Saturday, September 29, 2012

Grape Harvesting at La Vigna Agriturismo

Agriturismos are one of our favorite Italian experiences. They are working farms with bed and breakfast lodging on-site and they often have restaurants that serve dinner as well. They are subsidized by the Italian government to promote tourism in more rural areas. We love experiencing Italy's beautiful rural areas and we love local food, so we jumped at the chance to go to La Vigna, an agriturismo about 30 minutes from our home, to spend the day harvesting grapes and enjoying a traditional Italian meal. 

These are the grapes we harvested. I wondered what kind they were, but forgot to ask. So, I'd guess maybe falanghina, which is a local white wine.

Sydney cutting the grapes off the vine

Miranda cutting grapes off the vine (yes, we let her use a knife!)

Sophia enjoyed getting a closer look. Although this was not my brightest parenting moment, since look=touch=in the mouth, which means I was fishing a grape out of her mouth within seconds! 

Sydney was being silly, but in between bouts of whining and being silly, went right back to work with Dad.

Miranda was being silly while whining, but she gave up picking grapes early on. In her defense, it was in the 90's so pretty hot and uncomfortable, especially with rubber gloves on.

More silliness!

Sydney thought this bunch looked like an L--for Aunt Laura!

Here's Brian in his pack mule role yet again!

After picking grapes, we went around back to let the kids play on the huge playground. We learned the grapes are put into this machine to separate the stems. 

(By the way, the man behind the machine is 82; must be the Mediterranean diet!)

Then it was time to stomp on the grapes, I-Love-Lucy style, although on a little smaller scale. Stay tuned for these photos at Christmas...

Finally, it was time to enjoy the fruits of our labor! Or last year's laborers, I should say. I have really come to love authentic Italian al fresco dining. We ate under these vines and it was magical.  Or maybe what I was feeling was the wine. In any case, it was a lovely experience and we can check it off our bucket list! Not that I wouldn't jump at another chance next year.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Aunt Mickey and Uncle Billy Cruise to Naples

Early Thursday morning, Brian and I set out to find Aunt Mickey and Uncle Billy in downtown Naples. Armed only with our GPS, the name of their cruise ship (the Celebrity Silouette), and a meeting time of 9am, we were a little skeptical that we would be able to find them! This is Italy, after all. But we followed signs to the port along the highway and found the ship, despite needing to ask Port Authorities which way we should go near the very end. And after a few minutes of roaming around on foot, I snagged them and Brian whisked us away toward Sorrento.  

Everything was going pretty smoothly for the first 30 minutes, until suddenly we were forced to take a detour from the main road to Sorrento. We followed the stop and go traffic for an hour and a half, only to reach a road completely blocked due to an Italian strike, or so the polizia told us. 
So, we diverted and headed to Ravello instead. We love Ravello, and it has impressed other visitors we've had, so away we went...up the windy road with views of steep plunges over the mountainside. We made sure no one had a tendency for car sickness...but as we're making our ascent, what's that, Aunt Mickey? You're very afraid of heights? Ooops, sorry! But we're halfway there now!

We all appreciated how fortuitous it was to have encountered the strike, because we wouldn't have had the opportunity to see this AUTHENTIC herd of goats in transit to Ravello as well. 

And then there was the AUTHENTIC horses carrying wood that we would've missed along the TERRORIZING road, as Aunt Mickey liked to call it.

But we finally made it to Ravello and enjoyed exploring the quaint town before lunch.

We ate lunch with the most surreal backdrop--the Amalfi coast with its crystal blue water.

Then we returned home to spend time with the girls after school. We went out for pizza and Aunt Mickey proclaimed it the best pizza she'd ever eaten! Not bad, considering she's from New York, where there's some fabulous pizza!

After spending a night with us, we enjoyed a leisurely morning sipping homemade cappuccinos and then we set out to Capua amphitheater in the nearby town of Caserta. This amphitheater is only slightly smaller than Rome's colosseum and is said to be where Sparticus led slaves in an uprising against the Roman Empire. 

Aunt Mickey poses near the M Miranda discovered on our last visit there. M is for Aunt Mickey and for Miranda.

Then it was time to head back to the ship. Despite a wrong turn I made near the port, we made it with plenty of time to spare. We had a lovely, albeit quick, visit!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Paris, France: Part 2


 We took the subway and were pleasantly surprised with this accordion music on our way to the d'Orsay museum, where we visited an impressive collection of impressionist pieces. 

Sophia (and the princess crown rattle that has its final resting place in Paris.)

We enjoyed a quick but beautiful walk to Les Invalides, which houses Napoleon's tomb.

La Sainte Chapelle was one of my favorite places, although on the outside it doesn't look like much! It was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion Relics, including the Crown of Thorns. It was begun some time after 1239. It was damaged during the French revolution, but then heavily restored in the 19th century. It is one of the most extensive in-situ collections of 13th century stained glass anywhere in the world.

Brian and the girls have a rest.

A beautiful view of Notre Dame, which we walked by each day on the way back to our apartment.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Paris, France: Part 1

Our first full day in Paris, we set out on foot to the Ile-de la cite (an island in the Seine river) from our apartment near the Latin Quarter on the left bank. We were en route to catch a Batobus water taxi to the Louvre, but first we fueled up with a nutella and banana crepe from a restaurant vendor. Yum!

Eating a crepe for breakfast

Descending down to the Louvre Museum
 After a brief set back when we had to take Sophia out of her frame backpack and put her in a borrowed Louvre stroller, we made a bee-line to the Mona Lisa. You can't tell from this picture, but there were at least 100 people swarmed in front of the painting at any given time. So, we had to wait very patiently as we were jostled to the front of the line. The girls were so excited to see the Mona Lisa, having read about her in a couple of books they have. Their favorite is a children's story book (one in a series of art-related books) called Katie and the Mona Lisa.

The girls loved visiting the Mona Lisa!
 After seeing the Mona Lisa, we followed the crowds to a few other key pieces of artwork, including this statue, the Venus de Milo.
Venus de Milo

After the Louvre, we set out to walk through the Tuileries Garden and then along the Champs Elysees to reach the Arc de Triomphe, which was a lot further than it looks! But we made are a few things we saw along the way.

Oh, and my friend Kathleen was kind enough to inform us that the Tour de France would be culminating on the Champs Elysees on Sunday during our trip! That might explain why we couldn't find accommodations easily. And so we avoided the Champs Elysees on Sunday, until late in the day we doubled back to make it to the l'Orangerie Museum...only to wonder why one of the metro exits had security and was blocked. Duh. We emerged to a sea of people and saw the last of the support cars with bikes on top drive by. But we did make it to the museum the next day.

And we did make it to the Arc de Triomphe, despite the 3 mile walk uphill.

View of the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triumphe

We're taking the Batobus to the Eiffel Tower to get in line.

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We waited for 2 and half long hours to go up into the Eiffel Tower. It was touch and go there for the last 30 minutes, as Sydney and Brian both had to use the bathroom (which had closed). But they were able to hold out and make it to the top. Sydney and Miranda were rewarded promptly with Ben and Jerry's ice cream AND souvenir Eiffel Towers. They don't get too many souvenirs because Brian is a minimalist who doesn't want crap piling up. But especially after perseverance to transcend this world in the most visited paid monument in the world, Brian felt they were deserving. But isn't it also appropriate to get a souvenir (a French word that means "to remember") in France?

Brian "accidentally" ordered us two LARGE beers at a Paris cafe at dinner that night.  We considered it our crash course in the metric volume system! Oui, oui, it was a good way to end our first day in Paris!