Tonight my brother came over to make pumpkin pie with Grace.
It was so sweet. He patiently measured out each ingredient and then allowed her to add it to the bowl. With her tiny hands, she carefully emptied each cup or spoonful, making sure she didn’t spill a drop. I stood back to observe the magic and take pictures…
Grace didn’t like the sound of the mixer but managed a smile for me.
The pumpkin pies won’t win any prizes for beauty but they tasted delicious and my brother and Grace got to bond. I’m so thankful to have him living here in Portland! It means so much to me that Grace will grow up knowing her Aunt and Uncle.
I hope tomorrow, your family and friends will experience the delight of preparing delicious food together! Being surrounded by those we love is something I will always be thankful for.
Hello friends and Happy Friday! Welcome to our last Vicarious Vacation. I know the previous destinations have been off the beaten path but I couldn’t resist taking you here. Like many girls, I have a soft place in my heart for fairytale castles. So far…the only one I’ve ever seen, is the one in Disney World and frankly, I don’t think that counts. So, I decided to take you to the a land where fairytales castles were born – we are headed to gorgeous Luxembourg.
When you are surrounded by three of Europe‘s most beautiful countries – Germany, France and Belgium – it’s hard not to be amazing! Map – here. The history of Luxembourg dates back to the year 963. Over the centuries, its territory may have diminished but it still stands as the richest country in the world and is often referred to as the “Green heart” of Europe. Beyond material wealth and banking success, Luxembourg offers a culturally diverse population, fantastic food and wine, breathtaking landscapes and an impressive art and theater scene. Oh, and then there are the castles…did I mention that already? Yes…there are over a dozen castles in this magical land. It makes my heart skip a little beat…
So where shall we stay you ask? We came here for fairy tales and I intend to deliver…Welcome to Chateau d’Urspelt. A castle fit for a princess right? This romantic castle has a 300 year old history and was terribly damaged in World War II. In 2005, Mr. Freddy Lodomez came across this diamond in the rough, instantly fell in love and committed to having the Chateau restored to its original beauty. Thank you Freddy! What a prince!
Ahh…here we are at the Place d’Armes or as the locals refer to it – Plëss. It is truly the city’s living room and a fantastic place to people watch, listen to some live music and grab lunch at one of the numerous outdoor cafes. I’ve got the perfect one in mind…
Play to listen to the sounds of the plaza…
Here we are at Le Cafe Francais, one of the oldest brasseries’ in the city. Are you ready for some delicious food? They prepare a mix of French and Luxembourg style dishes here. Luxembourg’s food is inevitably influenced by neighboring France and Germany, resulting in a rich blend – the delicacies of French cuisine artfully entwined with the robust, heartiness of Germanic dishes. More recently the cultural influence of Luxembourg’s Portuguese immigrants is also emerging within many of Luxembourg’s recipes. You won’t leave the table hungry, that’s for sure. So let’s have a taste…
To pair with our meal, I have selected a lovely dry white wine, typical of the region or if you feel like bubbles, we can toast to our adventure with the local sparkling wine, Crémant de Luxembourg! Cheers!
Let’s start with a classic Luxembourg dish: Nettle Soup. Ever had this? I haven’t! Often served in the Spring, Nettle soup has a subtle, grassy taste, sweet and mild made rich with lovely cream and potatoes.
On to our next course…oooh…I don’t know about you but I am a total sucker for mussels!! So succulent, with all that buttery, wine sauce to sop up. Here in Luxembourg (in the French tradition) it is often served with pomme frites! Yum! This wildly popular dish is served in the months that have an “r”. October works, lucky for us. Here’s a recipe straight from the region. Recipe. Make sure you use a German or French Riesling for your sauce to make it truly Luxembourg style.
Okay dessert anyone? You know we can’t leave that out. How about some Questscheflued? aka Plum Tart – a local favorite. And no, I don’t know how to pronounce it. Dig in! It looks delightful and it’s heart shaped! Too cute. Recipe.
Now that our tummies are full, I think it’s time to tour a real castle! We are heading to Vianden. It’s about an hour north of the city and is a beautiful medieval town, famous for its stunning castle and charming village. Let’s hop on the bus, I for one, can’t get into that castle quick enough!
*squeal* – sorry I couldn’t help it! Look the castle is up ahead!!
Isn’t it simply amazing? Straight from a storybook! A little history: The castle was built between the 11th and 14th centuries and became the seat of the counts of Vianden. It was further developed until the 18th century but with the departure of the Counts of Luxembourg to the Netherlands combined with the effects of fire and an earthquake, it slowly deteriorated. The final blow came in 1820 when William I of the Netherlands sold it to a local merchant who in turn sold off its contents and masonry piecemeal, reducing it to a ruin. There were several attempts at restoration but these were hampered by problems of ownership. Victor Hugo lived in the castle for three months in 1871.Not until 1977, when Grand Duke Jean ceded the castle to the State, was it possible to undertake large-scale work, most of which has now been completed. – Wikipedia
Let’s go take the tour!
Check out the view overlooking the town of Vianden…gorgeous…
Can you imagine cooking up a feast in this kitchen?
What shall we wish for? World peace? A castle of our very own? How about free plane tickets to anywhere in the world? hmmm…
Alright my friends, I think I will have to leave you here. While you ponder over your wish, I want to wish all of you the best and thank you for coming along with me on these Vicarious Vacations. I hope you have enjoyed them. I know I have. Thanks to Flickr for being a wellspring of beautiful images and talented photographers. In the future, I will be doing more travel pieces. As you may have noticed, Grace and Ivy is in a state of evolution. Lots of changes are to come and I hope you will stick with me. I promise to continue bringing you beautiful posts that hopefully give you some inspiration. Thank you for all your input. I love reading your comments. Till our next adventure…
Happy Friday! Ready for our next fabulous trip? I am! Today we are headed to Ronda, an ancient city in the Spanishprovince of Málaga. Map here. Spending time with you in Tuscany last week was simply amazing but we have much to look forward to today. Strolling through this historic town, we are sure to encounter breathtaking views, sip Spanish wines and munch on traditional delights. A dash of culture and a little history are on the agenda too. We have to be well-rounded travelers right? Okay, enough chit chat…let’s go!
Let me introduce you to Ronda. No, it’s not the girl from accounting but rather an incredible city dating back to Neo-lithic times. Yes, I’m talking cave paintings and they have real ones here seen in the Cueva de la Pileta. From the Celts, to the Romans and the Moors, this city has a long standing in the history books. Perched 750 meters above sea level, overlooking the El Tajo canyon it offers majestic views of the surrounding valley.
Now that you have been formally introduced, let’s check into our hotel…
I searched and searched to find us the perfect haven. Just outside of town I found this jewel – Hotel la Fuente de la Higuera! Expensive? Of course, but if you are going to vicariously travel you have to go BIG! Isn’t it gorgeous?
Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Spanish countryside…(this is an actual recording from this area in Spain)
We must come back here to watch the sun set over the valley and delight in a large glass of wine…
The grounds are simply divine…let’s go inside and check out our room!
Perched along the cliff side this dramatic hotel and restaurant are famous for the fantastic views and traditional cuisine. Let’s try some local dishes! Are you game?
Let’s start with gazpacho. Mmm…a lovely cold tomato soup that got its start right here in Southern Spain. Recipe here.
We simply must have the Paella! It’s quite famous here! A sumptuous mix of seafood, spiced sausage and meats, fresh herbs and rice, get ready to seriously eat your fill! Recipe.Let’s wash it all down with a fine bottle of Spanish wine. In Ronda, wine is a serious business with a 6000 year old history. They even have a Museum of Wine! This is my kind of place.
What’s that? Your sweet tooth is complaining…no worries, let’s feast on some Churros con Chocolate!
Translation: Fried dough dipped in warm, rich, chocolate…sigh…drool. Recipe.
What’s next? Oh right…we have to get our culture/history fix.
Did you know that modern bullfighting originated here? Ronda’s bullring is the oldest and most ornate in the country. In the 18th century bullfighters went from horseback to the pedestrian matador that we think of today. Ronda’s own famous fighter was Pedro Romero, who apparently slayed many thousands of bulls without injury. You may think that this bullring sees regular use but today, the sport is more of an annual event. I’m sure the bulls appreciate this.
Every girl likes a spa but how about an ancient bath house? Sound intriguing? Let’s take a little walk and head below the city to the Arab Baths dating back to the 11th century.
These bath ruins are some of the best preserved in Europe. Amazing aren’t they? It’s no coincidence that the baths are at the entrance to the city, since Ronda was the gateway to a large Muslim population who believed that one must purify themselves upon entering. It’s fascinating to understand what it took to heat the waters. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to anything anthropological, so if you are curious and want to learn more watch this video.
Okay all that eating, drinking and learning has made me rather tired. Let’s head back to the hotel and nap, poolside.
Ahhh…that was a lovely trip wasn’t it? I so enjoyed learning about this incredible town. So full of history!
What did you like on our trip? Have you ever actually been to Spain?
Thank you for joining me. Next week we will be headed to beautiful Greece! Don’t miss it!
p.s. If you are wondering why I didn’t take us to the big cities of Spain or Italy, it is because I am trying to focus on the more hidden spots…the not so obvious destinations. I feel like it gives us more of a sense of discovery…finding secret places to explore. Make sense?
Happy Friday and welcome to our Vicarious Vacation. Today, I’m going to whisk us off to the quaint, little town of Casole d’Elsa in the hills of Tuscany. Strolling down the ancient cobblestone alleyways, decadent wine tastings, a visit to the Siena marketplace, a brush with history and of course a large helping of the local food are all on the agenda. Sound good? Okay, come on!
Let me tell you a little bit about this beautiful town. Casole D’Elsa is located in the Tuscany region in the province of Siena. Conveniently located between Florence and Siena, it provides a peaceful respite from the bigger, touristy cities. See map here. Pedestrian friendly streets, intimate cafes and a few notable historic attractions should keep us busy but not overwhelmed. Leaving plenty of time to soak in the Italian sun, sip Chianti and gobble up the local delicacies. Now where are we staying, you ask? Well…
I hope you don’t mind but I booked us into a rather fancy hotel just outside of town. I think we deserve it, don’t you? Welcome to the Relais La Suvera. Steeped in history this medieval fort turned sumptuous Mediterranean villa is our place of relaxation and refuge after all that sightseeing. Sigh…isn’t it simply dreamy!?
Fit for a princess right? Okay, freshen up and let’s go exploring. I know you are tired from the trip but it’s nothing a glass of Chianti can’t fix! Besides, we have massages scheduled later at the spa. Yes, even medieval fortresses in Italy have spas!
Here’s what I’m thinking…wine, cheese & cured meats. The local cheese –Pecorino di Pienza and fresh cold cuts such as salumi di cinta senese, will make the perfect blend of tastes and textures. Creamy and nutty in flavor, the Pecorino is a perfect pairing with the saltiness of the meat and sweetness of the wine. The celebrated local wine is aptly named Erta, meaning steep slope, indicative of the agricultural landscape of the region. A completely organic wine, it is a lovely blend of 95% Sangiovese grapes and 5% Merlot. Subtle herbal notes and deep cherry overtones will delight your palette! Want more…why don’t we try the testaroli? It’s a crepe like pasta usually combined with pesto. Yummy! This place is famous for it!
We had better stop in and grab some dessert! This region is known for its pastries and traditional sweets. One of the oldest treats around is the famous Panforte margherita! This “spiced bread” is a magical combination of dough, almonds, candied fruit, cinnamon, all spice and a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar. Isn’t it beautiful?
This is the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, which dates back 1161! The original Roman bell tower still remains with the upper half of the building being constructed in the 14th century. Inside are the sacred tombs of Beltramo Aringhieri, by Marco Romano, and of bishop Tommaso Andrei, by Gano di Fazio.
I hope you enjoyed your day in the Tuscan countryside. Loved vicariously traveling with you! I learned a lot and loved seeing this little corner of the world. The village of Casole d’Elsa was enchanting, the food delectable and the Siena markets were utterly inspiring.
Yesterday the rain poured down one minute, only to be replaced by the glorious sun the next. It’s the nature of Spring in Oregon and we love it. Unpredictable but beautiful. Silver light and gold.
With a bouquet of gorgeous peonies on my table and a handful of fresh spring peas I figured it was the perfect afternoon for a little team work with Grace. She was so excited to pop open each pod to reveal the tiny green peas. While she delighted in this task, I took pictures. I really loved the green of the peas with the pink of the peonies.
At the end of this lovely afternoon, I cooked up a fresh Spring inspired meal from Rachel Ray‘s cookbook. Check out the recipe here. It was delicious!
Hi there. I'm Ivy and Welcome to my blog! I'm an Artist , Art Instructor and Creative Guide. I believe we are all creative beings. By sharing my creative journey, I hope to inspire, uplift and shine light on others and their own unique gifts. I love featuring other artists that inspire me and you will see me posting my own creative projects, info on upcoming workshops and other goodies. Enjoy and if you have any questions don't hesistate to email me email@example.com
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