Travel

grilled-sea-bass-in-hvarMy wife, Peggy, and I recently returned from a cruise from Barcelona to Venice with a few extra days in the Veneto for wine tasting and despite being an occasional internet food blogger (and therefore a food expert without any real knowledge or training – I do so love the internet), we still learned a few things that might help you eat and drink your way across Europe. Enjoy!

Eat the local food: I know that this can be scary for some, but just do it. Even though Peggy and I were on a cruise, we found plenty of chances to eat off the ship, and part of the fun of traveling is trying what you’ve never had before, or just the better, more authentic local versions of the dishes found at home. For Peggy and me, this meant mounds of homemade pasta in every shape, size and texture – and pasta is never scary. In Sardinia, the pasta was fregola, which looks like big couscous, tossed with local shellfish and bottarga, a local specialty of cured fish roe that has been salted and preserved and then grated over the pasta (okay a little scary, but amazingly good with a briny deep sea flavor). In Malta, we were told rabbit was the local staple and while the few times Peggy and I have eaten rabbit it has felt a bit like eating the Easter Bunny, the fried rabbit was fantastic, with a crisp and sticky garlicky outer shell covering the tender sweet meat. (Once, in Sweden, we were told to try the reindeer, which we ate and enjoyed, but then it felt like eating Rudolf.) In Hvar, Croatia, a small beach resort town, the fish is brought in fresh, and then grilled with coarse salt. We were told to eat it and we did. No regrets.

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lisasunset.jpg Every other year for the past 10 years my husband and I make the long and arduous trip from Los Angeles to Bangor, Maine for a week’s vacation at his family’s camp on Lake Pushaw. There’s nothing like relaxing on the dock with a nice glass of wine and listening to the Red Sox games on the radio. Usually we have to stop in New Hampshire or Massachusetts to get anything remotely drinkable because, in past years, the wines found in the grocery store were for emergency use only.

Always on the lookout for wine shops with a wide selection and affordable prices – it’s my  not-so-secret obsession – I noticed a listing for the Bangor Wine & Cheese Co. on the Bangor city website and was intrigued. I still stocked up in MA before we left, because we couldn’t be left high and dry. A week is a long time without good wine.

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four-seasons-resort-maui.jpgLots of winters, I’ve been lucky enough to join in the migration unique to a certain subspecies of Los Angeles native where flocks of family units pick up and move five hours by oversold mechanized bird west to an abbreviated hyphen of sand in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  But I don’t mean to sound dispassionate or cynical or something, because the nagging concerns of existential meaning1 that the previous sentence  might appear to have summoned kind of just slink away when that first warm blanket of air wraps you up in the middle of December, when the roars of leaf-blowers and the 101 have been traded for the soft lapping of the sea, when you first pull up to the shining white sprawl of a resort where everything from the photocopied New York Times crossword puzzles waiting at breakfast to the pool waterslide helps aid in the dissolution of whatever negative thoughts might be careening around between your ears. 

Never mind that the concept of vacation as escape is turned into this sort of farce due to the feeling that all inhabitants of Southern California who travel to Hawaii during the holidays end up staying at one of three hotels within half a mile of each other on the western shore of Maui and hyper-image-conscious businesspeople/kids/vague acquaintances bump into their peers all week long, except that all the judging here goes on while everybody is half-naked.  Never mind all of that; it’s totally possible to ignore the Dark Side of this scene and just chill out.   

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If you are looking for a most romantic place to celebrate an anniversary, holiday, or any day for that matter, then why not take a quick hop across one continent and one ocean to Paris. For centuries this has been the romantic center of the world regarded as such by those whose spirit soars with the magic of this beautiful city.

To wander through narrow winding streets happening upon gracious squares and fascinating houses under clear blue skies; meander along the banks of the river Seine, and over ancient bridges whose stones emanate the passing of history and all the colourful characters who have crossed; the wide avenues and soaring monuments, and immense museums storing great treasures from around the world.

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boats.jpgOn our recent trip to Chicago, my husband and I found ourselves fairly secluded from the outside world as we cared for my aging father-in-law while my mother-in-law got a much needed vacation. With only one day to ourselves – thanks to the brief appearance of his brothers – we decided to meet up with some friends on the shore of Lake Michigan, in Michigan. It would have been easier to hook-up on the Chi-town side of the water (they only live 20 minutes away from my in-laws), but since they were off boating there, we like to road-trip and I had never been to Michigan, we tentatively agreed to meet in a small town on the lake called New Buffalo.

Spontaneous is a word rarely attributed to me, especially when I travel. The advent of the Internet has been a godsend to my obssesive need to pre-plan and find exactly the right place to go before I leave my living room. Sure, I might miss the best local "whatever" that just opened yesterday or is too obscure to be on the web because of my control-freak nature, but I'm too old and particular to leave lunch to chance. If I'm going to make the effort and take the time, I want better than even odds that I'll enjoy the excursion.

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