Pea, mint and spring onion soup

We had the wonderful opportunity to spend a week cruising along a canal in France. The chef on our boat prepared this wonderful fresh peas soup, she was kind enough to share it with me. Now that I would like  to share it with all of you.

Serves 8 for first course

 2 tablespoons of  butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 bunch, about 8, spring onions or green onions plus a few extra for serving

2 white potatoes, cut into small dice

2 one pound packages frozen petite peas, 32 ounces, if you use fresh peas from the market they may need a longer cooking time since the starch is often much higher in fresh peas. I say use the frozen peas then you k ow the end result will be perfect. 

1 cup fresh mint chopped 

8 1/2 cups of vegetable stock

Heat olive oil and butter when melted add potatoes and chopped onions. Saute without browning, about 5 minutes. Stir in stock and simmer about 10 minutes until potato is tender. 

Stir in peas, bring back to a boil and cook 3 minutes until just done. Remove pan from heat add mint leaves. Allow to cool slightly then purée in blender or food processor. Serve warm with a Parmesan crisp along side and a few finely minced mint leaves on top along with a few chopped chives or fine minced greens from onions.

PARMESAN  CRISPS are quick and easy to make or you can buy them at a specialty grocer. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment or use a Silpat 

Grate 1 cup of Parmesan cheese,  divide the cheese into 8 long strips on prepared baking sheet. Place under broiler or in oven at 400 degrees for 1 minute or until cheese is melted and lightly golden. Lift from baking sheet while still warm and flexible, allow to cool and serve with soup. 

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Barge trip in France with Friends

Carl and I have shared barge trips with friends before, but each trip brings new discovery. We gathered 10 friends months in advance to share a week long trip on the FRENCH COUNTRY WATERWAYS barge Nenuphar. We have cruised with other companies before, but nothing comes close to the experience offered by this company. 

A little about our boat:    We had 6 large king size bedded rooms ensuite. The barge is very spacious with a nice outside deck where you will find your 12 lovely bikes stored, ready for your morning ride. The 6 crew members ar always ready to make sure your every wish is taken care of. Our amazing chef, Kim, prepared 3 wonderful meals using all the fresh ingredients purchased each day in the local villages. 

We were met at a wonderful hotel in Paris, Hotel Regina, 2, place des Pyrqmides, across from the Louvre. The barge company offered us a special rate so it made the pick up very easy.  On Sunday early afternoon we were greeted by our guide and driver for the week, Charlie, with a large bus ready for the trip to our barge moored in the village of TANLAY.  We settled in, had a welcome dinner and got the details of our week ahead. We were cruising the Canal de Bourgogne, while the boat heads to the first in a series of 36 locks we got on our helmets and headed out along the path on our bikes. After lunch while the barge makes its way through the locks Charlie takes us to visit a great winery and we have our first introduction to Chablis wine. The wine maker explains the difference between Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chablis, offering tastings of both. Later over dinner we will share our first of many bottles of French Chablis and other regional wines. While we were learning about the wine and how the vineyards differ the barge was on its journey to the village of LEZINNES where we would moor for the evening. 

The next morning some of us were up early for a hot air balloon ride across the fields while the sun was rising. The lovely quiet ride ended after about and hour we had a smooth landing, after a champagne toast we were back at the barge in time for breakfast.  Charlie was ready to take us to the village of Ancy-le Franc, we had time to wander this old village and learn about its history and visit the church that is the center of  every town.  Of course we were back at the barge in time for another great lunch and a bike ride to the medieval capital of lower Burgundy, AUXERRE. 

It was now our third day on the barge and we are settled into the leisurely pace of canal living. Some of us walk from one of the lock houses to the next waiting for the barge to pick us up others take off on their morning bike ride to explore small villages along the way.  Then before lunch Charlie takes us on a walking tour to explore the village of NOYERS looking in the shops for our next treasure or sharing a cup of coffee in a local shop.  Later in the afternoon some of us go to CHATEAU OF ANCY-Le-FRANC, an amazing chateau owned by an American who is in the process of rebuilding the many gardens and restoring the chateau.  The boat will spend the night in the village of RAVIERES.

The next morning we went to visit an 18th century forge, FORGES de BUFFON. This area was a large producer of steel during the 18 hundreds because of the location next to 2 rivers and the canal there was water for power and easy access to shipping to Paris and other parts of France. The barge continued through the locks docking at MONTBARD for the evening. We had the opportunity to enjoy dinner at the famous 2 star restaurant, LE RELAIS BERNARD LOISEAU in Saulieu. This lovely hotel and restaurant was about 45 minutes from MONTBARD, but Charlie was a great driver and after 4 hours of eating and drinking good wine we arrived back safe at the barge. 

  • Friday morning we were up early to go to the farmers market in Montbard to buy a few special things we wanted to have chef Kim prepare. We bought the sweet Tuscan melons that we never have in Seattle and huge white asparagus which Kim did a great job serving for lunch. We got on our bikes to make up for all the local pastry, cheeses and wines we had been eating, time to count steps. We met the barge several locks later and cruised to VANAREY-Les-LAUMES.  After our amazing lunch and the required afternoon cheese course Charlie took us to visit ABBAYE de FONTENAY.  That evening was a lovely captains dinner since we would all be going our separate ways in the morning. 

The story would not be complete with out mentioning that each day after lunch we were served 3 different cheeses and the same following our amazing 3 course dinner with simple green salad. The introduction to all these cheeses was a wonderful education,  some that we knew and other that we had never tried, but look forward to finding at a local cheese shop later. I have to add a couple of my favorite cheeses were Fleur de Marquis, Brillat Savarin and a lovely Bleu de Causse, but with 36 cheeses served in a week it was hard to remember the wonderful flavors of each. 

We can not say enough good about a week spent in slow motion cruising along the French Country side. French Country Waterway has several beautiful barges to choose from, whether you want to gather several couple or just join others go to their web site or call Effie at 1-800-222-1236 and they will send you a brochure.

Thank you to the great staff and all our friends for sharing a very special week. Renee and Carl

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Italy a visit in Chianti/Tuscany

In April 3 girl friends and I went to Italy for 10 days of drinking wonderful wines, sharing wonderful local cuisine and shopping.

We flew into Rome and took a train to Florence where we spent our first night.  (If you have business class seats on the train you are welcome to use the private lounge in the station while you wait for your train to depart.) We stayed at the Hotel de La Villa on Via de Tornabuoni. The hotel staff was very helpful, the rooms are not large, but the location was good. We wandered the streets watching the crowds and buying a few simple things at the famous Santa Maria Novella only a couple of blocks from the hotel. We joined friends for a perfect dinner at FUOR d’ ACQUA, on Via Piscana, well know for the freshest fish in town. Our waiter was willing to help us share several dishes starting with a large antipasti platter then fresh pasta and fish that had just come to the restaurant that morning. 

The next day  we were up early and headed to Angela Caputi across the river on Via S. Spirits 58. Angela Caputi has wonderful fun jewelry that you will want to buy. She makes everything in house so they can help you with whatever strikes your fancy, must do. We also stopped by an amazing fabric store VALLI on Via Della Vigna Nouva, if you sew or want to buy fabric to take home this is a must.

We rented a car and ventured out to the country side. We were staying in a lovely castle, Castello Della Paneretta in Barberino Val d’ Elsa. Make sure you request a GPS in your rental car to find your way around the area,  finding the small wineries makes you feel  like you are on a scavenger hunt.  After getting settled in this lovely estate we ventured out to the CoOp to buy snacks and something for breakfast.  It was April and we had planned on warmer weather, so just be prepared since the wineries are often cold and the wind catches you off guard.  Once again we were in the car looking for our restaurant for dinner. We ate at ‘LA TOPPA” in the village of San Donato about a 30 minute drive to the area of Poggio. The restaurant is local owned with the mother making the pasta by hand, we knew we were in Italy.

The next morning we toured Cantine Bellini/llPazzo, this winery is closer to Florence, so we had quite a drive. We were in the Rufina area and this winery makes Chianti,  Chianti Classico,  and  nice vin Santo wines. They gave us a wonderful introduction to the difference between the two Chianti wines and the grapes grown to produce their products. Many of the wineries in this area also produce wonderful olive oil. You will taste great  differences in the oils depending on the soil the trees grow in and how the oil is processed. Some are very mild while others have a wonderful pepper finish.  After a special lunch prepared by Maurizio and his family served with their wines, we headed to an area across the valley called Pontassieve. 

The winery Castello del Trebbio, is also family owned and Alberto welcomed us even though we were late. Castello also produces a Chianti and Chianti Classico wine using only the grapes they grow. Their Lastricato, reserve Chianti and a lovely white Pazzesco Chianti gold were a special treat. 

After spending the day tasting wonderful Chianti wines we rushed back to our home base and took a cooking class at Paneretta Agriturismo about 100 meters from our home base. Chef Massimo  showed us how to make very traditional bread soup with tomatoes, vegetable stock,  and a touch of basil to finish, and also simple stew using beef cut into cubes and boiled vigorously for almost 2 hrs.  Then we all got our hands into the dough to make a batch of biscotti with whole almonds and chocolate chips. Our dinner wines came from Castello Della Paneretta where we were staying.  A lovely woman, Angelica, from Florence was there to help translate for us. Angelica Turi gives walking tours and guides guests troughout the region, http://www.itialianfootprints.com or angelicaturi@yahoo.it

The next morning we were guests at Querceto di Castellina a lovely property just out side the village of Castellina. Jacobo along with his family have created a beautiful winery with a nice kitchen for cooking classes.  They also offer rooms and apartments for rent.  Info@ Querceto.com, contact Jacobo Di Battista. Many of their wines are not sold in the U.S. so we took advantage of the opportunity to ship wine and olive oil home, I loved the SEI and FURTIVO wines.  

We headed back to Castello Della Paneretta for a tour of the castle built in 1596 with the family still living in the house.  After a tour of the house and wine cellars we were served beautiful lunch and continued a long conversation about the use of the red varital Sangiovese grape. Their Quattrocentenario  reserva 2008 wine (100% Sangiovese) was the highlight of the trip.  We all shipped home several cases.  After a rest and nap, that evening we had a special dinner at OSTERIA 1126.  The road to the restaurant will make you wonder if you will every find the front door, and it is well worth the drive to Cinciano, Poggibonsi. We shared lovely beef carpaccio shaved paper thin, a starter of lentils with a soft mild goat cheese, and several main courses.  have They have an extensive wine list, with many of the wines of the region. Don’t miss the soft chocolate molten cake and ice cream.

The next day we headed back to our last wine tasting at Fattoria La Castellina, this wine store/ cellar are located together in the village of Castellina making easy to shop after tasting their lovely wines. One very interesting thing we saw at many of the wineries is the use of a glass vessel, a COLMATORE,  placed on the top of the barrels  to allow the wine to expand as it forments  during the first months in the barrels.  Fattoria also own and rent a large house, LA FERROZZOLA Agriturismo Hotel, Alberto Palazzo Squarcialupi.   After tasting wine at 10 am, we ventured over to visit a jewelry store, TOSCANACCIO,  Via Ferruccio 44, owned by Marco and hosted by his  sweet attention seeking dog, ToTo,    Several of the girls bought beautiful pieces that Marco created from stones he had found in his travels around the world – worth a visit if you are near Castellina.

  • We then drove about an hour and half to Cortona where we stayed at a friends house, Casa Spare, high on the hill with an amazing view. We had a simple lunch at Tuscher in the village – lovely bruschetta, one with chicken liver and another with perfect chopped tomato and plenty of local olive oil. Walking and shopping in Cortona is fun because very few cars are allowed and the many local shops offer nice products from the region.  We made an appointment with Marco at his wine shop, MOLESINI-MARKET, wineshop@molesini-market.com, for a tasting the next day at noon.

We ate a simple dinner in a small slow food restaurant, Taverna Pan e Vino, offering interesting pasta cooked to perfection.  I had fresh young local goat cooked perfectly.

The next morning we went into the center of town to their Saturday market and came away with everything from dried  mushrooms to hand decorated jeans jackets.  Now it was noon and time for an amazing introduction to wines we do not often see in the U.S..  Marco and his brother served a variety of regional  white wines and thouroughly explained their differences.   I fell in love with Monteverro 2012 Chardonnay and 2012 Paleo Le Macchiole red. We were able to ship cases of our favorites back to Seattle, most of which are not readily  available in the states. Marco is a perfect contact for those wines you cannot find. Just  remember Molesini.  We had dinner in the square at “Osteria del Teatro”  and walked back down the hill to where we had parked the car.

The next day we drove back to Florence to drop the car and take the fast train back to Rome. It was about a 2 hour drive and we could have just as easily driven to Rome, but did not realize that until we were already committed to returning the car in Florence.  We arrived in Rome, checked into INN AT SPANISH STEPS, Via Dei Condotti 85. We booked with Platinum AMEX and were given a nice upgrade. The hotel is one block off the Spanish steps – a good location.  The rooms occupy several buildings so our room was in a separate building 2 blocks away from our friends.  Both of the hotel buildings are lovely, offering a roof top garden to have breakfast or a late afternoon cocktail. 

We wandered the narrow streets shopping and enjoying all the hustle and bustle of this area. We had all spent time in Rome and had visited all the major sites so this time we just shopped and ate lovely meals. Dinner was at “ANTICO ARCO”, http://www.anticoarco.it, a little bit out of the way, but a great meal in a charming old house. We shared a pasta of pecorino cheese and black truffles, beautiful shaved asparagus salad and sea bass. Nice find.

Our last day in Rome was a holiday so the city was busy. We wandered the streets again and bought a few special things to add to our spring wardrobe back home.  Then we  had a perfect lunch at The De Russi Hotel in the garden. They offered a lunch buffet that was such a treat. One of the vegetables that we had seen in the market and on other dishes is AGRETTI, or Salsola Soda, it looks like sautéed chives but has a very mild taste.  Look for it. Reserve in the Du Rossi garden for lunch or dinner and you will have a meal to remember.  We walked back through the Piazza del Popolo up to the Borgese park area and looked out over Rome. 

We had a late dinner a couple of blocks from the hotel at Dilla, a simple local fun place.  We had a very nice bottle of white,  Le Vigne di Zamo 2012 that went well with the asparagus risotto and eggplant parmigiana. Next morning we headed home saying good bye to Rome until our next visit. While in the cab heading to the airport we realized only two of the girls got up early and headed to the Vatican for an early morning tour. It was really the only tourist attraction visited during the whole trip. It was about wine, food and friendship, a little shopping too.

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A week in Brazil

 

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After planning a trip to explore the food and culture of Brazil it was time to apply for a visa, which is required for all U.S. citizens. If you plan a visit to Brazil it could take as long as 3 months once you send in your passport along with the required paperwork. So be prepared to not travel out of the country during the wait time. I did the required forms on line instead of using a local company and paying the $425 fee which I have been told helps speed up the wait time.

We flew from the U.S. to Rio, changed planes and went on to Iguazu Falls for a visit to the world renound tourist attraction of Brazil and the northern tip of Argentina. Our guide delivered us to Sheraton Iguazu resort. The only hotel located on the grounds of the Iguazu National Park on the Argentina side. From the deck of the hotel you can see the falls in the distance.  Connected by a huge trail system and a small train taking you to the head of the falls.

The next morning after an early morning breakfast we headed out on our own to explore the falls. Along the way we came upon some local wildlife of the region including the little raccoon looking  coatimundis, many butterflies.  It was close to 100 degrees so we  spent the morning walking on the many trails along the falls. After lunch we went on a raft trip along the river that takes you up to the bottom of the falls where we were all soaked as the amazing falls tumbles down to the river below. Be prepared to hike down the long set of stairs to reach the rafts and then the hike back up to your transport back to the hotel, worth the adventure.

That evening after a little rest we took a taxi into the town of Iguazu for a chance to watch the sunset at the place where all 3 countries, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. We stopped for a famous cocktail, the caipirinha, made with the local liquor, cachaca made from sugar cane.IMG_9177.JPG

Dinner at “La Rueda” where they pride themselves in serving famous local river fish was a great introduction to the local cuisine.

The next morning our guide came back to pick us up and drive us to the Brazil side of the falls for another view. Then we decided to take the short 15 minute helicopter trip over the falls, the cost is around $120 each but worth the time and adventure.

Ending our time in Iguazu we said goodbye as we headed back to the airport for a 2 hour flight to Rio for the next  part of our trip. We arrived in Rio our wonderful guide, Rodrigo, camera.rodrigo2@gmail.com, met us and took us to our hotel. The beautiful boutique hotel, Santa Tereza, is set high on the hills away from th busy beach areas. It is about a 20 minute cab ride back into the heart of town. After getting settled into our lovely rooms we had dinner in the restaurant in the lower garden of the hotel called Tereze. This is one of the best restaurants in the area and worth making the trip up if you are not staying at the hotel.

The next morning after a lovely breakfast at the hotel we were taken to the famous Corcovado’s Christ the Redeemer. It is considered one of the most famous sights, built in 1931 by the Catholic Church. They have a small train that takes you to the top and an easy trip back down after you experience the amazing views. Then we were off to explore the beaches of Ipanema and a unique drink made with Dried Acari berries and a sweetener using a syrup of Guarana. This drink give you a charge like drinking 2 Red Bull shots. They use it to give extra energy, really gets your heart pumping.

It  was time for a little local shopping and lunch. Our guide dropped us off at Via Seth for lunch were we had our first experience of trying the fresh heart of Palm for a starter followed by several great salads. Then across the street to a great shoe store and the purchase of hot new gold or silver shoes.

We returned to our hotel up in the Santa Teresa area, had a well deserved rest and got ready for dinner in the area. We walked down the street to a lovely local place Espirito Santa Teresa. The food was a true taste of Brazil, and very reasonable price.

The next morning we got an early start since we were going to tour the other famous landmark, Sugarloaf. Sugarloaf is reached by a gondola ride up to the lookout and amazing views of the beaches below.  You can wander around the whole platform take time for something to drink or local shopping from high end jewels to flip flops.

Then we headed down to the port to see the huge murals painted by a famous artist “Konrad” this is a large graffiti project on old building along the new redone port area.   On the way to lunch our driver took us to a good music store, Bossa Nova & Company on Rua Duvivier, 37A, in case you want to take home memories on a disk.

Then we wanted to try a local dish called ACARAJE, our guide took us to “Academia da Cachaca”  no tourist here, Ave Armando Lombardi 800.  We started with fried bean balls, once again the heart of Palm grilled. When the ACARAJE arrived with the topping of small shrimp in a sauce, green onions and chopped parsley it was way better than we had ever read. Back to the hotel which took almost a 45 minute ride with the traffic.  We had dinner reservations at 8pm back in town at the amazing restaurant, “Lasai” lasai@lasai.com.br. This restaurant is listed as the best in Brazil and in the top 100 in the world. You choose from either a 7 course tasting menu or choose a menu of fish, meat or veggie only. The food was lovely course after course prepared and presented with care. The owners are a young couple trained in New York at the CIA and they have brought all their ideas to Brazil and now use the food, herbs and history of Brazil in their lovely restaurant. Don’t miss it!!!

The next day we were on our own to explore, we visited a couple of famous churches and the museum of local history at the port. Then went to see their big mall called Leblon, it is several floors of local and international shops. There was a food court on the top floor so we enjoyed Lebanese fare at “Farid” good service and a nice change of pace.  We headed back to the hotel for a little pool time and a chance to catch our breath before dinner.

Dinner was at the top of the hill from our hotel at a famous restaurant called “Aprazivel”, reservas@aprazivel.com.br. The view was wonderful looking out over the entire city. They can seat several hundred guests in many little rooms, each area offering great views. They made a good Caipirinha with several different types of Cachaca to choose from.

The next morning we flew 2 hours north to the city of Salvador. This city was the place that in the late 1800’s most of the slaves were brought from Africa to Brazil to work in the sugar cane fields. Today the largest part of the population is still African.

We check into our hotel, Villa Bahia, in the colonial area of Pelourinho a neighbor hood reserved and fixed up as part of the UNESCO  cultural heritage. Our guide took us on a walking tour of the area, including the famous San Francisco Church. Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia and still holds a vast array of cultural and artistic expressions showing all of Bahia’s charm.  The square where the hotel is located is full of little shops selling local items. The small streets leading to the square offer nice music in the late afternoon and restaurants serving local fare.

You will see little stand preparing the famous ACARAJE with ladies dressed in the old style local dresses with huge petty coats. The ACARAJE is served in a napkin with the salty shrimp and hot sauce topping the balls of mashed black-eyed peas.  The hotel is older but quaint and in a safer location then other places.

Dinner was down on the water at a place called  “Amado”, amadobahia.com.br, serving continental cuisine. Everything is pretty close so not a big cab ride. We did get caught in a couple of big rain storms, it seems that when it is close to 90 during the day and the humidity is the same you will have afternoon cloud bursts.

The next day our guide took us to the famous Bonfirm church, where people tie small ribbons on the fence surrounding the church which offers an amazing feeling as the ribbons tremble in the wind. It was famous for offering good wishes depending on the color of the ribbons you choose.  Then we left for a tour of the area  local fresh market with huge stands selling the dried shrimp, piles of fresh local fruit and everything from bird cages to chilies of every size.

Our laSt night in Salvador we went to the famous restaurant of the city, Casa de Tereza” where we shared the Brazilian seafood MOQUECA.  This rich stew arrives at the table bubbling in a cast iron bowl overflowing with shrimp and fish or lobster if you so choose. The dish is topped with cilantro and bright red peppers. This tradition al meal is a must when visiting this area and very filling so easy for 3 of us to share.

The next morning flew back to Rio for the day before catching the late night flight back to the U.S.. As we headed back to the airport you realize that the favela’s occupy every hillside of the cities. You don’t go into them because of the crime but looking at them as you drive by gives you a deep feeling of the poverty of Brazil and the struggles of the poor.

We arrive in Rio around lunch time and went to a restaurant off  Ipanema beach called “ZaZa”,  a combination of local fare and international dishes. As you enter the corner door with all the crazy decor you will be welcomed by the hostess and you can either head upstairs to what resembles a Moroccan hideaway or dine downstairs where you see an interesting mix of locals and tourists.  After lunch we said thank you to our great guide Rodrigo and headed to the airport, once again realizing all the hills are covered in the favela’s where the poor were pushed out of the cities a hundred years ago.

If you want a great guide in Rio, Rodrigo is your man,   camara.rodrigo2@gmail.com

We were happy we had the experience of Brazil and feel exploring a new part of the world is always worth the time. Whether you return to a place is determined by the food, people and culture you experience during your first visit.

 

 

 

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Fresh tomato soup

When August arrives and our garden is full of tomatoes I always try and create something new. This tomato soup has a fresh clean taste whether you serve it with the perfect grilled cheese sandwich for lunch or a starter for summer BBQ, I think you will love it.

This serves 8 for a starter or 6 for lunch

4 cups of tomatoes  peeled and crushed

 if you are using Cherry tomatoes you will need  put them through a food mill to remove the skins after they are warmed in the chicken stock.

3 cups of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of water—-add crushed tomatoes and heat for 15 minutes 

2 carrots peeled and chopped

2 stalks of celery chopped 

1 medium onion peeled and chopped

1/2 cup of fennel chopped fine

5 cloves of garlic peel and chop

1/4 cup of olive oil to sauté vegetables until soft but not browned, about 15 minutes 

Add:

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons of fresh oregano chopped fine

1 tablespoon fresh thyme chopped fine

3 tablespoons of chives chopped 

stir herbs into sautéed vegetables, when herbs are wilted add to chicken stock with the tomatoes 
Simmer 20 to 30 minutes allow to cool, add salt and pepper to taste and using a good blender blend soup to a smooth consistency 

Add 3/4 cup of 1/2 & 1/2. When you are ready to serve, warm soup, do not boil.

Top each bowl  of soup with a spoon full of creme fraiche, chopped chives and a pinch of salt.

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A trip to Bali with a stop in Singapore

We rented a house in Bali with friends for a week and agreed to meet at the airport in Bali on May 1. We had stopped in Singapore for a couple of nights to visit friends and Carl had not been to Singpaore for years so we booked at The Fullerton Bay Hotel. This is the only hotel on the water with a lovely view of the huge Ferris wheel and looking out toward the Gardens by the Bay. The next day we got up early and did a grand tour of the gardens. I have been several times before, but I am always amazed by the changes in the indoor displays and the lush growth of the outdoor gardens. It was very humid so go early and dress for the heat and all the walking. 

We went back to the hotel and changed to meet our friends for lunch at Imperial Treasure restaurant where they serve the best Peking duck in the city, located on the top floor of Takashimaya shopping center. After lunch  you should go to the basement, it is always fun to see all the food stalls and walk through the area where they sell the beautiful packaged candy and cookies. The shopping in each of the many shopping centers along Orchard Street is the best in the world, something for everyone.

Back to the hotel for a swim in the roof top pool and a nap to fight the jet lag. One of the things I love in Singapore are the chili crabs and we made reservations at Tung Lok Signatures for dinner with friends and shared the chili crabs and the local long razor clams prepared with garlic and a light soy sauce, delicious.

The next day we walked a couple of blocks to the National Gallery to tour the exibit and just wander through the newly restored building. We were there for a couple of hours and could have spent more time, but we had a plane to catch. 

BALI:

We were met at the airport by our friends and our host for the next week in the small village of Amed, Bunutan. After a 2 hour drive we arrived in the seaside village of Amed. We were staying in the lovely Villa Pantai, owned by Scott Swingle. The house is managed by a wonderful young couple Made and Kari and they got us settled into our rooms and ushered out to the lovely pool under the palm trees. The house has 4 large bedrooms all with bathrooms, large living areas and the big outdoor dining area where breakfast was served each morning.

Amed is like going back in time, most of the people come here for the diving and wonderful snorkeling. A ten minute drive in either direction from the house and you are on a black sand beach with wonderful coral and fish waiting for you to swim among them. You can rent fins if you do not want to bring your own, plus for a couple dollars they have nice chaise lounges with umbrellas to rent. The water is very warm so you tend to not want to do anything but swim and sit under the umbrella and read or sleep. The two beaches we swam off both had nice little places to eat lunch and have drinks. We would go back to the house for the afternoon and most days some of us would have a massage, $15 for an hour massage under the trees.

We would walk to dinner at one of the small local restaurants the best was The Griya, they also have a lovely hotel on the hillside overlooking the sea.  There was a little grill with fresh fish and local noodle dishes. Don’t order beef, it was very tough, better to stick with the pork or chicken. One night we went to the Crispy Duck and had their duck special. They only had two bottles of wine so we drank both of them after trying their margaritas. Glad we were walking home. 

We did make one morning trip to Lempuyqng Temples, we only hiked 2 of the 7 temples and almost died along the hike hundreds of steps in very hot temperatures with 100% humidity. We stopped by The Water Palace on the way home, it had been the home of the royal family. That evening our host prepared a lovely dinner around the pool for us. 


The last day we just ate lunch next door at Tirta Gangga, bought ice cream bars across the street at the little grocer and that evening they prepared a true Balinees dinner and the local kids did several traditional dances in true local costumes.We realized that all you needed to bring was a swimsuit, shorts, t shirts and flip flops. They were happy to do laundry and if you wore more than shorts or a sorong you were to hot.


After a wonderful restful week Made drove us to Ubud, about 3 hour drive since the roads are narrow and the traffic moves slowly. We checked into a beautiful new small hotel called The Goya. This lovely hotel sits above the rice fields and when you are at the pool you look out over the canyon and jungle. The hotel is less than a year old and still has not got the spa up and running, however they will offer services in the villa. We rented one of the Villas with our own pool and outdoor sitting area. 

Their restaurant is open air with beautiful chandlers hanging from the vaulted ceiling, we had dinner here the first night and enjoyed a nice menu with excellent service. They did not have a license to serve wine yet so we had to go to the wine store and bring our own. 

We did a long walk through the busy town and followed the crowd to the cemetery where a once in a life time experience of seeing a cremation taking place. The grandson of the King had died, age 34, and the family was having a public ceremony. They would place his body in the center of a 3 story high bull made out of paper mache after many prayer and offerings were given the large structure was set on fire. Amazing! On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a small bistro on the Main Street called “Coco’s Bistro” we needed something cold drink , they suggested a fresh mint infused with sparkling water and lime juice. Time to reflect on what we had just experienced.


The next morning we walked to the monkey forest, because it is the thing to do when visiting Ubud. Stopped for coffee and went back to the hotel for a short rest. We had read rave reviews about a place called “LUXE Cafe”, since you can only drive half way we had the hotel take us to the drop off point for our walk through the rice fields. After about a 20 minute walk on a path we arrived at the beautiful small hotel called The Luxe. They only have 4 rooms and a large suite for rent, but one of the best restaurants in town. We were greeted by the owner,  Paul as we arrived and he guided us up the stairs to the dining room. The menu for lunch offered several kinds of the best burgers you will ever eat. Their home made buns, hand cut fries and simple salads were all delicious. After we finished with a sip of limoncello we headed home. They offered a couple of the group rides back into town on a moped since it had started to rain and the rest of us ventured out to walk the well know trail through the rice fields. It was a historical trail with several yoga retreats, artists studios along the way and plenty of muddy paths to manouver for about 3 miles, but worth the experience.

Since this was our last night we took a well deserved swim and rest before heading out to dinner at Locavore. LOCAVORE-UBUD.COM. This is a very special evening and the food is so interesting. Your menu offers either a 5 course or 7 course meal and you choose between a vegetable or meat/ fish menu. The chefs work together to prepare small tastes of unique preparation of local ingredients. Plus they send several different small tastes to get you started, here presentation plays a major roll as each dish is served.  When the menu read watermelon tartar it was thinly sliced watermelon radishes each sliced placed to resemble a petal on a flower and dressed with a hint of acid and herbs. Each course was more unique than the last with the main course on the meat menu a thin piece of pork belly crisp and moist all at the same time. 

We left the next day, spent the night in the hotel in terminal 1 at the Singapore airport since we had a 6am flight home. We took a cab into town for one last meal with our friends at LONG BEACH KING SEAFOOD along Manhattan road, we had to have the last black pepper crab and a good bye to Singapore.

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Family week in Casa De Campo

The Dominacan Republic is not the easiest place to get to from Seattle, but once you arrive you know the journey was worth it. We bought the use of a house in The DR at a local auction and decided to take the kids and grandchildren. We flew to Fort Lauderdale and had to spend the night in Miami to transfer to Punta Cana airport then an hour ride to the resort,  Casa De Campo. The size of this compound is amazing, including a large hotel, 3 golf courses, 22 restaurants, and hundreds of private homes. Many of the properties can be rented by contacting jsalas@casadecampore.com —-

The house we had was 4 bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, swimming pool and a great staff. You can access the entire resort on your golf cart, unless you want to leave the compound to go grocery shopping in La Romana. There is a large marina area that has wonderful shops several restaurants, a small grocery and plenty of parking for your golf cart. 

The second night we had dinner at Limoncello in the courtyard of the marina. Limoncello offers Italian  food and wood fired pizza. The portions are very large so think of sharing. We sat outside under the stars then walked over to  the amazing ice cream shop next door and indulged in large scoops of Italian ice creams. 

We started our mornings around the pool and then we would all head to the lovely white sand  beach. The water has a very gentle wave, fine for young kids to swim in the 90 degree water. Lunch at the beach restaurant, La Cirque, was excellent for adults as well as the kids. The beach staff was always ready to serve you drinks under the palm trees or umbrellas and there were  plenty of towels at the hut when you arrived. I even had a great massage on the far end of the beach while the waves broke on the sand a few feet away. The men played golf and even had a couple of lessons from the pro to hone their skills. One day we all jumped into the golf carts and handed up to Altos de Chavon, an old fort looking town several hundred of years old that has been all restored to it original charm. Now housing several restaurants, lovely shops with local fare and a small church waiting for the next wedding to fill the pews. That night we returned without kids, great babysitter arrived arrange by the house staff. The restaurant, La Piazzetta was very busy with a small local group playing for the diners. The portions once again are quite large so the chef was happy to split the courses. The fresh local tomatoes for a salad course was delicious, especially since we had not had fresh ripe tomatoes in Seattle for months. 


One day for a change of pace we went to the hotel to swim in the pool and have lunch. It is lovely, but we all agreed the beach was way better and the food was not great. We did love the swim up bar in the large pool and the work out space was excellent with many top machines. 

The last night we went back to the marina and ate outside under the stars at Peperoni. The service was fast and the pizza was perfect for the kids. Once again the protions were large and we would have been better off sharing the pasta and the salads. 

It was a great week, perfect for families and I think it is a place to return to.

When we left and flew back to Miami we had to transfer to Fort Lauderdale and it is impossible to make the only nonstop flight back to Seattle the same day. Plan on staying either in Miami or Fort Lauderdale and catching the flight the next afternoon.

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