Last September we had the joy of sailing with a small group aboard the Uniworld S.S. Joie de Vivre cruising from Paris to Normandy. Everyone loved the experience onboard – the service was outstanding and the food was amazing. One of our (many!) highlights of the trip was a group cooking class in the on board Wine Cave – La Cave des Vins.
Being in Normandy, we had a welcome cocktail made with Calvados (local Apple Brandy) followed by a 4 course food and wine pairing. The whole group assisted with all the food prep and cooking. Our first course was an amazing sauteed foie gras atop a vanilla apple – which Continue reading →
This happens every time we GetAway. We take a ton of pictures while we’re travelling and then after we get home we struggle to find time to sort through them, find the best ones and share. So for today’s post we just grabbed some random ones from our recent Paris to Normandy river cruise that we hope you’ll enjoy. So, well…enjoy away!
This was our third time to Versailles, but our very first to see the Queen’s hamlet. It’s a beautiful setting and makes for a great day of touring. You can read more about it here –The Queens Hamlet
I think you can tell we love River Cruising. But it’s not just us (although we are pictured above), our friends and clients love it too. The Joie de Vivre was an amazing home for 7 days.
Yup it’s just a picture of cheese in France. Call us guilty – we are from Wisconsin and we love cheese enough to take pictures of it.
Artwork as seen through a store window in Honfleur, France. This gorilla looks to need a glass of single malt scotch to go with his cigar. We didn’t buy this painting as we don’t know where we’d hang this in our house, however if you have a place for it – a trip to Honfleur might be just the thing you need.
Speaking of Honfleur – here it is. It’s a gorgeous town to visit.
The American cemetery in Normandy is a humbling beautiful place to visit. Words cannot express the gratitude.
This is a view down a stretch of Omaha beach. The coast line is rugged and looks much the same as it did in 1944
Sainte-Mère-Église is now famous for a true incident portrayed in the movie The Longest Day. The incident on D-Day involved paratrooper John Steele whose parachute caught on the spire of the town church, and could only observe the fighting going on below. He hung there limply for two hours, pretending to be dead, before the Germans took him prisoner. Steele later escaped from the Germans and rejoined his division when US troops attacked the village. Look closely and you’ll see a mannequin with a parachute hanging from the church tower today
Water lillies and France – must be the home of Monet. Some of Monet’s most famous paintings are of his garden at Giverny.
Random visit to a pop-up market behind the exclusive Domaine Les Crayères hotel in Reims. Yes we’re in the heart of Champagne and this is a craft beer tent. It was a very happy moment for Paul!
There is a lot of limestone in the soils of Champagne. Our Wine expert is showing us the ancient sea creature shells embedded in the stone on the Reims Cathedral. He explained the calcium in the limestone is present in the wine and now that we’ve been drinking Champagne, there is a bit of the region of Champagne in all of us.
You should definitely go for the night time light show at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. But during the day you get better close up shots of the statues and this one is missing the top of his head. Perhaps his hat blew off in a strong wind.
Speaking of hats, this one looked great on Pierre, but we don’t think he actually brought it home.
Sitting outside in Hautvillers, France for a wine and food tasting. That’s a lot of glasses! It was all so we could taste some of the individual varietals that go into Champagne. Hautvillers itself is famous for the Abbey of St. Peter which existed here until the French Revolution. The Abbey was the home of Dom Perignon, a rather famous Benedictine monk whose work in wine-making helped to develop champagne. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?
Speaking of Champagne how about a place called Billecart-Salmon? They create fantastic wine and it was a great Champagne house to visit. We discovered that in his college years, our host (center of photo above) spent a year in Milwaukee. You can imagine we quickly bonded over that. Yes it is a small world!
Hmm….you may be wondering…yes it is a foosball table – perhaps the best one ever. We discovered this one at Ruinart. Come for the bubbles and stay for the foosball!
Well that’s just a sample of some of our activities and the sites we visited. These pictures don’t even include our cooking class in Reims – you can see that on youtube here. Champagne is a quick train trip outside of Paris. While it was not part of the river cruise – we went there for a few days first prior to the 7 days on the river Seine. If we can help make your France (or any other location) travel dreams come true – please give us a call or drop us a note.
Please join us for an exclusive on-line River Cruise Night with Avalon Waterways
Presented by Nancy Baumann & Sharon Pendergast – Avalon Waterways
Tuesday, November 12, 2019 | 7:00 PM CST
If you want to see the world, cruise down its legendary rivers. If you want to see more of the world, look no further than Avalon Waterways. Their ships feature one-of-a-kind Panorama Suites with the widest opening windows in river cruising, open-air balconies, and beds facing the incredible views.
Beyond the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows is a world waiting to be explored—your way. Whether you want to enjoy a guided walking tour of one of Europe’s great cities, join a cooking class or paddle a canoe, their Avalon Choice selections of Classic, Discovery and Active excursions offer a wide range of possibilities. When you prefer to explore on your own, they can help you with all the recommendations, information and gear you need. And when it’s time to refuel, your dining options on board are as wide open as your views.
This post is not about travel. It’s not even about activities to do when travelling. It’s sort of about a travel tip, but not completely.
Sue has been on an AIP diet for almost a year now. It has many challenges as it is highly restrictive. For example: no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no processed foods, no nuts or seeds, no nightshade vegetables, no refined sugars. The diet is used to help heal the gut to reduce inflammation caused by auto-immune conditions.
The diet is not all about “no” though. Examples of foods we regularly consume in our house are: grain fed beef, organic chicken, wild (not farmed) seafood, coconut products, olive oil, vinegar, many fresh organic fruits and vegetables (with the exception of nightshades), herbs and uncured bacon. We’ve gone from a typical midwest US diet to routinely making items such as our own bone broth, mayonnaise (we recently added eggs back in to the diet) and snacks. We still have an occasional Friday Fish Fry – but it is all AIP compliant. That may need to be the subject of a different post!
First off – What exactly is AIP?
(from healthline.com) The autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet is … food-based approach to eliminating unwanted inflammation in a person’s body. It’s a diet that’s thought to help heal your gut to reduce inflammation created by autoimmune conditions.
Why post this here?
Well we make these special chips for ourselves which travel well and make for a great snack when out with friends at some of our favorite wine bars (also added back in). They are crunchy, salty, AIP compliant and quite delicious. They are not difficult to make, but might take a little practice to perfect.
In addition you will need parchment paper, rolling-pin, pastry blender, measuring cups and of course an oven.
As these are so good we will make a double batch!
Preheat oven to 350F
Measure 2 Cups of Arrowroot powder and put in mixing bowl. Arrowroot is ground extremely fine so be aware a cloud may rise up if you just dump this in.
Add about 1/2 teaspoon of Baking soda into the bowl.
Melt 1/2 cup of the Unrefined Organic Coconut Oil. Unrefined is solid at room temperature. Do not use refined liquid coconut oil.
Coconut Oil – 1/2 cup melted in microwave
Hand mix these ingredients together with your pastry blender.
Mixture after adding coconut oil
Cutting in Coconut oil into the dry ingredients
Add 1/2 cup + ~ 2 tbsp of cold tap water. Mix well – the material will stick together extremely well after adding the water. Too little water and it is hard to work with – too much water and it will look like quicksand.
Mix after adding water and it will be quite sticky/oily – this is a good thing
Form 2 even sized balls of dough by hand. They should stick nice when pressed together. This is not regular bread dough though, kneading is not necessary and they do not form a sticky gluteny blob.
Lay out some parchment paper about the same size or a bit larger than your cookie sheets. Put 1 ball in the middle of the parchment paper
You can see the oily look which occurs after adding the water. This is exactly what you want.
Lay a second piece of parchment paper over the first and press the ball flat with your hand.
With the dough in between our 2 pieces of parchment paper, roll it out to about the size of your cookie sheet. I generally roll it to the short ends first and then work it towards the long ends to finish. You may find you need to use the rolling-pin as a squeegee to get the dough to size and a somewhat uniform thickness.
Here’s what it looks like after being all rolled out
Place the whole thing on your cookie sheet – and then gently pull away the top piece of parchment. The bottom stays in place during the cooking process. DO not try to take the dough off the bottom parchment as it will not stay together until it is cooked
Top piece of parchment removed. Nice sheen on dough – this will disappear quickly if you let it sit – so salt it immediately
Sprinkle Kosher Salt across the dough to taste. You could also add other herbs if you wish at this point such as rosemary or thyme. Let us know if you do and how you liked it. No matter what – with just salt, the final taste will be excellent
close up with salt added before putting in oven
Here is the oven arrangement we commonly use. As we seem to frequently multi-task, some delicious uncured bacon is cooking on the middle shelf. We place the Arrowroot chips on the top and bottom. The bottom one will finish first and when it does, move the top one to the bottom shelf if it needs more time.
How long does it take to cook? This is up to you – cook it until it browns – maybe 10 minutes, maybe longer. We’ve never really exactly timed this part.
Why the bottom shelf? You will get nicer browning this way if your oven heat source is on the bottom. “Brown food tastes good”
Finished product after removing from oven – nicely browned
2nd one made at the same time – some may say it’s a little burnt – but really those are quite tasty parts. With a little experimentation you’ll figure out how you like it best.
Once you remove from the oven, let it sit until cooled and then break it by hand into whatever sizes you like. It is crunchy. It is salty. It is AIP compliant and very satisfying. The closest flavor it brings to our mind is corn chips, but actually much better.
Sue eats it plain or dips it into Organic black olive Tapenade.
Lot’s of our friends and customers have asked for the recipe and instructions – so here it finally is. If you think more clarity is needed or something is missing – please leave a comment and we will update.
If you are also on an AIP diet it can be quite a challenge when travelling – believe us we know. These Arrowroot chips travel well but you will need to put them in a hard sided plastic container so they don’t break during your trip. We have lots of first hand experience on what vacations and locations are easier for AIP compliance than others – so if you need help with this, just give us a call. 262.538.2140
I’ll admit it. I’ve been lots of places all around the world, but have never been to Boston. Two things I know about Boston: First is Sam Adams. Jim Koch believed that beer drinkers deserved a better American beer than what was available in the 1980’s. And was he right! Look at the proliferation of craft beers and breweries all across the US. Samuel Adams Boston Lager had a huge impact on the future US landslide of flavor packed beers. Second thing I know about Boston is Boston Rob from the CBS show survivor. Rob and his wife Amber both individually won different seasons – her in 2004 and him in 2011 after his fourth appearance! As a couple they both appeared on Season 7 of the Amazing Race – they were masters of the game, and finished in 2nd place, just short of the big prize.
For this trip, we’ll be in Boston a couple days early and will visit Freedom Trail sites in the downtown area. The city was founded in 1630 and got its name from an English village. Many of the events that led to the American revolution including the infamous Boston Tea Party in 1773, started here In 1775, Paul Revere helped spread the word that the British were coming (no tweeting in those days). The next day “the shot heard round the world” was fired, signaling the start of the American Revolution. And the rest as they say is history.
What first pops into your mind when you hear San Sebastián, Spain? Is it the beautiful seaside beach or maybe the wonderful restaurant opportunities within this Basque city? These two things after all are what why scores of people flock to visit this region of Spain – I mean just think about a day at the beach followed by an evening of the pintxos (small tapas like food available at almost every bar in San Sebastian) or dining at one of the 16 Michelin Star restaurants. That alone makes me want to go back!
Ah, but have you heard about the gastronomic clubs or societies? In San Sebastian, these gastronomic clubs have been around since the 1800’s and today there are approximately 119 in existence in the city (over 600 in the entire Basque region). These clubs were initially established as a place of refuge for men – a place for them to socialize and cook away from the women at home who were the “boss”. Today, many of the clubs are still men only and it is not uncommon to find clubs with over 100 members.
To visit, you must have an invitation or be brought by a member. Well visit I must – I just had to see what they were all about! In September, I visited San Sebastián and made it a point to book a visit to Los Corcones gastronomic club. This club has a professional chef (all clubs cook together, but not all have a member who is an actual chef) so I knew I was in for a treat.
Together with 3 friends, we met the chef and started our walk-through Mercado de la Bretxa, the 150 year old market that was bursting with sights and smells you can only imagine. Here Bendur, our chef went about choosing items that he would cook during our visit to his club. He shared samples of his favorite ham and other specialties as we shopped.
Then it was just a short walk until we arrived at what looked from the outside like any ordinary stone building – that was until he pointed out the club sign announcing our arrival. The Sociedad Cultural Musical Benefica “Los Corcones”, with its 2-blue fish logo (and yes this club even has a band!).
As he opened the door, I was immediately in love with the quaint set of rooms and old country style kitchen (but with some heavy-duty ovens) and checkerboard tableclothes. I could not wait for the gastronomical experience I was about to have. He put us to work preparing the plate of tapas and pintxos – oh did you think this was a sit and be served sort of visit – heck NO!
Up first was a sampling of Spanish cheese, olives, sausage and of course a sardine or two (enough food really for 20 people). When the sampling began, we sat around a table and talked about his club, the food and the traditions…and somehow the 4 of us polished off a majority of that food. We felt the pride he had for his country, his food and his club. Now this is the way to really experience another countries culture.
Just when we thought we could not eat or drink anymore and the real cooking began! We were served some traditional Basque seafood dishes and yes, I must say, they were tasty! This visit to a private gastronomical club was one of the best foodie experiences I have ever had. We left with a true understanding of the culture by way of not only the food but through the opportunity to dine with the chef. It was a truly amazing experience which I encourage you to try.
Being offered a “free” dining or beverage package seems to the be sign of the times today in ocean cruising bookings. Every cruise line has its own twist on the perks offered but these two are always in the mix of offerings.
So, which do you choose? You love to eat and…. okay you like to consume adult beverages too, thus the dilemma exists.
Now, my first recommendation is talk to your travel professional because all “free” perks are not created equally. For example, some lines charge service fees associated with their “free” while others do not. Most lines have a dollar limit to drinks available using the perk and the big difference is how they handle those drinks that hop over that limit. For example, let’s assume your drink limit is $13 but you really want to try that $16 martini. On some lines, you would pay only the $3 extra, on other lines you would not be able to use the beverage package and be charged the full $16. Note from one wine snob to another: Serious wine drinkers (those who won’t drink the house wine at a bar and who don’t drink much in the way of other alcohol) should think twice about the “free” beverage package because it isn’t likely to have wines that will make you happy. You, may want to consider choosing the free dining perk and then buying your own wine package.
Dining packages are no different, you really have to do the math regarding which perk will be best. Example: you are on a 7-day cruise, your perk is 3 nights in a specialty restaurant, on board credit, free wifi or the beverage package. What is the value of those 3 nights dining? Let’s say the price is $35 per visit to the specialty restaurant x 3 = $105 but the onboard credit is $150 per person…..which is better?
Remember a particular cruise line can only speak to and only wants to sell you their product, they cannot offer you a side by side comparison like a travel professional. We can help sort all that out and can search across all cruise lines for the best perk offering out there.
Remember when you’d return to school after summer break and the teacher would assign the dreaded “what I did on my summer break” essay? I mean, growing up in small town Wisconsin, did they really think we did something worth writing about?
I’m older now but that same question still haunts me each and every time I return from a sun/sand vacation to Mexico, Jamaica or the Dominican Republic. Seriously, um…it was hot and sunny and all inclusive. Need I really say more! Yet people always ask and somehow I seem to feel obligated to elaborate…..so here goes.
Unlimited food, unlimited beverages, super bright sun, wonderfully cool air conditioning, afternoon naps and a few great books. Need I really say more?
Sure there is beach volleyball, pool games, aerobics, yoga, snorkeling and excursions if someone is so inclined but for me a beach chair, book and sunscreen are all I really want or need.
That is the beauty of a beach vacation. One can do as little or as much as one wants, be waited upon or go jogging on the beach, catch up on that elusive thing called relaxation or play hard. The all-inclusive beach sun/sand vacation has something for everyone.
Some of the great places we’ve found particularly wonderful recently are: Secrets Cap Cana and Breathless Riviera Maya. Here’s my travel professional opinion:
Beaches – Secrets Cap Cana
Food – Breathless Riviera Maya
Room – Secrets if you are more modest, Breathless if you are there with someone special and want to spice things up a bit
Service – top notch at both places
Pools – both have a quieter pool and a more active pool so it’s a toss-up
Have you ever taken a European river cruise? Have you ever cruised with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises?
Our customers love to cruise on Uniworld. In fact it has one of the highest rates for repeat trips amongst all the suppliers we use.
You may very well ask why that is. Well for starters, the standards of accommodations, food and service are extremely high. The ships have very tasteful interiors and yes they are all different, with each being as unique as your voyage. Typical cruise lengths are 8 – 15 days and everything is included, making for carefree and truly effortless travel. Included are: scheduled airport transfers, all dining on board, unlimited beverages (including many premium spirits), personalized shore excursions, fitness center, Wi-Fi, on-board entertainment and all gratuities.
OK – is this a commercial? Yes it pretty much is and here is why. We currently have some very special amazing prices on select Uniworld Cruises including our group cruise in April 2017 from Amsterdam to Antwerp. This “Tulips and Windmills” cruise is scheduled to coincide perfectly with a visit to the famous Keukenhof gardens which has over 7 million bulbs in bloom each spring. Additionally we will visit the windmills of Kinderdijk, the picture perfect villages of Veere, Hoorn and Enkhuizen, and the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Bruges and Antwerp. So much to see and so much to do but you need to act fast. Why? Because our amazing special pricing only lasts until October 11. Give us a call at 262.538.2140 to reserve your spot with our group.
For additional details on the ship and the trip you may also want to visit our web page.
European vacations continue to hold great value. The US Dollar remains at historic low levels vs. the Euro. This is good news for travelers to Europe as you definitely get more bang for your buck. Our best advice for Europe is to plan ahead – this is not a destination that typically rewards the last-minute traveler. The best way to start planning your European vacation is to schedule a consultation with Sue.
River Cruising continues to grow and for very good reasons. Our clients absolutely love to take River Cruises. All it takes is to try it once and you will rave about it forever. Be aware however that not all river cruise companies are equal. You can research endlessly on your own, or you can call us to discuss. Our goal is to find out about what you want to do, how adventurous you are, what you like and what you don’t like. What are your travel dreams? Our recommendations are simply based on you and your needs, that’s it.
All Inclusive vacations will remain hot, hot, hot. The industry continues to upgrade old properties and build new ones. There are All-Inclusives for all tastes and budgets. Well we know you want a warm weather, beach destination, but are you looking for a romantic escape or a family/multi-generational getaway? Do you want basic dining choices or a more gourmet experience? How does a canopy covered bed and open air shower sound? Or a private plunge pool within mere steps of your suite? The choices go on and on. We can help narrow it down to something you will love.
According to the experts, air ticket prices are down but add-on fees are up. The simple fact, is you need air tickets to get to many vacation destinations. They are the transportation, not the vacation.
Cheap will remain, well….cheap. While the dictionary defines cheap as inexpensive, it also defines it as something of poor quality or shoddy. Continue to be cautious about anything advertised as cheap, supercheap, ultracheap, etc. A fantastically cheap vacation is not a good value if it is actually craptastic (this is our official industry word for cheap vacations!). Everyone wants good value and that’s where we help – get the best value for your money that actually gets the vacation experience you are looking for. Will it be cheap? We certainly hope not.
The best things in travel continue to come to those who plan ahead. For example, how about planning 2017? You may not be ready yet, but we are. We have 2 special group options worth considering.
Join us in January 2017 for our GetAway on the Getaway. We will do all the following: go down the highest water slides at sea, attend award-winning Broadway shows, experience Iron Chef dining, walk the plank and be endlessly entertained and pampered. Book now and choose between Free unlimited drinks, Free Specialty Dining, Free Shore Excursions or Free WiFi.
In September 2017 we will be hosting a very special Wines of Western Europe group on the Azamara Journey. Beginning in England, we will sail to France, Spain and Portugal. Azamara specializes in unique itineraries that include overnight stays in many ports. Our group will be in Bordeaux, one of the world’s foremost wine regions for 3 days. But that is not the only World Heritage region we will visit – see our web page for all the details.