Tag Archives: vacation

The Napa Valley Wine Train

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004The Napa Valley Wine Train’s  track is part of the what was originally the Napa Valley Railroad founded by early California pioneer Samuel Brannan in 1864. Brannan established it to bring tourists to the resort town of Calistoga, California which he also founded. The railroad’s 42 miles (68 km) of track ran from Calistoga to Vallejo, California where it connected with San Francisco Bay Area ferry boat service. California Pacific Railroad Extension Company purchased the Napa Valley Railroad Company at a foreclosure sale on June 9, 1869. Later that same year on December 23, the railroad was renamed the California Pacific Railroad. The track was leased to Southern Pacific Railroad on April 1, 1885 and was soon connected to their main line in Suisun, California. California Pacific Railroad was acquired by Southern Pacific on April 14, 1898. The line was extended to Benicia, California in 1904.

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The line was electrified and renamed San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway in 1905 and carried passengers until 1929. The track was utilized by Southern Pacific as a freight branch line for the following 58 years until 1987 when the railroad petitioned for abandonment.

The NVRR operating company was formed in 1987 by local entrepreneurs and headed by Vincent DeDomenico. DeDomenico was a veteran of more than 50 years in the food business and was formerly the president of Golden Grain, a company founded by his father and famous for its Rice-A-Roni. DeDomnico purchased the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in 1964 and sold both it and Golden Grain to the Quaker Oats Company in 1986.

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The NVRR acquired the right of way after Southern Pacific notified the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1985 of its intent to abandon the line. The new company’s plans to create a tourist-oriented Wine Train were strongly opposed by local community activists and several city governments. Some people disliked the noise and pollution of an active passenger train line in their midst, while others felt that the train would attract even more visitors to the Napa Valley, which they saw as already over-saturated with tourists…………well too bad….the Napa Valley Wine Train has been in operation since September 16, 1989 and has now carried more than 2 million passengers, the Tin Man being one of them.

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The Napa Valley Wine Train is one of the most distinctive Napa restaurants, offering an authentic, memorable experience that echoes the glory days of train travel, with fine dining service, multiple course meals, Napa Valley scenery and ultimate relaxation aboard exquisitely restored vintage rail cars.

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This top dining establishment is housed in a museum quality, antique train that runs on 25-­miles of track in the heart of the Napa Valley. The train itself has two engines, three kitchens on board and a collection of early 20th century Pullman rail cars faithfully restored with Honduran mahogany paneling, brass accents, etched glass partitions and plush armchairs that evoke the spirit of luxury rail travel in the early 1900s.

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The Tin Man booked passage in the Vista Dome Car.  With promises of dining in elevated splendor. 

The observation style dining car is expertly refurbished using Honduran mahogany paneling and brass accents, perfect for the Tin Man.

Upon arrival……….a glass of bubbly and an exquisite menu….

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Our 1952 Pullman domed railcar provided the most private dining experience as only guests with reserved seating are allowed in the dining area of this two-story car.

We had the most delightful server, Froy, ….who made the experience even more fantastic…

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The Hors d’Oeuvre arrived….Grilled Shrimp on Crispy Wonton with Sweet Pea Pesto and Endive….

…..with Raymond Estates Vineyard Private Reserve Chardonnay….

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The beautiful scenery passed us by as we noshed on these delights…

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First Course…..Red and Green Apple Endive Salad with Cambozola Cheese, hazelnuts and Mustard Vinaigrette…yes, yes…..

…my companion had the Crème of Cauliflower Soup (regrettably so, me thinks……hahhaha)

…..more Raymond Estates Chardonnay….of course..

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We so loved the Cambozola Cheese and our delightful server surprised us with some extra slices!!!

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Meanwhile the beautiful vineyards continue to be our vista as we gently roll through the Napa Valley…

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But yes, it is time for the Entrée ….Roasted Beef Tenderloin on Gorgonzola Toast with a Sauté of Vegetables in a Cabernet Reduction…

….OH MY……tooo much wine….the Tin Man forgot to take a picture of this course!

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The dining was marvelous as the dining room was above the kitchen and a dumbwaiter delivered the food directly to us…therefore our dining room was very quiet and peaceful…..it was quite the experience….

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I so wished that this train would continue for days and days so that the experience could go on and on and on……

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Some delightful sweets to end the journey….a Handmade Chocolate Truffle and White Chocolate Cheesecake with Raspberry….

Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald prepared such unique menu for our dining pleasure, a culinary symphony we shall long remember…

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But alas, our culinary journey has come to an end…..

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I hope you have enjoyed this trip aboard The Napa Valley Wine Train

and if you are ever going to visit Napa make sure you make reservations aboard this most delightful venue…..

CLICK HERE to visit The Napa Valley Wine Train site

 

Sawyer & Co. – Austin, Texas

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aaaaaaaaWell the Tin Man and his entourage were on the search for a new Foodie Venue to indulge in culinary delights..

We had heard of a new restaurant in Austin, Texas, that was getting rave reviews and much chatter….we ventured off

The food at Sawyer & Co. has been designed by Stephen Shallcross and consulting chef Happy Abdelbaki, longtime friends from Baton Rouge.

 The flavors and dishes of New Orleans  resonate in the menu choices: biscuits and pancakes with Steen’s Cane Syrup; jambalaya, gumbo, red beans and rice made with Manda’s sausage from Baton Rouge; and a po’boy bread from John Gendusa Bakery in New Orleans’ Gentilly neighborhood.

Breakfast offerings  include a rotating selection of omelets and eggs including a cheeseburger omelet and scrambled eggs with crawfish! – plus grits, Brabant potatoes, biscuits, pancakes, praline bacon, breakfast sandwiches, and tacos.

Lunch and dinner feature a daily blue plate special such as red beans and rice with cornbread, gumbo, jambalaya, roast beef with gravy and mashed potatoes – for the love of YUM

To see the MENU click HERE

The Venue is quite something in and of itself………….a 50s Diner that could be owned by the Jetsons themselves!

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We fell in love with the place immediately……

Check out the great booths and dining stools…

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We knew we were onto something the moment we walked in …check out the light fixtures and walls…

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and the clock……….so cool……

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We took a quick peek onto the Patio and it was just as incredible as the interior

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Astro Turf and such a fantastic environment…

To begin we had the most delightful Gumbo….rich dark and bursting with flavor….

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……..did you notice the pork belly…….you bet…..delicious…

then, of course, the seafood platter……..

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We finished with Key Lime Pie…..which we shared so no photo was taken because I had to fight for my bite!!!

If you are ever in Austin, Texas, check out this great food.  A bit of New Orleans Flavor with Texas Hospitality

By the time we left patrons were standing all around outside waiting for their turn at a table.

The Tin Man approves

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Adirondacks – Leaf Peeping : Saratoga – North Creek Train Trip

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We decided to venture off to New England to do some serious Leaf Peeping…

Included in that trip was a stay in the Adirondacks and a Train Ride on the Saratoga – North Creek Railway

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This train is also known as the Polar Express Train.  It is extremely popular and we booked our seats months in advance. 

We booked the Diamond Class Service, which gets you a very comfortable seat in the Glass Domed Cars and access to Full Wait Staff and Food……..you know how important those two items are to The Tin Man….

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The Train Ride from Saratoga to North Creek takes about two to three hours and is an amazing adventure…

Bloody Marys and Omelets were in order…

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The Sights along the way were breathtaking…as the train traveled along the Hudson River….

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It was just marvelous to watch all the beautiful scenery go by..

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The entire time the train staff was attending to our every wish and desire….

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Our visit to the Village of North Creek was quite fun……I went to the local hair salon, Trimmers, and got my hair cut while visiting with the most delightful characters…….in just one hour we had reimagined the entire town and designed all sorts of festivals!!

The train trip back was just as thrilling as the one up….

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Sorry for all the large pictures; however, the beauty was too great to insert small pics!

What a delight this train ride was………the day was just grand on all avenues….

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Until next time………bon voyage…..

Camp Lucy – Supper Club

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We have the great pleasure of knowing Whit & Kimberly Hanks and have so been looking forward to attending the Supper Club at their most marvelous and enchanting ranch, Camp Lucy…

Camp Lucy, home to the Texas Hill Country’s premier wedding and special event venues, is nestled on a gorgeous Hill Country ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas.

The property, owned by Whit Hanks, is named for his mother, Lucy Hanks, and its history as an idyllic family getaway.

CLICK HERE  or HERE for more information about this great place..

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The property’s path from family ranch to wedding and special event destination began when Whit’s oldest son Ian moved to Asia several years ago – an odyssey that, quite unexpectedly, would marry this Texas property with French Colonial buildings from Vietnam and inspire Whit to open up the family’s land so others could experience the Hill Country dream.

Upon Ian’s suggestion, Whit visited Asia, including Hanoi in Vietnam, where he discovered a wealth of French-Colonial antiques. As an avid antiques dealer and collector, Whit is always on the hunt for the truly unique and special antique and, in Vietnam, he found what could be the ultimate antique – an 1880s Catholic church. On the brink of destruction to make way for a new church, the gorgeous 19th Century chapel, built from intricately carved ironwood, was available for purchase. Whit was sold.

The chapel was carefully disassembled and packed in sea-land containers, all of the timbers and tiles painstakingly photographed, labeled, and provided with a diagram and video to show how the church would go back together for its new life in Texas.

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After a long sea and land voyage, the chapel arrived in Dripping Springs where it was reassembled and a campanile added to hold a 19th Century French bell which, today, signals happy events at Camp Lucy. The original chapel was soon joined by a second French Colonial church from the 1930s, reconstructed at Camp Lucy and roofed with 1920s Ludowici tile repurposed from the Bexar County Courthouse in downtown San Antonio. The courthouse was getting a new roof and now the deep green glaze of these antique tiles is the crowning glory on the Camp Lucy pavilion.

 

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The next chapter in the Camp Lucy storybook was written in December 2011 when the doors opened to a magnificent events hall. This addition to Camp Lucy, created from a repurposed Amish barn originally built from hand-hewn white oak timbers in Ohio in the 1800s, continues the unique design aesthetic of Camp Lucy.

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Today, the original chapel, pavilion, and events hall, along with surrounding gardens, stone terrace, arch, and great lawn are collectively known as Ian’s Chapel to honor Whit’s son who not only sparked this grand adventure, but also left this world far too soon on December 23, 2011, shortly after marrying the love of his life, Sandra Hanks, at Camp Lucy.

  Sacred Oaks, opened on September 22, 2013. Named Sacred Oaks to honor the space’s remarkable setting, the venue expertly blends the impeccable design and enviable style that are the hallmarks of Camp Lucy with the natural surroundings and, as with all things Camp Lucy, celebrates life, family, and new beginnings. 

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As you enter the property and drive across a small bridge, you realize that you are entering a very special place…

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We decided to book a cottage for the evening

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The Cottages are nestled together in a peaceful community..

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Brian was wonderfully attentive upon our arrival and his excitement about the evening’s Supper Club was contagious..

We opened the door to our Cottage and were surrounded by Hill Country Elegance and Charm

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The Bath was simply outstanding…

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Each Tub and Sink were carved from single blocks of Limestone…

After a quick nap …..it is time to be off to Supper Club.

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The Evening began with Soy Lacquered Pork Belly on Crispy Wonton with Carrot Ginger Relish and Pulled Port Tostaditas with Granny Smith Pico and Cilantro Aioli

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Then we sat for Supper…

Mizuna, Shaved Carrot and Daikon with Crispy Rice Vermicelli and Ginger Sambal Vinaigrette and Shredded Iceberg, Ovendried Tomato and Pickled Red Onion with Crispy Tortillas and Jalapeno Ranch Dressing……….must have been the cocktails……….I forgot to photograph this course!

Then we moved on to Garlic and Soy Braised Short Ribs with Mirin Cabbage Slaw and Sriracha Aioli and Smoked Brisket with Cider Slaw, Cotija and Chipotle Crema

accompanied by Tempura Fried Root Vegetables with Ponzu and Fire Roasted Grilled Seasonal Vegetables

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Followed by……….I know, what a divine feast……

Lemongrass and Red Chile Poached Salmon with Creamy Sesame Black Soba Noodles and Coriander Seared Snapper with Tomatillo-Mango Arroz and Ancho Lime Broth

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……….and for Dessert……Coconut Fried Ice Cream and Summer Peach Cobbler…

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We had the most marvelous waiter who was more attentive than any 5 Star restaurant server ever dreamed

Our Hosts were so kind and gracious…….Whit and Kimberly…….inviting everyone back for the next Supper Club

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Brian, the Lodging Manager, attended the Supper Club and informed us that he had something special waiting back in our Cottage..

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What a delightful evening it was!

After a wonderful breakfast in the Cottage Offices, we took a peaceful stroll about the grounds of Camp Lucy..

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But, Alas, it is time to go…….we glanced back at the Beautiful Camp Lucy as we drove away…

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Uncommon Journeys – Canadian Panorama – Across Canada by Train

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It began as dusk approached and gathered us into her arms….we walked to Union Station in Toronto to begin our train trek across Canada.

Excitement abounded……..we were all a dither with expectations of a wondrous trip…

Outside the station was a beautiful sculpture of the Olympic Torch..

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Passengers bound for distant points all converged together…

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The time drawing near for our departure…

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Uncommon Journeys (click here for information) conducts this two week fully guided tour across Canada, but once a year.  We had decided that we would give it a go.  Never had we been on a guided tour before and therefore our apprehension of someone owning our time was great. 

The itinerary for the trip included the following:

Day 1: Arrive Niagra Falls

We had a terrific stay at the Sheraton on the Falls (Canadian Side of Border)

You can read about that part of the Journey by clicking HERE

Day 2: Arrive Toronto

We had a grand time in Toronto the Westin Harbor Castle.  We spent our free day exploring this wonderful city which was highlighted by a welcome dinner at the acclaimed Canyon Creek Grill, a favorite haunt of the great and near-great in Toronto.  You can read about it by clicking HERE

Day 3: Depart Toronto

 The stunning train is a perfect 1950’s time capsule with the famed Vista-dome cars, a real old- fashioned dining car and first rate dining and service.

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The first night we joined for cocktails in the swank, end of train ‘Bullet Lounge’ before our welcome aboard dinner in the art deco diner as we roll west over the Canadian National Railway

We were given a private dining car to enjoy a most marvelous dinner..

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Day 4: En Route

We booked a Suite on the Train which gave us a king sized bed, two baths and two picture windows to enjoy the beautiful Canadian sights.

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It was amazing crossing the Canadian Prairies aboard the Canadian.

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Civilized amenities abound including hot showers, a special lounge just for First Class passengers and the best dining on any train in North America, deluxe train travel at its very best in a manner that has all but vanished. 

Each morning, the staff delivered Breakfast to our Suite…

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We had no desire to leave our suite and the cabin staff was so very attentive to our needs.

We enjoyed reading and before dinner cocktails in our suite, unencumbered by anyone…

 

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Day 5: En Route

We were overnight on train en-route as the Canadian sped across the great prairielands over the Canadian National Railway

The views were breathtaking…

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As part of booking the suite, the Canadians call it the Romance Package……and it was, we had Champagne and Flowers delivered to the suite each evening….

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Day 6: Overnight Jasper

After lunch the Canadian begins its ascent of the eastern slope of the Rockies, a not to be missed spectacle.

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This afternoon, we arrive in gorgeous Jasper and transfer to the Amethyst Lodge for our overnight stay in this magical and unspoiled mountain hamlet. All evening free to relax in this glorious setting

Wandering about the town were Elk…….what fun..

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We had a delightful time wandering about and visiting with locals…

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We dined at Papa George’s and had some of the finest French Cuisine…

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Day 7: Overnight Banff

We spent a stunning day of sightseeing as we traveled to Banff via the Columbia Icefields Parkway

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 We were thrilled to get a ride on the Glacier itself on a ‘Sno- coach’  before our arrival in Banff for our overnight stay

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Day 8: Overnight Banff

We enjoyed a full day in Banff beginning with the gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain

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followed by a visit to the Banff Hot Springs that have made this village famous.

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Later that night we had a special dinner at Le Beaujolais….

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Day 9: Overnight Banff

Another magical day with a sightseeing tour to Yoho National Park that takes in Bridal Veil Falls, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise with all afternoon at leisure to further enjoy Banff

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 A fun “selfie” with our great tour director, Patrick…

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Day 10: Overnight Banff

Our final day in Banff we planned to sleep in and to enjoy Banff at our own pace

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Day 11: Depart for Vancouver

We depart this morning after breakfast bound for Jasper with a special sightseeing tour north over the Icefields Parkway stopping at Peyto Lake and Sunwapta Falls en route….

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Later we board the westbound CANADIAN, featuring spectacular views of the Rockies from its many vista-dome cars, one of the great travel treats in the World.

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Drinks in the classic Observation Lounge are a highlight tonight followed by dinner in the diner as we roll west over the historic Canadian National Railway.

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Day 12: Overnight Vancouver

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The CANADIAN arrived in Vancouver after breakfast time…….we had the most marvelous Duck Confit Eggs Benedict on the Train…

 

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 We enjoyed a brief sightseeing tour of this beautiful city, Canada’s third largest.

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The balance of the day was leisure…. we found a delightful Japanese Restaurant, tucked away on a side street….

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We are anxious to get to sleep, because the next day we would meet Virginia of Bel’ Occhio’s Blog

Day 13: Spend the Day with Virginia

We spent a grand day with Virginia and the Good Husband…read about it CLICK HERE…

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Day 14: Journey Home

Alas, our incredible Canadian Adventure has come to an end….aboard the plane…….

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Home Sweet Home

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I must admit that as I close my eyes each night, the vision of our nightly Champagne comes to mind…

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Hope you enjoyed this trip across Beautiful Canada with us…

St. Lawrence Market – Toronto – Canada

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After our marvelous morning at Clafouti’s Patisserie it was time to explore more of Toronto

We are just in day two of our two week journey across Canada with Uncommon Journeys train exploration known as Canadian Panorama..

We hopped the Trolley to head back downtown……we exited the trolley early to walk about a bit and enjoy the sights…

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Our destination was the Famed St. Lawrence Market

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This market has achieved the status of Number One Food Market in the WORLD

……..well you know the Tin Man…..if it is about food, it must be explored…..

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We enter the Market and the World of all Culinary Delights embraces us….

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Okay…..Okay…..Okay…enough temptation……..time to eat (again)

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Oink……….Oink……….it was good!!

Time to explore some more….

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 ….and then before us …….. WHAT….THEY ARE GRILLING OCTOPUS…..my favorite….

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We find a table out on the patio and place our order….

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Soon the Delights of the Sea are before us……the aromas exotic and marvelous…

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Oh, Pure Heaven, this is the place to visit when in Toronto……but it is time to take to the streets again…

We do need to meet our Tour Group for Dinner Tonite…………ha….

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A quick stop at the hotel to freshen up and have a cocktail….

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Then it is off for our last meal on solid ground for the next four days…….so excited about getting on the train…

Excited about Dinner at Joe Badali’s Italian Restaurant…..

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We are a large group, so an Italian Restaurant is the perfect place…..the service is great and the food fantastic…

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Now that Dinner is done……we being the train trip…..stay tuned for that exciting adventure…

Hope you enjoyed our stay in Toronto…

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Niagara Falls – Ontario – Canada

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We began our Two Week Trek by Train across Canada in Niagara Falls

It was May; however, the Falls were still partially frozen…….Check Out Those Large Ice Chunks

This was the View from our Hotel Room. The Sheraton on the Falls…….Just Amazing

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Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between Canada and the United States

Here is a Photo of the Falls Completely Frozen over in 2014

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…….and one from 1911…

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From largest to smallest, the three waterfalls are the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.

The Horseshoe Falls lie mostly on the Canadian side and the American Falls entirely on the American side, separated by Goat Island.

The smaller Bridal Veil Falls are also located on the American side, separated from the other waterfalls by Luna Island.

The Views were Spectacular…

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The Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls is an international steel arch bridge across the Niagara River gorge, and is a world-famous tourist site. It connects the cities of Niagara Falls, New York, United States (to the east), and Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada (west).

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In the Mornings the Falls and River are Shrouded in Mist and Fog…….Enchanting….

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Strolling about the Park we found the Dogwoods beginning to Bloom…our Hotel is the building behind the Tree

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Of course, all that exercise worked up an appetite….Lobster Roll and Caesar Salad

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Back to the Falls for one more look………perhaps to sing a song……

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A Little Wine Tasting before Bed………

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Well off to bed…..this vacation is just starting…….

Thanks for coming to visit Niagara Falls with us…..hope you enjoyed!

 

Geneva – Switzerland

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The train leaves our beautiful Berne (click HERE to see that trip)  behind and we begin the last leg of our journey across Switzerland…

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Our final stop in this beautiful country will be Geneva ………

Geneva was a border town, fortified against the Celtic tribe Helvetii, when the Romans took it in 121 BC. It became Christian under the Late Roman Empire, and acquired its first bishop in the 5th century, having been connected to the bishopric of Vienne in the 4th.

In the Middle Ages, Geneva was ruled by a count under the Holy Roman Empire until the late 14th century, when it was granted a charter giving it a high degree of self-governance. Around this time the House of Savoy came to dominate the city. In the 15th century, an oligarchic republican government emerged with the creation of the Grand Council.  In the first half of the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation reached the city, causing religious strife during which Savoy rule was thrown off and Geneva allied itself with the Swiss Confederacy.

In 1541, with Protestantism in the ascendancy, John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, became the spiritual leader of the city. By the 18th century, however, Geneva had come under the influence of Catholic France, which cultivated the city as its own, who tended to be at odds with the ordinary townsfolk – to the point that an abortive revolution took place in 1782.

In 1798, revolutionary France under the Directory annexed Geneva. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, Geneva was admitted to the Swiss Confederation.

In 1907, the separation of Church and State was adopted. Geneva flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries, becoming the seat of many international organizations.

Situated where the Rhône exits Lake Geneva, it is the capital of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.

We know we have arrived as we see the beautiful Lake Geneva over the mountain tops…

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Geneva is a global city, a financial center, and worldwide center for diplomacy due to the presence of numerous international organizations, including the headquarters of many of the agencies of the United Nations and the Red Cross.   Geneva is the city that hosts the highest number of international organisations in the world.    It is also the place where the Geneva Conventions were signed, which chiefly concern the treatment of wartime non-combatants and prisoners of war.  As such,  one immediately misses the charm and quaintness of the beautiful city of Berne.

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The is beautiful art throughout the city……..

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The markets are bursting forth with marvelous goodies….

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Swiss Charm still surrounds you…….

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The hustle and bustle is so different from the feeling of the rest of this beautiful country……

The Grand Cathedral seems as if she has been caught in a spider’s web…

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As we leave the downtown area………a charming tune catches our attention…….

…..there he is a Hurdy Gurdy Man….

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….just when we thought all was lost…..

We enjoy our final days in this beautiful country……a nice Swiss Breakfast….

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……and then off to the train……looking out at our last views of the beautiful Alps as we cross into France…

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I hope you have enjoyed our journey ……….

Marsala – Sicily

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Marsala  (Lilybaeum in Latin) is an Italian town located in the Province of Trapani in the westernmost part of Sicily. Marsala is the most populous town in Trapani, and the fifth-highest in Sicily.

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The town is famous for the landing of Garibaldi on 11 May 1860 (the Expedition of the Thousand) and for its Marsala wine.

A feature of the area is the natural reserve of Stagnone Lagoon—a marine area with salt ponds.

The Salt Ponds and the Ancient Windmills used to pump the sea water out are so very beautiful…

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Marsala is built on the ruins of the ancient Carthaginian city Lilybaion, and includes the archaeological site of Motya island, an ancient Phoenician town.  See our visit to that marvelous place by clicking HERE.

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As we traveled to Sicily from Malta it was exciting to see the island coming into view…

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We stayed in our favorite hotel in Marsala, The New Palace Hotel

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We love walking the old city of Marsala, so filled with history and beauty..

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As with any ancient city in Europe, one must visit the Cathedral…

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We dart up the steps and enter the enormous doors …….what do we see…….. a wedding in progress…

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….up the side aisle we sneak, in order to obtain a better view of the goings on….

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What fun to observe this very formal event…we hurry to wait outside to see the newlyweds exit…

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What fun that was!

We had walked into the old town and on our way back we found the most marvelous restaurant…. Bucanieri

Look at the view from our table……..marvelous!!

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What a delightful meal we enjoyed, sitting and watching the chefs in the open kitchen….

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Crostini with Lardo and Fresh Tomato..

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Arancini di Riso and Sundried Tomato stuffed with Sardine…

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Octopus Salad

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Wild Boar Meatballs in a Rich Hunter’s Broth

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Delightful Frutti di Mari

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Tuna Steak in an Incredible Parsley Sauce

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Delightful cup of Rich Minestrone Soup

Then a walk back to the New Palace for some pastries..

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Nothing beats Sicilian Pastries…

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We so love Sicily and Marsala is always a delight to visit…..we hope you enjoyed spending some time here with us….

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Grosseto – Italy

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grosetto3You always know when you are entering Tuscany……the surroundings suddenly begin to look sculpted, as if you were walking in a work of art…

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Our destination is Grosseto, whose origins can be traced back to the High Middle Ages.

Grosseto was first mentioned in 803 as a fief of the Counts Aldobrandeschi, in a document recording the assignment of the church of St. George to Ildebrando degli Aldobrandeschi, whose successors were counts of the Grossetana Mark until the end of the 12th century.

Grosseto is enchanting, in part, due to the fact that the city is surrounded by ancient Medicean Walls.

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The walls embrace this beautiful city and no vehicles are allowed!  Peaceful, quiet and simply divine!

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  Grosseto has a long and turbulent history.  In 1137 the city was besieged by German troops, led by duke Henry X of Bavaria, sent by the emperor Lothair III to reinstate his authority over the Aldobrandeschi.

In the following year the bishopric of Roselle was transferred to Grosseto.

In 1151 the citizens swore loyalty to the Siena, and in 1222 the Aldobrandeschi gave the Grossetani the right to have their own podestà, together with three councilors and consuls.

In 1244 the city was reconquered by the Sienese, and its powers, together with all the Aldobrandeschi’s imperial privileges, were transferred to Siena by order of the imperial vicar.

Thereafter Grosseto shared the fortunes of Siena. It became an important stronghold, and the fortress (rocca), the walls and bastions can still be seen today.

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In 1266 and in 1355, Grosseto tried in vain to win freedom from the overlordship of Siena. While Guelph and Ghibelline parties struggled for control of that city, Umberto and Aldobrandino Aldobrandeschi tried to regain Grossetto for their family. The Sienese armies were however victorious, and in 1259 they named a podestà from their city. But Grosseto gained its freedom and in the following year and fought alongside the Florentine forces in the Battle of Montaperti.

Over the next 80 years Grosseto was again occupied, ravaged, excommunicated by Pope Clement IV, freed in a republic led by Maria Scozia Tolomei, besieged by emperor Louis IV and by the antipope Nicholas V in 1328, until it finally submitted to its more powerful neighbour, Siena.

The pestilence of 1348 struck Grosseto hard and by 1369 its population had been reduced to some hundred families. Its territory, moreover, was frequently ravaged, notably in 1447 by Alfons V of Sicily and in 1455 by Jacopo Piccinino.

Sienese rule ended in 1559, when Charles V handed over the whole duchy to Cosimo I de Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany.

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Later you will see that we had the privilege of dining in an ancient Medici building that was an amazing experience.

In 1574 the construction of the Medicean Walls was begun and we are so glad they survived and protect this beautiful city today.

We knew that our visit to Grosseto would include staying at the marvelous Grand Hotel Bastiani

grosetto4We had stayed here once before and fell in love with the old world charm and elegance of the hotel

It is located just inside the ancient Medicean Walls and on the Piazza Gioberti, in the shadow of the Cathedral of Grosseto…

grosetto6I do not usually gush on about hotels; however, this one is on the top of the list of our favorites…

A beautiful staircase….

europe2 162World Class service and an elegant dining room…

europe2 161Our suite was so very luxurious and comfortable…

europe2 163…..and nothing……….nothing beats an Italian Breakfast……..nothing….

europe2 160Okay, enough gushing…………..onto the city….

The Romanesque cathedral, the main monument of the city, is named for its patron St. Lawrence, and was begun at the end of the 13th century, by architect Sozzo Rustichini of Siena.

It was erected over the earlier church of Santa Maria Assunta, it was only finished in the 15th century (mainly due to the continuing struggles against Siena).

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The façade of alternate layers of white and black marble is Romanesque in style, but is almost entirely the result of 16th century and 1816–1855 restorations: it retains decorative parts of the original buildings, including Evangelists’ symbols.

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The layout consists of a Latin cross, with transept and apse.

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The interior has a nave with two aisles, separated by cruciform pilasters. The main artworks are a wondrously carved baptismal font from 1470–1474 and the Madonna delle Grazie by Matteo di Giovanni (1470).

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The campanile (bell tower) was finished in 1402, and restored in 1911.

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The Church of San Francesco is located on the Omonym Square, it was built in the Middle Ages.

It was an important Benedictine convent, before moving to the Franciscans.

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At the center of the cloister stands the characteristic Pozzo della Bufala (Well of the Buffalo) in travertine; another well is located in the square outside the church.

Then there is the Church of San Pietro. the oldest religious building in Grosseto, it was built along the stretch of the Via Aurelia that crossed the center and was originally a plebeian and stational church along the old consular road.

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The beautiful Palazzo Aldobrandeschi whose origins are medieval.  It is now a Neo-Gothic edifice with ogival mullioned windows and merlons in the upper part of the walls.

It houses the seat of the province of Grosseto. The architect was Lorenzo Porciatti.

europe2 165The city is filled with marvelous shops and the people are all so relaxed and friendly……………

…..I do believe it is the absence of vehicles!

europe2 166The weather was perfect during our visit and we enjoyed the moon during the daytime….

europe2 173As we venture about town we stumble upon an ancient structure whose upper portions have collapsed over the years…

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The Ristorante Locanda de Medici de Peccianti…WOW……….we must eat here!

europe2 176We find the entrance into the ancient Medici cellars that now house this fantastic restaurant…

We learn that these ancient cellars were used as bomb shelters during World War II…..

europe2 168We venture into a world of culinary delight….

grosetto10What a charming place and the wine selection……..oh swoon…….

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Leonardo, the Chef – Owner waits on us!  The pasta is hand made………no machines….

grosetto13The Cheeses are aromatic and delightful…

grosetto12the Seafood fresh and delightful…….

grosetto14What a delightful and enchanting visit we have had here in Grosseto…….now it is off to bed to dream of the rest of the journey ahead….

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……….until next time ciao!

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