Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Take Me In

I headed south, not north; was not running away from anything but towards; not planning to never return but stay for a few days… yet I still love this song and it resonates with me, so there.

Woodstock last July was a wonderful getaway so we decided to have another. Where to meet this time? Brooklyn became the number one choice and so it was booked. There were things on our list to do:  cross Brooklyn Bridge by foot, see Bohemian Rhapsody, eat authentic New York pizza pie, go out for a nice meal.  However, we didn’t have a firm schedule. Go with the flow is how we roll…

As I mentioned to David Kanigan, a little nod to his style (my favourites of his posts) is how I’m gonna go about this…

Heading south – Toll-Free on Taconic State Parkway

I set my car GPS to my destination AND my phone one too.  Because the one that comes with the car is a programme and not necessarily up to date – I know this cos I’ve taken Autoroute 30 West and when I hit the “new” part the highway, the GPS freaks out and thinks I’m in space…

As a result, I was amused when the two “argued” over which route to take, and I sided with the phone.  All good, the car one would recalculate. It kept trying to get me to change and I kept saying:  “Yo, give it up Car”.  Then I woke up. Shit!  I’ve driven to New York twice now and I had never taken this road… I dunno how but I had the “avoid tolls” button checked on the phone.  “Sonova…..” Taconic State Parkway is a lovely scenic route.  No use in being angry with myself at this point.  So I enjoyed the fact that the trees were still mighty colourful compared to back home and at my next gas stop, I texted my partner in crime to tell him I’d be later than planned…

It started to rain and finally, around 2:00 p.m., I was on the Brooklyn Bridge.  Woot!

(Shhhh I pointed and shot, hoping I’d catch something decent…was watching where I was going, not what I was shooting…)

We could not have access to our Airbnb until 5 pm instead of 3 (seriously??) so we looked for a place to have a late lunch.  Well, not true.  We didn’t look.  Said partner had had loads of time to scope out the area and we ended up in some nameless joint for forgettable chicken empañadas and shared a sorta Cuban sandwich we didn’t order.  No matter!  Groceries, parking, schlepping and settling in and a joint effort towards nachos, salsa and brewskies were on the menu.

Riding the Subway Trains R and A – Eventually Make it to Brooklyn Bridge

A late breakfast of coffee, bagels and frittata we made our way to the subway.  Before leaving, we did Google Map how to get there.  Problem is, neither of us is familiar with the subway system and while we consider ourselves relatively intelligent peeps, could not figure out exactly where to go.  So we asked a teller at the station.  Thought we got it straight.   Hopped onto the R train and realised we were going the wrong way!  Buddy could have told us to go on the other side to take it, no? Got off, hopped over to the other side and then continued on.  Then got off at the stop we were told to.  Could not see any connection to the A train.  Back to a teller who told us to go back on R, do two more stops and hop onto the A train and get off after three stops.  Sheesh.  Good thing we can laugh at ourselves… I was thinking, what would DK write? 🙂

Random Subway Station

Of course, they had called for rain.  But no matter.  We were going anyway. There is something about fall colours popping when the skies are grey.

There is something special about this bridge.  You see it in pictures, in countless movies and TV shows but it was still a thrill to walk it.  And I think I’ll do it again and again!  I must admit I fell in love with the Manhattan Bridge as well and am promising myself that on my next visit to New York, I shall try to get better pictures of both bridges!

It was later than we thought so we skipped the movie and opted for a small pie at Grimaldi’s Under the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was a short walk away and boy was it worth it!  We decided to get a small plain pie as we were planning on my chicken parm for dinner.  It was rather late.  Don’t ask me why… I forgot to take a picture of the pizza!!  The waiter delivered it and – in heavy Brooklyn accent, please, said:  “Sorry, I made a mistake and you got a large instead…”  We forced ourselves NOT to eat the last two slices.  But we coulda… easily.

Leftovers packed away and most generously given to me, we made our way to the subway and back “home” like a couple of pros who knew where they were going!

A Date with Freddie and a Steak in Coney Island

Wednesday brought beautiful blue skies and warmer weather.  So, of course, we decided to go to an afternoon viewing of Bohemian Rhapsody!  A shortish drive brought us to Cobble Hill Theater to enjoy this fabulous movie.  It doesn’t matter that timelines were played with and certain events were fudged.  Rami Malek inhabited Freddie Mercury’s spirit and a shy bravado that no one else could have mastered.  Everyone has been talking about Rami looking so much like Freddie…. Did anyone not notice how Gwilym Lee is the spitting image of Brian May?  Holy smokes…  (Roger Talyor, played by Ben Hardy and John Deacon, played by Joseph Mazzello were no slouches, either…)

Dinner was a most delicious steak on Coney Island at the lovely Atlas Steakhouse.

Time to go – But First, A Walk

All good things must come to an end and we had to leave the Airbnb by noon.  After a good breakfast using up all the leftovers we had, we packed up our cars and went for one last walk.  Down 52nd Street to 1st and then right towards about 40th, give or take (I wanna say direction North but frankly, my sense of direction there was zero).   We were hoping to find access to the water’s edge for some nice pics of Manhattan.  A bunch of warehouses of all sorts and no access.  We did go down towards the “Bush Terminal Piers Park” (have no clue what they do) and was able to take these pics.

We turned around and walked past 52nd towards 58th and discovered the Sunset Park/Brooklyn Army Terminal Pier.  Score!

Walking back to our cars, I had to snap a couple of streets.  I love the look of Brooklyn.  It actually has a similar feel to our Plateau Mont Royal area with the staircases.  Not the same as ours go up to second and third floors but still.

Driving on I-87 North – Homeward Bound

Now it was truly time to say good-bye and wish each other a safe trip home.  Set that GPS for home and oh my GAWD… It took me one and a half hours to get from 52nd street to and over the Brooklyn Bridge, to and over the George Washington Bridge!

Traffic not moving. Cool church

However, as soon as I hit the I-97 North, it was relatively smooth sailing.  Must say New Yorkers like to drive fast – and I have zero problems setting my cruise control to 130 km/hr (80 mph) to keep up!

Things were going great till I hit that dead zone in the Adirondacks where no radio stations come in.  Reminder again that my iPad was left on my bed!  Aaargh.  It’s 7:00 pm and I’ve got one station that is scratchy.  I press search and the numbers go all the way ’round.  Ain’t nothing coming in.  Turn off the radio.  Try again fifteen minutes later.  Same thing.  Try periodically.  Get some gospel station.  I ain’t that desperate.   Try again.  Talk, talk, talk, Trump, talk.  Ugh.  I’m not old enough to be into that stuff.  Try again.  Get some talk radio where a son and his mother are talking to the host, about the process of being transgender and how everyone deals with it.  Nope.

Signs for Whiteface Mountain but construction.  Ugh.  Down to 50 mph.  Good grief!  Spot a motorcycle ahead of me.  It’s 6 degrees Celsius! (43ºF)  The guy is wearing army-style pants, boots and a jacket.  His face is red from the cold as he has nothing protecting it and is holding the bike with one hand while the other is tucked into himself… I feel for the poor bugger.  I imagine he is riding a motorcycle at this time of the year because he has no other option.  Or he’s an idiot.

Sign says Montreal 98 miles.  Woot!  Try the radio again and I get Delilah!  Oh my goodness!   She is still on the air?  Not listening to her but now have options.  Get to the border around 8 pm-ish, sail on through and am home by 9.

Unpacked the car and was very pleased to see my gift had remained undamaged…

 

Cook in Tuscany – La Chiusa, A Surprise, Innocenti and Farewell

*** EIGHT – yes, EIGHT!!  months have gone by since I returned from Tuscany.  I had so many issues with my computer that I had put this aside to finish later and later never seemed to come.  I am now, if you don’t mind, ready to finish the telling of this fabulous life-changing (for me) trip! ***

♣♣♣TWO YEARS – yes, officially TWO YEARS have, as of today, gone by since I started my Cook in Tuscany Trip.  I am not counting my day in Zug because that would have made yesterday the official two-year mark.  Though I am not pro-resoution, I have promised myself to finish every project I have started and that includes this one.♣♣♣

Now where was I….

Sigh, the last full day in Montefollonico, at La Costa with this fabulous group that made the start of my trip so wonderful. The next morning most would be hopping the van to Chiusi-Chianciano Station to continue their adventures elsewhere or return home.  But till then, we had a full day of wonderful stuff!

As per usual, we had our breakfast in the closed-in veranda before making our way to our last cooking class.  It is kinda funny that we had the van, considering how close we were!  We could easily have walked there and back but hey, why not?  And it’s not like any of us knew where we were going anyway.

This time we made our way to the restaurant La Chiusa, run by Michelin-star chef Dania, a woman who is somewhere in her 70’s but does not dress “accordingly” (whatever that is supposed to be)!  She is one sexy lady!  Though divorced, her husband still works with her.  How very European, eh?

Dania is very artistic and she showed us how to decorate plates with zucchini and beet purées.  We made stuffed zucchini flowers, pesto risotto, chicken stew, caramel nests, fig and caramel ice cream.  The colour of the egg yolks… I have no words.  And this standard for them!

Once most of the mains were started, Dania brought us through to her gardens, which were still amazing in September.  Huge kale, leeks, rows and rows of rosemary, basil, eggplants, peppers, fig trees, zucchini with their blossoms – it was amazing to walk through, while Dania chattered away, occasionally translated by the lovely Geraldine – same who had translated on truffle-hunting day.  I think I would spend hours on this bench, dreaming of what to pick next…

Group photo!

We then went into the “pasta” kitchen where Antonietta had us making ravioli stuffed with ricotta and lovely gnocchi.

All that hard work meant we got to eat al fresco on the terrace.

To return “home”, we decided to walk this time.  It was just up a hill, less than a kilometre and let’s face it, walking was not a bad idea.  As we entered the gates of Montefollonico, we were chattering and laughing when I heard “Dale?”.

What the… I spun around and there was Pierre.  One of Mick’s close friends and former clients.  Oh. Em. Gee.  You cannot make this stuff up!  I mean, come ON!  This is not THE rocking place of Tuscany.  This tiny village is tucked away in the middle of nowhere!  I can still hear Donna saying:  “You turned French Canadian in front of my eyes!”  Speaking of eyes, the whole gang got all misty-eyed at seeing us hug.  Pierre looked at me, then up at the sky and let out a “Mick, tabarnac!”  He said he was a little bit of a believer but now was full-fledged.  I had no idea he and his wife, Geneviève, were there on vacation.  And it was his in-laws who wanted to go visit there.  What were the chances?

Pierre and Me

We exchanged emails and made arrangements to hook up in two days.  So. Very. Cool.

We had a few hours to kill before our next adventure and Sandy wanted to deliver an apron to Dania in thanks.  So I joined Donna and her for a walk back to La Chiusa and Dania.

Our last excursion was down the street from LaCosta to Innocenti Wines.

We were greeted by Vino, Vittorio Innocenti’s sweet dog.  We entered and a few feet in, found ourselves in a fairly dark and musty wine cellar with the big casks.  Vittorio and Laura (Geraldine’s mum) were waiting for us to give us a tour.  Not a very big one!  The place is quite small and feels very intimate.

It was our last night together! How quickly it passed.  How much fun we had.  The memories created will remain forever, of that I am certain.  Friendships created and with the magic of Facebook, maintained.

Our last supper was at La Costa in the closed veranda as the evening was quite cool.  We had a lovely feast of pork chops and the lemon roasted potatoes and balsamic roasted cipollini, three types of crostini (mushroom, roasted tomato and olive), salad and a birthday cake for Cindi and Alison!  A perfect ending to a perfect week in perfect company.  Linda and George gave us each a lovely ceramic plate as a memento.  We would save our good-byes for the morrow.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

 

 

Woodstock – Woods and other Stock

I did promise there would be more to come and I do like to keep my promises.

Tuesday’s forecast called for rain but we sure were not going to let that determine what we could or couldn’t do.  We had promised ourselves a hike on one of the many trails in the vicinity and hike we would.  After a hearty frittata breakfast, to The Comeau Property, we went.  A mere hop, step and a jump away from our Airbnb and right in the middle of Woodstock.  Not what one would call a challenging hike but it was a very pleasant walk along the Sawkill Stream.

Arriving at the parking lot, we found a map of the trail, (Did I take a picture?  Of course not!)  So this one was snagged from the website.

©BarkerHudson.com

See that map on the right panel?  Yeah well… I dunno who was behind the design of the thing but it was confusing as all get-out!  And bass-ackwards.  We found the short trail – coz it was right there behind said “Info Centre”.  The trail brought is immediately to the stream which seemed quite low.  Hopping from one rock to another, we found ourselves right in the middle.

As we continued walking along the trail, the rain started, but the canopy of trees protected us.  Besides, it didn’t last long.  Before long, we realised we had gotten off the trail and found ourselves in the middle of a wide empty field.  Or was it?

How cool to see this family of deer racing past.  Thank goodness I had time to switch my zoom lens and capture them!  I know for some it is no big whup to come across deer in mid-day but for us, it was magical.

It’s funny, we kinda forgot we were in the middle of the Catskill Mountains until we turned around.

We returned to the woods and continued our walk, enjoying the quiet.  It is summer season and we were amazed at how few people we encountered.  One was some weirdo chatting away on his cell… You are surrounded by nature and instead of listening to the sounds provided by said nature, you gotta jibber-jabber on the phone?  To each his own.  We were glad when he was no longer in our vicinity.

We ended up back in the parking lot, looked at the map again, tried to figure out just where the second trail started… I did mention it was not exactly clear.  We crossed the street and lo and behold!  There it was!

We walked along the trail, a lovely carpet of dried leaves cushioning our feet, the daylight shining through gaps in the canopy.  We could hear the water nearby and the trail led us to it from this side.  Did I mention how calming and soul-filling these walks can be?

This trail was so much more.  The water flowed stronger and the vista was enchanting.

Of course, I’m a bit of a rebel, so I totally trespassed (with proof I was the only one…)

We drove back “home” in the rain and M decided it would be grand to go for a run.  By the way, there may have been some rumblings of thunder.  Just sayin’.  I, totally NOT a runner, especially not one in a storm, wished him well and stayed back to get ready for the movies.  We had checked the local listing and decided to go for a short drive to see the afternoon viewing of “Oceans 8”, which we both enjoyed, along with a mega bucket of popcorn.

I had seen a video of a certain sandwich on the Facebooks and we decided to try it.  I mean come ON… we already had my fab vodka mix; all we needed was to pick up a few more ingredients so I could make us “Bloody Mary Grilled Cheese”.  We did not have the perfect bread (or a quick dip would have been better) but taste-wise?  Yeah, baby!  I am so doing these again.

The rain had stopped again and we decided to sit outside under the balcony for an early nightcap.  We were blessed once again with a couple of visitors.  Luckily I was able to capture this little guy.

And then this beauty.

This was turning into a fabulous getaway in the presence of most pleasant company, both the four-legged and two-legged kind.

Next up, THE site!

Part one is here, for anyone interested…

 

 

 

 

 

Why Not Woodstock?

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, Live the life you’ve always imagined.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Without going into any woe-is-me sob story (which is not my style, anyway), many of you know there have been challenges sent my way over the years.  I don’t think these events changed the way I already thought and acted or reacted, but maybe they just magnified the who that I am.  I can tell you that they gave me the power to not be afraid of:

  1. being alone (not that I want to remain so forever, but if I do, I will survive)
  2. doing things by myself for myself
  3. putting myself out there, either by writing or travelling or whatever opportunity presents itself.

Why have I gone on with this preamble of sorts?  Because I must explain how the hell I ended up in Woodstock, baby!  I cannot honestly say it was ever a destination on my “bucket list” (if I were to have one, that is).  Yes, I adore the music of that time and love the idea that 400,000+ people could gather in the conditions that they were and not turn to violence… you know like rioters do now when their team friggen WINS

Anyway.

Last February, I “met” a blogger on another blogger’s blog (say that ten times quickly 😉 ).  We exchanged miles of comments until it was suggested by moi to chat elsewhere.  Good thing because I am quasi-positive there is some sort of blog etiquette on hogging another’s comments section.

Our exchanges – via text, voice, video chat – occurred almost daily.  We discovered that we had so many things in common and felt we could share pretty much any and everything.  A true friendship was born.  We started joking that it would be great to meet in person.  Little snag was we lived about eight hours apart by car.  Still.  What about meeting half-way?  Great.  We did talk about New York City which would have had a coolness all its own though is not quite an even half-way point but I was willing to do the extra.  Problem was, who in the name of all that is holy wants to go sweat in NYC in July?  Besides, there was nothing available hotel-wise.  So that was that.

Looking at maps, one place than another was suggested until he said:  Why not Woodstock?  A true half-way point for both of us, easy access, lots of places to stay plus the potential of visiting THE musical site of musical sites of all times…

It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.
~ Carl Jung

And so, in May, Woodstock was booked.  Now we had to wait until July 16th.

So. Far. Away.

Till it was here.

We had discussed the official meet-up, who would bring what – I was gonna introduce this Yank to Clamato… welcome him to the Canadian Bloody Caesar (rare are the Canucks who do Bloody Marys).  Not only that, I was making my special “Garden mix” vodka. I warned him I would probably ruin him for future Bloody Marys… He was bringing beer and stuff that comes to mind when one thinks of Woodstock – and what we would do.  We had checked out the surrounding areas and found there were various places to hike so that was definitely on our agenda.  Plus, of course, visiting the venue.

We aimed to meet at the Airbnb for 1 pm on Monday.  Excellent.  We would then go for lunch to break the ice and then do some grocery shopping for some of our meals, eat in on Monday night and then go with the flow and the weather.

Yesterday’s just a memory, tomorrow is never what it’s supposed to be.
~ Bob Dylan

The morning was perfect.  My bags had all been packed, the booze, the crepe mix, my clothes.  According to Google Maps, if i Ieft by 8:15, I would arrive at my destination for 1.  I left at 7:55.  Got to the border at 8:50 – record time as there was zero traffic, stopped off at Duty Free for a coffee, some water bottles and made my way to the border itself.  One car ahead of me.  The border guy asked where I was going, of course, and wished me a fun time.

Set my cruise control to 118 kph (73 mph) because I am a lead-foot and need to be restrained and off I went.  My first pleasant surprise was when I filled my gas tank.  Down to 1/4 tank, I don’t mess around and stopped as soon as I could.  I forgot that trick of using the three digits in my postal code and adding two zeros because the stupid gas tanks ask for a zip code… so I had to pay inside.  The cashier asks me how much, so I say “fifty bucks”.  She says not to worry, whatever amount I use is all I’ll be charged for…  Cool. Press the lever and it pops at $23.38.  What?  Press again and a few cents’ worth is added.  Holy moly!  Or rather… FUCK!  We pay way too much for gas in Quebec!!  3/4 of a tank would have cost me at least $45…

Continue on and arrive in Woodstock.  GPS tells me to turn into the driveway and I can’t see the address but trust it. It is 12:55 and no one is there.  Not even the owners.  Hmmm…  So I sit on the porch.  It feels like it’s 100 degrees.   I walk around and feel that maybe this isn’t right.  Hmmm… I can’t remember there being a pool in the pics.  I do remember 3 doors on the carriage house but don’t remember the colour.  That should have been my first “Hello? may be at the wrong place?”  Just as I am about to jump into my car and drive a bit further, I get a text.  “I’m here.”  I respond, “Me, too”.  “Huh?”

Dumbass.  I was at the house next door.  Way to make a great first impression, Rogerson.

Drive into the nice and narrow drive where I was supposed to be…

A smile and a nice long hug and a glad we made it, we left my stuff in my car because the house wasn’t ready for us.  Using his car we made our way into town for lunch. Our chatter picked up exactly where it had left off the night before.  We knew it.  The comfort level was exactly what we had expected/hoped it would be.

We chose the Oriole 9 which had a fabulous selection of salads and sandwiches and beers… we were good!  Enjoyed our lunch (I was starving), found a grocery store, picked up some items and back to the carriage house.

The sweet owners, Emy and James, were the perfect hosts, made sure we were well-connected to their smart TV and that we lacked for nothing – then we never saw them again!   We connected to YouTube and focused on everything Woodstock.  How neither one of us thought to do any research before hand is beyond us both.  This turned out to be a good thing.  We were able to absorb everything together.  Cooking supper, enjoying each other’s company, watching videos.  We were good.

And seriously, how ironic was it that we were there from July 16-19 and 49 years earlier, the famous concert of concerts was held August 15-18?

The spell had just begun….

 

Cook in Tuscany – Cantucci, Bagno Vignoni and Beautiful Pienza

Allora, what was in store for us on this day?  Allora is my new favourite expression, by the way!  We heard it from just about every Italian we dealt with!  It basically means “and so” or “then”.  For example:  Allora, next we take the eggplant and we…  Doesn’t it sound just so much better than “And now….” 😀

Allora, my friends, on this day we were staying “home” at La Costa to learn how to debone a chicken, stuff it with prosciutto and ground pork and tie it all into a neat little bundle.  We also learned how to make melanzane parmigiano (eggplant parmesan) and I can promise you folks, I am no longer making it the same way I have for years!  Matter of fact, just this week, I made it for mi famiglia!  Plus panna cotta and cantucci (or cantuccini) which is an almond cookie basically the same difference as biscotti, which can or not be double-baked (though that kind of goes against the origin of the name biscotti as it means twice baked).  Sorry, I got carried away there.  The important thing is these little babies are absolutely delicious, especially when dipped in vin santo! (see my welcome by Milena!)  Some pici rolling also took place. (We couldn’t possibly have a meal sans pasta, right?)

But first, we watch Terry debone that chicken.  Don’t you find he looks like a young Vincent Schiavelli?

Now it was Donna’s turn.  Love how her tongue sticks out when she’s concentrating… 😉

I will not torment you with finished product pictures… nah!  Just kidding!

We had some time to do whatever (attempt at blogging…yeah…uhhh…no) until 3:30 because we were off to the Roman baths, Bagno Vignoni, and then the beautiful town of Pienza.

On our way there we stopped off at “the most photographed house in the Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany”.  Why? Who knows? However, if any of you buy a “Tuscany” calendar, chances are this house is one of the monthly pictures. Well darn it, wouldn’t you know?  When I got home, I looked through my old calendars (though I was convinced I had chucked them all) and lo and behold, there it was! February 2010!

Lovely and all… but MY picture is so much more… mine! 😉 Plus! There was a wedding going on (pretend I am happy to have people marring my perfect photo…)

2016-09-07-10-18-28

Moving on, we made our way to the Roman baths of Bagno Vignoni. What a delight to dip our toes into the warm waters surrounded by such a view!

Back into the van and off to Pienza.  Finally had my first gelato of the trip a scoop each of Fig and port and blackberry.  They even had one that was spinach & kiwi.  Sounds gross, eh?  Well, it wasn’t!

We all walked around shopping and taking in the sights, then met up with everyone at the Restaurant La Bandita, where we had yet another fabulous meal.  So weird to be served by a Scot!  He told us that the previous Christmas, they held an all Scottish feast that we very well received by the locals!

Zucchini carpaccio, pesto linguine, chicken on a carrot purée and finished off with a semifreddo of white chocolate and salted caramel and a blueberry sorbet.  Mmmm

A funny thing happened on our way home… Angelo put on some disco music and we started dancing in our seats.  He then turned on the disco lights in the van!  Well… all hell broke loose.  There was dancing up and down the aisle and laughter galore.  Wonder how often that happens, eh Linda and George?  We must have been a special group…  And Linda went and posted MOI on the Facebook page!  Well now…

Did I mention Rosemarie, as well as her daughter Venetia are actors (actresses?)?  Venetia directed her mum in the play “Calendar Girls”.  Needless to say, this means that Rosemarie (who, for a reason I cannot explain, I kept calling Annemarie – her sister, by the way – for two days) is not exactly shy about letting it all hang out.  I apologise again, Rosemarie, as I am caught on tape!  As are you…

Laughing our heads off, we made our way back to La Costa where most of us continued to party.  Paulo was kind enough to get us a bottle of wine, which did not suffice so we “stole” one from one of the displays – can’t really call it stolen as we left a note with our names on it.  Thank you, Sandy, for picking up the tab on that one… gulp!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 7

Part 8

 

 

 

 

Cook in Tuscany – Il Primo Giorno

Hello my friends!  Since I cannot will not bombard you with a slew of pictures all at once, and a TLDR text, I shall pretend I am blogging daily from Tuscany.  Sounds good? Great!

I left the lovely Milena’s B&B by taxi to get to the Chiusi-Chianciano Terme to meet with the van that would bring us to La Costa in Montefollonico.  I was sitting inside the station and noticed a white van.  No markings.  Hmmm… just as I picked up my stuff, deciding to wait outside, a man walked in holding a sign “Cook in Tuscany”.  Well, now!  I followed him and settled into the van.  Wow… first to arrive? Okay then.

Next thing I know, George pops his head in and says:  “You must be Dale.  Follow me, a bunch of Canadians are all sitting at the bar across the street!”  I gladly followed him and was introduced to friends Terri and Janet, from Vancouver; and friends Donna and Sandy, also from British Columbia.  Ordered my first Aperol Spritz (funny enough, it is a cocktail gaining in popularity at the golf club too!) and were soon joined by Alison from Louisiana.  Along came mother and daughter Rosemarie and Venetia, from Ontario.  We hopped into the van and car and off to La Costa in Montefollonico where my real adventure begins!  Turns out we would be seven Canadians and seven Americans in our group of 14.

I cannot lie.  I was brought to my room where I was welcomed by a bouquet and apron and bag of goodies.  I dropped my suitcase, opened up the door leading to my balcony and started to cry!  It was a mixture of “oh-my-God-I’m-finally-here” and “wow-I’m-here-all-by-myself” and “Mick-should-be-here”.  I was NOT expecting that at all!

Once I unpacked my stuff, I set off to explore my home for the next week.  A few of us ended up on one of the terraces and decided to order a bottle of Pinot Grigio with some antipasto and get acquainted before freshening up for our welcome cocktail.

We were served Prosecco and deliciously simple tomato bruschetta at 6:30 pm and sat around in an informal circle (how does that happen anyway?)  Linda and George Meyers, owners of Cook in Tuscany asked us to introduce ourselves and share our how we came to be at Cook in Tuscany (CiT).  Here we met Frank (whose wife, Mary Ellen was bed-bound with a stomach something) and Cindi & Conrad, both couples from Orlando, Florida, as well as long-time friends Paula and Nancy from New York and Santa Fe.  The “how’s” of getting to this particular cooking vacation were most interesting.  Cindi and Mary Ellen gave the trips to their husbands for Christmas… Uh huh… husband’s gift!  Donna had heard about CiT on Facebook and asked her friend, Sandy, if she felt like joining her – she did!  Forty years ago, when they were young mothers raising their kids, Paula and Nancy vowed that one day they would do something special just for them!  Friends, Terri and Janet, just decided it would be fun to do something together.  Venetia wanted to celebrate a certain special birthday with her mum and was going to organise this super trip in England (birthplace of Rosemarie) and so saved for two years for said trip.  When came time to book it, it was no longer available!  She had found this cooking trip in a magazine and suggested it be the middle part of their trip.  Alison’s son had just moved out of the house and she finally felt it was time to do something for herself.  As for me?  Well, everyone who knows me, knows this has been a dream for a very, VERY long time!

Linda then brought us for a walk around the inner walls of Montefollonico (population about 100 or so), showing us the castle that was built to defend against neighbouring Montepulciano (kinda funny that both are built high up on a hill and can see the enemy coming for miles…)  Quite a lovely little town, built in the 13th century.

Time for our first dinner together!  Fair warning… may cause hunger!

I could tell that this was going to be a fabulous week shared with a wonderful group of people.  Please note, those not yet pictured, will be so soon!  Off to bed with hopes of a good sleep.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 4

Arrival in Tuscany – My Tuscan Trip

Well. So much for that!

I was positive I would be blogging daily, keeping you all up to speed on the happenings of the moment.  Didn’t take into account the 13th century walls being too thick for adequate WiFi!  As my Facebook friends told me:  “Don’t stress, enjoy each moment and tell us about it later!”

Guess what? Now is later 🙂  I have an hour to kill at the Firenze airport so…

*** Note:  it has taken me days to write this!***

The plane ride from Zurich to Florence was a mere hour and we still got a snack and a piece of chocolate.  No complaints here…

Got my bag, found a taxi and 22€ later, was at the Firenze Treno Terme where I got a ticket to the Chiusi-Chianciano Terme.  Having no access to WiFi and not being able to find the document Linda from Cook in Tuscany sent us, I had to rely on my memory for the ‘how-to’.  Well, somehow, I chose an open ticket with the milk-run operation instead of the direct one.  Ugh.  Almost two hours later….

I was so late, my hostess from l’Albero di Gameli called my cell to find out where I was.  No way I was answering that one!  I didn’t bother getting a plan for my phone since all the places I’m staying at have WiFi so I can reach and be reached.   Anyhow… A 10€ taxi ride later, I arrived in Chiusi.

The very beautiful Milena Mazzella greeted me by telling me that, had she known what time I was arriving, she would have picked me up… dang. 2nd time I could have saved a buck!

She showed me my room and made me a sandwich with a glass of wine which I had on their little balcony.  Her partner, Marco, then came out and kept me company, soon joined by Milena and her youngest, Iliana.  She then got the classic Tuscan duo of contucci (cookies) and vin santo (sweet wine).  Dip, bite, drink… yum!

My room was beautiful with my own private bathroom.  Truly a gorgeous place to stay.  Kinda wished I had a few more days with them.  Ah well, la prossima volta!

As if their welcome wasn’t enough, Milena and Marco like to to give a gift of jewellery made by Marco.  All the rings were too small or too big and they insisted I choose this lovely pair of earrings.  So very generous of them.  Milena and I have become fast friends and I know that if ever I want to come back, there is a place for me!

Lovely gift!

Lovely gift!

Tomorrow… I tell you about Cook in Tuscany!

Ciao!

Part 1

Part 3