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Photo courtesy of Tom Dempsey.

Tuesday, October 23

Italy's Gelato, Siena and Andrea Bocceli

The sweet surprises of Italy, from it's finest gelato, to the fabulous but understated Tuscany city of Siena, and the beautiful tenor voice of Andrea Bocceli. The recent opening of the world first gelato museum, The Gelato Museum Carpigiani in the outskirts of Bologna, in Italy's Tuscany region, has left me reminiscing about Italy's lovely treasures, beyond the typical tourist spots.

What I remember fondly of my travels to Italy was having gelato almost every day. And, why not? With all the walking one does while visiting Italy, it's logical to reward yourself with the splendor treat of a gelato. It's just as refreshing as having a beer on a hot summer day, but, even better, because the kids love it too!

Courtesy of Carpigiani
Courtesy of
Did you know that gelato was once a symbol of prestige, as its key ingredients of ice and salt were very expensive in the times of the House of Medici in Florence, a power prominent family famed for its power and producing popes. An alchemist and astrologer invented gelato in the 16th century. You can learn all about gelato's history, sample a bit, and learn how to make your own gelato at the Gelato Museum Carpigiani.

A lovely surprise while touring Tuscany was landing at the Piazza del Campo in Siena. If we didn't have to find a laundry mat, we wouldn't have discovered the uniquely beautiful city, with a square made of red bricks arranged in fishbone style, divided into a sunburst pattern by nine strips of travertine. The construction was in memory of the Government of the Nine, who ruled Siena from 1292 to 1355.

Siena hosts the famous event of Palio di Siena which is a horse race, in which ten jockeys race on bareback three times around the piazza, and lasts not more than 90 seconds. Preceeding the Palio is the Corteo Storico, a historical costume parade. The Palio takes places during the summer, on July 2 and August 16. The Piazza is also a market filled with wooden Pinocchio dolls. We still have the Pinocchio that we bought for my then 2 1/2 year old daughter.

When I left for Italy, I had a request from a dear client of mine for the CD of Andrea Bocelli. While in search for it, I went shopping in the boutiques of Siena. Although I've been to Milan prior to Siena, it was still great fun to shop and see the fashions offered only in Italy and in the boutiques. There were no Benettons there as there were in every street corner in Rome.

Now that the classical tenor Andrea Bocelli has become a household name in the US, we hear his music a lot. Every time I hear the song "Time To Say Goodbye", which sold 12 million copies worldwide, I am moved and taken back to the delights that an Italian travel could only offer.     

Tuesday, October 2

Octoberfest: Celebrating in Munich and Leavenworth

Oktoberfest: A time for Celebrating in Munich or in Leavenworth

Oktoberfest is the world's largest fair, lasting for 16 days in Munich, Germany, from late September to the first weekend of October. You can partake in the celebration in its birthplace of Munich, or if in the Pacific Northwest, in the Bavarian town of Leavenworth in Washington State.


As an impressionable 19 year old touring Europe for the first time, the Hofbrauhaus was a boisterous venue with good tasting beer, lively music, and the best pretzel in the world. What better way to experience Bavaria, but, to be in Munich!

A few highlights of Munich during Oktoberfest include Augustiner Keller and Lowenbraukeller. As a traditional beer hall, Augustinerkeller boasts a 5,000 seat beer garden. With a 800 year old history, it's no wonder locals regard their beer as one of the best in the world, and can be found in most bars around Munich.

If you want to dress up in the traditional Bavarian wear, head out to Lowenbraukeller, another 800 year old beer hall and garden, and be transported in time. You'll feel like royalty with its medieval castle exterior and tall gothic spire.


Just a two hour drive outside of Seattle is the Bavarian town of Leavenworth. With more sunshine than Seattle, many locals gravitate towards this lively place during the three weekends of Oktoberfest, but, also for all the outdoor activities, including the beautiful Autumn foliage.

Leavenworth invites both young, old, couples, and families to Oktoberfest. We enjoyed the dancing and music. The kids especially liked the Chicken Dance. As the evening progressed, it became more lively, which signaled families to head back to their hotels.

It's best to plan ahead with accommodations, because it really is a good idea to be able to walk back to the hotel. Our favorite go-to hotel, The Enzian Inn, with its outdoor and indoor pools, ping pong table, and mini-golf was already booked.

Whether you're in Europe, and come hop on the train to head to Munich, or you're in the Pacific Northwest, with Leavenworth just a few hours drive, Oktoberfest is a celebration not to be missed. With the season changing, and the anticipation of Winter, Oktoberfest in Munich or Leavenworth is a festive way to embrace Autumn.