The Highlights of Food and Wine in 2012. Mostly Food.

Papanași papanash from Romania

2012 will be remembered by me for many reasons.  Certainly the travel I did in 2012 ranks up there as do the many fun memories with family and friends.  But another memorable aspect of 2012 will be the food and wine!  Here is a small tour of the most memorable ones… mostly food…

BBQ anyone?

At Salt Lick, outside of Austin, Texas, the year started with some phenomenal BBQ!

Salt Lick BBQ in Texas

Wine, wine, wine

A few wine tastings with friends and some touring allowed me to cover a lot of ground here!  Virginia and Moldova stand out as unexpected wine places for me.  While I was not able to bring a lot of wine from Moldova, Virginia was a different story!

WIne from Virginia's wineries: Pollock, Cardinal Point, Barboursville, King, Veritas

All but one of the bottles I bought in VA!  The state can thank me later.

Deliciousness from Moldavia

As far as I understand, northeastern Romania and Moldova are known as Moldavia.  The region was an independent/autonomous state between the 14th century and the 19th.  I could see quite a few similarities between the two modern areas when I visited Iasi (Romania) and Moldova.  One of the similarities I saw was in the food.  My favorite dish was pork and mamaliga (a sort of polenta).  And my favorite dessert papanași (papanash; a fried pastry stuffed with jam and soft cheese).  I could eat these every day (an almost did!).

Mamaliga (polenta) and pork - typical food dish from Moldavia, Moldova, Romania

Mamaliga (polenta) and pork – typical food dish

Papanași papanash from Romania

Papanași (papanash)

A homestyle wine tasting

One of my favorite events is the quarterly wine tasting with friends.  Our Frog’s Leap wine tasting (normally, we do not focus on one winery in these tastings) was outstanding and the food was a large part of that.  After looking at the following pictures, could you disagree?

Cheese and crackers always good for a wine tasting

Cheese and crackers couldn’t be absent!

Lobster dip from Costco served in cucumbers

Lobster dip served in cucumbers

Chocolate bomb anyone?

I got to try one mean chocolate dessert at The Oval Room, across Lafayette Square from the White House (which I also got to tour this year!).  This picture  -no- no picture, can ever do this magnificent monument to desserts justice…

Chocolate S'more Bomb from The OVal Room in Washington, D.C. smore

Chocolate S’more Bomb with cookie crumble and salted caramel

Mofongo from Puerto Rico – in Tampa!

I have written about having great Cuban food in Tampa but over Thanksgiving weekend, I went for my favorite Puerto Rican dish:  mofongo with fried pork chunks!!  MMM!!!

Mofongo from Puerto Rico in Tampa, Florida

Paris, oh, Paris

Forget the fancy restaurants and all that frou-frou stuff.  Paris has awesome small “mere-et-pere” type of places with deliciousness galore.  I am lucky to be an eternal Paris visitor and past resident.  This allows me and my friends to enjoy these little-known places whenever I visit.  However, I still enjoy discovering a new unpolished jewel, like the place in Montmartre where I had this delicious potato-and-egg-topped salad (along with a mini carafe of red wine!).

Potato and egg salad in Montmartre

Of course, Paris’ chocolate houses are a must – and a tour of them should be de rigeur unless you are allergic to the stuff!  I always stop by to enjoy some of Paris’ finest chocolate crafts.

Chocolates and macarons from Paris' finest Jean-Paul Hevin

Italy.  What can I say?

No words are needed when it comes to Italy and food.  Here are some of the images from my visit there in April (discovering new and re-visiting old places).

Suppli fried rice ball from Rome, Italy

Suppli fried rice ball – mmm!!

White wine from Italy with Campo de Fiore reflected

I love how the Campo de Fiore is reflected in this glass of wine

Bucatini all'Amatriciana in Rome, Italy

Bucatini all’Amatriciana

Carbonara and red wine in Rome, Italy

Carbonara rocks!!

Coffee in Rome, Italy

Coffee the AM I arrived… dropped our luggage at the apt and went out for breakfast. SO. GOOD.

Rome, Italy food:  artichoke, buffalo cheese, tomato, basil

My plate full of our appetizers on our first night in Roma

Sweets from Rome, Italy

Sweets!

Gelato in Rome, Italy

Sublime gelato

Year end:  always a time for food!

For Christmas eve (Nochebuena), I cook the traditional Cuban meal.  Instead of showing a beautiful serving plate or bowl with the end result, I decided to leave the end result to the imagination and show you the work in progress.  I love making my black beans and Cuban pernil!

Cooking Cuban black beans

Cooking Cuban pernil for Christmas eve (Nochebuena)

Now good food didn’t end on Nochebuena.  On our day trip to the charming southern towns of Newnan and Senoia, we had some really good southern food (always comfort food!) right at the square in Newnan.  Those sweet potatoes were outstanding!

Country fried steak, green beens and sweet potatoes - great southern food

The year ends

The year went away like the dessert from this plate – it leaves me wanting more.  What a year it was!

Empty dessert plate

A Year (or the World?) Ends… Either Way, I Travel

Photo of people reflected in the fender of a car

Well, today is the day the apocalypse was to happen.  I guess a few hours are still left so maybe I shouldn’t count my eggs just yet.  BUT, if the end did happen, guess what?  I can still blog from purgatory and you KNOW that would be an incredible travel story.  Just hope it is not one of being stuck there forever, like when I was stuck in Europe because of the Icelandic volcano (which did turn out well) or someone else’s horrible travel story.  Also, if the world did end, purgatory looks a lot like my house (and if the world did NOT end, I need to make some minor changes at home…).

So the end of anything usually calls for some reflection and be it the end of the world or the end of the year, I feel like reflecting on my very busy 2012…

A Texas tweetup in January

January saw me taking what felt like a bold step – to travel somewhere to meet people I met online.  At first that has an almost dirty sound to it, doesn’t it?  But I had been talking on Twitter with these three folks for many months and they were clearly people I would enjoy meeting in person and exploring with.  So off to awesome Austin, Texas for the Texas tweetup!  There I met in person @kirkcole, @L_e_a_h, and @LolaDiMarco.  Unfortunately, a severe cold hit me on the day I traveled so I was not able to partake in all the activities but enjoyed a good day’s worth of laughing and eating in Austin!

Photo of people reflected in the fender of a car

Can you find the Austin tweetup fab 5 in the picture?

Normal in February – and other months

Traveling to DC for work permeates every month this year so my normal continued in February.  Recovered from the Austin tweetup and post-Christmas parties in January, February was time to relax and be home (or in DC). Over the year, I got to check new things in DC that I had not explored yet in the last year.  Doing the White House tour was a long-time bucket list item that I finally made happen.  I continued exploring and enjoying many of the DC’s finest hotels like The Mayflower, the Sofitel Lafayette, and the Renaissance on 9th St.  DC is a wonderful town if you get out and explore.  Its many beautiful brownstones and local eateries are a joy to explore.

March Madness:  Mile High Skiing

The traveling continued in March – this time a great ski trip with dear friends to Vail and Breckendridge, two places I had been dying to try for many years.  The trip did not disappoint and neither did my skiing, not having skied since Valle Nevado, Chile in the Andes in 2010.  Vail and Breck WILL be in a future ski trip for me, I can tell.  The bowls of Vail where incredible:  one bowl, then another one behind it, then another.  It seemed to never end!

Statue of skier in Vail, Colorado

How thoughtful! Vail had a statue of me at the base of one of the slopes!

Amicci en Italia and diving into eastern Europe in April

April finally brought about the “long”-planned trip to Italy with two sets of great friends.  Though mainly focused on Rome (a city I love re-visiting), a side trip to finally see Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast was built into the itinerary.  It did not disappoint, especially our guide in Pompeii, one of the preeminent experts on Pompeii!.

But I took advantage of being on the other side of the pond to add another iconic destination I had never explored:  Dubrovnik, Croatia.  Its tiled roofs and architecture combined with the natural setting of its location made it a magical place for me.  Of course, ever eager to see more, I decided to get further into eastern Europe while in Dubrovnik by doing day trips into Bosnia & Herzegovina (Mostar) and into the beautiful mountains and bays of Montenegro!  These day trips were short, obviously, but they definitely opened the appetite to see more of these countries and this part of Europe.

View from up high of Kotor Bay in Montenegro

One of the ridges that divides Kotor Bay into 2 bays in Montenegro

Re-charging, re-connecting, and exploring Chicago

May saw a second tweetup, this time in the Windy City since we were eager to connect with other travel bloggers we had been chatting with for awhile.  The Windy City tweetup had a little bit of everything:  from French goodness (courtesy of the Sofitel Water Tower), Charlie’s Angels, boat tour, fallen traffic lights (not our fault!), doughnuts, cold coffee, good food, drinks (repeat), and the mob.  It was a very fun weekend indeed meeting @workmomtravels, @travelingted, @jettingaround, and @elatlboy in person.

Posing in front of the Bean in Chicago at Millenium Park

Being tourists at The Bean

More fun with fellow travelers and good learnings

In June, TBEX, a travel bloggers conference, held its North America conference in Keystone, Colorado (very close to Breckenridge where I’d just been 3 months before; who knew I would be returning to the area so soon!).  Besides the interesting learnings, the reception at the mountaintop on Friday night and the ensuing party at the pub at base (free!) really made the weekend a lot of fun and a good time to meet others who share the travel bug and re-connect with others.  Among the great folks I met (too many to list all!):  @BlBrtravel, @stayadventurous, @captainandclark, @lazytravelers, @budgettravelsac, and @travelrinserept.

A trek with a purpose in Romania and a true relic of the USSR

Romania had been a mysterious place that I had always dreamed of seeing.  Not because I knew I would love it but it just called to me.  A wonderful opportunity came my way to do a hike in the Transylvanian Alps with Trekking for Kids, a non-profit seeking to bring improved lives to orphaned/at-risk children around the world.  We worked with the orphanage and just “were” with the kids before and after a hike through some beautiful landscapes around Brasov – we even saw castles other than Dracula’s!  An experience I will never forget every which way, including it was my first multi-day hike ever!

Sphinx-like rock in the Bucegi Mountains near Omu Peak, Romania

Who knew there was a Sphinx atop the Transylvanian Alps (near Omu Peak)??

Since I was headed that way, I decided Romania (more precisely, the town of Iasi, Romania’s cultural capital) would be a great springboard to explore Moldova.  So with my great guide, I explored churches, monasteries, towns (including the capital, Chisinau), and wineries in this little known former Soviet socialist republic still working to undo decades of horrible communist dictatorship.  I am SO glad I made the time for this unpolished gem at the edge of eastern Europe!

The trip ended with a one-day, two-night in awesome Paris, my home away from home in Europe.  Always love re-visiting my favorite areas and still finding new things to enjoy!

Time with Family in Tampa on my sister’s birthday in August

August also included a trip to Tampa where my family lives – always good to be with them, and enjoy good Cuban food and TLC!  I had just been there in June (when I visited the impressively set-up Dali museum) but my Mom turned 70 while I was in Romania and my sister was hitting a milestone birthday of her own in August so I just HAD to go and celebrate with them!

Rest in September

In September, I took a break from travel.  Well, non-business travel… But read on, the year of travel is not over!

Architecture and Wine:  Tuscany or Bordeaux, you say?  No, Virginia in October!

I finally succumbed to friends’ suggestion that I explore Virginia wine country with them.  I had been wanting to do this for a long time but other travel got in the way.  I took advantage of being in the DC area for work to go ahead and spend a weekend with them in wine country.  And got out RIGHT BEFORE Sandy passed by!  As you can read in my writings about this central part of Virginia, Monticello, Charlottesville and the countryside are filled with early colonial history and architecture as well as delicious wines.  And there are close to 200 other wineries in the state to be found and explored!  I was glad to have this opportunity to see more of my own country and other places will be in my sights in 2013 (like Michigan and Wisconsin thanks to friends from Chicago who write about these places!).

Cemetery where Thomas Jefferson is buried in Monticello on a fall day

Cemetery where Thomas Jefferson is buried in Monticello on a fall day

OK, now I rest ‘xcept for Thanksgiving in November

So, my fun travels wrap up for the year save for visiting family again in Tampa where I discover yet another new place for good Cuban food!  Someone STOP the madness! 🙂

I reflect back on the year and I am amazed at how much I have been able to see of places I have always wanted to see.  And this is setting aside the twenty-something weeks of work travel to DC!   The bucket list shrinks and yet I add new places I learn about.  I consider THAT my most important key performance indicator – a never-ending travel bucket list!

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and the best in 2013 for you and yours!

Getting Good Cuban Food in Tampa

Tampa, Florida may not be at the top of your destination list but being close to great beaches and other attractions such as Busch Gardens – and close enough to Orlando – it may be a place you will visit some day.  And if you do, do NOT miss out on the great hole-in-the-wall Cuban food places in the city!  I have been going to Tampa regularly for over 20 yrs. and I enjoy eating the real stuff.

Cuban food in Tampa with pictures

Masitas de cerdo! (Photo credit: http://necessaryindulgences.com/2010/12/el-ambia-cubano/)

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La Teresita (http://www.lateresitarestaurant.com/) (in Columbus Ave.) used to be the grand dame of Cuban restaurants in Tampa about 20 yrs ago. Grand dame does NOT mean elegant or fancy. That would be all wrong for a Cuban restaurant. But it was the place with the best food and where everyone went. However, somewhere down the road, it became different. Other places came up. And some of us stopped going.

Florida Bakery (http://local.yahoo.com/info-14447698-florida-bakery-tampa) (also in Columbus Ave.) has been a long standing place to go to for typical Cuban pastries, cakes, and sandwiches such as the famous Cuban sandwiches. Of course, Cuban coffee too; nothing like a cortadito (expreso with leche).

But other alternatives have come up so the typical places are not the ONLY ones around town anymore.  And the other places are, in my opinion, better.

Arco Iris (http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/30/340198/restaurant/Tampa-Bay/West-Tampa/Arco-Iris-Tampa), also in Columbus Ave. and almost next door to Florida Bakery, offers really good food in a very homestyle environment.  It is spacious and I typically haven’t had a problem getting a table.

Las Margaritas (http://www.allmenus.com/fl/tampa/60687-las-margaritas/menu/) in Hillsborough Ave. is a much smaller place and no frills.  But the food is delicious – and cheap!

Pipo’s (http://pipos.com/) which, at last count, has 2 locations offers simple choices that are delicious.  It has been around for a while and always consistent.  Walk to the counter so you see what’s available and they serve you cafeteria style.

Angelito’s Bakery (http://www.cakes.com/bakeries/angelitos-at-la-caridad-bkry-5386/, where the former La Caridad was; the street sign still exists for La Caridad) has phenomenal pastries and seems a lot cleaner than Florida Bakery.  And this one is in Hillsborough as well.

Mr. Empanada (several locations http://www.mrempanada.com/), while not strictly Cuban, deserves a mention.  The fried empanadas are very similar to the ones I would eat for lunch in high school (ground beef, cheese, or pizza fillings).  Except here, besides the ground beef ones, they have fillings I didn’t have as an option in high school such as guava, and cream cheese.

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So if you go to Tampa, be ready to eat GOOD Cuban food and eat well – I do!

Any other favorite Cuban places in Tampa that you like?  I am sure there are plenty I haven’t even discovered yet!

How I Roll – The ABCs of Travel

A set of questions about my approach to travel – fascinating set!   Posted by Leah (check out her post:  http://leahtravels.com/site/things/how-i-roll-the-abcs-of-travel) who in turn received it from someone else who got it from someone else, … you get the pic.  Thanks, Leah!  And in turn, I will say other important “thanks” as I respond.  Here it goes!

A. Age you went on your first international trip

Technically going to PR from Miami as a toddler doesn’t count since it is U.S. territory…  My first trip abroad was when I was eleven.  I went to visit my aunt and her family in Panama.  I went with my grandmother and my sister.  It was SO cool.  We flew to Miami and then to Panama.  We either flew Eastern or Pan Am to Miami but it must have been the latter since we then flew Pan Am to our final destination.  I remember my grandmother was a little nervous.  I?  I was on an adventure!  I remember that on the Pan Am flight to Panama (that’s an alliteration!) each passenger was given a small bottle of wine (not the mini ones but maybe a 0.5L bottle) – and that included, apparently, 11 yr olds too!  My grandmother made me give it to my uncle once I arrived in Panama since I clearly couldn’t drink it.  I knew she was right but I sorta felt cheated…  Thanks, Abuela!

B. Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where

A Belgian Trappist beer called Chimay.  The blue label one.  It then became my goal to get a Chimay glass (way before they started selling them).  I got one but to hear the story, well, I will have to tell you in person because I am not typing how I got it 😉  Just want to say, thanks Joy!

I first tasted it when I lived in France in 1999.  Upon my return to the wonderful state of Georgia, I discovered that it was not sold here because of its higher alcohol content.  Ridiculous!  A co-worker who commuted every week to Atlanta from DC would bring me a batch every so often in her carry-on (this was in 2000).  Now THAT is a friend.  We are still friends today, needless to say – thanks, Laura!  (P.S. – A few years ago Georgia left the Middle Ages and I can get Chimay here any time I want.  Thanks, legislators.)

C.  Cuisine – favorite

Well, duh, Cuban!  All that garlic, pork, fried stuff, and black beans.  I am working myself into hunger as I type…  Italian is a good runner up for sure.  And could I turn down Peruvian??  But Cuban it is.  My Mom cooks it VERY well.  She must have learned from her grandmother, whom we called Doña as kids for some reason.  I remember her cooking still.  For teaching her granddaughters to cook well so I could enjoy Cuban food, thanks Doña!

D.  Destinations:  favorite, least favorite, and why

Favorite:  Chilean Patagonia followed closely by the southern island of New Zealand.  Why?  Breathtaking examples of God’s work.  A+!  Check the pix out!  Thanks, God.

Cueva del Milodón in Chile's Patagonia

View from la Cueva del Milodón

Least favorite:  I tend to find something I like about most places.  It may not be pretty but the people make it likable, or the food, or who I was traveling with.  But if I search for places that didn’t impress me (not that I did not like being there), Copenhagen was one.   It had some nice things, it wasn’t unlikable.  But it seemed bland (maybe I was comparing it to Stockholm and Oslo which did impress me).  Beijing was an absolute disappointment with the terrible pollution.  Of course, it had some sites that were worth seeing but overall as a city, my least favorite.  San Marino seemed to be only a duty-free zone or a tourist trap zone, except for the church.  Oh, I was the one in the group who wanted to drive through it – and I heard it a few times…  Thanks, Me.

E.  Event you experienced above that made you say “wow”

Several things come to mind.  Seeing Holy Week processions and events in Malta was pretty awesome.  Being in Chile during a historical year:  first time in the World Cup in 40 odd years, a historical election seeing the right come to power for the first time since the dictatorship ended, the trapped miners, the massive and terrible earthquake, and there was a fifth one but it escapes me… Seeing the emotion of Chileans watching their national team with such joy was a wow.  Seeing the very civilized behaviors between election winner and loser (which made me feel for my country…) was a wow.  I wasn’t there on the day of the earthquake otherwise that would have won THE wow.  But being there for the miners’ rescue was one of those moments that truly was a wow.  Gracias, Chile!

F.  Favorite mode of transportation

Well, a plane.  I don’t totally enjoy the ride but when time is limited, nothing like getting there fast!  First class preferred, of course.  Thanks, Wright bros.

G.  Greatest feeling when traveling

Discovering something new that blows me away.  Like the landscapes of southern New Zealand.  Or phenomenal hole-in-the-wall eateries like La Porta in Montecchiello in Tuscany.  Thanks to my passport!

Osteria La Porta, Montecchiello in Tuscany, Italy

Osteria La Porta, Montecchiello

H.  Hottest place you have traveled to

At the World Expo in Sevilla in 1992 it was over 40C (over 104F).  That ranks up there though my hometown sometimes can feel hotter than hell.  Well, really, it is because of the humidity.  Thanks, H2O

I.  Incredible service you have experienced and where

Quite a few but in my over 20 round trips to Chile a couple of years ago, I tended to coincide with a flight crew every other week or so.  These flight attendants took GREAT care of me, even though I flew coach.  Let’s just say, at some point, I no longer was served coach wine…  Thanks, Delta for having flight attendants that know how to treat your valuable frequent flyers even when your rules prevent the Delta staff from doing the right thing…

J.  Journey that took the longest

I would like to say going to Australia but that wasn’t the longest.  Nor was it driving from Atlanta to Denver with my college roommate.  My actual longest journey was when I went to Tanzania.  I went with work, an international NGO, so I thought I had to absolutely get the cheapest possible itinerary.  So I ended with a 2-stop (not awful per se) trip to get to Dar es Salaam (via London and Dubai; a 6 and 9 hr layover respectively).  I learned later that policy was to get the cheapest flight with a reasonable duration which meant I could have gone for the cheapest 1-stop route…   Overall the journey was over 30 hrs. and I was supremely beat though when I landed in Dar, the tiredness dissipated for a little bit as I soaked in everything around me!  Thanks, former employer for laying out the rules clearly – grrrr….

K.  Keepsake from your travels

I always bring back money from the countries I visit for me and for kids I know.  I do it to perhaps stir curiosity of the world in them much as stamps did for me when I was a kid.  I also mail post cards (though not many) to share a little of trip with people close to me.  Other than that, photos, photos, and more photos!  On occasion, if I find a particular item that grabs a hold of me, then I get it.  But I am not a big shopper usually because it means I have to carry it all back!  One of my prized acquisitions was a wood carving I bought at Los Dominicos in Santiago, Chile.  Gracias, Señor Salazar.

L.  Let-down sight, why and where

Stonehenge, hands down.  A pile of big stones, yes, put up by people long ago for mystical/spiritual purposes when there wasn’t machinery to make things easy.  But it wasn’t just that.  The place is cordoned off so you watch them from a distance.  Not that touching them would mean something but if I could have walked amongst them or at least get close enough to “feel” their size.  It’s not like watching the Great Pyramids at a distance.  It is watching large stones at a distance.  It is not watching the giant heads in Easter Island.  Those are carved.  It is watching large stones at a distance.  Get it?  But, of course, I am glad I saw them so no one can tell about them.  Thanks to my college roommate, Andreas, for driving us there and checking it off the list.  One-and-done. No repeat visit.  (P.S. – I am not sure if I have been clear on what I think about Stonehenge…)

M.  Moment where you fell in love with travel

None.  I was born loving travel as far as I can tell.  The thrill of going somewhere new, exploring.  Or of getting back to a place I really like (Paris, Chile, Venice).  Now the wanderlust was created by my childhood hobby of stamp collecting.  I wanted to know about all these places, I relished seeing new stamps that told me something about each country.  I HAD to see them!  Thanks to my Mom, Dad, tío Ernesto and all those who used to save stamps for me for supporting me in this hobby that stirred this passion!  (Hence, the wallpaper on my Twitter page!)

N.  Nicest hotel you have stayed in

I would say the Four Seasons in Dallas but it was an overnight stay for work and I arrived very late the night before.  The Loew’s in Miami Beach for a work conference was very nice.  But my favorite was the Boca Raton Beach Resort where we went a couple of years for work “retreats”.  Thanks, Andersen Consulting!

O.  Obsession, what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling

In one trip to Italy, I was obsessed with capturing a nun in motion (her habits flowing as she walked).  I didn’t take any great picture.  That I knew of…  When I got home and developed the film, a nun had crossed the street in one of my pix.  You see, I must have missed the fact she was there because I was switching lenses to take a picture of the same view with and without zoom lens to see how the two pix would contrast.  I probably was so engrossed in not dropping the lens I wasn’t using and in focusing on the arch far away that I missed what was in front of me:  a nun in motion!  Thanks, miracle nun!

But that was only for that trip.  Generally, I like to take pictures of people doing nothing in particular.  Just walking, sitting, being…  But I have developed a little interest in taking pictures of people taking or posing for pictures for others when I go to very touristy areas.  It is interesting to watch people touristing!

Happiness at the feet of the Torres del Paine in Chile's Patagonia

P.  Passport stamps – how many and from where

In the current passport or in all my passports??!!  I do not plan to count them, especially since one very full passport was stolen during a home break-in a dozen years ago.  Plus I have more than one stamp of some countries.  Which led to requiring new pages added to the passport…  Thanks Chile for stamping my passport EACH AND EVERY time I entered and departed 26 times in 2010…

I have visited 49 countries and thanks to the breakup of Yugoslavia, in April I won’t just hit 50, I will get to 52!  Thanks, Marshall Tito!

Q.  Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where

I want to say somewhere in the middle of Kansas through one of my drives to/from Boulder.  But nothing comes to mind.  Or something in Central Florida.  That sounds right, right?  The Big Chicken in Marietta – is that an attraction or just a fast food place?  Thanks to no one for quirky attractions.

R.  Recommended sight, event, or experience

Leah said the Scavi tour under St. Peter’s Basilica and I would agree.  I have done it twice but will pass on this next trip to Rome.  Other things to see!  The Great Pyramids are an obvious answer to this.  In terms of views, seeing Rio from the Corcovado is tops.  The view of Cape Town from Table Mountain is also outstanding.  And experiencing the peacefulness and breathtaking landscapes of the Chilean Patagonia rounds up my answer.  Thanks to these eyes for letting me soak it all in…

Looking at Cape Point in the Cape of Good Hope in Africa

Outstanding views near the Cape of Good Hope! (Cape Point)

S.  Splurge, something you have no problem forking over for while traveling

A great meal!!  I don’t mean going to the Maxim’s or some other fancy-schmancy restaurant.  I mean at a local place with great food like La Porta in Montecchielo or the restaurant in Venice we so enjoyed or at Cuero Vaca in Santiago.  Once I am there, the price on the menu is ignored.  Oh, that’s for the food part.  You DO have to look at the price of a bottle of wine – don’t intend to fork $500 any time soon for a bottle of wine – plenty of good stuff out there for much less thanks to many great winemakers!

T.  Touristy thing you’ve done

Throwing a coin over my shoulder in the Trevi Fountain in Rome to make sure I return!  But it has worked twice already!  Grazie, Trevi!  Bella!

U.  Unforgettable travel memory

A few for sure.  Typically when standing in front of magnificent scenery many of which I have cited above and many that I have left out.  Another is my first helicopter ride to see the 12 Apostles near Melbourne and then my second ride to land on Franz Josef Glacier in NZ.

But one of the most unforgettable travel memories for me is when I walked into the room where the future John Paul II was born in Wadowice, Poland.  There was a large picture of him as a toddler and I got goose bumps thinking who would have told that child, that family, those neighbors that this child would become a giant in the faith of millions and a giant in the battle against oppression in the Communist world, etc.  It hit me that the potential of ANY child is about infinite.  It only starts narrowing with every passing year, depending on circumstances, education, health, etc.  Very unexpected moment for me.

V.  Visas, how many and for where?

One, from CapitalOne.  What’s in your wallet?

W.  Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

A glass or two of Sauternes at of Chateau Sahuc-Lestours.  We randomly visited this winery and met the owners who sat down with us to sip Sauternes (they sipped, I almost gulped) in the garden of their home/winery.  At the end of the visit, they corked the unlabelled bottle we had drunk, and gave it to us (plus the bottle we each had bought).  Fast forward 8 yrs, and I return.  The husband wasn’t there but the wife was.  I recounted not only the visit but the things they had told us and she knew it was true that I had been there before.  I don’t recall her name but we called her Margaret on that first visit for some reason.  Merci beaucoup et au revoir, Margaret!

X.  eXcellent view and from where?

So I mentioned earlier the views from Corcovado in Rio, Table Mountain in Cape Town, and any view in Chilean Patagonia.  I will add:

–   the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower which puts all of Paris at your footsteps

–   the view from Pienza in Tuscany where you can see the rolling hills of the region and the neighboring mountain town

–  the view as you fly over the Andes – endless mountain range (and I mean east-west, not just north-south!)

–  the view from my apt building in Paris:  the Arc d’Triomphe almost right across the street with the Eiffel Tower behind it in the distance

–  the view from the executive lounge of the Santiago Marriott at sunset looking at the Andes

and I could keep on going… thanks for letting me list more than one!

Crossing the Andes

Flying over the glorious Andes

Y.  Years spent traveling

Since I was a toddler ilivetotravel!   My first trip to Europe was when I was 25.  Kids are spoiled today, they get to go younger, thanks to deregulation.  Who says deregulation is bad???

Z.  Zealous sports fans and where?

Have never been to a World Cup.  Have been to a World Series game but, it is baseball.  Have been to 2 Olympics.  But the best memory is watching fans of many countries who made it to the 2010 World Cup work together and compare notes as the World Cup took place was fun.  Unfortunately, my bragging rights ended on the earlier side so then it was fun to throw ambers on the fires around me 🙂  Those Brazilians, Chileans, Spanish, Argentines, and Mexicans definitely showed zealotry and good spirit.  Thanks to my client in Chile for installing flat screen TVs around the building so people could peek at matches during work hours.

Thanks for reading some or all of the above!! 

Just as I was tagged, I get to tag others. So…

Pola at http://www.jettingaround.com

Tawny at http://www.captainandclark.com

Henie at http://www.HennArtOnline.com

Mark at http://www.twylah.com/marktravel

TAG, YOU ARE IT!

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