Cooking School in Italy

While on vacation, we signed up for a day session at a cooking school in Italy. It was actually as indulgent as it sounds!

Even though I personally do own a restaurant and cook about 60 hours a week, it was my choice to sign up for this whilst on vacation.

The thought of learning to make pasta and sauce from scratch, in Italy sounded like an authentic and dream-come-true experience. I was right.

It took place in a state-of-the-art kitchen, with two professional instructors. There were overhead cameras at the teacher’s station and big screen TVs for us to watch them on. This enabled us to see the techniques from all angles.

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It seemed like a televised cooking show. Like something you’d see on a Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart episode.

At the end of the day we sat with our classmates for dinner and shared a bottle of wine. A certificate, the recipes and apron were ours to take home. Everyone was all smiles.

I haven’t actually made pasta for my family since the trip, but I have gotten really good at sliding the story into casual conversation. I just love saying “when I was at cooking school in Italy, we…”

I can be a bit of a joker, but in all seriousness, I really treasure having had this experience and I would highly recommend taking a class or pursuing your hobby while on vacation. A fresh perspective and the chance to do something ‘just for fun’ is such a memorable way to spend  a day.

Better stories start with travel. 

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Left turn at Livorno

I was thinking about road trips yesterday and thinking about planning a little something. Then, I was suddenly reminded of my last wrong detour.

Livorno, Italy.

See, I had this idea that, according to the map, we could just take the train (for about 3 Euros and twenty minutes) from Pisa to Livorno and see the coast. It appeared to me… that we were just “that close” to the sea, and coastal greatness.

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“Coastal greatness” was not immediately apparent when we stepped out of the train station. There were beautiful palm trees, but not much else that made a couple of Canadian gals wanted to hang around. The industrial area and a lack of tourist information or people willing/able to speak english to help us out, had me second guessing my “see the coast” plan.

Then, we saw this sign. Didn’t feel like a good sign.

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However, it was daylight, and we were up for adventure, we decided to venture forth and take a quick glance around town, on foot.

We discovered casinos, and casino-like places where one could gamble among a few lovely palm trees. Thinking maybe this could turn out to be a lucky detour, I put a 2Euro coin in a slot machine. Nope… not a winner. That was enough of a sign. We bought our train tickets back to Florence and grabbed snacks for the road.

At the snack shack, I gambled on a little green jar of pear juice. An Italian specialty, it said. Loved it! That juice was amazing. Definitely memorable. Thank you Livorno.

There are no wrong turns. Just experiences.

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Just a lovely bit of architecture on our walkabout

Better stories start with travel. 

My Ski Correspondent

When you see a fabulous deal, you have to jump on it, if you possibly can. The under $200 flights to Kelowna were too good to pass up. And while I absolutely couldn’t get the time off work at spring break, my son could. (He has a fabulous boss!)

So, he went snowboarding in the mountains of British Columbia.

In an effort to include me (and the readers of SheTalksTravel.com), he’s shared some fun helmet-cam GoPro video that he shot.

He followed his friend down the mountain at Silver Star Ski Resort in Vernon. Not bad for a couple of novice snowboarders, and a helmet cam.

Thanks boys!

This clip is a little longer and shows more of the scenery at Silver Star Mountain Resort. It was taken by my older son, on a snowboard, as my youngest skis and blazes the trail.

Absolutely a fabulous hill. Great for the novice skier and beyond. Really great conditions for end of March. Top marks to Silver Star Mountain Resort, from my correspondent!

Ps. I will follow up soon with recommendations for hotels in the area and a few more of the fun photos he took. 

Moved to Tears in Italy

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Florence, Italy

 

I was standing in this central square, near the Uffizi Gallery and across from the Savoy Hotel. It was mid day, and the area was bustling with tourists.

There were three artists painting watercolour canvases at the side of the plaza. Their art was lovely, very simple and classic. Italian scenes… like couples dancing, narrow roads and pastel coloured buildings, girls on red Vespa scooters. That type of thing.

Across the way I was an old woman, with a kerchief on her head, selling brightly coloured balloons. A man on a bike, with a basket carrier, road by whilst smoking a cigarette. A young couple was kissing near a statue and posing for selfies.

Children were screaming and giggling as they rode the gold and gilded carousel.

A loudspeaker amplified the voice of a woman singing Opera in Italian. Her voice was incredible. Though I didn’t have a hot clue what she was singing, I felt overwhelmed.

I tried to focus on the paintings, but suddenly tears were streaming down my face. The passionate voice booming through the cobblestone plaza had reached into my heart and somehow, moved me to tears. It was quite the thing.

I pulled down my sunglasses and wiped my cheeks. Breathed in for fresh air and took a little walk. It was a moment. I was IN the moment. And isn’t that just one of the very best things you can say about a vacation…. I was present in the moment.

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The carousel was the most exquisite I’d ever seen.

Cheap Vegas Fix

Need your next Vegas fix?

If you like Allegiant Airlines, they have a deal for you! Flights as low as $56 one way, from Minot, ND. (Airport code MOT)

Here’s a sample departing Sunday, April 9th and returning April 13th. Flights for 2 people, without baggage, $254 (US funds).

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With hotel at the MGM, and flights included $736 (US funds).

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Or with the 5 star Venetian, just under $1000 (US funds).

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People over places

I work pretty ridiculous hours 9 months a year, and then I have some free time for 3 months. My first assignment each time I get to my break is to re-connect with my youngest child.

We have made a habit of taking off together, just the two of us, for a “him-cation.” It’s all about him. He can choose the destination (within reason), choose the activities and even choose where we eat. He says “please” and I say, “yes sir!”IMG_0637

When he was little, he chose a Disney cruise. That was great fun! Though the ship had dozens of activities and excursions, all he really wanted to do was play soccer on the upper deck. If I wasn’t out there playing with him, I was sitting on a lounge chair watching, and reading a book.

As I became a fixture on the deck, watching my son, Cast Members generously brought me new books. Even other passengers offered magazines. It was sweet. Everyone aboard was very thoughtful. I enjoyed their enquiries and visits.

In the evenings we’d sit on the pool deck and watch the movies and eat pizza. Every night he went to bed happy and feeling loved. While we didn’t maximize our Disney activities, we sure had fun. Neither of us will ever forget it.

Fast forward to this year’s “him-cation” and he chose Carli. What’s Carli? Actually, it’s a who. She, is a fabulous person that I used to work with and son remembers oh so fondly from his childhood.

Carli moved halfway across the county to attend university. He missed seeing her around town. We all did. So when he asked if this year’s trip could be to see Carli, I gave her a call and then bought the plane tickets.

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Exploring the shores and looking for wildlife

She showed us the university, where she worked, and where she liked to hike. We had a blast! She remembered him as a little boy and catered to little boy things… like finding blue crabs to “race” on the beach, logs to walk on and waterfalls to admire.

My take away message here is that it’s not always about the destination, it’s about the people you share your time with and the memories you make. The best vacation ever… can happen absolutely anywhere.

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Choose your own path to adventure! It’s YOUR vacation.