On the weekend I was digging through some old photos and came across these . . .
A few years ago we met up wth some of our favourite travel buddies in San Diego. A few of us decided to go kayaking off of La Jolla. I decided to rent a waterproof camera and whilst we managed to keep the kayak stead shoot a few shots . .
I was thinking of some of the spring trips we've enjoyed over the years (the never-ending winter has that effect). Back in 2008 we jetted down to Savannah at the beginning of April to hang out with a huge group of SlowTravel buddies.
The heat and humidity was a perfect antidote for a cold Canadian spring.
On Wednesday Paul reminded me that this weekend would have been the SlowBowl.
Now before you think I am daft and have forgotten about a football game south of the border - the SlowBowl is a wonderful weekend-long party planned by our friend Shannon in California wine country. Many of our SlowTravel pals would gather - first in Paso Robles, and later Santa Ynez, for a weekend of laughter, wine, food, and fun.
Here are some shots from the last two we attended:
We couldn't recreate the California sun this weekend nor will any of our friends from warmer climates brave the Canadian winter but we could make some of the culinary treats that we had enjoyed so we decided to have a Burlington SlowBowl last night.
The first decision was the wine!
After searching the wine cellar found two bottles from our trips to Paso and Santa Ynez - a Zaca Mesa Z Cuvee and a Jada Hell's Kitchen. Both were great additions to the Burlington SlowBowl.
We started with a charcuterie assortment. The SlowBowl weekend is a bit of a pot luck and Wendy, Rob, Paul, and I always provided the winery snacks - a charcuterie and cheese assortment.
We had to have some burrata - a cheese that Shannon got us hooked on.
One of the highlights of any SlowBowl was a ginormous Cesar Salad that Marcia and David made. Well, it was actually David who did the work. I asked Marcia if David would share his recipe so Pual whipped up Dr. Battin's Cesar Salad.
Another common thread of any SlowBowl weekend is pizza. When we were in Paso Robles Joan and her husband Fred would whip up pizzas for the Friday night 'welcome' party. When we moved to Santa Ynez Shannon had an amazing pizza truck show up outside the motel and the chefs whipped up wonderful treats for us.
Paul and I made 4 pizzas:
Fig, blue cheese, and prosciutto; potato, pancetta, and rosemary; ricotta, caramelized fennel, fennel sausage, and fennel pollen; and pepperoni, mushroom, and caramelized onion.
Finally . . . dessert.
At the last SlowBowl we went to there was a Top Chef contest on the Friday night. Paul and I were judges. The winning team served the most amazing lemon tart made from local lemons and some Ventura Limoncello.
Our Lemon Tart wasn't quite as good but our Limoncello was from Naples. :-)
It was still cold and snowy outside but we were warm with food, wine, and memories inside!
Today was a quiet day. There was nothing on the schedule and since my cold has moved to my head I just felt like taking it easy. I realized in the morning - finally heading out about 11.
I crossed the Amstel River to the area known as the Plantage. I have now explored all 7 of Amsterdam's inner areas - I wouldn't say that I have explored them well mind you, but I have walked in each of 'em.
The reason for this visit was I wanted to go to the Hermitage. Those of you who know art will be thinking I am confused - 'the Hermitage is in Russia, Jerry!' Apparently the famed St Petersburg institution was looking for a satellite site and Amsterdam won the lottery. The gallery is housed in a restored poor house that was built in 1681.
The exhibit I wanted to see was called 'Gauguin, Bonnard, Denis. A Russian Taste for French Art'. In the years following the breakthrough of Impressionism, they went in search of new artistic paths. The elusive Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) was a shining example for the introverted Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947) and the theoretician Maurice Denis (1870–1943). Bonnard and Denis were briefly united with a few other artists (such as Valloton and Vuillars) under the name of Les Nabis, after the Hebrew word for ‘prophet’. These young artists explored fascinating new artistic paths. Unlike the Impressionists, who aimed primarily to capture the fleeting qualities of natural light, the Nabis emphasised colour, feeling, symbolism and imagination. Their work was quickly embraced in Paris, and in Moscow.
The wealthy Russian collector Ivan Morozov was soon charmed by their youthful talent, buying their work and offering them commissions. For instance, Morozov asked Denis to decorate the concert hall in his mansion in 1908. The exhibition will include a unique reconstruction of this exquisite interior, with seven paintings and six decorative panels: The Story of Cupid and Psyche. Bonnard painted the monumental triptych Méditerrannée for the same collector. This work too will be on display in an illusionistic setting, with flat columns in front of the work enhancing the illusion of a Mediterranean view.
The work of the Nabis will be exhibited side by side with French paintings and drawings by their predecessors, contemporaries and immediate successors. With a small selection of sculptures by Auguste Rodin, Auguste Maillol and Paul Auguste Bartholomé, the exhibition will reveal the many facets of Paris’s flourishing artistic climate in the 1890s.
The term ‘Nabis’ was first used in 1889, by a group of young artists in search of a new approach to painting. They were studying together at the Académie Julian in Paris. The daring experimentalist Paul Gauguin became their inspiration, pointing them toward a new way of seeing and painting. The works on display were made between 1890 and the outbreak of the First World War.
Through their ‘flat’ style, initially lacking in traditional linear perspective, the Nabis – together with other avant-garde artists such as Van Gogh and Gauguin – opened the door to modern art. Their paintings in unmixed colours, making expressive use of form and coloration, paved the way to an art that was free and abstract. Their wide-ranging subject matter included city scenes, landscapes, religious themes, portraits and interiors. The Nabi painters used photography to test their compositional ideas, developing a photographic way of seeing. They also embraced the decorative painting of the Art Nouveau movement, making enormous decorative panels for their patrons’ buildings. In all these ways, they explored the artistic boundaries between high and low, fine and applied art.
The exhibit was free with my Museum Card. I paid 4 euro for the excellent audio guide and spent the next two hours enjoying the show.
After I left the Hermitage I wandered around trying to find Rembrandt's House. You'd think it would have been easy but for some reason it was a challenge! The artist lived here from 1639 and 1660. The Rembrandt’s House museum is an interesting reconstruction of painter’s everyday life, his living quarters, and his workshop.
Later, once it had gotten dark and Nancy had gone to bed, I ventured out to explore in the dark. I wanted to see if I could find some of the light sculptures that I had seen from the canal boat. It was a challenge photographing them from the boat because of the movement - I figured on food I might be able to get a decent shot!
One of the great things about slowtravel is the freedom to wander and explore at your own pace. No need to race about! I really appreciated that on this trip.
This cold March doesn't seem to want to quit at all! I was looking at the weather and saw that more snow is on its way this week.
It got me thinking about March trips to warmer places. In 2010 we jetted to California to get together with a large group of our slow travel pals. A group of us were brave enough to go sea kayaking in the bay at La Jolla.
We met our guide, got outfitted, and headed to the beach for paddling lessons. After we set out into the warm ocean in our kayaks. We saw some amazing wildlife, got to go inside some sea caves, and generally had a great time (particularly when a couple of the group - names protected but it was NOT Paul or I) - fell out of their kayak and then had to climb back in while they were still in the middle of the bay.
One of the things that the company offered was a waterproof digital camera - of course I had to chronicle the adventure.
Be sure to pop on over to Sandi's blog to see what else is happening on Travel Tuesday! Given the vacation she just had I am expecting some brilliant pics!
This blast of cold has me thinking of warmer climates. This week for Travel Tuesdays we're heading to Savannah where Paul and I met a group of 100 slowtravelers for a get together - as usual it was full of wonderful food, wine, and laughter!
Be sure to pop on over to Sandi's blog to see what else is happening on Travel Tuesdays!
Yesterday was one of those lovely, relaxed day with family and good friends. Now when in the Eternal City on Christmas one might expect to be wandering about taking in Christmas magic everywhere . . . since we're travelling slowly we were happy as clams to be hanging out in the apartment eating, drinking, laughing, opening presents, and just relaxing.
It was one of the easiest Christmases we have ever spent. One of the happiest too!
One Christmas Eve Palma had made reservations at a local restaurant - Antica Taverna - for a traditional 5 course fish meal. Having a meal of fish for dinner on the 24th being tradition in Italy. We had invited fellow Canadian but now Roman - Sandra, and fellow Slowtraveler Jaylynn over for vino before we all went out to eat dinner.
At 8:00 we headed off to eat.
For 45 euros we had 4 courses and all the wine we could drink - what is not to love about that?
After dinner Sandra, Jaylynn, Paolo, and I headed off to the Vatican to see the Pope celebrate Christmas Eve mass in St Peter's.
As we walked home from the Vatican we called mom to wish her and Rose a Happy Christmas (it was after midnight here by then, so officially Christmas Day here). We were so wired that sleep eluded us! ARGH
On Christmas morning we got to find that Santa (Babo Natale) had arrived!
We ate two types of panettone (both from bakeries run by the same brothers but both very different) which were amazing and prosecco.
After opening gifts we moved into the kitchen where Palma and Brad cooked an amazing breakfast.
After everything was cleaned up Palma and Brad went to nap and Paul and I started dinner. Once all the prep was done we went and napped as well. Dinner itself was a snap - most of it was done in advance, we took shortcuts, the rest came together very quickly. In fact, it was the easiest Christmas Dinner we've pulled together in years!
Sandra arrived at 4:30 and after our Christmas hugs we sat down to eat . . .
The first course was tortellini en Brodo.
Then we had the star-shaped pasta we had bought while we wandered Colle Di Val D'Elsa with Judy. After we cooked it we stuffed it with ricotta, parmigiano, spinach, and basil.
For the main course we served green beans with olive oil - they were so tasty that we will make them every day when my friend Nancy arrives, salad, baked raddichio stuffed with sausage, stuffed zucchini, roasted pork, wrapped with bacon and served with a red wine and mushroom sauce, and roasted potatoes.
Later, MUCH later, after sitting and chatting (and wishing I were wearing my stretching sweat pants rather than dress pants) we had dessert. Sandra had brought a lovely Pandoro which we had with the cookies and candies that Palma had brought from her quick pre-Christmas visit to Abruzzo. We also had fruit there but of course, no one took ANY of THAT!
We broke out the vin santo and the limoncello (which Brad discovered was more effective with his cold than the cold medicine he has been taking) and chatted away into the evening.
As I lay down later I realized that we had not left the apartment ONCE all day. Imagine being in Rome and never getting outside? I am sure many would be shocked at the concept but when you travel slowly and hang out you can have relaxing days like this with no guilt, or worry that you're going to miss something on your over-full schedule!
Do you remember the movie Sideways? The 2004 Oscar winning movie featured two middle-aged men living LA and traveling to the Santa Barbara wine country for a weekend of fun which turned into discovery and adventure.
Our experiences in the Santa Ynez Valley were far less dramatic to be sure - there were no car crashes, affairs, fights, no drinking of buckets of spat out wine from tasting rooms. Instead we had gorgeous weather, great food, wonderful wine, and lots of laughter.
Yesterday started cool but ended up just over 70 degrees - a perfect day for winery visits.
We went to a local favourite restaurant for breakfast - Ellen's Danish Pancake house. What a difference from breakfast on Friday where we were surrounded by socialites who clearly had been nip and tucked. The crowd at Ellen's was decidedly more real and rustic.
I think this describes the entire valley - particularly when one compares it to other wine regions.
The first winery was at 11AM so we had some time to explore Buellton. We managed to find Ostrich Land where the Sideways characters came face-to-face with an angry bird in a hilarious scene.
Our encounter didn't involve angry ostriches. :-)
Foxen was the first winery - a smaller group met up here for a tasting of 3 whites and two reds. There are two tasting rooms here - the famous 'shack' that appeared in the movie and a more recent addition that was recently opened to accommodate the increased crowds coming to the area. Apparently a number of local wineries are in the process of opening 'showcase' tasting rooms a sign the the wine tourists have found the area. I guess this was what Napa and Sonoma were like in the 60s and 70s respectively.
I really liked the rustic countryside that we drove through - stopping as often as safety would allow to take pictures on the narrow and winding road through Foxen Canyon.
The entire group showed up at the next winery - Zaca Mesa. We tasted eight wines in their large outdoor garden and courtyard. We also enjoyed a wonderful alfresco lunch supplied by Sharon and June. It was a perfect spot to hang out in the sun . . .nibbling on delicious food . . . tasting interesting wines . . . and chatting with great people!
I climbed a huge hill that overlooked the winery to take a group shot. Sadly my telephoto lens was sitting in the car - had it not been for the fact that I almost had a heart attack getting up in the first place I would have gone back down and gotten it!
The last winery of the day was located close to Santa Maria. Cambria is a huge producer 0 famous for their Chardonay and Pinot Noir. There we sat on the patio and enjoyed the wine, the company, and the warm 'Californian' sun.
Leaving Cambria, we reversed our route, heading back to the hotel in Buellton for a rest before the pizza party.
When we arrived at the Skyview the guys from Full of Life Flatbread had their oven set up and were getting it up to 650 degrees so they could make dinner.
This being California, the portable oven was decorated with beautiful ceramic tiles designed by the local school children . . .
and a fascinating collection of bumper stickers!
Everything was fresh, local, and amazingly delicious! The guys served up salad, cauliflower gratin, and three types of flatbread pizzas.
Of course, a visit to wine country wouldn't be complete without WINE!
. . . or delicious dessert. Shannon had arranged for a company from Santa Barbara to travel north with some of their gelato. Bob and Ellie from 'Here's the Scoop' like to give back to their community, and besides the various events put on for the youngsters of Santa Barbara in their store, they also buy much of the produce for their gelato and sorbet from local farmers. Everything is fresh, local, and, you guessed it, delicious!
I had a scoop of pina colada and a scoop of lemon lavendar.
For a brief moment it was like being transported back to Italy. Sigh
In my mind a typical travel day is a pretty hideous beast where shit happens. One needs to expects this as typical and it makes it all seem reasonable when it happens.
Yesterday we were up at 3 am EST to be at the airport for our 6 am flight out of Toronto. While I am an admitted morning person this was too early, even for me. We checked in quickly, went through customs quickly and encountered our first disappointment - the first class lounge wasn't open yet.
We don't normally travel first class. I had lots of points that were getting ready to expire so we decided to blow them and travel first. We were looking forward to a civilized start to the day once we got through customs. This was not to be.
Instead we met the travelling public, who by and large can be a nasty group of folks. In the course of 30 minutes I listened to a man rant at the duty free cashierafter she warned him that he had a connecting flight from the US to Puerto Rico and the customs there would confiscate his vodka. She was helping him out and saving him $ 50 + - he decided to yell at her in return. Next was a rather loud group of young women wearing matching pinks shirts declaring to the world that it was Sharm's Bachelorette trip. They were channeling the women from Bridesmaids in a loud way. Then there was loud coffee line guy who pontificated about how Starbucks was gross coffee and why couldn't he have a Tim Horton's. When it got to be too much a young lady in line turned to him and said - 'there is a Tim Horton's 100feet away, perhaps you could do us all a favour and go there'. Our fellow line members clapped.
At the gate it was a short wait until we boarded. It was smaller plane to Charlotte so there was no meal but we were given drinks and snacks. This was all good.
The bachelorette girls were on the plane. That wasn't good. Happily the magic curtain between first and the rest magically drowned them out.
The Charlotte airport is a charming airport with its civilized white rocking chairs for all to enjoy. The travellers in Charlotte were a sorry lot though. It was explained to me that the dregs of the SE US were all connecting through Charlotte so it brought out the worst in folks. We made a note to connect through Phillie in the future.
A short wait later and we were on the plane to LA. Lunch was actually tasty. The drinks flowed. The guy in front of me knocked back 8 JDs and water. The woman across the aisle from me had her poodle with her - she had a sucker for the wee beast. She'd lick the sucker, give it to the dog to lick, lick it again, and so on. I wanted to hurl my tasty lunch. Once the sucked fell out of the dog carrier, rolled across the carpet . . . after retrieving it the licking continued.
I closed my eyes.
When I opened them I noticed our flight attendant with a flashlight trying to read some controls on the ceiling. We sound were told why - the plane has suffered a toilet malfunction and they were ready to overload. We were diverting to Phoenix. The pilot asked us to try and hold 'it' and informed us that drink service was stopping. For some reason no one else found that amusing.
It was a quick repair in Phoenix and we could have left much sooner except for the fact that it took forever to round up the passengers who got off and allegedly made a desperate run for the bathroom but came back with sacks of fast food and souvenirs.
A short hop later and we were in LA.
As is usual for LA the wait for the luggage took forever. It arrived on a different carousel than it was supposed to.
We took the shuttle to the car rental area where I had to fend off the aggressive efforts of the agent who tried to sell me everything but chains for the tires. In the end I was given an upgraded SUV and we were off to Van Nuys where we were staying for the night.
By the time we were settled it was 3:30 PM PST and we were hungry. We had 4 hours until we were meeting our friends for dinner so we used our GPS to find the closest In-N-Out burger where I threw all diet caution to the wind and scarfed back a vanilla shake, double-double, and animal style fries. My arteries are still constricted.
We still had time for a short nap before we met up with everyone for dinner.
Dinner was at Osterieria Firenze, the restaurant by celebrity chef Fabio Viviani. It is always great to hook up with the slowtravel gang - lots of hugs, laughter, and good stories.
It was a great meal. Of course I started off with the famous strawberry balsamico martini . . .
Followed by a salad and the delicious orecchiette with sausage, what was supposed to be rapini (I know rapini, this was not rapini it was black kale) and chili peppers.
Paul had the same panna cotta he had enjoyed when we were here 2 years ago (time flies, it does indeed). I passed on dessert, still feeling a titch guilty about that In-N-Out visit. :-)
By the time we got back to the hotel we were exhausted. It was 22 hours from the time the alarm clock had rung at home. Needless to say we slept like like a rock!
Today we have a short drive to the Los Alamos area for a weekend of food, laughter, and wine with the slowtravel gang!
We left the snow behind and headed to California for a long weekend of fun. We shoppedm toured wineries, tasted olive oil, met up with good friends, and ate some wonderful food. I can't wait for slow bowl 2009.