Places to Go

European Festival (Volume 2)…

In the blink of an eye summer has begun and full-swing festival season is upon us.  The weather has been wonderful and the weekends full of opportunities to be out and about, but we are still a little wistful about last summer and our amazing European vacation. The European Festival was a good opportunity for us to get our fix of all things European, and so we did!  Beginning, of course, with the childrens’ passports. My little list maker was on task and focused so we were sure to collect a complete set of stamps:



I always love the cultural displays. There is nowhere else in town I could possibly find this much embroidery and pottery all in one place…

IMG_6257 IMG_6258 IMG_6259

One of the things I miss from Europe – slivovica!

IMG_6260 IMG_6261 IMG_6262 IMG_6263

Gorgeous pysanki – Miss G. tried her hand at the age old art for the first time too!

IMG_6264 IMG_6265 IMG_6267 IMG_6269

Boleslawiec from Poland… If I ever get there I will load my suitcase with these lovely pieces…

IMG_6270 IMG_6271

Amazing dancing…


…which put us in the mood for a little recreation of our own…

IMG_6275 IMG_6283

…before running into our favourite traveling minstrels! (Named after my favourite brandy. Coincidence?)

IMG_6287 IMG_6293 IMG_6295

This year the feature country was Turkey. Their booth was gorgeous too… Hopefully we will get there in person someday soon…

IMG_6288 IMG_6290 IMG_6291 IMG_6292 On our way past the food carts we ran into Uncle Trevor and his yummy looking snack…


…but we hadn’t finished seeing the cultural displays. Back on task!


IMG_6302 IMG_6304 IMG_6305 IMG_6306

One more pass by the grand stage…


…and a quick moment to relax before heading out into the sunset…

IMG_6308 IMG_6323

…only the beginning of a summer of adventures. So many places in the world to wander…

Places to Go

Europe… Boats

Over the last few months (since Christmas!) I have been going through the fun but time-consuming process of organizing our most recent travel pictures for the “albums”.  (I guess I should say “photo books” – so modern these days…)

It has been a very slow process sorting through photos from weeks on the road in multiple countries with various cameras but every minute I spend looking at the pictures it brings me back to the trip, and I could spend every minute doing it with pleasure!

Some time in the last few months the author of a lovely travel blog I enjoy reading posted some photos of boats that completely stole my heart… the light she captured in her pictures brought back summer for me completely.  Some of our favourite “family scavenger hunt items” when traveling are boats.  As I discovered them again when going back through the (seemingly endless) photos, just for fun I thought it would be nice to post them all together…DSCN2771 DSCN3091 IMG_0598 IMG_0631 IMG_0632 IMG_0633 IMG_0637 IMG_0638 IMG_0639 IMG_0928 IMG_0929 IMG_1332 IMG_1693IMG_1220

G.Jr. was a boat lover on our trip too – wearing his captain’s hat he proudly saluted (and was saluted by!) sailors in the street.  (Sailors are a common sight in the many port towns around the Adriatic…)  Maybe he has a little sailor in him, passed down from his Papa.


I hope you enjoyed looking at the boat shots as much as I have… they put me in the mood for another adventure.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” (Louisa May Alcott, Little Women)

Places to Go

Europe… Street Art

For the last few days I have been reminiscing about our summer holiday and posting some fun photos of our traditional family scavenger hunts (food, cars…) but this  post might be my very favourite… On this last trip, more than any other, I was struck over and over by the abundance of informal “street” art everywhere we went.  By the end of the summer all of us were joining in the search and sharing our discoveries.

For your entertainment:


IMG_0687 DSCN2613

IMG_3760 IMG_3761 IMG_3762 IMG_3763 IMG_3764 IMG_3765 IMG_3766 IMG_3767


IMG_0944 IMG_0945 IMG_0951 IMG_0953


IMG_1045 IMG_1046 IMG_1052


IMG_0664 IMG_0731 IMG_2125 IMG_2184 IMG_2194

IMG_0666 (2)IMG_0676 IMG_0678 (2) IMG_0729

Firenze…(Art installation)

DSCN3281 DSCN3282 DSCN3283 DSCN3284



(Street Art)

IMG_2371 IMG_2389 IMG_2399 IMG_2410 IMG_2447 IMG_2508 IMG_2709 IMG_2730

(Renaissance paintings – reimagined with a scuba theme?)

DSCN3289  IMG_2619  IMG_2728 IMG_2729

(Altered Street Signs)

IMG_2575 IMG_2732 IMG_2733


IMG_2762 IMG_2763 IMG_2764 IMG_2765 IMG_2766 IMG_2769 IMG_2770 IMG_2801




IMG_3087 DSCN3567 IMG_2818



Have you noticed any amazing urban art lately?  I am loving the way it surprises me in unexpected places…

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” (Edgar Degas)

Places to Go

Europe…Vintage Cars

Another one for the car lovers in our midst… I have  been a fan of vintage European cars since before they were vintage – as we are aging together I think it’s important to give them some well deserved love and attention.  Of course, for a North American girl, the best way to find European vintage is to visit Europe!  As we travelled around this summer I was thrilled to see so many well cared for classics out and about as daily drivers.  For your entertainment: In Grisignana… IMG_0851 IMG_0868 In Rovigno… IMG_1265 In Pola… IMG_1485 In Buie… IMG_1506 IMG_1762 IMG_1791 IMG_1794 IMG_1797 In Firenze… IMG_2471 IMG_2472 IMG_2649 In Pisa… IMG_2768 Driving north (the further north we went, the more volkswagens we saw…) a gorgeous Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus with a split window coming up behind us on the freeway… IMG_2824 …and heading off (maybe home to Switzerland?) IMG_2822 In Bellagio… IMG_2976 (Lago di Como in the background…) IMG_2998 IMG_3000 IMG_3003 Sirmione (Lago di Garda in the background…) DSCN3628 In Trieste… IMG_3826 IMG_3829 IMG_3942 IMG_3946 …and in Renata and Ferruccio’s garage in Cranzetti.  I am hopeful that they will lend this one to me next time… IMG_3995 Looking through these photos is making me wish for spring time weather so that our own classic car can get out of the garage and back on the road!  Wherever your road leads you today, I hope it’s filled with fun and adventure…

Places to Go

Europe…Grocery Stores and Markets

Although things have been busy as usual around here, many of our friends and family are deep in the mid-winter blues and dreaming about spring… Whenever I get a moment of feeling blue these days I spend some time reminiscing about our summer holiday in Europe.  I posted so many photos that you might have felt like you were there with us, but I saved some special ones for just this time when I knew I would be dreaming of the next holiday.

One of my favourite things to do on any trip is investigate the various grocery stores.  It is extra fun to do so in foreign countries!  You really never know what you might find. Continental Europe has a fascination with English and uses it rampantly on random products. While Nonna shopped I had many laughs with the children trying to find strange and silly examples on the shelves. Also fun and fascinating: searching for unique products that don’t exist in our part of the world. Every place has its own specialty, and we were in the land of my favourites!  Bread, pastries, cheese, sausage, ice cream, wine… I was in love.  Every time we shopped it was like being in the best European deli ever, except it really was Europe… Delicious.

Fun with labels:

IMG_0691  IMG_0699 IMG_0702

Off the shelf options that are gourmet wish lists here at home:

IMG_0701 IMG_1482 IMG_1483

First sign that Europeans take their coffee very seriously:


Endless sangria mixing options:

IMG_1688 IMG_1690

Pastry case from paradise: (this one is in Venice – the meringues alone are making my mouth water…)


Chocolate bar aisle in Switzerland: (very serious – do not fool around with less than amazing chocolate…)


Things I wish I could buy at our local:

IMG_0692 IMG_0700 IMG_1484 IMG_3514 IMG_3757 IMG_3961

IMG_3516 IMG_2734 DSCN3108

The largest (and cheapest) selection of wine and (Mr. Martini approved) beer:

IMG_3809 IMG_3756 IMG_2262 IMG_1702 IMG_1701 IMG_1522 IMG_1062 IMG_0705

This five litre bottle of wine was 20$.  20$.  Why am I still here?!

IMG_0697 IMG_0696

Grocery store takeout: (one million times better than the hot dog stand at Costco, and cheaper…)

IMG_1698 IMG_1699 IMG_1700

But the very very best thing about being a food lover in Europe is the easy abundance of roadside groceries…










These photos are just a tiny slice of a pretty wonderful  holiday – I hope your world has something delicious in stock to tide you over until your next vacation too!

Places to Go

European Farm Life…Finale


We passed our final days in Europe with visits from friends and relatives as our children cemented their status as real locals.


They participated in the tomato sauce making process (sugo, fatto in casa!) so for dinner we had a roast and pasta, accompanied by sauce from tomatoes which, that morning, were just growing on the vines in the fields. Amazing. The children spent the best part of their time “helping” with the canning in the yard, and ferrying the various parts of the process in and out of the cantina during sudden spurts of rain. One other highlight: a visit to the pumpkin patch, and then the required scrubbing of two very dirty farm children!








Our final beach excursion was to Zambrattia – a very family oriented beach with an easy lagoon for the children to play… Perfect weather as it was not too hot. We finally had a chance to bake the cold and damp of our northern adventures out of our Canadian bones!





We were back in Matterada in time to freshen up and head out for dinner in Petrovia at Kantina Melon. All thirteen of us this time – a great family send off.







I had to have the truffles.  The ravioli was perfect: stuffed with soft cheese and covered in shaved truffles. I soaked up the sauce with crusty bread to savor every mouthful… I could eat this meal every day and never be tired of it!


Still, I coveted Matteo’s volcano pizza. Next time!  The other options – especially  the meat platter – were incredibly well received all around the table…








We finished the day back in Matterada for grappa (gooseberry?) and evening conversation… this really is the good life.

Another day meant more cousins coming to visit, and then a special trip to the cemetery and a candlelight mass.  I hope my children never forget how much love was poured out for them in that tiny church…

After mass and a farewell visit with the priest we ran into more cousins again just outside. We said more goodbyes before walking home to find another festa underway – the sampling of the latest pride of Matterada: sour cherry liquor.  It was a bittersweet ending for our last night in the village…

On our very last day Nonna and Zia were outdoing each other in the kitchen. We ate all day. Pancakes and thick crispy bacon for breakfast, then a packing marathon to make all of our gifts and souvenirs fit. (Mr. Martini is the champion of the luggage scale, and eventually it all worked out although we have to leave some things behind… )

For lunch we had the last of the homemade food: pasta with homemade sauce and sandwiches with prosciutto, cheese and olives… More visiting friends and then a last minute visit to Cranzetti – I can’t believe we only made it here at the very end! Renata and Ferruccio’s garden was as beautiful as always.











For our last meal:  fried potatoes, chicken cutlets, bean salad, muscato… Apple hazelnut struccolo for dessert with ice cream from Trieste (my favourites: hazelnut and pistachio… ) and then one last festa out front with everyone gathered together and prosecco to toast…

Then – the saddest part of every trip – the long goodbye.

Our village-to-Vancouver journey had countless incidents and anecdotes too, but the most meaningful one for me was this – a quote I noticed in the movie I watched on the long flight home:

“To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain.  Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.” (Celine, Journey to the Edge of Night) (Quoted in the movie “La Grand Bellezza”… great film!)

This was the trip of a lifetime in many ways, and it is hard to accept that we are back home again with life “as usual” unfolding around us.  There were life changing moments every single day, and writing them out here has only made me more nostalgic for them – I am really counting the days before we get a chance to go back…

Something I am grateful for, although it wasn’t anticipated: the effect of Europe on my children.  The chance to see and live in a different place, with different languages, different money and different culture has changed the way they look at and experience their regular every day world.  It has opened their eyes and hearts and minds to the wide world beyond their own front step.  It has created questions and conflicts, it has intrigued and inspired, and most of all it has created a kind of curious empathy that is impossible to teach without real life experience…  They will never be the same, and for that above all else, I am so incredibly overjoyed, in awe, and overwhelmingly grateful!

Every voyage has a story – this was the story of one family on one voyage, and I hope that this is only the beginning of a lifetime of stories from all of us…



Places to Go

Sirmione and Lago di Garda…

Back into the world of summer – Lago di Garda!


(Photo by Miss G.   – the best one out of all the 500 or so that we took…)

The waves were giant and crashing against the shore.







We finished our epic day of travelling with a walk to enjoy the view of the lake and of the castle in the old city just across from our hotel at the tip of the peninsula.



We stopped for dinner at a restaurant that seemed quiet and unassuming from the front:


(Il Cavallo – specialty of the house is horse meat, although we weren’t adventurous enough to try it.  Seriously!)  We were completely surprised to find a great party underway out back on the giant and gorgeous patio.  This is where all of the locals are – literally all generations and personalities were represented.  Amazing!  Pizza for dinner (quatro stagione, capricciosa)…



…and then gelato of course – we are back in Italy!  (mandorlato, fragola, cioccolato – extra dark!)

It was nice to be down to only two languages, brief as it was. We stayed at the simple but serviceable Hotel Ganfo, where “Albergo” and “Bar” are separated by a partition only, and attended by the same Cameriere. A bit dicey for a while as our passports submitted for registration were lying on the bar next to the sliced lemons…  The kids were thrilled with their bunk beds though, and we were all in need of a good night’s rest!  It was calmer on the lake in the morning. Another travelers breakfast – chocolate croissants and cold cuts, yum! Our morning adventure:  after a tour of the local morning market we visited the historic town of Sirmione. We walked up the peninsula into the town – a huge wind and a stormy sky meant we had to put on layers – but we came over the moat through the town/castle gate into the land of holiday sun.





Look!  A lion!


Sirmione is a tiny gem, in spite of the hordes of gelato eating tourists. The castle is impressive, and the buildings are dripping with flowers and vines.



Not quite in the Veneto, but the Venetian flag is flying…



















We wandered in and around the alleys, dodging the occasional car, and marveled at the loveliness of this tiny jewel of the lake… (rewarded of course with gelato: chocolate mint and mela…) then climbed back into our little car for the last leg of our circle journey…

Next stop: one last trip to the big city -Trieste- and then our emotional final days of the farm life that we love so very much…