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Monday, July 2, 2012

Italy's Fabulous Amalfi Coast with Giovanni!

Since 2003 I have known about the stunningly beautiful Amalfi Coast but it wasn't until I connected with Josephine and Giovanni of Italy Limousine that VM Travel is finally able to offer an enjoyable and relaxed tour of this crazy, busy coastline with tiny villages tucked under the famous cantilevered coastal highway. Well, one cannot really call it a highway when it is impossible for two tour buses to meet at certain places and it can sometimes back up traffic for hours!  However the vistas, the terraced lemon groves  and tiny italian villages are well worth the effort.
The seven of us started our tour in Rome and once we got the "big city" out of our system we made our way down to Naples where Giovanni met us with  a comfortable van large enough for ourselves and our luggage!  We took a couple of  stops at Mt. Vesuvius to hike up to the crater and Pompeii to saunter through this huge metropolis in ruins before meeting Anna at La Vecchia Quercia. She treated us to a lovely gourmet meal created from her own kitchen - one of the best meals we ate in Italy!  The next day we spent in the country side touring the vineyards near Taurasi. Thank goodness for Giovanni's GPS as they are not easy to find in the rolling hills and terraced vineyards of Campania. Here we discovered the delights of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Aglianico. Now try finding these varietals in a Canadian Liquor Store! Almost impossible! To add to the culinary experience we visited a Bufalo Mozzarella farm to see how this delicate cheese is worked into those lovely round white balls -mmmmm Que Buono when it is fresh!  My sister, Glenys  and I foundered ourselves of Insalata Caprese (fresh bufalo mozzarella , tomatos and basil) and we all know what can happen when one eats too much cheese, right Glenys???  After that, a visit to the magnificent Greek ruins at Paestum was not to be missed!  We enjoyed another great meal casa Anna, this time we contributed as she taught us how to make fresh pasta and a simple gelatin- fresh orange juice dessert! Our stay at La Vecchia Querica  was fabulous as we were perched up on the hill in lovely accommodation with fireflies entertaining us in our dreams!  Grazie mille Anna for the copious breakfasts with your fresh and varied produce topped off with, what other than a CAPPUCINO!

We spent one full day navigating the Amalfi Coast from Salerno to Sorrento with Giovanni as our guide!  Some decided to hike up to the clifftop Ravello, some decided to enjoy lunch in the square and do some sketching. In all there was plenty of time to shop and peer over vistas in one of the most beautiful towns on the coast. After a brief stop in Amalfi (more coffee and do-nuts for Eunice!) Gio delivered us to the port in Sorrento for our boat ride to the Isle of Capri. We lucked out as most people were returning from their day in Capri and we had the boat to ourselves as we arrived in the evening.  Villaceselle  arranged for our pickup in the tiniest pickup you can imagine. We realized that the size was necessary on the tiny little roads that took us up to Anacarpi to our lodging!  Needless to say, we did need another transport and that just happened to be a canopy taxi  specially built for the Isle of Capri. Four of us got to enjoy this open air ride while the rest of us road with the luggage piled high around us!!
Definitely it was worth the effort to go to the highest point on this Island, Anacapri where the real people live!  The town of Capri is full of tourists, designer shops and big prices. Cecelia  happened to recognize Tonny Bennett, but he did not recognize her so they did not have a chat!  Besides, he was too busy with the lovely lady on his arm!   We were glad only to have a quick look around before heading back up to our villa to great shopping with the local flavour.

 Besides hiking along the rugged coast (actually Paul was the only one who really enjoyed it, but then he is an elan!) we all enjoyed the boat ride around the Island as we ducked into caves and craned our necks to see the calcaire clifftops.  The hotel restaurant Gelsomina, again with stunning views from the restaurant and the swimming pool served us up some wonderful fresh fish and house wine on the terrace - a relaxing afternoon much deserved after the 3 hour morning hike!
We parted ways in Naples after a farewell dinner at the Transaltantico Hotel nestled in a port full of yachts and Mt Vesuvius as the background!
Ciao everyone!  Thanks to Trevor for keeping us on time and to Kim for gathering up the flock, when we were lead astray! Yes, often!!!

From Harris to Paris!


Harris to Paris!
This spring twelve women from the prairies with artist Liza Gareau-Tosh of Routes Gallery in Harris, Sask. participated in a discovery tour of the French Impressionist Artists in the south of France. All the participants did not know each other but it was their love of the Impressionist movement that brought them together on this voyage and it will not be their last! 

 From Dawn McKenzie at her ranch near Rosetown!
“Hello Everyone,
We've been home for a week and I am still dreaming of France, literally. Every time I lay my head down I am on the other side of the world with a group of women tossed together like a fine salad (I'm sure I have a picture of that).  Last night the dreams were in Paris, so
soon I'll be home.  All these dreams and how long they are lasting after arriving home is truly indicative to the strong friendships and the "impression" you all have had on me.” Says Dawn McKenzie of Rosetown, Sk. Corinne and Natascha of VM Travel adventures took them off the beaten path to Renoir’s small town of Cagnes sur Mer, Cezanne’s Mont Ste Victoire which he painted over 80 times,  Van Gogh’s colourful 18 months near Avignon and finally Monet’s Gardens in Giverny.  These sites combined with lots of wonderful food, markets, wine and picnics made this a life changing experience. "The order of the tour was so perfect....we knew the who, saw where some of them lived and experienced what they produced, all in two short weeks. We travelled by plane, train and automobile; ate a vast menu from frogs legs to goat cheese; drank copious amounts of wine all whilst creating friendships that I'm sure will last a lifetime."

Liza Gareau-Tosh, herself having visited France for the first time claims that she has "crossed over to the other side. My life will never be the same and now I realize how much more there is to see and experience” .  Liza’s  animated blog of the trip can be read at www.routesgallery.wordpress.com   Enjoy!
Next tour for Saskatchewan women is to exotic Morocco in April 2013.  Contact Corinne or Natascha at VM Travel for more information on this tour or propose a tour for a group of 12 of your friends – wherever and whenever you want to go.  We inspire Saskatchewan women to be all they can be.
www.customwinetours.com    1 877 423 5007