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food. passion. life.

keeping track: why I keep a travel journal

If you’re anything like me, you find that the older you get the less reliable your memory becomes.  I’m in no way old, and actually have a fantastic memory, but it seems with every year, my recall is just a little less ironclad than it was the year before.  This is why I highly recommend one practice for any winerd, foody, or traveler… journaling!

I have a journal from each of my trips, and I write down, the special moments from each trip, that I am worried I’ll forget.  I also take plenty of pictures, but not relying on the pictures to tell the story for me.  I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but if you have pictures and a journal you have fifty thousand words.  (That’s the standard length for a novel, by the way.)  Even if you’re the only one who ever sees your pictures, and reads your journal, it’s worth keeping track for the very fact that your memories will be reinforced in your mind by recording them.

There are three reasons I journal along with my pictures.

  1. I’m a story teller.  As you can probably tell from this blog, I love to tell stories.  As a writer, I also want to challenge myself to tell the story in a way that would help someone visualize the pictures I took without ever showing the pictures to them.
  2. Pictures can’t always capture the moments worth remembering.  For example, my trip to Firenze started with a chance meeting with a woman who didn’t speak any english and we managed to carry on a conversation for 20 minutes, then she put me on the phone with her son.  Now, someone could have taken a picture of us talking, or a picture of her handing the phone over to me with her son on the other end, but no one would be able to see that picture and understand the beauty contained in two strangers sharing the connection she and I shared.
  3. I can stay in the moment, and relive it later.  With photos I have to in some way remove myself from the moment I’m enjoying, in some cases that’s not only worth it, but ideal.  Sight-seeing is meant for photography, but travel is meant for experiencing.  This is how I distinguish what mode I decide to be in.  If I’m traveling I’m in the moment soaking it all in, if I’m sight-seeing I’m documenting the sights I see.  Every trip you take will have moments that are meant for both modes.  Picking your moments, however, to be a traveller rather than a sight-seer will help you experience the moment in a completely different way than you could if you are taking the time to document the moment.

Journaling works for me in all the areas I love.  I have a wine journal, recipe journal, and a travel journal, not to mention my regular every day journal.  I can’t say I always journal everything that I wish I would have, but this is a discipline I’m working on, and one I certainly found helpful for every trip I’ve taken.  How about you?

What is your favorite travel journal?  How do you record memories, do you wait until the trip is over or do you journal at the end of each day?  Do you add pictures and mementos once you’re done writing (creating a scrapbook), or do you keep your journal a journal?

 

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birthdays brew up fun

“There can’t be good living where there is not good drinking.” — Ben Franklin

“So much beer… so little time, and so little gluten tolerance.” — Kristen Arnold

This year for my bbff’s (best birthday friend forever) birthday (and mine),  I planned a surprise trip to the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo Ale Trails. A special thanks to my accomplice Tim, her husband.  This trip was so much fun and full of great beer.  If you are looking for a fun weekend trip, you will love making the rounds in either city.  We spent one day in each city. Though I have no regrets, I highly recommend that if you take this trip you plan on just taking in one city in a weekend or plan a longer trip.

Grand Rapids had a nice mix of small town feel, and classy big city elegance.  There was a lot of great restaurants and a fun nightlife.

I will sum up the trip through my “favourites.”

My favourite beer tasted:  Ned and George stout, Mitten Brewery

My favourite brewery: Founders Brewing Company

My favourite food:  Beer Cheese and Freshly baked pretzles, Brewery Vivant

My favourite restaurant/bar:  Harmony Brewing Company, fun atmosphere and great names for their beers, I ordered the Lil’ Sebastian

Kalamazoo seemed like a much more industrial town.  There were a lot of great breweries, and many of them were small and the whole town was more quaint and much cheaper than anywhere else I’ve ever had beer… Literally, most of the beers were $3-$4 a pint or $6-7 for a flight of tasters.

 

My favourite beer tasted:  The Big “O”, Tibbs Brewing Co.

My favourite brewery: Bells

My favourite food:  Dragon Feast Pizza, Bilbo’s Pizza in a Pan

My favourite restaurant/bar:  Olde Peninsula Brew Pub

 

traveling through wine and people

Wine to me is something that brings people together. Wine does promote conversation and promote civility, but it’s also fascinating. It’s the greatest subject to study. No matter how much you learn, every vintage is going to come at you with different factors that make you have to think again.     ~Robert M. Parker, Jr.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had the privilege of meeting a new friend.IMG_1954  Emily is a fascinating person who has had a lot of unique experiences.  We met at a restaurant where I saw her nerding out over a bottle of wine I’d never heard of before, as a fellow wine nerd I had to ask her about the wine she was drinking.

i0008226_anima_negra_quibia This wine was one of the most unique white wines I’ve ever tasted, it was appropriate that I came to try this wine by meeting one of the most unique people I’ve ever met.

This wine is from the island of Majorca. Majorca is one of the Balearic Islands, and has become a great wine producer of Spain.  This wine is a blend of Premsal, Callet, and Muscat.  I won’t lie I had to do some research on these grapes. Essentially after hours of pouring over each of my wine books and searching the internet, here is what I can tell you about Premsal it is sometimes referred to as Prensal Blanc or Moll.  It is widely produced in Mallorca because of it is indigenous to the region and its ability to withstand high heat, much like the Malvasia in Greece or the Trebbiano in Italy and France (known there as Ugni Blanc). As for Callet, it was even harder to find info on this grape.  Mainly from what I can tell by my limited research and the photos I can find it appears to most resemble the Garnacha Tinta well-known all over Spain.  Muscat is much more well-known and

quibiaAside from the incredibly unique grapes, this wine has an incredibly unique profile.  This beautiful white wine has a rich full, heavy weighted body much like a California Chardonnay.  It smells of peaches, pears, moss, and sea air.  The flavor of the wine is bright and well balanced with an earthy and sulfuric finish. The sulfur comes about because of the lack of oxygen it receives during fermentation and aging. This wine is partly aged in cement vats, but mostly aged in stainless steel on lees and dry ice is administered (a process that minimizes the oxidation in the wine).

In wine, oxidation is often viewed as a bad thing, however, there is a proper amount of oxidation that needs to occur during the aging process.  This need for controlled oxidation is why so many wine makers use porous vessels such as oak barrels. When the right amount of oxidation occurs this process is called reduction.  Reduction removes the sulfuric acidity and condenses the juice in a way that brings out the complex flavors of the grape and the terroir.

This was the first time I’ve ever tasted a wine where the lack of reduction wasn’t completely unpleasant in the wine.  It created what I refer to as a pleasant skunkiness or  pleasant funk… much in the same way that Roquefort blue cheese is pleasantly funky. The wine also had a briny sea salt flavor.  The minerality of the wine was undeniable despite the heavy peach and pear flavors.  I can truly say this wine and meeting Emily and hearing about her adventures in Mallorca sparked a desire in me to visit a place of which, just minutes before, I’d never heard.mallorca_cnt_24nov09_istock_

My experience with this wine conjured up images of sea ports, beaches, mountains, and the beautifully warm sun beating down.  This is why I love wine.  In this moment, I meet a woman who is in love with this wine and explains that it reminds her of a place she loves, and I have never heard of this place before tasting it and can somehow imagine her palma-de-mallorca-port
experience based on the taste.  Then later hearing of her experience living there, my visions are confirmed by story after story.  Wine is the story within a bottle that allows me to travel the world through my tastebuds, and people have the experiences that go with these stories to fill out the pictures of my imagination.

 

destinations-mallorca-island-hero

5 steps to having an adventure in your own backyard

Step One: Pick a partner in crime. You definitely want to pick someone who you love doing things with and who (like you) wants to try new things.

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For this adventure my big sister Sarah and I went into Chicago.  We got dressed up and prepared ourselves to have a fun night.  We realized that having fun meant doing whatever we wanted in the moment, that would be what we did.  When you set out to have an adventure you need someone who is willing to try new things, let you be you, and someone you can have a blast with no matter what you’re doing.

 

Step Two: Be ready for anything! I’m not suggesting that to have a fun adventure you will always be pushed outside your comfort zone, but it a good possibility that if you challenge yourself to do something new, silly, or even just different you will find things to do you wouldn’t normally have done. Which is by definition an adventure.

ad·ven·ture
adˈven(t)SHər,ədˈven(t)SHər/
noun
  1. an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
    “her recent adventures in Italy”

One of the best gifts given to me by another one of my adventure partners were these ANYWHERE cards. It is just one way to challenge myself to make an adventure out of going “anywhere.”anywhere

 

On this adventure I had to climb things, which may seem silly, but it really did make a difference, just giving me a new perspective, and something to do that I honestly wouldn’t have done normally.

Step Three: Try new foods.  I would have never discovered that I love Oysters had I not been willing to try new foods.  In this adventure, both Sarah and I had the same desire to try a food that both of us had previously disliked, but wanted to give it another go.  We both had poor experiences with this food, it was not well prepared and truthfully just was not good. Lately, however, both without realizing the other was feeling the same way, we each were feeling curious again about this food, so we ordered it.

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This Octopus was well prepared and perfectly seasoned… but we both had the same feeling about it… tasty, but not necessary to try again.

Step Four:  Always sit at the bar.  I find the source of most my chance encounters are at restaurants or coffee shops whenever there is close proximity to strangers.  More often than not, we need to get over our childhood conditioning of stranger danger.  Meeting new people is one of the best ways to open yourself up to new experiences, and it all starts with not being afraid to say, “hello.”

IMG_1954 Meet Emily.  She introduced Sarah and myself to a new wine we would never have been able to try without meeting her.  She has had a very interesting life, that led to her ordering this bottle of wine while sitting next to us at the bar.  The passion and excitement she had about this wine was like a child on Christmas morning staring at the pile of wrapped gifts under the tree.  I recognized this excitement because it is so often present in myself whenever discussing food or wine or travel, and is especially present when all three of these things intersect for me. This is a quality that I believe most humans share, but it is always fun to see how it expresses itself in someone else, as it did in Emily at this moment.  Thanks to this chance meeting with Emily, I got to taste a wine that I will never again get to try unless I travel to the island on which it was made. (more about this in another post)

Step Five: (and perhaps the most important step) Wear comfortable shoes.

IMG_2015 The reason this is so important is because you can’t truly complete step two without comfortable shoes.  Half way through your adventure all you’ll be thinking about is your aching feet, and that will put a complete damper on the whole experience.  Your feel will take you so many awesome places, but you have to be ready, which means not killing them two hours into the adventure.

It also is the most important step because it allows you to keep your eyes open to the adventures that may present themselves.  You can’t see anything fun in front of you if you can’t find the will to make your feet walk there, and without comfortable shoes, you’ll never will your feet to take you toward the experiences that are going to take a simple night out on the town and turn it into an adventure.

There is one more step to the secret of my success. It’s a bonus step to making your own adventures anywhere you go: Surround yourself with generous awesome family and friends.  It is what I would call a bonus step because I don’t think I have much choice in the matter.  I just have awesome people in my life, and to be honest this night would have never happened with out my partner in crime choosing me and making the plan.  She bought us tickets to an amazing concert, (something I would never have done).  She treated me to the entire evening out of the goodness of her generous heart.  It’s when you have fantastic people in your life that you are bound to have fun adventures together.  Thanks to my sister Sarah, I had one of the most fun nights of my life, and we didn’t even do anything illegal!  That’s why surrounding yourself with awesome people is so important to great experiences, without someone to share these experiences with, they’re not nearly as fun.

best thing to do when you’re sick

Okay so most of you are saying right now, “What does this have to do with food, wine, or travel?”  Well, nothing.  Nothing, that is if you are a normal person, but if you’re me and you have countless hours of lying in bed to do nothing but sleep and watch movies, you inevitably find yourself starting to think of things that you will/need to do when you are well again.  I will start working out more, I will eat healthier, I will get more sleep on a regular basis, next year I will actually get that flu shot, etc.

If you are like me at all you know these thoughts along with many other thoughts that will place the blame on yourself for why you are currently sick.  Maybe this is not normal for you.  Maybe you have no perpetual self-loathing that causes you to blame yourself for getting sick.  Or maybe, you don’t worry about it when you are sick, and just worry about getting well, like you’re supposed to when ill.  Well, whether in an effort to quiet these thoughts or simply to find more inspiring ways to occupy the very few waking hours I have when ill, I have discovered the best thing to do when I’m sick… DREAM!

That’s right, allow myself the time to dream as I lie sick in bed.  I clear my mental desk and start to organize my thoughts like piles of books and notebooks.  So I start piling my travel goals on one side of my mind and on the other side of my mental desk I create piles of travel books.  I create fake itineraries and fake maps for day trips.  This way when I start feeling even slightly better, I find a way to actually put together these thoughts into potential plans and possible trips.

After I’ve put together all my mental notes, I begin to clear out my sickness ridden room.  I gather all the used tissues into the wastebasket and wash my bedsheets.  Then, I take my travel books, my notebooks, and begin watching all my favorite films that inspire travel. And, I begin watching, writing, and reading…

That’s where more dream vacations are born.

books-1031699_960_720It is important to dream.  Dreams give us something to keep striving for in the mundane.  As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” As one who has many dreams for my future, but has also seen one of my dreams come true… specifically one of my dream vacations become a reality, I believe in the beauty of my dreams.

This is why I not only have a travel journal for the trips I take, but I have a dream travel journal for the trips I have yet to take.  I say have yet to take because part of believing in the beauty of your dreams is believing that they will one day come true.  And so I find some small joys in my bouts of sickness that allow my mind to create new dreams, that I can later make a reality.

 

Here are some questions for all of you:

How do you occupy your mind when sick?  Where do you store all your hopeful dream travel plans?  Have you ever tried to make one of these dream vacations come true?  Where would you go first?

creating a Parisian cafe at home

Today I want to be in Paris…  Reading Descartes, smoking a Davidoff cigarette, and drinking champagne.  I always picture being in a Paris cafe including a cup of coffee or glass of champagne and smoking a cigarette.  Maybe this tobacco obsession is due to every 17d8a9984549301eb5c21fefe705e088art deco paris cafe poster I’ve ever seen or maybe it’s due to the fact that I’m on day two of quitting this disgusting habit myself, so my mind easily craves romanticized notions of smoking.  Whatever the case may be I definitely want to be sitting in a street cafe on the Quai Branly, the Siene on one my right and the Tour d’Eiffel on my left.

As I’ve shared in previous posts, when I desire to hop on a plane and travel to a far off place, I try to find a way to take myself there through culinary and imaginative means.  So today, I researched a classic Parisian cafe dish… le croque monsieur!  This dish is comfort food meets elegance.  I believe our standard american diner menu item, the grilled ham with cheese, was born from the inspiration of this french classic.  Croque-Monsieur meaning “gentleman’s crunch” or “gentleman’s bite” was most likely created by a Paris chef in the early 1900s, then these sandwiches later became ubiquitous in 269540-papillote-croque-monsieur-topParisian cafes sometime around 1910.  (There is a specific story but I’m not sure of its historic or legendary beginnings… you can judge for yourself).

The beautiful thing about the sandwich is that it can be modified in a variety of ways, whatever you want you can put between two slices of bread, and you have a sandwich. Le croque monsieur is no exception, it already has many alterations… you have the croque madame, the croque provencal, and the croque auvergnat (these are just the french variations). Because I am always looking to create unique dishes, and because I had left overs from my breakfast I decided to put my own spin on this time-honored cafe sandwich.

I started my morning with crepes and coffee.  So, what better way to continue the obsession de français, than with a bordeaux and repurposing my breakfast left-overs for a delicious lunch.  So here is today’s Tasty Tuesday recipe …

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disclaimer: i made a third of my recipe

Croque-Monsieur Crepes

  • 3 Tbsp. Flour
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 12 pieces of  cooked bacon
  • dijion mustard
  • 12 prepared crepes
  1. In a medium sauce pan melt butter and add flour. Combine with a whisk until it forms a paste.
  2. Add milk in sauce pan over medium heat whisk until it become thick, forming a bechamel sauce.
  3. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 1/2 cup of the swiss cheese and the pecorino cheese.
  4. Spread dijion on each crepe, then  wrap one piece of bacon and some swiss cheese in each crepe.
  5. In a casserole dish arrange rolled up crepes, and pour cheese sauce over top the crepes.
  6. Place under broiler (set to high) until golden brown.

 

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day 8: golden birthday

The big day…

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to wake up on my birthday as I was on this day.  There is something beautiful and precious about realizing one of your dreams.  I had been planning on turning thirty in Tuscany for many years, and here I was, it was happening.

Reality is that too often we plan, dream, and set goals, but life gets in the way.  But not today!

We set out that morning to drive to Montepulciano.  The Bravio Delle Botti was calling my name, and I was going to spend this amazing day in an amazing place partaking in the festivities that people from Italy plan their years around.  It sounded like the perfect way to spend my thirtieth birthday.

IMG_1459I wanted to stop in Montalcino (home of Brunello, you fellow wine nerds will understand how amazing that is) and my mother was kind enough to take a very scenic route to Montepulciano, so we could go do some wine tastings in Montalcino, well there was one little snafu with this plan… it was Sunday.

Sundays are ridiculously quiet in Italy.  We arrived in Montalcino after some expeditious driving to try to find any wineries that were open, which unfortunately we couldn’t.  Finally, we decided to park outside the city walls and walk up to the city.  The narrow road was fortunately rather abandoned because if it had been busy, we may have been too terrified to walk those bends with the crazy drivers otherwise known as Italians.  (Don’t get me wrong I love the Italians, but I’m not sure how they keep their tiny cars on the road with all the narrow turns going 90 km/h.)  I’m glad that we did brave the walk up, however, because the view when we reached the city wall was worth it.IMG_1463

IMG_1458We walked around the city a while, then I came upon a poster for the Bravio Delle Botti and suddenly I was ready to leave.  I did have a chance to stop at the local enoteca and do some tasting, then purchased a demi bottle of Brunello to enjoy at a later time.

Back on the road we finally made our way to Montepulciano.  Everything about this fair city was worth the wait and the drive.  My mom may feel differently after having to drive a manual car up the terrifyingly steep roads into the parking areas just outside the city walls, even walking uphill to San Gimignano wasn’t this steep, this hill/mountain was particularly steep, I could see how it’s still standing.  Anyone who would want to lay siege here would have been exhausted by the time they reached the outer most wall. It would have an epic toboggan ride in the winter.

Once inside, the city was all I imagined and more.  The castles were full of history and wine, litterally barrels and barrels of wine.

We had so much fun just walking around and drinking wine. Finally at lunch we sat down at an outdoor cafe.  There was a group of fellow americans who we met at the table next to us.  They were on holiday from New York, the four of them were actually staying in a bed and breakfast inside Montepulciano (something I hope to do when I return).  My pizza margherita and carpaccio-arugula appetizer with all the vino nobile di montepulciano I could want made for the perfect thirtieth birthday luncheon.  It was a fabulous afternoon as we eagerly awaited the start of the festivities.

The festival events were a lot of fun, but the highlight for me was when we ended the day at Gattavecchi winery.

IMG_1885The brother and sister team that ran this winery were the quintessential Italians.  They were so kind and helpful.  We must have tried over 13 different kinds of wine.  Daniela was the kindest woman I met on this trip.  There was an Italian man who tried to jump in front of me for tasting, and Daniella would have none of it.  She kindly put him in his place and said to him, “Io vi aiuterà in un momento dopo mi sono fatto aiutare questa giovane donna.” Which means, “I’ll help you in a moment after I am done helping her.”  She eventually gave him a few wines to taste, after which he left without purchasing anything.IMG_1886

She went on to discuss wine with me for over an hour, we learned from one another, and enjoyed each other’s company.  She was so sweet that when she found out it was my birthday, she gave me a taste of a 2001 reserve that she wasn’t even able to sell me.  This particular bottle was possibly the best wine I’ve ever tried.  It was so fantastic, it tasted like plum, spice, raisins, and a rich dark chocolate truffle, with a lovely tobacco note on the incredibly long finish.  I knew at this moment that I was in love with this winery and the wonderful family that runs it.  The winery was beautiful, simple, and the perfect birthday experience.

When all was said and done my mom and I each purchased eleven bottles of wine and one bottle of olive oil each.  Then Daniela was so kind that she gave me a birthday present, the one bottle of wine we didn’t get the chance to try.

I will never forget Daniela and her brother and this amazing experience, I can’t wait to go back and maybe I’ll have the opportunity to bring her some wine from the states.  This truly was my best birthday to date!

day 7: golden birthday

Firenze…

The day started as all our days in Tuscany did, at the hotel. Only this morning we woke up extra early, ate a fast breakfast and hit the road.  Well, we caught the bus anyway… only this time we actually made it on instead of our bus driver telling us to get off the bus because he just didn’t want to stop where we needed to get off, even though it was a scheduled stop.  (Yes, this actually did happen to us just a couple days prior).

We arrived in Poggibonsi around 8:30a to catch the 9:10a bus to Florence, plenty of time.  We stood there waiting for the bus, and we weren’t sure exactly where to wait for the bus, but a lovely woman told me, “A qui!”  Well through some muddled confusion and lack of understanding we did, in fact, miss the bus. As it turns out we weren’t in the right spot, and we weren’t sure which bus to take.  This lovely woman, who I quickly realized didn’t know any English, had mistakenly thought we were headed to the same town she was headed to rather than where we were intending to go…Firenze.

Somehow or another, I managed to strike up a conversation with this woman.  We stumbled through our language barrier with the grace of a couple drunken elephants.  Our conversation was dominated with a lot of, “Mi dispiace,” and “non capisco.”  Still in the end it was a wonderful encounter, there is nothing more beautiful than two people who don’t understand the other trying desperately to get to know one another.

It was a matter of minutes after discovering this lovely woman has two sons that she then put me on the phone with one of them… (yes you read correctly, she pulled out her cell phone and dialed her son’s number, then hands it over to me). I have had a few moms in my day try to introduce me to their sons but this was a first for me. It was a fun encounter nonetheless, and one that is truly thanks to her.  Had she not misinformed me, I would not have had the pleasure of meeting her beyond asking for directions.  At this point, I politely let her get on her way because her bus had arrived.  I rejoined my mother inside the station, and we met a family from Wales who were on holiday.  They had missed the train to Firenze, and decided to take the next bus instead of waiting for another train.  I couldn’t know then that this would set the tone for the rest of my day, it was a day of chance meetings.

From the second we stepped outside the bus station in Firenze the city overwhelmed me.  The architecture conveys the beauty of history and modernity in a peculiar way within the walls of this gorgeous city. I’ve never seen a city that could be both so busy and peaceful at the same time.  Churches and ancient buildings on my right, 99 cent store and a McDonalds on my left, what a lovely dichotomy.

We had so much fun walking through the market. Then we walked around the ever famous duomo, we went from there to Piazza della Signoria. It was just a short jaunt to the Ponte Vecchio.

My only regret is that we didn’t get to spend more time in the actual city.  Next time I visit Florence I would certainly make sure I spend at least three days exploring this lovely city.  All in all we only stayed in Florence for about 6 hours.  But, we got to see a lot, shop a lot, and meet some cool strangers.

 

 

day 6 : golden birthday

Wine tasting day…

IMG_0026Today we drove around to various wineries. Driving through the Tuscan country side was like a dream.  Vineyard after vineyard lined the roads. The sun beat down on the grapes as they matured.  I imagined the sweetness of the juice just waiting to burst through the skin.  The thought of all the wine that would be created by these delicious vines made the heat not only bearable but wonderful.

After stopping at two wineries close to the main road, we stopped back at the hotel to ask IMG_1326where else we ought to stop. On our way to one of the wineries our concierge recommended, we discovered a different one.  Poderi del Paradiso was a delightful tiny outfit.  The woman who ran the place with her husband was so accommodating.  She was not the most knowledgeable about wine, but there was a beauty in the simplicity of her knowledge.  She opened bottle after bottle for us to try.  When all was said and done, my mother and I purchased a case between the two of us.  (I even still have one bottle left).

We ended up back in town for a bite… we needed food before drinking any more wine.  I had the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life at a little “french style” cafe.  It was funny as we sat there in San Gimignano I heard french pop on the overhead and glanced IMG_1329over to see french posters on the wall.  It was the first time I realized that you don’t have to live in a melting pot to find a foreign themed restaurant. The funniest thing about this place was that with all the French decor and music, the food was 100% Italian.

We then went to explore some parts of San Gimignano that we didn’t have time to explore before and to purchase our bus tickets for Florence. As we were walking around the city we saw several artists and musicians.  We also came across the strangest sight, something I would never have expected to find while in Italy.  We were listening to a young man playing his guitar and singing, when all of a sudden in the distance we heard bagpipes.  Bagpipes?  In Italy?  Walking toward the square was a man in the full getup and playing his bagpipes .

It was truly an international day.

DSC_9389We were going to head back out to do some more wine tasting, but after DSC_9388walking around town a bit more, we decided we were ready to sit by the pool and just relax.  So we picked up some bread, cheese, and various salumi, and settled in for a quiet afternoon and evening at the hotel.

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