiful

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My four days on the island of Capri are almost done. The whole island is gorgeous! Full of flowers, fascinating people and fantastic food. I’ll definitely be back one day. I’m very glad we stayed in Ana Capri. It’s less crazy, less expensive and the people are so nice and so much fun.

Ana Capri – Bettola del Re

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When we were younger we couldn’t afford expensive hotels. It didn’t stop us from traveling, but sometimes we roughed it a little. Now we can afford better hotels, and enjoy them very much, but we also love the new classy B&B’s that are popping up. Bettola Del Re is one of the best.

It’s a very short walk from the beautiful little town of Ana Capri, which is full of shops and restaurants. Today we hiked down to the Grotto Azzura, then hiked into Capri, where we had a sumptuous seafood lunch. Ten beautiful miles we walked today.

The grounds of Bettola Del Re are perfect to while away the evening with a good book and a glass of local wine. The owners are friendly, welcoming and accommodating. Can’t fault the place in any way.

Now I’m exhausted and I think its time to sleep.

Buona Notte!

Jamie Oliver Italian Victoria – Fast Food at its worst – Stay Away!

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We made a trip to England in December, decided it would be a good thing to introduce my son-in-law to family he’d never met because not everyone made it out to Colorado for the wedding.

As expected England was cold, and sometimes very wet, but it was a lovely worthwhile trip. We at great food in pubs and restaurants. “M” on Victoria was fabulous. Great cocktails, fabulous food and incredible service. The pub grub and restaurants up north and in the midlands were amazing. I’ll tell you more about them in another blog. I want to dedicate this blog to Jamie Oliver’s Italian on Victoria.

Our reservation was made almost three months ago. We picked the food in advance from the celebration menu. I made a reservation for five people. It was supposed to be a perfect New Years Eve Meal before heading to the fireworks (which were Spectacular).

We were greeted by the hostess at the restaurant who didn’t say “Welcome to Jamie Oliver”, but said “We need the table by 8:30 so you need to finish your meal by then.”

“What” I’m almost sixty, and a traveling foodie who likes to dine in restaurants all over the US and Europe. I have never ever been greeted so rudely.

We were taken to a booth upstairs and when our waiter turned up to take our order I explained to him I’d ordered everything for our table back in September, including the wine. He looked confused! Eventually the food started to arrive. My smoked salmon was just OK (how hard is it to put salmon on a plate?) No one was impressed with their appetizers, which were a bad start to a terrible meal. The wine eventually came and WAS NOT what I ordered. I can’t drink Sauvignon Blanc, it’s too acidic for me, but that’s what they brought me. A carafe of cheap undrinkable wine.

Main course. Mine was pan-fried cod floating is a sludgy mass of something green! Not good, but perhaps the best of the five main courses we were served. Everything looked like warmed up congealed leftovers , with exception to the vegetables. They were burnt beyond recognition. The Tiramisu Pavlova, ordered for dessert by two people in our party was inedible. You get the drift. We paid over two hundred pounds for this disaster.

Yes I complained, no they didn’t care.

Mr. Oliver, I’ve watched you on television for several years, you are quite a star here in America, but I will no longer be a fan or waste my time on your shows. In my opinion you have put your name to this restaurant as a money-making machine and nothing else. I don’t eat fast foods, but in my opinion, your restaurant in Victoria is an overpriced fast food restaurant (very overpriced for the slop you serve). As a chef, you should be ashamed of yourself.

My advice to anyone wanting a nice meal. Go to “M” which is close by, has great ambiance, and serves good food. Or save your pennies and go to Gordon Ramsay’s Maze where you aren’t herded in like cattle and you’ll be served a meal you’ll remember for the rest of your life, for the right reasons.

Black Friday at the Old Stone Church

Black Friday here in the US. Everyone is bustling for bargains. I’m not really sure that the so-called bargains really exist, but I’m certainly not going to brave the crowds to find out.

Last year, on Black Friday I wandered through the beautiful streets of Vail, where I bought a couple of things, had a couple of glasses of Champagne, and relaxed. As each year comes to a close I tire of stress. This year has been more stressful that most, construction problems, health problems and just a lot to contend with. My construction is finished for the most part. I’ve got my head around my health issues, so now, I’m going to sit back and relax. Today is my husband’s birthday SIXTY ONE! Can’t believe it. How did we both get so old. When we met, back in the seventies, we thought we’d be young forever. Well, nothing lasts for ever I guess.

the-church-restaurantToday we’re going to celebrate his 61 years on this earth with a nice lunch and a couple of glasses of wine in the ‘Old Stone Church’ restaurant in Castle Rock Colorado, and then maybe do some shopping small town style.

 

Breakfast in America (without gluten)

“Can we have kippers for breakfast?”

I wish! I haven’t found kippers since I moved to the US. There again I live in Colorado, maybe I could get kippers on the East Coast. I used to love kippers. My breakfast’s are a little different these days. I smell the aroma of croissants warming in the oven and remember how they tasted. I crave their flakey, buttery deliciousness. Life is different when you’re gluten free. I enjoyed my sweet dark grapes, and cheese, washed down with a Cappuccino, but oh to just have a bite of a croissant!

Remember Super Tramp. I used to love this song. Its a classic. Enjoy!

 

 

Barcelona

IMG_0569My passion is Italy and everything Italian. I can’t get enough of the country, the culture, the food, the wine. It’s been a love affair since as long as I can remember….

My husband spent a couple of days in Barcelona this year, it was a guy’s trip and focused on football, but I enjoyed the photos he brought back.

Our next trip to Italy is scheduled for July 2017, we’ll be staying in a villa on the Amalfi Coast, close to Ravello (I LOVE RAVELLO), but I’m wondering if it might be a good idea to fly from Naples to Barcelona and spend a few days there! Can I tear myself away from Italy for four days?????

 

 

Gluten Free January!

January has both flown and lasted FOREVER! Christmas seems so long ago, but only yesterday. Is this what happens when you get older? Or maybe its just peculiar to January. Both myself and my son-in-law had a Birthday smack bang in the middle of the month. Nice for my son-in-law, but not for me. I’ve never liked my Birthdays for reasons I’ll not bore you with, but I put on a brave face and get through them.

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I know just how he feels!

I found this photo on Deserts with Benefits and had to share it.

If you follow my blog, you’ll remember I haven’t been well. I got tired of CT scans, needles and being prodded and poked so after talking to a very matter-of-fact gastroenterologist I decided to give up gluten. Since January 1st, I’ve been completely gluten-free. After a few days I felt better, much more awake. I was both thrilled and excited at the difference and expected miracles to follow. The miracles never happened. Another two weeks passed and I wondered if I’d willed myself to feel better because I wanted an instant cure.

Then early last week I realized that when I touched my stomach in the places that had been tender, it didn’t hurt anymore. It didn’t feel uncomfortable and bloated. I looked at my reflection in the mirror (not a pretty sight), but prettier than it looked a couple of months earlier. My tummy was no longer swollen.

Maybe gluten is the problem, I know I have a long way to go before I know for sure, but one month gluten-free has certainly made me feel better. My energy is returning.

I haven’t bought ‘gluten free’ breads, crackers, cookies etc. I gave up processed food a long time ago. Instead I’ve eaten much more fruit and veg, baked with almond, coconut and semolina flour and bought rice noodles instead of pasta. It hasn’t really been a hardship. When I used semolina and almond flour to make my husbands favorite cookies I didn’t tell him. He took a bite and looked at me.

“These taste good,” he said, “what did you do different?”

I think cutting gluten from my diet has been a good thing. Not out of the woods yet, but I can see the sun piercing the trees. I’ll give you an update one month from now. Fingers crossed I’ll be healthy and full of energy. New lifestyle for 2016!

 

Dallas Texas – Big Hair, Swank and Shoulder Pads?

I’ve lived in the US for over 20 years and became a Citizen back in 2004. Yes, the Queen is missing a subject, wonder if she notices.

This country still puts a smile on my face. Our home is Colorado, but we travel as often as possible.

Favorite cities in the US?

San Francisco and New Orleans! They have both lured me back more than once.

I also enjoy Dallas. My first visit was a quick business trip about ten years ago. I stayed in the jazzy Hotel ZaZa and was proudly shown the city by the locals. The Dallas skyline is amazing, especially at night.

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I returned to Dallas earlier this year, after my daughter’s career caused her to move there. I stayed once more in the Hotel Zaza, still lovely, but unfortunately, due to some badly behaved guests, my visit was spoiled. I’ll not stay there again. Dallas itself was very enjoyable. Great food!

My third exploration of Dallas begins Friday. This time I’m staying in the Downtown Marriott. Marriott’s are usually trustworthy!

The highlight of my visit (other than seeing my daughter and son in law), will be our meal in The French Room at the Adolphus Hotel, a birthday treat for a young lady turning 31. Yes, that means I’m getting really old.

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I always thought Dallas was the center of big hair, swank and shoulder pads. The swank is definitely still there, but it’s now a stylish, ritzy city that I’m sure I’ll get to know well. Stay tuned for my report on the French Room!

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