Sicilian Adventures : PART I

This year we headed south for the holidays, destination Sicily. I fell in love with this vibrant island on our first jaunt two years ago, and decided where better to spend a few days over Christmas with the Italian family, and ring in the new year. For part one of the trip, we made our home the city of Trapani at Sicily’s western tip. It wasn’t the old city’s charm that enticed us (I’ve seen better), but its proximity to so many sights and ancient ruins, not to mention the Egadi Islands. What we quickly discovered is that Trapani is a food haven, with Trapanese specialities including Fish Couscous, influenced by neighboring Tunisia, and Pesto alla Trapanese made with tomatoes and almonds. The many fresh fish dishes were exceptional and every day became a dining adventure, with local wines of course (my favorite being a red blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola grapes). Here’s a list of our top restaurants, all in the old town.

Antichi Sapori for the best traditional dishes (the seafood antipasti alone is worth the visit)

Serisso 47 for fine dining in an elegant setting (rumor has it the chef might be awarded a Michelin star soon)

Sood for live music and small plates of Sicilian specialties with a bio twist (great local vibe)

After settling into our apartments and enjoying the rooftop views, we took to the road. Our first stop was Scopello, a tiny village near Castellammare del Golfo, and what was once a tuna fishing port. The coastline was breathtaking! We also discovered that this is where scenes from our favorite Sicilian detective series Inspector Montalbano were filmed.

From here we drove to Segesta, one of the most notable Siceliot (Sicilian-Greek) ancient cities. We walked the path leading up to the Greek temple, a sight to behold, lit by the late afternoon sun.

Continuing up to the hilltop site where the ancient city was inhabited into the Middle Ages, we discovered the remains of a Norman castle, a small church and a mosque, and a classical amphitheater with admirable views.

The next day we decided to explore another highly esteemed archaeological site, Selinunte. Walking through this abandoned town founded by Greeks in the  7th Century BC, with its main street, homes and temples,  you can imagine the life that once took place here.

The day after Christmas we headed for the largest of the Egadi Islands, Favignana, less than an hour by boat. It being winter and the holidays, the island was quiet and most of the restaurants and shops were closed. We did however find a bakery with some of the most delicious cassata and cannoli to date. (Read more about Sicily’s sweets here.) The most stunning landscape on the island was the little gulf called Cala Rossa.

My Italian and I climbed down the rocks to the turquoise water, completely in awe of this cliffside paradise.

On the last day before the two of us continued our adventures solo, we drove up to the medieval hilltop town of Erice. It was the people of this town that also built the town and  temple of Segesta. I first noticed the Venus Castle, and soon learned that the temple of Venus outlasted the many civilizations who took residence in Erice.

The town itself is eerily charming with its tones of grays and cobbled paths leading to restaurants, artisanal shops and pasticcerias offering sweets made of almond paste. Here too we found a sweet gem!

Our final stop before saying farewell to Trapani was a Marsala cellar tour and wine tasting at the famous Cantine Florio. The perfect ending to part one of our adventures in Sicily. Next stop, Cefalù…

merry everything

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It’s that time of year to slow down and look up. To spend time with those most dear to us, reflect on the year coming to an end, and the one soon to start. The past year has been challenging both personally and globally, and I for one am looking forward to beginning a new one. But first, Christmas. My Italian and I are heading to Rome for a little pre-holiday celebration. I’m looking forward to rediscover this city that I haven’t visited in nearly 15 years. And who better to explore it with than my favorite travel companion! Join me on my adventures in Rome followed by the Italian Riviera, via Instagram and Facebook. Incidentally, I was recently named one of the 20 Paris Instagram Accounts to Follow by Bonjour Paris. I’m honored!

For a little year end news, here’s my holiday newsletter. I’ll be back in the new year sharing more of life and love in the City of Lights, and who knows where 2016 will find me. Thank you for joining me on this beautiful journey.

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Wishing you and yours merry everything! Happy new year from the City of Lights!

gratitude giveaway

The holiday season is upon us, as the clock ticks down to the new year. To thank you all for following along on my adventures, (it’s been over six years of love in the city of lights!), and to wish you a very happy new year, I have a few goodies for you that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I do. Certainly they will compliment any travels you take in the new year.  Which leads me to the giveaway… Firstly, you have your choice of Kasia Dietz handbags from my many collections. I’m always  happy to share my wearable art, inspired by my travels to Andalucia, Bali, Istanbul, Provence, Giverny… Secondly, to remain on time in whatever timezone you’re in, win $129 towards any hand-crafted Jord Wood Watch. Lastly, what better way to stay in top form in the new year than with mantras by Diana Antholis? Win her latest book Sanity is Sexy: Mantras to Inspire a Healthy Mindset.

giveaway

To enter, simply mention your favorite Kasia Dietz handbag or clutch and Jord Wood Watch in the comments below, and where you’d like to travel with them in 2016. Winners will be chosen randomly on December 20th. Good luck!

Christmas in Paris

Friend and fellow traveler Lynne Martin, author of Home Sweet Anywhere (a book I highly recommend) and blogger at Home Free Adventures, asked me to describe celebrating Christmas in Paris as an expat. I took a moment to think about what makes the city of lights even brighter during the holidays, and having spent many a holiday season in Paris, here is what I came up with. You an also find this article online at TravelSmith!

What is it about Christmas time in Paris that truly captivates the senses? Where to begin…

The intimacy of the sidewalk cafes with their heat lamps and blankets, beneath which you can indulge in a glass of seasonal mulled wine. The street vendors selling roasted chestnuts on many a corner. The annual holiday markets scattered around the city, revealing an array of artisanal gift ideas. But I suspect it’s the culinary specialties from various regions of France that draw the crowds. My favorites include raclette and the more decadent tartiflette, hailing from the Haute-Savoie.

Known for their pâtisseries, it’s no surprise that the French celebrate Christmas with cake. The bûche de Noël originally represented the yule log, a sponge cake with a bark-like texture made of buttercream. Many variations can be found around Paris, each more decadent than the last. Beginning in late December, pastry shops in Paris fill their windows with galettes des rois, or King Cake, to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6th. A good luck charm called la fève is baked inside this puff pastry filled with frangipane, and whoever’s piece contains la fève is crowned king or queen for the day. The cobbled streets sparkle, each dressed in it’s own string of holiday lights. The Champs Elysées glows the brightest of all, each year in late November a lighting ceremony takes place, with thousands of fairy lights lit along this grand boulevard. Yet another reason why Paris is so often referred to as the City of Lights.

At the grands magasins including Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché, and Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville, the window displays are reminiscent of theatre sets, revealing animated Christmas scenes that leave both young and old marveling. Often a family trip is taken to view these story-telling windows.

We cannot forget the celebrated churches. My first Christmas in Paris was spent at Notre Dame Cathedral. The choir alone was worth braving the crowds, as they filled the 800 year old space with song, a midnight mass never to be forgotten. Even passing by the Notre Dame by night, the majestic sparkling Christmas tree will take your breath away.

Christmas in Paris

Wherever you are in the world, I wish you happy holidays + a bright and happy new year!

Follow my holiday adventures in Andalucia, Spain, via instagram and facebook.

shopping spree

With the holidays upon us, and much shopping to do, the world is scrambling to find just the right gift. Not an easy task! These days the ease of shopping online is alleviating much of the stress of driving in heavy traffic only to wait in long lines. During this chaotic hunt for ‘just the right gift’, we are left wondering whether the recipient will even be grateful for the purchase. I remember many a Christmas receiving gifts that was given simply for the sake of gifting, the unused item often ending up in a box hidden in the basement.

Xmas Paris

Who exactly will be shopping online this year? According to a recent survey the majority of online consumers being 88% in the UK, 86% in the US, 84% in Germany, and 83% in Russia. Why has online shopping become such a trend? For the simple ease and ability to shop anytime & anywhere. Who knew how many people liked to shop in their pajamas!

What makes online shopping so easy, and what I have been using for my business for years, is PayPal. This service allows people to safely send payments without sharing financial information. Already there exist over 132 million active accounts in 190 markets and 26 international currencies.

To assist in your holiday shopping, PayPal has chosen select vendors to help you choose just the right gift, to give or to receive, and all at a discount. No more reindeer sweaters and argyle socks! Watch this video (in French) showing some of the worst gifts people have received… shampoo?!

Here’s the link to your very own shopping spree, from the comfort of your home. Thank you PayPal!

 

a new chapter

Every new year I reflect on the days gone by and set goals for the days ahead, often referred to as resolutions. This year, no more. I’ve come to realize that by thinking about what is not (ie. what I need to work on or improve) I continue to struggle with keeping up and lose sight of all that already is wonderful in my life. So this year I am starting out not with a long list of what I need to do, but a long list of what I am grateful for, much like what I wrote in my giving thanks post. It certainly helps to step away from the routine of life and look from a distance, as I was able to do during these last few weeks in Florida. This trip meant even more than sacred time with family and friends. It has also allowed me to acknowledge and appreciate all that I have been blessed with in my life.

I believe that each of us is writing the book of our lives. It is mostly up to us what is written upon the pages, and how our unique story unfolds. As I write (and re-read) my own, I am grateful for every chapter and look forward to writing the next.

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