It’s all about the Sangria, Barcelona

Sangria on Barcelona Wharf

Sangria on Barcelona Wharf

One of my favorite things about Barcelona is the Sangria!!!! I have been to Barcelona twice and both times, fully indulged in the Sangria. The picture above is at a restaurant on the Barcelona Wharf. Need I say more. What makes Spain’s Sangria so deliciously unique is…..the full body and character of the wines made in Spain. Sangria can taste like watery soup if made incorrectly.

Eons ago were the wine-loving Romans in Spain who wisely discovered when settling in the area that the climate was ideal for growing grapes. As time passed, Europe’s penchant for wine-based punches enhanced with fruit and often other alcohol.

Sangria at Barcelona Wharf

Sangria at Barcelona Wharf

There are all kinds of sangria, it can be made with red wine (my favorite), white wine or rosé (Rosado in Spain). Sangria by definition is a “fruity wine punch”. The Spanish word Sangre means blood. Sangria is a

Sangria on La Rambla

Sangria on La Rambla

wine from Spain, Portugal and Argentina. It normally consists of wine, chopped fruit, a sweetener, and a small amount of added brandy. Chopped fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, apples, peaches, melons, berries, pineapple, grapes, kiwifruit and mango are commonly added. The usual sweeteners are honey, sugar, syrup, or orange juice . You can really make sangria your own by substituting brandy for other liquids such as Seltzer, Sprite or 7 Up.  In some parts of Southern Spain, sangria is called zurra and is made with peaches or nectarines.

Sangria is served throughout Spain and Portugal during summer. Sangria is often served in 1-litre pitchers or other containers large enough to hold a bottle of wine plus the added ingredients. Among the Spanish and Portuguese, sangria is most typically served at informal social gatherings, much like punch, from a punchbowl. Sangria is often served with a wooden spoon, used to get fruit out of the bottom of the punchbowl or pitcher.

Sangria was initially introduced to the United States in 1964 during the World’s Fair in New York. Although many believe that this wine punch has been around in Europe in various incarnations for hundreds of years.

Sangria is so pretty!!! Traditionally sangria is served in a pitcher but at parties I have served it in a large, glass container with a spout because it looks gorgeous. If you serve it this way, be sure to have fresh fruits that were marinated in the sangria overnight, on the side so people can add them to their drink. Another fun idea is to make two sangrias- one for kids and people who prefer not to have alcohol and one for the adults. When making the sangria for kids, use white grape juice instead of wine and omit sweetener. It is a great party drink for all seasons. I have served sangria at winter parties with apples, cinnamon sticks and pears floating inside.

National Sangria Day is December 20th!! When making or ordering sangria, what you must know is that the main ingredient – fruit is what differs the types of flavors for sangria. In addition, whether or not spritzers are added.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Here is a recipe for authentic, basic Spanish sangria

1 Bottle ( 26 fl. oz) Spanish red wine

1 tablespoon sugar

Juice of 1 large orange

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise

1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise

2 cups sliced strawberries

1 liter 7-Up (add last minute)

1 cup of Grand Marnier

Refrigerate over night and add 7-Up at the last minute!!!

ROSÉ and SUMMER FRUIT SANGRIA
Rosé wines are popular and very delicious to use in sangria, particularly when combined with ripe, in-season fruit. Serve with small forks so you can pull out fruits swimming in the drink and eat them.
Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus chilling time
Makes: About 5 to 6 (2 glasses each) servings
2, 750-mL bottles dry rosé wine
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange liqueur
1/2 cup (125 mL) icing sugar, or to taste
2 medium, ripe apricots, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 large plum, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 medium ripe nectarine, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 cup (250 mL) fresh blackberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh blueberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh raspberries
1 medium lime, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups (500 mL) soda water
Ice

1. Pour the wine and orange liqueur into a large bowl. Whisk in the icing sugar until dissolved. Taste and add more icing sugar, if needed. Add the fruit, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
2. When ready to serve, stir the soda water into the sangria mixture. Fill a pitcher or two, depending on size, half full with ice. Ladle in the sangria and serve.

This recipe was found at life.nationalpost.com

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Vatican, Rome

Vatican

3 generations at the Vatican

We decided to explore Vatican City as three generations of girls!!! It was an extremely hot day and thankfully we purchased our tickets in

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter’s Square

advance so we were able to bypass waiting in the long, hot ticket lines. The Vatican is a very high tourist area, as you can imagine and therefore, swarms of people gather around the outside and inside. The ticket lines looked like hundreds of people standing in the blazing sun. There are several parts to tour within Vatican City, so be sure to research what you want to do and see. There are tours which include several buildings or just one. I did not have the kids with me that day and to be honest, I think it would be too boring for them. The tours are long, crowded and require a lot of standing and walking. Please note, shoulders must be covered upon entering the Basilica. I brought a scarf because it was easy to carry around, provided coverage and was much cooler than a sweater.

Apostolic Palace

Apostolic Palace

The Papal Apartments have been the official residence of the Pope in his religious capacity since the 17th century. The Papal Apartments in Italian are called appartamento nobile and appartamento pontificio.

The apartments have ten large rooms including a lobby, a studio office for the secretary, the pope’s private study, the pope’s bedroom in the corner of the building, a medical suite, a dining room, a small living room, and the kitchen. In addition, the apartments have a roof garden and staff quarters for the nuns who run the household. The pope greets and blesses visitors to Saint Peter’s Square on Sundays from the window of his small study. The top four windows to the right are where the Pope resides. The pope lives there for all months except July to September, when Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo is the official summer residence.Three of the last five popes, John XXIII, John Paul I, and John Paul II, died in the Papal Apartments.

The Vatican is located in Vatican City also known as Vatican City State, in Italian is officially Stato della Città del Vaticano. The Vadicanis a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome.  The population in Vatican City is 836 in 109 acres and was founded on February 11, 1929.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is a Late Renaissance church located within Vatican City. It was designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. St. Peter’s is the most well known work of Renaissance architecture and remains one of the largest churches in the world. While it is neither the mother church of the Roman Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. St. It is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites and has been referred to as “holding a unique position in the Christian world” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Peter’s_Basilica

The basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter’s tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter’s since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the time of Constantine. Construction of the present basilica began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626.

The Pope holds a number of services throughout the year, which audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people gather , either within the Vatican Basilica, or in St. Peter’s Square. The picture of the Square shows all of the seating present when the Pope speaks.

St. Peter's Basilica

Altar with Bernini’s baldacchino

Altar with Bernini’s Baldacchino: Bernini’s first work at St. Peter’s was designing the baldacchino.  The baldacchino is a pavilion-like structure 98 ft tall and said to be the largest piece of bronze in the world. The baldacchino is located underneath the dome and above the altar. Bernini’s idea for the baldacchino was for something other than the typical white marble and colored stone. Bernini designed four enormouscolumns of bronze, twisted and decorated with olive leaves and beesto represent Pope Urban.

The dome of St. Peter’s 448.1 ft high from the floor of the basilica to the top of the cross. This is the tallest dome in the world. When designing the dome, the architects of St. Peter’s looked to the domes of the Pantheon and Florence duomo. St. Peter’s is  the greatest dome of Christendom.

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Tomb of Pope Alexander VII

Next I took a picture of the Tomb of Pope Alexander VII. The color of the marble in person is indescribable. It is so vibrant with gold, orange and amber tones. At the age of 80, the Italian artist Gianlorenzo Bernini designed the sculpture Tomb of Pope Alexander VII. It is located in the south section of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. The piece was commissioned by Pope Alexander himself. Construction of the monument didn’t start until 1671 and then was finally completed eleven years after the Pope’s death in 1678.

Just as you leave the Chapel, you will pass the Monument to Gregory XIII on the rightIt was built by Camillo Rusconi in 1723 out of white marble. The moument was influenced by Algardi in its structural linearity and the expressive peacefulness. The monument is known as the Figure of Knowledge and represents the pope giving his blessing.

Monument to Gregory XIII

Monument to Gregory XIII

Let’s talk food!!! After a long tour of the Vatican, everyone is hungry. As we departed the Square, there was a cafeteria-style restuarant to the left with some of the best Italian food we experiencedDSC07833 in Rome!!! We were starving and just started walking and saw tons of people gathering outside in line, sitting in the outdoor seating and it was so noisy. You could hear espresso machines going and dishes clanking around. I think we grabbed one of everything and all shared.

IMG00079-20100913-1526$$ saving tips: Vatican City is located right off of a stop on the double decker bus in Rome. If you choose to take a cab, it will be more expensive and there are long cab lines. The buses have designated stops right outside of the Vatican Square which is easy access to and from shopping and restaurants. The double decker bus picked us up right in front of our hotel, Westin Excelsior Rome. Be sure to bring your camera to the Vatican, as they do allow pictures inside. I was quite surprised because many museums won’t allow flash photography. We saved money by eating outside of the Vatican, ordering food family style and sharing it all. Plus it’s a great way to try everything!! Look up information on the double decker bus stops at http://www.rome-tours.net/?event=offer.detail&offerId=2154&startDate=07/01/2013&endDate=07/31/2013

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine

Trevi Fountain, Roma

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You must see The Trevi Fountain, Fontana di Trevi, in person!! Pitcures of the fountain do not capture size nor the details in the marble and travertine. The fountain is 85.28 feet high and 160.72 feet wide, spilling over 2 million cubic feet of water each day.  The fountain is a display of ancient roman acqueduct termination and constructed of carrara marble and travertine.

In the center of the fountain you will see a statue of Ocean which was carved by Pietro Bracci standing under the trymphal arch. When viewing the fountain, you will see a statue of Abundance to the left and on the right side, a statue of Health.

Drink stand by fountain

Drink stand by fountain

The Trevi Fountain was within walking distance of our hotel. The walk there was nice on a sunny day in September. The legend of the Trevi Fountain is that you are to throw 3 coins into the fountain over your shoulder and

Fontana di Trevi

Fontana di Trevi

then you will be ensured a return to Rome! Must be true as I threw the coin in the fountain in September 2011 and I ended up back in Rome less than a year later in June 2012. There is a famous song called ‘Three Coins in the Fountain’.

For more information on the meaning of the inscriptions on the fountain and history, please visit http://www.trevifountain.net/

Fontana di Trevi

Fontana di Trevi

$$ saving tips: It is free of charge to view the fountain. There are an abundance of cute boutiques and restaurants tucked in alleyways all around the fountain. Most of the bistros advertise their original pizza by having waiters stand out on the street waving you in. As we stopped off in wood shop to purchase a Pinocchio ornament, the manager said to be very careful of where we ate as many of the restaurants serve pizza made from frozen dough and charge a lot of money due to the location near the fountain. He gave us the tip to look in the restaurant for a wood burning oven and ask to see it if they say they have one. His advice was great! That way we knew where to order authentic Italian pizza made in a wood burning oven.

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine

Antoni Gaudí Structures, Barcelona

Roof top of Gaudi's Casa Mila

Roof top of Gaudi’s Casa Mila

View from the roof top of Casa Mila

View from the roof top of Casa Mila

Barcelona is known for it’s architecture and one of the most famous architects,

Casa Mila

Casa Mila

Antoni Gaudí’s gothic style structures. They are very unique by design and interesting to tour inside. We were able to view a few of them during our one week stay in Barcelona. Sangrada Familia is probably the most recognized and visited structure by Gaudí and for this reason, I have created a separate post specifically about Sangrada Familia. So be sure to check out that page by clicking on the word “Sangrada Familia” on the right hand side of the page under “topics”.

Antoni Gaudí is from, Reus, which is a small town south of Barcelona.  A

Casa Mila roof top

Casa Mila roof top

‘Modernisme’ movement took place towards the end of the 19th century in Catalonia that extended from ca. 1880 to the First World War. This movement was similiar to other currents such as Naturalism, Arts and Crafts, and Art Nouveau. It was motivated by a return to traditions as an expression of national identity, as well as by the introduction of modern techniques and materials as part of progress. This Modernisme movement was very different from anything else as it pertained to cultural identity. The movement expressed literature and music, painting, sculpture, decorative arts and, of course,  architecture.

As we rode the Barcelona Bus Turístic around, we saw long lines in front of  Gaudí’s, Casa Milà. Later we found out that tickets are available for purchase on line in advance, thus avoiding the lines. The long lines indicated that this was a poppular Gaudí

Roof top of Casa Mila (La Pedrera)

Roof top of Casa Mila (La Pedrera)

straucture to tour and so we decided to take the kids and see for ourselves!! The best times to tour the bulding are before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., otherwise be prepared for crowds. Upon entereing the building you will walk through a downstairs area which has gorgeous glass window formations and indoor courtyards. Go up the elevator and walk around the roof top viewing the clay colored, head formations. The bulding displays what high end apartment life was like 100 years ago. Casa Milà is unlike any building I have ever toured or seen for that matter. I was a little nervous walking around the roof tops as it is very high and you walk up and down hilly, narrow pathways. Upon exiting the building there is a book store with unqiue gifts and souveniers.

Roof top of Casa Mila

Roof top of Casa Mila

Casa Milà  is also known as ‘La Pedrera’. It is a very unusual looking building, which was built between 1906 and 1912 by Gaudí (1852–1926).  La Pedrera is the headquarters of Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera and includes a cultural centre. This bulding is known for an array of activities which are organized, exhibitions and other events.

Price information to tour Casa Milà:
Adult: €16.50
Student: €14.85
Disabled: €14.85
Children (six and under): free
Children (seven to twelve): €8.25
Casa Batllo from bus

Casa Batllo from bus

Another one of Gaudí’s masterpieces is the Casa Batlló which opened in 1877 and is located in the heart of Barcelona. Casa Batlló is a remodel of a previously built house.

When riding the Barcelona Bus Turístic around you will see Casa Batlló which is located in the very heart of Passeig de Gràcia. Gaudí’ wanted this building to have marine inspiration, such as a dream world, which portrays nature with its earthy elements and bits of fantasy.
The house was originally the residence of the Batlló family. Then, Gaudí included a huge gallery which projects several meters out over Passeig de Gràcia for all to see! He also added large oval-shaped feature windows and inserted stone columns in the shape of bones, and balconies in the shape of masks or gothic figures. On the top of the building there is a spectacular roof which resembles a dragon’s back. In addition, there is a tower with a cross rising up with four arms pointing north, south, east and west.

Gaudí is known for his representations such as an animal’s spine on the roof terrace using tiles of different colors on one side and the use of trencadís mosaic technique on the other. The roof also displays four chimney stacks. Gaudí completed a full refurbishment of the building using innovative techniques and creativity.
Barcelona City Council selected the house as a candidate for the 1906 award for the best building.

Price Information to tour Casa Batlló:
Adult: €20.35
Student: €6.30
Children (six and under): free
$$ saving tips: Most of the Gaudí structures can be viewed from the Barcelona Bus Turístic. It gets expensive purchasing tickets for an entire family at each building. Some structures you really have to view from the inside, such as Sangrada Familia. However, other structures are shown very close up from the bus. The bus also provides information about the buildings and drives slow enough to take pictures. We were lucky as the bus came to a complete stop often times in front of the buildings due to traffic. Be sure to ride on the top deck to get the best view. The Sangrada Familia must be toured inside to see the various colors of gorgeous marble columns throughout. There are so many museums and building to see in Barcelona in addition to all of the Gaudí structures. The best way to save money is to ride the bus around first, take pictures of everything, and map out what you want to return to. Casa Milà was worth paying for the tour. You don’t need to pay for the guided tour with the head set. We did and then ended up just reading our way through and taking off the annoying head phones.
5wheelsto5star is featured monthly Destinations Travel Magazine

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

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Leaning Tower of Pisa

You may recall hearing the stories about The Leaning Tower of Pisa in history. The tower was originally designed in 1173 to be perfectly vertical, but started to lean during construction and was eventually completed in 1399. The tower originally stood at 60 meters high and now is 56.67 meters at the highest point and 55.86 meters at the lower end. The tower leans at a 10 degree angle. The Italian name for the tower is Torre Pendente di Pisa. The leaning Tower of Pisa is medieval architecture, in Romanesque style. The tower was built in two phases, which included a total of 5 architects. The tower weighs approximately 14,500 tons. The Leaning Tower is the Piazza’s crowning glory.

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View from top of the Leaning Tower

Climbing the tower: There are 297 steps that you must climb to get to the top of the Leaning

Top of Leaning Tower

Tower. A purchased ticket to view the tower has a specific time to enter, in 30 minute intervals. It is important to note that if you will only be in Pisa for one day, you should visit the tower in the morning to ensure your ticket for the day. Depending on how busy it is that day, your ticket may be for several hours out or even sold out for the day. The second time I went to Pisa, we were on a tour which arrived in the afternoon and only allowed two hours to explore. When we went to purchase a ticket to climb the tower, the first available was three hours out and our tour would already be gone. My family was devastated to travel all the way to Pisa, just to be turned away. The afternoon is quite busy in Pisa. Keep in mind that buses drop tourists off constantly throughout the day. We wasted an entire 30 minutes of our 2 hours at the Square just waiting in line at the bathroom. If possible, use the restroom outside of the square. When purchasing a ticket, they require that all bags, purses and any belongings be checked into a locker (for a fee) prior to entering the tower. If you have asthma, I recommend bringing your inhaler into the tower. I didn’t think to bring mine and left it behind in my purse – big mistake. When climbing the tower, there aren’t any railings to hold on to and it is very narrow with people passing as they are coming down. It is odd climbing up steps which aren’t level and it can cause dizziness climbing in a circle for 297 steps. Nonetheless, it is worth it when you get to the top! The view is unbelievable and you can see the entire square. Bring your camera to take pictures at the top.

The Square of Miracles

The Square of Miracles

The Square of Miracles

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Duomo di Pisa

There are four buildings that make up the cathedral complex in Pisa, Italy, called Campo dei Miracoli or Piazza dei Miracoli, which means Field of Miracles. The cathedral, or Duomo di Pisa, was the first building constructed at Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa, which rests on a white marble pavement and is an impressive example of Romanesque architecture. Just west of the dome, lies the next building added which is the baptistery. Then work on the campanile began. Before the work on the campanile was completed the cemetery, Campo Santo, was built.This Piazza is the most phenomenal display of Romanesque architecture in Italy. The cathedral is faced in gray-and-white striped marble and bristling with columns and arches. It has a curiously Islamic dome and matching domed baptistery, which rises from an emerald green lawn. Flanking one side of the piazza, the camposanto, or cemetery, is a gracefully elongated cloister enclosing a burial ground with earth reputedly brought back during the Crusades from Golgotha, the hill where Jesus was crucified, so that noble Pisans could rest in holy ground.

http://www.towerofpisa.info/

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Lawn in front of cathedral

There is a large area of lawn at the Square which is a great way to unwind after being cooped up on a long bus or car ride to reach the Tower. Tourists were sitting around on the lawn enjoying a drink, taking pictures of the enormous structures all the while kids were running around. The lawn area is very inviting.

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Shopping in the Square

$$ saving tips: Vendors set up at tables along the walk to the Square selling various items such as snow globes, aprons, purses, plates with the tower on them, etc. Many of the vendors sell the same items, so be sure to check prices at each table prior to purchasing. The shopping area is filled with high priced souvenirs, so be sure to compare prices with vendors located right outside the square. Rather than sitting down and eating a meal outside the square, you can grab a piece of fruit and a bottled water or coffee from one of the vendors and make your way into the Square. If you are there for a limited amount of time, don’t waste time eating lunch. Go straight to the tower to purchase the ticket to go inside.

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine

Monte Carlo and Monaco, French Riviera

Casino Monte Carlo

Casino Monte Carlo

I always dreamed of visiting the French Riviera and mostly, Monte Carlo to tour the infamous Grand Casino! The luxurious cars parked out front with attendants by their side was a grand beginning to the tour of the Casino. We had purchased a ticket in advance for the tour and unfortunately cameras are not allowed inside. The only way to enter the Casino is if you are a guest staying at the hotel or if you are on a tour, otherwise you will not be able to enter. For that reason, I highly recommend that you purchase a ticket to tour the hotel. The tour consists of walking through the lobby and grand casino area. The guide tells the history of the hotel, famous people who frequent the hotel, the history of the chandeliers and what types of events have taken place in the casino. While on the tour, you will have free time to place a bet, but I must warn you that the minimum bet is very, very high. It was exciting to walk around and observe the guests sitting up to the lavish tables gambling. You can sit out in front of the hotel and watch the people coming and going in their high fashion clothing and large hats. We happened to be there during the Monte Carlo Yacht Show in 2012. The Casino Monte Carlo looks as fabulous in person as it does in the many movies filmed there. Monte Carlo and its casino were the locations for a number of James Bond movies, including Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye, as well as for the “Casino Royale” episode of the CBS’ Climax! television show. This is not a place to take kids as you must be at least 18 years of age to enter the Grand Casino. I learned that citizens are not permitted to gamble at the Grand Casino.

Casino Monte Carlo

Casino Monte Carlo

IMG00214-20100917-1439The circuit de Monaco is used on one weekend in the month of May of each year to host the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. You can walk along the street of Monte Carlo and find all kinds of shopping. It is a really fun, cute place to roam around. Surprisingly small, only 3,000 people live in Monte Carlo.

History:

The legend Monte-Carlo® was born in 1863, on the Plateau des Spelugues in Monaco and was so named in 1866, in honor of Prince Charles III of Monaco. With its glamorous ocean-side Mediterranean location, the site is the perfect setting for a premium casino. Its beautiful olive groves and lemon tree orchards combine with the deep blue sea to provide a sumptuous natural backdrop. The first casino was built in 1863 and like most premium things in life, it grew slowly and steadily.
Casino de Monte-Carlo® is inextricably entwined with the history of high-class European gaming entertainment. It is the acknowledged home of the most classic casino games, and of the most elegant and luxurious of all European casinos. This is also where French roulette was first introduced in the 18th century.
Casino de Monte-Carlo® has become the most revered name in casino mythology. The rooms have been immortalized in films and popular cultural legend. The mere mention of a Monte-Carlo® instantly conjures up iconic, tension-filled showdowns over the baccarat, roulette or poker tables. The suave, audacious style of James Bond in ‘Casino Royale’ is forever associated with its Monte-Carlo® setting. Casinos in Monaco are also the rendezvous places for exclusive events during the Monaco F1 Grand Prix weekend, which celebrities flock to. Film stars, music superstars, designers and fashionistas, international socialites, and the biggest sports stars in the world list Casino de Monte-Carlo® as favorites on their social calendars.
http://www.montecarlocasino.com/en/content/monte-carlo-legend

Hotel de Paris

Hotel de Paris

Right next to the Grand Casino you will see the Hotel de Paris, which is one of the most expensive hotels in the world. It has 175 suites that look out  over the Mediterranean Sea. The hotel does offer special rates from 479€ per night. Check out more information at http://www.hoteldeparismontecarlo.com/news-special-offers/luxury-hotel-reservations/

Monaco Palace

Monaco Palace

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Palace of Monaco

Monaco enjoys a privileged location at the heart of Mediterranean Europe. The Principality is nestled between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by the French Riviera to the west and the Italian Riviera to the east. The palace of Monaco began as a fortress when in 1191 the German Emperor Henry IV ceded the harbor and the rocky promontory to the Republic of Genoa on the condition that they build fortifications to combat piracy. Additional property was acquired from the Council of Peille and the monks at the Abbaye de Saint Pons and construction actually only began in June 1215 when Fulco de Castello, one of Genoa’s most enterprising consuls, anchored his fleet of ships loaded with building supplies in the harbor. By then they were ready to trace the outlines of a rampart of thirty-seven sections and four buttressed towers connected with 8-meter to form a triangular boundary. Later a higher wall was erected and a second fortress was added on the port side entrance, none of which remains today.

Today, from June to October, the Palace is open to visitors. There they can see the royal courtyard paved with 3,000,000 white and colored pebbles formed into beautiful geometrical patterns. On exhibit are the 16th-century Genovese frescoes depicting scenes from mythological. The columns and the spectacular double-revolution staircase inspired by a staircase at Fontainebleau are done in Carrara marble.

http://www.palais.mc/monaco/palais-princier/english/the-institution/the-prince-s-palace-of-monaco/the-prince-s-palace-of-monaco.373.html

Footsteps of Saint Nicholas Cathedral

Footsteps of Saint Nicholas Cathedral

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Grace Kelly’s burial site

Just down the street from the palace sits Monaco Cathedral, also known as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral and St. Nicholas Cathedral.We took a tour of the Saint Nicholas Catherdral where Grace Kelly is buried. The Cathedral is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Sunday and they do allow photography inside.  The Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Monaco Cathedral (French: Cathédrale de Monaco), is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Monaco in Monaco-Ville, Monaco, where many of the Grimaldis were buried, including Grace Kelly and more recently, Rainier III. The cathedral was consecrated in 1875, and is on the site of the first parish church in Monaco built in 1252 and dedicated to St. Nicholas. Of note are the retable (circa 1500) to the right of the transept, the Great Altar and the Episcopal throne in white Carrara marble.Pontifical services take place on the major religious festivals such as the Feast of Sainte Dévote (27 January) and the National holiday (19 November). On feast days and during religious music concerts, one can hear the magnificent four-keyboard organ, inaugurated in 1976.From September through June, “Les Petits Chanteurs de Monaco” and the singers of the Cathedral Choir School sing during mass every Sunday at 10:00am. Mass is also celebrated here each year on 6 December, when primary children gather for a joyful remembrance of St. Nicholas’ life.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas_Cathedral,_Monaco

$$ saving tips: It is not necessary to have a tour guide to view Saint Nicholas Cathedral, as there are plaques throughout, detailing historical events around the Catherdral. It is free of charge and open to the public. When visiting the Casino Monte Carlo it is a good idea to eat prior to entering the Casino plaza area. The plaza has shops and restaurants but they are all very pricy. It is the perfect place to grab a coffee or a glitzy, key chain as a remembrance of the Grand Casino Monte Carlo. The further you walk away from the Grand Casino, the better chance of possibly catching a sale sign. The off season for Monte Carlo is December- February and that is when you can get the best rate on a room at the Hotel de Paris. There are shops in Monaco outside of the Palace which are fairly reasonable to pick up hats, clothing and other gifts.

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Isle of Capri

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Just off the coast of Naples and Salerno is the island of Capri, which is a fabulous stop for the day.

The picture above shows the view of the island as you sail into Capri. The harbor area has shops and restaurants within walking distance. Capri is most famous for their handmade sandals.  Walk into any sandal shop, get your feet measured and choose your very own leather straps. IMG00335-20100921-1006

Upon arriving in Capri, we boarded a minibus for 15 a minute ride which took us up to the top of the island, known as Anacapri. The bus ride was a little scary as it zipped up the mountain on very narrow roads without any railings. The view from the minibus was beautiful, looking down onto Capri and the Amalfi coastline. On the ride up the windy mountain, you will pass residential areas with large estates and vacation homes, most of which are gated.

Once we arrived in Anacapri, we took a tour of Villa San Michele.

Villa San Michele, Anacapri

Villa San Michele, Anacapri

The villa is off white with arches and staircases throughout, open air and had beautiful gardens that you can walk through. My grandmother came along and could walk around at her own pace even though we were on a guided tour. The villa had sculptures and busts about the rooms.

IMG00339-20100921-1033The Villa San Michele was built around the turn of the 20th century by the Swedish physician, Axel Munthe, on the ruins of the Roman Emperor Tiberius’s villa, on the Isle of Capri, Italy. Its gardens have panoramic views of Capri town and its marina, the Sorrentine Peninsula and Mount Vesuvius. The villa and its grounds sit on a ledge at the top of the Phoenician Steps, between Anacapri and Capri, at 327 meters above sea level.

Outside the Villa San Michele

Outside the Villa San Michele

San Michele’s gardens are adorned with numerous relics and works of art dating from ancient Egypt and other periods of antiquity. They now form part of the Grandi Giardini Italiani.The story of the villa is recorded by Dr. Munthe in his book entitled The Story of San Michele, published in 1929. There have been numerous reprints since.In 1919–1920, Munthe was an unwilling landlord to the outrageous socialite and muse Luisa Casati, who took possession of Villa San Michele. This was described by Scottish author Compton Mackenzie in his diarieshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_San_Michele

My sister and I enjoyed thick hot chocolate, almost like liquid pudding consistency in Capri. It was so thick that it rolled down the side of the cup and just hung there! It was rich chocolate that tasted just like you were eating a chocolate bar.

Capri CakeEnjoy the Torta Caprese, flourless chocolate and almond cake found all over the island of Capri. In Anacapri we passed a glass case with desserts inside, the cake with the sign on it which read “capri cake” caught my eye.

Torta Caprese
(makes one 9-inch cake)

9 ounces (255 g) good quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 cup (225 g) butter
¼ cup (25 g) cocoa powder
1 tablespoon almond extract
1 ¼ cup (250 g) granulated sugar
1 ½ cups ground blanched and toasted almonds
6 eggs, room temperature

Preheat an oven to 310°F and line the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with parchment paper.

Slowly melt the chocolate and butter over a double-boiler.  In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk together the melted chocolate mixture, the cocoa powder, almond extract and sugar until combined.  Add the ground almonds and whisk until combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, adding each egg after the first has been incorporated into the mixture.  Pour the mixture into the spring form pan.  Make sure the mixture is level and smooth on top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  Cool and serve with chocolate spirals or shavings and powdered sugar.  Serve with gelato or whipped cream.

http://foodloversodyssey.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/10/torta-caprese-flourless-chocolate-cake-from-capri.html

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Hot chocolate in Capri

Hot chocolate in Capri

We enjoyed a fabulous, light lunch at Relais La Palma Capri, a restaurant that was nestled into a Spanish style hotel.  The lunch ended with a light, lemon panna cotta that was to die for.

Just around the corner from the famous Piazzetta, Hotel La Palma is in the centre of Capri, the most vibrant area of the Island. Since 1822 it is the first and oldest Hotel in Capri, but don’t expect  anything formal and austere. Here guests feel at home perceiving friendship and creativity. The spaces are large and bright,  the dynamic atmosphere is ideal for those who aspire to experiment and innovate. It is the favorite choice of young people and lovers of  authentic and high quality hospitality. Be inspired by Hotel La Palma’s genius loci like many artists, musicians and writers who love the hotel.

http://www.lapalma-capri.com/en/

$$ saving tips: Capri is quite small and most of the restaurants and shopping are pricy. Capri is full of high end shops such as Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, etc. and I did not see a sale sign. At the harbor there are vendors selling leather purses, wallets, scarves and other souveniers who will barder with you. It is a great way to pick up something small as a rememberance of your time on Capri. We booked a pre-packaged excursion which included the ferry ride to Capri, a minibus to Anacapri which only holds 12 people, lunch at La Palma Hotel, tour of San Michele and a ride down the Funicular Marina Grande for a reasonable price. Many of the restaurants would not allow a cup of hot chocolate or coffee to go, so we were required to sit and drink it there. Sample your way through the shops in Capri which offer limoncello chocolate, limoncello, or purchase a slice of the famous Torta Caprese, rich hot chocolate or frozen lemonaide. There are ways to experience the specialities of Capri without paying the high restaurant prices. It is a fun place to walk around, explore, people watch, window shop with amazing views of the Amalfi Coastline.

Fresh Lemons in Capri

Fresh Lemons in Capri

History:

The first inhabitants to settle in Capri were the Greek “Teleboi” who came to the island in the VIII Century BC. Today, only the fortified walls of an ancient Greek acropolis still survive as testimony to their presence on the island. In 1906 a local doctor, Ignazio Cerio, uncovered the remains of a number of prehistoric animals and stone weapons during excavation work undertaken to expand the Quisisana Hotel.

The great political events that unfolded in Naples with the consecutive rise to power of the Angevin, Aragonese, Spanish and Bourbon dynasties between the VIth and XIXth Centuries, had few repercussions on the island itself. Exposed to the threat of Muslim attack, and left to fend for themselves, the islanders’ best defence was to flea their homes around the Marina and take refuge in the uplands.

With few natural resources and a population decimated by pirate raids and pestilence, the plight of the islanders was further exacerbated in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries by the rivalry that emerged between the island’s two Communes, Capri and Anacapri , regarding their respective civil and ecclesiastic rights of jurisdiction.

http://www.capri.net/en/history

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