Category Archives: travel

What to make of Italian Maiolica?

It is distinctive and highly decorative

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And it is one of he great Italian crafts.

When most people think of Italian ceramics, they think of maiolica—the rich, colorful wares that became famous in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries across the Italian peninsula.

So where can one find maiolica? From the above article,

You might be tempted to scarf up a colorful vase or set of dishware on your trip to Florence or Siena, but the best advice is not to buy ceramics in the cities at all.

There is a historical reason

That’s because historically, while Florentines and Sienese consumed maiolica in great volume, the fear of fire breaking out in the kilns was so great that most ceramics centers developed far from the cities. Some towns in the Tuscan countryside grew up around ceramics production. One of the most important of these is Montelupo Fiorentino.

Hmmm … a side trip from Florence?

Located thirty kilometers west of Florence and accessible via car or train, Montelupo Fiorentino supplied the demand for maiolica, and their wares were shipped on barges down the Arno to Florence and beyond. Today, you can trace the history of this important Tuscan ceramics tradition in the Museo Archeologico e della Ceramica (piazza Vittorio Veneto 10/11, Montelupo Fiorentino, 0571 51352).

The town looks like this

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Another view

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The tradition of making ceramics goes back to the 13th century.


I Hear She’s a Real Bitch

A line from Monty Python? Something overheard at a bat mitzvah?  The assertion “I hear she is a real bitch” does tend to “gird the loins”. But before you are overly girded, I would point out that the title of this post is the title of a book by a lady by the name of Jen Agg.

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Mrs. Agg is a Toronto restaurateur. and a successful one at that. Her style? One might call it artisan aggression. Something that you either love or hate. Toronto Life offers a close up.

The point is that her new restaurant, Grey Gardens got a rec from Bon Appetit, which is odd given that Jen Agg trashed the Bon Appetit food editor in social media a while back.

She called out Bon Appétit editor Adam Rapoport as “incredibly smarmy and tone-deaf” after he commented on a podcast that people don’t eat during fashion week (he blocked her that day).

Her Rhum Corner also has its fans. Would it be worth a sojourn to Toronto?


Following Mr. Tuna in Portland, Maine

Maine is one of those vacation destinations that is just off the radar screen. Not because people don’t love it. But Maine just doesn’t flaunt itself.  That is not the way things are done up there.

So I was glad to see that Bon Appetit has named Portland, Maine the restaurant city of the year. Nice! Then I read the article about what is going on in Portland, and I thought “Wow! I need to go there!”

And Mr. Tuna? He is just one player in that restaurant scene.  Here is the blurb

Follow Mr. Tuna (a.k.a. Jordan Rubin) and his Japanese-style temaki hand rolls to whatever location he’s popping up at that day. Equipped with only a rice warmer, two Yeti coolers packed with his mise en place, and a cutting board, Rubin frequents breweries and special events serving impeccably fresh seafood. The spicy scallops and crab roll is a bar snack par excellence, but it’s the crab with yuzu mayo and avocado that convinced me to buy a Mr. Tuna T-shirt. I’ve got no problem being a walking advertisement for the guy.

Here is his set up

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and the menu?

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And the t shirt!

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Check it out!

A Vacation in Paradise … Gardening Paradise, that is!

It was not too long ago that the thought of traveling in order to learn how to cook would have seemed strange. But now, people rave about it. And why not learn how to cook Italian in Tuscany? Or learn French cuisine  in Paris? At least part of the draw is the chef/teacher.

So why not gardening? I have not heard of all that many vacation gardening packages, but today I bumped into this one – at the Belmond Le Manoir., a destination that was invented by Chef Raymond Blanc. Here he is!

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And the story?

Blanc opened his hotel and restaurant of the same name in 1984, swiftly banking two Michelin stars and establishing a culinary destination that has lured guests to the single-pub village of Great Milton for over three decades.

And where?

Belmond Le Manoir operates from a 15th century manor house built of sand-colored limestone and ashlar, surrounded by lavender-rimmed walkways, duck ponds, and apple orchards.

Something like this

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And now for the news

… last year saw the launch of the Raymond Blanc Gardening School, which allows customers to book day courses at the property.

We are talking about something like this

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… class begins at nine o’clock in the morning at a trestle table in the glasshouse, where the students meet over a basket of pistachio pastries. There are a maximum of eight participants per course, and two instructors hand around mugs of coffee while we go over our subject for the day: growing herbs and vegetables.

Want to find out how the day progresses? Here is the link! Go for it!

What is Patrick Blanc Up to in Bangkok?

If you have not heard of Patrick Blanc, he is the “godfather” of vertical gardening. He has done fantastic living installations that transform concrete into living eco-systems. This, for example, was how the Max Juvenal Bridge once looked

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After Patrick Blanc did his thing

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Blanc has done work all over the world. Here is a sampling.

His “orchid wall” is pretty wild!

And what is he up to these days?  How about this in Bangkok?

Here is another view

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BTW, the building is pretty cook as well

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Yes! It’s shop till you drop time!

Pic of the Day: Moroccan Colors at the Medina of Tetouan

There is a city called Medina, and it is a very holy place in Saudi Arabia. But the word also refers to a section of a city that you find in Northern Africa. It was usually surrounded by walls, and has many narrow streets. Cars do not fit there. The medina in Fez is considered one of the largest car free sections of any city in the world.

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Care for a tour? Click here!

The pic of the day is from the medina at Tetouan.

Tetouan Medina

Tetouan is one of the two major Mediterranean ports in Morocco and it is very close to Gibraltar.

The above picture is from a tour of its medina. Here is the link!